Photo: UN Photo/Mark Garten
Photo: UN Photo/Mark Garten

The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), The Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs are organizing a series of thematic roundtable meetings about current issues on the Security Council's agenda. The situation in Afghanistan was topic for the third of these meetings on 30 September 2021.

The meeting is a part of the Dialogue Forum for Norway's membership in the United Nations Security Council 2021-2022. The aim of the Dialogue Forum is to facilitate strategic discussions between researchers, experts and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. State Secretary Audun Halvorsen chairs these meetings, while PRIO and NUPI are in charge of the organization.

  • This has been a highly interesting and very relevant discussion, both as regards the fundamental and very topical challenges at hand but also regarding the long-term perspective. The debate has certainly provided valuable input into the considerations the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have to make, State Secretary Audun Halvorsen said.

The forum is an arena for thematic roundtable meetings related to the Security Council Agenda and Norwegian priorities. The roundtables take as their starting point existing research results and policy debates on the topic in question, and explore interfaces for Norwegian efforts in the Security Council.

  • This format illustrates really well what I hope is the mutual benefit of regular and confidential contact between the research institutions and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on this type of questions. These meetings are highly appreciated on our end. I would like to thank the participants for excellent contributions, and for sharing their in-depth knowledge and massive competence on important foreign affairs issues for Norway. These exchanges serve, in my opinion, to strengthen both Norwegian diplomacy and Norwegian foreign policy, State Secretary Halvorsen said.

Afghanistan, Taliban and the UN Security Council – room for manoeuvre, horizons and hope

Taking a forward-looking approach to the situation, the recent developments in Afghanistan was the starting point for the roundtable. The participants discussed in particular the geopolitical and regional dynamics, the UN and UNAMA's potential role in different scenarios, Women, Peace and Security and the situation for women, as well as ways in which Norway can contribute in the Security Council's work on Afghanistan. Together with Estonia, Norway serves as 'penholder' for Afghanistan in the Council. This assignment gives Norway a leading role for the entire Afghanistan dossier in the Security Council, and therefore an important task in shaping and pushing for suggested mandates, resolution texts and other statements from the Council. After NATO's, and recently the US' withdrawal and the Taliban's take-over of power in August, the UN is left as the leading international actor in the country and Norway's role as penholder has become even more important.

The situation in Afghanistan, the regional context, the different great power interests, and the voting patterns in the Security Council serve to prove that this may be an immense and challenging task for the UN in the coming months and years. Additionally, this situation brings several new issues to the Security Council – the future of the UN presence in the country, the UN's relationship with Afghanistan's new authorities, the UNAMA mandate, humanitarian assistance, and issues related to aid and sanctions.

The roundtable was led and moderated by Mats Berdal, King's College London, with contributions from Kristian Berg Harpviken, PRIO, Jo Inge Bekkevold, IFS, and Torunn Wimpelmann, Chr. Michelsen Institute. The forum was also attended by a strong and diverse group of experts from different Norwegian research institutions.

Questions that were discussed during the meeting:

  • How will the new international and regional dynamic affect the Security Council's room for manoeuvre when dealing with Afghanistan?
  • Which benchmarks should the Security Council set for UN's political mission, UNAMA, in the short and intermediate future, and how can the UN presence contribute to peace and security in Afghanistan?
  • Which core tasks should UNAMA prioritize, and how can this be included in the negotiations about a new mandate in 2022?

The aim is to organize four roundtable meetings per year, all of which will have a specific agenda. Previous topics include:

  • Global health and international peace and security – implications for the Security Council
  • Climate related threats to international peace and security
  • Afghanistan, the Taliban, and the UN Security Council

Planned topics include:

  • Effects of peacekeeping operations

Leading researchers and experts within the chosen field will be invited to each specific meeting. The main objectives are both expanding the knowledge base and identifying opportunities for Norway in the Security Council.

The Secretariat of the Dialogue Forum

The Dialogue Forum Secretariat develops concepts and framework for each meeting, and coordinates with speakers and participants ahead of the meetings.

The organizational work is led by Vegar Andreassen (MFA), Niels Nagelhus Schia (NUPI), and Louise Olsson (PRIO).