The UN Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and OIC UNAMA, Ingrid Hayden, in a briefing to the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday said that it is heartening that despite the political impasse, the Afghan establishment have been able to agree on a diverse negotiating team.
The 21-member team was announced by the government on March 27. It was welcomed by President Ashraf Ghani’s political rival Abdullah Abdullah as well as some other politicians who wished that it would lead the country to intra-Afghan negotiations.
The team includes representation from all major ethnic groups, and five women members, Hayden says, and it is an important recognition that women can and must be involved in reaching a sustainable and lasting peace.
“UNAMA is urging all Afghan parties to work together to resolve their differences peacefully for the good of the people of Afghanistan,” she said. “Now is not the time for divisions. Now is the time for statesmanship, accommodation and inclusivity. The interests of Afghans must come first – including the rights of all women, minorities and youth.”
She said that UNAMA has encouraged the Taliban to include women in their delegation who have an empowered decisive voice at the table. “Doing so would send a tangible signal that the movement has fundamentally reformed,” the UNAMA deputy envoy said.
She called on all sides to take concrete steps to make the prospect of Intra-Afghan negotiations a reality.
“Having announced its negotiating team, the Islamic Republic has the weighty task of equipping its negotiators with the necessary skills to help frame its agenda, and the necessary principles to secure and advance the rights of its citizens,” she said.
The UN official expressed her concern about a rise in Taliban violence in Afghanistan.
“The last few weeks have seen conflict-related violence in Afghanistan surge again to previous levels, driven mainly by Taliban attacks against the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces,” she said. “The increased level of violence has had tragic consequences for civilians caught in the conflict. For this month alone, we have recorded more than 180 civilians killed and many more injured due to the hostilities.”
“We are also deeply concerned about the ongoing threat to civilians posed by the Islamic State-Khorasan Province,” she added.
Meanwhile, the UN official said they insist that the best way to protect civilians from conflict and the evolving health crisis is to stop the fighting altogether.
“I would like to highlight the Secretary-General’s call for an immediate global ceasefire, so that the necessary focus and resources can be provided to combating COVID-19,” she added.
According to her, the risks to Afghanistan posed by the threat of COVID-19 are extreme. The deadly effects of the virus are of particular concern given Afghanistan’s fragile health system and highly vulnerable population.
“To help mitigate this risk, the UN in Afghanistan has developed a response plan to support the efforts of the Afghan Government in responding to the COVID pandemic,” she added. “This will require funding of USD 108.1 million until 30 June.”