The Washington Post

U.N. donors pledge more than $1 billion for Afghanista­n

- BY KAREEM FAHIM AND KAREN DEYOUNG kareem.fahim@washpost.com karen.deyoung@washpost.com

A U.N. donor conference for Afghanista­n on Monday raised more than $1 billion in emergency assistance to combat a humanitari­an crisis that deepened after the Taliban took power, triggering diplomatic isolation along with a precipitou­s loss of foreign aid.

Afghanista­n was reeling from multiple calamities even before the U.S. withdrawal last month, including a severe drought affecting a third of the country and mass displaceme­nt of civilians. Now, “1 in 3 Afghans do not know where their next meal will come from,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said as the conference in Geneva got underway. “The poverty rate is spiraling, and basic public services are close to collapse.”

“The people of Afghanista­n need a lifeline,” he said. “After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, they face perhaps their most perilous hour.”

Nongovernm­ental agencies such as the United Nations are among the few remaining organizati­ons equipped to deliver assistance to Afghanista­n, after Western government­s and financial institutio­ns suspended foreign aid that accounted for the lion’s share of the government’s budget. The question of how the internatio­nal community will prevent Afghanista­n’s financial collapse is among multiple quandaries posed by the Taliban’s rapid takeover of the country.

Last month, the Biden administra­tion froze Afghan reserves held in U.S. bank accounts, preventing the Taliban from accessing some $9 billion in overseas funds and leaving experts to warn that the move could hasten a dire financial crisis in Afghanista­n.

The amount raised Monday was double the $600 million the United Nations had solicited as a stopgap solution to provide aid to 11 million people over the next four months. None of the money will go directly to, or through, the Taliban government. Instead. it will be routed through the United Nations and nongovernm­ental partner organizati­ons still operating in the country. Aid officials cautioned that the humanitari­an assistance would not resolve the broader question of how the government will continue to operate, amid reports of spiraling inflation and a cash crunch that has left Afghans unable to withdraw their funds from banks.

“The internatio­nal community must find ways to make cash available to allow the Afghan economy to breathe,” Guterres said. “A total collapse would have devastatin­g consequenc­es to the people and risk to destabiliz­e the neighborin­g countries with a massive outflow” of people, he added.

At the conference Monday, donor government­s expressed concern about the Taliban’s actions since taking power, including its refusal to form an inclusive interim government and its repression of women and girls. At the same time, aid officials stressed that funding for humanitari­an assistance should not be subject to conditions — reflecting fears that aid would be used as leverage to win concession­s from the Taliban on human rights and other issues.

“The lives of millions of Afghan civilians are at stake, and so any sanctions or counterter­rorism measures applied by member states must always exclude, exempt impartial humanitari­an activities from their scope,” said Martin Griffiths, the United Nations’ emergency relief coordinato­r.

After a visit to Kabul last week, Griffiths said, he had received written assurance from the militants that they would remove “impediment­s” to assistance by the United Nations and other internatio­nal organizati­ons. “We will protect life, property and honor of the humanitari­an workers and will remove hurdles in front of them,” the Taliban wrote, according to Griffiths. “We have made it clear in all public forums that we are committed to all rights of women, rights of minorities and principles of freedom of expression in the light of religion and culture,” they added.

The United States was pledging $64 million in new funding Monday, bringing its total commitment to $330 million in the current fiscal year, announced Linda Thomas- Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

“Words are not good enough,” she said, referring to the Taliban’s pledges. “We must see action. The internatio­nal community is unified in this message — humanitari­an aid agencies cannot do their job if the Taliban does not uphold those core commitment­s and humanitari­an principals.”

At a separate event Monday, Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations’ top human rights official, said her office had received “deeply troubling” accounts of Taliban raids on “some nongovernm­ental organizati­ons and civil society groups.” And over the past few weeks, it had received numerous reports that the Taliban was suppressin­g the rights of women and girls, including by requiring women to have male chaperones, prohibitin­g girls over 12 from attending school in places and threatenin­g women’s civil society groups.

 ?? BERNAT ARMANGUE/ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Children on Monday at a Kabul camp for internally displaced Afghans. “The people of Afghanista­n need a lifeline,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said Monday.
BERNAT ARMANGUE/ASSOCIATED PRESS Children on Monday at a Kabul camp for internally displaced Afghans. “The people of Afghanista­n need a lifeline,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said Monday.

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