Briefing for the United Nations Security Council by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva New York, 20 December 2022 – Afghanistan | Daily News Byte


**NEW YORK** – Below is the transcript of the briefing of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva, to the Security Council on the current situation in Afghanistan.

Briefing for the United Nations Security Council

Special Representative of the Secretary General for Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva

New York, December 20, 2022

[As delivered]

Madam President,

I visited as many parts of Afghanistan as possible in my first three months in this position as SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General]. What struck me the most was the misery of so many Afghans living in great poverty and uncertainty about the future. Many have told me during my visits to the country that they are simply surviving. My colleague Martin Griffiths will provide details on the humanitarian situation. However, in addition to the urgent needs of the moment, Afghanistan is a country still traumatized by long decades of war.

The Taliban remain largely in control of the country, but are unable to satisfactorily deal with terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan. We are particularly concerned about the recent activities of the ISKP and the attacks on the embassies of the Russian Federation and Pakistan, as well as on a hotel where many Chinese citizens are staying. Civilian casualties in these attacks were significant. However, the general sense of security and freedom of movement for the people of Afghanistan remains. On the other hand, we are very concerned about the recent continuous exchange of fire between Afghanistan and Pakistan. We welcome all de-escalation efforts.

There is no significant visible political opposition to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Politicians in exile from the Republic are, of course, vocal critics, but they are fragmented and their statements have less and less resonance for the population in Afghanistan. The Taliban reject the need for any kind of intra-Afghan dialogue and claim that their government is representative enough. UNAMA continues to advocate at all levels for wider consultation and representation, as I informed you during the Arria-formula session in October. We also continue to work with many non-Taliban civil society and political figures in Afghanistan. We believe that the only way forward for Afghanistan is through more pluralistic politics, where all Afghans, especially women and minorities, see themselves represented and have a real voice in decision-making. Now that’s clearly not the case. Moreover, the media and civil society, already suffering from severe financial constraints, continue to be stifled by external intimidation actually institution of security and at times through repressive actions.

The suppression of dissenting voices is all the more unfortunate given the Taliban’s increasingly harsh social policies. We’ve seen a bunch of regulations that are particularly harmful to women. Since November 9, women have been banned from most public parks, bathrooms and gymnasiums. Their social space is now being limited as much as their political space. The prevention of secondary education will mean that in two years there will be no girls enrolled in university. This decision is extremely unpopular among Afghans and even within the Taliban leadership. He was criticized by the entire Islamic world. This undermined the Taliban’s relationship with the international community. But it remains in force today causing damage that will be felt long into the future. On November 13, the Taliban reported that Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhunzada had ordered judges to administer capital and corporal punishment, known as hudud and you kiss, if the conditions according to Sharia law are met. UNAMA has documented that these punishments have been imposed since the Taliban took over. Since the release of the Taliban leader’s instructions, however, they have become increasingly public.

International criticism of these corporal punishments as violations of human rights has been dismissed by the Taliban as anti-Islamic. We called on the Taliban to apply religious law in a way that avoids pain, including acts of corporal punishment, as many Islamic countries do. On December 7, the first court-sanctioned public execution, allegedly as enforcement you kiss sentence, took place for a murder that took place in 2017. It was attended by high-ranking members of the Taliban. I repeat here what I have emphasized actually authorities: the death penalty is not in accordance with the basic principles of international human rights law. The UN single-handedly criticizes all countries that apply capital and corporal punishment.

It is clear that there are serious differences of opinion on a number of issues between UNAMA and UNAMA actually authorities. We, as the UN, have an ongoing dialogue with the Taliban regarding human rights issues and specific violations of international human rights law. We do not see eye to eye with the Taliban on many issues, but the focus is and should be on maintaining dialogue in the hope of a better future for Afghanistan, where everyone — women, men, girls and boys — can live life with dignity and equality.

Madam President,

However, there are certain positive developments, especially on the economic front.

Overall levels of corruption have decreased significantly compared to the Republic, but there are worrying signs of an increase in the last six months, especially petty corruption at the local level. The actually the authorities announced the collection of more revenue in the first ten months of 2022 than the Republic collected in 2021 and 2020, despite an economic decline of 20 percent in 2021. With this revenue, and a reduction in government spending, the Taliban were able to finance their operational budget and indicated that they have the resources to start some development projects.

The Taliban have also managed to maintain macroeconomic stability, albeit at a much lower level of economic activity. After a sharp deterioration in the currency a year ago, the Afghani has remained generally stable. Exports this year rose to a historic level of about $1.7 billion, compared to about $700 million in the Republic.

The actually the authorities are implementing an economic strategy that focuses on self-reliance. They invest in sectors such as agriculture, irrigation, infrastructure, water management, mining and industry, which provide the basis for economic growth. The Taliban have identified the private sector as a key driver of economic growth and are somewhat responsive to the concerns of private sector actors. UNAMA is in regular contact with actors and organizations from the private sector, including women’s chambers of commerce. The main obstacle for larger investments is the high cost of international financial transactions.

Although the Taliban’s economic management has been more effective than expected, it should also be recognized that international donors still feed more than half the population. Cash payments required to deliver humanitarian aid indirectly inject liquidity into the economy. Without this help, the picture in Afghanistan could be much darker.

Finally, there is evidence that the Taliban is enforcing its ban on the cultivation of opium and other narcotics announced in April by destroying fields planted before and after the ban was announced. We won’t be able to check the actual implementation of this ban until early next year, but the intention behind it is commendable. Nevertheless, the ban will have a negative effect on the income of individual farmers as several alternative livelihood programs have been introduced.

Madam President,

These somewhat positive economic developments may not be sustainable unless the real problems of Afghans are addressed. Between October 11 and November 8, UNAMA held stakeholder meetings in 12 provinces selected to ensure representation of all Afghan communities and sectors. We engaged with 519 participants, including 189 women and 83 representatives actually authorities. The population’s concerns related to the ban on girls’ education, the lack of health facilities, the population’s mental health problems, poverty and economic insecurity, and discrimination against ethnic minorities. The Taliban did not address these issues and in many cases their decisions made them worse.

But during these discussions with stakeholders, Afghans are also frustrated with the international community’s approach. They expressed a desire for projects that are more long-term, that involve cash for work rather than donations, that are more participatory and consultative, and more development-oriented. In the current conditions, however, donors are increasingly unwilling to look beyond the provision of humanitarian aid. As long as girls are excluded from school and actually authorities continue to ignore other expressed concerns of the international community, we remain at an impasse. At UNAMA, we undertake an internal audit to assess what was effective and what was not in the implementation of our mandate. This will make recommendations regarding our future mandate. But in general, we believe that engagement with actually the authorities must continue in some form. As you yourself heard yesterday from the humanitarian workers, the Afghans want the continued engagement of the international community and believe that this is only through increased interaction with actually authorities that positive change can happen.

UNAMA’s focus must remain on the Afghan people, providing them with life-saving humanitarian aid, giving voice to their demands for basic rights and freedoms, and — through our presence — giving hope that Afghanistan will not be isolated from the international community. We are committed to these goals and to the effort to maintain space for positive engagement with the Taliban. But we must do this with a sense of realism, patience and a proper understanding of the situation as it develops. As always, we look to this Council for support and guidance.

Thank you.


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