Afghanistan is “hanging by a thread”: UN Secretary-General

Jan 26, 2022: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council on Wednesday that Afghanistan was “hanging by a thread, with millions starving, education and social services on the brink of collapse, and a lack of liquidity.

“We need to suspend the rules and conditions that constrict not only Afghanistan’s economy, but our lifesaving operations. At this moment of maximum need, these rules must be seriously reviewed,” Guterres told the 15-member council.

He again called for countries to issue general licenses covering transactions necessary to all humanitarian activities.

“We need to give financial institutions and commercial partners legal assurance that they can work with humanitarian operators without fear of breaching sanctions,” Guterres said.

$9.5 billion in Afghan central bank reserves remain blocked outside the country and international support given to the previous government has dried up since the Taliban seized power last August.

“We need to jump-start Afghanistan’s economy through increased liquidity. We must pull the economy back from the brink. This means finding ways to free up frozen currency reserves and re-engage Afghanistan’s Central Bank,” Guterres said.

“We need the remaining $1.2 billion to be freed up urgently, to help Afghanistan’s people survive the winter,” Guterres said. “Time is of the essence.”

The United Nations earlier this month called for  4.4 billion in humanitarian aid for Afghanistan in 2022. On Wednesday, it said it needed an additional 3.6 billion for health and education, infrastructure, livelihood development and social cohesion.

The United Nations has promised to work with countries to ensure that funds are not diverted or misused, but Deborah Lyons, the UN special envoy to Afghanistan, noted on Wednesday.

“It is clear that donors, who face their own domestic constituencies, are still not satisfied with the political progress in Afghanistan and are watching closely for encouraging signals,” Lyons said.

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