23 March 2021
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Thank you, Madame President,
It is my great honor to have the opportunity to address the Council today. Allow me to first congratulate you for your able leadership of the Presidency of the Council for this month and for convening this important debate on the situation in Afghanistan.
I also would like to thank SRSG Deborah Lyons for her comprehensive and thorough briefing, as well as for her dedicated work in leading UNAMA. I thank the Secretary-General for his report on the Situation in Afghanistan.
Finally, let me thank my sister, Chairperson Shaharzad Akbar for her persistent and strong voice as a prominent Afghan woman and for her moving and informative testimony. The important work of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission in advocating for the protection of human rights at this critical time is essential and needed more than ever. Thank you, Chairperson Akbar, for your outstanding work.
Like many other developing countries, Afghanistan was also hit-hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The economy is disrupted, our health sector is still struggling with the challenge of COVID-19, and many have lost their livelihoods.
Simultaneously, we have witnessed a record number of security incidents. The Taliban has increased their levels of violence against our security forces and Afghan civilians. They are directly targeting those who strive for a better future. They are targeting our young democracy, our vibrant civil society, and our free and independent press. These attacks are meant to dissuade the participation of women and youth in the peace process, create widespread panic, and crush our aspirations for peace. These attacks are against the principles of the Charter, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
These targeted attacks have killed journalists – working to bring the truth to their fellow citizens; they have harmed civil society advocates – who bravely stand for the rights of their Afghan brothers and sisters; and have killed and injured public servants – who chose a career in service for the New Afghanistan; and our scholars and religious leaders – who have denounced the ongoing war and continued bloodshed in Afghanistan as contrary to the core tenets of Islam.
These targeted attacks do not affect anonymous targets, but fellow Afghans with families, dreams and aspirations. Early this month, Mursal Wahidi, Sadia Sadat, and Shahnaz Raofi were murdered in Jalalabad. They were all in their early 20s and worked as reporters. Just last week, four women and a three-year-old child – Shukria Shams, Aziza Malikzada, Nargis Kohistani, Arsh Mayil, and Khatera Mayil – lost their lives while going through their day riding a bus in Kabul. We must all remember their names and honor their lives by relentlessly pursuing a peace that protects our gains, our young democracy, and our universal rights and the rights given by Islam.
These attacks target, not only the Government, but more fundamentally the very values of humanity, that all of us here hold dear.
These dreadful killings and the surge in violence are occurring during one of the biggest humanitarian crises in Afghan history. We started 2020 with 9.4 million people in humanitarian need, already a high number that was driven by drought and conflict. But today the number has now hit a record of 18.4 million people. In other words, almost half of all Afghans need humanitarian assistance. In turn, the most recent Humanitarian Response Plan estimates that 1.3 billion dollars are needed to respond.
We also need to vaccinate all Afghans against COVID-19 to recover from the pandemic. The vaccination campaign has started, and we are grateful to COVAX and our bilateral donors, notably India and China, for providing the first doses.
The overwhelming number of people in need, the pressing challenge to address food insecurity and other humanitarian concerns including the situation of returning refugees and the continued re-emergence of polio, underscore the urgency for a comprehensive ceasefire and efforts to achieve a durable and sustainable peace. A peace in which every Afghan regardless of their gender, ethnicity or age see themselves included and protected.
The dire humanitarian situation and protracted conflict in Afghanistan continue to stress our vital need for tangible progress in our quest for peace. We entered the peace process with the Taliban understanding that we were facing a long and a complicated process. We knew that it would be difficult and that we were meeting at the negotiating table a group with radically different views on what the future of Afghanistan should look like.
Nevertheless, early agreements in Doha on the code of conduct of negotiations and contact groups for discussions, show us, the power of dialogue, while offering hope for a path forward under an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned format.
I would be remiss if I did not express our strong appreciation to the State of Qatar for their tireless efforts, as well the United States for facilitating the initial steps towards the intra-Afghan Negotiations, together with our regional partners, neighbors, friends and allies.
While we are cautiously optimistic about these early results, we remain adamant that a stronger and more genuine commitment to peace must be shown and translated into action by the Taliban, particularly considering the continued high levels of violence and targeted attacks; their continued relationships with terrorist organizations; and their lack of adherence to a humanitarian ceasefire despite multiple calls; and reports of their preparations for a counterproductive spring offensive.
As done on previous occasions, we again take this platform to ask the Security Council and the UN as a whole to continue to call on the Taliban to observe a comprehensive and a permanent ceasefire.
In moving forwards towards peace, Madam President, I would like to stress the following three points.
First, the firm commitment of the Afghan government to reach an end to the conflict in our country and achieve a sustainable peace that the Afghan people urgently demand. This commitment requires a united national approach and the support of regional and international partners in pursuing our collective efforts.
Second, I would like to underscore the importance of regional consensus and support to reach a durable peace. In this regard, we welcome all regional and international efforts that contribute to the achievement of peace and stability in Afghanistan, including the recent meeting of the extended “Troika” in Moscow and its final joint statement emphasizing the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2513 and reaffirming that it does not support the restoration of the Islamic Emirate.
Similarly, we welcome the upcoming meeting to be organized in Turkey. The Government will participate in the meeting and we emphasize the importance of an inclusive process including the full, equal and meaningful participation of women, youth and civil society. These groups are the cornerstone of the new Afghanistan and their voice should be heard in all peace efforts. We view these meetings as key steps to strengthen and complement the intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha, and we hope that the outcomes of these meetings will reinforce the progress already made and result in tangible advancement for achieving a lasting peace commensurate with the will of the Afghan people.
And third, we welcome the United Nations’ further engagement in Afghanistan and the appointment of Mr. Jean Arnault as the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy on Afghanistan. The United Nations has been a trusted partner and ally of the people of Afghanistan for decades. Its efforts during the last 20 years are applaudable. We hope that through his efforts, Mr. Arnault will be able to complement and amplify the ongoing critical UN mission in Afghanistan and together with the dedicated efforts and excellent leadership of SRSG Lyons bring us closer to a sustainable and dignified peace in Afghanistan and an end to the conflict.
As we proceed with these meetings, allow me to reiterate the Government’s position once again that a sustainable peace can only be achieved if it has the support of all Afghans; and only if it ensures the effective inclusion of all Afghans, including women, youth, minorities, and our vibrant civil society in decision-making. Any decision about future peace and a political settlement should be based on the free will of the Afghan people, as expressed in free, fair and just elections, guaranteed by our regional and international partners. No peace can last in Afghanistan without securing, protecting, and promoting the gains that we have achieved over the past 20 years. The constitutional order must be preserved, and our democracy protected.
We also aim to promote the vision of an Afghanistan that serves as an active player in the region, a hub for connectivity and trade, and a catalyst to the development and integration of Central and South Asia. We believe this is achievable and your support will be fundamental to ensure that we fulfill this shared goal.
The people of Afghanistan want no more empty chairs in classrooms – chairs left empty by students facing insecurity or by girls banned from attending school. We want a society that defends and stands for the rights of the women, men, and ethnic groups that make up our rich and diverse Afghan family. A democracy in which all are heard, respected and represented. We want a prosperous nation and a country that is at peace with itself, our region, and the world.
This is a strong and firm message from the people of Afghanistan who are tired of decades of suffering and war. The Government will continue to fulfill the mandate of the people and we call on the Taliban to genuinely commit to peace so we may see a prosperous, democratic and peaceful Afghanistan.
I thank you,