UN will stay in Afghanistan but funding is drying up, chief says

UN will stay in Afghanistan but funding is drying up, chief says
The UN has warned that it was running low on funds for humanitarian aid to millions of Afghans.
2 min read
The Taliban has banned women from working with the UN [Getty]

The United Nations will stay in Afghanistan to deliver aid to millions of desperate Afghans despite the Taliban's restrictions on its female staff, but funding is drying up, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday.

Guterres, speaking to the media after a meeting of envoys from more than 20 countries in Doha to discuss a common international approach to Afghanistan, also said concerns over the country's stability were growing.

"We stay and we deliver and we are determined to seek the necessary conditions to keep delivering ... participants agreed on the need for a strategy of engagement," Guterres said.

The ban on female Afghan U.N. staff signalled by Taliban authorities last month was a violation of human rights, he said.

"We will never be silent in the face of unprecedented systemic attacks on women's and girls' rights," he said.

Threatening or further isolating Taliban authorities is not a pragmatic approach for countries seeking to alleviate Afghanistan's humanitarian crises or to ease restrictions on women and girls, said Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, who attended the envoys' meeting.

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"What's the alternative? That's my question to those who claim that (disengagement) is even possible," she told Reuters in an interview, adding that threats towards the Taliban since it took control of Afghanistan 20 months ago have made the movement "more ideological."

"The ordinary 40 million Afghan people ... are on the receiving end of the reality that your decisions created. And we know that in the last 20 months, no one seems to have helped them very well," she said.

Guterres warned of a severe shortfall in financial pledges for its humanitarian appeal this year, which is just over 6% funded, falling short of the $4.6 billion requested for a country in which most of the population lives in poverty.

He stressed the meeting had not been aimed at recognising the Taliban's administration - which no country has formally done. He said he was open to meeting Taliban officials when it was the "right moment to do so, but today is not the right moment".

The Taliban administration says it respect women's rights in accordance with their interpretation of Islamic law and that Afghanistan's territory would not be used for militancy or violence against other nations.