What's In Blue

Posted Thu 20 Jun 2024

Afghanistan: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (21 June), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing on Afghanistan. Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Roza Otunbayeva, OCHA’s Director for Financing and Partnerships Lisa Doughten, and a representative of civil society are expected to brief. Closed consultations are scheduled to follow the open briefing.

Tomorrow’s meeting takes place against the backdrop of ongoing preparations for the third UN-convened meeting of Special Envoys and Special Representatives on Afghanistan which, at the time of writing, is slated to take place in Doha on 30 June and 1 July. According to media reports, the Taliban have accepted the Secretary-General’s invitation to participate, which was extended during Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo’s visit to Afghanistan in mid-May. On 18 June, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Farhan Haq said that “arrangements for the conference are still ongoing” and indicated that details might be available closer to the date of the meeting. Some Council members may refer to their expectations for this meeting in their statements tomorrow.

Doughten will brief pursuant to resolution 2615 of 22 December 2021, which requested a briefing on the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan every six months. A report published by OCHA on 15 June notes that humanitarian needs in Afghanistan remain extremely severe due to several factors, including high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition, internal displacement, widespread explosive ordnance contamination, recurrent natural disasters, outbreaks of disease, the effects of climate change, and the Taliban’s policies that restrict the rights of women and girls and hinder both their access to humanitarian assistance and their involvement in public life.

The report also says that the humanitarian response in Afghanistan is facing an overall funding shortfall of approximately $2.45 billion, including a critical funding gap of $1.1 billion, and describes several examples of the consequences of this shortfall. It further calls on donors to provide “early, unrestricted and multi-year predictable funding” and encourages them to focus on technical support and knowledge-sharing in their engagement with the Taliban. Doughten may convey similar messages in her briefing tomorrow.

Council members are also expected to highlight the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan during tomorrow’s meeting. On 10 June, UN Women published the Afghanistan Gender Country Profile 2024, the first such report since the Taliban seized power in August 2021. Among other matters, the report concluded that Afghanistan’s overlapping economic, humanitarian, climate, and political crises are interconnected and exacerbated by the women’s rights crisis and found that Afghan women are suffering under a “tightly woven patchwork” of decrees, policies, and systematised practices “with gender discrimination and mass oppression of women at their core”.

The latest report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, which was issued on 13 May, focused on “the phenomenon of an institutionalised system of discrimination, segregation, disrespect for human dignity and exclusion of women and girls”. During an 18 June briefing to the Human Rights Council (HRC) regarding the report, Bennett said that the Taliban’s policies and practices that violate the rights of women and girls may amount to crimes against humanity and recommended that member states support the recognition of gender apartheid and its codification as a crime against humanity.

It appears that the civil society representative will focus on the rights of women and girls and the economic empowerment of women in Afghanistan. Council members might refer to a recent UN Development Programme (UNDP) report on women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan, which analysed data collected from Afghan women over the last three years and found that they have faced a range of hurdles while doing business and experienced deepened discrimination and operational constraints since the Taliban seized power.

Council members are also likely to raise the broader human rights situation in Afghanistan. The Secretary-General’s latest report on UNAMA, which was circulated to Council members on 13 June, describes several examples of human rights violations, including public executions and corporal punishment; arbitrary arrest and detention; torture and ill-treatment; and extrajudicial killings, and calls on the Taliban to abolish the death penalty and rescind restrictive policies that prevent Afghans from enjoying their human rights.

Some members may express concern about the threat posed by terrorism emanating from Afghanistan. According to media reports, in late May a high-level Pakistani delegation met with Taliban officials in Kabul and presented evidence suggesting that an Afghan national carried out a 26 March terrorist attack in Pakistan with the support of terrorist groups residing in Afghanistan. The attack, which killed five Chinese nationals and one Pakistani, was condemned by Council members in a 27 March press statement. In addressing this issue, Council members may call on the Taliban to adhere to the commitments they have made regarding the prevention of terrorism.

Members are also expected to discuss the effects of climate change in Afghanistan. The Secretary-General’s report on UNAMA notes that Afghanistan is ranked sixth globally in lack of readiness to cope with climate change and says that the recent floods in the country highlight its vulnerability. In a 3 June statement, UNICEF noted that children in Afghanistan are particularly vulnerable to climate change and called on the international community to “redouble efforts and investments to support communities to alleviate and adapt to the impact of climate change on children”. Council members that are signatories to the statement of joint pledges related to climate, peace and security—France, Guyana, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, the Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Switzerland, the UK, and the US—are expected to deliver a joint statement on Afghanistan before the meeting tomorrow.

Council members may express different positions on some of the recommendations outlined in the independent assessment on Afghanistan, which the Security Council requested in resolution 2679 of 16 March 2023. (For more information on the independent assessment, see our 27 November 2023 and 8 December 2023 What’s in Blue stories.) The Taliban have opposed the proposed appointment of a UN Special Envoy, who would focus on diplomacy between Afghanistan and international stakeholders and advancing intra-Afghan dialogue. 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 US, have expressed support for the appointment of a Special Envoy, arguing that such a position will be crucial in coordinating international engagement on Afghanistan.

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