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UN chief urges the world to act together to end food insecurity crisis

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(Last Updated On: May 19, 2022)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday the war in Ukraine is stoking a global food crisis, which could last for years.

Addressing a ministerial meeting on global hunger at UN Headquarters in New York, Guterres said the number of severely food insecure people had doubled in just two years – from 135 million pre-COVID pandemic to 276 million today, with more than half a million experiencing famine conditions – an increase of more than 500 percent since 2016.

“These frightening figures are inextricably linked with conflict, as both cause, and effect,” he said. “If we do not feed people, we feed conflict”.

Discussing hunger triggers, he said the climate emergency is another driver of global hunger and pointed out that 1.7 billion people have been affected by extreme weather and climate-related disasters over the past decade.

Moreover, the COVID-induced economic shock has compounded food insecurity by reducing incomes and disrupting supply chains, leading to an uneven economic recovery, he said.

“Now the war in Ukraine is amplifying and accelerating all these factors: climate change, COVID-19, and inequality,” Guterres said.

Guterres warned that the Ukraine war threatens to tip “tens of millions of people over the edge into food insecurity, followed by malnutrition, mass hunger and famine, in a crisis that could last for years.”

“In the past year, global food prices have risen by nearly one-third, fertilizer by more than half, and oil prices by almost two-thirds”.

According to the UN, between them, Ukraine and Russia produce almost a third of the world’s wheat and barley and half of its sunflower oil, while Russia and Belarus are the world’s number two and three producers of potash, a key ingredient of fertilizer.

“If high fertilizer prices continue, today’s crisis in grain and cooking oil could affect many other foods including rice, impacting billions of people in Asia and the Americas,” he said.

However, if we act together, there is enough food for everyone, he said adding that “ending hunger is within our reach”.

Guterres then outlined five urgent steps to solve the short-term crisis and prevent long-term damage, beginning with reducing market pressure by increasing food supplies – with no restrictions on exports and surpluses available to those most in need.

“But let’s be clear: there is no effective solution to the food crisis without reintegrating Ukraine’s food production, as well as the food and fertilizer produced by Russia and Belarus, into world markets, despite the war”.

Social protection systems must cover all in need with food, cash; and water, sanitation, nutrition, and livelihood support must be provided, he said adding that th, governments must bolster agricultural production and invest in resilient food systems that protect smallholder food producers.

And finally, humanitarian operations must be fully funded to prevent famine and reduce hunger.

“The food crisis has no respect for borders, and no country can overcome it alone,” he said.

“Our only chance of lifting millions of people out of hunger is to act together, urgently and with solidarity”.

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Afghan scholars issue 11-point resolution after 3-day mass gathering in Kabul 

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(Last Updated On: July 2, 2022)

An Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) gathering of religious scholars and ethnic leaders in Kabul ended on Saturday after an 11-point resolution was agreed to. 

Resolutions adopted related to a number of issues including the IEA’s call for the international community to recognize them as the legitimate government in Afghanistan. 

“We call on the world, neighboring countries, the United Nations, global organizations, specifically on the Islamic countries and agencies to recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as a legitimate government,” the resolution read. 

In addition, the participants at the meeting also called for all sanctions against the IEA and its leaders to be lifted and for the country’s frozen assets to be released. 

The IEA’s reclusive leader Haibatullah Akhundzada also joined the three-day gathering of more than 3,000 men on Friday, and delivered a speech in which he congratulated the participants on their victory and underlined the country’s independence. 

Akhundzada, who is normally based in the southern city of Kandahar and rarely appears in public, said in his address on Friday that foreigners should not give orders.

In their resolution, the religious scholars stated that defending the Islamic Emirate was obligatory and that the Islamic State (ISIS/Daesh), which has claimed responsibility for a number of incidents in recent months, was illegal.

A statement issued by the religious scholars outlining their 11-point resolution read as follows:

1. As we now have an Islamic system, we all support and defend the IEA system and it is compulsory for all Afghans to support and defend the Islamic system.

2. The 3,000 scholars once again renewed their allegiance to the supreme leader of the IEA Haibatullah Akhundzada and accepted him as the legitimate leader based on Sharia.

3. As the IEA has been formed without the interference of other countries, this verifies its domestic legitimacy. We call on the world, neighboring countries, the United Nations, global organizations, specifically on Islamic countries and agencies to recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as a legitimate government. In addition, they must remove all sanctions from Afghanistan and should release the county’s frozen assets. 

4. We (scholars) support and praise the issued order of the IEA for not cultivating poppies and other drugs in the country. 

