Delivered by: Her Excellency Lana Nusseibeh, Ambassador and Permanent Representative
I also thank our briefers, SRSG Rosa Otunbayeva, Executive Director Sima Bahous, and Ms. Karima Bennoune for their valuable remarks today.
We have now passed the two-year mark with the Taliban in power in Afghanistan. The latest report of the Secretary-General provides us a clearer idea of the current landscape: conflict has subsided, and some gains have been made in counter-terrorism in Afghanistan; the opiate trade has reduced. At the same time, millions are facing serious food insecurity, humanitarian needs are among the highest in the world, and women and girls are being erased from society. This is therefore not a moment for complacency in this Council.
When we adopted resolution 2679 mandating the independent assessment last March, our primary aim was to address the existing gap for a coherent international strategy towards the de facto authorities.
While the assessment may not provide a silver bullet, it should aim to provide a list of tangible options on which we can build an integrated response. Today, I will focus on the UAE’s expectations of the assessment due in November.
First, we need a clear way forward on a political process and a coherent policy of engagement with the de facto authorities.
This should include a reckoning with their de facto control over the territory of Afghanistan that doesn’t simply lead to a legitimization of their power by default. It is a complex balancing act, but many millions of lives are depending on our ability to walk that tightrope. Our unity as the international community remains our strongest lever.
The Afghan people are not responsible for the behaviour of the Taliban. It is our responsibility to ensure that they do not become victims twice over: first of extremist policies and then again by our own inaction or disunity.
This does not mean legitimizing nor ignoring the blatant disregard for human rights, especially the rights of women and girls. But it does mean engaging with them on key areas that require international involvement, in order to reverse their persecution of women.
The Secretary-General’s efforts to convene Afghanistan envoys almost six months ago has been a step in the right direction. But we must see something that is consistent, meets regularly, and has a clear timeline and deliverables. The next meeting of envoys should be scheduled without delay.
We also need an approach that involves clear benchmarks for increasing cooperation to emerge from these meetings, one that will lead to the de facto authorities upholding Afghanistan’s obligations under international law, their respect for human rights, and their reversal of the restrictions on women and girls. We need to understand the leverage that we have to incentivize them to reach those benchmarks, as well as the consequences for them if they do not.
So in the context of the assessment, we must re-examine how we envision this process. Whether we build a UN-convened pathway or pursue a new one, or, unify the many important regional initiatives and meetings currently underway, including by the OIC, to work holistically in reinforcement of one another and not at odds. Regardless of what approach we take, women must be full participants of that process, and confidence-building measures, ties to timelines and benchmarks, should be part and parcel of all future frameworks.
Second, we need to kickstart the Afghan economy.
The economic crisis is compounding what is already the world’s worst women’s rights crisis; rampant poverty may have forced up to 80,000 girls into marriage.
Humanitarian aid at such a scale is not a viable long-term strategy. We’re already seeing that less than a third of this year’s humanitarian appeal is not funded.
The latest report of the Secretary-General offers promising indications that revenue is being generated internally. That said, reviving the Afghan economy necessitates finding ways to re-integrate Afghanistan into the international banking system and providing capital to revitalize their private sector, especially small and medium enterprises and with a priority for those run and owned by Afghan women.
Ideally, we should be able to consider definitive options in the context of the assessment and those should tie in with the benchmarks and timelines of the civil political process.
As I’ve heard from women civil society leaders this morning, that aid should be monitored so it actually reaches women and minorities and is not used as a lever of patronage by the de facto authorities. And we would really welcome further data from UN agencies on this point.
Third, the Independent Assessment must have a clear recommendation for how we mitigate security challenges in a holistic way in Afghanistan – including in counter-terrorism as well as in countering organized crime and narcotics.
The significant decrease in conflict-related violence and the counter-terrorism gains need to be acknowledged and built upon.
The decline in the opiate trade has also been a positive development for the region following the de facto authorities’ ban on narcotics cultivation.
These security challenges are intertwined and must remain also a center of our focus, to ensure that Afghanistan does not serve as a safe harbour for threats against other nations.
And finally, Afghanistan is among the top 10 climate-vulnerable countries globally.
It is also among those the least equipped to adapt to climate change and mitigate its impacts.
Now in its third consecutive year of drought, 25 out of 34 Afghan provinces experience either severe or catastrophic drought conditions. Water scarcity has been increasingly manifesting in border tensions as well.
Protection from the impacts of climate change needs to be among our priorities for the Afghan population. We’ve had too many recent reminders of what happens when we do not boost resilience and adaptation measures – particularly in fragile and conflict-affected settings.
So, the question we face today is clear.
Are we willing to invest in climate-proofing economies and societies, massively scaling up early warning systems, and providing for diversified livelihoods?
Or are we willing to live with the consequences of what we know will be more frequent and more severe disasters in a potentially failed state?
This is a debate that we need to be having now if we are to avoid devastation like the tragedy we saw in Derna most recently. It is up to us to make space for those discussions in this chamber and within the UN system.
The opportunity and the responsibility that we have today is to chart a corrected course for the people of Afghanistan, and also for her people, and this responsibility cannot be understated.