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The UN mission chief emphasizes that the Taliban's adherence to "international norms" is a non-negotiable aspect of their return.
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The UN mission chief emphasizes that the Taliban’s adherence to “international norms” is a non-negotiable aspect of their return.

The leader of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva, emphasized the importance of increasing communication with the unofficial Taliban leaders who took control in August 2021.

According to her statement to the Council, the state of human rights in Afghanistan includes the following issues: systematic discrimination against females, suppression of political opposition and freedom of expression, inadequate inclusion of minority groups, and continued occurrences of unlawful killings, arrests, detentions, and mistreatment.

Uphold international standards 

She stated that adhering to and promoting the global regulations and guidelines outlined in the UN Treaties that Afghanistan has agreed to will remain a non-negotiable requirement for being granted a position at the United Nations.

Ms. Otunbayeva expressed satisfaction with the UN-sanctioned evaluation of initiatives aimed at tackling the issues in Afghanistan, in accordance with a resolution passed by the Security Council in March.

Overall, the response from the de facto authorities regarding the report has shown a preference for dealing with issues on a one-on-one basis rather than through multiple parties, according to her statement. They still hold the belief that prohibitions on girls’ education and women’s employment are internal matters, despite going against existing treaty agreements.

She was concerned that this would only extend the deadlock that the report aims to resolve.

Roza Otunbayeva, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, briefs the Security Council meeting on the situation in the country.

Photograph by Manuel Elías, United Nations.

Roza Otunbayeva, the designated representative of the Secretary-General and leader of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, provides updates on the state of affairs in the nation during a Security Council session.

Dialogue and engagement 

Ms. Otunbayeva stated that any future strategy should take into account two key elements: a strong and specific global agreement on Afghanistan and an increased utilization of the de facto leaders’ willingness to communicate with members of the international community.

She stated that dialogue does not legitimize, but it can be utilized to express disapproval while also promoting change.

“We have frequently discussed the importance of extracting knowledge from our involvement since August 2021. One key lesson is the lack of sufficient engagement. It is crucial to have more direct interactions with the de facto authorities, including those in Kabul.”

Regional security fears 

Ms. Otunbayeva provided an update to the Council regarding developments regarding Afghan and regional security, humanitarian concerns, and other matters such as education.

She stated that the governing body currently maintains a generally satisfactory level of security in Afghanistan. However, there is still a significant concern for unexploded weapons, particularly among children.

She pointed out that the Shia community continues to face a higher risk of danger, as evidenced by 39 casualties in three recent attacks claimed by the ISIL-KP terrorist organization. Additionally, nine people lost their lives in three targeted attacks on Shia clerics in Herat.

Other nations in the region are worried about potential dangers that may come from Afghanistan. Specifically, Pakistan is worried as they believe that the current Afghan government has not taken enough action to control the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, who have taken responsibility for recent terrorist attacks.

A boy in a truck carrying his family's possessions waits to return to Afghanistan.

© WFP/Rana Deraz

A young male in a vehicle transporting his family’s belongings anticipates going back to Afghanistan.

Deportations from Pakistan

In recent weeks, Pakistan has started expelling unregistered Afghans residing in the nation. As a result, almost 500,000 individuals have been sent back to Afghanistan. Ms. Otunbayeva noted that this has caused a decline in the relationship between the two neighboring countries.

The individuals who are returning are the most destitute. 80,000 of them have no place to go in Afghanistan. The repercussions for women and girls who are forced to return are especially grave in terms of human rights.

Quality education challenge 

Furthermore, she emphasized the increasing worry about the state of education in Afghanistan. She pointed out that although the global community has rightfully prioritized lifting the Taliban’s prohibition on girls’ education, the declining quality and availability of education is also impacting boys.

There is a growing amount of anecdotal evidence that girls of various ages are able to receive an education at madrassas, which are Islamic schools. However, it is uncertain what exactly is considered a madrassa and if there is a set curriculum that includes modern education topics. Additionally, the number of girls who are able to attend madrassas is also unclear.

According to Ms. Otunbayeva, there are reports that the unofficial Ministry of Education is evaluating these schools and reviewing the curriculum for public schools. Officials in charge of education also state that they are making efforts to create suitable conditions for girls to resume attending school.

However, as time goes by, a whole generation of girls is being left behind,” she cautioned. “If we don’t offer a curriculum that is up-to-date and provides equal opportunities for both girls and boys, it will be impossible to achieve the de facto authorities’ goal of economic independence.

Ms. Otunbayeva also pointed to counter-narcotics as another area for further cooperation, noting that the de facto authorities have successfully reduced opium cultivation by 95 per cent, thus addressing a long-standing international concern.

The situation of a humanitarian crisis is worsening, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

At present, Afghanistan continues to have a significant amount of humanitarian concerns, with over 29 million individuals in need of aid in the current year.

Ramesh Rajasingham, a senior leader in the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), reported that there has been a 340% rise in the past five years, with an additional one million people affected compared to January.

After three large earthquakes hit Herat province in October, thousands of families have been forced to live in temporary shelters and tents. Additionally, the sudden influx of returnees from Pakistan could have significant impacts.

“The demands of females in Afghanistan have continuously increased in magnitude and severity, aligning with the oppressive tactics employed by the current governing powers,” he stated.

There have been no new bans or restrictions placed on women working for local and international aid organizations or the UN in recent months. However, there have been efforts to restrict their roles, such as written requests to remove them from leadership positions, according to Mr. Rajasingham.

“However, we are still able to establish a certain level of practical collaboration with the governing authorities at the community level, which allows Afghan women to participate in humanitarian efforts,” he stated.

Additionally, certain humanitarian initiatives that were previously put on hold because of the restrictions have now recommenced and even increased their activities.