Ambassadors stood and observed a minute’s silence for the victims of the disaster before being briefed by Ramiz Alakbarov, Acting Special Representative in the UN Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, and Martin Griffiths, UN Humanitarian Coordinator.
Mr. Alakbarov provided an update on the earthquake, citing the latest figures that revealed nearly 800 confirmed deaths and more than 4,000 injuries, before turning to the current human rights, economic and humanitarian challenges facing the country.
Despite the difficulties, he said that “we continue to firmly believe that a strategy of continued engagement and dialogue remains the only way forward for the good of the Afghan people, as well as for the good of regional and international security.”
Squeeze human rights
Mr. Alakbarov said the human rights situation in Afghanistan remains precarious.
Despite the adoption of a general amnesty and repeated assurances from Taliban leaders that it is being respected, UNAMA continues to receive credible allegations of killings, ill-treatment and other violations against individuals associated with the former government.
Credible allegations of violations against persons accused of affiliation with the National Resistance Front and the terrorist organization ISIL-KP were also reported.
“Oand fact The authorities are increasingly restricting the exercise of basic human rights, such as freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of opinion and expression, repressing dissent and restricting civic space in the country,” he said.
In addition, the restrictions mainly target women and girls, such as the ban on high school for girls and the decree ordering women to wear face coverings.
“The economic costs of these policies are immense,” he said. “The psychosocial costs of being denied education, for example, are incalculable, and women are being collectively excluded from society in a way that is unique in the world.”
Economic problems persist
The economic crisis is perhaps the most important issue in Afghanistan and a potential generator of conflict and misery. The economy is estimated to have contracted by up to 40% since August.
Unemployment could reach 40% this year, up from 13% in 2021, while the official poverty rate could reach 97%.
“If the economy is not able to recover and grow significantly and sustainably, the Afghan people will face repeated humanitarian crises; potentially spurring mass migration and making conditions ripe for radicalization and renewed armed conflict,” he warned.
Afghanistan also remains highly vulnerable to future climate and geopolitical shocks. Droughts, floods, disease outbreaks that affect people and animals, as well as natural disasters like the earthquake, are deepening vulnerabilities even further.
Mr. Alakbarov emphasized the need to prioritize rural areas, with a focus on agricultural and food systems to prevent hunger. It will also help to reduce child labour, improve health outcomes and create the environment that will enable development and social change.
“It will also pave the way for replacement agriculture to replace poppy cultivation, allowing us to capitalize on in fact recent authority ban on poppy cultivation and narcotics,” he said.
“In doing so, we must continue to pay adequate attention to the removal of largely unexploded war munitions. This bottom-up approach to economic recovery is shared by in fact authorities and would help the most vulnerable”.
On the political front, Alakbarov reported that the Taliban remains in power almost exclusively, and that the emergence and persistence of an armed opposition is largely due to political exclusion.
Exclusion and insecurity
Meanwhile, the overall security environment in Afghanistan is becoming increasingly unpredictable.
Armed Opposition Attacks in fact authorities doubled in May from the previous month. While the number of ISIL-KP terrorist attacks has declined overall, its geographic scope has increased from six to 11 provinces.
“We cannot exclude the possibility of increasing instability if peoples’ rights are denied and if they do not see themselves in their government,” he said.
Inclusion and engagement
Next month, the UN will seek to promote political consultation and inclusion, and engagement with the in fact authorities will continue.
“Even though the international community and the Taliban remain distant” on the issue of human rights, specifically for women – and political rights, “there are some areas where we can do better to improve the lives of Afghans, as well as advance issues of concern. such as counternarcotics and mine action.
Addressing the humanitarian response, Alakbarov highlighted how aid partners reached around 20 million Afghans between January and April this year alone, including around 250,000 returnees and around 95,000 people affected by floods and weather events.
However, the humanitarian crisis persists and sustained support will be needed over the next year.
Millions at risk of starvation
More than 190 humanitarian organizations are operating in Afghanistan, where nearly half of the population, 19 million people, is food insecure.
That includes more than six million people on an emergency level – the highest number of any country in the world at risk of famine-like conditions, said Griffiths, the UN’s chief of assistance.
Last December, the Security Council adopted a resolution that clears the way for aid to reach Afghans, preventing funds from falling into Taliban hands, which has been instrumental in ensuring operations can continue.
While humanitarians are reaching record numbers, there is still “a long hill to climb,” Griffiths said, listing several impediments to aid delivery.
The formal banking system continues to block money transfers due to “excessive risk”, affecting payments and causing supply chain failures.
“Despite efforts to create a temporary solution to the failure of the banking system, through the so-called Humanitarian Exchange Facility, we have seen limited progress due to resistance, I must say, on the part of the in fact authorities,” he said, adding that “this is a problem that will not solve itself.”
In addition, national and local authorities are increasingly seeking to play a role in the selection of beneficiaries. They are also channeling assistance to people on their own priority lists, thus violating promises made to UN officials.
Humanitarians are also seeing more demands from the Taliban authorities for data and information on budgets and personnel contracts. Non-governmental organizations in particular face ongoing difficulties in trying to hire Afghan women for certain roles.
“There are more cases of interference today than in previous months, most of which are resolved through engagement with the relevant de facto authorities,” Griffiths told the ambassadors.
“But for every problem solved, another one arises, sometimes in the same location with the same departments. And now there is a much more palpable frustration felt by aid organizations, local communities and local authorities.”
Mr. Griffiths also highlighted the pressing need for funding. A more than $4 billion humanitarian plan for Afghanistan is funded by only a third, despite pledges of $2.4 billion made at launch in March.
“Now is not the time for hesitation,” he told the ambassadors. “Without intervention, hunger and malnutrition will intensify, with devastating consequences.