Afghanistan: Vote on Two Draft Resolutions*
Tomorrow morning (16 March), the Security Council is expected to vote on two draft resolutions regarding Afghanistan. The first draft resolution extends the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) for another year, until 17 March 2024, without making any changes to its mandated tasks and priorities. The second draft resolution requests that the Secretary-General conduct an independent assessment that provides recommendations for an integrated and coherent approach among different actors in the international community in order to address the current challenges facing Afghanistan. Japan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the co-penholders on the file, authored the two draft texts.
The Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in Afghanistan, dated 27 February, says that UNAMA’s current mandate, which expires on 17 March, provides “sufficient flexibility for [the mission] to adapt to new developments” and recommends that it be extended for an additional 12 months. Although Council members expressed strong support for UNAMA’s current mandate and from the outset favoured an extension with no changes to the mission’s tasks and priorities, it seems that the negotiations were nonetheless contentious, with the discussion focusing primarily on the penholders’ proposal for an independent assessment from the Secretary-General and the duration of the extension. Differences among Council members regarding the independent assessment ultimately led the penholders to suggest two separate drafts, one extending UNAMA’s mandate and another requesting the independent assessment.
On 1 March, the co-penholders circulated the initial draft of the resolution on UNAMA’s mandate. The draft text extended the mandate without any changes for a period of nine months and requested that the Secretary-General conduct an independent assessment regarding Afghanistan and report to the Council by October. It seems that the independent assessment proposed in the initial draft was to involve consultations with all relevant Afghan political actors and stakeholders, the region, and the wider international community. The draft text also said that the report should include an assessment of the challenges faced by Afghanistan, including those set out in resolution 2626 of 17 March 2022 (which most recently extended UNAMA’s mandate); recommendations for an integrated and coherent approach among all relevant political, humanitarian, and development actors within and outside the UN system; and specific analysis and recommendations regarding UNAMA’s configuration, mandate, priorities, and related resources, among other matters.
Shortly after the first draft was circulated, it seems that several Council members, including Albania, Ecuador, France, Malta, the UK, and the US, indicated that they opposed extending UNAMA’s mandate for nine months and supported a 12-month extension instead. It appears that some of these members were concerned that a nine-month extension could imply that the Council does not support UNAMA’s current mandate, despite the strong support for the mandate among members, and would also overlap with the renewal of the mandate of the Monitoring Team supporting the 1988 Afghanistan Sanctions Committee and the Council’s review of the humanitarian exception to the 1988 sanctions regime established by resolution 2615 of 22 December 2021, both of which are due to take place in December. In addition, some members apparently expressed concern that a nine-month renewal would have negative implications for UNAMA’s budget. It seems that China, on the other hand, proposed that the mandate should be extended for a period of eight months to avoid interfering with the renewal of the 1988 Monitoring Team’s mandate, while Russia said that it was flexible regarding the duration of UNAMA’s mandate and that it saw merit in China’s suggestion.
It seems that the US also objected to the independent assessment outlined in the initial draft of the resolution on UNAMA’s mandate, on the basis that requesting such an assessment would convey a lack of confidence in the mission. Some members, including France, Ecuador, Malta, and the UK, apparently indicated that they had reservations and concerns about the independent assessment without directly opposing it, while China and Russia suggested additional areas for the independent assessment to focus on, such as engagement with the Taliban and the impact of unilateral coercive measures. It appears that France also provided written comments suggesting amendments to the scope of the assessment, including adding language on the situation of women and girls, humanitarian access, respect for human rights, and representative government, as well as removing text indicating that the assessment should focus on actors outside the UN system.
The penholders apparently defended their proposal for an independent assessment, including by arguing that there is a need for a coherent international political strategy on Afghanistan and contending that maintaining the status quo will not result in positive outcomes on the ground. It seems that the penholders also emphasised their strong support for UNAMA’s mandate.
Following bilateral consultations with Council members, it appears that the penholders decided to address the concerns that had been raised by pursuing two separate resolutions: one extending UNAMA’s mandate for 12 months without any changes and another requesting an amended independent assessment with a different scope. Drafts of each resolution were provided to Council members on 10 March. It seems that the second draft resolution on UNAMA’s mandate was acceptable to Council members and that subsequent negotiations focused on the amended independent assessment.
Unlike the first draft resolution on UNAMA’s mandate, it appears that the first draft resolution on the amended independent assessment did not contain language requesting specific analysis and recommendations regarding UNAMA, noting instead that the independent assessment should make recommendations with a view to supporting the implementation of the mission’s mandate. The penholders also proposed adding language clarifying that Afghan women and civil society should be consulted during the assessment to this draft text, and listed specific examples of the challenges facing Afghanistan rather than referring to those outlined in resolution 2626 of 17 March 2022.
It appears that France, with the support of other members—including Malta, the UK, and the US—proposed several changes to the first draft resolution on the amended independent assessment, such as moving the language on supporting the implementation of UNAMA’s mandate to the preambular section of the draft and adding text regarding the lack of progress on the Council’s expectations of the Taliban. It seems that Switzerland also proposed adding language on the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women, upholding human rights, and the rights of ethnic minorities and other groups, a proposal that was endorsed by other members, including Ecuador, Malta, the UK, and the US. China and Russia apparently contended that the language on consultations with Afghan women and civil society should be removed and replaced with text referring to the relevant Afghan authorities, and also suggested adding text on development, economic and social challenges, religious and ethnic minorities, and adverse negative impacts of unilateral sanctions. It seems that China and Russia also argued that the independent assessment should be provided to the Council in November rather than December to avoid a clash with Council’s other work on the file in December.
The penholders then circulated a second draft resolution on the independent assessment and placed it under silence until this morning (15 March). The draft passed silence and was subsequently put in blue.
The draft resolution in blue on the amended independent assessment requests that the Secretary-General provide an integrated, independent assessment to the Council by 17 November, following consultations with “all relevant Afghan political actors and stakeholders, including relevant authorities, Afghan women, and civil society, as well as the region and the wider international community”. It also requests that the independent assessment include recommendations for an integrated and coherent approach among relevant political, humanitarian, and development actors within and outside the UN system in order to address the current challenges faced by Afghanistan, including in relation to human rights, the rights of women and girls, religious and ethnic minorities, economic and social challenges, and dialogue. The preambular section emphasises the Council’s support for the implementation of UNAMA’s mandate in its entirety and the importance of the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women and upholding human rights, including those of women, children, minorities, and persons in vulnerable situations. It also expresses concern at the lack of progress on the Council’s expectation for the Taliban, among other matters.
The draft resolution in blue on UNAMA’s mandate was not placed under silence and was instead put directly in blue today after negotiations on the independent assessment resolution had concluded. It decides to extend the mission’s mandate, as outlined in resolution 2626, for another year, until 17 March 2024. It also contains language regarding UNAMA’s work, including text that stresses the critical importance of UNAMA’s continued presence in Afghanistan and welcomes its ongoing efforts in the implementation of its mandated tasks and priorities.
*Post-script (16 March)—On 16 March, the Security Council unanimously adopted two resolutions: resolution 2678, which extended UNAMA’s mandate until 17 March 2024, and resolution 2679, which requested that the Secretary-General provide the Council with an independent assessment of the international community’s approach to Afghanistan by 17 November.