ISLAMABAD: A decision was taken at Sunday’s Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit to establish a “humanitarian trust fund” to channel assistance to Afghanistan, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said.
Pakistan on Sunday hosted the 17th Extraordinary Session of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers, called by Saudi Arabia, at the Parliament House in Islamabad. The purpose of the summit was to rally Muslim and other countries and international institutions to come in aid of Afghanistan.
Around 70 delegations from OIC member states, non-members and regional and international organizations attended the summit. Around 20 delegations wee led by foreign ministers and 10 by deputies or ministers of state. The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Tukey, Azerbaijan, Iran, Oman, Kuwait, Indonesia and Malaysia were present at the Parliament House for the summit.
Other than foreign ministers from Islamic countries, delegations from the European Union and the P5+1 group of the UN Security Council, including the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany, were also in attendance.
“It was decided to establish a humanitarian trust fund to serve as a vehicle to channel humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, including in partnership with other international actors,” Qureshi told reporters at a press conference after the summit. He was joined by OIC Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha.
A draft resolution shared with media after the summit said the fund would be set up under the aegis of the Islamic Development Bank. The resolution called on the Bank to operationalize the trust fund by the first quarter of 2022 and called on OIC member states, Islamic financial institutions, donors and other international partners to announce pledges to the fund as well as provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.
Qureshi said the OIC had decided to appoint a special envoy on Afghanistan and the OIC and the United Nations had agreed to work together in Afghanistan.
Ambassador Tarig Ali Bakheet, Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian, Cultural and Family Affairs at the OIC General Secretariat, will serve as the special envoy on Afghanistan to the OIC Secretary General, and would be supported by a secretariat and the OIC Office in Afghanistan to coordinate aid and assistance efforts.
The foreign minister warned that sanctions imposed on the Taliban regime “should not impede humanitarian assistance and should not apply to humanitarian aid such as schools and hospitals.”
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Imran Khan said he looked forward that foreign ministers attending the OIC summit in Islamabad would come up with a “roadmap” by the evening to help Afghanistan, which is facing a looming economic meltdown and humanitarian catastrophe.
“I will look forward to the foreign ministers, that they will come up with a roadmap by the end of this evening,” Khan said during his keynote speech at the summit. “That roadmap not only should be pushed by the OIC but also the United Nations, European Union and United States.”
“If the world doesn’t act, this will be the biggest man-made crisis which is unfolding in front of us,” the PM added.
The international community, which has frozen billions in central bank funds and development spending for Afghanistan, has made women’s rights and an inclusive government key elements of any future engagement with the country.
But Khan warned that attaching “pre-conditions” to humanitarian aid would further worsen the situation.
“It is time to act and to act now,” he said. “The chaos in Afghanistan does not suit anyone, even western countries and the US.”
Without a stable Afghan government, Khan said, militant groups like Daesh would gain ground in Afghanistan and use its territory to carry out international terror attacks.
Addressing the OIC session, Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said delegates at the summit “would come up with a proper resolution as well as recommendations to alleviate the difficulties being faced by the Afghans.”
“Our meeting is the message to Afghan people that we are committed to put an immediate end to the sufferings of Afghan people,” he added. “Let our organization play a major role in urging the member states and others to pledge necessary support to Afghan people.”
In his inaugural address, Pakistani foreign minister Qureshi offered a six-point “framework” to help Afghanistan stave off a humanitarian disaster, including creating a mechanism to channel capital to the war-torn country and setting up a group of experts to facilitate Afghanistan’s access to legitimate banking services.
“We could create a vehicle within the OIC to channel immediate and sustained humanitarian and financial support to the Afghan people, including from pledges by the OIC Member States and other donors,” Qureshi said. “Second, we should agree to increase investment in the people of Afghanistan, bilaterally or through the OIC, in areas such as education, health and technical and vocational skills to the Afghan youth.”
Qureshi suggested that a group of experts comprising the OIC, the United Nations and international financial institutions be established to consider ways and means to facilitate Afghanistan’s access to legitimate banking services, and to ease the liquidity challenge to the Afghan people.
“Fourth, we should focus on enhancing food security of the Afghan people. The Islamic Organization for Food Security can and must lead this effort,” the Pakistani foreign minister said. “Fifth, invest in building capacity of Afghan institutions in countering terrorism and combating illicit trade in narcotics.”
Finally, Qureshi said, the OIC needed to engage with Afghan authorities “to help advance the expectations of the international community, in particular, regarding political and social inclusivity; respect for human rights, especially the rights of women and girls; and combating terrorism.”
In his opening remarks, OIC Secretary General Taha said the OIC had always supported the Afghan people and the role of OIC member countries in delivering humanitarian assistance was more urgent now than ever before.
“This effort gives a universal message of harmony and solidarity,” he said. “We also call for all parties concerned to cooperate with the OIC mission in Kabul to provide relief to the affected Afghan people.”
“OIC is ready to carry out a follow-up of the outcome and to play its role in supporting humanitarian action in coordination with the relevant OIC missions and relief agencies across the Muslim world.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stressed that the OIC play a leading role in mobilizing international support for the Afghan people. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said the UN stood “firmly” with the OIC in its efforts to contribute to humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan.
The United Nations is warning that nearly 23 million people — about 55 percent of the population — face extreme levels of hunger, with nearly 9 million at risk of famine as winter takes hold in the impoverished, landlocked country.