FILE PHOTO: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gestures as he attends a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon December 21, 2021 Photograph:( Reuters )
Billions of dollars worth of Afghan funds have remained frozen abroad since Taliban captured power last August. UN chief Antonio Guterres urged UNSC to authorise transactions for humanitarian aid
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday told the security council on Wednesday that Afghanistan is "hanging by a thread'. He urged countries to authorise all transactions needed to carry out humanitarian activities.
He also made a case for suspension of any rules or conditions that constricted "lifesaving" aid operations. He said millions in Afghanistan were suffering extreme hunger and education and social services were on the brink of collapse. Lack of liquidity limited capacity of the UN and aid groups to reach people in need, he said.
"We need to give financial institutions and commercial partners legal assurance that they can work with humanitarian operators without fear of breaching sanctions," said Guterres, noting that the 15-member council last month adopted a humanitarian exemption to U.N. sanctions tied to Afghanistan.
About $ 9.5 billion of Afghan central bank funds remain frozen abroad. International development support has dried up since Taliban seized power in the country last August.
"There is compelling evidence of an emerging environment of intimidation and a deterioration in respect for human rights. This suggests that the consolidation of government authority may be leading toward control of the population by fear," the U.N. special envoy on Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, told the council.
In December, donors to a frozen World Bank-administered Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund agreed to transfer $280 million to the World Food Program and UN children's agency UNICEF to support nutrition and health in Afghanistan. Guterres said the remaining $1.2 billion in the fund needed "to be freed up urgently to help Afghanistan's people survive the winter."
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the council that Washington had moved to ensure that U.S. sanctions do not impede humanitarian activity and it is examining various options to ease the liquidity crunch."
(With inputs from agencies)