• Foreign ministers call for unfreezing of Kabul’s financial resources by US
• Imran warns Afghanistan is facing ‘the biggest man-made crisis’
• Saudi Arabia to provide $265m in aid
• Taliban delegation attends conference as observer
ISLAMABAD: Amidst calls for urgent help for Afghanistan that is faced with a dire humanitarian situation, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Sunday set up a Humanitarian Trust Fund and Food Security Programme for dealing with the rapidly aggravating crisis.
The 57-member Muslim bloc, which is also the world’s second-largest multilateral forum, in a communiqué adopted at the end of the extraordinary session of its Council of Foreign Ministers said it “will play a leading role in the delivery of humanitarian and development aid to the people of Afghanistan”.
The foreign ministers’ meeting had been convened to discuss and prepare a strategy for dealing with the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, whose more than half of the population, nearly 22.8 million people, was faced with an acute food shortage. It is estimated by the UN agencies that 3.2m children were at the risk of acute malnutrition.
The OIC would set up Humanitarian Trust Fund and Food Security Programme, besides appointing the body’s Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Ambassador Tarig Ali Bakheet as special envoy of the OIC secretary general for Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi announced at a media conference at the end of the conference along with OIC Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha.
Ahead of the meeting there were expectations that the participants of the forum would make pledges and agree on a financial vehicle for channeling assistance to Afghanistan that has been disconnected from the international financial system following the Taliban takeover because of sanctions against the new regime and collapse of the banking system. The absence of financial channels was making it difficult for donors to send relief money to Afghanistan.
Other than Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia Faisal bin Farhan saying the kingdom would provide one billion Saudi riyals ($265 million) in assistance to Afghanistan and Mr Qureshi recalling that Pakistan had committed $30m for helping the Afghans, there were hardly any other pledges.
The Fund to be managed by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) would be made operational by March next year. It would function in collaboration with other international actors.
Foreign Minister Qureshi said the Fund would act as a channel for delivering humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.
The OIC member states, Islamic financial institutions, donors and other international partners were urged in the communiqué to announce pledges to the Fund.
The OIC Secretariat, IDB and Fund officials would, moreover, negotiate with the UN bodies for unlocking the financial and banking channels so that aid could be disbursed among the people of Afghanistan.
The OIC foreign ministers called for unfreezing of Afghanistan’s financial resources by the United States for preventing collapse of the economic system and revival of the economic activity.
Ambassador Bakheet has been mandated to coordinate relief efforts, besides pursuing economic and political engagement with Afghanistan. He would be assisted in his role by the OIC mission in Kabul, which is also being strengthened through provision of additional human, financial and logistical resources.
The Food Security Programme would, meanwhile, be established by Islamic Organisation for Food Security using its own food security reserves. OIC member states, international donors, UN funds and programmes and other international actors were asked to contribute to the food programme.
At the inaugural session, Prime Minister Imran Khan warned of impending “chaos” in Afghanistan. He said instability in Afghanistan would not be in anyone’s interest as it could lead to refugee exodus from the war-ravaged country and heightened terrorism threat particularly from the militant Islamic State group.
Mr Khan said it was OIC members’ religious duty to help Afghanistan, adding that failing to extend a helping hand to the Afghans could result in “the biggest man-made crisis”. He also asked Washington to be mindful of the plight to 40m Afghans instead of blocking the funds because of Taliban rule.
Referring to the world’s conditions for engagement with the Taliban, the prime minister urged the international community to be “sensitive” to Afghan culture and values while asking the new regime to deliver on human rights and women rights. He pointed out that Afghanistan is culturally different from others for being a conservative society.
Foreign Minister Qureshi proposed a “six-point framework” for the OIC to deal with the crisis. The proposal included creation of a financial vehicle for channeling aid, increasing investment in people of Afghanistan, facilitating Afghanistan’s access to legitimate banking services and easing the liquidity challenge there, enhancing food security, building capacity of Afghan institutions in countering terrorism and combating illicit trade in narcotics, and engaging with the Taliban on world’s expectations.
OIC Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha called on all stakeholders in Afghanistan to cooperate with the OIC mission in Kabul to provide relief to the affected Afghan people. “The OIC is ready to carry out a follow-up of the outcome and to play its role in supporting humanitarian action in coordination with the relevant OIC missions and relief agencies across the Muslim world,” he said.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths, who was representing Secretary General António Guterres at the conference, underscored the gravity of the situation, saying Afghanistan’s economy was in “free fall”. He said that if the international community failed to act “decisively and with compassion”, Afghanistan’s entire population could be “pulled down” into poverty and misery.
The UN official asked the international community to give more than just humanitarian assistance. Donor funding, he said, should cover salaries for public sector workers and support basic services such as health, education, electricity and livelihoods. He also urged “constructive engagement” with Taliban authorities as the “de facto” government over the world’s expectations from them.
The UN official warned that failure to help Afghanistan risks the collapse of the country.
Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, speaking at the plenary session, reassured the international community of Taliban’s commitment to human rights, women rights and forming an inclusive government as their “duty”.
The Taliban delegation attended the meeting as observer for lacking international recognition, while Afghanistan’s seat at the conference remained vacant.
Published in Dawn, December 20th, 2021