UN Security Council bridges divides to extend Afghanistan mission

Russia sparred with western council members over references to Taliban and climate change

UN officials remind world powers to remember Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis even as attention is drawn to the situation in Ukraine. AP

The UN Security Council voted on Thursday to extend the world body's mission in Afghanistan in a vote that was seen as a test of whether members could overcome stark differences over Russia's war in Ukraine.

Fourteen council members voted for the resolution and Russia abstained — but did not cast its veto to nix the document, which updated the mandate for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama).

Mona Juul, the UN ambassador for Norway, which drafted the resolution, said it gave the UN team a “robust mandate” to monitor and report on human rights abuses in the country and to deal with the Taliban, which swept back to power last August.

“The resolution sends a clear message that this council stands firmly behind the UN's continued support to the Afghan people as they face unprecedented challenges and uncertainty,” said Ms Juul.

Negotiations over the text were contentious. Russia and China disagreed with western council members on language about human rights, climate change, women’s rights and on whether references to the Taliban would confer legitimacy on the group.

Agreement over the resolution was viewed as a test for whether big powers could reach compromises even as the US and its western allies face off against Russia, which is loosely aligned with China, over its invasion of Ukraine.

The resolution extends Unama for another year and calls for the provision of humanitarian aid to Afghans against the backdrop of a collapsing economy and as the Taliban consolidate their control over the country.

The text commits Unama to liaising with various Afghan political stakeholders, aimed at “promoting inclusive, representative, participatory and responsive governance … without any discrimination based on gender, religion or ethnicity”.

It also seeks the “full, equal and meaningful participation of women”, who have largely been excluded from Taliban decision-making as the group restricts their access to the job market, schools and colleges.

Diplomats met in New York as the UN’s refugee chief Filippo Grandi wrapped up a visit to Afghanistan by reminding world powers to remember Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis even as attention is drawn to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

“As much as the world is rightfully preoccupied with the war in Ukraine, Afghanistan is experiencing a very grave crisis,” Mr Grandi said in a statement on Friday at the end of his four-day visit to the country.

“We speak with people who do not know what they will eat for their next meal … the needs here are enormous.”

Updated: March 17, 2022, 3:25 PM