The former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, has called on the UN Security Council not to fail the women and girls of Afghanistan.

Mrs Robinson addressed the council today in her role as chairperson of 'The Elders', a group of independent global leaders which was founded by Nelson Mandela.

She was speaking at a meeting on the maintenance of international peace and security that was chaired by Ireland, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council.

Mrs Robinson said that hard-won gains in gender equality and women's rights in Afghanistan had been secured through constitutional, legislative and policy changes.

"We cannot allow the women and girls of Afghanistan to be deprived of these rights, including the right to leave the country. The Security Council cannot fail them," she said.

She described a security council resolution on Afghanistan adopted on 30 August as "a good first step" but called on the council to go further.

"I call in particular on China and Russia, in your dealings with the Taliban, to encourage them to recognise that the participation of women in society and the education of girls on an equal basis with boys are non-negotiable and must be protected," Mrs Robinson said.

In her address, she also referred to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, nuclear weapons and climate change.

On the conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, Mary Robinson called on the Security Council to take action to incentivise the parties to negotiate a ceasefire.

"The council could also consider making a visit to Ethiopia and Tigray, to focus attention on the conditions on the ground, and the urgent need for a political, not a military, solution," she said.

She also called for a greater focus on the situation in Myanmar and on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.