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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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Lush cosmetics shuts down its social media accounts globally

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(Last Updated On: November 29, 2021)

UK cosmetics company Lush shut down its Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat accounts globally on Friday, citing its concern about the harms of social media in the wake of Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s revelations.

CEO Mark Constantine told the Guardian he was happy to lose $13 million that the company expects to lose by shutting their accounts.

“In the same way that evidence against climate change was ignored and belittled for decades, concerns about the serious effects of social media are going largely ignored now,” the company said in a press release.

Lush’s announcement came just ahead of one of the biggest days of shopping all year, and the brand fully expected that losing its pipelines to millions of customers could harm its business.

Lush’s Facebook and Instagram accounts had a combined 10.6 million followers, according to The Guardian.

“We’ve tightened up over the Covid period, it won’t destroy us,” Constantine told The Guardian, adding that Lush had “no choice” given Meta’s own research about Instagram’s adverse impact on teenage girls’ mental health.

“We’re talking about suicide here, not spots or whether someone should dye their hair blonde,” Constantine continued, telling The Guardian: “How could we possibly suggest we’re a caring business if we look at that and don’t care?”

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IEA in two-day talks with EU, highlight need for humanitarian aid

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(Last Updated On: November 29, 2021)

European Union officials held two days of talks with representatives of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) in Doha this weekend to discuss a number of issues including the worsening humanitarian situation in the country.

Abdul Qahar Balkhi, Afghanistan’s foreign affairs spokesman, said on Monday that both delegations exchanged views about the humanitarian, health, security, safe passage of travellers and the need for humanitarian assistance.

“The EU delegation expressed willingness to continue assisting Afghan people and informed about continued presence of an EU humanitarian office in Kabul providing humanitarian assistance,” Balkhi said in a tweet.

According to him, the Afghan delegation reassured the EU about security, and said the IEA stressed the need to move “forward through cooperation rather than pressure”.

According to a statement issued by the EU’s European External Action Service (EEAS), their delegation, led by EU Special Envoy for Afghanistan Tomas Niklasson, the EU intends to continue providing humanitarian assistance to Afghans.

“Both sides underlined the necessity of humanitarian access and of men and women participating in assessing the needs for, and the delivery of, humanitarian assistance to ensure equal access for women, men and children,” the statement read.

While EU development assistance to Afghanistan remains suspended, the EU delegation expressed its willingness to consider providing substantial financial assistance for the direct benefit of the Afghan people, in addition to humanitarian assistance.

Such assistance, now known as humanitarian+, would be channelled exclusively through international organizations and NGOs, which would help to ensure essential services such as health and education and sustain the livelihoods of the population.

The EU delegation also noted the possibility of establishing a minimal presence on the ground in Kabul, but that it would directly depend on the security situation so as to ensure adequate protection of its staff and premises.

The Afghan delegation was led by acting Foreign Minister Mawlavi Amir Khan Muttaqi and also included Sheikh Noorullah Munir, acting Minister of Education; Dr Qalandar Ibaad, acting Minister of Public Health; Mawlavi Mohammad Idris, the acting Governor of the Central Bank; as well as officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Interior, and the General Directorate of Intelligence.

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Asian leaders attend regional summit, pledge to help Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: November 29, 2021)

The leaders of several Asian countries pledged to provide assistance to Afghanistan during a summit in Turkmenistan on Sunday.

The countries, which are part of the 10-member Economic Cooperation Organization that includes Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and six former Soviet nations, called for the removal of trade barriers and the development of new transport corridors across the region, VOA reported.

The Asian nations also pledged to help stabilize Afghanistan.

Speaking at the summit, Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi said the Islamic world needs to pool efforts to help avert a “catastrophe that could foment chaos and conflict.”

He said countries in the region need to move quickly to help rebuild the Afghan economy, shore up the country’s health care and education systems and offer humanitarian assistance, VOA reported.

Alvi also stated that a stable Afghanistan would allow the implementation of long-stalled infrastructure projects, including a gas pipeline, railways and power grids linking countries in the region.

Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said that these projects would help offer “colossal cooperation prospects and help attract foreign investment,” which would strongly benefit Afghanistan and its neighbors.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Afghanistan’s economic meltdown could trigger a massive refugee exodus that would affect the entire region.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi also offered help, saying that Afghanistan desperately needs food, fuel and financial assistance as winter sets in.

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