Secretary-General's statement following two-day meeting of special envoys on Afghanistan

19 Feb 2024

Secretary-General's statement following two-day meeting of special envoys on Afghanistan

DOHA, QATAR - UN Secretary-General’s media stakeout in Doha, Qatar, following two-day meeting of special envoys on Afghanistan.



Doha, Qatar - 19 February, 2024

Ladies and Gentlemen of the press,

We just finished the main session of our meeting.

Another session is now taking place with representatives of the civil society of Afghanistan.

There is a total identity of points of view of all members in relation to the end game: What do we want?

We want an Afghanistan in peace.

Peace with itself and peace with its neighbors. 

Able to assume the commitments and international obligations of a sovereign state and at the same time, doing so in relation to the international community, the other countries, its neighbors, and in relation to the rights of its own population.

At that same time an Afghanistan fully integrated in all the mechanisms, political and economic, of the international community.

This is the objective, the endgame.

To reach this endgame, there was also total consensus in relation to the programmatic proposals, included in the independent review that was conducted by Ambassador Feridun Sinirlioğlu, and that cover all the main areas of concern of both the international community and of the de facto authorities of Afghanistan.

First, the need for Afghanistan not to be the hotbed of terrorist activities that impact other countries.

Second, the vision of Afghanistan with inclusive institutions in which its diverse groups - we have Uzbeks, Tajiks, Pashtuns, Hazaras - all feel represented in a state that is truly inclusive.

Third, a concern about the respect of human rights and, in particular, the rights of women and girls.

We can see that it is essential to revoke the decisions that do not allow girls to be in secondary and tertiary school and do not allow women to effectively work in the majority of the professions.

Then a concern, but at the same time with recognition of the progress made, in relation to the questions of drug trafficking and drug cultivation.

From the point of view of the interests of Afghanistan, the need for a more effective humanitarian aid, covering more basic needs of the population of Afghanistan, and also to put on the table the questions related to the long-term development of Afghanistan.

So, in relation to all these aspects, the programmatic aspects of the independent review, there was a total consensus among the group.

On the other hand, we recognize that in a number of aspects, a lot of things are happening on the ground.

There is a very intense economic cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbors.

In trade, in infrastructure, in water, in other dimensions, and that is positive.

There are different forms of bilateral engagement. 

For instance, cooperation with Afghanistan in relation to the suppression of drug cultivation.

Cooperations in relation to fighting ISIS and different, other forms of relationships and cooperation with the de facto authorities.

Our group considers that those things are positive, that those things should move on.

But we also recognize that there is an essential set of questions in which we are stuck.

On one hand, Afghanistan remains with a government that is not recognized internationally and, in many aspects, not integrated in the global institutions and in the global economy.

And on the other hand, there is in the international community a perception that inclusivity has not improved; that the situation of women and girls and human rights in general has in fact deteriorated in recent times; and that the problems of the fight against terrorism are not entirely solved.

So, to a certain extent, we are in a kind of a situation of the chicken and the egg, which means with the Taliban thinking that the concerns of the international community are not their business and wanting recognition and integration and the international community thinking that there is no progress in relation to its main concerns, and so there is no progress also in the questions of recognition and integration.

One of our main objectives is to overcome this deadlock and to make sure that there is a roadmap in which both things can move and move forward in a positive way to create the conditions in which the concerns of the international community are taken into account but the concerns of the de facto authorities of Afghanistan are also taken into account simultaneously.

In that regard, we recognize that there are different forms of organization within the international community.

There are several bilateral engagements with the Taliban.

There are different formats of groups in different parts of the world.

And there is a need for better coordination.

In that regard, we discussed the Security Council resolution that asks me to appoint an envoy, a UN envoy but with a deep consultation with all the interested parties: member states and the de facto Afghan authorities but also other sectors of the Afghan society.

It was decided that I would initiate a serious process of consultations to see if there are conditions to create a UN Envoy that might be able not only to have a coordinating role in relation to the engagements that are taking place but that can also work effectively with the de facto authorities of Afghanistan.

I will initiate immediately those consultations, reporting back, naturally, to the Security Council.

On the other hand, there was a decision that this format, that has today concluded its second meeting, this format should be a standing format and that we would be able to meet more often, probably with different levels in its composition depending on what is discussed.

But also creating the conditions for a next meeting to have the presence of the de facto authorities of Afghanistan that this time did not accept, as you know, my invitation. 

On the other hand, we also discussed - of course, it's not for the UN to have a role on that, it's strictly at the competence of member states. But we also discussed and it is one of the recommendations of the review – we also discussed the interest of the creation of a contact group with a more limited number of states able to have a more coordinated approach in the engagement with the de facto authorities.

It is up to member states to decide how to create it.

I made a personal suggestion. For instance, the P-5 with a group of neighboring countries and a group of relevant donors. 

