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Pakistan minister urges border officials to treat Afghans with respect

(Last Updated On: June 21, 2023)

The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva said on Wednesday that the bans affecting women and girls in the country were “obscuring” some of the other more positive achievements that have taken place under the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA).

She said UNAMA continues to face a “complicated situation in Afghanistan,” and that restrictions against Afghan women working for the United Nations places a question mark over the organization’s activities across the country.

Briefing the UN Security Council, Otunbayeva said: “We have been given no explanations by the de facto authorities for this ban and no assurances that it will be lifted.”

She stated UNAMA will not put their national female staff in danger, and therefore have stopped them from reporting to work since the ban was imposed in April. All male national staff performing non-essential tasks are also still at home.

Otunbayeva went on to say, the UN in Afghanistan is “steadfast” over their decision that “female national staff will not be replaced by male national staff as some de facto authorities have suggested.”

She said: “The Taliban (Islamic Emirate) ask to be recognized by the United Nations and its members, but at the same time they act against the key values expressed in the United Nations Charter.”

On positive changes identified, she said: “One of these is the growing evidence that the Taliban’s ban on opium cultivation, announced in April last year, has been effectively enforced in many parts of the country. According to initial media reports, cultivation of opium has significantly decreased.”

She added however that at the same time, the opium economy has helped sustain parts of the rural economy in Afghanistan. “Donors should consider allocating funding to alternative livelihood programmes that address the specific needs of farmers affected by the ban,” she said.

Otunbayeva also pointed out that the Afghan economy remains stable, albeit at a low equilibrium and that according to the World,
inflation is declining and the exchange rate remains steady.

“In part this is due to the welcome reduction of high-level corruption. The de facto authorities continue to report the collection of sufficient revenues to finance government operations, including paying civil service salaries,” she said.

However, this macro-economic stability, coexists with severe household poverty. She said 58 percent of households struggle to satisfy basic needs and that humanitarian efforts continue to address the needs of the nearly 20 million people.

She warned that given the drop in donor funding, United Nations cash shipments, required for humanitarian operations, are expected to decrease.

She went on to say that the IEA is making concerted counter-terrorism efforts, particularly with Daesh. Despite this, attacks have taken place, she said.

Otunbayeva also stated that while the end of the armed conflict has greatly reduced the number of civilian casualties since the IEA came to power, the United Nations Mine Action Service in Afghanistan estimates around 100 casualties per month from unexploded ordnance.

According to her, UNAMA is “greatly concerned by Afghanistan’s vulnerability to climate change. Years of drought have compounded the effects of conflict and poverty. Climate change is fostering population displacements inside Afghanistan that could be destabilizing,” she said adding that in order to address Afghanistan’s lack of water and consequent food insecurity, the IEA has begun digging a canal that will divert waters from the northern Amu Darya river, raising the concerns of neighboring countries.

“Overall the need to mitigate the effects of climate change requires a more specific dialogue between the de facto authorities and the international community,” she said.