10 Sep 2021: Afghanistan is on brink of 'universal poverty,' says UN envoy
Afghanistan is at the risk of a "total breakdown" of the economy if the international community does not immediately step in and infuse money into the country, the United Nations (UN) has warned. The war-torn country's key assets and international funding have been mostly frozen since the West-backed government's fall and the subsequent Taliban takeover. The Taliban is set to form its interim government.
Details: Millions will be pushed toward hunger and poverty: Envoy
UN special envoy on Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, told the Security Council on Thursday that millions of more Afghans may be driven toward hunger and poverty. She added the country is already facing a slew of crises, including a tumbling currency, a sharp surge in prices of food and fuel, and a lack of cash at banks.
Quote: 'The economy must be allowed to breathe'
"The economy must be allowed to breathe for a few more months, giving the Taliban a chance to demonstrate flexibility and a genuine will to do things differently this time, notably from a human rights, gender, and counter-terrorism perspective," Lyons told the 15-member UN Security Council. She, however, added that rules can be devised to ensure the funds are not misused by the Taliban.
Context: Afghanistan's assets and money blocked by the US, IMF
Nearly $10 billion of the Afghanistan central bank's assets, mostly held in the United States, were frozen after the collapse of the former's government. Further, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has also blocked the Taliban from accessing close to $440 million in emergency reserves. Notably, foreign donations contributed over 75% of the public expenditure for the Afghanistan government.
Other details: Russia and China support releasing of funds
Meanwhile, countries like Russia and China have called for the release of Afghanistan's frozen assets. "Afghanistan is on the verge of an economic collapse," warned Russia's UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, as he argued for the assets' release. "These assets belong to Afghanistan and should be used for Afghanistan, not as leverage for threats or restraints," said China's Deputy UN Ambassador Geng Shuang.
Fact: However, US sticks to its wait-and-watch policy
However, the US has maintained that any help will be extended based on the Taliban's actions. "The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support. Our message is simple - Any legitimacy and support will have to be earned," US diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis told the Security Council.
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