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UN envoy for Afghanistan calls for reduction of violence

UNITED NATIONS, (APP): The United Nations envoy for Afghanistan has urged all countries to continue pressuring the parties to the conflict for reducing violence in the war-torn country so that the peace process could move forward. “Regrettably, the unrelenting violence remains a serious obstacle to peace and a threat to the region,” Deborah Lyons, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, told the Security Council on Thursday. “I ask all countries to continue to pressure the parties to the conflict to bring about a sustained reduction in violence and expect that this will be a top priority in the negotiations,” she added. Ms Lyons spoke of the “profound shift” brought about by developments during 2020, which include an agreement between the United States and the Taliban, the start of intra-Afghan peace negotiations, and a major donor conference. “By all accounts this was a big year. But a bigger year lies ahead”, she said. “Clearly Afghanistan will continue to move forward in this New Year, but equally will continue to need the dedicated support of this Council.” Ms. Lyons, who also heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), described 2020 as “one of the most momentous years that Afghans have endured”. Some three months of uninterrupted talks between the Government and the Taliban have yielded “incremental but genuine progress”.
, she said, though this week the parties agreed a three-week recess. The international community also reaffirmed its financial support for the country during a donor conference in Geneva last month.
Countries pledged more than $3 billion annually over the next four years, though sustained funding will require improvements in areas such as peace, governance, the rule of law, anti-corruption and women’s rights.
However, the “unrelenting violence” in Afghanistan continues to put lasting peace at risk, Ms Lyons said.
Preliminary statistics reveal a rise in civilian casualties from improvised explosive devices, assaults on schools, rocket attacks, and targeted killings by anti-government groups.
“It is no surprise then that the Global Peace Index for 2020 ranked Afghanistan as the least peaceful country in the world for the second year in row”, she said. “Such a ranking illustrates the psychological impact of the violence.” Afghanistan is also among the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist, with six reporters losing their lives in 2020, she added. Eleven human rights defenders also were killed this year, while many others were injured or threatened.
Ms. Lyons expects violence will be a top priority when the peace talks resume in early January.
“The ongoing security transition, coupled with the emerging reality of international troop withdrawals, have obviously added to the anxieties felt by the Afghan population”, she said.
“In the coming months, I anticipate that this larger security transition will become a central topic in the dialogue amongst Afghan officials, regional countries, and the larger international community.” Afghanistan is now facing a second wave of COVID-19 infections, resulting in increased hunger and malnutrition. The UN has scaled-up assistance, and Ms. Lyons encouraged countries to generously support humanitarian operations.
As regional cooperation is critical to peace in Afghanistan, Ms. Lyons highlighted the need to support efforts to fight drug trafficking and transnational organized crime throughout Central and South Asia.
But she warned that sustainable peace will only be possible if it is inclusive from the outset, with meaningful participation of women, minorities, victims of conflict, religious leaders, and others.
Afghanistan’s youth are another key constituency as two-thirds of the population are under 25 years old, she said, adding this generation is the most educated in the nation’s history.
“Young Afghans have clear views on the future of their country, and we must do all we can to amplify their voices”, she stated.

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