UN chief on meeting Afghanistan's Taliban: ‘When it is the right…’

May 02, 2023 10:45 PM IST

The meeting is intended to achieve a common understanding within the international community on how to engage with the Taliban on these issues.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday he will “obviously not refuse” the possibility of meeting the Afghan de-facto authority, the Taliban, “when it is the right moment to do so”.

United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, delivers a press statement.(Reuters)
United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, delivers a press statement.(Reuters)

Guterres arrived in Doha Monday to host a two-day meeting of Special Envoys on Afghanistan to reach points of commonality on key issues, such as human rights, in particular women’s and girls’ rights, inclusive governance, countering terrorism and drug trafficking.

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The meeting is intended to achieve a common understanding within the international community on how to engage with the Taliban on these issues.

“When it is the right moment to do so, I will obviously not refuse that possibility. Today, is not the right moment to do so,” Guterres said in Doha at a press conference.

He was responding to a question on whether there are any circumstances under which he would meet the Taliban.

India is among the countries and organsations who participated in the Doha meeting.

“The meeting was about developing a common international approach, not about recognition of the de facto Taliban authorities,” Guterres said.

The other participants in the meeting are from China, France, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Norway, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Türkiye, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uzbekistan, European Union and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Guterres added that it is difficult to overestimate the gravity of the situation in Afghanistan, describing it as the largest humanitarian crisis in the world today.

He noted that 97 per cent of Afghans live in poverty, two-thirds of the population – 28 million – will need humanitarian assistance this year to survive and six million Afghan children, women, and men are one step away from famine-like conditions.

He also voiced concerns that "funding is evaporating” and said the UN Humanitarian Response Plan, seeking USD 4.6 billion, has received a mere USD 294 million – 6.4 per cent of the total funding required.

Guterres added that the current ban on Afghan women working for the United Nations and national and international NGOs is “unacceptable and puts lives in jeopardy.”

He asserted that the UN will never be silent in the face of unprecedented, systemic attacks on women and girls’ rights.

"We will always speak out when millions of women and girls are being silenced and erased from sight. This is a grave violation of fundamental human rights,” he said.

He added that it violates Afghanistan’s obligations under international law, namely, human rights law, and infringes on the principle of non-discrimination, which is a core tenet underpinning the United Nations Charter.

“And it deliberately undermines the development of a country that desperately needs the contributions of all, in order to achieve sustainable peace and contribute to regional stability.”

The Taliban returned to power in Kabul in August 2021 and have restricted Afghan women and girls from participating in most areas of public and daily life.

Afghan women have been barred from working with the UN in a country where nearly 29 million people depend on humanitarian assistance.

Last week, the UN Security Council unanimously condemned a decision by the Taliban to ban Afghan women from working for the United Nations in Afghanistan, calling on the de facto authorities to “swiftly reverse” policies and practices that restrict women and girls from exercising their human rights.

The resolution also called for the full, equal, meaningful and safe participation of women and girls in Afghanistan.

It also calls upon the Taliban to “swiftly reverse the policies and practices that restrict the enjoyment by women and girls of their human rights and fundamental freedoms including related to their access to education, employment, freedom of movement, and women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in public life.

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