Talking to the Taliban ‘Only Way Ahead’ in Afghanistan — Global Problems

Ambassadors rose and observed a minute of silence for the victims of the disaster before being briefed by Ramiz Alakbarov, acting special representative to the UN mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, and Martin Griffiths, the UN humanitarian coordinator.

Mr Alakbarov provided an update on the earthquake, citing the latest figures showing nearly 800 confirmed deaths and more than 4,000 injured, before addressing the ongoing human rights, economic and humanitarian challenges facing the country is confronted.

Despite the difficulties, he said: “We remain firmly convinced that a strategy of continued engagement and dialogue remains the only way forward in the interest of the Afghan people and in the interest of regional and international security.”

Squeeze Human Rights

Mr Alakbarov reported that the human rights situation in Afghanistan remains precarious.

Despite the approval of a general amnesty and repeated assurances from the Taliban leaders that it will be respected, UNAMA continues to receive credible allegations of killings, beatings and other abuses against individuals associated with the former government.

Credible allegations of violations against individuals accused of links to the National Resistance Front and the terrorist organization ISIL-KP have also been reported.

“The dand fact authorities have increasingly restricted the exercise of basic human rights, such as freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of opinion and expression, suppression of dissent and restriction of public space in the country,” he said.

In addition, restrictions mainly target women and girls, such as the ban on girls’ secondary education and the decree that requires women to wear face-covering clothes.

“The costs to the economy of these policies are enormous,” he said. “The psychosocial costs of, for example, educational refusal are incalculable, and women are collectively written out of society in a way that is unique in the world.”

Economic problems persist

The economic crisis is arguably the most important thing in Afghanistan and a potential driver of conflict and misery. The economy is estimated to have contracted by 40 percent since August.

Unemployment could reach 40 percent this year, up from 13 percent in 2021, while the official poverty rate could rise to 97 percent.

“If the economy is unable to recover and grow meaningfully and sustainably, the Afghan people will face repeated humanitarian crises; potentially fuel mass migration and prepare the conditions for radicalization and renewed armed conflict,” he warned.

national focus

Afghanistan also remains highly vulnerable to future climate and geopolitical shocks. Droughts, floods, disease outbreaks that affect both humans and livestock, as well as natural disasters such as the earthquake, further amplify vulnerabilities.

Mr. Alakbarov stressed the need to prioritize rural areas, with an emphasis on agricultural and food systems to prevent hunger. This will also help to reduce child labour, improve health outcomes and create an environment that facilitates social development and change.

“It will also pave the way for substitution farming to replace poppy cultivation, allowing us to take advantage of the in reality the authorities’ recent ban on poppy and narcotic cultivation,” he said.

“As we do this, we must continue to pay due attention to the clearance of widespread unexploded ordnance. This bottom-up approach to economic recovery is shared by the in reality authorities and would help the most vulnerable.”

On the political front, Mr. Alakbarov reported that the Taliban remains in power almost exclusively and that the emergence and survival of armed opposition is largely due to political exclusion.

Exclusion and uncertainty

Meanwhile, the overall security environment in Afghanistan is becoming increasingly unpredictable.

Attacking armed opposition against the in reality authorities doubled in May compared to the previous month. While the number of ISIL-KP terrorist attacks has generally decreased, their geographic scope has expanded from six to 11 provinces.

“We cannot rule out the possibility of increasing instability if people are denied their rights and if they do not see themselves in their government,” he said.

Inclusion and engagement

Over the next month, the UN will seek political consultation and inclusion, and engagement with the in reality authorities will continue.

“Even if the international community and the Taliban remain far apart” on human rights, especially for women’s – and political rights, “there are some areas where we can better improve the lives of Afghans and make progress on of issues of common concern, such as counter-narcotics and mine action.”

Responding to the humanitarian response, Mr Alakbarov highlighted how aid partners reached some 20 million Afghans between January and April this year alone, including nearly 250,000 returnees and some 95,000 people affected by flooding and weather-related events.

However, the humanitarian crisis continues and continued support will be needed until next year.

A mother and her two-year-old son are treated for malnutrition at a hospital in Kunar province, Afghanistan.

© UNICEF/Sayed Bidel

A mother and her two-year-old son are treated for malnutrition at a hospital in Kunar province, Afghanistan.

Millions face famine

More than 190 aid organizations are active in Afghanistan, where nearly half of the population, 19 million people, faces food insecurity.

This includes more than six million people in emergency — the highest number of any country in the world at risk of famine-like conditions, Mr. Griffiths, the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Last December, the Security Council passed a resolution paving the way for aid to reach Afghans while preventing money from falling into the hands of the Taliban, which has been critical to ensuring operations can continue.

Taliban ‘resistance’

While humanitarian aid is hitting record levels, there is still “a long hill to climb,” said Mr. Griffiths, listing several barriers to aid delivery.

The formal banking system continues to block money transfers due to “excessive risk reduction”, affecting payments and disrupting the supply chain.

“Despite attempts to create a temporary solution to the failure of the banking system, through a so-called Humanitarian Exchange Facility, we have seen limited progress due to resistance, I must say, by the in reality authorities,” he said, adding “this is a problem that will not solve itself.”

In addition, national and local governments are increasingly trying to play a role in the selection of beneficiaries. They also provide aid to people on their own priority list, violating promises to UN officials.

Interference increases

Humanitarians are also seeing increased demands from Taliban authorities for data and information about budgets and personnel contracts. In particular, non-governmental organizations face ongoing difficulties in hiring Afghan female personnel for certain positions.

“There are more cases of interference today than in previous months, most of which are resolved through consultation with the relevant de facto authorities,” Mr Griffiths told the ambassadors.

“But for every problem that is solved, another one pops up, sometimes in the same location with the same departments. And there is now a much more palpable frustration among aid organizations, local communities and local authorities.”

Mr Griffiths also underlined the urgent need for funding. A humanitarian plan worth more than $4 billion for Afghanistan is only one-third funded, despite pledges of $2.4 billion made at its launch in March.

“This is not the time for hesitation,” he told the ambassadors. “Without intervention, hunger and malnutrition will increase, with devastating consequences.

Leave a Comment