I thank you for convening this meeting and I thank Special Representative Otunbayeva for her briefing on the worrying developments in Afghanistan and for her precious work. I also thank Ms. Zubaida Akbar for her statement and her commitment to, and work with, those who fight for human rights every day, and, as we have heard, risk their life.
It is a sad coincidence that today we celebrate International Women's Day around the world, while women and girls in Afghanistan are at the centre of our concerns. Earlier this year, the Director of UN Women reminded us: “Afghan women left us no doubt of their courage and refusal to be erased from public life. They will continue to advocate and fight for their rights, and we are duty bound to support them in doing so”. The full, equal and meaningful participation of women was called for repeatedly in this room yesterday during the open debate on women, peace and security. Yet we need to go further than words alone. Whether in Afghanistan or elsewhere in the world, making the implementation of resolution 1325 a reality is our obligation.
In Afghanistan, women and girls see their human rights and fundamental freedoms violated on a daily basis. As the report of the Secretary General and the Special Representative's briefing demonstrate, the situation continues to worsen. The list of incidents of violence against women and girls includes murders, honour killings, forced marriages, and beatings resulting in disabilities. Their access to education and work has become virtually non-existent. At a time when their access to education and work is virtually non-existent, we call on the Taliban to reverse the prohibitions on women and girls without delay. Switzerland condemns all human rights violations committed by the Taliban, in particular violations of the rights of women, but also of children and ethnic minorities.
We are currently negotiating the renewal of UNAMA's mandate. Switzerland joins the Secretary General in calling for an extension of the current mandate, which will allow the mission to continue its vital activities for the Afghan people. In the near future, we consider two areas of action to be priorities for the UN’s commitment:
First, this Council and UNAMA must support all efforts to promote an Afghanistan where the whole of society participates in public life without discrimination or reprisals. The protection of human rights is essential for the stability of the country. Women and girls must have access to education, work, politics and social and economic life. We defend the right of women to participate in all decision-making processes. This is essential to respond to immediate humanitarian needs, but also for economic and social development, as well as for building sustainable peace. The work of Afghan women in many NGOs on the ground is instrumental in achieving these goals.
Secondly, we must address humanitarian needs and find sustainable solutions to the endemic food insecurity in Afghanistan. Decades of environmental degradation have increased desertification and exacerbated drought. The resilience of Afghans is stretched to the limit. 28 million people depend on humanitarian aid to survive. But beyond the immediate delivery of aid, we need to continue our long-term support. In the face of increasing challenges resulting from climate change, the Afghan people must be supported to adapt its agriculture and make natural resource management more sustainable. In addition, basic public services must be able to function, especially in the areas of education and public health. A stable economy is needed to create prospects for a dignified future.
Afghanistan is facing multiple, mutually reinforcing crises that have plunged it into deep insecurity. We must rally around a common strategy and support the population in its efforts to regain security. However, these efforts can only succeed if the Taliban reverse their misogynistic actions and recognise the key role of women in society, the economy and politics. We call on them to rescind their recent decrees banning women from higher education and from working for NGOs. More generally, they must recognise the importance of inclusive governance and the rule of law. To support these goals, the UN must maintain its presence on the ground - safe and free from threats - through a strong mandate for engagement. We assure you of our continued support for this cause.
I thank you.