January 13, 2022
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the international community to immediately inject liquidity into the Afghan economy and ensure the country’s central bank is preserved as millions face starvation and death.
The global community, led by the United States, since the collapse of Kabul has made extensive efforts to bypass the Taliban in delivering humanitarian funding in Afghanistan as the economy implodes. However, many have argued that standing by while the central bank falls is not an option with inflation soaring and the country’s GDP in a nosedive.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization recently warned that some one million Afghan children could die without aid.
“The function of Afghanistan’s central bank must be preserved and assisted, and a path identified for conditional release of Afghan foreign currency reserves,” Guterres said in remarks to the press in New York on Thursday. “We must do even more to rapidly inject liquidity into the economy and avoid a meltdown that would lead to poverty, hunger and destitution for millions.”
Earlier, Afghan central bank board member Shah Mehrabi in an interview with Al Bawaba slammed U.S. sanctions he said have helped exacerbate the financial crisis.
“It’s critical to allow the central bank of Afghanistan to bring price stability and reduce the volatility and increase the appreciation of the Afghani currency versus the dollar,” Mehrabi said. “[Also] to allow businesses access to reserves to pay for essential imports. Limited, monitored and conditional access to $150 million per month will allow the [Afghan] Central Bank to maintain its main objective of price stability.”
U.S. sanctions have also led to Afghani currency falling out of print, according to the report. A Polish company contracted to print the notes ceased operations out of fear of getting hit with the Biden administration’s sanctions, the Middle East news site said.
The UN chief during his remarks noted that the organization launched its largest ever humanitarian appeal for a single country – the size reflecting Afghanistan’s “scale of despair.”
“Babies being sold to feed their siblings. Freezing health facilities overflowing with malnourished children. People burning their possessions to keep warm… More than half the population of Afghanistan now depends on life-saving assistance,” Guterres said. “This situation, without a more concerted effort from the international community, will mean that virtually every man, woman and child in Afghanistan could face acute poverty.”
The UN humanitarian and refugee response for Afghanistan, he added, will require over $5 billion this year alone. The aid is sorely needed to ramp up life-saving food and agriculture support, health services, and emergency shelter, among other urgent needs.
Guterres also called for lifting restrictions on aid, alluding to the U.S. and Western countries’ attempts to make sure the Taliban regime is circumvented and assistance reaches Afghans.
“Rules and conditions that prevent money from being used to save lives and the economy must be suspended in this emergency situation,” Guterres said. “This kind of support for essential state functions will give Afghans hope for the future and reason to stay in their country.”
The UN chief said he welcomes the Security Council’s adoption of a “humanitarian exception” to the United Nations sanctions regime for Afghanistan.
“This provides financial institutions and commercial actors with legal assurances to engage with humanitarian operators, without fear of breaching sanctions,” he said.
Last month, as the UN chief pointed out, the World Bank unfroze $280 million in Afghan government funding and transferred it to UNICEF and the World Food Program. Guterres hopes the remaining $1.2 billion will become available to help the Afghan people survive the winter.
He did say the UN stands ready to work with member states and NGOs to put accountable systems in place to ensure funds are not improperly diverted.
“The United Nations stands ready to cooperate and support the Afghan de facto authorities in making this possible with the greatest urgency,” Guterres said.
The UN leader also called on the Taliban leadership to protect fundamental human rights including the rights of women and girls. In addition, he said every effort must be made to build inclusive government institutions that “promote security and fight terrorism.”
“Without creative, flexible and constructive engagement by the international community, Afghanistan’s economic situation will only worsen,” Guterres warned. “Despair and extremism will grow.”
After his prepared remarks, when asked about the United States’ “moral duty” with respect to aid distribution, the UN leader said the U.S. has a very important role to play because most of the global financial system operates in dollars and a meaningful volume of funds are frozen in the United States.
Evidence has emerged, however, that the Taliban might have an opportunity to, once again, exploit American taxpayer dollars. One nonprofit group, Save Our Allies, told FOX News that some $300 million in USAID funding will be “going into the wrong hands.”