What's In Blue

Posted Wed 16 Nov 2022

Arria-formula Meeting on Afghanistan

Tomorrow (17 November) at 10 am EST, Russia will convene an Arria-formula meeting titled “Preventing Economic Collapse and Exploring Prospects for Recovery and Development in Afghanistan”. The meeting, which will take place in the Trusteeship Council chamber, is open to representatives of all UN member states and will be broadcast on UN TV. The expected briefers are Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Joyce Msuya, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific at UNDP Kanni Wignaraja, and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan Ramiz Alakbarov.

According to the concept note prepared by Russia, tomorrow’s meeting will serve as a platform for member states to discuss ways to improve the economic and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, as well as ideas to promote the country’s future development and self-reliance. The concept note says that developments in the country since 2021, including the withdrawal of foreign troops and the Taliban’s ascension to power, have not solved long-standing problems, instead bringing about new challenges and threats. It argues that the unprecedented humanitarian crisis and the paralysed banking system have limited the prospects for post-conflict reconstruction and future socio-economic development in Afghanistan.

The dire humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has been a major focus of Council discussions. A 5 October UNDP report, titled “One Year in Review: Afghanistan Since August 2021”, notes that last year’s economic shock precipitated a sharp contraction in the licit economy, leading to a loss of $5 billion in 12 months. It also says that a freeze on $9 billion in foreign assets and international sanctions have led to a severe liquidity crisis. The report notes that the price of the food basket has increased by 35 percent on average, warning that this may further increase food insecurity and poverty. According to the report, nearly 20 million Afghans are classified as being under high and critical levels of food insecurity, almost twice the average in the preceding three years.

While united in expressing concern about the deleterious effects of the humanitarian crisis on civilians, Council members are divided about steps to address the situation, particularly regarding engagement with the Taliban. Some members, such as France, the US, and other like-minded states, take the view that the Taliban must adhere to international standards if it wants to obtain international recognition and receive economic and development aid from the international community. Russia, on the other hand, argues that the international community should provide development assistance to the Taliban administration without conditions.

During the Council’s latest meeting (S/PV.9137) on Afghanistan, which took place on 27 September, Russia said that “it is important to maintain dialogue with the new authorities while refraining from using blackmail”, while China called on the international community not to politicise humanitarian and economic issues. Both members also called for the unfreezing of Afghan assets overseas.

At that meeting, several members—including Ireland and the UK—argued that the Taliban must take responsibility for stabilising the economy. These members, together with members such as Mexico, also noted the importance of allowing women to contribute to economic activity in Afghanistan. In this regard, Ireland said that Taliban actions are hindering the work of UN agencies and non-governmental organisations working to provide aid and called on the Taliban to ensure unimpeded humanitarian access and to guarantee the safety and security of humanitarian workers. These members may reiterate these messages at tomorrow’s meeting.

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