The United Nations announced its imminent withdrawal from Afghanistan in May if it cannot convince the Taliban to permit local women to work for the organisation.
The UN is negotiating with the Taliban in hopes that it will make exceptions to a decree prohibiting local women from working for the organisation, Afghanistan-based Khaama Press reported.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Roza Otunbayeva, has initiated an operational review period up to May 5, 2023, the UN announced.
During this period, the UN in Afghanistan will conduct the necessary consultations, make required operational adjustments, and accelerate contingency planning for all possible outcomes. UN national personnel – women and men – have been instructed not to report to UN offices, with only limited and calibrated exceptions made for critical tasks.
"It is fair to say that where we are right now is the entire United Nations system having to take a step back and re-evaluate its ability to operate there. But it is not about negotiating fundamental principles, human rights," UNDP Administrator Achin Steiner said.
The United Nations recently expressed "serious concerns" after Afghan female UN staff members were banned from reporting to work in the eastern province of Afghanistan, Nangarhar, Khaama Press reported.
"Giving up on women's rights in Afghanistan is simply not an option" Amina J Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, had tweeted.
The UN warned the Taliban that the life-saving aid would be at risk without female staff since most of the International organisation's staff are female.
"We remind de facto authorities that United Nations entities cannot operate and deliver life-saving assistance without female staff," the UN said on Twitter.
"It is the latest in a series of discriminatory measures implemented by the Taliban de facto authorities with the goal of severely restricting women and girls’ participation in most areas of public and daily life in Afghanistan," an official statement read.
Since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021, it has imposed bans on women and girls, preventing them from education and employment. International organisations, including the UN, have repeatedly expressed their concerns over excluding women from the aid sector.
The Taliban first banned girls from going to school beyond sixth grade in December 2022; a later decree prohibited Afghan women from higher education and working with national and international NGOs.