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Depoliticizing the United Nations Credentials Process Amid the Taliban’s Return to Power

By: Howard Thorne

In August of 2021, the Taliban dramatically seized control of Afghanistan. Almost immediately, their leaders began an appeal to the United Nations (UN) asking for their government to be accepted as the officially recognized Afghani delegation representing the state before the UN General Assembly. If accepted, the newly coalesced government would be immediately legitimized on an international stage as being

the de jure representative of Afghanistan.

This Note will examine the lack of standards by which the United Nations Credentials Committee—a nine-member body that serves a gatekeeping function to state delegations—would evaluate the Taliban government’s request. In doing so, this Note will give an overview of how governments are evaluated and recognized, how the UN formally

recognizes governments through the credentialing process, and the growing politicization of that process.

In identifying these trends, this Note will draw from a number of examples in which the Credentials Committee either recognized or failed to recognize a government based on political considerations. This Note will then use these case studies to argue that, by articulating the criteria by which governments will be evaluated by the Credentials Committee, the process can be depoliticized and brought more in line with established UN values.

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