Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Afghanistan

Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
September 26, 2023


Thank you, Mr. President. Special Representative Otunbayeva, Executive Director Bahous, and Professor Bennoune, thank you for your very informative briefings. And thank you to the entire UNAMA team for your work and commitment to a stable, prosperous, inclusive, and secure Afghanistan.

I want to highlight three pressing topics in my remarks today: The current situation of women and girls, access for humanitarian assistance, and ongoing human rights abuses.

First, as we know, the Taliban have chosen to impose numerous edicts to prevent women from contributing fully to Afghan society. They have banned women from universities, closed secondary schools to girls, and prevented Afghan women from working with NGOs and the United Nations. These restrictions are absolutely indefensible.

Muslim-majority countries have spoken out against these decisions, and the United States is joining them in doing so, here today. We urge the Taliban to roll back these restrictions and allow women and girls to have access to education, which would enable their full, equal, and meaningful participation in society.

Women are essential actors in the distribution of aid. It is imperative that they are allowed to continue their critical work with NGOs and the United Nations. We are committed to providing assistance that prioritizes non-discrimination and the meaningful inclusion of women, with careful attention to ensuring the safety and security of female staff, and the inclusion of women and girls as recipients of aid.

Second and more broadly, the Taliban have created an increasingly difficult operating environment for partners who are staying and delivering life-saving aid to the Afghan people. Any interference in or diversion of humanitarian aid is totally unacceptable. We continue to expect the Taliban to allow unhindered humanitarian access and the flow of aid, consistent with humanitarian principles. Now more than ever, the international community must rally together and increase pledges and support to the humanitarian response.

The United States is committed to providing assistance to those most in need. Since August 2021, the United States has provided nearly $2 billion in humanitarian assistance, including nearly $969 million to the World Food Program. Reports of macroeconomic stability notwithstanding, over half of all Afghans live in poverty and about two-thirds are in need of assistance. For our part, we will work with donors, multilateral development banks, and other partners to support sustainable interventions that create livelihood opportunities, including for Afghan women.

Third, UNAMA’s report this month highlighted at least 800 instances of killing, unjust detention, physical abuse, and ill-treatment and disappearances carried out against former government officials and Afghanistan National Defense and Security Force members between August 2021 and June 2023. These reported human rights abuses are unacceptable. UNAMA’s comprehensive mandate is vital for reporting on and monitoring these human rights abuses, as well as for promoting women’s rights and empowerment.

The Security Council members must continue to work together to press the Taliban to reverse their destructive course. Indeed, the Council must press the Taliban to engage in serious dialogue with the Afghan people to support their aspirations, to put an end to human rights abuses, and to allow assistance to reach those in need. We look forward to continuing to work together to advance our shared objectives in Afghanistan, including at the next UN-convened meeting of special envoys.

Thank you, Mr. President.