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UNAMA chief delivers stark report to UN Security Council

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(Last Updated On: March 24, 2021)

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) chief Deborah Lyons sounded the alarm on Tuesday when she told the UN Security Council that soaring rates of violence continue to hamper humanitarian efforts in the country.

She said that six months into Afghanistan’s latest round of peace talks, progress remains slow and demands strong support from the global community.

“We always knew that this would be a complicated peace,” said Deborah Lyons, as she briefed the 15-member Council during a videoconference meeting.

Describing Tuesday’s meeting as a chance to take stock six months after the launch of the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations, the signing of an agreement between the United States and the Taliban and a joint declaration between Kabul and Washington, D.C., she said attacks against civilians have only escalated.

The extreme violence is leading both Afghans and their international partners to voice understandable frustration. “The killings, the displacement, the suffering of the Afghan people must end now,” she stressed.

Noting that the first two months of 2021 saw a worrying spate of brutal attacks deliberately targeting civilians. She said the deaths of more than 80 Afghans — including media staff, civil society, members of the judiciary, religious scholars and government officials — have been recorded to date.

“This does not convey the full, crippling impact of the violence on Afghanistan’s civic life,” she said, adding that for every Afghan killed, many more leave their professions or plan to flee the country.

She also stated that ISIS-K (Daesh) claimed responsibility for 25 violent attacks in the last quarter, a steep increase, and she highlighted a deepening humanitarian crisis and the threat of drought. Food insecurity is at record levels, with more than 40 per cent of the population at emergency and crisis levels, she said..

Against that backdrop, she called on the international community to contribute generously to the humanitarian response plan, which is only six percent funded, while warning that money alone is not enough.

She also said humanitarian workers continue to be targeted by threats and violence, and the impartial delivery of aid is obstructed.

Emphasizing that such acts are illegal and unjustifiable, she recalled that she recently raised those issues with Taliban leaders and her office has been working with the Afghan government to ensure its legislative framework protects the space of non-governmental organizations carrying out humanitarian work.

She said all these developments are taking place against the backdrop of slowing progress in the peace talks in Doha. She said both sides need to continue to show their commitment to remaining at the negotiating table.

Welcoming the appointment of Jean Arnault of France as the Secretary-General’s new Personal Envoy on Afghanistan and Regional Issues, she said Member States have also played a vital role in coming up with new initiatives to reinvigorate the peace process.

Pointing to a proposed meeting in Turkey as another such opportunity, she stressed that such initiatives must be focused, coherent and, above all, they must reinforce rather than undermine the Doha negotiations.

According to Lyons, decades of conflict have created real grievances on all sides, as well as a deep lack of trust among the parties.

She also said there are genuine and profound differences between the Afghan Republic and the Taliban’s desired end State.

Addressing those issues will continue to require patience and commitment on both sides, she said, adding that any lasting peace settlement must consider the views and concerns of all Afghans and not just those of an elite few.

She said she hopes by her next briefing to the Security Council real progress would have been made.

Lyons stated that she hopes by June, there would have been at least a substantial de-escalation of violence, if not a ceasefire.

While those developments could mark a real turning point, the road ahead is still not clear and “we are moving into a period of great uncertainty, she said.

Shaharzad Akbar, Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, also briefed the Council, stressing that the war in Afghanistan remains one of the world’s deadliest conflicts for civilians.

She said the onslaught of attacks has further diminished the country’s civic space, leading to self-censorship for journalists, human rights defenders and religious scholars, and thus impacting the quality of public engagement and debate on issues critical to Afghanistan’s present and future.

Akbar also stated that the country’s peace talks remain dominated by a group of elite men, some of whom have themselves been responsible for perpetuating violence.

“Building peace takes more than a deal among elites,” she said, calling for a more inclusive national endeavour that ensures the participation of women, minorities, youth, civil society and the vibrant Afghan media, as well as victims.

A minimum of 30 percent of the participants in the peace talks should be women, and more steps are needed to achieve full gender balance in the future, she said.

“At the recent conference in Moscow, I, like many Afghan women, was shocked and angered to see only one Afghan woman, Dr. Habiba Sarabi, in a room full of men discussing the future of my country,” she said.

Afghan women have fought for their human rights for many decades, and have made considerable progress in education, employment and political participation. They are experts everywhere, from the fields of politics to public administration, security, business, science and information technology.

Excluding or marginalizing them from the main discussions about the future of Afghanistan is not only unjust and unacceptable, but unwise and unhelpful to a lasting peace, she said.

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Biden extends US national emergency over humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: February 5, 2023)

US President Joe Biden has extended for one more year the national emergency declared in his executive order with respect to the widespread humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and the “potential for deepening economic collapse” in the country.

On February 11, 2022, Biden by an executive order declared a national emergency to deal with the “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States” constituted by the widespread humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and the potential for a deepening economic collapse in the country, the White House said.

“The widespread humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan — including the urgent needs of the people of Afghanistan for food security, livelihoods support, water, sanitation, health, hygiene, shelter and settlement assistance, and COVID-19-related assistance, among other basic human needs — and the potential for a deepening economic collapse in Afghanistan continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” White House said in a notice released on February 3.

“In addition, the preservation of certain property of Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) held in the United States by United States financial institutions is of the utmost importance to addressing this national emergency and the welfare of the people of Afghanistan,” the notice said.

“Various parties, including representatives of victims of terrorism, have asserted legal claims against certain property of DAB or indicated in public court filings an intent to make such claims. This property is blocked under Executive Order 14064.”

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Kandahar-Dubai flights resume

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(Last Updated On: February 5, 2023)

Local officials in Kandahar province say flights between Kandahar and Dubai have resumed for the first time since the IEA took control of Afghanistan in August 2021.

The head of Ahmad Shah Baba International Airport in Kandahar has said that the flights have been resumed by Kam Air, the largest private airline in Afghanistan.

Kam Air officials meanwhile said that the west and south zones have more traders and industrialists; therefore, they have resumed the flights.

It is said that round-trip flights will also soon start between Kandahar and New Delhi and Kandahar and China.

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At least 8,000 Afghan refugees return from Iran in past week

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(Last Updated On: February 5, 2023)

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) authorities at the Refugee and Repatriation Department of Nimruz province announced that 7,612 Afghan refugees have returned to the country from Iran over the past week.

Sediqullah Nasrat, the director of the department said on Saturday that 519 refugees who were facing serious financial problems, received cash aid from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Nasrat added that IOM – the United Nations agency for migration – distributed food and other necessary items to the remaining families.

He said the 7,612 Afghan migrants returned to the country from Iran through the Abrishum border crossing.

This comes as the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation on Saturday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a private organization called ‘Osta’ to create employment opportunities for more than a thousand needy families.

Although many immigrants are forcibly returned to the country, the deterioration of the economic situation in Iran has also caused migrants to return to the country.

A number of immigration experts say that the new Afghan government should try to solve the problems of Afghan immigrants in host countries through diplomatic means, especially on the issue of accommodation, especially as many migrants do not have legal documents.

Although Iran and Pakistan have been hosting millions of Afghan refugees for years, recent developments in the country have increased the number of these migrants. Now, the Islamic Emirate says that they are trying to gradually provide job opportunities to the returning migrants.

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