Afghanistan: Vote on Draft Resolution*
Tomorrow morning (29 December), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution on the Afghanistan independent assessment, which was requested by resolution 2679 of 16 March. The draft text was proposed by Japan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the co-penholders on the file.
The Independent Assessment
Resolution 2679 asked that the independent assessment “provide forward-looking recommendations for an integrated and coherent approach among relevant political, humanitarian, and development actors, within and outside of the [UN] system, in order to address the current challenges faced by Afghanistan”. The Council also requested that the independent assessment be provided “after 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”. Feridun Sinirlioğlu was appointed to lead the independent assessment on 25 April.
The independent assessment report, which was circulated to Council members on 9 November, proposes an “engagement architecture” to guide the international community’s political, humanitarian, and development activities in Afghanistan. It makes four broad recommendations and offers an analysis of the justification for those recommendations as well as suggestions regarding their implementation. The four recommendations are:
- A series of measures aimed at addressing the basic needs of Afghan people and strengthening trust through structured engagement.
- Greater international attention to, and cooperation on, issues that impact regional and global security and stability.
- A roadmap for political engagement intended to fully reintegrate Afghanistan into the international community in line with its international commitments and obligations.
- The establishment of a set of mechanisms designed to coordinate and oversee the recommendations made in the report.
In relation to the last recommendation, the report recommends that three mechanisms oversee the implementation of its recommendations: a “large group format” comprising member states’ special envoys on Afghanistan who attended the meeting convened by the UN Secretary-General in Doha on 1 and 2 May; a “smaller contact group” selected from and linked to the larger group; and a UN Special Envoy who would focus on diplomacy between Afghanistan and international stakeholders and advancing intra-Afghan dialogue. (For more on the independent assessment report’s recommendations, please see our 27 November and 8 December What’s in Blue stories.)
The draft resolution in blue takes positive note of the independent assessment, encourages member states and all other relevant stakeholders to consider the implementation of its recommendations, and affirms that the objective of the process should be a peaceful Afghanistan that is fully reintegrated into the international community and meeting its international obligations. The draft in blue further recognises the need to ensure the full, equal, meaningful, and safe participation of Afghan women in the process, stresses the critical importance of the continued presence of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and other UN agencies, funds, and programmes across Afghanistan, and reiterates the Council’s full support for UNAMA and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.
The draft resolution also requests the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Envoy for Afghanistan following consultations with Council members and other stakeholders and stipulates that the Special Envoy should promote the implementation of the independent assessment’s recommendations and have robust expertise on human rights and gender. It welcomes the Secretary-General’s intention to convene the next meeting of the group of Special Envoys and Special Representatives on Afghanistan, which was first held in Doha in May 2023, and encourages the meeting to discuss the recommendations of the independent assessment. The draft in blue also requests the Secretary-General to brief the Council on the outcome of these consultations and discussions within 60 days and contains preambular language on several different issues, including the indispensable role of women in Afghan society, the importance of an engagement architecture to guide political, humanitarian, and development activities in Afghanistan, the need to address the challenges faced by Afghanistan, and the effect that Afghanistan has within its region and beyond.
Negotiations on the Draft Resolution
Following preliminary consultations with some Council members regarding the text, the penholders circulated the first draft of the resolution to all Council members on 11 December. Council members met to discuss the draft on 12 December and later provided written comments. The penholders then shared a second draft of the text on 18 December. Following an additional round of written comments and bilateral consultations between the penholders and some members, on 26 December the penholders placed a third draft of the resolution under silence until 9.30am on 27 December. China, France, and Russia broke silence and Malta, Switzerland, and the US subsequently provided additional comments. The penholders then put a fourth draft directly in blue on 28 December.
It appears that negotiations concerning the draft resolution were difficult and contentious. Although the UK and the US were apparently very supportive of the initial draft proposed by the penholders and suggested minimal changes to the text, it seems that China and Russia raised strong opposition to the draft during the negotiations. In addition, it appears that a group of European Council members, including France, Malta, and Switzerland, sought to bolster language relating to Afghan women and the women, peace, and security agenda and to add text regarding the Taliban’s compliance with Afghanistan’s international obligations and the overall aim of the recommendations outlined in the independent assessment report.
