Skip to main content

Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

High level Ministerial Meeting on the Humanitarian situation in Afghanistan

13 September 2021

Statement delivered on behalf of Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, by Christian Salazar Volkmann, Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division

13 September 2021


Millions of Afghan women, children and men are in desperate need. The current circumstances that frame and shape this situation must be holistically addressed. At the same time, it is paramount that the international community support humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan, while rooting such a system in the respect and promotion of human rights.

If the economy and provision of basic services collapse, hardship will severely increase in the coming weeks and months. The compounded effect of conflict, drought, COVID-19, and fears of a return of brutal repression by the Taliban will intensify the suffering of the people of Afghanistan.

Among the most vulnerable are women-headed households; members of discriminated ethnic and religious communities; children and older persons; people with disabilities; rural populations and displaced persons. With the country's harsh winter rapidly approaching, it is vital that plans and assistance be put in place to ensure their survival.

I therefore call on the international community to support this Flash Appeal and humanitarian response plan.

It is also important that the international community help to prevent complete breakdown of the economy and public services, to enable continued access of the population to social and economic rights.

Respect for human rights and international humanitarian law is vital in the context of a humanitarian response.

Affected populations must have access to assistance without discrimination. And they must be empowered to participate in its delivery.

Women and girls must be allowed to continue education and work, without restrictions, and the rights of all people – including to speak out and to participate fully in decisions – must be respected.


I ask States to join the UN's endeavours to ensure that the provision of humanitarian assistance will be based on human rights.

Applicable sanctions régimes should be carefully re-evaluated to ensure they do not pose practical obstacles to the prompt and effective delivery of humanitarian aid. 

I remind States of their obligations to protect Afghans who have sought refuge within their borders, and to support neighboring countries that shelter Afghan refugees.

Above all, I ask all States to do their utmost to ensure that the Taliban upholds the human rights of all Afghans.

My Office will continue to monitor the human rights situation, particularly in relation to the most vulnerable, and to support the work of our United Nations colleagues on the ground.

Thank you.