United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called for efforts to uphold human rights in Afghanistan and to prevent the country from again becoming a safe haven for terrorist organizations.
Speaking at an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Afghanistan as the Taliban are retaking the capital city of Kabul, Guterres called on the international community to be united and to use all available means to ensure the two principles.
“First, we must speak with one voice to uphold human rights in Afghanistan. I call upon the Taliban and all parties to respect and protect international humanitarian law and the rights and freedoms of all persons,” he said.
“Second, the international community must unite to make sure that Afghanistan is never again used as a platform or safe haven for terrorist organizations.”
Regardless of who holds power, he said, these two fundamental principles must be upheld.
“The world is following events in Afghanistan with a heavy heart and deep disquiet about what lies ahead,” he said. “All of us have seen the images in real time: chaos, unrest, uncertainty, and fear. Much lies in the balance: the progress, the hope, the dreams of a generation of young Afghan women and girls, boys and men.”
He urged all parties, especially the Taliban, to exercise utmost restraint so as to protect lives and to ensure that humanitarian needs can be met.
“I remind all parties of their obligation to protect civilians. And I call on all parties to provide humanitarians with unimpeded access to deliver timely and life-saving services and aid. And I also urge all countries to be willing to receive Afghan refugees and refrain from any deportations,” said Guterres.
He noted that conflict has forced hundreds of thousands from their homes. Kabul has seen a huge influx of internally displaced persons from provinces around the country where they felt insecure or fled during fighting.
The United Nations is committed to supporting Afghans, he said. “We continue to have staff and offices in areas that have come under Taliban control. I am relieved to report that in large measure, our personnel and premises have been respected. We urge the Taliban to honor the integrity of these facilities and the inviolability of diplomatic envoys and premises.”
The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan affects 18 million people — fully half of the country’s population. It is vital that basic services continue to be provided, he said.
In a statement issued on Sunday, the Taliban said they would work with existing institutions. It is crucial that civil servant salaries continue to be paid, infrastructure is maintained, airports are reopened, and health and education services continue, he said.
The UN presence will adapt to the security situation. But above all, the world body will stay and deliver in support of the Afghan people in their hour of need, he said.
“Looking ahead, I call for an immediate end to violence, for the rights of all Afghans to be respected and for Afghanistan to comply with all international agreements to which it is a party,” he said. “Afghans are a proud people with a rich cultural heritage. They have known generations of war and hardship. They deserve our full support. The following days will be pivotal. The world is watching. We cannot and must not abandon the people of Afghanistan.”