Renewed UN Efforts on Afghanistan to Start After Doha2 Meetings

Feb. 19, 2024

By Omar Samad

It’s no longer so easy being the Secretary General of the UN these days, but @antonioguterres deserves credit for his farsightedness+evenhanded approach at a time when wisdom/leadership are lacking. On the #Afghan dossier: His personal touch is important. His teams on AFG need to draw lessons from this particular round… new emerging realities, dwindling opportunities & growing challenges paused by polarized players driven by competing agendas.

He rightly puts the Afghan people center-stage for constructive international action (as suggested by his able Sp. Coordinator in a comprehensive assessment report last year).

However, besides hardliners on the inside, and those who failed #Afghanistan & lobbied for a zero-sum outcome externally, continue to distract by using spite/anger+divisiveness to prevent gradual advancement & meaningful dialogue to address the priority concerns of +38m impoverished Afghans. Such tactics (used by anti political settlement advocates prior to Aug. ‘21) contribute to added polarization on all sides, leading to stagnation & more mistrust/stubbornness.

Pundits & provocateurs will either bash or praise the Doha2 Sp. Envoys gathering; some will claim victory, others failure; some will lay blame, others deflect blame; some will misrepresent/misinform, others set the record straight & some will try to muddy the waters while others will aim for practical solutions. Overall, despite the goodwill by a few, Doha2 will be remembered as the half-occasion to jumpstart a new process. Many Afghans did not clearly understand the framework/agenda/format of this meeting. Despite efforts by some of us to put it in context via the media, expectations were off, disinformation glaring & purposely inflated by biased outlets.

Now that we know where the regional & para-regional/donors stand on key issues, how much consensus vs disagreement exist on a laundry list of AFG concerns, which credible (some criticize the vagueness of selection criteria) Afghans to invite, which to avoid (2 out of 5 so-called civil society participants came from inside the county), which politicized agendas to promote, which to dilute, whose presence is indispensable, who’s is not… It’s mostly back to the UN drawing board.

The issues to address now via NY/Unama & other channels are deeper consultations, more inclusivity, less influence-peddling by special interest groups & more outside-the-box diplomatic creativity to overcome the hurdles. Low profile, CBM engagement is now a must to build trust via targeted dialogues. One of the main objectives, as explained by the SG, is for AFG to be “able to assume the commitments and international obligations of a sovereign state.” There are contesting & conflicting views not only on that important goal, but on almost all outstanding issues & on the prioritization of topics too. This logjam needs to be broken by astute & impartial practitioners gaining the relative trust & cooperation of international/regional stakeholders & the de facto government+relevant Afghans as soon as possible.

The Afghan people’s critical challenges, including economic hardship, regaining access to education & other fundamental rights, cannot be put on hold or ignored or toyed with any longer.