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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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US commits $150 million in aid for Afghans

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(Last Updated On: August 13, 2022)

The United States announced Friday $150 million in new aid for Afghanistan to improve food security and support women and girls in the country.

The US Agency for International Development said an $80 million commitment to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will improve food security and nutrition for Afghans experiencing severe food insecurity, including women, women-headed households, and smallholder farmers and herders.

With this assistance, USAID will help Afghan farmers increase the production of nutritious food using environmentally-sustainable practices, and increase the availability of quality seeds and other agricultural inputs.

This funding will also improve smallholder farmers’ resilience to climate and economic shocks through crop diversification and promoting agricultural best practices, including through support to small-scale food producers, women, family farmers, pastoralists, and fishers.

USAID and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) signed a $40 million agreement to increase international support for Afghan children, particularly adolescent girls, to realize their right to education.

This is USAID’s newest contribution to Afghanistan’s education sectors and comes after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) March announcement blocking girls above grade six from school. 

With the funding provided by USAID through this agreement, UNICEF will have the resources to provide hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Afghans with desperately needed cash assistance to keep their children in school.

USAID also announced a $30 million commitment to support gender equality and women’s empowerment in Afghanistan.

This funding will be programmed through the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).

The “Enabling Essential Services for Afghan Women and Girls” activity will increase Afghan women and girls’ access to social protection services; provide resources and support for women-led civil society organizations working to advance women’s rights in Afghanistan; and increase women’s economic empowerment through skills and business development training and entrepreneurship support, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said in a statement.

The funding will provide direct support for Afghan women’s civil society organizations.

“As women and girls face rising rates of gender-based violence in Afghanistan, this funding for UN Women will also provide women and girl survivors of violence with access to free and safe accommodation, legal aid and healthcare, psycho-social support, counseling, and vocational training,” USAID statement said.

The funding will also help UN Women respond to the urgent and immediate livelihoods needs of Afghan women, and help them build income security through private sector partnerships that will create job opportunities and help Afghan women launch or rebuild their micro, small or medium businesses.

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Mysterious fires destroy dozens of homes in Jowzjan

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(Last Updated On: August 12, 2022)

More than 50 homes have been destroyed by mysterious fires in a village in Afghanistan’s northern Jowzjan province, officials said this week.

The fires have happened in Bala Mardian village of Faizabad district.

Sirajuddin Ahmadi, police chief of Jowzjan, said that the fires are increasing day by day.

“Yesterday 12 homes caught fire. Today people held Khatm Qur’an ceremony (reading Qur’an) and prayed. Within an hour today, three or four homes caught fire. I hope officials and leaders of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) will pay special attention to the victims,” Ahmadi said.

There are no reports of deaths caused by the fires.

Noorullah Musafir, the provincial director of labor and social affairs, however, said that some people including women and children were hospitalized.

Meanwhile, local residents said that mysterious creatures could be seen during the fires.

“People are suffering from the problem. They initially thought that it was human, but later it was found that only children and women can see it. A creature is seen in the home, but when we enter the home, no one is there,” a Jowzjan resident said.

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DAB says technical agreements in place to print new bank notes

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(Last Updated On: August 12, 2022)

The country’s central bank – Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) said Thursday they have reached agreements with a number of foreign countries and money printing facilities to print new bank notes for the country.

“We have collected and burned the old money, we have reached an agreement with the money printing offices and countries and we expect to proceed according to the plan and present you with the results, we are proceeding based on national interests; discussions have been held with countries and banks and they will help Afghanistan,” said Lutful Haq Noor Pasarlay, DAB’s policy deputy head.

Abdulqahar known as Haji Muhammad Edris, the acting head of De Afghanistan Bank, also spoke at the event and mapped out achievements made by the central bank in the past 12 months.

“Maintaining the stability of the value of the Afghani currency, maintaining the sustainability of commercial banks, providing banking services, facilitating cross-border transfers and developing new systems were some of the issues in the attention of Da Afghanistan Bank during the last year,” said Abdulqahar.

According to officials, in order to improve the banking sector and prevent criminal activities, the law to prevent terrorism financing, the regulation of preventive measures against money laundering, the management plan for the liquidity problem of the banking sector, the plan to revive the financial and banking sector, and the crisis management policy, have been drawn up and will soon be adopted.

The officials also said that in order to release Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves, several internal and external meetings have been organized with the relevant parties and discussions have been held on technical matters.

The last meeting of technical representatives of Afghanistan and the United States, for releasing Afghanistan’s frozen assets, was held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

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