Delivered By: Her Excellency Lana Nusseibeh, Ambassador and Permanent Representative
Thank you to the Russian Federation for convening us today to discuss the state of the Afghan economy and thank you to the really excellent briefers for very sobering updates but that were also very detailed and practical in terms of the asks and the suggestions for us as a Security Council.
As we’ve heard today, the economic outlook for Afghanistan continues to be extremely dire, and it’s also clear that this is exacerbating the risks of a humanitarian catastrophe and preventing a sustainable recovery. The economy, as we’ve heard, has shrunk by 20 to 30 percent since the Taliban’s takeover last year, which has meant the loss of countless jobs and livelihoods. And according to the World Bank figures, up to 70 percent of the population now cannot afford food and other basic necessities, so it is clear, as the last slide of that presentation showed, that Afghanistan now has one of the most in need populations globally and we need to remain focused on that. So thank you again for highlighting our focus on that as a Council.
So for over a year now practically, we’ve been talking about the need to increase liquidity in the economy. The lack of access to fresh banknotes has led to a decrease in the availability of cash, which is a serious constraint on trading and business for any economy, but even more so for a country like Afghanistan that runs primarily on cash. The UAE is pleased that there is finally some good news in this respect with the deal last week between the Afghan Central Bank and a private firm to deliver new banknotes in the amount of 10 billion Afghanis. The arrival of new banknotes is a welcome development that will make it possible for people to purchase food and other necessities. We appreciate the efforts of the US Treasury and the United States and others to facilitate this outcome. And many of these kinds of actions are needed in order to reduce as much as possible the unintended impact of sanctions on the people of Afghanistan.
But, let us also be honest. This latest injection of liquidity still pales in comparison to the more than 1 billion US dollars of cash that had to be transferred into Afghanistan by the UN in the past year to avoid a complete collapse of the economy and mass starvation. And we know that trying to sustain an economy by importing cash and humanitarian aid cannot be a long-term model, as we’ve also heard here today.
Revitalizing the Afghan economy is the only pathway for sustainable recovery towards a more prosperous Afghanistan, but achieving this goal hinges in large part on the policy decisions of the de facto authorities. They need to create an environment where investors want to invest, where businesses want to trade, and where a workforce is educated and capable enough to make all this happen. Currently, as we know, there are considerable gaps in this respect.
Firstly, the Afghan economy, and the whole society, will never revive without the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women in economic and public spheres. I think we heard the UNDP figures that 1 billion dollars has been lost from the Afghan economy just by their non-participation, and it strikes me that’s exactly the amount we’ve just injected in as part of our liquidity drive. So women’s absence from the economy not only strains household incomes and impacts the quality of life of families, but also fuels dysfunction throughout the entire economy. Women had previously made up about a quarter of the workforce in Afghanistan, but we know that has sharply decreased as a direct result of the various policy decisions recently, and without this pipeline of educated women that are ready to fill jobs across all sectors, the Afghan economy will never reach the economic growth and productivity it needs to support its own people. So we have to all urging the de facto authorities to reverse their unjustified and self-defeating restriction on women and girls, including on their participation in the workforce and access to education. And we were really saddened to hear last week also about the latest wave of restrictions on women and girls by eliminating their access to gyms and amusement parks. Not only does this deprive women of freedom, but it also robs children of their childhood. It’s also just another shameful imposition of structures hostile to women that we must all publicly reject and has no basis in Islamic faith.
Secondly, security is a fundamental prerequisite of an environment that is conducive to investment and business. We repeat what we have said countless times before: Afghanistan must never again be a safe haven for terrorist groups. The de facto authorities need to step up its efforts to ensure that. Containing the threat posed by Da’esh-Khorasan, Al-Qaida, and other terrorist organizations is not just an expectation of the international community, it’s a prerequisite to ensure stability and promote economic growth.
And third, sound economic management, transparent regulations, prudent budgetary planning, and independent oversight of the Afghan Central Bank and other institutions are fundamental building blocks to achieving a healthy economy. Supporting efforts in relation to all of the above is part of the core mandate of UNAMA, including the creation of economic and social conditions that can lead to the self-reliance and stability that we’re all seeking for Afghanistan. So w urge the de facto authorities to take advantage of the expertise offered by UNAMA, by UNDP, and by other actors to, indeed, set the task of creating 500,000 jobs in the market. That’s an excellent target. Afghanistan’s challenges are monumental, but there’s general agreement among development economists on the steps that are needed today that would help lay the foundations for a working economy.
The UAE stands ready to continue its constructive engagement within this Council and beyond to achieve those ends for Afghanistan where the Afghan people can thrive, and especially its women and girls. Thank you.