Afghanistan

To Avert ‘Irreversible Ruin’ in Afghanistan, International Community Must Engage with Country’s De Facto Authorities, Mission Head Tells Security Council

SC/14815

SECURITY COUNCIL
8984TH MEETING (AM)

Six months after the fall of the Afghan Government, the international community must begin engaging more substantively with the de facto Taliban authorities, the senior United Nations official in Kabul told the Security Council today, citing economic challenges that have left the country on the brink of “irreversible” ruin.

Deborah Lyons, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), briefed the 15‑member Council just weeks before it is slated to renew the Mission’s mandate. She recalled that, when UNAMA’s mandate was rolled over for six months in September 2021, it was still too early for the international community to react to the Taliban’s seizure of power. It is now clear, however, that it will be impossible to truly assist Afghanistan’s people without working with the de facto authorities.

“Six months of indecision, marked by continued sanctions — albeit with some relief — and unstructured political engagement, are eroding vital social and economic coping systems and pushing the population into greater uncertainty,” she said. Thanks to robust donor support, humanitarian partners were able to help Afghanistan avert “our worst fear of famine and widespread starvation” over the recent winter months. However, providing short-term relief is not the same as giving hope to Afghan people of building a strong foundation for self-reliance.

Describing Afghanistan’s pressing economic challenges, she warned of a tipping point that will see more businesses close, more people unemployed and more falling into poverty. Meanwhile, a gulf of distrust exists between the Taliban and the global community, and the group feels misunderstood and unrecognized. While UNAMA will continue to vocally raise concerns about issues it sees on the ground — including restrictions on fundamental rights, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention — it can do more by working alongside the de facto authorities. “You are about to approach a critical moment in your relationship with Afghanistan,” she told the Council, noting that it has the chance to build a more solid and relevant Mission and avert the country’s further collapse.

Also briefing the Council was civil society leader Mariam Safi, who stressed that Afghanistan — and the credibility of the United Nations — is “hanging by a thread”. Peacebuilding in Afghanistan has been intrusive, externally driven, top‑down and technocratic for two decades, as powerful countries exploited the process for their own ends. Noting the rapid deterioration of women’s rights since the Taliban seized power, she said UNAMA must have a robust mandate to monitor and report on human rights and support the implementation of Afghanistan’s international obligations. It must also have an explicit mandate to support the full, safe, equal and meaningful participation of women across all processes, she stressed, noting that the de facto Taliban leaders have yet to articulate their vision for a political path forward and maintain close ties with terrorist fighters.

As Council members took the floor, many voiced their expectations for the upcoming renewal of UNAMA’s mandate, which ranged from robust new human rights monitoring tasks to narrower, more concrete objectives. Many speakers agreed that the time has come for the Mission, and even the broader international community, to cautiously expand their engagement with the de facto Taliban authorities, for the good of the country’s people. Also raised by several speakers was a recent decision by the United States Government to not return half of its $7 billion in frozen Afghan assets, and to instead make them available to victims of the 11 September 2001 terror attacks in New York.

The representative of France, noting UNAMA’s essential role in Afghanistan, voiced her hope that the Mission will maintain a robust presence. Outlining the global community’s expectations for the Taliban’s conduct — including full respect for women’s rights and the protection of children — she emphasized that “none of these are options”. However, she agreed that UNAMA must work with the Taliban in order to be effective and preserve its role as a humanitarian coordinator. “The Taliban need to prove that they have changed, and that they are ready to join the international community,” she stressed.

Ghana’s representative emphasized that, at all times, the interest and safety of the Afghan people must be pre-eminent and take centre stage in the actions of the United Nations. The Council in particular will have to shoulder its responsibility by ensuring that a fit-for-purpose and robust UNAMA mandate is unanimously and rapidly agreed, to effectively backstop reconstruction and recovery efforts. He joined other speakers in advocating for a human rights framework mandate that ensures the protection of civilians, minorities and vulnerable persons, and that safeguards the rights of women, girls and children.

The representative of China, echoing the Special Representative in emphasizing that humanitarian aid alone is not enough to prevent further collapse in Afghanistan, said the international community must inject liquidity into the country to help restore domestic markets. Any economic blockade and unilateral sanctions must end immediately, he stressed, denouncing the recent decision by the United States to divert Afghanistan’s frozen assets.

