Afghanistan faces “turning point” and needs global economic support, says UN chief

Warning that Afghanistan faces “a watershed moment”, the UN chief on Monday urged the world to prevent the collapse of the country’s economy.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also called on the Taliban to stop breaking promises to allow women to work and girls to have access to all levels of education.

Eighty percent of the Afghan economy is informal, with women playing a leading role, and “without them there is no way for the Afghan economy and society to recover,” he said. declared.

Guterres said the UN is urgently calling on countries to pump money into the Afghan economy, which before the Taliban takeover in August depended on international aid which accounted for 75% of the country’s spending. State. The country is grappling with a liquidity crisis as assets remain frozen in the United States and other countries, and disbursements from international organizations have been suspended.

“Right now, with assets frozen and development aid suspended, the economy is collapsing,” Guterres told reporters at UN headquarters in New York. “Banks are closing and essential services, such as health care, have been suspended in many places.”

The UN chief said injecting cash to prevent Afghanistan’s economic collapse is a separate issue from recognizing the Taliban, lifting sanctions, thawing frozen assets or restoring the international aid.

Guterres said money can be pumped into the Afghan economy “without violating international laws or compromising principles.” He said this could be done through United Nations agencies and a trust fund managed by the United Nations Development Program, as well as non-governmental organizations operating in the country. He added that the World Bank can also create a trust fund.

G20 leaders to discuss Afghanistan on Tuesday

The leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies – the G20 – are holding a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss the complex issues surrounding Afghanistan. On the issue of “injecting liquidity into the Afghan economy,” Guterres said, “I think the international community is moving too slowly.”

The Taliban invaded most of Afghanistan as US and NATO forces were in the final stages of their chaotic withdrawal from the country after 20 years. They entered the capital, Kabul, on August 15 without any resistance from the Afghan army or the country’s president, Ashraf Ghani, who fled.

Guterres underscored the Taliban’s promises since taking power to protect the rights of women, children, minority communities and former government employees – especially the ability for women to work and girls to have the power. same education as boys.

“I am particularly alarmed to see the promises made to Afghan women and girls by the Taliban to be broken,” he said, stressing that “their ability to learn, to work, to own property and to live with rights and dignity will define progress “.

WATCH | Journalist and activist Mahbouba Seraj on the needs of women in Afghanistan:

Mahbouba Seraj on the fight for the preservation of women’s rights in Afghanistan

Mahbouba Seraj, head of the Afghan Women’s Network, discusses the Taliban’s return to power and the future of women’s rights in Afghanistan with CBC’s Susan Ormiston. 5:02

However, said Guterres, “the Afghan people cannot face collective punishment because the Taliban misbehaves.”

He said the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan was worsening, affecting at least 18 million people, or half of the country’s population.

Guterres said the UN commits the Taliban every day to the safety and security of its personnel, unimpeded humanitarian access to all Afghans in need, and human rights – especially for women and girls. “Gender equality has always been a top priority for me,” he said.

While humanitarian aid saves lives, it will not solve the country’s crisis unless an economic collapse is avoided, Guterres said.

“Obviously, the main responsibility for finding a way out of the abyss lies with those who are now in charge in Afghanistan,” he said.

Nonetheless, he warned, “if we do not act to help the Afghans weather this storm, and do it quickly, not only them, but the whole world will pay a heavy price.

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