The 78th United Nations General Assembly convened at the UN headquarters in New York. Leaders and senior government representatives gathered to discuss “building trust and revitalizing global solidarity, sustainable development goals, and climate change.” According to the organization, world leaders are actively seeking solutions to complex global challenges in pursuit of peace, security, and sustainable development. Notably, Afghanistan’s seat has remained vacant for the third consecutive year, with no discussions addressing the political, economic, or heightened terrorist threat crises. The Taliban’s control of the country has prevented them from occupying Afghanistan’s seat, which is currently held by delegates from the former government. Sources indicate that Afghanistan’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, represented by its chargé d’affaires, will not address this session but will instead discuss the current situation in Afghanistan during the Security Council meeting at the end of the UN session. Nonetheless, some women’s rights activists stress that the Afghan people are voiceless under Taliban rule, emphasizing that the former government’s representative must fulfill their mission and responsibility in this regard.
The 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly is scheduled from September 18 to 26 at the organization’s permanent headquarters in New York, United States. During this session, leaders of member states and government representatives will deliver speeches, reaffirming their commitments to global issues. Human rights, with a focus on women’s rights in Afghanistan, along with discussions on the Ukraine conflict and global climate change, are expected to be prominent topics during these multi-day meetings.
The United Nations has stated that this session occurs at a time when the Earth has warmed, poverty and food insecurity have intensified, and war and humanitarian needs have escalated in terms of costs. The primary objective of the 78th General Assembly is to “build trust and revitalize global solidarity and sustainable development.” It aims to encourage leaders of countries to explore solutions to security challenges, environmental issues, and the establishment of peace and sustainable development.
Government representatives are currently engaging in discussions regarding global interactions and addressing existing and potential crises, while Afghanistan has been in a humanitarian crisis and devoid of a legitimately elected government for the past two years. Simultaneously, poverty, hunger, migration, displacement, instability, and insecurity have been intensifying. Instead of resolving these issues, the Taliban have continued to establish vigilante justice, target non-combatants and former security forces, suppress women, and oppress their opponents.
With the takeover of Kabul, the Taliban have repeatedly called for the handover of Afghanistan’s permanent representation to the United Nations General Assembly. They have introduced Suhail Shaheen, one of their senior members, as Afghanistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations. However, the United Nations has extended the mandate of Afghanistan’s former government representative in this organization. The Taliban have also requested that the United Nations General Assembly lift the sanctions imposed on their group.
It’s worth noting that Ghulam Mohammad Ishaqzai, the representative of Ashraf Ghani’s government, relinquished from speaking at the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly and later resigned. After him, Naseer Ahmad Faiq assumed the chargé d’affaires of Afghanistan’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations.
Mr. Faiq announced last year that he would not speak at the UN General Assembly. He had stated that, based on a previous agreement, representatives of Afghanistan and Myanmar would not address this session. Mr. Faiq had indicated at that time that he would speak on behalf of the people of Afghanistan at the United Nations Security Council meeting.
This comes despite Afghanistan’s name being listed at the beginning of speakers, but Mr. Faiq will not be speaking at this session. Informed sources suggest that he is following the “precedent from last year.” According to one source, the chargé d’affaires of Afghanistan’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations is scheduled to address the Security Council session on September 26.
Sources state that “Speech on behalf of Afghanistan and its seat in the UN General Assembly are interconnected.” According to sources, the chargé d’affaires of Afghanistan’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations is refraining from speaking in order to maintain the country’s seat in the organization.
However, some citizens of the country and human rights activists regard Afghanistan’s permanent representation at the United Nations as the right of a legitimate and lawful government elected by the people. According to them, the current chargé d’affaires of Afghanistan’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations holds the responsibility and mission to raise the voices of silenced men and women who have been excluded from all aspects of life and left stranded in the abyss of despair in the current crisis-ridden and turbulent conditions in Afghanistan.
Sharara (pseudonym), a women’s rights activist, survives in the challenging situation under the Taliban’s rule. She says that Afghanistan’s permanent representation in the UN is currently the only entity capable of echoing the voices of Afghan women and girls in the presence of world leaders; the voices of those systematically and purposefully removed by the Taliban over the past two years.
This women’s rights activist emphasizes that if the chargé d’affaires of Afghanistan’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations cannot raise the voices of the “silenced and captive” people of Afghanistan during this critical period, then it will have no further effectiveness. According to her, this seat belongs to the people of Afghanistan, and it should be utilized for the collective interests of the Afghan population.
Nevertheless, some citizens argue that Afghanistan, under Taliban rule, has been forgotten, and the world should be aware of the consequences of the country falling into the hands of “terrorist” groups. In their view, the acting representative of Afghanistan in the UN has a duty to speak on behalf of the Afghan people in the absence of a legitimate and lawful government and to draw the world’s attention to the repercussions of the dominance of “a group comprised of terrorist organizations.”
These concerns arose while Roza Otunbayeva, the head of UNAMA and the United Nations Secretary-General’s representative in Afghanistan, stated in a meeting with Amir Khan Muttaqi, the acting foreign minister of the Taliban, that the voices of all Afghan citizens will be heard in this assembly.
This comes as Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, has said that the time for reconciliation for a better tomorrow has come, and people are looking for a way out of the current global turmoil. He has called on world leaders to pursue a policy of reconciliation and diplomacy.
The United Nations Secretary-General stated in a press briefing prior to the convening of the United Nations General Assembly that the issue of women’s and girls’ rights in Afghanistan is at the center of global concerns and will be on the agenda of the United Nations. However, he did not make any specific mention of this matter in his opening remarks.
It should be noted that the United Nations General Assembly is the principal policy-making body of this organization and includes all member states. The United Nations has 193 members, all of whom have equal voting rights. This organization was founded on October 24, 1945, with the goal of ensuring world security, promoting peace, fostering friendly relations, and coordinating among the nations of the world.