The representative of the Russian Federation cited efforts being undertaken by the new Taliban authorities to address the challenges facing the country. Today, women can be involved in business in line with Afghan and Islamic values, and educational institutions have reopened their doors to girls. Stressing that resolving old issues and tackling new challenges will be impossible if the country collapses economically, she recalled that the arrival of United States forces in Afghanistan 20 years ago only deepened the country’s status as a hotbed of terrorism and drug trafficking, and expressed regret that, two decades on, some countries still refuse to lift their sanctions. Turning to the upcoming renewal of UNAMA’s mandate, she rejected the proposal to strengthen its human rights component, instead calling for a more concrete, implementable mandate.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s representative said his country’s new authorities have been unable to uphold their various commitments. Citing credible reports of human rights violations committed by the Taliban — including house searches and violence committed against many members of society — he said that has prompted growing displacement across the country and over its borders. Against that backdrop, he called for the formation of a legitimate, inclusive and responsible Afghan Government and for the convening of an international conference to launch negotiations and intra-Afghan talks. “Please engage with Afghan stakeholders who have credibility, legitimacy and a good reputation,” and actually represent the interests of the country’s people, he told the Council.

Also speaking today were representatives of Norway, India, Brazil, United Kingdom, United States, Albania, Kenya, Ireland, Mexico, Gabon, United Arab Emirates, Iran and Pakistan.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:25 p.m.

Briefings

DEBORAH LYONS, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), briefing members on recent developments, said the Organization and its partners have spent the past winter months doing everything possible to meet the country’s growing humanitarian needs. “As the winter season comes to an end, we have perhaps averted our worst fears of famine and widespread starvation,” she said, thanking donors for their support and noting that the de facto authorities provided access to all parts of Afghanistan. Humanitarian agencies were able to reach nearly 20 million people with assistance in 397 out of the country’s 401 districts — the first time such scope was achieved in two decades or more.

“Providing short-term relief is, however, not the same as giving hope or preparing a strong foundation for Afghan self-reliance,” she said, adding: “It is imperative that we not find ourselves six months from now in the situation we faced six months ago — with millions of Afghans facing another winter of starvation and the only tool at our disposal being expensive and unsustainable humanitarian handouts.” Addressing Afghanistan’s economy is now the most pressing challenge, she said, noting that the country is nearing a tipping point that will see more businesses close, more people unemployed and more falling into poverty.

Welcoming the General License issued by the United States Treasury aimed at facilitating commercial and financial activity and allowing work with governing institutions, she said Afghanistan still faces a collapse of demand due to cessation of all development assistance and restrictions on international payments. Lack of access to hard currency reserves, lack of liquidity and constraints on the Central Bank are also key challenges. UNAMA has taken all conceivable measures to inject liquidity into the economy, including the physical import of cash, and is now seeking to establish — on a temporary basis — a humanitarian exchange facility to allow a scale-up in humanitarian programming and provide access to United States dollars to legitimate business.

She recalled that, when UNAMA’s mandate was rolled over for six months in September 2021, it was still too early for the international community to react to the Taliban’s seizure of power. “Six months of indecision, marked by continued sanctions — albeit with some relief — and unstructured political engagement, are eroding vital social and economic coping systems and pushing the population into greater uncertainty,” she said. It will be impossible to truly assist the Afghan people without working with the de facto authorities. Acknowledging the enduring distrust between the Taliban and much of the international community, she said the group feels misunderstood and complains that international reports “do not reflect reality as they see it”.

Above all, she said, the Taliban want greater acknowledgement for the security that prevails in Afghanistan. In the six months since the fall of the previous Government, there has been a 78 per cent decline in civilian casualties, and a declared amnesty was largely honoured. The Taliban also highlight progress on the economic front, including strong revenues despite decreased economic activity, reduced Government corruption and a budget that does not require donor resources. It was recently announced that schools will reopen for girls and boys, she said. The Taliban complain that such positive steps are being undermined by an undeclared economic war against them by the international community. “This clash of perspectives forms the basis of a serious distrust that must be addressed,” she said.

