Substantial changes in Taliban policies unlikely to happen: Bennett

During an event in Sweden, UN Special Rapporteur for Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, provided insights into the UN-mandated assessment on Afghanistan, particularly emphasizing the challenges surrounding women’s rights. He indicated that “substantial changes in the Taliban’s approach and policies” are unlikely to occur.

The UN Special Coordinator, Feridun Sinirlioglu, presented a comprehensive report at a recent UN Security Council meeting, outlining key recommendations for Afghanistan’s political future. These recommendations include the appointment of a UN special envoy and the establishment of an international contact group.

Bennett commented on the report, stating, “More broadly, what is required for the de facto authorities to be fully integrated into the international community? This is the key question for the roadmap.” He noted that the roadmap, while criticized by some, intentionally leaves room for additional details to be filled in, considering the Security Council as its primary audience.

The event, hosted by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, delved into discussions beyond humanitarian aid, with a primary focus on the rights of women and girls, especially in terms of education and work opportunities.

While acknowledging criticisms of the report for not adequately addressing women’s rights, Bennett highlighted a crucial aspect of the roadmap. He stated, “The de facto authorities need to demonstrate that they can carry out Afghanistan’s human rights treaty obligations, including ensuring that women and girls enjoy equal rights.”

However, Bennett expressed skepticism about the Taliban’s willingness to reverse or significantly modify their existing decrees, edicts, and orders that curtail women’s and girls’ rights. He questioned whether the Taliban would allow schools and universities to reopen for women and girls and whether such actions would be sufficient for international development aid.

“Are there workarounds that would enable the Swedish Committee and others to continue to deliver their services to Afghans and were evident in the 1990s and being found again today are these more likely to continue rather than the substantial changes in the Taliban’s approach and policies,” Bennett added.

Highlighting the current situation, Bennett noted the closure of secondary schools for girls since September 2021 and the Taliban’s bans on women attending universities and working in non-governmental organizations, decisions that have sparked global reactions without subsequent reversals by the Taliban.