At the conclusion of a five-day visit to Afghanistan, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has urged the international community to remain committed to the country at this critical juncture, and called for greater support for Afghan refugees, internally displaced and returnees ahead of a donor pledging conference in Geneva on 23 and 24 November.
During his visit to Kabul and to the provinces of Bamyan and Parwan, Grandi met President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, First Vice-President Amurallah Saleh, government ministers, provincial governors, and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation. He also spoke with communities and families affected by the conflict as well as with groups of returnees.
Grandi said that the current, upward trend of violence – killing, maiming, terrorizing and displacing Afghan civilians every day as exemplified once again by Saturday’s attack in Kabul – must be stopped immediately. He stressed that a peace agreement – provided it truly safeguarded the security, welfare and rights of all women and men in Afghanistan – was the urgently necessary outcome of the current intra-Afghan talks. Such an agreement is indispensable to end a conflict which not only devastates lives but also continues to be the main cause of forced displacement.
He added that the future of millions of Afghans depends both on a successful outcome of peace talks as well as on the commitment of the international community to the country’s development, expressing hope that the upcoming Geneva Conference would be an opportunity to express that commitment in tangible, sustainable ways.
“Failure on either account,” he said, “would see Afghanistan slide backwards with disastrous consequences, including further displacement possibly on a large scale. We have seen this happen several times in past decades. This disastrous scenario would require the mobilization of substantial humanitarian assistance under the most challenging security and logistical circumstances.”
He recalled that nearly 300,000 Afghans have been internally displaced due to conflict in 2020 alone. They remain in acute need of humanitarian support, as do the nearly three million previously displaced and the nine million people who have lost their livelihoods due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
In this context, he reiterated UNHCR’s intention to work with the Afghan government, UN agencies, civil society and other partners in the search for lasting solutions for the internally displaced and returning refugees, building on current legislative and operational initiatives.
The High Commissioner also recalled that after more than 40 years, Afghan refugees continue to make up one of the largest and most protracted displacement situations under UNHCR’s mandate. This must not be forgotten as the future of Afghanistan is discussed – rather, the prolonged nature of the crisis should prompt intensified efforts to support the refugees, and the host communities in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan that have generously accommodated them for over four decades.
Grandi stressed UNHCR’s continued commitment to the 2.4 million registered Afghan refugees remaining in countries of asylum in the region. He highlighted initiatives to facilitate their voluntary return and sustainable reintegration under a regional strategy led by Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan with the support of UNHCR, donor countries and international development institutions, that aims at finding solutions for refugees and providing support to host countries.
“Amidst all the challenges confronting Afghanistan today,” he said, “I was encouraged to see first-hand the renewed commitment of the Afghan government, including the support for concrete projects in priority areas of return to help reintegrate returnees and displaced people.’’
Grandi praised ongoing bilateral discussions to provide documentation to all Afghans living in Iran and Pakistan, and said they must continue and receive support as the three governments strive to regulate population movements in ways that are humane, just, secure and effective – to the benefit of all three countries concerned.
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