June 2024 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 June 2024
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ASIA

Afghanistan

Expected Council Action

In June, the Security Council will convene for its quarterly open briefing on Afghanistan. Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Roza Otunbayeva and a representative of civil society are expected to brief. Closed consultations are scheduled to follow the briefing.

Under resolution 2615, the Council is also scheduled to receive a briefing on the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan during June.

UNAMA’s mandate expires on 17 March 2025.

Key Recent Developments

Afghanistan continues to face a series of overlapping challenges, with the humanitarian situation in the country remaining particularly dire. According to OCHA’s February humanitarian update on Afghanistan, which was published on 25 April, an estimated 23.7 million Afghans—over half of the population—require humanitarian aid this year. Despite the severity of the situation, the 2024 Afghanistan Humanitarian Needs and Response Plan remains underfunded. At the time of writing, pledges have been received for 16.2 percent of the $3.06 billion required by the plan.

The lack of funding has begun to affect the humanitarian response in Afghanistan. OCHA’s February update said that the funding gap has “jeopardised the implementation of vital humanitarian interventions” and noted that a funding gaps analysis conducted in March “revealed a decline in the quality, coverage, and timeliness” of different forms of humanitarian assistance, particularly in remote areas. Efforts to provide humanitarian aid have also been complicated by intense flash flooding in different parts of the country in recent weeks. The World Food Programme (WFP) has launched a flash appeal calling for $14.5 million to support Afghans affected by flash flooding.

The Taliban’s policies and practices have also complicated efforts to provide humanitarian aid. In a 23 May briefing on her recent trip to Afghanistan, Director of OCHA’s Operations and Advocacy Division Edem Wosornu told reporters that restrictions imposed by the Taliban on Afghan women aid workers have added a layer of complexity to humanitarian operations in Afghanistan.

In a 21 May note to correspondents, the UN Secretariat announced that Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo visited Afghanistan from 18 to 21 May. It appears that Council members received a briefing on DiCarlo’s visit during the Secretary-General’s monthly luncheon on 24 May. DiCarlo met with representatives of the Taliban and the diplomatic community in Kabul and invited the Taliban’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amir Khan Muttaqi, to participate in the third meeting of Special Envoys and Special Representatives on Afghanistan, which is scheduled to take place in Doha on 30 June and 1 July.

The second meeting in this format, which aimed to “discuss how to approach increasing international engagement in a more coherent, coordinated and structured manner, including through consideration of the recommendations of the independent assessment on Afghanistan”, was held in Doha on 18 and 19 February. The Taliban did not take part after objecting to the participation of representatives of Afghan civil society, including members of Afghan women’s groups. Taliban officials have also expressed opposition to some of the recommendations outlined in the independent assessment, which was requested by the Council in resolution 2679, particularly the appointment of a Special Envoy who would focus on diplomacy between Afghanistan and international stakeholders and advancing intra-Afghan dialogue. (For more information on the independent assessment, see our What’s in Blue stories of 27 November 2023, 8 December 2023, and 28 December 2023.) At the time of writing, a Special Envoy had not been appointed.

The human rights situation in Afghanistan remains grim, particularly for women and girls. In late March, Taliban supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada seemed to announce that the Taliban planned to reintroduce draconian punishments for women accused of adultery, reportedly saying “we will flog the women…we will stone them to death in public [for adultery]”. UNAMA’s latest report on the human rights situation in Afghanistan, which was published on 1 May and covers the period from January to March, described some examples of apparent human rights violations, including public corporal punishment, extrajudicial killings, torture and ill-treatment, and public executions.

On 16 April, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) released a report on women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan. The report, which analysed data collected from Afghan women over the last three years, found that they have faced a range of hurdles while doing business and experienced deepened discrimination and operational constraints since the Taliban seized power in August 2021.

Terrorism continues to be a concern in Afghanistan. On 21 March, multiple people were killed and wounded in a terrorist attack that took place outside a bank in Kandahar city. The attack, which was claimed by ISIL-K, an affiliate of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant based in Afghanistan, was condemned by Council members in a 22 March press statement. Several media outlets have also reported that US intelligence sources believe ISIL-K was responsible for a 22 March attack on a concert hall in Moscow that killed at least 143 people.

Tensions between the Taliban and the Pakistani government have also escalated in recent months. On 18 March, Pakistan conducted two airstrikes in Afghan territory, killing at least eight people. The airstrikes followed an increase in attacks by militants in Pakistan, which Pakistani officials have blamed on militants residing in Afghanistan. Pakistan has also claimed that a 26 March terrorist attack that killed five Chinese nationals and one Pakistani was planned in Afghanistan.

