Delivered by: Her Excellency Lana Nusseibeh, Ambassador and Permanent Representative
I thank Special Representative Otunbayeva for her invaluable briefing; and since this is our last meeting as co-penholders on this file, allow me to also recognize your tireless commitment to Afghanistan and to its people, and your steady leadership of UNAMA.
I assure you; the UAE will continue its strong support of your vital role and efforts in Afghanistan.
I also thank the briefers for their insightful remarks.
In carrying out our responsibility for this file over the past year, alongside our partner, Japan, we have worked to build and maintain Security Council unity.
From our perspective, it is vital that this unity continues, and that it coalesces around an international approach towards Afghanistan that works.
It has been two-and-a-half years since the fall of Kabul.
Afghan women and girls continue to face severe curtailment of their rights. For just one example, the recent UNAMA report on the response to sexual and gender-based violence documents how women that are victims of this violence are sent to prison, because authorities say there are no other ways of protecting them.
The security situation remains precarious, with profoundly alarming cross-border incidents. A week ago, a terrorist attack, claimed by TTP, targeted a Pakistani police station close to the border, killing 23 officers and wounding 32.
Additionally, Afghanistan’s fragile and contracting economy is threatened by the decrease in aid funding. The October earthquake in Herat compounded humanitarian needs in a country where two-thirds of the population continues to require assistance.
None of this is sustainable, and all of it must move on a different trajectory of hope and development.
Afghanistan deserves better.
This year, we voted unanimously to renew the mandate of UNAMA, to commission the Independent Assessment, and to stand up for the human rights of Afghan women and girls.
Despite the divisions that sometimes preclude this body from taking necessary action, there was resounding unity on this file. All 15 members reaffirmed the international community’s commitment to the present and the future of Afghanistan and its people, especially its women and girls. We did not let them down, and we will continue to support the way forward.
With the submission of the Independent Assessment mandated by Security Council resolution 2679, we now have a blueprint for an approach that would offer hope for ordinary Afghans. While the assessment is no panacea, it does provide a constructive alternative to a failed status quo.
The measures outlined as immediately implementable include provisions like support for agricultural livelihoods, improvements in the health sector and assistance with water management. Looking at the staggering scale of the needs in the country and the limited amount of aid available, it is very hard to argue against these types of activities.
While we fundamentally abhor and reject the restrictions imposed on women and girls, we are at the same time convinced that withholding assistance that is aimed at basic human needs runs counter to our commitment to Afghanistan and its people and to our humanitarian imperative.
Of course, even if the Council endorses this approach, and we hope that it does, we should not be naïve about the road ahead.
This process will neither be easy nor quick. But the essence of the pathway outlined by the Special Coordinator is that it demonstrates what can be gained by both sides from mutual, and principled, engagement.
We have just wrapped up COP28 in the UAE, and the conference highlighted, as never before, the interplay between climate and stability. The changing climate in Afghanistan does not only imperil its people, but has significant implications beyond its borders.
The ongoing drought is diminishing agricultural yields, leading to disputes over access to water, keeping children away from school and driving people away from their homes. In a country with the world’s highest humanitarian needs and where 80% of livelihoods depend on agriculture, the destabilizing effects of climate change can be devastating.
The UAE is therefore today pleased to announce that it will sponsor the position of a climate security adviser within UNAMA. The adviser will be responsible for mapping out climate risks and devising appropriate strategies for addressing those, in order to reduce climate-related vulnerabilities.
However, effectively responding to climate security risks in Afghanistan will require tailored engagement and technical assistance to the DFA – exactly as the Independent Assessment proposes.
Despite UNAMA’s crucial work, and the various efforts by Member States, there remains an enormous gap between the reality of Afghanistan and the aspirations of its people.
This gap will not be narrowed if we double down on a failed approach. The Security Council, and the international community, must lend its support to a principled and pragmatic process that serves the lives and livelihoods of all Afghans.
Nobody is served if Afghanistan is isolated, if its economy implodes, if border tensions escalate, if farmers are made destitute, and if terrorism is allowed a foothold – not least of which Afghan women and girls, who must, must be included in charting their own destiny and that of their country.