For its part, she said, UNAMA continues to report on what it sees on the ground, including concerning restrictions on fundamental rights, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention. The Mission was vocal on the need to release disappeared women protesters and their family members, who were in fact released in February. Describing the country’s situation as complicated, with both positive and negative trends occurring simultaneously, she said the Mission can do more by working with the de facto authorities on the main issues facing Afghan society. UNAMA’s main purpose must remain to ultimately see Afghanistan re-join the international community as a member in good standing.

Against that backdrop, she said, the Secretary-General proposed a one-year mandate renewal after which the results of a sustained political engagement will be evaluated. “The mandate you adopt for UNAMA will send a signal from the international community to the Afghan people that they have not been forgotten, and to the Taliban that the world does not desire future conflict in Afghanistan,” she said. However, it will also stress that they will need to recognize basic standards of global citizenship in order to be accepted by the international community. “You are about to approach a critical moment in your relationship with Afghanistan,” she said, noting that the Council has the opportunity to build a more solid and relevant UNAMA that will avert the country’s collapse into further crisis.

MARIAM SAFI, briefing the Council on behalf of civil society and expressing solidarity with the people of Ukraine at the outset, said that she brought with her today a piece of Afghanistan, a bit of soil she has kept since her first visit to that country in 2007. “Let this soil remind you that Afghanistan is more than images on TV or numbers on a page,” she urged, stressing that the Council’s decisions affect nearly 40 million lives. While the United Nations is coordinating the largest humanitarian response in recent history, she echoed the Secretary-General’s remarks that “Afghanistan is hanging by a thread.” She added, however, that “so is the credibility of the United Nations, the Security Council and the international community”. Peacebuilding in Afghanistan has been intrusive, externally driven, top‑down and technocratic for two decades, as powerful countries exploit the process for their own ends. “This is why we are here today”, she emphasized.

Noting the rapid deterioration of women’s rights since the Taliban seized power, she stressed that “repression of women’s rights appears central to the Taliban’s vision for Afghanistan”. As a result, women continue to protest across the country despite the Taliban’s systematic efforts to harm, detain and even force them into fake confessions. This campaign of intimidation should signal to the international community that the Taliban must be judged by their actions , not their words, and she added that “engagement without conditions is complicity”. UNAMA must have a robust mandate to monitor and report on human rights and support the implementation of Afghanistan’s international obligations. It must have the resources and capacity to extend its reach and support local organizations carrying out human-rights work. Further, UNAMA must have an explicit mandate to support the full, safe, equal and meaningful participation of women across all processes, consulting with women and civil society more broadly towards this end.

Turning to the humanitarian response, she noted that Afghan women’s organizations are calling for at least 40 per cent of the estimated $4.4 billion required to provide humanitarian assistance in the country to be dedicated to women, girls and female-headed households. Further, women’s participation in delivering this assistance is essential, and the humanitarian response must be carried out in partnership with Afghan civil society. Development aid is also necessary to prevent the collapse of the banking system and allow ordinary Afghans access to much-needed resources. On the recent decision by the United States to split $7 billion of Afghanistan’s frozen assets and keep them from the Afghan people, she said this is “nothing short of theft” and called for such funds to be gradually released to the Central Bank, which should remain independent and managed by a neutral technical team.

She went on to point out that six months have elapsed and the Taliban has yet to articulate its vision for a political path forward, nor has it fulfilled its assurances of security. On the contrary, the Taliban maintains close ties with foreign terrorist fighters and desires an Islamic Emirate, in which power is consolidated in a leader selected by a council. Underscoring that “Afghans must have a means to freely express their views, and all Afghans must be represented in any future Government”, she said that the international community can facilitate discussions between Afghans and the Taliban and monitor progress towards this goal. For this to be effective, however, clear benchmarks must be set on fundamental issues, such as women’s rights, freedom of the press, inclusive governance and equal representation, supported and monitored by UNAMA. The United Nations is only well-positioned to continue supporting Afghanistan’s people, she stressed, “if it has the courage to uphold its own values”, even when it is difficult.

