The United Nations Security Council voted Thursday to extend and enhance the role of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) for another year, as the country faces severe humanitarian challenges.
“The resolution ensures UNAMA has a strong and robust mandate to promote inclusive political dialogue, monitor and report on human rights and continue to facilitate humanitarian and basic human needs assistance, and to engage with all Afghan actors, and that includes the Taliban on all these issues,” said Norwegian Ambassador Mona Juul, whose delegation drafted the text.
The resolution, which was adopted with 14 votes in favor and an abstention from Russia, makes human rights, especially those of women, girls and minorities, a top priority.
“Afghanistan cannot prosper if half the population is denied access to education or is not permitted to work,” U.S. envoy Jeffrey DeLaurentis said. “The United States is closely watching the Taliban’s actions to ensure it meets its commitments to respect the rights of women throughout the country.”
Taliban authorities have pledged to open secondary schools and universities to girls and women starting March 22. Several council members said they would be watching to see that they follow through.
The resolution also highlights the importance of inclusive governance and the “full, equal and meaningful participation of women.”
It also authorized UNAMA to facilitate access to assets of the country’s central bank, which have been frozen abroad to keep resources from the Taliban, who seized power last August. About $9.5 billion of those funds are in the United States.
Last month, U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order that will keep half of that money frozen for potential lawsuits from families of 9/11 victims and facilitate access to the other $3.5 billion to assist the Afghan people.
In December, World Bank donors also agreed to release $280 million from its Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund.
“In line with the clear mandate from the Security Council, UNAMA should further play a coordinating role in promoting assets unfreeze in the country concerned,” China’s ambassador Zhang Jun said, alluding to the United States. “We call upon the country concerned to expedite action to unconditionally return these assets to the Afghan people, and look forward to substantive progress in this regard before the next UNAMA briefing to the council.”
The resolution calls for briefings every three months in the council.
There is no mention of the Taliban by name in the resolution, nor of the “de facto authorities” as they are often referred to. Instead, the council refers to “all relevant Afghan political actors and stakeholders, including relevant authorities.”
Russia’s U.N. envoy said its abstention was due to the council not getting Afghanistan’s agreement for the U.N. mission’s presence. Vassily Nebenzia said this has been standard practice in past UNAMA renewals but was met with opposition this time.
“To our regret, we continue to see stubborn ignorance of the new realities in country and approaches,” Nebenzia said.
He also expressed concern about the robust mandate.
“We wouldn’t want the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan to turn into a U.N. mission impossible,” he said.
Afghanistan’s U.N. mission posted a statement on its Twitter account welcoming the adoption. The mission is still represented by diplomats from the former government, as there has been no formal international recognition of the Taliban.
Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation continues to worsen. Nearly two-thirds of the population — about 23 million people — need humanitarian assistance. That’s up 30% from just one year ago.
The World Food Program says 9 million Afghans are just one step away from famine.
In January, the U.N. launched its largest humanitarian appeal ever, for $5 billion to assist 28 million people inside Afghanistan and in five neighboring countries this year. On March 31, the U.N. along with Britain, Germany and Qatar will convene a donors’ conference to try to fund the appeal.
The situation has become so dire due the economic crisis that some desperate Afghans have resorted to selling their organs and even one of their children to buy food for the others.