23 August 2021

Minister for Afghanistan to address emergency UN Human Rights Council meeting

23 August 2021

A Foreign Office minister will stress that the Taliban “need to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms” during an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council focussed on the situation in Afghanistan

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the minister directly responsible for south Asia – whose responsibilities include Afghanistan, is due to make a statement and hold urgent discussions with humanitarian partners on Tuesday.

It comes after the Conservative peer came under fire following reports by Sky News that he was on leave enjoying a break in Britain last week when the situation in Afghanistan worsened.

Lord Ahmad is expected to speak with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, at the special session, according to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

Speaking on behalf of the UK, Lord Ahmad is expected to tell the meeting: “Over the last 20 years, the UK and our Nato allies have worked to promote human rights in Afghanistan, especially for women and girls.

“Twenty years ago almost no girls went to school, and women were banned from positions of governance. Now, 3.6 million Afghan girls are in school, and women hold over a quarter of the seats in Afghanistan’s parliament.

“Maternal mortality has almost halved, and infant mortality has decreased faster than in any low income country. These gains must not be reversed.

“The Taliban need to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Last week, the UK supported a UN Security Council statement which called for all parties to allow immediate, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access for humanitarian agencies and actors providing assistance in Afghanistan.

Lord Ahmad’s discussions in Geneva with humanitarian partners will focus on what more the international community can do to ensure this remains the case, according to the Government.

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