UN chief calls for major increase in Afghan aid and unfreezing of assets
The UN chief urged nations on Wednesday to dramatically increase humanitarian aid for millions of Afghans living in a frozen hell and release nearly $9 billion in frozen assets to pull Afghanistan’s economy out of the brink of a collapse that could trigger a mass exodus of people fleeing the country.
Time is running out, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council. Without action, lives will be lost, and despair and extremism will increase.
António Guterres said liquidity needs to be restored to the Afghan economy urgently. He said that meant releasing the country’s frozen currency reserves, re-engaging with its Central Bank and finding other ways to inject cash, including allowing international funds to pay the salaries of doctors, teachers , garbage collectors, electricians and other officials.
China and Russia reiterated calls for the thawing of Afghan assets, while US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the Biden administration was considering various options to ease the cash crisis.
She said the United States, which announced an initial contribution of $308 million in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan on January 11, remains the country’s largest aid provider. But she added that much greater support from the international community will be needed to meet the extraordinary needs of the Afghan people.
Afghanistan’s aid-dependent economy was already stumbling when the Taliban seized power last August amid the chaotic departure of US and NATO troops after 20 years. The international community has frozen Afghanistan’s assets abroad and halted its economic support, unwilling to work with the Taliban, given the brutality of their 1996-2001 regime and refusal to educate girls and to allow women to work.
António Guterres said the World Bank’s Reconstruction Trust Fund for Afghanistan transferred $280 million last month to the UN children’s agency UNICEF and the Program global food. He said the remaining $1.2 million should be released urgently to help Afghans survive the winter.
Deborah Lyons, the UN special representative for Afghanistan, told the council that the humanitarian appeal for more than $4.4 billion that the UN launched two weeks ago for Afghanistan – the largest in UN history for a single country – is roughly the same amount donors spend on the government’s entire operating budget. Most of this budget support came from the United States.
The UN says 8.7 million Afghans are on the brink of starvation, and Guterres said more than half the population faces extreme levels of hunger.
More than 80% of the population depends on contaminated drinking water and some families are selling their babies to buy food, he said.
The council last month passed a resolution saying humanitarian aid to Afghans does not violate Taliban sanctions, but China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun said the aid was being used as currency of exchange, a political tool.
It’s playing with the lives and well-being of 38 million Afghans who are in dire need of relief, Zhang said, saying the freezing of Afghan assets and unilateral sanctions are no less deadly than an intervention. military.
If Afghan women can’t even feed themselves or survive, then talking about education, employment and political participation will become empty words, he added.
Deputy Russian Ambassador Dmitry Polyansky has warned that unless the issue of Afghanistan’s asset thaw is quickly resolved, Afghanistan has no long-term prospects to emerge from this crisis.
We call on the United States and other Western donors to return the money to the country, he said. The money belongs to the Afghan people and cannot be used to negotiate or as a tool to punish Afghans for the new reality that has developed in their country.
Polyansky warned that the consequences of Afghanistan’s economic collapse will not only increase the number of refugees, but will spread terrorist activities, stimulate drug production and, as a result, lead to even greater instability in the region and beyond.
Lyons, the UN envoy, told a video briefing from Kabul that it’s clear donors are still not happy with the Taliban’s political progress, whether it’s including greater ethnic diversity in his government or by guaranteeing higher education for girls and work opportunities for women. .
This week, a high-level Taliban delegation met with representatives of Afghan civil society in the Norwegian capital, Oslo.
Lyons noted that a joint statement from the talks stressed that understanding and joint cooperation are the only solutions to all of Afghanistan’s problems. She said now the Taliban must act accordingly.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stre, whose country holds the Security Council presidency this month and chaired the meeting, said the Taliban delegation also held direct talks with representatives from Norway, the United States. United, France and Britain, but he stressed that this did not mean recognition of the Taliban government.
We need to talk to them, engage them and present very clear expectations, because Afghanistan today faces a severe humanitarian crisis and one million children could starve to death, Stre said in an interview with The Associated Press. .
He said there were no negotiations, no signed agreement, but the talks, he said, were the start of something that can lead to something.
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