The Group of 20 has agreed to work together to avert the looming humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan. The current G20 chair Italy hosted the emergency virtual summit on Tuesday.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said that the G20 approved the measure, even if it meant having to work with the Taliban. Draghi said, “There has basically been a convergence of views on the need to address the humanitarian emergency. This was the first multilateral response to the Afghan crisis … multilateralism is coming back, with difficulty, but it is coming back.”

Collaboration, not recognition

Italian Premier Draghi admitted that it was inevitable to involve the Taliban to get the aid through. He said, “It’s very hard to see how one can help the Afghan people … without some sort of involvement of the Taliban government. If they don’t want us to enter, we don’t enter.”

Draghi insisted that collaboration with the Taliban would not mean recognising their rule. He said, “At this time we don’t see progress.”

The premier said that the Taliban would be judged by their deeds, not their words, especially the treatment of women in the impoverished nation.

Unanimous agreement

The European Union kicked off the talks by pledging $1.2bn. The funding will cover the most urgent humanitarian needs. The package will also assist neighbouring countries that are taking in Afghans who have been fleeing the Taliban rule.

US President Joe Biden and several European leaders joined the virtual summit in the aftermath of the first talks between the Taliban and a US-EU delegation in Qatar. China’s President Xi Jinping and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin sent representatives instead of attending themselves.

The G20 bloc unanimously agreed to alleviate the crisis in Afghanistan. The country is struggling with frozen overseas assets, penniless banks, unpaid civil servants, and soaring food prices. Millions of Afghans are at risk of severe hunger as the winter approaches.

In his address, Turkey’s President Recip Tayyip Erdogan told the summit that the Taliban had “not yet delivered what’s expected”.

“We have not seen necessary inclusiveness from them on the issue of humanitarian assistance, security and prevention of Afghanistan being a base of terror organisations and prevention of extremism.”

Talking to reporters, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “To stand by and watch 40 million people plunge into chaos because electricity can’t be supplied and no financial system exists, that cannot and should not be the goal of the international community.”

Next package to focus on women, girls

In a joint statement after the meeting, the G20 leaders called on the Taliban to tackle hard-line groups operating out of the country. The statement said that future humanitarian funding programs should be focused on helping women and girls and providing safe passage to those Afghans who wished to leave the country.

The EU stressed that its contribution would go to international organisations working on the ground rather than the Taliban. Moreover, while much of the G20 aid effort will be channelled through the United Nations, direct country-to-country assistance will also take place.

Meanwhile, the White House said that leaders had discussed “the critical need to maintain a laser-focus on our enduring counterterrorism efforts, including against threats from ISIS-K”.

Before the meeting, China called for economic sanctions on Afghanistan to be lifted and that billions of dollars of Afghan international assets be unfrozen and handed back to Kabul. The final statement did not mention the issue of frozen assets as the US and the United Kingdom continue to resist demands to release the much-needed funds.


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