The text of the following joint statement was agreed upon by the Special Representatives and Envoys for Afghanistan of Australia, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States following their meeting in Paris held February 20, 2023.
Special Envoys and Representatives for Afghanistan of Australia, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States met in Paris on February 20, 2023 to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA); Country Director for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA); and Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan also participated in the meeting as observers.
The Special Envoys and Representatives for Afghanistan:
1. Noted with grave concern the increased threat to security and stability in Afghanistan and the deterioration of the humanitarian and economic situation, with more than 28 million Afghans now in need of humanitarian aid, of whom more than half are women and children, and six million just one step from famine.
2. Emphasized their concern about increasing deterioration and multiple violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of Afghans by the Taliban since August 2021, especially those of women and girls as well as members of ethnic and religious minorities and other marginalized groups;
2.1 Strongly condemned the Taliban’s decisions in December 2022 to ban Afghan women from university education and from working in NGOs, which follow numerous other harmful violations and restrictions imposed on opportunities for women to exercise their rights in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021, including to continue to ban girls from secondary schools, thus excluding them from all spheres of public life;
2.2 Affirmed that these decisions violate and threaten not only Afghan women’s rights and freedoms, but also the overall much-needed social and economic development of the country, which will suffer greatly if half of the population is excluded from participating meaningfully; emphasized that humanitarian assistance cannot be delivered fairly or effectively if limited by discriminatory policies or practices;
2.3 Called for the immediate reversal of these unacceptable bans as they are preventing humanitarian assistance from reaching Afghans most in need.
3. Recalled the Taliban’s responsibility for the deterioration of the economic and humanitarian situation, as well as their responsibility for the recovery of the country and the improvement of the economic situation; recalled that responding to the needs of the Afghan people should be the main preoccupation of the Taliban.
4. Expressed grave concern about the increasing threat of terrorist groups in Afghanistan, including ISKP, Al Qaeda, Tehrik-i-Taliban-Pakistan and others, which deeply affects security and stability inside the country, in the region and beyond, and called on the Taliban to uphold Afghanistan’s obligation to deny these groups safe haven.
5. Underscored that achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan requires a credible and inclusive national dialogue leading to a constitutional order with a representative and inclusive political system.
6. Emphasized that the UN Security Council has set out the international community’s clear expectations of the Taliban in UNSCR 2593 (2021) and subsequent resolutions which are critical for peace and stability in the country and for normalization of relations with the international community: (1) full efforts to ensure Afghan territory is not used to threaten or attack any country or to shelter or train terrorists, or to plan or finance terrorist acts; (2) unhindered and safe access for the United Nations and humanitarian actors in delivering services and assistance; (3) respect for the human rights of all Afghans, including women and members of minority groups; (4) pursuit of an inclusive negotiated political settlement and rule of law with the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women; and (5) safe passage and freedom to travel for those who wish to travel abroad.
7. Paid tribute to the work of the United Nations and of UN Special Rapporteur Richard Bennett; recognized the important and specific work of UNAMA, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the many NGOs and other humanitarian actors that continue to support the people of Afghanistan and help them through a very difficult social and humanitarian crisis; reasserted that NGOs are best placed to make their own operational decisions, consistent with Inter-Agency Standing Committee principles and donors’ principles and in accordance with their respective evaluation of safety and security conditions in the country.
8. Highlighted the necessity to continue helping Afghans who are suffering in this humanitarian crisis with appropriate consideration for vulnerable populations, including women and women-led households, children and members of ethnic and religious minority communities; underscored that international assistance to Afghanistan is destined only for the benefit of the people of Afghanistan, should be delivered free from interference, and is not a sign of progress toward normalization of relations with the Taliban.
9. Emphasized the need for continued engagement with neighboring countries and other countries of the region to further deepen coordination on a joint response to the developing situation in Afghanistan, including countering potential threats to regional security and stability emanating from Afghanistan; commended the efforts of Muslim-majority countries and the OIC in engaging with the Taliban on women’s rights and welcomed the leadership they have demonstrated on issues such as access to education.
10. Stated that the situation and developments in Afghanistan should be constantly observed with the utmost vigilance and that coordination among members of the international community should be maintained and reinforced in light of future developments in Afghanistan and with the interest of the people of Afghanistan in mind.
11. Expressed their appreciation to France for organizing these consultations and hosting the meeting; and looked forward to this Group of Special Envoys and Representatives meeting again in the near future.