Statements

MONA JUUL (Norway) said Afghanistan is facing one of the world’s most rapidly growing humanitarian crises, a disaster stemming from many years of conflict, climate change, drought and economic collapse. Half of the population face acute hunger and more than 9 million people are displaced. Noting that humanitarian and development assistance will not be sufficient to respond to those challenges, she said the de facto authorities must recognize and fulfil their responsibilities to meet the needs of the Afghan people. She also voiced deep concern about high levels of violence, abuses of power and an unpredictable security situation. Respect for the rule of law and human rights, and a more representative Government, are necessary for sustainable peace and for national and international legitimacy, she stressed, also spotlighting the inextricable link between the country’s future and the rights of women and girls.

T.S. TIRUMURTI (India) said that, as an immediate neighbour with strong linkages to the Afghan people, his country is concerned about recent developments, especially the deteriorating humanitarian situation. Expressing his hope that humanitarian “carve-outs” in resolution 2615 (2021) will be fully utilized by United Nations agencies and their partners, he said such aid should be based on principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence, and must reach the most vulnerable — including women, children and minorities — first. India has vastly scaled up its humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan in recent months, and delivered 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Stressing that the global community’s expectations for the way forward in Afghanistan — as outlined in resolution 2593 (2021) — must be reflected in UNAMA’s upcoming mandate, he said that includes ensuring that the country is not used to launch terrorist attacks against other countries. Afghan territory should be used for the formation of a truly inclusive and representative Government, combating terrorism and drug trafficking and preserving the rights of women, children and minorities.

JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) stated that it is time to adjust the Organization’s response to the reality on the ground, more than six months after the fall of Kabul, and “judge de facto authorities not by their words, but by their actions”. Noting reports of unacceptable violations committed by forces associated with the new regime — including arbitrary arrests, kidnappings, extrajudicial killings and restrictions on freedom of expression — he stressed that UNAMA must be able to monitor and help consolidate the rule of law in Afghanistan. Further, the Mission must support the rights of women and girls who continue to suffer persecution for activism and a limited presence in public life and the labour market. The international community must also raise its voice against practices such as the recruitment of children by armed groups and the closing of schools for girls. Pointing out that the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate, he stressed that “we cannot remain indifferent to the drama of 9 million people threatened by hunger”, and that the Afghan people must have access to their assets held abroad.

ZHANG JUN (China) said that, despite this cold winter coming to an end, hunger and cold have not yet receded for the people of Afghanistan and “hope and spring still seem far away”. Citing statistics from the World Food Programme (WFP) that 22.8 million Afghans face severe food insecurity and 3.2 million children under the age of five are severely malnourished, he stressed that Afghanistan is “facing an avalanche of hunger and poverty”. Against that backdrop, donor countries must help that country ease its humanitarian crisis and stabilize its economy. Humanitarian aid alone is not enough, however, and the international community must inject liquidity into the country to help restore domestic markets. Further, any economic blockade and unilateral sanctions must end immediately. On the decision by the United States to divert Afghanistan’s frozen assets, he underscored that the same belong to the Afghan State and people and that arbitrarily handling other countries’ assets through domestic law contravenes international law. He called on the relevant countries to immediately, unconditionally return these assets in full.

NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France), stressing that UNAMA plays an essential role in Afghanistan, voiced her hope that the Mission will maintain a robust presence. Outlining the global community’s expectations for the Taliban’s conduct — including full respect for women’s rights and the protection of children — she emphasized that “none of these are options”. However, UNAMA must work with the Taliban in order to be effective and preserve its role as a humanitarian coordinator. Acknowledging the de facto authorities’ “paltry achievements” this far, she noted that they have so far taken no measures to curb the activities of terrorist groups in the country. Far from breaking ties with such movements as Al-Qaida, which, in fact, enjoys ties to some officials in the de facto Government, the Taliban have allowed such groups more freedom than they have had in years. “The Taliban need to prove that they have changed, and that they are ready to join the international community,” she stressed.

JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom), echoing concerns raised about the situation in Afghanistan, said urgent action is needed to avert economic collapse. UNAMA’s work in leading an adequately resourced, prioritized and coordinated international response remains crucial. Noting that the United Kingdom remains among the foremost supporters of the global humanitarian response to Afghanistan — having doubled its contribution in 2022 to $381 million — he said it will also co-host a pledging conference on 31 March to raise funds for those efforts. However, humanitarian assistance can only go so far. The international community must quickly find creative solutions to address the liquidity crisis and find ways to provide help beyond basic humanitarian aid. For its part, the Taliban must address the global community’s concerns, including with regards to the rights of women and girls. The United Kingdom supports an empowered and effective UNAMA responsible for the delivery of humanitarian aid; monitoring and advocating for the freedoms and rights of all Afghans; and promoting stability.

JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States) underscored his country’s strong support for UNAMA’s good offices, human-rights monitoring and reporting functions, humanitarian-coordination role, child- and civilian-protection activities, and work to promote the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in all aspects of public life. The international community must support and adequately resource United Nations humanitarian efforts; for its part, the United States is the largest donor for such efforts in Afghanistan and has contributed more than $308 million to the humanitarian and regional‑refugee response plans for 2022. Stressing that Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis is inextricable from the broader economic challenges facing the country as a result of the Taliban’s decision to seek power through force rather than negotiation, he detailed certain Government measures in response, including an executive order signed to protect certain Afghan funds present in the United States. Disposition of those funds will be made through close, meaningful consultations with a wide variety of stakeholders, and he pointed out that, without the executive order, all reserves subject to United States jurisdiction would have been inaccessible to the Afghan people for the foreseeable future. Noting China’s repeated criticism of this action, he said that “it is a pity that China spends more time criticizing United States action than helping the Afghan people themselves”. The onus is on the Taliban, he added, to create the conditions needed for the country to achieve economic stability.

ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania) expressed concern over the grave humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, pointing out that the same is worsening for women, girls and minorities in particular. The absence of inclusive governance continues to be an obstacle, and the Taliban has yet to articulate what kind of State they intend to build. Calling on the Taliban to uphold Afghanistan’s international commitments, she stressed that, without strong assurances from the de facto authorities, it will be hard for the same to engage on the international stage to alleviate the humanitarian situation. She went on to underscore that the whole of Afghan society should enjoy freedom of expression and association, calling for the human rights of all to be fully respected: “Recovery cannot happen without women back at work and girls back at school.” Turning to UNAMA, she welcomed the exceptional role played by the Mission and stated that equipping it with a clear, strong mandate — along with extended duties and responsibilities — will only benefit the interaction between the world and Afghanistan going forward.

HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) affirmed that resolving the crisis in Afghanistan will entail precluding all geopolitical considerations and interests. At all times, the interest and safety of the Afghan people must be preeminent and take the centre stage in the actions of the United Nations. The Council in particular will have to shoulder its responsibility by ensuring that a fit-for-purpose and robust UNAMA mandate is unanimously and rapidly agreed, to effectively backstop reconstruction and recovery efforts. As mentioned by the Special Representative, that mandate must be approached creatively, with flexibility and leave no room for ambiguity. Ghana will insist on a human rights framework mandate that ensures the protection of civilians, minorities and vulnerable persons, and that safeguards the rights of women, girls and children. “Returning Afghanistan to normalcy is the overarching objective and must remain a shared and foremost responsibility for us all,” he stressed, commending the growing cooperation between UNAMA and the de facto authorities.

ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation), citing the evolving situation in Afghanistan, noted efforts being undertaken by the new Taliban authorities to address the challenges facing the country. Today, women can be involved in business in line with Afghan and Islamic values, and educational institutions have reopened their doors to girls. Voicing her expectation that the authorities will take further steps — including finalizing the process of intra-Afghan negotiations and establishing an inclusive Government — she added that the threats posed by terrorism and drug trafficking must also be addressed. However, effectively resolving old issues and tackling new challenges will remain impossible if the country collapses economically.

She recalled that the arrival of United States forces in Afghanistan 20 years ago only deepened the country’s status as a hotbed of terrorism and drug trafficking, and during those two decades many opportunities to eliminate terrorism were missed. Today, it is regrettable that some countries still refuse to lift sanctions on Afghanistan, even as it faces financial paralysis and imminent collapse following the hasty withdrawal of forces that left Afghans alone and unprotected. Also citing the risk of instability across the region, she urged all parties to draw lessons from past mistakes, adding that engaging with the new Afghan authorities using threats or ultimatums will not prove effective. Turning to the upcoming renewal of UNAMA’s mandate, she rejected the proposal to strengthen its human rights component, warning against turning it into an “overseer” mission and instead calling for a concrete, implementable mandate.

