UN / AFGHANISTAN

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26-Jan-2022 00:05:29
UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council that six months after the takeover by the Taliban, “Afghanistan is hanging by a thread,” adding that for Afghans, “daily life has become a frozen hell.” UNIFEED

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STORY: UN / AFGHANISTAN
TRT: 5:29
SOURCE: UNIFEED
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LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / NATS

DATELINE: 26 JANUARY 2022, NEW YORK CITY

SHOTLIST:

FILE – NEW YORK CITY

1. Wide shot, UN headquarters exterior

26 JANUARY 2022, NEW YORK CITY

2. Wide shot, Security Council
3. SOUNDBITE (English) António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations:
“Six months after the takeover by the Taliban, Afghanistan is hanging by a thread. For Afghans, daily life has become a frozen hell.”
4. Wide shot, Security Council
5. SOUNDBITE (English) António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations:
“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. International funding must be allowed to pay the salaries of public-sector workers. From surgeons and nurses, to teachers, sanitation workers and electricians – all are vital to keeping systems up-and-running. And they’re critical to Afghanistan’s future. We need to give them a reason to stay in the country.”
6. Wide shot, Security Council
7. SOUNDBITE (English) António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations:
“Time is of the essence. Without action, lives will be lost, and despair and extremism will grow. A collapse of the Afghan economy could lead to a massive exodus of people fleeing the country.”
8. Wide shot, Security Council
9. SOUNDBITE (English) António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations:
“Now is the time for the Taliban to expand opportunity and security for its people and demonstrate a real commitment to be a part of the global community. The window for trust-building is open. But this trust must be earned.”
10. Wide shot, Security Council
11. SOUNDBITE (English) António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations:
“As a moral imperative – and a practical one – all doors must be kept open for women and girls: in schools, in the workplace, in the halls of justice, and across all aspects of public life. Opportunities for a new beginning are rare. We urge the Taliban to seize this moment and garner international trust and goodwill by recognizing – and upholding – the basic human rights that belong to every girl and woman.”
12. Wide shot, Security Council
13. SOUNDBITE (English) António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations:
“In the depths of a frigid Afghan winter, renewal and hope can seem distant. For decades – even centuries – Afghanistan has been unfairly used as a platform for political agendas, geopolitical advantage, ideological dominance, and brutal conflicts and terrorism. As a matter of moral responsibility – and regional and global security and prosperity – we cannot abandon the people of Afghanistan. They need peace. They need hope. They need help. And they need it now.”
14. Wide shot, Security Council
15. SOUNDBITE (English) Deborah Lyons, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan:
“The current comparative stability is in many ways underpinned by conflict fatigue and by communities and individuals focusing on mere survival. This peace, this stability, is thus fragile, and could unravel if measures are not taken to govern in a way that builds trust and accountability, and that focuses on the genuine needs of the people—including the need and right to participate in their government.”
16. Wide shot, Security Council
17. SOUNDBITE (English) Mahbouba Seraj, Afghan women human rights defender and Executive Director of Afghan Women Skills Development Center:
“While it feels as though the world has given up on Afghanistan and Afghan women, we have not. We are in the streets protesting every day, despite the threats, weapons and the violence. We are fighting for our inclusion, for justice and for an end to the repression of our people. But we need your political support and resources to succeed. We need you to stand by us and ensure that Afghan women are equal partners in making decisions about the future of our country."
18. Wide shot, Security Council
19. SOUNDBITE (English) Jonas Gahr Støre, Prime Minister, Norway:
“Let me be clear: The Taliban heard the serious concerns shared by a variety of representative civil Afghans, as well as a united international community. The visit did not bestow international recognition on the de facto regime. It provided an opportunity to talk, exchange and formulate clear expectations on the way ahead.”
20. Wide shot, Security Council
21. SOUNDBITE (English) Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations:
“Ultimately, a functioning Afghan economy will require an independent and technically competent central bank that meets international banking standards. While Afghan central bank reserves held in the United States are subject to ongoing litigation, we recognize calls to examine making available reserves to help the people of Afghanistan.”
22. Wide shot, Security Council
23. SOUNDBITE (English) Naseer Ahmed Faiq, Chargé d'affaires of the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations:
"I would like to request the freezing and confiscating of all Afghan assets illegally transferred to the accounts of the former government officials who were involved in corruption and embezzlement of international aid to Afghan people. They must be held accountable and tried. It is unfair that 28 million people are starving, and mothers sell their children to survive, but these corrupt former government officials live in luxurious houses and villas in different countries around the globe."
24. Wide shot, Security Council

STORYLINE:

UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council that six months after the takeover by the Taliban, “Afghanistan is hanging by a thread,” adding that for Afghans, “daily life has become a frozen hell.”

