Delivered by: Her Excellency Lana Nusseibeh, Ambassador and Permanent Representative
At the outset, I’d like to thank SRSG Roza Otunbayeva for her updates, and also today’s briefer, Ms Akbar, for her powerful testimony.
The Security Council last met in this setting in December. While in the chamber, we received news of the Taliban’s decision barring girls from attending university. Restrictions on the employment of Afghan women by national and international NGOs swiftly followed that announcement.
We unreservedly condemned those decisions then, and we condemn them now.
They systematically deprive women and girls of their fundamental human rights simply because they are women and girls. I want to say again one more time here that these decisions have nothing to do with Islam or Afghan culture and risk further entrenching the country’s international isolation.
In the nineteen months since the Taliban’s takeover, the hope of a stable, secure, and prosperous future for Afghanistan has been hanging in the balance.
Since that meeting last December, Council members and the broader international community have been on a quest to identify the most effective ways to respond to this deterioration in Afghan society. And it is against this backdrop that we are considering the renewal of UNAMA’s mandate, which is due to expire in little more than a week from now.
Around this table and through consultations with myself and the co-pen, it’s clear that we all strongly support UNAMA and the robust and comprehensive work it is tasked with, as configured by Resolution 2626. It provides the space for the Mission to work with stakeholders on the ground in an attempt not only to alleviate suffering, but also to improve lives. There is no doubt that the Mission is delivering to the best of its ability in what is a highly challenging political and security environment.
That said, it is undeniable that the overall situation in Afghanistan is worsening. There has been little to no progress in terms of the expectations set out by the Council on human rights, inclusive governance, and counter-terrorism.
The Secretary-General’s latest report points to increasing humanitarian needs, shrinking political space, and the continued presence of foreign terrorist fighters. The UN Special Rapporteur’s report describes in grim detail the deterioration of the human rights situation in the country, due in large measure to the systematic discrimination against women and girls, as, I quote – “among the most draconian in the world”.
As members of the Security Council, we bear the responsibility for ensuring that the international approach supports a more prosperous, more self-sufficient Afghanistan that is neither a threat to its people, nor its direct neighbourhood, or beyond. With that in mind, our support for UNAMA should be unwavering and must remain the centrepiece of the Council’s engagement on Afghanistan.
But, what we’ve been hearing over the past two months from within the UN, from individual countries, and what the developments since August 2021 have borne out, is that we lack a political strategy for Afghanistan. And this sentiment is echoed in the discussions that I’ve had with many Afghan women, including during this CSW week, asking us not to abandon the fate of Afghan women to these forces. Today, on International Women’s Day, there is no better time to express our solidarity in this respect with the women of Afghanistan. But we must do more than that.
Often in times of crisis, we mistake activity for good policy, when what we actually need is a strategic reassessment of the way forward. As co-penholders, we believe the Council needs to reconsider and initiate a more strategic overview of international engagement in Afghanistan. We need to articulate a well-defined pathway that serves to advance the wellbeing of all Afghans.
The ultimate objective of that process would be creating the forward-looking, unified, and integrated international approach that we so clearly lack today.
What is certain is that when it comes to Afghanistan and its people, we are too often trapped in a cycle of re-litigating the past when we should be creating a new pathway to move forward. UNAMA is the face of the international community on the ground and deserves our continued support. However, by not taking action and not seeking to change the current course, the Council is failing to live up to its responsibilities and failing the Afghan people.
The situation in Afghanistan is exceptional, and it demands an exceptional response. We can acknowledge that and work on coalescing the international community’s “integrated and coherent” approach, coordinate our efforts, and reinforce UNAMA; or we can proceed with business as usual to the detriment of Afghanistan and its people.