Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Afghanistan

Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
June 21, 2023


Thank you, Madam President. Special Representative Otunbayeva, Ms. Basij-Rasikh, thank you for your briefings. Let me also thank the entire UNAMA team for its work to advance the Security Council’s goal of a stable, prosperous, inclusive, and secure Afghanistan.

The United States again condemns the Taliban’s restrictions on women and girls’ ability to exercise their human rights. These restrictions are indefensible. They are not seen anywhere else in the world. We call for the immediate reversal of these restrictions.

Today, we do so on the heels of the Security Council’s unanimous call for the same. In April, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2681, the third resolution on Afghanistan adopted unanimously this year. Over 90 UN member states co-sponsored this resolution. It sent a clear message to the Taliban, to the Afghan people, and to the world: We will not stand for the Taliban’s repression of women and girls.

The Taliban continue to prevent women from working for NGOs. National female staff remain unable to access UN offices, including those of humanitarian organizations. The Taliban are choosing to jeopardize the lives of millions of innocent Afghans who depend on critical aid. And the Taliban are increasing the burden on women-headed households that are already among the most vulnerable.

We support the UN’s decision to continue operating in Afghanistan while prioritizing the safety and security of all staff. The people of Afghanistan do not deserve to suffer further as a result of the Taliban’s abhorrent decisions. That is why we support a flexible and principled approach that prioritizes non-discrimination, the inclusion, safety, and security of female staff, as well as the inclusion of women and girls as recipients of assistance efforts.

The Taliban’s grave restrictions demand a strong response from Afghanistan’s neighbors and the rest of the international community. The continued deterioration of humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan – in large part due to Taliban interference in humanitarian operations – will lead to more Afghans being internally displaced. This displacement will increase the number of Afghan migrant and refugee flows to neighboring countries. Addressing this issue will require creativity, attention, and energy from all.

Thanks to generous donor support and bold action – such as the humanitarian exemption enshrined in Resolution 2615 – the international community averted relief actors’ worst predictions of widespread famine in 2021. This year, however, we can already see the impact of reduced international support for Afghanistan, with the closure of women-led NGOs, ration cuts, and reductions to the number of food-assistance beneficiaries.

Despite obstacles and competing global priorities, we cannot turn our backs on the Afghan people’s growing humanitarian needs. As the world’s largest humanitarian donor, the United States will continue to do its part to support the people of Afghanistan.

We will also carefully watch the Taliban’s actions on the commitments they have stated they will uphold. We continue to expect the Taliban to allow unhindered humanitarian access, safe conditions for aid workers of all genders, and independent and impartial provision of assistance. The Taliban must respect the human rights of all Afghans.

We look to the Taliban to codify these principles in their policies and to demonstrate them with their actions. As the meeting of Afghan special envoys showed, so to does the rest of the world. We thank the Secretary-General for hosting this meeting.

The United States underscores our strong support for UNAMA’s comprehensive mandate, including its vital reporting on human rights, particularly women’s rights and empowerment work. UNAMA remains critical to advancing the inclusion, peace, and stability we all agree is so important for Afghanistan and the region.

Thank you, Madam President.