THE TALIBAN closed schools for women above sixth grade in September 2021. In January 2022, they promised that schools would reopen in March 2022. It ultimately did open schools on March 23, 2022, however, it re-closed schools just a few hours later. The UN Security Council reacted, requesting that the Taliban uphold the promise it made in July stating that it would allow Afghan girls to attend school.

What’s Happening?

Although unconventional, the Taliban has taken on many roles of a traditional government in Afghanistan. Many nations have been meeting with the Taliban due to concern over the humanitarian issues that have taken place.

On February 10, 2022, Ambassador Raphael Nägeli, a Swiss diplomat, met with the Taliban leaders for the first time, although Nägeli claims this meeting does not legitimize nor recognize the Taliban regime. Instead, the goals put forth are to discuss humanitarian issues by addressing the kidnappings and reprisals against those formally part of the Afghan government and the rights of women in Afghanistan. Switzerland is looking to contribute to good governance and believes that by allowing only half of the population to go to school, Afghanistan is cutting its economic opportunities by half.

China hosted a two-day meeting on March 30 and 31 2022 involving Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to support the goal of helping Afghanistan achieve peace, stability, and development. China hosted another meeting that included Russia and the U.S.: nations that have significant influence over Afghanistan. The meeting acknowledged that diplomats and humanitarian aid groups informed the Taliban that the decision to reclose schools could result in a decrease in donations. China’s embassy in Kabul is still open and the nation has not condoned the human and women’s rights abuses occurring under the Taliban regime. China is continuing its Belt and Road initiative in Afghanistan.  

The U.S. canceled meetings with Taliban leaders due to the decision to reclose schools. The meeting agendas sought to address economic issues, including the independence of the Afghan Central Bank, and to allow access to cash located in the World Bank Trust Fund. The Taliban has been unable to access billions of dollars held by nations including the U.S., which will not acknowledge the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan.    

Why it Matters

Education is a universal human right and other countries are willing to engage diplomatically to ensure this right. The UN Security Council expressed its concerns about the Taliban denying girls the right to an education, stating that it is a violation of Article 26 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Nations have been interacting with the Taliban to assist with upholding the UN’s goals for Afghanistan: decreasing deaths, violence, abuse, exploitation, corruption, bribery, illicit money flow, and distribution of illicit arms. The UN also stated it is looking to observe an increase in equal access to justice, transparency and accountability among institutions, representative decision-making, protect fundamental freedoms, and enforcement of non-discriminatory laws.  

If nations engage and collaborate with the Taliban, it implies that they acknowledge the Taliban as the current government of Afghanistan. The Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Deborah Lyons, states that to help the people of Afghanistan, nations must work with the Taliban, which currently distrusts the international community due to what they feel are inaccurate reports about Afghanistan that do not reflect the current state of their nation.

Where It's Headed

The Taliban’s refusal to open schools to girls has led to the international community withholding access to the country’s rainy day fund and forming new economic ties. The Taliban is unable to access approximately 9 billion dollars held in Afghanistan’s financial reserves because the nations that make up the World Bank refuse to acknowledge its authority in Afghanistan. Currently half of the nation’s population is receiving humanitarian support, and if political unrest continues, up to 97% of the population will face poverty. Thousands of Afghans will continue to leave their homes due to unsafe circumstances. The U.S. and other members of the global community, such as the UN and World Bank, are starting to cancel meetings with the Taliban and place sanctions on certain key members to increase the pressure on returning girls to school. The international community is hoping that the Taliban’s difficult economic future might encourage it to uphold its promise of allowing women to attend schools if it means it can build trust with other governments and open doors for economic aid.