What's In Blue

Afghanistan: Vote on Draft Resolution Renewing UNAMA’s Mandate*

Tomorrow afternoon (15 March), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) for another year, until 17 March 2025.

Japan, the penholder on the file, circulated the first draft of the resolution to all Council members on 29 February. Following an expert-level meeting on 1 March, one revised draft, and two rounds of written comments, the penholder placed a second revised draft under silence procedure on Monday (11 March) until the following day. Silence was subsequently broken by China and Russia. The vote, which was initially scheduled for this morning (14 March), was then postponed until tomorrow to allow more time for deliberations. Following a round of bilateral consultations with some members, the penholder put a third draft directly into blue today.

The draft resolution in blue extends UNAMA’s mandate without changing its mandated tasks and priorities, reiterates the Council’s full support for Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan Roza Otunbayeva and UNAMA’s work, and stresses the critical importance of the continued presence of UNAMA and other UN agencies, funds, and programmes in Afghanistan.

It seems that Council members favoured a straightforward renewal of UNAMA’s mandate without any changes from the outset of the negotiations. Accordingly, the first draft circulated by Japan was largely identical to resolution 2678 of 16 March 2023, which extended UNAMA’s mandate until 17 March without amending its mandated tasks and priorities and did not include language referring to specific challenges facing Afghanistan. (For more information on resolution 2678, see our 15 March 2023 What’s in Blue story.)

During the expert-level meeting, most members apparently indicated that they favoured a straightforward renewal, while some members also said that they could support adding preambular language regarding particular issues, such as the situation of women and girls. China also noted that it had some suggestions for tweaking the operative section of the resolution but did not propose substantive changes during the meeting.

Some Council members—including China, France, Ecuador, and Switzerland—then provided written comments proposing preambular language in relation to several different issues and received support for their suggestions from other members. Ecuador, France, Malta, Slovenia, the UK, and the US supported adding text on human rights and the situation of women and girls, including language emphasising the importance of the full, equal, meaningful, and safe participation of women. France also suggested language regarding the negative effects of the Taliban’s decisions banning Afghan women from working for the UN and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), a proposal that was supported by the UK and the US, while Switzerland proposed text recognising the need to address the multifaceted challenges facing Afghanistan and listing examples of those challenges. China and Russia, on the other hand, argued that the preambular paragraphs should emphasise the humanitarian crisis and the need for humanitarian aid and other forms of assistance that support basic human needs. The penholder then incorporated each of these proposals into the first revised draft. The text added by the penholder was either identical to or closely based on previously agreed language.

In addition, China and Russia argued that the preambular section should highlight other issues, including the economic situation in Afghanistan and the frozen assets belonging to Afghanistan’s central bank. It seems that China also suggested changing the reporting cycle on Afghanistan and UNAMA from every three months to twice a year, and proposed adding language emphasising Afghanistan’s humanitarian and development challenges to the operative section of the draft resolution. These suggestions received apparent support from Russia but were strongly opposed by a majority of other Council members and were not included in the first revised draft.

It seems that most Council members indicated that they were satisfied with the first revised draft. China and Russia, however, contended that their concerns had not been addressed and continued to call for more language on humanitarian and economic issues and a change to UNAMA’s reporting cycle, with Russia also noting that it would prefer a straightforward renewal without preambular language on the issues facing Afghanistan. In response, the penholder added preambular text on the need to address Afghanistan’s economic challenges, restoring the country’s banking and financial systems, and enabling the use of assets belonging to Afghanistan’s central bank for the benefit of the Afghan people to the second revised draft and placed that draft under silence.

China and Russia subsequently broke silence, arguing that the draft placed too much emphasis on human rights and contending that it did not adequately address the question of humanitarian assistance. In breaking silence, both members suggested deleting the text referring to the negative effects of the Taliban’s bans on Afghan women working for the UN and NGOs, as well as language emphasising the importance of women’s participation in Afghanistan. It appears that this was the first time either member proposed deleting this text during the negotiations. China and Russia also continued to push for a change to the reporting cycle for Afghanistan, arguing that the Secretary-General should report to the Council on the situation in the country and UNAMA every four months because the security situation has stabilised.

Following a round of bilateral consultations with some Council members, the penholder decided to remove the new proposed preambular language and put the draft resolution directly into blue, thereby reverting to the first draft. In an apparent attempt to reach a compromise, it contains no preambular language regarding the challenges facing Afghanistan and maintains a three-month reporting cycle for UNAMA.


Post-script: On 17 March, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2727, extending UNAMA’s mandate until 17 March 2025.

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