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USG DiCarlo highlights Afghan women's concerns at Doha III meeting

Remarks by Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo

Press Conference following the Third Meeting of Special Envoys on Afghanistan

Doha, 1 July 2024


*The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s press conference by Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary Dicarlo.


I want to first express our deep appreciation to the Government of Qatar for hosting this third meeting of Special Envoys on Afghanistan.

This is the third Doha meeting, but it is also a first. Indeed, this is the first time such a broad cross section of the international community and the de facto authorities have had the opportunity to hold such detailed discussions.

These discussions were frank and, I believe, useful.

They were based on priority areas listed in the independent assessment the UN Security Council recognized last November.

That assessment called for a more structured process, with clear conditions and expectations for all sides.

So, we are pursuing a principled, step-for-step approach with a clear understanding of the outcomes and commitments from all sides.

We are still at the beginning of this process.

At the opening yesterday the special envoys and the de facto authorities aired their expectations. Today we looked at the private sector and counternarcotics.

The Afghan private sector faces enormous obstacles to its development and growth, which adversely affects the economy and livelihoods. Afghanistan also needs support in building on progress made in curbing drug production.

Running through all the discussions was the deep international concern - from special envoys and from me - about the ongoing and serious restrictions on women and girls. Afghanistan cannot return to the international fold, or fully develop economically and socially, if it is deprived of the contributions and potential of half its population.

We also discussed the need for more inclusive governance and respect for the rights of minorities.

There was broad agreement on the need to chart a clear way forward. And we at the UN are committed to continue to facilitate this process.

Now, I am fully aware of the criticisms leveled at this meeting. And I understand. I would like to stress a few things:

  • The concerns and views of Afghan women and civil society were front and center. For the United Nations, the meaningful inclusion of women in political and peace processes is a guiding principle.
  • I raised these issues at all our sessions with the de facto authorities. And we will have focused discussions tomorrow with Afghan women and civil society. I will have a chance to brief you on those talks tomorrow.
  • This is part of a process. And while women and civil society were not sitting across the table from the de facto authorities the last two days, they made their voices heard. Civil society has a rightful role to play in shaping Afghanistan’s future.
  • We faced a very tough, maybe impossible, choice in organizing this meeting. We have a mandate to support this process. Our brief was to bring the de facto authorities and the special envoys together for direct talks. Regrettably, the de facto authorities will not sit across the table with Afghan civil society in this format. But they heard very clearly the need to include women and civil society in all aspects of public life.
  • I would also like to emphasize that this meeting and this process of engagement does not mean normalization or recognition.

My hope is that the constructive exchanges on the various issues over the last two days have moved us a little closer to resolving some of the problems that are having such a devastating impact on the Afghan people.

Above all, the discussion confirmed the international community’s unity in its resolve to continue engagement with Afghanistan.

We agreed to continue this process and, again, I am really grateful to the Government of Qatar for their support. We are considering setting up working groups on various areas that are contained in the independent assessment.

To conclude, I’d like to reiterate the United Nations commitment to continue to support this process of principled engagement for the benefit of all Afghans.

Thank you.


**Questions and Answers

Question (Tolo News): As you mentioned that this meeting does not mean the recognition of the Government.  But the Taliban delegates just told us that we are the reality on the ground and there is no any other way of solution for the international community so just deal with us. What is the final decision for you and what will happen now?

USG DiCarlo: Our goal is to engage with all Afghans right now and certainly with the de facto authorities on a range of issues. We do so, and we have a mission on the ground – the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) that works on a whole range of areas. The recognition is for Member States. It is not for the United Nations. We are an international organization, and we have 193 members. But it is their decision on whether they’d recognize the government or not, not ours. What we are doing is facilitating the interest of a quite a number of countries in the international community who feel that engagement with Afghanistan, principled engagement, will be to the benefit of the Afghan people, its neighbors and the international community.

