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Afghanistan worst place in the world for women and children: UN

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(Last Updated On: September 4, 2020)

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Deborah Lyons, said Thursday Afghanistan remains the worst country for women and children.

“Despite significant progress in the last two decades, Afghanistan remains one of the worst places in the world to be a woman, and one of the worst to be a child,” she briefed the Security Council on the situation in Afghanistan.

She said that the level of violence on the battlefield remains deeply worrying.

“The last few weeks have seen near-record numbers of security incidents, including egregious attacks by spoilers targeting civilians involved in the peace process.”

Deborah calls on all warring parties to reduce the level of violence.

It comes as the main obstacle, the prisoner swap process between the Afghan government and the Taliban, ahead of the intra-Afghan talks has been removed.

National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal said Thursday the prisoner release process has almost ended and peace talks can now start.

He said: “It is imperative that intra-Afghan peace talks begin as soon as possible.

“The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has received our commandos held hostage by the Taliban, after which the government released the remaining 400 convicts, except the few for which our partners have reservations. Diplomatic efforts are ongoing. We expect direct talks to start promptly,” he said.

Meanwhile, Deborah Lyons urged the two sides to consider a humanitarian ceasefire as one of the first items on the agenda of Intra- Afghan negotiations.

“For Afghanistan’s most vulnerable people, the stakes could not be higher. I urge all member states to amplify this call as the negotiations begin. And the negotiations will begin,” she noted.

“After four decades of war, the people of Afghanistan have more reason than ever to hope that this devastating conflict may come to an end,” UN envoy said.

Deborah Lyons also emphasized the need for women’s participation in the coming Intra-Afghan negotiations that could pave the way to end the long-term war in the war-weary country.

“We all know that talking will not be enough. Women’s rights are already emerging as one of the most difficult issues confronting the conflict parties as they enter negotiations, and one where any compromises could pose, will pose, a difficult dilemma for member states,” she said.

“The issue will be more central, this issue of women’s rights will be more central in the Afghan peace process than we have ever seen in any other peace negotiation in recent memory.”

She noted that it is women’s representation at the peace table that offers the best opportunity to ensure that their own rights are upheld and that their vision for elements of a peaceful Afghanistan is reflected in all aspects of the talks.

“I commend the women members of the Islamic Republic negotiating team and other peace structures for their energetic outreach and substantive preparations for intra-Afghan talks.”

“As of this moment, we are not yet aware of any women’s representation on the Taliban side, but we remain hopeful that they, too, will find a way of meaningfully including women, the other 50 percent of the population, in their negotiation team,” Lyons added.

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Talks team deadlock broken, as both sides agree to initial roadmap

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(Last Updated On: November 23, 2020)

In a major step forward, the talks teams for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban have agreed on four key issues as the basis for talks going forward.

This comes after a deadlock of more than a month, following the start of talks on September 12 in Doha.

According to sources in Doha, the two sides agreed to include the US-Taliban deal, UN endorsements for Afghan peace process, the will of the Afghan people and commitments of the negotiating teams as the foundation of talks going forward.

“We do not underestimate these challenges, no matter how difficult they may be. But we have reason not to be disappointed. For all our differences, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is committed to a positive approach to peace,” said Sayed Sadat Mansour Naderi, minister of peace affairs.

The negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan says that the two negotiating parties will announce their declarations of agreement and the finalization of the procedure.

On the other hand, the head of the negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Massom Stanikzai says that the Taliban’s lack of flexibility has made the path to peace difficult.

“Unfortunately, the Taliban’s short-sightedness has made this difficult. Continuing meaningful dialogue to reach a common vision is the shortest way to peace. This fact requires patience, caution and public consensus,” said Stanikzai.

The head of the negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has been in Kabul for the past few days to consult with the leadership of the government and to get the final approval of the negotiating council of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

The delegation is optimistic that progress in the Doha talks will pave the way for a ceasefire sooner rather than later.

“Ending the violence during the talks is the first proposal ordered to build public confidence. Recently, when the talks began, the Afghan people witnessed a dramatic increase in violence,” said Fawzia Kofi, a member of the negotiating team.

