UN Holds Second Meeting of Special Envoys to Afghanistan in Doha, Qatar

Politically Speaking
3 min readFeb 16, 2024

[Updated 29 February 2024]: Secretary-General António Guterres convened key actors for a second time to discuss how to approach increasing international engagement in a more coherent, coordinated and structured manner, for the benefit of the people of Afghanistan.

People receive food rations at a WFP distribution site on the outskirts of Herat in Afghanistan, 2021. Photo credit: WFP/Marco Di Lauro

“It is difficult to overestimate the gravity of the situation in Afghanistan. It is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world today. Ninety-seven percent of Afghans live in poverty. Two-thirds of the population — 28 million — will need humanitarian assistance this year to survive. Six million Afghan children, women, and men are one step away from famine-like conditions.”

— Secretary-General António Guterres, speaking to the press in Doha on 2 May 2023.

O n 18 and 19 February, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres was in Doha, Qatar, where he convened a meeting of special envoys on Afghanistan. Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo accompanied the Secretary-General. The conference continued discussions among special envoys and regional organizations on the evolving situation in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s assumption of power in 2021.

The two-day event was the second such gathering organized by the global body within a year, following a session in May 2023. Participants included stakeholders from Afghanistan, the wider region and beyond, as well as other regional organizations working actively on Afghanistan such as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the European Union, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The de facto authorities were invited to attend.

The first meeting of special envoys, which took place in May 2023, was convened to achieve consensus within the international community on how to engage with the Taliban on issues such as human rights — especially those of women and girls — as well as inclusive governance; countering terrorism; and drug trafficking.

Discussions at the second meeting took place in the context of Security Council resolution 2721 (2023), which encourages Member States to consider increasing international engagement in the country, with the objective of a “clear end state of an Afghanistan at peace with itself and its neighbors, fully reintegrated into the international community and meeting international obligations.”

Participants discussed how to approach international engagement with Afghanistan in a more coherent, coordinated, and structured manner, through consideration of the recommendations of the independent assessment on Afghanistan, which was presented to the Security Council on 9 November 2023 to the Security Council (S/2023/856). Special Coordinator Feridun Sinirlioğlu was in Doha to contribute to the discussion related to the independent assessment and its recommendations. This included the subject of the appointment of a UN Special Envoy to Afghanistan, to help move diplomatic efforts forward between Afghan and international stakeholders, as well as helping advance intra-Afghan dialogue.

The meeting was also an opportunity to discuss the challenges the country faces, and to brainstorm possible ways to engage with the de facto authorities for the benefit of the Afghan people. At the event, two separate sessions took place for special envoys from 25 countries to meet with the de facto authorities and Afghan civil society participants, including women. Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo moderated the discussion at these two meetings.

On 19 February, Guterres briefed the press on developments. He said that there had been an acknowledgement of some positive developments in Afghanistan, such as the economic cooperation between that country and its neighbours, as well as bilateral engagement on the suppression of drug cultivation. However, he said, there was a recognition that there were continuing areas of concern, including the deterioration of the situation of women and girls, as well as human rights in general.

He also noted the need for better coordination and, in that regard, said that the meeting participants had discussed the Security Council resolution that had asked him to appoint a UN envoy. “It was decided that I would initiate a serious process of consultations to see if there are conditions to create a UN Envoy that might be able not only to have a coordinating role in relation to the engagements that are taking place but that can also work effectively with the de facto authorities of Afghanistan,” he said, noting he would initiate those conversations immediately.

Read resolution 2721 (2023) here.

Read the independent assessment on Afghanistan here.



Politically Speaking

The online magazine of the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs