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Statement by Minister Simon Coveney at the UN Security Council on the Situation in Afghanistan

Firstly I’d like to say a thank you to Special Representative Deborah Lyons and the exceptional UNAMA and UN Country teams for your essential work, and commitment, to the Afghan people.  

I want to also thank Wazhma for powerfully detailing how violence and intimidation is impacting the people of her country - destroying lives, inciting fear, and exacerbating existing challenges, especially for women and girls.

Malala – thank you for so clearly reminding us of what’s at stake for future generations of Afghan children, particularly girls. I’m sure you never thought you would see the country take a backward step like we have seen in recent weeks.

We meet today at a pivotal moment for Afghanistan; a country facing a serious humanitarian and human rights crisis.

The world has watched in horror at the violence and chaos in recent weeks.  Millions of Afghans require urgent support, including those recently displaced by conflict, violence and intimidation. And they are in their millions.

Collectively, we can avert a humanitarian tragedy in Afghanistan. But it will take an enormous effort.

I urge the Taliban to facilitate full, safe and unimpeded access to humanitarian organisations and all of their personnel, regardless of gender.

They should be able to carry out their life saving, and life sustaining work, without interference or fear.

To ensure this access - and the right of Afghans and foreign citizens to safely leave Afghanistan – it is vital that Kabul airport and Afghanistan’s land borders are fully open and operational.

The international community has a responsibility to continue to support humanitarian relief efforts. Ireland will play its part, including through participating at the High Level Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan on 13th September.

As we build on our announcement last month of emergency funding to UNHCR, in recognition of our responsibility to Afghan refugees and host countries.

Afghanistan also faces a governance crisis.

Participation in political and civic life is the right of all Afghans - women, men, young people, minorities and civil society.

A government that does not harness the full strength, talent and diversity of the Afghan people – that does not allow for the right to peaceful protest and for free and independent media - cannot lay the groundwork for a peaceful and secure Afghanistan into the future. 

We know from our own experience in Ireland that the full, equal and meaningful participation of women is a prerequisite for sustainable peace and political stability.

Ireland urges this Council to place clear priority on womens’ involvement in the processes that shape their future.  We owe this much to the women peacebuilders, many of who have given everything and are risking their lives for peace.

The rights of women and girls to full and equal access to education; to healthcare; to freedom of movement in their own country; and to participate fully in public life - these are universal rights.

These are not rights which are reserved only for women and girls from certain countries, or of certain ethnicities, or from certain religious traditions. 

These are rights that belong equally to all 7 billion of the world’s population.

Quite simply, women and girls in Afghanistan must be treated as equal citizens.

It has been said time and again around this table that only an inclusive, negotiated, political settlement offers a sustainable future for all the Afghan people. Frankly, we have seen no evidence of this in the approach of the Taliban so far. What they have said, and what they have done, seem to me to be two very different things.

Those who have seized power now bear the ultimate responsibility to ensure the safety, security and human rights of the Afghan people.

Any new administration must adhere to Afghanistan’s obligations under international law, including international humanitarian, refugee and human rights law.

I call on the members of this Council to send an unequivocal message: that those who violate international laws and perpetrate human rights violations must be – and will be - held accountable by the international community.

The events of 26 August left us in no doubt that terrorism remains a present danger in Afghanistan.

I want to express, from this chair, the deep sympathies of the Irish people to the families of those killed and injured in the horrifying attack at Kabul Airport. 

Afghanistan must never again become a haven for international terrorism.

I repeat the demand of this Council that Afghan territory not be used to threaten or attack any country, to shelter or train terrorists, or to plan and finance and terrorist acts. The Taliban must unequivocally break ties with all international terrorist organisations or continue to face sanction and isolation.

The fundamental responsibility of this Council is to the maintenance of international peace and security, and to uphold the Charter of the United Nations. If we are not attempting to do that, we need to ask ourselves a serious question in terms of what this Council’s role really is.

The adoption of Resolution 2593 last week was a positive first step, clearly demonstrating the expectations of the international community. And a statement of unity and intent from this Council.

But this Council can, and must, do more. It is essential that we act with clarity, with determination and perhaps most importantly, with unity.

At this time of uncertainty, UN operations in Afghanistan are more essential than they have ever been.

UNAMA’s mandate expires on September 17th.

Ireland is actively engaging with fellow Council members to ensure that UNAMA’s vital activities continue, and to allow them to work on next steps.  

This is surely a moment for the Council to stand united. That unity will be vital to achieve consensus on a mandate that supports a peaceful, equal and inclusive future for all Afghans. That unity will be vital if we are to influence decisions of Taliban leaders currently deciding on the future of their own country.

We have heard in this chamber today, from Deborah, from Wazhma and from Malala, the reality of what the Afghan people face.

Your testimonies will stay with every person in this chamber, and serve I hope as a reminder of this Council’s responsibilities. We all have an obligation to act together and not to fail the people of Afghanistan.

Thank you

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