Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Afghanistan

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 23, 2021


Thank you, Special Representative Lyons, for your briefing and for guiding UNAMA’s activities in support of peace, human rights, and the rule of law. And thank you so much, Shaharzad Akbar, for your courageous leadership in advancing human rights, women’s inclusion, and justice. And finally, to Ambassador Raz, thank you so much for participating and sharing your views with us today.

As Secretary Blinken told our Congress recently, the United States is enlisting the help of international partners, including the UN, in support of Afghanistan’s peace. Afghanistan’s neighbors and other supporters, including the members of this Council, have a critical role to play in securing the region and ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan. Last week’s extended troika meeting reflects the growing international consensus on the need to accelerate the Afghan peace process.

To that end, we look forward to the upcoming meeting of senior Afghan leaders in Turkey. We expect this effort to be complementary to, and coordinated with, the UN’s efforts and the ongoing Doha process.

We also welcome the appointment of Jean Arnault as the Secretary-General’s personal envoy on Afghanistan. Mr. Arnault has decades of experience helping parties find political solutions to conflict and will help the UN fulfill its critical role.

An Afghanistan at peace with itself and its neighbors is in all of our interests.

Today, I’d like to discuss three key components of achieving that common goal: stopping attacks against innocent civilians, supporting women and girls, and addressing Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis.

First, the ongoing violence, including targeted killings of civilians, is just simply unacceptable. Violence now prevents progress toward a sustainable peace. Journalists, human rights defenders, and civil servants cannot continue to live in fear at a moment when they are needed most. We condemn these attacks and reiterate our deepest sympathies to their families who have lost their lives.

For a peace agreement to be durable and just, it must respect the universal human rights of all Afghans, including women, girls, and members of minority groups.

Which leads me to my second point: we must do more to support the women and girls of Afghanistan. Any agreement must preserve their gains if Afghanistan wants to ensure the international community’s continued political and financial support. We will not give an inch on this point.

Earlier this month, I joined First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Secretary Blinken to honor seven brave Afghan women who were killed last year. I am in awe of their courage. Their deaths are a devastating testament to the violence perpetrated against women simply for contributing to their communities.

The violence was meant to silence. Well, I will not be silent. I know the women of Afghanistan will not be either.

Throughout this conflict, Afghan women have bravely stepped up – often at great personal risk – to call for a sustainable, just peace. Their strong voices must be fully included in all discussions about the country’s future. The United States will continue to advocate with both Afghan sides for women to have real, meaningful participation in upcoming gatherings on peace.

Third, and finally, we must address Afghanistan’s humanitarian crises. The ongoing conflict, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, refugee and migration flows, and the threat of drought, have put innocent people in a desperate situation. Over 16.9 million people – and you heard this number repeated several times today – 16.9 million people are now acutely food insecure, including 5.5 million at emergency levels of food insecurity, the second highest rate in the world. And I say that again and we’ve heard it earlier: the second highest rate in the world. These are real people, and they may die without our help.

For our part, this past year, the United States provided $276 million in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and for Afghan refugees in the region. And to support the growing COVID-19 response, the United States has provided more than $39 million in development, economic, health, and humanitarian assistance. Our hope is that this will help alleviate the country’s deep suffering – and we welcome the efforts of others to contribute to this vital humanitarian cause.

We thank the Security Council, the United Nations, and all of our partners for working together toward a lasting peace: a peace that the people of Afghanistan so desperately want and deserve. Let us hope we can achieve it soon.

Thank you, very much.