Donors pledge $ 1.2 billion in emergency funds for Afghanistan
GENEVA – The United Nations raised more than $ 1.2 billion in emergency pledges on Monday to help 11 million Afghans facing a growing humanitarian crisis in their country and millions more elsewhere in the region as The UN human rights chief has expressed concern over the Taliban’s first steps in establishing power in the besieged and impoverished country.
At the first high-level conference on Afghanistan since the Taliban took power a month ago, Western governments, major traditional donors and others announced pledges exceeding the $ 606 million that the United Nations were seeking to cover until the end of the year to protect Afghans from an impending humanitarian disaster.
UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths announced at the end of the ministerial meeting that more than $ 1.2 billion in humanitarian and development assistance had been pledged. He said that included the $ 606 million requested in a “flash appeal,” but also a regional response to the Afghan crisis that UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi spoke of after arriving in Kabul during the event. ‘an unexpected visit before.
He wrote on Twitter that he would assess the humanitarian needs and situation of 3.5 million displaced Afghans, including more than 500,000 displaced this year alone.
Officials from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, have expressed concern that more Afghans may seek refuge in neighboring Pakistan and Iran, which already have large numbers of Afghans who have fled. their country during the last decades of war.
Griffiths urged donors to turn Monday’s pledges into cash contributions as quickly as possible, saying “the funding will be a lifeline for Afghans” who lack food, health care and protection. He said the meeting showed solidarity with the Afghan people, but added that “Afghanistan faces a long and difficult road” and that “it is far from the end of the journey”.
There are fears that Afghanistan could plunge further into famine and economic collapse after last month’s chaos, which saw the Taliban overthrow the government in a flash as US and NATO forces emerged from the war. 20 years.
“The Afghan people need a lifeline,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at the opening of the conference. “After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, they face perhaps their most perilous hour. The time has come for the international community to stand by their side. And let’s be clear, this conference is not just about what we will give to the Afghan people. This is what we owe.
He said one in three Afghans don’t know where their next meal will come from, that the poverty rate is “skyrocketing” and basic public services are on the verge of collapse. A severe drought threatens future harvests and hunger increases.
The UN World Food Program says Afghans are increasingly running out of money to buy food, the majority of which, like wheat flour, is imported. Frozen foreign currencies and a crippled state budget deprived people of the money they needed, just as food and fuel prices rose.
As with many other UN-led donor conferences, some countries have injected more funds, while others have highlighted commitments already made. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has announced plans to pay € 500 million ($ 590 million) to Afghanistan and its neighboring countries, but details were not immediately provided. Denmark has said it will give an additional $ 38 million and Norway has pledged $ 11.5 million.
At the same time, officials have suggested that aid going forward may be affected by how the Taliban governs.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, said the United States was “committed to providing humanitarian assistance” to and supporting Afghans, and would add $ 64 million in new aid to the United Nations and partner organizations. That brings the US total for Afghanistan to $ 330 million this fiscal year, she said.
“We need the Taliban’s oral and written commitments regarding the operating rights of humanitarian agencies and the treatment and rights of minority groups, women and girls,” she said via video message. “Words are not good enough. We have to see the action. The international community is united in this message.
German Maas, also addressing the Human Rights Council in Geneva, said the world has a “moral obligation” to help the Afghans. But he also said the level of respect for human rights by the Taliban, especially women and girls, would be a “benchmark for us and our partners in determining our future engagement with a new Afghan government.” .
He criticized the Taliban’s decision to exclude other groups from their recently announced interim government, saying it was “not the right signal” for international cooperation and stability.
The world has observed closely how Afghanistan under a Taliban government might be different from when Islamic militants were first in power from 1996 to 2001. At that time, the Taliban imposed a harsh rule by their interpretation of the Islamic law. Girls and women have been denied access to education and have been excluded from public life.
Initially after taking power on August 15, the Taliban promised inclusiveness and a general amnesty for former opponents. But many Afghans remain deeply apprehensive, especially given the early Taliban movements. The group formed an all-male, all-Taliban government, although it initially said it would invite wider representation. Taliban police beat Afghan journalists and violently dispersed women’s protests.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned of a “new and perilous phase” for Afghanistan as she blamed the Taliban for a discrepancy between their words and their actions.
Speaking to the Human Rights Council, she said her office had received credible allegations of retaliatory killings by the Taliban of former Afghan security forces as well as cases in which previous government officials and their relatives had been arbitrarily detained and subsequently found dead.
Bachelet cited multiple allegations that Taliban forces conducted house-to-house searches looking for specific previous government officials and people who cooperated with US forces and companies. She said that over the past three weeks, women have been gradually excluded from the public sphere, contradicting the Taliban’s claims to respect women’s rights.