It is however not yet clear whether the delegations will negotiate on a ceasefire first, once talks get underway, or on the future of a political system.

As much as the Afghan Republic’s team want to focus on a ceasefire, the Taliban want the political future to be the starting point.

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Taliban strongholds in Pakistan give group platform to wage war: NDS

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(Last Updated On: November 23, 2020)

Ahmad Zia Saraj, the acting head of the national directorate of security (NDS), said Monday that because the Taliban has active and secure strongholds in Pakistani cities, the group has been able to intensify the conflict in Afghanistan.

Saraj said this was enabling the Taliban to continue a proxy war.

Saraj stressed that the region’s intelligence policy towards Afghanistan has not changed and that regional countries are trying to achieve a system that the Taliban want.

“Taliban safe havens in Quetta, Karachi and Peshawar are safely plotting every day to challenge us, and in their plans our people are killed, and if the Taliban leadership did not have safe places in these cities they [Taliban] would be facing a bad fate,” Saraj said.

Meanwhile, the acting NDS chief stressed that the Taliban had not cut contact with al-Qaeda and that many terrorist groups were colluding with the group to pursue one goal – which is to destabilize Afghanistan and kill people.

“The Taliban’s relationship with foreign terrorists continues on a regular basis, and terrorist groups are using each other’s capabilities, which has led to an increase in the conflict, and these groups are buying and selling suicide bombers, and all groups are pursuing the same goal, killing people, destroying values and establishing a system,” Saraj added.

Saraj also said that the Taliban does not believe in the peace process.

“If the Taliban was committed to peace, we should have seen results from the talks, and it can be seen that they are not interested in peace and they only want a regime according to their wishes, and if they were committed, they would not increase the violence,” Saraj said.

However, the NDS emphasizes that the only way to reduce the level of violence in Afghanistan is to create and cooperate on a “real” regional consensus basis.

He said conflict of interest among regional countries has resulted in a more widespread war in Afghanistan.

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Shocking data finds 5 Afghan children killed or maimed every day

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(Last Updated On: November 23, 2020)

A new study has found at least 26,025 children have been killed or maimed in war-ravaged Afghanistan in the past 14 years – an average of five children every day.

The shocking findings, released by Save the Children, has spurred the organization on to join calls for increased humanitarian funding from donor countries at this week’s pledging conference in Geneva.

According to a statement issued by Save the Children, the study took into account child victims due to conflict between 2005 and 2019. The organization also stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the crisis for children.

The UN estimates that currently, seven million children are in need of urgent help in Afghanistan.

Save the Children reported that between between 2017 and 2019 there were more than 300 attacks on schools, injuring or killing at least 410 students and teachers.

The organization stated that 93 percent of late primary school-aged children are not proficient in reading and 60 percent of school-aged children missing out on their education are girls,

The organization also stated that spending on education is presently 78 percent less than the average for the South Asia region and that 14 million people, nearly 50 percent of the country’s population, need humanitarian assistance.

In addition, more than seven million children are at risk of hunger just this year, three million children under the age of five suffer from under-nutrition and the UN’s humanitarian appeal is currently only 42 percent funded.

Chris Nyamandi, Save the Children’s Country Director in Afghanistan, said: “Imagine living with the constant fear that today might be the day that your child is killed in a suicide attack or an airstrike. This is the grim reality for tens of thousands of Afghan parents whose children have been killed or injured.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has added to children’s misery and must be addressed with new funding. But as the humanitarian needs rise higher than ever, it is a struggle to secure the funds needed to help people.

“This week’s conference is a crucial moment for donor governments to reaffirm their support to Afghanistan and its millions of children, at a time when it is needed more than ever,” said Mr Nyamandi.

As the 2020 Afghanistan Conference starts in Geneva, Save the Children called on the international community to increase funding for education, especially for girls, as well as protect the interests of people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups; increase spending on public health to support children, many of whom are having to live with life-altering injuries due to being caught up in the conflict; work with the government of Afghanistan to ensure national laws related to the protection of children are fully resourced and rolled out nationwide; secure an enduring peace settlement so that future generations grow up free from the fear of violence and death.

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