UN will deliver aid to Afghans, but funding drying up: Guterres

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said the United Nations will stay in Afghanistan to deliver aid to millions of desperate Afghan citizens but warned that funding is drying up.

Guterres held a second day of talks with world powers in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday, saying the UN will deliver aid to desperate people despite the Taliban’s restrictions on female staff.

“We will never be silent in the face of unprecedented systemic attacks on women’s and girls’ rights,” he said.

He also warned of a severe shortfall in financial pledges for UN humanitarian appeal this year, which is just over 6% funded, falling short of the $4.6 billion requested for a country in which most of the population lives in poverty.

Ahead of the Doha meeting, Afghan women held protests against any possible recognition of the Taliban administration that returned to power in August 2021.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, however, said on Monday that it “is not up for discussion” at the talks and Guterres also stressed that the meeting had not been aimed at recognizing the Taliban’s administration.

The UN chief, however, said he was open to meeting Taliban officials when it was the “right moment to do so, but today is not the right moment.”

The meeting involved the United States, Russia, China and 20 other countries, and 20 other countries and organizations, including major European donors and neighbors such as Pakistan, but excluding the Taliban government.

Meanwhile, the head of the Taliban political office in Doha, Suhail Shaheen, warned that any meeting without the participation of their representatives “is unproductive and even sometimes counter-productive.”

“How can a decision taken at such meetings be acceptable or implemented while we are not part of the process? It is discriminatory and unjustified,” Shaheen said.

The Taliban said last month that women employed by the UN mission could no longer report for work.

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