Question (Radio Free Europe Radio Azattyk):  I would like to ask if there were no presents of Afghan woman and civil society in this meeting. Wo what is the guarantee that the Taliban de facto government would listen and will implement the suggestions that you put in the meeting today?

USG DiCarlo: First of all, I think they were a lot of issues that were raised. We talked about what’s hampering the private sector, what is needed more. Also on the whole issue of counter narcotics, which is a really a serious issue. I think there is genuine interest on the part of Afghans to move forward in this area. I also feel very much that it is incumbent on each member state to decide how they’re going to proceed, and the envoy were very clear and wanting to support the number of the efforts that were raised. However, as we mentioned many times, the independent assessment calls for a step for step approach to engagement, and I think this is something that we will see continuing going forward.

Question: We’ve not heard any solid commitment from Taliban sportsman Mr. Mujahid about education. Did you hear anything, any solid commitment in the discussions and meeting from the Taliban representatives?

USG DiCarlo: What I can tell you is it was raised in a number of times; a lot of times. I think it was a number one concern and request coming from special envoys from around the world, and it is certainly something that we raised, and have raised, and we are hoping indeed that we see some movement in this area. I was in Kabul a few weeks ago, about a month ago, and met with quite a number of ministers, de facto ministers, and made this case in every single meeting. And I hope they keep hearing our calls. It is about rights of women and girls, but it’s not only about rights and women and girls. If you prevent half the population of education, from being involved in the economy in various of the professions, it just means that it delays the development of Afghanistan.

Question (News Afghanistan): As you mentioned there was not any commitment from de facto authorities of Afghanistan. Is there any other commitment, clear commitment about inclusive government and other issues that raises international community’s concerns?

USG DiCarlo: We talked about inclusive governance. We talked about concerns about marginalization of minorities as well. I think they took note of it. It was very clear; they were listening very carefully. They were very engaged. And what we are hoping is that they will find a way forward in this area. Because it has been, I should say since 2021, one of the issues that we have heard from the international community about Afghanistan. Number one was inclusive government.

Question (Voice of America): The UN assessment also called for a special UN-appointed representative for Afghanistan. Has the UN given upon that idea because the Taliban do not seem very warm about it? And, if to get them to come to the table this time, the UN was willing to not invite women’s rights activist, what would the UN be willing to accommodate next time from the Taliban when similar gathering is expected to happen?

USG DiCarlo: I don’t know where the Taliban will be on the special envoy. I think that we demonstrated today, the engagement of the international community, the willingness to really sit down and work on quite a number of issues with the de facto authorities. What I can say is we will continue this process as best as possible. We do have a fairly large mission on the ground that can play a very important role. And of course, those of us who are based in New York are very engaged as well. When you say what will they ask further – I could not speculate on that. What I can say is that they did come today. They were very engaged and very sharing of information, both on the private sector, and very interestingly, on narcotics as well.

Question (BBC News): You said that this was a near impossible decision to decide to have the Taliban authority here under these conditions, given the level of criticism. But you also said that, at the moment, we don’t seem to have some clear commitments at this stage. Do you feel the level of anger that has been brought about because of the conditions the UN accepted? Does that feel worth it for what has come out of these talks?

USG DiCarlo: What we’re hoping is that given the conversations that took place, given that the engagement we saw on both from the special envoys and from the de facto authorities, that we’ll see progress in a range of areas. Obviously, this is, as I mentioned, the independent assessment step for step approach. We would hope that engagement and discussions would indeed move things forward in the way that Afghanistan becomes a more open, inclusive society, both in terms of governance, and even civil participation. We would hope that would be the case. I cannot speculate on future. All I can say is that I think the meeting was, by in large, productive, and I think we have way forward for continued engagement and we will do so. And we certainly are not going to decrease in anyway our involvement with women, civil society, minority groups on the ground. We have a mission that’s been there now for 22 years that are very engaged with civil society and a whole range of the population. They will continue their efforts.

Question (Amu TV): My question is that there are three people that were invited to tomorrow’s meeting. The Afghanistan representatives for civil society and women. They refused, they denied to come. So what is the effect of this on the credibility of the third Doha meeting.

