What's In Blue

Posted Wed 13 Dec 2023

Afghanistan: Vote on the Mandate of the Monitoring Team Supporting the 1988 Sanctions Committee*

Tomorrow morning (14 December), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the Monitoring Team supporting the 1988 Afghanistan Sanctions Committee, which was last renewed by resolution 2665 of 16 December 2022.

The same Monitoring Team also supports the 1267/1989/2253 Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee. Its mandate to support that committee was extended until June 2024 by resolution 2610 of 17 December 2021.

Following initial discussions among the P5 (China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US), the US, the penholder on Afghanistan sanctions issues, circulated the first draft of the resolution to all Council members and then convened a meeting to discuss the text on 30 November. After receiving written comments from some members, the US shared a second draft of the resolution on 5 December and held another meeting to discuss the draft on the following day. Further written comments on the second draft were provided by some members and, on 8 December, the US placed a third draft directly under silence until Monday (11 December). China subsequently broke silence with support from Russia. The US then made minor amendments to the text and placed it directly in blue yesterday (12 December).

The draft resolution in blue renews the Monitoring Team’s mandate to support the 1988 Afghanistan Sanctions Committee for a period of one year. Apart from a change to the expiry date of the Monitoring Team’s mandate, the operative section of the draft resolution is identical to resolution 2665. While no substantive changes were made to the operative part of the draft in blue, preambular language concerning several issues has been added, including text relating to the Taliban’s decision to ban Afghan women from working for the UN and non-governmental organisations in Afghanistan, the role of women in decision-making regarding conflict prevention and resolution, the reduction in opium poppy cultivation, and the need to revise the 1988 Afghanistan sanctions regime.

At the outset of the negotiations, the US apparently informed Council members that it intended to pursue a “technical rollover” of the Monitoring Team’s mandate with minimal changes to the text. (The term “technical rollover” is commonly used by diplomats to describe a concise resolution extending a peace operation’s mandate without altering its core mandate or tasks. It traditionally denotes an extension for a shorter period than is customary, but members increasingly use the term to describe routine mandate extensions where the content is unchanged.) While this approach was supported by a majority of Council members, it appears that China subsequently proposed adding operative language reintroducing a standing exemption to the travel ban in the 1988 Afghanistan sanctions regime and a related exemption to the assets freeze. This exemption, which was first introduced by a decision of the 1988 Afghanistan Sanctions Committee in April 2019, authorised specified Taliban officials to travel abroad to attend peace and stability discussions in a range of countries. The exemption was renewed by the committee at regular intervals until August 2022, when several committee members objected to its renewal. (For more information, see our 22 June 2022 and 26 August 2022 What’s in Blue stories.)

China’s proposal, which would have authorised 11 Taliban officials to travel for peace and stability discussions until the Council decides otherwise, was supported by Russia but opposed by a majority of Council members, some of whom apparently argued that the resolution renewing the Monitoring Team’s mandate is not an appropriate instrument for reintroducing the travel ban exemption. It was not incorporated into any of the drafts circulated by the penholder and, on 11 December, China broke silence over this issue with support from Russia. The draft that the penholder put in blue on 12 December does not include language reinstating the travel ban exemption.

It appears that France proposed adding preambular language regarding the role of women in Afghan society that was drawn from resolution 2681 of 27 April which, among other matters, condemned the Taliban’s decision to ban Afghan women from working for the UN. This text apparently reaffirmed the indispensable role of women in Afghan society, including in the prevention and resolution of conflicts. It also stressed the importance of women’s full, equal, meaningful, and safe participation for Afghanistan’s future and long-term development, their involvement in efforts to maintain and promote peace and security, and the need to increase the role they play in decision-making regarding conflict prevention and resolution. This proposal was supported by other like-minded members and was streamlined by the penholder before being included in the draft resolution in blue. France and other like-minded members also argued that new preambular language concerning the deteriorating human rights situation should be added to the draft resolution; however, this suggestion was not incorporated into the draft in blue.

In response to these suggested amendments, China apparently argued that the preambular section should also include new language on the Taliban’s counter-narcotics efforts and the economic situation in Afghanistan. It seems that this proposal included text linking unilateral sanctions to illiquidity in the Afghan economy and a reference to the need to achieve substantial progress in addressing Afghanistan’s economic challenges. While language regarding the reduction of poppy cultivation and text on liquidity challenges were ultimately included in the draft resolution in blue, the references to unilateral sanctions and progress on Afghanistan’s economic challenges were opposed by at least one other member and were not incorporated.

References to the recommendations outlined in the latest report of the Monitoring Team were also an issue in the negotiations. In that report, which was issued on 1 June, the Monitoring Team noted that the 1988 sanctions regime “remains premised on the Taliban being an insurgent movement” which “no longer reflects the reality on the ground”. The report also mentions instances of Taliban members travelling without the approval of the 1988 Committee and describes an example of “the obsolete nature” of existing committee procedures. Given these findings, the report recommends that the committee write to member states to remind them to comply with exemption procedures and reporting requirements regarding travel by sanctioned individuals and their obligations when hosting listed Taliban members. It also recommends updating the committee’s guidelines, exemption procedures, and forms, as well as expanding a training programme run by the Monitoring Team and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) that is designed to assist member states in understanding and complying with the requirements for the travel ban and assets freeze exemption procedures.

It appears that the first draft of the resolution took note of the Monitoring Team’s recommendations to revise the sanctions regime. During the negotiations, China apparently argued that this text should refer to reviewing, adjusting, and terminating the sanctions regime rather than revising it. It seems that this was opposed by other members and, in an apparent compromise, the draft resolution in blue “recognises the need to revise the sanctions regime when appropriate” and takes note of the Monitoring Team’s recommendations in this regard.

The draft text in blue also strongly encourages the Monitoring Team to engage and assist member states in their efforts to implement the 1988 Afghanistan sanctions regime. This seems to have been incorporated into the draft following a suggestion from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who apparently argued that increased engagement with the Monitoring Team will assist smaller member states to implement the measures imposed by the regime.


*Post-script: On 14 December the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2716, which renewed the mandate of the Monitoring Team supporting the 1988 Afghanistan Sanctions Committee for one year.

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