Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed offered her “deepest condolences to the Government and people of Afghanistan”, saying that “indiscriminate attacks that kill women and children are an affront to our humanity and a crime under international humanitarian law” as she briefed the Security Council on the situation in Afghanistan and her recent visit to the country.
Before updating Council members on her recent visit to Afghanistan, the deputy Secretary General affirmed that the UN “stands with Afghans as they work for lasting peace and security”.
Ms Mohammad highlighted that under the Taliban government, women and girls were denied access to education, health services and protection from extreme violence, and could not participate in political or public life.
Ms Mohammad then pointed out that since the fall of the Taliban, nine out of 11 million Afghan children are now enrolled in school; investments in reducing maternal mortality are saving thousands of lives; and improved infrastructure and power supplies are connecting remote areas to national economic opportunities.
Afghanistan has “done more to invest in women’s leadership” than many countries with greater means and women are “rising to reclaim their rightful place in all areas of society”, Ms. Mohammed spotlighted.
Her briefing comes just days after she had visited from her third visit to the Afghanistan, and was joined by UN Political and Peacebuilding Affairs chief, Rosemary DiCarlo, the Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Natalia Kanem, and the head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Ms. Mohammed held talks with President Ashraf Ghani, the Chief Executive, the First Lady, as well as senior leaders and religious scholars; and made a field visit to Bamiyan Province and spoke to women leaders, decision-makers and health care workers.
“In the past 18 years, there has been significant progress”, the UN deputy chief reported, pointing out that women hold senior roles in the Defence, Foreign Affairs and Interior Ministries-27 per cent of the civil service is female and that women are serving as mayors and provincial governors.
Moreover, as presidential elections are scheduled for 28 September and both the Independent Electoral Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission heads are women, she appreciated such equality in appointment.
“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development holds great promise for the lives of Afghans across the country,” she said highlighting that 24 UN agencies are partnering with the government on issues ranging from food security to clean water and the rule of law, “often risking their lives”.
She also brought to light that in the short-term, 6.3 million Afghans need humanitarian aid across the country, adding that “the Humanitarian Response Plan is just 27 per cent funded”.
She urged the community to increase that level of funding urgently, in order to provide immediate support and protection to displaced people and those in greatest need.
With respect to Afghan Peace, she noted that in the first five months of this year, conflict displaced more than 100,000 people, which “increases the risk of gender-based violence”.
She also added that in areas where the Taliban has reclaimed control, there are reports of honor killings, stoning and other attacks on women’s rights, adding that peace, security and economic stability are urgently needed.
Moreover, she briefed that all the women she spoke to in Afghanistan wanted an inclusive peace centred on women, as well as victims and survivors.
“Afghan women, like women everywhere, must play a part in decisions that will affect their future”, she spelled out. “Inclusivity is not only the right thing to do for women and girls, it is the only way to make durable peace”, Ms Mohammad said.
She added that sustainable peace may take time but everyone must address violations and divisions of the past for the country to achieve closure.
“Inclusion and consensus are also essentialto creating the greatest possible peace dividend, benefitting all parts of the economy and all sections of society…to address stigma and discrimination based on gender, ethnicity or regional differences”, she elaborated.
With women playing “a central role” in creating peaceful, inclusive communities with opportunities for all, she said, “Afghanistan is at an important crossroads” and needs the support of the entire UN system and international community “to invest in building on the gains, while sustaining peace”.
“I urge this Council to do all in its power to support all Afghans in realizing their hopes and aspirations for lasting peace, stability and prosperity”, concluded the Deputy Secretary-General.
Meanwhile, UN political chief Rosemary DiCarlo recalled that Afghanistan is marking the centennial of its independence, saying that it is at “a pivotal juncture with an unprecedented opportunity for peace”.
She underscored the need that the upcoming presidential elections are “credible and held on time”, adding that the UN is providing technical assistance and that the Independent Electoral Commission has “made steady progress” in its preparations – with two non-voting UN members embedded in each Commission.
“Over half a million more Afghans have registered, of which some 36 per cent are women”, she updated the Council. “This is the first time that citizens were given an opportunity to review and make corrections to the 2018 voters list”she explained.
Despite this progress, challenges include the recruitment and training of thousands of polling staff.
“With only nine weeks remaining to the polling and the Commissions working against the clock”, she underscored that there is no room for technical or political delays, adding also that “a level playing field amongst all candidates is key for credible elections” she said.
She added that credible elections are “vital” to give the newly-elected president “the authority needed to bring the country together in the peace process”, she maintained.
Talking about Peace Talks, Ms. DiCarlo affirmed that additional intra-Afghan conferences are planned.
“A political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan remains more relevant than ever, as civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict” she stressed, calling on all conflict parties “to respect international humanitarian law, to ensure access for humanitarian agencies to provide life-saving assistance and to distinguish between combatants and civilian targets to protect civilians from hostilities” she conceded.