Afghanistan Absent from UN Conference on Water

By: Fida Hussain Hussaini

The Netherlands, Tajikistan, and the United Nations headquarters in New York are cohosting the United Nations Conference on Water, which will be held from March 22 to 24 for the first time in the last five decades. This conference is an effort to raise awareness, attract global attention, highlight the water crisis, and, most importantly, find a solution. It is a followup to the United Nations General Assembly resolution of the 20182028 Water Action Decade Program, which emphasized the need for international joint action to address the ongoing water crisis.

Representatives, heads, and foreign ministers from countries around the globe will be in attendance at this conference. Additionally, research institutions and researchers are also present. Despite Afghanistan being one of the countries that has been heavily impacted by climate change and is facing a shortage of clean, healthy, and sufficient water, no representative of the Taliban regime is present at this significant gathering.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this conference is the active participation of Tajikistan, Afghanistan‘s northern neighbor. While many countries attending international forums are attempting to find solutions to water scarcity and water shortages, as well as attempting to resolve water disputes through international conferences and the creation of agendas and arrangements, the Taliban regime is mired in a cycle of repression, violence, and lack of planning. The Taliban are unable to represent the people of Afghanistan and defend their interests in international forums due to their lack of legitimacy, lack of international recognition, and their inability.

Five Topics Discussed at the Conference

  1. Water and health: The right to access safe and clean drinking water, as well as the human right to access hygienic water, should be ensured.
  2.  Water for sustainable development: Valuing and connecting water with food, energy, and sustainable economic and urban growth.
  3. Water for climate, resistance, and environment: The discussion of climate change is pertinent, as natural disasters such as floods have a direct effect on the availability of fresh drinking water. Marine resources, weather, and biodiversity are all impacted by this phenomenon. Reducing the risk of natural disasters is a key factor in mitigating the effects of climate change.
  4. Water for cooperation (cooperation on international and transboundary water resources): As the water shortage crisis intensifies, tensions and disputes over transboundary waters have been escalating, and this conference is a platform for discussing ways to deescalate debates and finding solutions.
  5.  Decade of water action: Accelerating and fulfilling the objectives of the International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development as declared by the United Nations General Assembly.

According to the World Economic Forum‘s Global Risk Report published in January 2023, the crisis of natural resources, including water and food, is one of the top ten human risks in the coming decade. Afghanistan is particularly vulnerable in this regard. The water shortage crisis and lack of access to clean and safe water in the country is a major challenge that threatens the lives of its citizens. A report by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) states that 80% of the people of Afghanistan consume unhealthy or impure water, and a large portion of the population does not have access to adequate sanitation facilities, such as toilets and sufficient water.

The Taliban‘s failure to form an inclusive government, coupled with their disregard for human rights, particularly those of women, has caused Afghanistan to become isolated. This group‘s attempt to blackmail the international community into reopening girls schools and universities has only worsened the situation for the people of Afghanistan. Furthermore, the Taliban‘s policies of elimination, suppression, terror, and promotion of Taliban Islam have caused the country to regress. Additionally, this regime has been unable to meet the essential needs of the people.

The absence of Afghanistan‘s representative will have unfortunate repercussions for the country and its people. This is due to the fact that Afghanistan has disputes and tensions with its neighbors over transboundary and international waters. The lack of management and inability to use the situation to reduce tensions and conflicts with its neighbors will further challenge Afghanistan. For vulnerable and affected countries like Afghanistan, this conference is an opportunity to renew international aid and assistance. Afghanistan‘s inability to participate in this conference has had highly detrimental effects on international support in the field of water. It is evident that the national interests and security of the Afghan people are not of importance to the Taliban.