Taliban return to power in Afghanistan affects Western reputation

The withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban to power have had an impact on the reputation of the West, according to Ilze Brands-Kehris, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Human Rights. Her responsibilities include cooperating with UN Security Council countries in New York. What is happening in Afghanistan was also the focus of many at the UN General Assembly last week. In an exclusive interview in New York, Ilze Brands-Kehris outlined her vision for the situation in Belarus and Afghanistan, as well as other important issues.

Ilze Brands-Kehris: The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan has affected the reputation of the WestArtyom Konohov

Artyom Konohov: I would like to start with a question that is topical and important for many Latvians today, which is talked about a lot in Latvia, namely the situation in Belarus both in the field of human rights and, of course, on the border between Belarus and Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The European Union, like the countries mentioned, calls this a hybrid attack and says that it is the selfish use of migrants. At the same time, human rights organizations are accused of being quite inhumane towards migrants, people with young children who are forced to stay in the woods or who are not allowed to apply for asylum in the specific place where they are trying to cross the border. How do you see this situation? How do you think a balance should be sought between border protection, on the one hand, and on the other – human rights and human behavior?

Ilze Brands-Kehris: Thanks for the question. Of course, it is seen all over the world, but probably even more striking, of course, in our part of the world. Here in New York, we are largely dealing with Afghanistan and other such burning points in the world.

However, we are also following the situation in Belarus very closely. In general, unfortunately, for a long time now, the situation has not been moving in the right direction internally. On the contrary, because many of the human rights defenders have been arrested and, of course, the issue of violence against them. Journalists, as you know very well, are also very vulnerable, and many others.

This situation is, of course, very, very worrying.

This is accompanied by this particular situation, which has developed on the border.

There is, of course, one political side in which I cannot be involved in my position. It is clear that those signals from Lukashenko have been. But what is really happening now… From the point of view of human rights, of course, the very basis is that every country on whose territory a person is located is responsible for upholding the human rights of those specific people.

It must be distinguished from this political situation that, however, the task is to ensure human rights for all these people. And then simply distinguish in which jurisdiction they are located and who is responsible for it. But it is clear that human rights must be respected in order to have a basis: a chance of survival in conditions worthy of these people. We are talking about the right to life. It is not only life, but also life in a human dignified way. Secondly, it is necessary to understand among all these people who have the right to asylum. This means that, of course, they must be able to access the asylum process. And then, of course, it can be considered individually whether there are grounds to grant them such status. It may be that many of them cannot obtain such a status at all, but of course there may be other statuses.

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You mentioned Afghanistan, and these issues are already in a sense interconnected, because the people who reach the border between Belarus and the Baltic States, as well as Poland, come in part from Afghanistan. They got there before the events we saw in recent weeks came to light. I was struck by the fact that Europe’s response is different this time around. At least some countries say: stay where you are, we will give money to UN agencies, we will try to support you, but by no means come to us the way you came in 2015. What makes you think of such a political signal coming from individual countries Denmark, the Czech Republic, a few more?

I think there is history and what happened already in 2015 and in the years after … There is still a lot to talk about and think about which were the countries that tried to maintain not only human rights but also human rights. treatment of fellow human beings who are left out of very sharp and complex, violent situations. We have talked a lot about it in Latvia … I was born in Sweden because my parents fled Latvia. And I think so

we could have expected that perhaps we would have a more open and understanding attitude towards people who are really monks from such situations. Unfortunately, however, it does not always turn out that such a basis in history itself has led to their openness.

But I think in any case we need to look at the situation today and now. I think there are several differences. There is now a strong focus on women’s and girls’ rights in Afghanistan, but it must be said that there are many other human rights, where, of course, there are also very great threats.

So, on the one hand, it mobilizes support. There are countries that say: yes, we are ready to face so and so many people who are really at risk. But, on the other hand, again, this reaction is that “yes, well, it’s okay to get somewhere, but just somewhere else, just not with us, so that we don’t have those political escalations in the country.”

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But in any case, the problem is already to maintain the principle. How can one try to influence the situation with the Taliban themselves, if they remain in power, as it seems, to push as far as possible in order to respect human rights. Including equal rights for women and girls. This is a global issue. The West will never be able to achieve this on its own. But if there can be some common voice on a global scale, so that all the UN comes together to have, for example, a statement that, yes, we will talk to you, the Taliban, we have not recognized you and may not recognize you for a long time… But if in general, going in the direction that you have any legitimacy at all, then in any case there are basic principles where human rights are at the very center. I think that is very important.

Do UN agencies as a whole have sufficient resources to help Afghanistan alleviate a potential humanitarian crisis? We talk quite regularly that everyone says they will give money, but the promised amount is rarely given in full.

Exactly. One is the UN Secretariat and what the UN can do with its own resources. And the second, of course, is the Member States. When I talk about their discussion and principles, it is, of course, between the Member States, it cannot be done without the Member States. And it is clear that the budget is insufficient. The Secretary-General has just visited Geneva. It asked Member States to declare who would participate and devote resources so that they could really at least address these humanitarian issues.

On the one hand, it was a very big and good success, with which everyone was pleased that there, some billion, I think, US dollars was promised in a few hours. But the other is when and how much of that money will be seen. Will that money really come in so that it can actually be used?

Continuing a little more about Afghanistan: can the West now tell anyone at all that we will protect you, we will support you? Does anyone believe these words? Because we see that for many people, the West, not only America, but also the others who have taken part there, have not been able to help in the end.

This is a complex issue, and again it is not exactly about human rights, but about politics. On a human level, it is a reminder to us to try to understand these situations from the point of view of the people, the people. I do not think that this is really a new issue. All these years, we have had to raise the question of how this is perceived from the point of view of the recipient country, from the people and from different sections of the population.

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We also hear this and see it in the comments that, of course, what a particular person and family has experienced somewhere in the regions of Afghanistan is, of course, something completely different from what has always been reflected to us from the political leadership in Afghanistan.

We must always be able to remember that man is what is at the center. We forget about it so often.

I am very grateful that we can now talk about it on the radio, because I think it is, for example, one of the means that still exists, that we are each involved as a person in the life of an individual or family, or in some way. in society and remember that we are really talking about people and how they live their lives.

I think this has certainly had consequences, both politically and in terms of trust. But it must be said that this is perhaps the biggest issue at the moment globally – as we see in surveys and everywhere – that people’s trust in the authorities around the world is very, very low, including in the West, of course and including Europe, the United States and everywhere else. This creates all sorts of other tensions in all societies.

But when it comes to what we do next away from home and how our own people behave… I would like to add from a human rights perspective that we work, for example, in our office with the Sahel. I myself could soon finally make one visit by now Covid for reasons i couldn’t do it. We are working specifically with five countries to fight terrorism.

We work with the military, and also with the police, to make sure that they have a systematic knowledge of respect for human rights, that it is embedded in all the procedures that those military or other security forces apply when they take their counter-terrorism measures.

I think that is very important. In that context, we also talked about having a relationship with the local people, so that there was trust. Or the same forces that have come there to supposedly help, so that they themselves show that they respect human rights, that they are not committing a violation. And if there are violations, because we know that they can be and that they will be, then they are really being investigated and the people who have committed them are being punished.

So I think that in all these relationships, there must once again be respect for the person and it must be understood that we are in a society where that is the way we earn that there is some kind of trust in us. It is only by showing respect that we ourselves follow what we say and say, we show that they are not just words or words only on paper.

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