With Afghanistan “hanging by a thread” six months after the Taliban takeover, the world cannot abandon the country now for the sake of its people and overall global security, said UN Secretary General António Guterres. Addressing the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Wednesday, he added, “At this moment, we need the global community – and this Council – to put their hands on the wheel of progress, provide resources, and prevent Afghanistan from spiralling any further,” he said.
António Guterres also outlined action for the Taliban, calling on them to expand opportunity and security for Afghans, uphold human rights, and demonstrate real commitment to be part of the international community.
The Secretary General said Afghanistan has long been unfairly used as a platform for political agendas, geopolitical advantage, ideological dominance, brutal conflicts and terrorism. He again highlighted the fact that the country’s economy is collapsing amid another brutal winter. Over half of all citizens are facing extreme levels of hunger, and some families have been forced to sell their babies to buy food. On the other hand, sanctions and mistrust by the global banking system have frozen nearly $9 billion in central bank assets, and vital systems are starved of much-needed funds.
He urged countries to suspend rules and conditions that constrict both the Afghan economy and lifesaving humanitarian operations. Welcoming the Council’s recent adoption of a humanitarian exemption to the UN sanctions regime for Afghanistan, the Secretary-General underscored the need to “jump-start” the Afghan economy through increased liquidity, including by freeing-up frozen currency reserves and through cash injections.
“Our team in Afghanistan stands ready to work with Member States and others to establish accountable systems to ensure that funds go to the Afghan people most in need, and are not diverted,” he said.
On Wednesday, the UN team in the country launched the One-UN Transitional Engagement Framework (TEF), a $3.6 billion plan to save lives and sustain health, education and other essential services throughout 2022.
Special Representative Deborah Lyons, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said this investment aims to reverse the steady increase in poverty, while ensuring critical donor funds are not diverted or misused. However, with donors “understandably reluctant”, she hoped the Taliban would demonstrate commitment to a “pathway” towards future engagement with the international community.