Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

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Backing the UN can help Afghans facing a tough winter

2 min

Chatham House, 26 August 2021

… the international community must come together behind the United Nations (UN) to engage with the new administration in Kabul.

The priority tasks to focus on are releasing frozen assets, mobilizing humanitarian assistance, refocusing the UN presence in the country, and setting ground rules for future collaboration in all sectors of the economy.

The Afghan economy is being brought to its knees by the closure of banks and offices receiving remittances, a collapse in the value of the currency, shortages of food and fuel in the cities, price inflation, the disruption of trade, and the inability to pay wages.

All these dramatic shocks are taking place against a backdrop of a severe drought which has already brought acute food insecurity to one-third of the population, creating a ‘perfect storm’ needing a broad range of urgent responses which must go beyond simply increasing humanitarian assistance.

The Taliban takeover is already having severe negative economic and social consequences. Disruptions to services, administration, and to external assistance will only be exacerbated if Afghan government funds remain frozen in US banks and by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.

If the freeze continues for a lengthy period, it will cause a massive contraction in government financing, leading to the lay-off of civil servants and NGO staff, the collapse of essential services such as health and education, and the risk of hyper-inflation.


UNAMA and the international community need to work together to reformulate its mandate and restructure the mission as a means of underwriting continued international engagement. Challenges include retaining its human rights capacity and maintaining presence across Afghanistan.

But the immediate requirement is extend its mandate, strengthen staffing in critical functions, and support its role in simply ensuring Afghans can get through the coming winter with enough to eat and the support of essential basic services.