UN chief appoints new envoy to Afghanistan

Roza Otunbayeva, a former president of Kyrgyzstan, will take over from Deborah Lyons of Canada

Roza Otunbayeva pictured in Kyrgyzstan in 2010.
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Former Kyrgyzstan president Roza Otunbayeva has been appointed as the new UN special envoy for Afghanistan, Secretary General Antonio Guterres announced late on Friday.

Ms Otunbayeva succeeds Deborah Lyons of Canada as head of the UN political mission in Afghanistan, known as Unama. She will be in charge of the UN’s humanitarian operations and dealings with the crisis-stricken country’s Taliban rulers.

Mr Guterres said Ms Otunbayeva had more than 35 years of professional experience in leadership, diplomacy, civic engagement and international co-operation.

She served as president in 2010-2011, as foreign minister on three occasions and as deputy prime minister. She was also Kyrgyzstan’s ambassador to the United States and Britain.

Ms Otunbayeva is a member of the UN's high-level advisory board on mediation and head of the Roza Otunbayeva Initiative Foundation in Kyrgyzstan.

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths told the Security Council on Monday that Afghanistan was facing deepening poverty, with 6 million people suffering severe food shortages stemming from humanitarian, economic, climate and financial crises.

Conflict, poverty, climate shocks and food insecurity “have long been a sad reality” in Afghanistan, Mr Griffiths said. What makes the current situation “so critical” is the halt to large-scale development aid since the Taliban takeover a year ago, he said.

More than half the Afghan population — some 24 million people — need assistance and close to 19 million are facing acute levels of food insecurity, he said.

There are worries that those figures will soon worsen as winter weather sends already high fuel and food prices skyrocketing, he said.

Afghanistan’s economy has plummeted since the withdrawal of US and allied forces in August 2021. Foreign aid agencies subsequently pulled out over the Taliban’s refusal to allow girls to attend school and other human rights violations.

Afghan funds abroad have been frozen, although US President Joe Biden has signed an order calling for banks to provide $3.5 billion of the total to a trust fund for distribution through humanitarian groups for Afghan relief and basic needs.

The UN is also seeking billions in relief funds from donor nations.

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Updated: September 03, 2022, 8:37 AM
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