Envoys unite in Rome, caution against normalizing relations with Taliban

Special representatives and envoys from various countries, including the United States, Canada, and the European Union, converged in Rome on October 18, to address the escalating humanitarian and economic challenges in Afghanistan, the US State Department said in a statement on Tuesday, Oct. 31.

Emerging from the conference, officials issued a joint statement expressing grave concern about the deteriorating state of human rights in Afghanistan. They particularly highlighted the Taliban’s exclusionary policies towards women and girls, emphasizing that such policies violate international obligations, hinder economic growth, and threaten the nation’s long-term stability.

The representatives recognized the dire economic and humanitarian predicament in Afghanistan, where over 29 million people urgently require assistance. They urged the Taliban to ensure unhindered access for humanitarian aid workers, emphasizing the vital role of female workers in reaching vulnerable populations.

Commending the international community’s substantial aid contributions, which amount to approximately $6.3 billion since August 2021, the envoys stressed the need for sustained and closely monitored aid to meet the growing needs.

Additionally, the forum expressed solidarity with communities in Western Afghanistan recently impacted by devastating earthquakes. They confirmed the approval of an additional $33 million in aid for affected regions, with further assistance under consideration.

While acknowledging the vital role of humanitarian aid, the group urged actions that address Afghanistan’s underlying macro-economic issues. They underscored the Taliban’s responsibility in this economic decline and emphasized the significance of multilateral banks in revitalizing the Afghan economy.

The Taliban’s restrictive educational policies came under sharp criticism, with calls for their immediate reversal. Participants asserted that education, meeting international standards, is a fundamental human right that should be accessible to all.

The international community expressed disappointment at the Taliban’s reluctance to foster an inclusive political dialogue with other Afghans concerning the nation’s future governance.

Acknowledging the Taliban’s efforts against opium cultivation, the representatives welcomed the 80% reduction in this year’s opium harvest. However, they emphasized the need for comprehensive policies to address synthetic drug production and trafficking.

The joint statement also spotlighted Afghanistan’s vulnerability to climate change, urging sustainable solutions to tackle severe environmental challenges. Additionally, the forum acknowledged the Taliban’s endeavors against ISIS-K but expressed concerns about other terrorist groups operating within Afghanistan’s borders.

Urging global unity, the envoys stressed the importance of not normalizing relations with the Taliban and called for unequivocal support for the rights of every Afghan citizen.

Special observers at the Rome meeting included representatives from Turkey, Asian Development Bank, World Bank, OIC, UNAMA, and UNODC. Notably, Afghan civil society figures also contributed insights during a preparatory virtual session.

The envoys expressed gratitude to Italy for hosting the pivotal conference and looked forward to further collaborative initiatives, including an upcoming meeting hosted by the UN Secretary-General.