UN Security Council unanimously calls on Taliban to reverse bans on women, girls

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UNITED NATIONS, Apr 28 : In a rare display of unity, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution Thursday evening condemning the Taliban’s ban on Afghan women working for the U.N. in Afghanistan and called on the country’s leadership to “swiftly reverse” a crackdown on the rights of women and girls.

The resolution — drafted by the United Arab Emirates and Japan — describes the ban as “unprecedented in the history of the United Nations,” asserts “the indispensable role of women in Afghan society” and says the ban on Afghan women working for the U.N. “undermines human rights and humanitarian principle.”

Co-sponsored by over 90 countries, the action came in the last days of Russia’s presidency of the 15-member Council, the world body’s power centre.

Pakistan was not among the co-sponsors, but in a Security Council meeting last month, Ambassador Munir Akram voiced deep concern over the recent developments in Afghanistan and he joined many others in expressing disappointment over further restrictions placed on the rights of Afghan women and girls.

The Pakistani envoy hoped that the Afghan interim government will find a solution to those issues in line with Islamic injunctions.

The resolution said the recent decision by the Taliban to ban Afghan women from working for the UN in Afghanistan, in addition to earlier restrictions that banned Afghan women from working for international and national non-governmental organizations, will negatively and severely impact UN operations in the country, including the delivery of life-saving assistance and basic services to the most vulnerable.

Since April 5, 3,300 Afghans employed by the United Nations — 2,700 men and 600 women — have remained at home, but UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said they continue to work and will be paid. 600 international UN staff, including 200 women, were not affected by the Taliban ban.

It stressed “the dire economic and humanitarian situation,” and the “critical importance of a continued presence” of the UN mission in Afghanistan and other UN agencies.

The resolution reaffirms the UN’s support for a “peaceful, stable, prosperous and inclusive Afghanistan” and “comprehensive determination of the country’s political future and development path under the leadership and initiative of Afghanistan.”

Thursday’s vote came as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres plans to host a meeting behind closed doors of special envoys on Afghanistan from countries around the world in Doha, May 1-2, to discuss what should be done in the wake of the intensifying Taliban crackdown on women.

The United Nations has said the Doha meeting is not about recognition for the Taliban, an issue that is up to member states to decide.

The continued discrimination against women and girls has been a major obstacle in the Taliban’s attempt to gain recognition as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan in the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal in 2021 and the collapse of the Western-backed government.

Afghanistan’s seat at the United Nations is still held by the former government. The Taliban have appointed Suhail Shaheen, head of the group’s political office in Doha, but so far, he has not been recognized by the U.N.’s credentials committee.

The Taliban reclaimed power in August 2021 as the United States and NATO troops hastily withdrew from the country after almost two decades of involvement in the Afghan war.

“The world will not stand by silently as the women of Afghanistan are erased from society,” said Lana Nusseibeh, the U.A.E.’s U.N. ambassador, who led the drafting of the resolution with Japan’s representative. She said the council was sending an “unequivocal message of condemnation” to the Taliban for their treatment of women and girls.

With Afghanistan’s economy in dire straits, the resolution also underscores the need for the international community to help on the
financial front, “including through efforts to enable the use of assets belonging to Afghanistan’s Central Bank for the benefit of the Afghan people.”

The Security Council has been sharply divided since Russia invaded Ukraine, unable to find a consensus position on many of the world’s most pressing problems. While the Council was able to finally come together over the Taliban’s treatment of women, the negotiations over the resolution’s final wording were complex and lengthy, according to diplomats involved in the talks.

The resolution, legally binding under international law, does not specify what consequences the Taliban administration in Afghanistan will face if they violate its demands. But generally the Security Council can impose sanctions on countries or governments that do not comply with its resolutions.

China’s envoy to the UN, Geng Shuang, expressed his hope that Afghanistan’s interim Government will protect the rights of all Afghans — including women — and “continue to make efforts in that direction” that meet the expectations of such people and the international community.

He went on to say that maintaining dialogue and engagement remains the right approach to promote problem-solving, emphasizing that “mere condemnation” and pressure can only be counter-productive.

Further, the Chinese envoy recalled that the United States froze more than $7 billion of Afghanistan’s assets after it hastily withdrew its troops from that country and noted that, as of today, “not a single penny has been returned”.

Pointing out that the resolution calls for addressing Afghanistan’s major economic challenges with assets belonging to that country’s Central Bank, he urged the United States to implement these provisions as soon as possible.

In his remarks to the Council, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, said the Western members of the Council had blocked a more ambitious resolution that would have addressed the impact of sanctions on the Taliban and how to restore the assets that he said the United States had “stolen” from the country when it froze the Central Bank funds.