UK must urge global shift in Afghanistan aid, experts warn

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Experts in Britain are calling on the UK government to press the international community to broaden the definition of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan to “avert an irreversible humanitarian disaster.”

In a letter sent to The Guardian newspaper, a group of experts, including former defense, national secu-rity and foreign policy chiefs, laid out five “practical outcomes” that the UK should encourage the inter-national community to work toward.

The outcomes include meeting the UN’s appeal for humanitarian funding, preserving state delivery systems, resuming technical support to the country’s central bank to prevent economic collapse, reinstat-ing the Afghan reconstruction trust fund and releas-ing some of the frozen Afghan foreign reserves so that salaries of essential workers can be paid and key social services maintained.

“But these measures are not enough to avert an irre-versible humanitarian disaster,” the letter said, add-ing: “We believe the UK government needs to act in accordance with two fundamental principles: Af-ghan lives should not be used for political leverage; and economic and state collapse in Afghanistan is not in our own national interest.”

It called on the government to convene an urgent international conference, in partnership with the UN and key international partners, but to distinguish aid into two types: “Money that can be withheld to try to leverage political concessions from the Taliban, and money to enable government institutions to deliver basic human services and to keep the econ-omy from collapsing.”

Afghanistan’s dire humanitarian situation has wors-ened following the Taliban takeover and withdrawal of the last remaining US troops. As a result, aid was suspended and many countries and international organizations froze the country’s assets.

The World Food Program said that it urgently needs $220 million per month this year as it ramps up operations to provide food and cash assistance to the more than 23 million Afghans facing severe hunger.

“The freezing of state assets and the cut in interna-tional funding for health and education risk tipping the country into a famine not seen before in Af-ghanistan’s 40 years of conflict. Economic collapse will cause death and suffering, and increase terror-ism and migration,” the letter said.

Its authors include Valerie Amos, former UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs; Mark Lowcock, former UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs; and Mark Sedwill, former national security adviser, cabinet secretary and am-bassador to Kabul, among others.

The letter added that the proposals do not seek to give any succour to the Taliban.“Humanitarian agencies are ready and able to pay medical staff, teachers and other civil servants de-livering public services. But they need the money to do so — far more than has yet been delivered. And they need a clear political mandate from donors, not least the US,” the signatories said.—Agencies

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