JAYNE TOROITICH (Kenya) welcomed reports that the overall security situation in Afghanistan has improved, while noting with concern that crime has increased at the same time. The increased regional cooperation by various stakeholders is encouraging. Against that backdrop, she urged the Taliban to also engage with regional countries to address and resolve any tensions and security incidents along border areas, while also committing to fight terrorism and ensuring that the country does not become a haven from which terrorist groups operate. Also voicing concern over the dire humanitarian situation, she called on stakeholders, international donors and friends of Afghanistan to unite and generously contribute to the 2022 humanitarian response plan in order to reduce the $3.9 billion funding gap. As such assistance is not sustainable in the long term, there is also a need to incorporate elements of economic development into humanitarian operations and address Afghanistan’s collapsing economy.

BRIAN FLYNN (Ireland) said that, in the six months since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, news has emerged of a shocking and deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation. Destitution, starvation, attacks on freedom of expression, disappearances, sexual violence and killings have been reported and for 166 days the Taliban have denied Afghan girls access to secondary education. Economic freefall is causing extreme hardship for millions of Afghans, and humanitarian operations are impeded by the country’s banking and liquidity crisis. Now, as members negotiate a mandate for the continued United Nations presence, they must put the needs and human rights of the Afghan people first. “This Council must not falter in its responsibility to Afghan women and girls,” he stressed, adding that it needs to do more to hold the Taliban to account for their actions. UNAMA’s future mandate must have, at its core, an unambiguous commitment to women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in all dialogue and political processes, and a robust human rights mandate is essential, he said.

ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico), noting that Afghanistan was the subject of the largest appeal for humanitarian aid ever seen for a single country, underscored the need to guarantee that humanitarian workers enjoy security while carrying out their vital work. For Mexico, defence of the rights and fundamental freedom of women and girls has been a consistent, principled position, and any backsliding in this area is unacceptable. However, nothing represents the reversal of the same in Afghanistan better than the fact that the former headquarters for women’s affairs is now the headquarters for the propagation of virtue and prevention of vice. Against that backdrop, she underscored the need for girls to return to classrooms and women to return to the workplace, without exceptions. She also expressed concern over reports of increased terrorist presence, stressing the need to prevent Afghanistan from becoming, once again, a haven for terrorist groups. Turning to UNAMA, she said the Mission must have a robust mandate in line with the strategic objectives proposed by the Secretary-General, with priority given to its human rights monitoring and reporting functions.

ALLEGRA PAMELA R. BONGO (Gabon) said that, six months after the Taliban took power, the absence of inclusivity in Afghanistan’s leadership is concerning. That country’s stability requires promoting trust, transparent governance and structured dialogue, and she noted positive regional efforts towards this end. She went on to point out that Afghans are facing abject poverty, which has led to massive displacement in the middle of a pandemic. Conditions are now ripe for a large‑scale humanitarian crisis, and women and girls will be the first victims as their rights remain largely limited despite commitments by the authorities to protect them. Women must be part of an inclusive administration, and she emphasized that this is not an option, “but a requirement for peace and security and for the survival of humanity”. She also expressed concern over UNAMA’s reports of murders and forced disappearances of former officials — despite promises of general amnesty made by the Taliban — as this will impede national reconciliation. Further, the presence of foreign combatants over which the Taliban has no control is a threat to neighbouring countries, as international terrorists and cross-border traffickers may seek to establish a base in the country.

AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates), Council President for March, spoke in her national capacity, noting that today’s meeting is taking place at a critical juncture for Afghanistan, as the 15-member organ considers how the United Nations can best serve the country’s people. Voicing support for a robust UNAMA mandate that is calibrated to align with the realities on the ground, she described the Secretary-General’s recent recommendations in that regard as sensible and offering a good starting point for deliberations. The coordination of donor activities should remain a cornerstone of UNAMA’s activities, as should efforts to minimize the risk of aid diversion. As a vocal supporter of women and girls’ protection and empowerment, the United Arab Emirates believes that UNAMA’s mandate should reflect the situation of women and girls, adding that their exclusion from education, public life and the work force in Afghanistan hinders prospects for peace and security, as well as economic prosperity in the country. The United Nations can play a crucial role in facilitating political dialogue with all relevant parties, including the Taliban, she added.

SUN ZHIQIANG (China), taking the floor a second time, said the United States delegate appears to be uncomfortable about the issue of his country’s illegally frozen Afghan assets, which was raised today by several speakers. To feel more comfortable, the United States need only return those assets to their rightful owners, he stressed.

Mr. DELAURENTIS (United States), also taking the floor again, said China’s repeated references to the currency reserve issue contain falsehoods, and clearly are only intended to score political points.

Mr. SUN (China), taking the floor for a third time, said the Afghan people themselves are extremely angry about their assets being frozen by the United States.

NASEER A. FAIQ (Afghanistan) said the humanitarian and economic situations in his country are gravely concerning, as the new authorities have been unable to uphold their various commitments. The crisis has resulted in a state of uncertainty and dismay for many ordinary Afghans. Citing credible reports of human rights violations committed by the Taliban — including house searches and violence committed against many members of society — he said that has prompted growing displacement across the country and over its borders. “The continuation of this situation will further endanger the prospects for viable peace in Afghanistan,” he stressed. Thanking donors for their humanitarian support, he requested the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism to ensure that development funds and projects are indeed delivered to legitimate recipients in Afghanistan.

Turning to the prospects for governance, he called for the formation of a legitimate, inclusive and responsible Afghan Government which includes women. Only the convening of an international conference with United Nations support to launch negotiations and intra-Afghan talks will ensure the protection of achievements made over the last two decades, and rescue the Afghan people from poverty and starvation. “Please engage with Afghan stakeholders who have credibility, legitimacy and a good reputation,” and actually represent the interests of the Afghan people, he told the Council. As members turn their attention to the upcoming extension of UNAMA’s mandate, he underlined the Mission’s crucial role in humanitarian aid delivery, as well as in reporting and monitoring on human rights.

ZAHRA ERSHADI (Iran) expressed concern over the potentially disastrous ramifications of the situation in Afghanistan for the region’s security and stability. If it is not addressed effectively, the country’s socioeconomic collapse is possible, which would result in widespread destitution and a large influx of migrants into neighbouring countries already overburdened with hosting millions of refugees. She urged the international community — particularly donor countries — to meet their responsibilities to Afghanistan’s neighbours and assist refugees and displaced persons. Further, Afghanistan’s frozen assets belong to its people and the release of such assets — critical for restoring the economy and saving lives — should not be politicized or conditional. Also expressing concern over continuing terrorist activity in Afghanistan, she said that this trend underlines the international community’s demand that the Taliban commit to fighting terrorism to ensure that the country is no longer a haven for terrorist groups. The international community should also continue to emphasize the need for an inclusive, representative Government and the Taliban must take serious steps to ensure true ethnic and political inclusivity, she added.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) stressed that, after four decades, there is now a chance to promote durable peace in Afghanistan as one Government controls the entire country and there is no existential threat to its survival. The international community must work to stabilize the country and ensure durable peace in the region by addressing the massive humanitarian crisis and preventing the collapse of the Afghan economy. Expressing hope that recent crises will not lead to abandoning Afghanistan — a mistake made twice in the last 40 years with devastating consequences — he welcomed United Nations-led efforts to inject cash into the banking system. Further, all of Afghanistan’s financial reserves must be released; it is regrettable that half of these are proposed to be sequestered by another country. UNAMA is engaging constructively with the new authorities in Kabul, and its mandate must be based on respect for Afghanistan’s sovereignty and conducted with the consent of the Government — recognized or not — to promote stability and improve the lives of the Afghan people. He went on to say that any effort to create a parallel governance structure is likely to erode the trust that currently exists, and political objectives — such as promoting inclusive governance — is the sole purview of Afghanistan and the authorities.

For information media. Not an official record.