Addressing the Council today (26 Jan), Guterres said over half the Afghan population was facing extreme levels of hunger, as they deal with the harsh winter and drought. He added that the population was also stalked by COVID-19 and preventable diseases like measles, diarrhea and even polio. He said education and social services are on the brink of collapse. There is a danger that the currency could go into freefall, and the country could lose 30 per cent of its GDP within the year, the Secretary-General added.

The UN chief noted that, as the economy spirals downward, human rights are also losing ground, with women and girls once again being shut-out of offices and classrooms. He added that terrorism also remains a constant threat – not only to the security of Afghanistan, but to the entire world.

Guterres called on the global community, and the Security Council in particular, to led progress in the country, provide resources and prevent Afghanistan from spiraling any further.

He said scaling up humanitarian operations to save lives goes far beyond the 4.4 billion USD humanitarian appeal made by the UN.

“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. International funding must be allowed to pay the salaries of public-sector workers. From surgeons and nurses, to teachers, sanitation workers and electricians – all are vital to keeping systems up-and-running. And they’re critical to Afghanistan’s future. We need to give them a reason to stay in the country.”

The UN chief emphasized the need for a strong UN strong role in Afghanistan, including through the One-UN Transitional Engagement Framework for Afghanistan, which was launched today. He explained that this was a plan to extend and accelerate humanitarian and development support to the Afghan people, while sustaining and strengthening essential services and systems throughout transition period. He urged the Council to consider recommendations for a new mandate for the UN’s Special Political Mission in Afghanistan to support security, progress and human rights.

Guterres stressed the need to jump-start Afghanistan’s economy through increased liquidity by finding ways to free-up frozen currency reserves and re-engage Afghanistan’s Central Bank and exploring other ways to rapidly inject liquidity into the economy.

He said, “Time is of the essence. Without action, lives will be lost, and despair and extremism will grow. A collapse of the Afghan economy could lead to a massive exodus of people fleeing the country.”

The Secretary-General said now is the time for the Taliban to “expand opportunity and security for its people and demonstrate a real commitment to be a part of the global community. The window for trust-building is open. But this trust must be earned.”

He said a stable, prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan is an inclusive one in which all people can contribute to its future. This must include the rights of women and girls, who are once again being denied their rights to education, employment and equal justice.

Guterres said, “As a moral imperative – and a practical one – all doors must be kept open for women and girls: in schools, in the workplace, in the halls of justice, and across all aspects of public life. Opportunities for a new beginning are rare. We urge the Taliban to seize this moment and garner international trust and goodwill by recognizing – and upholding – the basic human rights that belong to every girl and woman.”

The UN chief said, “In the depths of a frigid Afghan winter, renewal and hope can seem distant. For decades – even centuries – Afghanistan has been unfairly used as a platform for political agendas, geopolitical advantage, ideological dominance, and brutal conflicts and terrorism. As a matter of moral responsibility – and regional and global security and prosperity – we cannot abandon the people of Afghanistan. They need peace. They need hope. They need help. And they need it now.”

The Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Deborah Lyons, said, while humanitarian needs are pressing, donors are understandably reluctant to show more flexibility until they have a better idea of what sort of government the de facto administration intends to create. She said donors are still not satisfied with the political progress in Afghanistan and are watching closely for encouraging signals.

Lyons hoped that there would be clear actions, not just announcements, in the next few months that demonstrate the Taliban are committed to a pathway of future engagement with the international community, putting human rights at the forefront, which would result in Afghanistan re-joining the community of nations by securing domestic legitimacy that aligns with its modern history and the aspirations of its population, its multi-ethnic character, and its traditional Islamic identity.

The head of UNAMA said, “The current comparative stability is in many ways underpinned by conflict fatigue and by communities and individuals focusing on mere survival. This peace, this stability, is thus fragile, and could unravel if measures are not taken to govern in a way that builds trust and accountability, and that focuses on the genuine needs of the people—including the need and right to participate in their government.”

