We must bring what is happening in Belarus to the world’s attention and hear from those on the ground. Briefers on #BYHumanRights: UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Anaïs Marin; Belarusian opposition presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya; Vice-Chairman of the Viasna Human Rights Center, Valiantsin Stefanovic; Legal Expert for the Belarusian Association of Journalists, Volha Siakhovich. The meeting is chaired by Urmas Reinsalu, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia. The meeting was initiated by Estonia and co-sponsored by UN Security Council members the United States and United Kingdom, as well as Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine.

Estonia’s Statement at the Security Council open VTC on the Situation in Afghanistan

I would like to thank Ms. Deborah Lyons for her significant work and comprehensive briefing to the Council and wish her much success in her upcoming years in a challenging role as the Special Representative and the Head of UNAMA. I would also like to thank Ms. Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director of the UNDOC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) for her proficient presentation and Ms. Shaharzad Akbar, for giving a bold and realistic explanation of the situation in Afghanistan.
I would like to commend UNAMA for its activity and engagement under challenging conditions in support of the Government and people of Afghanistan in several areas, in particular on the women peace and security agenda, on transitional justice, on the inclusion of civil society, as well as on the coordination, advice and assistance in protecting human rights during the COVID-19 crisis. Estonia strongly supports these efforts and is always open to explore ways that the UN including the Security Council may further assist UNAMA’s endeavors.

We consider the political agreement between President Ghani and Dr Abdullah as an important step in strengthening the Republic and progressing towards reconciliation and sustainable peace. We expect the Government of Afghanistan to continue the course of accountable governance and to ensure the meaningful participation of a diverse and inclusive negotiating team at the intra-Afghan Negotiation. We are hereby glad that the 21-member negotiating team comprises of representatives from various political and social constituencies and also of four women – this shows some progress and to an extent, attests to women’s participation in the peace process. And so, we regret that the Taliban has questioned the inclusiveness of this team.

We urge the Government and all Afghan actors and armed groups, particularly the Taliban, to seize the current historic opportunity for peace and reconciliation, and commit actively to an inclusive Afghan owned and Afghan-led peace process, while making sure, that any effort pertaining to the peace process should not erode the human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Afghan Constitution. The achievements of the past 19 years, for which Afghans and the international community, including Estonia have made enormous sacrifices, must be retained and enhanced further.
We are deeply concerned because the security situation on the ground remains violent and unpredictable. High-profile attacks by anti-government elements have continued. According to the Secretary General’s recent report, there were 3,422 armed clashes during the reporting period. The conflict continues to be one of the deadliest in the world: with 417 child casualties, of which 152 were killed and 265 maimed in the first quarter of the year. We deplore in the strongest terms the attacks against children. We call on all parties to reduce violence immediately and establish humanitarian ceasefire – in order to protect all civilians, in particular women and children, and to focus efforts on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, where healthcare personnel continue to be at the frontline, risking their own lives to save others. There is absolutely no excuse for the deliberate attacks on healthcare personnel and facilities by both the Taliban and Afghan national security forces. We strongly condemn them, including threats, abductions and the horrific attack at the Dasht-e-Barchi hospital in Kabul of 12 May. It is essential that crimes such as these are investigated and perpetrators are held accountable.

The spread of COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on women and girls due to the increased levels of domestic violence caused by lockdown measures. In this regard, we appreciate the European Union/United Nations Spotlight Initiative that will aim to highlight the risks of increased domestic violence and raise awareness on sexual and gender-based violence.
In conclusion, I would like to stress that Afghanistan has come a long way with the help of the international community, including the UN, the EU, NATO, and many nations around the world. Yet serious challenges remain. Therefore, once again we call on all sides to act swiftly, build confidence, start the intra-Afghan negotiations without delay, and fulfill their commitments to work towards long-term reduction in violence and establish peace. We need to see a comprehensive peace agreement, which ends violence for good.

Thank you.