In expressing their opposition to the draft resolution, China and Russia apparently argued that the Council should be cautious and take more time to consider the independent assessment report’s recommendations and consult widely with stakeholders before determining how to proceed. It appears that China contended that the next meeting of Special Envoys and Special Representatives on Afghanistan could help inform the Council’s next steps, while both members apparently emphasised the importance of working with the Taliban on the independent assessment and noted that the Taliban has already expressed opposition to some of its recommendations. It seems that China and Russia also raised questions regarding the composition of the “smaller contact group” during earlier meetings among Council members regarding the independent assessment.
In light of these concerns, China and Russia apparently suggested deleting the paragraph that requests the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Envoy for Afghanistan and removing text noting that the next meeting of Special Envoys and Special Representatives should discuss the proposed establishment of the “smaller contact group”. In the next draft of the resolution, the penholders apparently removed the text on the “smaller contact group” and added language requesting that the Secretary-General consult with relevant Afghan political actors and stakeholders (including the Taliban, Afghan women, and civil society); Council members; the region; and the international community before appointing a Special Envoy. China and Russia subsequently broke silence over this compromise language, as well as other issues, and apparently proposed text requesting that the Secretary-General consult with certain stakeholders on the recommendations of the independent assessment, including on the necessity of appointing a Special Envoy. This proposal was not incorporated in the draft in blue.
It appears that language relating to the implementation of the independent assessment’s recommendations was also an issue during the negotiations. While early drafts of the resolution urged member states and other relevant stakeholders to implement the recommendations, it seems that this formulation was not acceptable to some members, including France and Malta, who apparently argued that the draft resolution should instead encourage or call upon member states and other stakeholders to consider or discuss the implementation of the recommendations. It appears that the original formulation was also unacceptable to China and Russia, who initially contended that the relevant paragraph should urge member states to support more coherent international engagement in Afghanistan rather than implementation of the recommendations. The Chinese and Russian proposal was not fully incorporated into the next draft, which apparently also led China and Russia to break silence. It seems that China and Russia then proposed language encouraging the international community to consider the independent assessment and its recommendations. Ultimately, the draft in blue encourages member states and all other relevant stakeholders to consider the independent assessment and the implementation of its recommendations.
It seems that language relating to the Taliban’s international obligations was also a point of contention. Several members, including France, Malta, and Switzerland, apparently proposed language emphasising that the Taliban’s compliance with their obligations under international law, particularly those relating to human rights, is central to the roadmap for political engagement outlined in the independent assessment report. Text affirming that one objective of this process is to see Afghanistan fully reintegrated into the international community and meeting its international obligations was subsequently added to the draft; however, this did not address France’s concerns, leading it to break silence. It seems that France then proposed language noting that one objective of the process is the full reintegration of Afghanistan into the international community, provided the Taliban comply with their obligations under international law. This text proposal was not incorporated into the draft in blue by the penholders.
Language acknowledging the independent assessment and its recommendations was also an issue for Council members. Although the first draft of the resolution endorsed the independent assessment and its recommendations, it appears that later drafts instead welcomed them, following a proposal from Malta and the US. It seems that China and Russia argued that the draft should either take note of the independent assessment or welcome the efforts of Sinirlioğlu and his team. In an apparent compromise, the draft in blue takes positive note of the independent assessment.
Several members also proposed additional language on Afghan women and women, peace, and security (WPS) during the negotiations. Text reaffirming the indispensable role of women in Afghan society was added to the draft in blue following a proposal from Switzerland, as was language noting that the Special Envoy for Afghanistan should have robust expertise on human rights and gender.
*Post-script: On 29 December, the Council adopted resolution 2721, which, among other matters, took positive note of the independent assessment and requested that the Secretary-General appoint a Special Envoy for Afghanistan. Thirteen members voted in favour, with China and Russia abstaining.