Continuing support for Afghan Women and Girls and their Access to Education – Remarks at the 76th UN General Assembly

Check Against Delivery


EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore, 76th session of the UN General Assembly – Virtual Ministerial-Level Side Event:

‘Safeguarding the achievements of 20 years of international engagement in Afghanistan: How to continue supporting the future of Afghan women and girls and their access to education’

21 September 18.00 – 19.30 (New York time 12.00 – 13.30)


Excellencies and Distinguished Speakers,

Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last month, we have seen many credible reports of serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and particularly, the rights of women and girls. Contrary to their public statements, the Taliban has restricted the fundamental rights of women and girls and has excluded them from the public sphere. They have excluded women from the Government; they have turned the Ministry for Women Affairs into an Agency for Moral Control; they have prevented many women from going to work; they have excluded girls over 12 from their education and in many parts of the country, women have been beaten, threatened and intimidated.

And yet, in spite of this, courageous women and human rights defenders are leading protests in Afghanistan. These women are standing up for their rights, despite the risks, because women’s rights are human rights and we must stand by them.

The protection of women’s and girls’ rights is among the key political criteria for the EU’s engagement with Afghanistan, as it has been for the past two decades. Activities supported by the EU have contributed to the improvement of living conditions for women, including access to education. We have to make sure that this progress is safeguarded.

The EU strongly condemns the use of violence and intimidation against demonstrators, journalists, media workers, human rights defenders and others by the Taliban. Accountability for human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law must be ensured.

In order to ensure that the continued protection and support of Afghan women, we must make sure that the monitoring of the situation is up to date and based on reliable information and is effective.

The EU will continue to support and protect human rights defenders, female activists and any civil society representatives whose work and lives are put at risk. Even before the crisis we had been assessing how to increase support to human rights organisations in Afghanistan, through various means, such as the programme ‘Protect Defenders’, through emergency projects, and through the provision of shelters and safe houses.

The EU is also focusing its efforts on responding to the urgent humanitarian needs of the Afghan people, and has almost quadrupled its humanitarian aid for 2021. We are giving it to women and girls and by ensuring that women are involved in its direction and its delivery. The EU will also continue to fund education projects for children. We are preparing medium and long-term actions to support the Afghan people, through international and non-governmental partners.

I must stress that backtracking on women’s rights in Afghanistan is unacceptable to the EU, and the protection of women’s and girls’ rights are among the essential criteria for any future EU support. EU development assistance is currently frozen and under review.

The protection of Afghan women’s and girls’ human rights must be an integral part of the political solution. Those who hold power and authority on the ground should create and support an enabling environment and put in place structures to ensure that women have full, equal and meaningful participation in the process. The exclusion of women from the process excludes half of the population.

Let us also recall that Afghanistan is a State Party to many core international human rights treaties, as well as to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Those holding power and authority on the ground are obliged to protect civilians, respect human rights and international humanitarian law.

I can assure you that EU support will depend on the respect of the international legal framework on human rights including on women’s and girls’ rights.

Thank you.