Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC briefing on the situation in Afghanistan
We thank Head of UN OCHA M.Griffiths and Deputy SRSG and Humanitarian Coordinator of UNAMA R.Alakbarov for their assessments of the situation in Afghanistan. Since August 2021, you have accomplished a huge amount of work on the ground, which undoubtedly saved lives of millions of Afghans.
We followed closely the remarks by representatives of the civil society who briefed the Council today. In this respect, we traditionally proceed from the assumption that when the Council invited CSO representatives to brief on Afghanistan, those must be people from Afghanistan who are familiar with the specifics of this country and who stay with it throughout all its hard times.
It is positive that representatives of regional states are given the floor in a discussion of this critical topic.
First of all, let me express our heartfelt condolences to the de facto authorities and people of Afghanistan with regard to a terrible earthquake that claimed thousands of lives.
We have studied carefully the recent report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan. It has been six months since the Council convened for a comprehensive discussion of the Afghan agenda. Unfortunately, over this period the situation at the humanitarian and socio-economic tracks continued to deteriorate. Living standards have plummeted by one third. The population is confronted with one of the fastest unfolding humanitarian crises in the world which makes people struggle for survival. There is hunger, poverty, and unemployment. Industrial and manufacturing clusters tipped into a recession. Agricultural cluster is suffering from droughts and shortages of seeding stocks, fodder and fertilizers. Spread of COVID-19 also caused heavy consequences for the most vulnerable groups in the first place, including women and children. Against this backdrop, the Pledging Conference on Supporting the Humanitarian Response in Afghanistan that convened on 31 March failed to deliver on what had been expected of it.
In this regard, what looks particularly hypocritical is attempts of US and NATO to shift responsibility for the current crisis in Afghanistan and recovery of the country to the global community, as well as their attempts to make the Afghan population who suffers in poverty to pay off for the 9/11 terrorist attack with which Afghans have nothing to do. Back at the times of the Soviet Union, more than 140 facilities were built in Afghanistan to form the backbone of its economy. During the 20 years of NATO presence, not a single facility was constructed, and Afghanistan's economy was directly dependent on international financing.
We appreciate the efforts of humanitarian agencies that are deployed on the ground. We note the dedicated and selfless engagement of OCHA, ICRC, UNHCR, and other humanitarians who contribute meaningfully to assisting Afghanistan. It is positive that now humanitarian workers have access to areas that were off-limits to them before 15 August 2021. We realize that certain challenges still remain in place. It will take time and patience to overcome them. Besides, some of Afghanistan's problems have not been addressed for decades. We are convinced that humanitarians’ commitment to an active dialogue with the de facto Afghan authorities will help progress at this track.
We give a positive assessment to certain steps by international mechanisms and financial institutions, in particular the World Bank, aimed at improving the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, those measures do not suffice to make life better for ordinary Afghans. Humanitarian aid from abroad reduces social tension only to a small degree.
UNSC resolution 2615 adopted in December 2021 was meant to become a window of opportunity to enhance prompt humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan through all channels. Provisions of the resolution provide a response to most frequent questions about ways to have assistance delivered to Afghanistan without any impediments under the conditions of 1988 sanctions regime. Unfortunately. Some states still misinterpret the resolution by justifying the effective unilateral restrictions.
The already precarious humanitarian situation is further aggravated by Afghanistan’s collapsing economy and paralyzed banking system. Against this backdrop, attempts of some states to not allow Afghan financial operators resume their engagement with the international banking system, and “put into a cold storage” any measures to release the Afghan assets look particularly appalling. This makes us doubt whether our colleagues truly mean it when they claim to be interested in stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan.
We call on Western donors to stop using the topic of Afghanistan for unscrupulous speculations, return Afghan money to the country and embark on comprehensive efforts to improve the socio-economic and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan without any reservations and pre-conditions. After all, those states bear the main responsibility for the outcomes of their 20-year-long presence in the country.
Maintenance of stability in Afghanistan stands at the core of regional efforts at the peace process track. We are convinced that this must be an imperative for all international community to proceed from. At this point, complacency will entail even larger-scale negative consequences in the future.
The only party to benefit from destabilization is militants from ISIL and other groups, including “Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement”, “Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan”, and “Jamaat Ansarullah”. They are very much interested in occurrence of new hotbeds of tension. All of us are well aware of ISIL’s plans to establish a caliphate and spread its influence in Central Asia, and then also in Russia.
The problem of drug production and trafficking remains very urgent, as Afghanistan remains the world’s leading supplier of opiates. We note steps that de facto authorities take to curb this threat. Yet this is not enough. Beyond any doubt, Afghanistan needs comprehensive global assistance in developing alternative crops.
We attach great importance to the activities of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). We trust that UNAMA will keep focusing on its mandated tasks to coordinate humanitarian assistance and promote Afghanistan’s post-conflict recovery. Thereby it will be crucial for the Mission to have constructive and confidential dialogue with de facto authorities, help the authorities build capacity in order to create conditions for effective problem-solving with due account for regional and cultural specifics and on the basis of best practices borrowed from neighbors in the region, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
As Afghanistan’s friend and neighbor, Russia traditionally provides to it humanitarian assistance via relevant UN agencies. We have also dispatched some humanitarian cargoes via bilateral channels, including food, warm clothing and medicines. We deeply regret that illegal sanctions against our country affect our engagement with humanitarian organizations, disrupt logistical and financial chains. If need be, we are ready to help Afghanistan out with grain deliveries.
We keep contributing to the peace and national reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Russia maintains standing contact with the de facto authorities, which is always focused on Afghanistan’s key problems, including terrorist and drug threat, the issue of political inclusivity, humanitarian assistance, and human rights, including the rights of women and girls. The Afghan agenda is central to our efforts in the framework of the Moscow Format and other regional mechanisms, as well as CSTO and SCO.
Russia will set forth its assistance to the Afghan people and representatives of de facto authorities of Afghanistan in order to mitigate the consequences of a social and economic crisis in that country.