If the three parts combined could create a contact group, I believe it would be a way to have coherence in the way the international community is engaging with the de facto authorities of Afghanistan.

But again, that was a personal idea.

It's up to member states to decide or not, to form this contact group.

This meeting, as you see, was extremely productive.

We reached consensus on, I would say, the key issues that are to be discussed between the international community and the de facto authorities and an important set of operational conclusions to allow us to be more effective in the future.

I sincerely hope that these will produce results.

Moderator: Let me start with Omra, from Amu TV.

Question: Thank you. I am Omra Morib from Afghanistan, Amu TV. Everyday, we have around 20 video clips profile from Afghanistan women and girls. What's your message to the Afghan women and girls that are not allowed to go to school, work, or even out of the home?

Secretary-General: My message is a message of deep solidarity. I have three granddaughters. It would be unconceivable for me if my granddaughters would not be able to attend secondary school; if they would not be able to go to the university and if they would not be able to have the chance to fully participate in the economy and the society of my country.

I would like all the granddaughters and daughters in Afghanistan to enjoy exactly the same rights that my granddaughters will hopefully enjoy in my country.

Moderator: Al Jazeera

 Question: Thank you. Mr. Secretary-General, this is Resul Serdar from Al Jazeera. So you have talked about the items that there is a consensus on, but also you set up the new objectives for the next meeting. However, so Taliban is not here, which is practically in charge of the country. So without Taliban being present, how are you going to move forward?

And secondly, there has been some of the reports that one of the reasons the Taliban rejected joining this meeting was the lack of proper communication.

Secretary-General: Well, as a matter of fact, I received a letter with a set of conditions to be present in this meeting that were not acceptable.

These conditions, first of all, denied us the right to talk to other representatives of the Afghan society and demanded a treatment that would, I would say, to a large extent be similar to recognition.

If the reason was lack of communication, I'm very happy because I can then make sure that the next time, there will be perfect communication, and then the problem will not exist.

Question: Thank you very much, Secretary-General. I've got a follow up question today. So were you disappointed when the Taliban decided not to attend? And was it damaging to the gathering itself?

Secretary-General: It was not damaging because the meeting was very useful, and we absolutely needed to have this discussion, because, as you know, we have a report that went to the Security Council, that the Security Council asked Member States to take fully into account and that contains a strategy that was very important to be endorsed by this group of states.

So, the meeting was extremely useful. Obviously, it would be better if we would have also had the opportunity, after the meeting that we had yesterday evening and this morning, to discuss our conclusions with the de facto authorities.

It did not happen today. It will happen in the near future.

Question: But you also talked about the consensus among the participating countries. But we know that Russia has avoided, basically said that it's not going to go and meet the civil society activists who are here in this meeting.

How difficult it is to really reach a consensus on how to deal with the Taliban, considering the positions of their regional powers like China, Russia and Iran?

Secretary-General: I have to say that the consensus that I referred to was a consensus that no country in the meeting has put into question.

Indeed, it is true that the Russian Federation issued a communiqué saying that we should not meet the civil society.

I am terribly sorry, but I am in total disagreement. I think it will be very important to meet with the de facto authorities. But I think it's also very important to listen to other voices in the Afghan society.

Moderator: AFP

Question: Callum Paton, from Agence France presse. I know you've said that the Taliban didn't accept the UN's invitation to come, but I was wondering if you could just completely…

Secretary-General: I couldn't understand this.

Question: Okay, sorry. I actually haven't really started the question yet. So, could you just confirm that there was no representative of the Taliban at these meetings, including perhaps someone from the Doha office here?

And then, secondly, you've said that it's your aim to include the Taliban authorities in these discussions moving forward. But you've also said you want to begin a consultation on a UN envoy, which the Taliban has rejected.

How do you reconcile those two goals?

Secretary-General: One of the things is that I believe we need to have clear consultations with the Taliban in order to have a clarification of the role of that envoy, of who can be that envoy, in order to make it attractive from the point of view of the Taliban. And I believe it's in the interest of the Taliban to do so. And that's why the consultations make full sense. And your first question was?

Question: Just that no one from the Doha office of the Taliban was present?

Secretary-General: No, but there was a meeting today between a representative of the Taliban in Doha and Ms. Rosemary di Carlo [Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs]. So, the contacts are moving on, and they will move on, and UNAMA’s activity will be in full swing in Afghanistan.

I hope we are not discussing the divorce but we are discussing, as I said, a failure of communication.

Last question.

Question: If the Taliban did not accept your conditions this time and said that they would only come if they're regarded as the sole representatives of Afghanistan. How do you move past that? How do you expect to have them the second time that you meet if this condition stays in place from their side?

Secretary-General: Well, it is the conditions that were put by the Taliban that were not accepted for us and so I think that, as I said, we will meet now, with this format as a standing format. And with different levels of organizing the meetings, I think we will find easily a solution to allow for the participation of the Taliban.

Thank you very much.