Security Council Extends Mandate of Special Political Mission in Afghanistan, Requests Independent Assessment of In-Country Efforts, Adopting Two Texts

The Security Council today adopted two resolutions concerning Afghanistan, both unanimously, one of which extended the mandate of the United Nations special political mission for one year, while the other requested an independent assessment of – and recommendations for – efforts to address that country’s challenges.

By the terms of resolution 2679 (2023) (to be issued as document S/RES/2679(2023)), the 15-member Council requested the Secretary-General to conduct and provide, no later than 17 November, an integrated, independent assessment, 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.

By its other terms, the Council requested 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 United Nations system, in order to address the current challenges faced by Afghanistan, including those relating to the humanitarian situation, human right -especially the rights of women and girls – religious and ethnic minorities, security and terrorism.

The Council also adopted resolution 2678 (2023) (to be issued as document S/RES/2678(2023)), by whose terms members decided to extend the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) until 17 March 2024. The text stressed the critical importance of the Mission’s continued presence and called upon all relevant Afghan political actors and stakeholders, including relevant authorities and international actors, to coordinate with UNAMA in the implementation of its mandate and to ensure the safety, security and freedom of movement of United Nations and associated personnel throughout the country.

Both texts, which were co-sponsored by the delegations of Japan and the United Arab Emirates, were welcomed by many Council members, who hailed them as strong and unified signals of the organ’s commitment to the people of Afghanistan. Several delegates also expressed concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in that country, especially for women.

Ishikane Kimihiro (Japan), who spoke before adoptions, outlined the contents of both draft resolutions. He noted that, while the first text renews UNAMA’s mandate so it can continue its important work, the second calls for an independent assessment that will provide forward-looking recommendations on how relevant actors can address challenges more coherently.

Speaking after votes, Lana Zaki Nusseibeh (United Arab Emirates) said the resolution requesting the independent assessment recognizes that the challenges facing Afghanistan – including a severe deterioration in the rights of women and girls, rising humanitarian needs, security threats and an unsustainable economic situation – demand a departure from business as usual. Adding that the status quo that contributed to the worst women’s rights crisis in the world will continue unless the international community acts, she stressed: “The work truly begins now.”

Also addressing the Council was Naseer Ahmad Faiq (Afghanistan) who underscored that the resolutions adopted today recognize the grave situation affecting his people. The mandate extension for UNAMA comes at a critical time, he said, noting the many promises broken by the Taliban. Thanking the Mission for its indefatigable efforts, he noted that, even despite adverse circumstances, “they stayed and delivered essential services”. On the comprehensive assessment resolution, he described the text as an important development that reflects a new degree of unity and consensus in the Council. The most effective way to stabilize Afghanistan is by paving the way for legitimate and inclusive governance that can deliver on the needs of its people, he stressed, calling on the United Nations to prioritize political dialogue.

Robert A. Wood (United States) said the one-year extension of UNAMA’s mandate will enable the United Nations to foster the human rights of all Afghans, especially women and girls. The Mission will also continue to address the widespread humanitarian emergency, tackle the ongoing economic crisis and facilitate dialogue between relevant stakeholders. Further, the Council’s action directly supports the empowerment of women and girls, along with their human rights, fundamental freedoms and full, equal and meaningful participation in all stages of decision-making, he said.

Vanessa Frazier (Malta) stressed that the experts appointed to conduct the independent assessment must have gender expertise and context-specific knowledge. Women’s rights are central to that assessment, she said, underscoring the need to engage with other relevant actors including the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) to ensure that a gender perspective is integrated into the assessment.

Many delegates spotlighted the decisions and actions of the Taliban, which they said have only compounded the crisis in Afghanistan. Barbara Woodward (United Kingdom) noted that the recent decree barring Afghan women from working at non-governmental organizations has affected humanitarian efforts at a time when they are most needed. “We will work to hold the Taliban to account on its commitments,” she stressed.

Nathalie Estival Broadhurst (France), also expressed concern about the massive human rights violations and the “freedom-killing measures” of the Taliban, calling on the group to respect the commitments it previously made to the international community.

Pascale Christine Baeriswyl (Switzerland) observed that the situation in Afghanistan is dire because the Taliban is hindering the international community’s work. Highlighting the exclusion of women and girls from public life due to the Taliban’s repressive acts, she agreed with the representative of the United Arab Emirates that “work is just beginning” there.

Striking a similar tone, Monica Soledad Sanchez Izquierdo (Ecuador) welcomed the balanced texts adopted today, which respond to the Taliban’s severe human rights violations. She said her delegation voted in favour of both draft resolutions, cognizant of the need to reverse policies that institutionalize discrimination against women.

Anna M. Evstigneeva (Russian Federation) said the Council’s unanimous support is a signal to the people of Afghanistan of the entire international community’s commitment to assisting their long-suffering country. It is crucial to maintain the pragmatic cooperation of UNAMA with the de facto authorities, she said, adding that Afghanistan should not be isolated. Any attempts to politicize humanitarian assistance is immoral and unacceptable, she stressed, noting that the independent assessment must be based on consultations with the country’s authorities. Further, she added, its report should be balanced and must reflect real challenges, including the freezing of Afghan assets and the impact of unilateral sanctions. She also expressed appreciation for the efforts of Japan and the United Arab Emirates in finding compromise solutions.

Sun Zhiqiang (China) also welcomed the work of the United Arab Emirates in building consensus for today’s resolutions. He stressed that mutual respect and dialogue, rather than pressure and sanctions, are necessary to find a true solution to the many crises Afghanistan is facing. The international community’s priorities should be relieving the humanitarian crisis, promoting socioeconomic development and supporting engagement with the Afghan authorities, he said, adding that unilateral sanctions that exacerbate the humanitarian crisis should be given close attention.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:40 a.m.

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