The ambassadors stood up and honored the memory of the victims of the disaster with a minute of silence, after which they were briefed by Ramiz Alekperov, Acting Special Representative of the UN Mission in Afghanistan. UNAMAand Martin Griffiths, UN Humanitarian Coordinator.
Mr. Alekbarov provided an update on the quake, citing the latest data that showed around 800 confirmed deaths and more than 4,000 injured, before moving on to the current human rights, economic and humanitarian issues facing the country.
Despite the difficulties, he said “We firmly continue to believe that a strategy of continued engagement and dialogue remains the only way forward for the benefit of the Afghan people, as well as for the benefit of regional and international security.”
Click on human rights
Mr. Alekbarov reported that the human rights situation in Afghanistan remains precarious.
Despite the announcement of a general amnesty and repeated assurances from Taliban leaders that it is being implemented, UNAMA continues to receive credible reports of killings, ill-treatment and other abuses against individuals associated with the former government.
There have also been credible allegations of violations against individuals accused of links to the National Resistance Front and the terrorist organization ISIL-KP.
“Dactually the authorities are increasingly restricting the exercise of basic human rights, such as freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of opinion and expression, the suppression of dissent and the restriction of civil space in the country,” he said.
In addition, restrictions specifically target women and girls, such as a ban on girls from completing secondary education and a decree requiring women to wear face masks.
“The cost to the economy of these policies is enormous,” he said. “The psychosocial costs of being denied education, for example, are incalculable, and women are collectively excluded from society in a way unique to the world.”
Economic problems persist
The economic crisis is arguably the most important issue in Afghanistan and a potential driver of conflict and suffering. The economy is estimated to have contracted 40 percent since August.
Unemployment could reach 40% this year, up from 13% in 2021, and the official poverty rate could rise to 97%.
“If the economy fails to recover and grow in a meaningful and sustainable way, then the Afghan people will face recurring humanitarian crises; potentially stimulating mass migration and creating the conditions for radicalization and the resumption of armed conflict,” he warned.
Afghanistan also remains highly vulnerable to future climate and geopolitical upheavals. Droughts, floods, disease outbreaks affecting both people and livestock, and natural disasters such as earthquakes, further exacerbate vulnerability.
Mr. Alekbarov emphasized the need to prioritize rural areas with a focus on agricultural and food systems to prevent famine. It will also help reduce child labour, improve health outcomes and create an environment that promotes social development and change.
“It will also pave the way for replacement agriculture instead of poppy cultivation, allowing us to benefit from de facto recent government ban on poppy cultivation and drugs,” he said.
“At the same time, we must continue to pay due attention to the disposal of unexploded ordnance. This bottom-up approach to economic recovery is shared de facto power and help the most vulnerable.”
On the political front, Mr. Alekbarov said that the Taliban continue to hold power almost exclusively, and the emergence and persistence of armed opposition is largely due to political isolation.
Exception and insecurity
Meanwhile, the overall security environment in Afghanistan is becoming increasingly unpredictable.
Attacks by the armed opposition de facto power doubled in May compared to the previous month. Although the number of ISIS-KP attacks has decreased overall, their geography has expanded from six to 11 provinces.
“We cannot rule out the possibility of increased instability if people are denied rights and if they do not see themselves in their government,” he said.
Inclusion and Participation
Next month, the UN will seek to promote political consultation and integration, as well as engagement with de facto authorities will continue.
“While the international community and the Taliban remain far apart” on the issue of human rights, especially women’s rights, and political rights, “there are some areas where we can do more to improve the lives of Afghans, as well as move forward on issues of common interest, such as counter-narcotics and mine action.”
Speaking of the humanitarian response, Mr. Alekbarov stressed that between January and April this year alone, aid partners helped an estimated 20 million Afghans, including nearly 250,000 returnees and about 95,000 people affected by floods and weather events. .
However, the humanitarian crisis persists and continued support will be needed next year.
Millions face hunger
More than 190 aid organizations are active in Afghanistan, where almost half of the population, 19 million people, is food insecure.
This includes more than six million people on emergency levels – the largest number of people in any country in the world at risk of starvation, said Mr. Griffiths, the UN chief of aid.
While humanitarian numbers are at record levels, “there’s still a long way to go,” Mr. Griffiths said, listing several obstacles to aid delivery.
The official banking system continues to block money transfers due to “excessive risk reduction”, which affects payments and causes supply chain disruptions.
“Despite efforts to create a temporary solution to the banking system failure with the help of the so-called Humanitarian Exchange Fund, we are seeing limited progress due to resistance, I must say, from de facto authorities,” he said, adding that “this is a problem that will not resolve itself.”
In addition, national and local governments are increasingly looking to play a role in the selection of beneficiaries. They also send aid to people on their own priority lists, thus breaking promises made to UN officials.
Interference on the rise
Humanitarian workers are also seeing how the Taliban authorities are increasingly demanding data and information on budgets and personnel contracts. In particular, non-governmental organizations constantly face difficulties in recruiting Afghan women for certain functions.
“Today there are more cases of interference than in previous months, and most of them are resolved through interaction with the relevant de facto authorities,” Mr. Griffiths told the ambassadors.
“But for every problem solved, another arises, sometimes in the same place with the same departments. And now there is much more palpable frustration for aid organizations, local communities and local authorities.”
Mr. Griffiths also stressed the urgent need for funding. The more than $4 billion humanitarian plan for Afghanistan is only one-third funded, despite pledges of $2.4 billion at launch in March.
“Now is not the time to hesitate,” he told the ambassadors. “Without intervention, hunger and malnutrition will increase with devastating consequences.