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In December 2000 GPS staffer Sarah Froggatt wrote to her MP, Michael Hall, regarding woman's rights abuses under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Here's the reply. At the bottom of the page there are a selection of links indicating the UN / EU position on Afghanistan prior to the 9 September. Lots of words, highlighting little more than the international community's ineffectiveness until it was too late. There was diplomacy at work on the Taliban / Afghanistan. It didn't work.


17 January 2001
Michael Hall MP
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

Dear Michael,

Thank you for a letter of 3 January to Robin Cook on behalf of a constituent about Afghanistan, including the position of women. I am replying as minister responsible for relations with Afghanistan.

We share your constituent's concerns about human rights in Afghanistan, particularly those of women and children. Most recently our High Commissioner in Islamabad raised these concerns with the Taliban representative in Pakistan on 10 November last year, stating that the Taliban's gender policies were an affront to human rights which also impeded the delivery of aid to those in desperate need in Afghanistan. He urged the Taliban to reconsider their approach as a matter of urgency, including their edict banning women working for international organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

We ensured that the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1193 of 28 August 1998 and 1214 of 8 December 1998 called upon the factions to end discrimination against women and girls and other violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The resolutions also reminded the Taliban that it was bound to comply with its obligations under these laws. We have also ensured that all UN General Assembly resolutions on Afghanistan contain similar language.

At the outset of our EU Presidency in 1998, we negotiated a new Common Position on Afghanistan. The third revision of this will be adopted shortly. This eill again call on all parties to recognise, protect and promote human rights and respect the UN Declaration on Human Rights. It urges the factions to end discrimination against women, and states that aid programmes must promote the equitable participation of men and women.

The EU has made its Common Position known to all factions, including the Taliban, and to Afghanistan's neighbouring states. Since 1999, as part of our humantiarian aid to Afghanistan, we have funded the post of the UN's Islamabad-based Gender Adviser for Afghanistan.

The United Kingdom is party to the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and is committed to the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. We take seriously our international legal obligations and political commitments, and have placed human rights at the centre of both foreign and domestic policy making.

It is incorrect to say that the UN and ICRC are on the verge of giving up in Afghanistan. While there have been several temporary suspensions of their activity in Afghanistan, usually related to the security situation (most recently following the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 1333 on 19 December which imposes further sanctions on the Taliban) there is currently no question of their withdrawel. We fully support their efforts to help relieve the suffering of the Afghan people.

We have no current knowledge of Western companies negotiating with the Taliban to secure contracts regarding an oil pipeline through Afghanistan. We understand that a US company, UNOCAL, withdrew from discussions of such a contract some time ago.

The Taliban continue to defy the will of the international community over human rights as they do over the issues of drugs and terrorism. We will continue to take every opportunity to remind them that this is unacceptable.

Yours sincerely

Peter Hain
Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office.


Links:

UNOCAL statement on proposed pipeline.
UN Resolutions 1193 and 1214.
Human Rights Watch page on women's rights and report, critical of the UN, on Afghanistan, [Often a distressing read, but a good site in general - CS]
1999 EU Position on Afghanistan.