UN vows to continue speaking out on women's rights in Afghanistan

Wed, 3 May 2023 9:53 GMT
At meeting on Afghanistan in Qatari capital, top official Antonio Guterres says UN can't not disengage with Afghanistan.
UN vows to continue speaking out on women's rights in Afghanistan

The UN has vowed to continue raising its voice on women's rights in Afghanistan, though it could not disengage with the country over a recent decision barring women from working with the international organization.

"Let me be crystal clear: we will never be silent in the face of unprecedented, systemic attacks on women and girls’ rights," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters in Qatar's capital Doha on Tuesday after two days of UN-led talks between 25 nations and groups of representatives, focusing on issues related to Afghanistan.

According to a transcript issued by the UN, Guterres underlined that while different countries attending the meeting had "different priorities" on Afghanistan, there was a general recognition that these goals are intertwined.

"To achieve our objectives, we cannot disengage. Many called for engagement to be more effective and based on lessons which we have learned from the past," said the UN chief.

The meeting discussed ways to deal with Afghanistan's Taliban-led interim administration and its treatment of women, as well as the matters of inclusive governance, countering terrorism and drug trafficking, he noted.

Participants in the closed-door talks included representatives from the US, China, Russia, Pakistan, and Türkiye, as well as major European aid donors.

"The meeting was about developing a common international approach, not about recognition of the de facto Taliban authorities," Guterres said, hailing the talks' "spirit of unity," comparing it to the unanimous adoption of a Security Council resolution on the matter last week.

On April 27, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the decision to bar women from working with the UN in the country, saying that it undermines human rights and humanitarian principles.

The 15-member body called for the "full, equal, meaningful and safe participation of women and girls in Afghanistan."

The Taliban, who returned to power in August 2021, have imposed a slew of restrictions on Afghan women and girls, barring them from participating in most areas of public and daily life.

When asked whether he would meet with the Taliban, Guterres said: "When it is the right moment to do so, I will obviously not refuse that possibility. Today, is not the right moment to do so."

"There are several initiatives going on, but I have agreed to convene another meeting in the near future, where we will be able to use this platform as a platform where so many different initiatives are coming together," he added.

Humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan

The UN chief emphasized the gravity of the situation in landlocked Afghanistan as it faced the largest humanitarian crisis in the world today.

"Ninety-seven percent of Afghans live in poverty. Two-thirds of the population — 28 million — will need humanitarian assistance this year to survive. Six million Afghan children, women, and men are one step away from famine-like conditions," he said, warning that funding was evaporating as the UN received just $294 million — 6.4% of the total $4.6 billion required — to aid the country's inhabitants.

However, he said that funding was not the only concern in Afghanistan. Pointing to the restrictions that Afghan women face, he said this put lives in jeopardy as a vast majority of UN personnel providing assistance in the country were Afghan nationals and many of them women.

"We will always speak out when millions of women and girls are being silenced and erased from sight. This is a grave violation of fundamental human rights," said Guterres.


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