Afghanistan has unique opportunity for a brighter, more stable future – UN envoy
NEW YORK - The UN’s top envoy in Afghanistan said the country now has a unique opportunity to turn the corner to a brighter, more stable future after four decades of war.
Deborah Lyons told the Security Council on Thursday that even as an unprecedented global pandemic threatens to unravel many of the hard-won socio-economic gains Afghanistan has made over the years, there is now a moment of “emerging hope.”
The UN envoy, who is the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said she is “cautiously optimistic” that the talks between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban negotiation teams will start in the next few weeks in Doha.
“As the two sides embark on what will likely be a long and complex series of talks, I have encouraged them to show the necessary flexibility and foresight, the commitment to peace and, most importantly, compassion for their people that will be needed to bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion,” she told the Security Council.
Lyons, who is also head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), described how the formal announcement of a three-day Eid ceasefire by the Taliban and the Government led to a welcome and much-needed reduction in violence.
“A reduction in violence is essential to an environment conducive for peace talks and to pave the way for an eventual permanent ceasefire,” she stressed, telling the Security Council that the United Nations stands ready to support direct peace talks and noting that she has been in discussion with both sides to identify and address their needs, going forward.
The UN envoy described how she has engaged with partners from the region and beyond, and said she is confident that a constructive atmosphere for the peace process can be fostered. But at the same time as new opportunities for peace emerge, she said, COVID-19 is casting a shadow over daily life in Afghanistan.
“Under the leadership of the Afghan Government, the UN is supporting a coordinated response to fight this epidemic,” she said, pointing out how she is counting on the continued generosity of the international community to allow the United Nations to carry forward with the Afghan Government an essential response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to presenting an update on prospects for peace and the fight against COVID-19, Lyons highlighted developments in human rights and the humanitarian situation. She spoke about the harsh realities of life for many Afghans and the human cost of Afghanistan’s conflict, which continues to take a devastating toll on civilians, especially children.
In closing, Lyons stressed that COVID-19 is not just a health crisis. She called it a “multi-dimensional crisis impacting an already fragile country.” But by working together, she said, we can overcome COVID-19 and support Afghanistan at the beginning of its nascent peace process so that its people can finally achieve the lasting peace they deserve.
“The UN will continue to stand in partnership with the Afghan people through this time of unprecedented challenge and fragile hope,” she said. “The Afghan people will look to the guidance, to the support, and to the unity of this Council as they chart their way forward on their long road to peace.”
Download an audio recording SRSG's briefing to the Security Council.
Watch the video of the SRSG's briefing to the Security Council.
Read the full report by the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan.