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UNAMA Chief warns of Taliban offensive

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(Last Updated On: June 22, 2021)

The U.N. special envoy Deborah Lyons on Afghanistan warned on Tuesday that Taliban insurgents have taken more than 50 of 370 districts in the country since May and that increased conflict “means increased insecurity for many other countries, near and far”.

“Those districts that have been taken surround provincial capitals, suggesting that the Taliban are positioning themselves to try and take these capitals once foreign forces are fully withdrawn,” Deborah Lyons told the U.N. Security Council.

After 20 years, the United States has started a withdrawal of its remaining 2,500 troops in Afghanistan and aims to be completely out of the country by Sept. 11. Around 7,000 non-U.S. forces from mainly NATO countries – along with Australia, New Zealand, and Georgia – are also planning to leave by Sept. 11.

Lyons said the announcement earlier this year that foreign troops would withdraw sent a “seismic tremor” through Afghanistan, and that while this was expected, “its speed – with the majority of troops now already withdrawn – was not.

“All of the major trends – politics, security, the peace process, the economy, the humanitarian emergency, and of course COVID – all of these trends are negative or stagnate,” Lyons told the 15-member Security Council. “The possible slide toward dire scenarios is undeniable.”

U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the radical Islamist Taliban from power in late 2001 for refusing to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

U.S. President Joe Biden will meet at the White House with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the chairman of Afghanistan‘s High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, on Friday amid the surge in fighting.

Talks in Qatar between the Taliban and Afghan government representatives on a political settlement have stalled.

“There is only one acceptable direction for Afghanistan … away from the battlefield, and back to the negotiating table,” Lyons said. “The United Nations Security Council, with the support of the regional countries, must do all it can to push the parties in that direction.”

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IFSW says it continues helping vulnerable Afghans

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(Last Updated On: January 31, 2023)

The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) says it will carry on its aid program for vulnerable people in Afghanistan.

In a press conference in Kabul on Tuesday, Rory Truell, Secretary-General of IFSW, said the organization would provide services for vulnerable people, psychotherapy and also help families in need.

“We have closely observed the situation in Afghanistan and we know that women and children need more international support,” said Truell.

“As a global partner of this institution, we continue to support the people of Afghanistan.”

IFSW meanwhile has also signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Afghanistan Social Workers Organization in Kabul.

“We have been supporting Afghan women, children and human society for a long time to reach general prosperity and peace,” said Ana Radulescu, IFSW Global Vice President.

Social workers in the country are mostly engaged in helping the needy and those who need psychological treatment.

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Afghanistan jumps 24 places to 150th in global corruption index

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(Last Updated On: January 31, 2023)

Afghanistan has jumped as many as 24 places in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2022 compared to the previous year, Transparency International said in a report released Tuesday.

Afghanistan has scored 24 out of 100 in the new index, ranking 150th out of 180 countries. Last year, Afghanistan stood at 174th spot with a score of 16.

The Transparency International’s report said corruption was central to the failure of the international effort to establish peace and security in Afghanistan.

“It undermined the legitimacy and capability of the Afghan government, hollowed out the Afghan military, and channeled resources to and strengthened popular support for the Taliban (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan),” the report said.

“Leaders can fight corruption and promote peace all at once. Governments must open up space to include the public in decision-making – from activists and business owners to marginalized communities and young people. In democratic societies, the people can raise their voices to help root out corruption and demand a safer world for us all,” said Daniel Eriksson, Chief Executive Officer of Transparency International.

In the new ranking, Afghanistan is placed above countries including Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Turkmenistan, North Korea, Libya, Yemen, Venezuela and Syria, but shares the sport with six other countries – Cambodia, Lebanon, Nigeria, Guatemala, Central African Republic and Tajikistan.

Denmark tops the list with a score of 90, followed by Finland, New Zealand and Norway.

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Afghanistan: Humanitarians await guidelines on women’s role in aid operations

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(Last Updated On: January 31, 2023)

A UN-led group of humanitarians are hoping that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) will allow Afghan women to again work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the ground following last month’s ban, four senior aid officials told journalists in New York on Monday.

In a statement issued by the UN, the group, representing the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), stressed that the world’s largest humanitarian operation – supporting some 28 million people in Afghanistan – simply cannot function without women staff.

The officials reported on their mission to the country last week, in the wake of the edict prohibiting Afghan women from working with local and international aid agencies, announced on 24 December.

Days later, the IEA authorized women to continue working in healthcare.

A similar exception was made in education, though focused on the primary level as Afghan girls and women have been barred from attending high school and university.

In their meetings with the IEA, the IASC mission expressed opposition to the ban, which they hoped would be rescinded, and advocated for exemptions in all aspects of humanitarian action.

They were told that guidelines are being developed, and were asked to be patient, said Martin Griffiths, UN relief chief and the IASC chair, speaking during a press conference at UN Headquarters.

“I’m somebody who doesn’t like to speculate too much, because it is a matter of speculation. Let’s see if these guidelines do come through. Let’s see if they are beneficial. Let’s see what space there is for the essential and central role of women in our humanitarian operations,” he said.

“Everybody has opinions as to whether it’s going to work or not. Our view is that the message has clearly been delivered: that women are central, essential workers in the humanitarian sector, in addition to having rights, and we need to see them back to work.”

The UN says humanitarians will require $4.6 billion to fund their activities in Afghanistan this year.

Three years of drought-like conditions, economic decline, and the impacts of four decades of conflict, have left roughly two-thirds of the population, 28 million people, dependent on aid, with six million on the brink of starvation.

Women comprise 30 percent of the 55,000 Afghan nationals working for NGOs in the country, according to Janti Soeripto, President and Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children.

“Without women on our teams, we cannot provide humanitarian services to millions of children and women,” she said.

“We won’t be able to identify their needs; communicate to female heads of households, of which there are many in Afghanistan after years and years of conflict, and to do so in a safe and culturally appropriate way.”

The UN stated that furthermore, many women aid workers are themselves the sole breadwinners for their families, which means many more households will go wanting.

“We’ve made it very clear that humanitarian aid must never be conditional, and it cannot discriminate,” said Soeripto. “We were not there to politicize aid. We cannot do this work without women in all aspects of our value chains.”

The loss of these valuable workers also comes as Afghanistan is facing its coldest winter in 15 years, with temperatures falling to nearly -30 degrees Celsius, resulting in numerous deaths.

The IASC mission visited a clinic on the outskirts of the capital, Kabul, run by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and a local partner.

Critical health and nutrition services there are up and running again now that women staff are back on board, said Sofía Sprechmann Sineiro, Secretary General of CARE International.

The clinic’s staff also shared a horrific statistic, as 15 percent of the children who seek help suffer from severe acute malnutrition, the UN stated.

“So, let there be no ambiguity. Tying the hands of NGOs by barring women from giving life-saving support to other women will cost lives,” Sineiro said, speaking from Kabul.

According to the statement, during their meetings with the IEA, the humanitarian chiefs also pushed for the full inclusion of girls and women in public life.

More than one million Afghan girls have lost out on learning due to the order banning them from secondary school, which has added to losses sustained during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The university ban, announced last month, has further crushed their hopes, said Omar Abdi, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director for Programmes.

“We are very concerned about girls’ and women’s development and particularly their mental health. In 2023, if secondary school education remains closed, an estimated 215,000 girls who attended grade six last year will once again be denied the right to learn,” he said.

Despite the bleak outlook, Abdi pointed to a few positive signs.

Since the ban, some 200,000 girls continue to attend secondary schools in 12 provinces, and women secondary school teachers continue to receive their salaries.

“The officials we met in Kabul…reaffirmed that they are not against girls learning in secondary schools, and again promised to re-open once the guidelines are approved by their leader,” he said.

Meanwhile, the number of community-based education classes in private homes and other locations has doubled to 20,000 over the past year, serving some 600,000 children, more than half of them girls.

“These positive signs are the results of both the commitment from the de facto authorities (IEA) and pressure from local communities to keep schools and community schools open,” said Abdi.

“As long as communities continue to demand education, we must continue to support both public and other forms of education, community-based classrooms, catch-up classes and vocational training.”

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