Statement by Ambassador Byrne Nason at the UNSC Meeting on the Situation in Afghanistan
Statement16 August 2021
Thank you Mr President. And I want to thank the Secretary General for his presence here today, and for his very powerful words at the beginning of our meeting.
We supported the convening of this urgent meeting to discuss the unfolding, tragic, developments in Afghanistan.
Over the past weeks, we have witnessed as we have heard, in real time, the Taliban seizing control of Afghan cities by force, culminating in the loss of Government control in Kabul. We have all seen the scenes of chaos at the airport. We cannot say that we were not warned of this possible outcome.
In this room we have heard many worrying alerts, not least in the courageous testimony of members of Afghan civil society. Sadly, and tragically for so many, we failed to heed those warnings. Now we will have to address the consequences. Now, in the face of an unfolding crisis of tragic proportions, this Council will have to assume its responsibilities and act.
This is a calamitous situation for all of the people of Afghanistan.
As we have consistently done so in this chamber – we condemn the appalling violence and the indiscriminate attacks perpetrated against civilians in Afghanistan. The violence and intimidation must end. It is clear that we have entered a new phase in Afghanistan.
Peace will only be achieved through an agreed, inclusive and negotiated solution. Violence does not provide legitimacy nor does it deliver durable peace. Respect for the rule of law and compliance with International law including international humanitarian law and human rights law, is imperative. We call now for the utmost restraint to protect lives and to ensure that the dire humanitarian needs be addressed.
Given the urgency of the situation and the desperate plight facing the Afghan people – it is vital that we act to address the crisis facing Afghanistan. Lives are at imminent risk, through worsening violence, displacement and food insecurity.
The international community has a responsibility to respond, to act to protect civilians, and to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people.
Safe and reliable humanitarian access must be guaranteed and protected, and the work of all relevant UN agencies and humanitarian partners facilitated without exception.
Those who have worked for peace, human rights defenders who have endeavoured tirelessly to promote and protect the rights of their fellow citizens must not be abandoned now.
I wish to address the women of Afghanistan directly. Women who have the most at stake as democratic government dissolves and an uncertain future awaits.
Lest there be any doubt as to the gravity of the situation, I am speaking to:
the women at the airport with their children and families trying to find a way out;
to the women hiding in their homes;
to the women sleeping in the streets;
the women still fighting for peace and human rights though it may risk their lives.
Women of Afghanistan - we hear you and we hear your pleas to the international community at this dark time. The fear, indignation and sense of betrayal you feel is understood. It is righteous.
I call on this Council to stand with the women of Afghanistan. Their rights and their future participation in Afghan society cannot be sacrificed. This is our shared responsibility at this table. It must be our shared priority also.
All of us around this table can and should agree that, as a non-negotiable principle in all discussions, the rights of women in Afghanistan must be protected. This is the future of Afghanistan.
The Taliban have reportedly said that women have nothing to fear from them. Yet we hear multiple and credible reports of summary executions, forced marriage and of sexual and gender based violence. Telling the international community what it wants to hear will fool no one. We will not turn a blind eye to the truth.
We condemn, in the strongest terms, the deliberate targeting of women and girls by the Taliban.
Girls must be free to attend school, women must be able to participate fully in society, and those who speak up for human rights must be free to do so.
In focusing on the needs of women of course I want to also condemn reported reprisals, attacks and summary executions of Afghan men. This also must stop.
It is time to learn from the past, or we will be doomed to see the worst of history repeating itself in Afghanistan. Two decades of progress are disintegrating on our watch. The Afghan people have worked too hard and lost too much to see their futures repeat the past of their mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers. Generations lost to conflict.
Strong, enduring peace can only be built by inclusive and representative negotiations.
Let us be clear here today - the future governance of Afghanistan can only have the support and endorsement of the international community if it guarantees the full, equal and meaningful participation of women, includes minority groups and youth, upholds human rights and fundamental freedoms, and ensures adherence to the rule of law and accountability as set out in Council Resolution 2513.
In our view, the Council needs to be prepared to consider further measures from the toolbox at its disposal as this crisis unfolds.
Afghan Minister for Education, Rangina Hamidi, spoke in recent hours of her fear, shared by many Afghan women, that she will be forced to pay the price for trying to make Afghanistan a better place, for being active in her society, simply realising her rights.
Ireland calls for a clear message today from this Council – while much, including the political future of Afghanistan is currently uncertain, what is clear is that the failure to fully respect and uphold the rights of all the people of Afghanistan and in particular the rights and safety of women and girls cannot and will not be accepted.
We owe this, to the women of Afghanistan and to all the people of Afghanistan who have kept faith with the promises of the international community for a brighter future. Our obligation is to act in solidarity with them all now in this time of crisis.