Mahbouba Seraj, Executive Director of the Afghan Women Skills Development Center, told the Council that, while it feels as though the world has given up on Afghanistan and Afghan women, “we have not.” She said, “We are in the streets protesting every day, despite the threats, weapons and the violence. We are fighting for our inclusion, for justice and for an end to the repression of our people.”

Seraj said women’s rights groups we need the Council’s “political support and resources to succeed.” She said, “We need you to stand by us and ensure that Afghan women are equal partners in making decisions about the future of our country."

The activist said, over the last 20 years, the people of Afghanistan — especially women and girls — have fought for equality, but the hasty exit of the international community from the country last August has undermined their achievements and dashed hopes for a democratic nation.

Seraj said the Security Council has a tremendous responsibility to keep the promises it made to Afghan women over the years.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said, during the last few days, a high-level delegation from the de facto Afghan authorities visited Oslo, the aim of which was offer an opportunity for non-Taliban women and men from the Afghan civil society to engage the Taliban in a dialogue on the way forward for the country. He said, “Let me be clear: The Taliban heard the serious concerns shared by a variety of representative civil Afghans, as well as a united international community. The visit did not bestow international recognition on the de facto regime. It provided an opportunity to talk, exchange and formulate clear expectations on the way ahead.”

Støre added that the visit offered an opportunity for Norway and a range of national delegations to engage the Taliban representatives on how the needs of millions of Afghans, including political, human rights and humanitarian needs, will be met in the time to come.

United States ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said her country remains committed to providing lifesaving support to the Afghan people and has moved rapidly to ensure that any sanctions imposed by the US and the international community to support security and stability in Afghanistan do not impede humanitarian activity.

Thomas-Greenfield said the United States is particularly sensitive to Afghanistan’s liquidity crisis and how it is worsening the humanitarian emergency. She said her country continues to examine various options to ease the liquidity crunch.

The US ambassador said, “Ultimately, a functioning Afghan economy will require an independent and technically competent central bank that meets international banking standards. While Afghan central bank reserves held in the United States are subject to ongoing litigation, we recognize calls to examine making available reserves to help the people of Afghanistan.”

The head of the Afghan diplomatic mission to the UN, Naseer Ahmed Faiq, said he was speaking on behalf of the people of Afghanistan and civil servants, including career diplomats who worked with integrity for a common vision for the country. He underlined that he does not represent the former Government led by Ashraf Ghani, which he said lost its national and international legitimacy, nor the interest of any political group.

Faiq said, after 40 years of conflict and suffering, the aspirations of the Afghan people for peace remained no more than a dream. He noted that the past five months have seen an intensification of the dire humanitarian, political, economic and social crises in Afghanistan. He stressed that this was happening in the aftermath of shared failure and inaction by all sides, but largely due to the continuous disruption of intra-Afghan peace talks by former President Ghani and his government.

The Afghan Chargé d'affaires said the irresponsible and sudden flee of the former government from the country led to the collapse of the republic and sealed the definitive failure of the peace talks, which he said could have achieved a negotiated political settlement supported by national regional and international partners. Faiq said this also enabled the Taliban takeover, the disastrous consequences of destroying the common achievements of the past 20 years, and ended any immediate hopes for a better future in Afghanistan.

Faiq called on the Security Council to convene an international conference on Afghanistan led by the UN to hold intra-Afghan talks and start negotiations among key Afghan stakeholders, including persons not involved in corruption and criminal cases, civil servants, career diplomats, civil society, and human rights activists. The aim of the Conference would be to work on a political roadmap for the formation of an inclusive and accountable government, paving the ground for the amendment of the constitution enabling Afghan people to elect their leaders and representatives through elections.

The Afghan diplomat called for the “freezing and confiscating of all Afghan assets illegally transferred to the accounts of the former government officials who were involved in corruption and embezzlement of international aid to Afghan people.” He said, “They must be held accountable and tried. It is unfair that 28 million people are starving, and mothers sell their children to survive, but these corrupt former government officials live in luxurious houses and villas in different countries around the globe."

Faiq called on countries not to provide these officials with asylum and platforms to engage politically and stressed that this could further harm the feelings of Afghans, the country's national interest, and ultimately undermine the efforts of the international community to achieve any future political settlement in Afghanistan.
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