Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 3, 2020
Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, of course, to Special Representative Lyons for her briefing and for her leadership in guiding UNAMA’s activities in support of peace, human rights, women’s empowerment, and economic development in Afghanistan. Thank you as well to Mr. Mohseni for the work you’ve done to promote freedom of expression in Afghanistan.
I’d like to begin my remarks by commenting on the string of recent targeted attacks in and around Kabul. These attacks are reprehensible and must end immediately. They erode the safety and security of Kabul’s residents and workers, and they threaten the efforts of those working towards peace.
For example, among the individuals targeted and killed in recent weeks was Dr. Abdul Baqi Amin, a scholar and an activist firmly committed to peace. The United States condemns this and all acts of terrorism and offers our sincere condolences to his family, his friends, and to everyone affected by these explosions and killings.
We urge all sides to move swiftly to deny spoilers the opportunity to shake the faith of those demanding peace now, when Afghanistan is closer than ever to advancing its peace process. President Ghani’s decree paving the way for the government’s release of members of the Taliban, following the brave decision of the Loya Jirga, allows for the next steps of the peace process to occur and for intra-Afghan negotiations to begin soon.
The United States is encouraged by the Afghan government’s recent decision to finalize the makeup of the High Council for National Reconciliation and to fill the majority of its Cabinet positions. Delays in implementing the May 2020 political agreement between President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah threaten progress on the peace process and governance reforms, as well as the government’s response to COVID-19. An inclusive and unified government is needed to serve the interests of all Afghans at this critical moment.
Another necessary component of a prosperous and secure Afghanistan is the meaningful participation of women in the peace process. Their essential role goes beyond addressing the issues that uniquely affect them – their participation is vital to achieving economic progress and stability in Afghanistan, and that is why it is critical that their rights are protected and advanced. The United States has spoken clearly on what will happen if these rights aren’t maintained: No current, nor future Afghan government should count on international donor support if that government restricts or represses the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls.
And I would just like to pause for a moment to say something that I truly believe needs to be said: It’s utterly cruel and incomprehensible that we have to be excited about something that should be a given. Why in the world have Afghanistan’s women been so marginalized? It could be argued that if women had participated fully in their country’s development, Afghanistan would have not been held back for so long and would not be facing such a difficult path today. Since when do women have to justify their role in mankind? Do men negotiate their place? Women leadership in the region is nothing new. Look at Indira Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto.
We have to be thankful for the progress that has been made, however much more needs to be done. Women comprise four out of 21 members of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s negotiating team, and we firmly believe that these women must have the opportunity to be heard. That is why we are appalled at the recent attempted assassination on the life of the negotiator Ms. Fawzia Koofi. We strongly condemn this attack and hope that it will not deter Afghan women from continuing to speak out courageously and with conviction about their country’s future.
Meanwhile, the Trump Administration continues to follow through on our long-standing commitment to Afghanistan through the provision of critical humanitarian aid, recognizing that Afghanistan’s humanitarian crises only serve to compound one another. Since the beginning of the Fiscal Year 2020 alone, the United States has provided nearly $99 million in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. In addition to the $99 million, the United States has provided more than $24 million in humanitarian assistance and roughly $35 million in development assistance to support the COVID-19 response in Afghanistan.
I’d like to take this moment to thank the men and women of our military and humanitarian workers that have been killed and wounded trying to help Afghanistan build a better future.
Finally, as members here are aware, we are in the midst of negotiating a new UNAMA mandate. As the intra-Afghanistan negotiation process begins, we must ensure UNAMA’s mandate is especially clear and robust during this pivotal moment in history. All of us must display discipline and the political will to focus the mandate on the core issues that will support the government and people of Afghanistan in achieving peace.
The U.S. seeks a sovereign, unified, and democratic Afghanistan that is at peace with itself and its neighbors. Let me again express my appreciation to the UN and other international partners for their support in strengthening Afghanistan’s democratic institutions, and in support of the peace process.
Surrounding nations, neighbors, also deserve credit for their constructive role in supporting refugees and humanitarian assistance that has been instrumental in so many Afghan lives. Together, we must all continue to support Afghanistan for a better future for the Afghan people.