USG DiCarlo: I think, first of all, I respect their decision. I think it’s a decision whether you participate or not participate. I regret that they won’t be there because, my understanding is that, I don’t know them personally, but I understand that we had some fabulous people on our list to come as those three were. We do have others who will be participating .We will engage. We will hear their views. We will share with them our views how we think we can help going forward and work together; basically explain this is a process. We are involved in the process now that is going to be a long-term process. This is not easy going forward, and we will continue to try to do the best we can. It won’t make everybody happy, but we really want to do the best for the Afghan people overall.

Question:  Just to confirm that two of the representatives from civil society and women will join tomorrow’s meeting from Afghanistan?

USG DiCarlo: We will have women, we will have women and men at tomorrow’s meeting, yes. We are part of the civil society, too.

Question (AFP): We saw messaging from the Taliban authorities today that they wanted to talk about sanctions relief. Is that something that you.. what messages you received from them on that? Is it something that you would be looking at with international partners, under what conditions? And very quick other question on the absence of women and civil society groups. Did you feel, in your discussions you said you talk to the Taliban about this, did you feel that they might move on this position or they standing firm where they are?

USG DiCarlo: First on the sanctions issue. It was raised. Obviously, it was a raised. It’s a concern for the Taliban. We didn’t really elaborate on it. Again, on sanctions, it’s a member state issue whether they’re going to continue certain sanctions or not. The sanctions are on people. Not on the country at large, so, again, not an in-depth discussion. And your second question again was…

Question: You said you spoke about women’s participation and civil society. Do you think they might want to move from this?

USG DiCarlo: I cannot say. All I can tell you is that I have had many discussions, not today in this process, but many discussions where I have been told that officials, many officials, are supportive of girls’ education. It’s under consideration, under discussion. All I can say is I sure hope so that they’ll be a reconsideration of this policy. It is absolutely essential. Imagine, I mean I’m looking at the women in particular in this audience. Imagine if you are only allowed to go through to the sixth grade, where would you be today? You wouldn’t be sitting here being a journalist. I wouldn’t be here being a UN official. Heartbreaking, frankly. But let us let us see and let’s keep at it. That’s all I can say. We have to make very clear how important it is, and how it’s gonna be better for Afghanistan. Thank you.

Question (Al Jazeera English): You’ve been saying in the past that this process is not necessarily a step towards a formal recognition of the Taliban. Now, from the talk that you had yesterday and today with the delegation of the Taliban, the way they’ve been answering some of your concerns, do you see a potential change of heart from the key western players in the future as far as dealing with the Taliban is concerned?

USG DiCarlo: I think, what I could say is that what they want engagement. I think both sides want engagement. They want engagement because, if you look at Afghanistan, OK, let’s look at it from a selfish perspective. There is the issue of narcotics trade, devastating for the neighbors and it goes far. I learned a lot about narcotics in Afghanistan today. The issue of terrorism. Again, it’s a security issue for Afghanistan and for its neighbors. It could be broader. And I think there is a real concern. But there’s also the human concern. Our policy, the UN’s policy since 2021 since the Taliban came in, was a people centered approach. We want to help people. We may not feel that certain things are right in the governance of the country, but it’s about the people. We cannot have suffering people. It’s one of the reasons from day one we were absolutely insistent, humanitarian assistance had to continue, absolutely had to continue. And then we decided we had to move to basic services. It’s more than humanitarian assistance. We need to have a functioning bank. We needed to be, the society needed to function. We could not leave people in such dire straits, and I think that is a sentiment that many, many countries feel. It’s about people, and in that it's everywhere. It’s not just Afghanistan. And I would just hope indeed we can see progress going forward. As I said, this is not an initiative about recognition, and recognition is not for the UN. It’s for member states. But apart from that, let’s also support people. Thank you.

Question: (The question was about the date of the next Doha meeting)

USG DiCarlo: We don’t know yet. Thank you very much.