This is Not the Time to Turn Our Backs on The Afghans: Lyons

Lyons said the international community should remain engaged to stop further deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held a meeting on Afghanistan on Wednesday in which the UN Secretary General’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, briefed the participants on the situation in Afghanistan.

Lyons touched upon a number of issues including the unfolding humanitarian crisis, increase in Daesh attacks, the needs for formation of an inclusive government and urged the international community to engage with the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan to prevent the further deterioration of the situation.

Lyons said the Islamic Emirate wants to be recognized by the international community, and that they continue to seek ways to overcome the major trust deficit between them and the international community. Lyons said, the Islamic Emirate has started funding some pressing issues. “In terms of governance, they have begun to raise revenues from customs and have used some of these revenues to begin addressing pressing issues such as paying partially the civil service salaries,” she said.

According to Lyons, the Islamic Emirate have said they respect women’s rights and are working on a nation-wide policy so that the right to girls’ education be exercised across the country, but they have said they need time for that. “While the de facto authorities had initially assured the protection of women’s rights within Islamic law, including education, there has been a general curtailment of Afghan women and girls’ fundamental rights and freedoms,” she said. “These range from limiting their right to work to the absence of women from major decision-making fora and from senior echelons of the civil service.”

Lyons said the UN will continue to call for a more inclusive government that reflects Afghanistan’s diversity, although there had been limited progress on this issue so far. “The composition of the caretaker cabinet, so called by the Taliban themselves, the composition of this cabinet remains entirely male.”

The UN envoy said the overall security situation has indeed improved in the country but there are incidents impacting the life of the Afghans.

According to Lyons, the activities of Daesh has increased in Afghanistan this year compared to last year. “Once limited to a few provinces and Kabul, ISILKP now seems to be present in nearly all provinces and increasingly active. The number of attacks has increased significantly, from last year to this year. In 2020 – 60, so far this year – 334 attacks attributed to ISILKP or, in fact, claimed by ISILKP,” she said.

She said the Islamic Emirate however is making genuine efforts to present itself as a government.

Another big problem Lyons pointed to is the humanitarian catastrophe which she said is preventable. According to her, the financial sanction has paralyzed the banking system and Afghanistan’s GDP has contracted by an estimated 40 percent. The financial problem has affected every economic and normal life activities. “As we move into winter and households consume their very limited food stocks we fear and predict that up to 23 million Afghans will be in crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity,” she said.

Lyons thanked the donor countries for pledging and providing aid to the people of Afghanistan, adding that by the third quarter of this year, the humanitarian organizations have reached close to 10 and a half million people with assistance across the country. She said the aid is not enough and the international community should provide more aid to the people to Afghanistan.

“I must report that the reality of the current situation threatens to heighten the risk of extremism. The continued deterioration of the formal economy will provide impetus to the informal economy, including illicit drugs, arms flows and human trafficking. The ongoing paralysis of the banking sector will push more of the financial system into unaccountable and unregulated informal money exchanges which can only help facilitate terrorism, trafficking, and further drug smuggling,” she said.

Lyons pointing to the regional meetings on Afghanistan said the region is concerned about the situation in Afghanistan and have held meetings for providing support. According to her, in all the meetings held so far in Tehran, Islamabad, Moscow and New Delhi, the participants have stressed for stability in Afghanistan, combating illegal drug-trafficking, a more inclusive government, the need for girls’ education and respect for human rights. She said these meeting shows the importance of stability in Afghanistan for the regional countries.

Lyons said these demands can be achieved through continued engagement of the international community with Afghanistan and a continued and meaningful dialogue between the Islamic Emirate with other Afghans and the region. According to her, UNAMA is well-positioned to facilitate such dialogues.

Lyons urged for the international community’s engagement with Afghanistan to prevent a deterioration in situation in Afghanistan. “This is not the time to turn our backs on the Afghan people. If we do, our collective failure will resonate for decades—as will the pain of millions of Afghans,” she said.

This is Not the Time to Turn Our Backs on The Afghans: Lyons