To spare Afghanistan, world must engage with Taliban, Lyons tells Security Council

Six months after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, it is time for the countries concerned to deepen their engagement with the country’s new authorities and take steps to prevent an irreversible economic collapse, the senior official said on Wednesday. from the UN in Kabul to the Security Council.

“Six months of indecision … erodes vital social and economic coping systems and plunges people into greater uncertainty, noted Deborah Lyons, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, known as MANUA.

Thanking donors for their generous humanitarian contributions since August 2021, when international forces left Afghanistan after a two-decade engagement, she said the worst possible outcome had been averted thanks to their support.

“As the winter season draws to a close, we may have averted our worst fears of starvation and widespread starvation,” she said.

The economy in freefall

However, notwithstanding these short-term mitigation measures, the Special Representative told Council members that humanitarian relief was not synonymous with giving hope to the Afghan people or laying a solid foundation for Afghan self-reliance. .

“It is imperative that we do not find ourselves six months from now in the situation we faced six months ago – with millions of Afghans facing another winter of starvation and the only tool at our disposal being aid. costly and unsustainable humanitarian aid”, she says.

Today, the most critical challenge facing the country is an impending economic tipping point that will see more businesses close, more people out of work and more people falling into poverty.

She also cited the cessation of all development aid and restrictions on international payments, as well as lack of access to hard currency reserves, lack of liquidity and constraints on the Central Bank.

Although UNAMA has taken every step imaginable to inject liquidity into the economy, it has stressed that more international action is needed.

© WFP/PhotolibraryPeople line up to receive food and oil distributed by the World Food Program in Andkhoy, Afghanistan.

Taliban ‘feel misunderstood’

Ms. Lyons recalled that when UNAMA’s mandate was renewed for six months in September 2021, it was still too early for the international community to react to the Taliban takeover.

Today it became clear that it will be virtually impossible to truly help the Afghan people without working with the de facto Taliban authorities.

Acknowledging the continuing mistrust between the Taliban and much of the international community, she said the group feels misunderstood and complains that international reports “do not reflect reality as they see it”.

Above all, the Taliban want greater recognition of the security that currently prevails in Afghanistan and often point out that since the fall of the previous government, the country has seen a 78% drop in the number of civilian casualties.

They also cite reducing corruption and reopening schools to girls and boys.

“This clash of points of view is at the root of a serious mistrust which must be remedied”, said the Special Representative.

Important issues for the presence of the UN

For its part, she said, UNAMA continues to report on what it sees on the ground, including regarding restrictions on fundamental rights, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions.

Describing the country’s situation as complicated – with positive and negative trends occurring simultaneously – she said the Mission could do more by working with the Taliban on key issues facing Afghan society.

In the meantime, UNAMA’s main objective must remain to see Afghanistan finally reintegrate into the international community as a member in good standing.

In this context, Secretary General António Guterres proposed a renewal of UNAMA’s mandate for one year, after which the results of sustained political commitment will be assessed.

“The mandate you adopt for UNAMA will send a signal from the international community to the Afghan people that they have not been forgotten, and to the Taliban that the world does not wish for a future conflict in Afghanistan,” said Ms. Lyons, adding that it should also emphasize the need to recognize the basic standards of global citizenship in order to be accepted by the international community.

“You are about to enter a critical moment in your relationship with Afghanistan,” she said, noting that the Council has an opportunity to build a stronger and more relevant United Nations mission that will avoid a new collapse of the country.

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