US proposes one-year humanitarian aid plan for Afghanistan at UN

AFP , Tuesday 21 Dec 2021

The United States Monday submitted a new draft resolution to the UN Security Council on facilitating humanitarian aid to Afghanistan while keeping it out of Taliban hands, after abandoning an earlier proposal under pressure from China.

US
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to reporters during a press briefing at the US Department of State in Washington, DC, on December 21. 2021. AFP

After a first draft was rejected by US rivals China and Russia, but also India, France and Britain, Washington submitted a new version seen by AFP to the 15-member council, which could vote on the resolution soon, according to diplomatic sources.

Veto-wielding Beijing's objections were not immediately clear.

The new draft says "that for a period of one year, humanitarian assistance and other activities that support basic human needs in Afghanistan are not a violation of" the 2015 resolution 2255 that imposed sanctions on Taliban-related entities.

"The processing and payment of funds, other financial assets or economic resources, and the provision of goods and services necessary to ensure the timely delivery of such assistance or to support such activities are permitted," the draft reads.

The international community has struggled over how to avert a humanitarian catastrophe amid economic meltdown in Afghanistan since the Taliban swept back to power in mid-August, prompting the United States to freeze $9.5 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank.

The text "strongly encourages providers" of humanitarian assistance "to minimize the accrual of any benefits" whether directly or indirectly by sanctioned individuals or entities.

Earlier in the day, China, supported by fellow permanent Security Council member Russia, had blocked an initial US plan to authorize case-by-case exemptions to sanctions for humanitarian purposes.

"Humanitarian aid and life-saving assistance must be able to reach the Afghan people without any hindrance," China's UN Ambassador, Zhang Jun, said in a tweet Monday. "Artificially created conditions or restrictions are not acceptable."

The new US draft deletes an entire paragraph relating to a case-by-case exemption mechanism in response to Beijing's criticism.

The decision to limit the scope of the resolution to one year, which was not part of the first draft, aims to satisfy Washington's European allies, who, like India, had criticized the absence of any deadline and called for strict control over the destination of aid ,another added element.

There was no immediate comment from the US mission to the UN.

'We need a lot more' 

Such a resolution should allow humanitarian workers who "need to work with and have financial transactions with ministries run by" sanctioned individuals to avoid violations, a diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

After the Taliban takeover, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank also suspended activities in Afghanistan, withholding aid as well as $340 million in new reserves issued by the IMF in August.

On December 10, the World Bank said international donors agreed to release $280 million to UNICEF and the World Food Programme for Afghanistan.

But a UN official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said much more was needed.

"We need a lot more of the funding that's been frozen at the bank released and we need donors to contribute."

UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths, emphasized the urgent "need for liquidity and stabilization of the banking system" on Sunday at a ministerial meeting in neighboring Pakistan, "not only to save the lives of the Afghan people but also to enable humanitarian organizations to respond."

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