Human Rights-Related Developments

Afghanistan’s human rights record was examined by the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group on 29 April. These reviews are based on three documents: a national report containing information provided by the state being reviewed, a compilation of information found in reports prepared by the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, human rights treaty bodies, and other UN entities, and a summary of information provided by other stakeholders, including regional organisations and civil society groups.

The national report was prepared by Afghanistan’s Permanent Mission to the UN and other international organisations in Geneva, which is staffed by officials appointed by the former government. Among other matters, the report concluded that the Taliban is systematically dismantling the human rights of Afghans and erasing women from Afghan society. It also recommended that any dialogue or engagement with the Taliban be contingent on respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Afghanistan.

The latest report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, was issued on 29 February. The report observes that the human rights situation in the country has continued to deteriorate, with women and girls erased from public life, peaceful dissent stifled, violence used to control and instil fear, and extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and torture prevalent.

The Human Rights Council is scheduled to hold an enhanced interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on 18 June during its 55th session. Bennett will present his report (A/HRC/56/25) on the “institutionalized system of discrimination, segregation, disrespect for human dignity and exclusion of women and girls”.

Key Issues and Options

Council members are likely to monitor the possible appointment of a UN Special Envoy on Afghanistan. If a Special Envoy is appointed, Council members could have an informal meeting with the UN Secretariat to discuss the division of labour between the Special Envoy and UNAMA and how this might work in practice.

The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is a significant issue for the Council. An informal meeting with humanitarian organisations working in Afghanistan could allow Council members to learn more about the problems facing those working to deliver aid in the country, particularly after the Taliban banned women from working for the UN, while also providing an opportunity to consider whether there is anything the Council can do to help manage these challenges.

The human rights situation in Afghanistan, particularly for women and girls, is another major issue. Council members could hold an informal meeting with representatives of UN Women, OHCHR, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, and civil society to discuss how the Council can exert pressure on the Taliban regarding its practices and policies that restrict human rights.

The Council could also consider reviewing the 1988 Afghanistan sanctions regime, which, apart from the humanitarian exception established by resolution 2615, has not been updated since the Taliban seized power in August 2021. Such a review could analyse whether the regime is fit for purpose and whether it should be updated in light of current circumstances.

The terrorist threat in Afghanistan is another key concern. The Council could meet with a counter-terrorism expert, which would give members a chance to discuss possible options for bolstering the Council’s efforts to manage the threat posed by terrorism in Afghanistan.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Although Council members are generally united in their desire to see a prosperous, peaceful Afghanistan free from terrorism and ruled by an inclusive government, they have been divided over how to achieve this goal. Some members, including the P3 (France, the UK, and the US) and other like-minded states, have argued that the Taliban must adhere to international norms if they want to obtain international recognition and receive economic and development aid from the international community. Several of these members appear to favour maintaining pressure on the Taliban, particularly regarding their policies and practices that violate the rights of women and girls.

China and Russia, on the other hand, have contended that the international community should provide assistance to Afghanistan without linking it to other issues, such as human rights, and appear to prefer dialogue and engagement with the Taliban over increased pressure. China has sent an ambassador to Kabul and on 30 January became the first country to accept diplomatic credentials from a Taliban envoy. Beijing has emphasised, however, that it has not officially recognised the Taliban regime as Afghanistan’s government. In early April, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia was working to remove the Taliban from its list of banned terrorist organisations and, in late May, media outlets reported that Russia had invited the Taliban to its largest economic forum, which is expected to take place in St. Petersburg from 5-8 June.

Some of Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries have taken a similar approach, pursuing closer relations and greater cooperation with Kabul. This has also been reflected in diplomatic engagement: the Taliban have participated in meetings held in countries in the region and on 29 January hosted their first international meeting since August 2021 in Kabul.

Some analysts have suggested that certain Western countries, including the US, are concerned that increasing cooperation between regional states and Afghanistan can weaken international leverage over the Taliban by giving it the appearance of legitimacy, and in some cases, the economic benefits that it seeks.

There are also differences of view among Council members about the implementation of the independent assessment on Afghanistan. China and Russia have emphasised the importance of taking the Taliban’s views on the assessment into account and have questioned the added value of a UN Special Envoy. Other members, including the UK and the US, have expressed support for the appointment of a UN Special Envoy and argued that establishing this office will help coordinate international engagement on Afghanistan.

Japan is the penholder on Afghanistan.

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UN DOCUMENTS ON AFGHANISTAN
Security Council Resolutions
29 December 2023S/RES/2721 This resolution, among other matters, requested the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Envoy on Afghanistan in consultation with a range of stakeholders, welcomed the Secretary-General’s intention to convene the next meeting of the group of Special Envoys and Special Representatives on Afghanistan, and encouraged the meeting to discuss the recommendations of the independent assessment on Afghanistan.
27 March 2024S/RES/2727 This resolution extended the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) until 17 March 2025.

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