I would like to thank Special Representative Otunbayeva, USG Griffiths, and Mahbouba Seraj, for your valuable briefings. I am pleased to hear from you today Mahouba. You took part in our meeting with the Taliban in Oslo, and you also briefed the Security Council in January during Norway’s presidency. I think everybody here around this table took note of your strong message regarding the difficult situation in Afghanistan. Norway will do what we can to support the Afghan people, also when we leave the Council.
As this is one of the last interventions from Norway in the Security Council for this tenure allow me to emphasise one of the core pillars of our membership: the importance of being consistent.
Today, Afghanistan is the only country in the world where girls are denied access to education. This cannot continue.
Yet through a very challenging year for international diplomacy, the Council has managed to come together on Afghanistan:
- The Security Council has – with one voice – expressed concern over the increasingly erosion of respect or the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Afghan people, and especially its women and girls.
- We also all agree that it is important to prevent international terrorist organisations from gaining a foothold in the country.
- And we are all concerned that the lack of a legitimate and representative government poses a threat to the country’s stability.
The international community must now utilise this consensus to promote greater stability and improve the situation for the Afghan people.
Together, we must clearly communicate our expectations to the Taliban.
Since the Taliban took power by force, Norway’s message has been clear: ‘We will judge the Taliban by their actions, not by their words.’
So far, we have been deeply disappointed. We see that security for many Afghans has improved. But without a representative and responsible government, without development, there can be no stability.
Most women and girls have no access to education, to work, to free movement or free speech. On many levels, women have basically been erased from public life. And the targeting of vulnerable minority groups is unacceptable.
This is a human rights crisis. This is also bad economics. Sustainable development in Afghanistan is impossible if you exclude half the population.
Norway has been at the forefront in arguing for continued contact with the Taliban. We believe that it is necessary to talk to those who are in power. But we must do so with our eyes open and avoid giving legitimacy to the Taliban.
At the beginning of this year, we invited the Taliban to Norway. Many were surprised and disappointed about this decision. But I remain convinced that the stakes in Afghanistan are too high for us to look the other way.
History has taught us that no one will benefit if the country descends into civil war or becomes a place where terrorist groups thrive.
Today, the Islamic State poses an increasing threat in Afghanistan. If not contained, this threat could also spread more widely in the region and internationally.
The Taliban must ensure that Afghan territory is not used to plan or finance terrorist acts, or to shelter or train terrorists.
It is the Afghan population that bears the brunt of the Taliban’s actions. But instability in Afghanistan is also a threat to international peace and security.
Against this backdrop it is essential that the Security Council remains united in support of the Afghan people. We must focus on what we can do to create leverage, to make our message heard, in order to deliver basic services and rights.
For the past two years, Norway has been penholder on the Afghanistan file in the Council. Our main focus has been on strengthening international support for the Afghan people.
I am encouraged by the ability of this Council to find pragmatic solutions to a politically challenging situation.
In March we were able to adopt a renewed UNAMA mandate, covering all pillars of the UN Charter. And let me again express Norway’s gratitude to the representatives of Afghan civil society who worked so closely with us to achieve this success. The only way we can steer the wheel through the challenging crisis Afghanistan is facing, is to listen to its people.
The Council has equipped UNAMA with a strong mandate. UNAMA should now take the lead in translating this mandate into joint international action. The Council must also continue to listen to Afghan voices. To Afghan women and men who can directly convey the experiences and interests of the Afghan people.
The Afghan people are facing yet another brutal winter. More than two-thirds of the Afghan population will need humanitarian assistance in the coming year. The Taliban are imposing restrictions on human rights in violation of Afghanistan’s international obligations.
The hopes many Afghans had for greater stability and security are fading. The picture is bleak.
But the Afghan people are not giving up hope. This Council must be consistent, it owes it to them not to give up either.