The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has pledged to set up a humanitarian trust fund for Afghanistan as millions face hunger and poverty.
The crisis is causing alarm with billions of dollars in aid and assets frozen by the international community after the Taliban takeover of the country in August this year.
“Unless action is taken immediately, Afghanistan is heading for chaos,” Prime Minister Imran Khan, of Pakistan – which is holding the summit, told a meeting of foreign ministers from the OIC.
“Any government when it can’t pay its salaries for its public servants, hospitals, doctors, nurses, any government is going to collapse but chaos suits no one, it certainly does not suit the United States.”
1️⃣: @OIC_OCI to establish a Humanitarian Trust Fund, under the aegis of the @isdb_group, to serve as a vehicle to channel humanitarian assistance to #Afghanistan including in partnership with other international actors. pic.twitter.com/Ckw5EUGnYq
— Spokesperson 🇵🇰 MoFA (@ForeignOfficePk) December 19, 2021
An OIC resolution released after the meeting said the Islamic Development Bank would lead the effort to free up assistance by the first quarter of 2022.
It also urged Afghanistan’s rulers to abide by “obligations under international human rights covenants, especially with regards to the rights of women, children, youth, elderly and people with special needs”.
The OIC meeting did not give the new Taliban government any formal international recognition and Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi was excluded from the official photograph taken during the event.
Muttaqi said his government “has the right to be officially recognised”.
“The current Afghanistan government is cooperating with every foreign organisation,” he told reporters, adding that sanctions “must be removed”.
In a speech to delegates, he said the US freezing of assets “is a clear violation of the human rights of Afghans, and can be interpreted as enmity with an entire nation”.
Economy in ‘free fall’
While some countries and organisations have begun delivering aid, a near-collapse of the country’s banking system has complicated their work.
United Nations’ Undersecretary-General on Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths was also present at the OIC meeting and warned that Afghanistan’s economy was “now in free fall”.
“If we don’t act decisively and with compassion, I fear this fall will pull the entire population with it,” he said in his remarks.
I am encouraged by the support for the people of Afghanistan and the sense of urgency voiced unanimously by OIC member states today.
My remarks: https://t.co/dYuLLxqGbi
— Martin Griffiths (@UNReliefChief) December 19, 2021
“Twenty-three million people are already facing hunger; health facilities are overflowing with malnourished children; some 70 percent of teachers are not getting paid and millions of children, Afghanistan’s future are out of school.”
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said unlocking financial and banking channels was essential “because the economy can’t function and people can’t be helped without a banking system”.
Beyond immediate aid, Afghanistan needs help ensuring longer-term economic stability.
Much will depend on whether Washington is willing to unfreeze billions of dollars in central bank reserves and lift sanctions that have caused many institutions and governments to shy away from direct dealings with the Taliban.
Muttaqi reiterated the Taliban would not allow Afghanistan to be used as a base for attacks on other countries and he said no reprisals would be carried out against officials of the former government.
However, the Taliban has faced heavy criticism for keeping women and girls out of employment and education and excluding broad sections of Afghan society from government.
They have also been accused of trampling on human rights and, despite their promise of amnesty, targeting officials of the former administration.