Afghanistan News

More Talk Than Action From the G7 on Afghanistan

At last month’s summit in Hiroshima, the G7 made statements on a host of issues, with Afghanistan receiving passing attention. While the sentiments expressed by the G7 regarding the rule of law in Afghanistan and the treatment of women and girls are laudable, the powers stopped short of committing to specific, actionable steps towards a real solution.
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Ottawa, Canada. August 14th, 2021. End War in Afghanistan protest from local diaspora. Save Afghanistan sign © Wandering views / shutterstock.com

June 14, 2023 23:25 EDT
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When the Group of Seven (G7) convened last month in Hiroshima, there was an elephant in the room: the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan under the Taliban rule, namely the treatment of women, the absence of an inclusive government, and the trampling of minority rights. Far from peripheral matters, these issues are central to the broader global concerns that the G7 must address, especially in light of the two perspectives—commitment to the international rule of law and outreach to the Global South—that guided its agenda.

The G7 did indeed dedicate a 60-minute session to Afghanistan, and the parties agreed in condemning the Taliban’s suppression of fundamental rights. However, it could not be more of an understatement to say that the G7’s response to the Afghan crisis could have been more assertive. Alongside their critique of the Taliban’s conduct, the G7 also underscored a need to maintain continuous and direct dialogue with them, balancing its condemnation with engagement. This was an attempt to reflect the complexity of the international response required in this volatile situation, but it raises questions about the commitment of the international community to the well-being of the Afghan people.

Condemnations without action

The G7’s first perspective reflects the G7’s commitment to uphold the international order based on the rule of law. This commitment is paramount in resisting unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force, as exemplified by Russia’s threat to use nuclear weapons. It should also be crucial in countering other forms of lawlessness that can destabilize the international order, such as those currently unfolding in Afghanistan.

Through addressing the issue of Afghanistan under Taliban rule, the G7 had a prime opportunity to manifest its resolute determination to repudiate such actions and uphold the rule of law. Afghanistan must transition from a Taliban regime imposed at the point of a sword to a representative, lawfully installed government, encompassing all echelons of Afghan society. Regrettably, the dialogue on strategic measures to aid this transition was bleak.

Since the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan, the country has been plunged into a state of lawlessness that directly violates the principles upon which the international order stands. Reports of women being denied basic rights, minority groups facing persecution, and a lack of inclusivity in government structures are not only troubling but represent a blatant disregard for the rule of law. It was the responsibility of the G7 to stand united and address this crisis. Failure to act would not only compromise the credibility of the international order but also perpetuate the suffering of millions.

One of the most distressing consequences of the Taliban’s rule is the blatant violation of women’s rights. For nearly two years, women and girls in Afghanistan have been denied access to education and basic freedoms. The implementation of a gender apartheid which confines women to their homes is a gross violation of human rights and a setback for gender equality worldwide. The Taliban’s actions demonstrate a clear and present danger to the international order, because lawlessness within a member of the international community can indeed become a new normal if left unchallenged.

The statement issued by the G7’s foreign ministers did voice a robust opposition against such repressive practices. However, it is insufficient for a multitude of reasons. While their vocal opposition to oppressive practices marks a positive first step, it is crucial that these words be underpinned by tangible actions and strategic policy initiatives that can catalyze substantial, meaningful change.

Furthermore, the G7’s primary focus on diplomatic endeavors and economic sanctions falls short of addressing the multifaceted challenges that Afghan women routinely face. In order to formulate a genuinely impactful response, it is imperative to incorporate an element of inclusivity, ensuring that the unique voices and perspectives of Afghan women are taken into account.

Only with a sustained, long-term commitment, bolstered by active collaboration with international organizations and a comprehensive strategy emphasizing the primacy of women’s rights and gender equality, can the G7 make significant strides in effectuating the deeply needed change in Afghanistan. This necessitates expanding the scope of their efforts beyond conventional diplomacy and sanctions, thereby unlocking the potential for transformative progress in this critical area.

The absence of an inclusive government in Afghanistan poses a significant challenge to stability and progress. A sustainable peace and future for the country can only be achieved through a government that represents the interests and aspirations of all Afghan citizens. The G7, as a collective voice of influential nations, could have exerted pressure on the Taliban to foster inclusivity and ensure that minority rights are respected and protected. Unfortunately, the issued statement from the G7 does not live up to this vital mandate. The international community would do well to take a more assertive stance in advocating for a truly inclusive governance structure in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan issues placed on the sidelines

The second perspective emphasized the G7’s mission to strengthen outreach to the Global South. The group sought to demonstrate its contributions to the issues that concern these nations.

Afghanistan, as part of the Global South, is a test case for this commitment. The G7 had a moral responsibility to ensure that the plight of Afghans, especially the most vulnerable, is not ignored. However, the shift of attention towards the “Global South” was mainly aimed at offsetting the influence of Russian and China. Thus, only a limited number of nations within the Global South were invited, and unfortunately, this meant that the issue of Afghanistan received scant attention.

Addressing Afghanistan’s issues would not have been just about resolving a single country’s crisis, but about reaffirming the values that the G7 represents and that the world needs. It should have been about demonstrating that the international order, based on the rule of law, isn’t just a concept but a practice that can, and should, be upheld even in the most challenging situations.

As the host of the G7, Japan held a unique position to drive the agenda and focus attention on pressing global issues like the Afghanistan crisis, which impacts global security, precipitates a humanitarian crisis, and affects regional stability. Given its strategic location in Asia, Japan’s security interests could be influenced by instability in Afghanistan. Additionally, Japan’s historic role in fostering international cooperation could have been leveraged to unite G7 nations in advocating for an inclusive government in Afghanistan, ensuring the rights of all citizens are respected. Unfortunately, the latest G7 meeting overlooked this opportunity.

The G7, therefore, should have taken a more robust stance on the situation in Afghanistan. It was incumbent on the G7 to leverage its combined influence to push for the restoration of women’s rights, the establishment of a legitimate government, and the protection of minority rights. The G7’s statement seemed strong towards ensuring that girls and women are once again allowed to attend schools and colleges, but a statement alone is not much unless it is followed by action.

In summary, as we navigate these tumultuous times and upon the conclusion of the summit, it is imperative for the G7 to prove that the international order it upholds extends beyond the boundaries of its member states. It must demonstrate that its commitment to the rule of law and its outreach to the Global South are not just theoretical constructs, but actual policies that have meaningful, practical impacts. In doing so the powers will affirm their role as a beacon of hope and a pillar of stability in a world that desperately needs both.

[Anton Schauble edited this piece.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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