5. We support the policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of neighboring and world countries by the IEA and we support the IEA’s decision to not allow any countries to use Afghanistan’s soil against any country. Likewise, we call on the countries around the world and neighbors not to interfere in the domestic affairs of Afghanistan. 

6. As the IEA is an Islamic system and has full sovereignty across the country by providing security, any means of armed resistance against the IEA is rebellion and the eradication of such armed resistance groups is compulsory by the IEA and the nation. 

7. The Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP/Daesh) is an illegal group which spreads corruption in the country; therefore, financially supporting this group and having relationships with it is haram. 

8. We call on scholars who fuel controversial issues to refrain from such topics so as not to cause sedition in the country.

9. We urge the Islamic Emirate to establish justice in the country and to pave the way for religious and modern education, health, agriculture, rights of ethnic minorities and women and children and economic development, within the structure of Sharia. 

10. We call on the leadership of the IEA to stabilize their internal unity, national unity and to protect national sovereignty. Also, we urge them to create job opportunities for Afghans and to eradicate poverty in the country.

11. We support the Contact Commission with the Afghan Personalities established by the IEA and we call on politicians and figures based in foreign countries to return home.

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Afghan families would leave country if girls’ schools do not reopen: Hekmatyar

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(Last Updated On: July 2, 2022)

Many Afghan families would leave their country if secondary girls’ schools do not reopen, Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said on Friday.

Hekmatyar, in his Friday sermon, said that a decision should be made regarding the issue of girls’ education at the gathering of religious scholars in Kabul.

“What does Islam say? What does our religion say? What do our imams and jurists say? What does the Qur’an and Hadith say?” Hekmatyar asked. “A decision should be made in this regard and it should be acceptable to all Afghans.”

“If the issue is not addressed, many families would leave Afghanistan only because girls’ are deprived of education here,” Hekmatyar said.

More than 3,000 religious scholars and ethnic leaders have gathered in the Loya Jirga hall in Kabul in what is said to be the largest gathering since the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) took over in August last year.

While primary girls’ schools reopened in March, IEA didn’t allow the secondary ones to reopen.

In his speech, Hekmatyar also said that other issues including establishing parliament and drafting a new constitution should also have been on the agenda of the meeting.

Hizb-e-Islami leader also said that the government should clear its policy on political parties in Afghanistan.

On freedom of speech, Hekmatyar said that censorship would help corruption, a menace which could lead to collapse of governments.

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US special envoy for Afghan women avoids meeting IEA officials

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(Last Updated On: July 2, 2022)

Rina Amiri, the United States’ special envoy for Afghan women, girls and human rights, said on Saturday she avoided joining her colleagues in meeting a delegation of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) officials in Qatari capital Doha.

This week, a US delegation led by Thomas West, the special envoy for Afghanistan, met with an IEA delegation led by Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi in Doha.

“After much deliberation & consultation, I opted not to attend,” US special envoy for Afghan women, Amiri, said on Twitter.

“I support my colleagues engaging the Taliban (IEA). Engagement on issues where there’s traction, such as economic stabilization & the humanitarian response, is necessary to improve the lives of 40 million Afghans. We must meet with them if there’s any prospect of meaningful action,” Amiri said.

“However, I’m gravely concerned by the Taliban’s actions & current stance on the areas my office oversees & disappointed that robust international engagement to this point hasn’t produced meaningful outcomes for Afghan women, girls & at-risk populations,” she continued.

Amiri said she is ready to engage when IEA are prepared to work on “concrete steps to restore the rights of Afghan, including women, girls and at-risk populations.

“The US government stands in solidarity in calling on the Taliban to respect the human rights of all Afghans,” Amiri said.

In their meeting, US and IEA officials discussed, among other issues, US actions to preserve $3.5 billion in Afghan central bank reserves for the benefit of the Afghan people as well as steps to build international confidence in the central bank, Da Afghanistan Bank, according to a statement from the US State Department.

They also discussed US support for steps to enhance the availability of the afghani currency in the economy, according to the statement.

During his visit to Doha, Muttaqi also met with 10 European envoys for Afghanistan on Friday, discussing the humanitarian situation, health, and education, said Hafiz Zia Ahmad, deputy spokesman for the Afghan foreign ministry.

Muttaqi said that US freezing of Afghan assets and sanctions on the banking sector has created problems for Afghan traders.

He also said that the new government in Afghanistan has ensured the rights of all sections of the Afghan society and that there is now transparency in all areas.

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