NEW YORK (Dispatches) – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called for donors to pledge hundreds of millions of dollars for Afghanistan, saying that poverty was spiraling and many people could run out of food by the end of the month.
“After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, they face perhaps their most perilous hour,” he said in opening remarks at a Geneva conference where $606 million is being sought.
“The people of Afghanistan are facing the collapse of an entire country - all at once.”
Meanwhile, Qatar’s foreign minister called for “national reconciliation” in Afghanistan as a “safety valve” for the country’s stability during a meeting with his French opposite number in Doha Monday.
Qatar has long acted as a mediator on Afghanistan, hosting the Taliban’s talks with the United States under former president Donald Trump, and then with the now deposed pro-western Afghan government.
Qatar would “support all efforts that would achieve national reconciliation in Afghanistan,” said Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.
“We believe that national reconciliation is the only safety valve for Afghanistan’s stability in the future,” he added.
Sheikh Mohammed on Sunday became the most senior foreign leader to visit the Taliban government, meeting new Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund according to the Taliban.
On Monday Sheikh Mohammed said that discussions about whether the Taliban should be recognized diplomatically were redundant and the emphasis should be on engagement.
The Taliban has yet to receive formal recognition from any United Nations member state, including Qatar.
A UN official said on Monday that Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers have contradicted public promises on rights including by ordering women to stay at home, blocking teenage girls from school and holding house-to-house searches for former foes.
High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Afghanistan was in a “new and perilous phase” since the Taliban seized power last month, with many women and members of ethnic and religious communities deeply worried.
“In contradiction to assurances that the Taliban would uphold women’s rights, over the past three weeks, women have instead been progressively excluded from the public sphere,” she told the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Bachelet expressed dismay at the composition of the Taliban government, noting the absence of women and its dominance by ethnic Pashtun.