Deborah Lyons, who also heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, lobbied for deepening engagement with the war-torn country’s new authorities and action to prevent an irreversible economic collapse.
In her briefing to the UN security council in New York on Wednesday, Deborah Lyons, the UN secretary general’s special representative for Afghanistan spoke for engagement with the Taliban.
Suggesting that the Taliban feels misunderstood, Lyons, a career diplomat from Canada, said that the Taliban cite reduced corruption and the re-opening of schools to girls and boys. “This clash of perspectives forms the basis of a serious distrust that must be addressed,” said the Special Representative.
According to her briefing, it is now clear that truly assisting the Afghan people will be all but impossible without working with the de facto Taliban authorities.
Acknowledging the enduring distrust between the Taliban and much of the international community, Lyons said the group feels misunderstood. She said that the Taliban leadership complains that international reports “do not reflect reality as they see it”.
Civilian casualties in the war-torn country have declined by 78 per cent since the previous government was ousted, the Taliban have claimed, implying that the country is more secure. The Taliban want acknowledgement for this, Lyons said.
But she also cautioned that more needed to be done and mitigation has to be accompanied with giving hope to the Afghan people by preparing a strong foundation for Afghan self-reliance.
“It is imperative that we not find ourselves six months from now in the situation we faced six months ago: with millions of Afghans facing another winter of starvation and the only tool at our disposal being expensive and unsustainable humanitarian handouts,” her briefing to the security council reads.
In the six months since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, Afghanistan faces an economic collapse.
“Six months of indecision … are eroding vital social and economic coping systems and pushing the population into greater uncertainty,” she said, adding that, “As the winter season comes to an end, we have perhaps averted our worst fears of famine and widespread starvation.”
A looming economic tipping point awaits Afghanistan. In such an even, more businesses will close, more people will be unemployed and more families will fall into poverty. Lyons cited a cessation of all development assistance and restrictions on international payments, as well as lack of access to hard currency reserves, lack of liquidity and constraints on the Afghan central bank to carry out some of its core functions.
For its part, she said, UNAMA, continues to report on what it sees on the ground, including concerning restrictions on fundamental rights, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention.
Image: Mark Garten / UN