Thank you President,
I join others in thanking Deputy Special Representative Potzel, Ghada Waly, Executive Director, and Ms. Fawzia Koofi for their thought-provoking briefings, as well as UNAMA and the Secretary-General for his quarterly report.
As we have heard, almost 60% of the population of Afghanistan officially needs humanitarian aid, but the real need is much higher.
The World Bank projects that GDP will have contracted by a third by the end of this year, and the Taliban continue to increasingly restrict human rights and fundamental freedoms.
I cannot speak more eloquently than Fawzia Koofi about the restrictions on freedom of movement that women and girls face – the political, economic, educational and social exclusion they face.
UNICEF estimates that the ban on girls’ schooling has cost the Afghan economy at least $500 million over the past year. But the human cost for each of these Afghan girls is immeasurable.
Some members of the Council seem determined to politicize the crisis in Afghanistan, and I believe that their assertions are neither accurate nor helpful.
The UK disbursed $306 million in humanitarian and development assistance to Afghanistan in the past financial year, and we committed a further $306 million this financial year.
We are the second largest donor to the World Bank’s Afghanistan Reconstruction Fund, and we continue to work with the World Bank, IMF and others on economic stabilization.
We recognize the importance of restoring liquidity to the banking system, including a functioning central bank capable of accessing Afghanistan’s foreign reserves. But this requires an independent central bank operating transparently with professional leadership and appropriate controls in place to prevent funds being diverted to terrorism.
Simply demanding that reserves be returned before these essential steps are in place is neither responsible nor consistent with a genuine commitment to ending terrorist financing.
Humanitarian and financial assistance can be helpful, but it will not solve Afghanistan’s problems if the basic elements of stability are not in place. To do this, the Taliban must defend, rather than suppress, human rights, allow unhindered humanitarian access, respect the counter-terrorism commitments made in the Doha agreement and they must take responsibility for stabilizing the economy.
This means creating an enabling environment for greater investment, including ensuring revenue and budget transparency, and enabling women – half the population – to contribute to economic activity.
I take this opportunity to welcome the appointment of Special Representative Otunbayeva. It is vital for the future of Afghanistan that the Taliban cooperate with her and the United Nations, and we urge all members of the Council to support her in implementing UNAMA’s critical mandate.