Afghanistan Update: “We are Operational and We Will Do More” – Aga Khan Foundation Makes Inspiring Statement at Humanitarian Conference Convened by UNSG António Guterres in Geneva on September 13

Prepared and compiled by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos)

This post was updated multiple times during the day, beginning with the announcement and link to the live coverage of the UN Conference on Afghanistan held in Geneva. We now conclude this post with a recording as well as the full text of the statement that was delivered this morning at 10:30 AM by Michael Kocher of the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) in response to the UN Secretary General’s worldwide appeal to support Afghanistan’s humanitarian needs. We regret that the first few words of the statement were not recorded. The event commenced at 8:00 AM and concluded at 1:45 PM (all times stated New York/Toronto EDT).

Featured photo at top of post: Michael Kocher, General Manager, Aga Khan Foundation, attending the Afghanistan humanitarian conference in Geneva, Palais des Nations, September 13, 2021. Photo: UN Photo/Violaine Martin.

Audio of Aga Khan Foundation Statement: AKDN Says it is Operational in Afghanistan and Asks World Community to Learn from its Experiences in the Country

Please listen to AKF Statement made at the Afghanistan High Level Ministerial Conference on September 13, 2021.

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Important note from the editor: The content of the text produced below from the AKDN website is not the exact transcript of the speech that you heard Michael Kocher deliver. Participants to the conference were frequently reminded to limit their statements to 3 minutes, and the time taken to read the speech below would have taken at least a minute longer. The (revised) speech delivered by Mr. Kocher was compact and touched on all the points that are stated in the statement below.

Speech Delivered by Michael Kocher

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network are honoured and privileged to convey our abiding commitment to the peoples of Afghanistan.

This allegiance is enduring. It is founded on the most profound respect for Afghanistan’s many traditions and the bonds of our shared humanity. AKDN’s work and its aim of improving the quality of life of all communities it seeks to serve is premised on the ethical principles of Islam, which promote peace and harmony.

With that ideal in mind, we wish to thank the United Nations for convening the international community at this critical juncture in the country’s history.

For more than three decades, we have stood with the people of Afghanistan. We take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment, which remains unshaken.

During this time, and today, we listen to and support people at the community level to help them realise their individual and collective aspirations for a better life – coming together to find solutions that are sustainable, acceptable and deliverable.

In the process, AKDN has provided life-saving medical treatment and healthcare to millions of mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers; helped educate hundreds of thousands of boys and girls; built rural infrastructure including roads, bridges, and irrigation canals; assisted families in improving household incomes; helped to preserve cultural heritage; strengthened community preparedness and resilience in the face of natural disaster and climate change; and brought connectivity and enhanced communications to many corners of the country.

Our experience teaches us that determined, transparent and inclusive engagement, led and driven by Afghans in their communities, can and does succeed. Indeed, it is the only method to bring real and lasting change.

That is a lesson we urge the international community to heed, and to act with compassion and foresight. For now is the time to engage, to stay in dialogue, and to continue on the path to mutual accommodation – to establish lasting peace, opportunity and prosperity.

Now is certainly not the time to turn our back on decades of progress. Or on the two-thirds of the country under the age of 25, a generation that has grown up under the shadow of war but with determined hopes of a better life. Their dreams and aspirations remain intact in Afghanistan, and we owe them the dignity – the promise – of standing together with them and their communities as they face the future.

For conditions are dire.

As we hear today, the economic situation in Afghanistan is bad and worsening. The banking system is non-functional. Rampant unemployment is increasing. Resources are desperately needed for food, medicine, education and other essential services. Healthcare facilities in many areas may close in a matter of days, in the midst of a pandemic. 18 million people are already in extreme need, with a similar number at risk. That suggests virtually the entire country could be without adequate healthcare, without enough food, and without sufficient livelihoods.

As a long-standing partner of Afghanistan and its people, we draw attention to the need for urgent, corresponding measures:

  • Restoring the banking system to facilitate international transfers, allowing much-needed financial support and access to markets;
  • Authorising direct support without delay to the providers of healthcare and education;
  • Arranging robust and inclusive food aid and work programmes to stave off desperation; and
  • Unblocking assistance already authorised for direct support to the Afghan population, providing relief today, as well as the tools and means to reduce dependency on such relief in the future.

We join others in underscoring that these measures be taken quickly and decisively if we are to avert a sustained crisis of shocking regionally-destabilising proportions. We urge here as well that the international community not abandon Afghanistan’s longer-term development, as the consequences of doing so would be profound.

Today we require collectively focused attention on the urgency of humanitarian action. Today and going forward, our actions must be meaningfully humane.

Thank you.

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“The Taliban takeover must not mean the end of international aid to Afghanistan” — The Guardian, UK

“Time is of the essence if the immediate balance of payments crisis is not to balloon into a catastrophe. The Americans and Europeans must exploit every legal loophole to get aid into the country. In this they will find willing partners in those international NGOs that enjoy highest prestige among ordinary Afghans, and which, through judicious handling of Taliban officials in the country’s far-flung provinces, enjoy cooperative relationships with its new rulers.

“This is the kind of aid that works: projects like those of the Aga Khan Development Network, the Bangladeshi NGO Brac and the International Rescue Committee that pride themselves on assisting Afghans to meet their own demands – for piped water, for instance, a clinic for young mothers, or a fruit tree nursery – employing mainly locals, watchful of waste and corruption, and working with whoever is in power.” — Read Christopher de Bellaigue’s article in the Guardian

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The Geneva Conference on Afghanistan

Earlier news (compiled from UN Press Release): United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called the international community to join him in Geneva, in person and virtually, on Monday September 13, 2021 to express solidarity with the people of Afghanistan and pledge tangible support to address their critical humanitarian needs.

Afghanistan’s children, women and men have faced decades of conflict and deprivation. Recent developments have increased their vulnerability. A severe drought is ruining the upcoming harvest and hunger is rising. The economy is grinding to a halt with cash in short supply. Concern for the rights of women and girls is rising. Afghans urgently need food, medicine, health services, safe water, sanitation, and protection.

UN agencies and non-governmental partners have launched a Flash Appeal seeking US$606 million for the remainder of the year to bring vital relief to 11 million people. International and Afghan humanitarian organizations are on the ground and can deliver in a rapidly changing context. They need fast and flexible funding and sustained access into and around Afghanistan. And all aid workers, including women, must be assured of their safety and freedom of movement. Swift action and support from the international community is vital to ensure humanitarians can rapidly provide basic and essential services for the Afghan people.

That is the objective of the High-level Ministerial Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan.

The event and press conference will be webcast live on UN TV commencing at 8:00 AM New York time.

For further details on UN website click HERE.

Date posted: September 13, 2021
Last updated: September 13, 2021 (01:22 PM)

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