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Statement at the High-level Ministerial Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan

Speeches and statements

Statement at the High-level Ministerial Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan

13 September 2021

Secretary General, Ministers, colleagues.

I speak to you from Afghanistan. I have come here this morning to express solidarity with the Afghan people and support to the United Nations and NGO colleagues that, as I have already seen, not only are staying, but also delivering and building. Following what Martin Griffiths reported about his own visit last week, I will be staying here two days and then going to Mazar-i-Sherif before leaving the country.  

Much of the focus in the last few weeks has been put on evacuating people from Afghanistan. Now is the time to pay urgent attention to the dramatic situation inside the country that has already been described. Afghans, as we all know, are masters at coping mechanisms. But today, those coping mechanisms are stretched to breaking point. Looking at it from the UNHCR perspective, the human displacement angle is already dramatic with 3.5 million internally displaced people, of whom 500,000 are recently displaced.

If you look at it from the perspective of the current crisis, I fear that the collapse of services and of the economy that has already been described as a risk, coupled with increased violence and tension, could lead to a much greater displacement; both internal and external. And this may happen very soon.

I have three concluding messages today:

First, prevent this collapse from happening. I appreciate the political complexities, but let's start with fully funded humanitarian appeals and then urgently address the more complex development and financial issues. Humanitarian action – it's already clear after a few hours that here it is possible. There are security risks, but also perhaps more security opportunities and space than in recent months and years.  And humanitarian action, as I have already experienced in my interaction with Taliban leaders, will undoubtedly open space for dialogue on more complex issues: human rights, the rights of women, women at work, education of girls, rights of minorities. If funds are given to us now and to humanitarian actors, we will scale up the response. And from the displacement perspective, this is particularly important ahead of winter.

The second message, I reiterate what Martin already said, funding has to be flexible, and it is particularly true in terms of displacement. We must be responsive as the situation changes; we may see new displacement and we may see people returning home. We have already seen about 100,000 displaced people return to their areas of origin. Please don't put us in an operational straitjacket through non-flexible funding, so that we can help Afghans wherever they are and stabilize population flows.

And finally, don't forget the refugee dimension. Don't forget the millions of Afghan refugees, the unregistered Afghans and their hosts, especially in Iran, in Pakistan, but also in Turkey, where I was just a few days ago.  Of course, should new flows unfortunately occur, I will appeal to all countries to exercise generous hospitality for people seeking asylum. But irrespective of new population flows, it is important to give help to existing refugees. This is why, in addition to the $600 million appeal being launched today, we launched several days ago a $300 million humanitarian appeal for neighboring countries. And this means funding, means vaccines – especially in Iran, means more resettlement places.

Finally, I want to reiterate my call to all states to halt deportations of Afghans at this crucial time. And, should any of them knock at your doors, show the humanity and solidarity that people, in need of protection, need at this very difficult time.

Thank you.