tv U.N. High Commissioner on Afghanistan Refugees CSPAN January 7, 2022 11:01am-11:31am EST
when mergers with this competition. more than 100 years ago ... >> you can watch this program in its entirety if you go to our website at c-span.org. this morning the un high commissioner for refugees is discussing the current refugee condition in afghanistan the washington post is the host of this event, live coverage on c-span .♪ ♪ >>.♪ ♪ >> good morning and welcome to washington post life. i'm missy ryan, national security reporter for the
washington post. it's been five months since the us withdrew its remaining forces from afghanistan. in this time the taliban has consolidated control and afghanistan's future remains uncertain at best. i'm delighted to be here with the head of the un refugee agency for a conversation about the ongoing crisis in afghanistan. commissioner filippo grandi, welcome to washington post live. >> thank you for having me on this important topic. >> it's a pleasure to be with you. >> commissioner grandi, afghanistan's economy is in shambles. winter is setting in and the nation is gripped by food insecurity. over 3.5 million people are displaced within afghanistan including at least 700,000 uprooted during 2021.how would you characterizethe humanitarian crisis in afghanistan right now ? >> you gave already some of
the most important elements of its very very serious humanitarian situation. now, a little correction if i may to your initial presentation. in the video. the 3 and a half million people that are displaced, this is a symptom of humanitarian crisis. they actually were already displaced when the taliban took over in august. they were displaced by years of conflict between the previous government and the taliban. and the question is that after 15 august the situation had deteriorated further in so many different ways. more than half of the population on the brink of famine . a very big percentage i would say 80 percent of the health system is paralyzed and unable to work.
huge worker problem compounded by an endemic drought that climate change is making even worse. 70 percent of the teachers are not being paid. the causes of this are very complex and we can talk about that but certainly at the moment this military in response is extremely urgent because winter has set in. it's swelling the pipes in afghanistan and needs are growing exponentially. >> as you know this was already a poor country prior to this crisis. commissioner grandi, you were one of the highest level officials in the talks with the taliban after the group came to power in august of last year. can you talk about those conversations and more generally the united nations role in a situation like this given that the majority of outside government has been
reluctant to engage fully with the new taliban government . >> several of my colleagues and i have been visiting kabul quite regularly and the takeover of the taliban. i was there in september pretty early on a few weeks after the takeover and i think this engagement is important. at the moment it is very much on the humanitarian side. and on that front i have to say engagement has been relatively positive, constructive. in fact humanitarian organizations. the un, ngos, red cross and others have more access to more areas of afghanistan now that they have had for years because that conflict i spoke of that displaced so many people isn't happening right now. has ended with the takeover of the taliban.
that has opened up many areas that were previously insecure . it's interesting, there's a figure that is seldom reported. we estimated 170,000 displaced people, especially among the most recently displaced returned to their homes since august. this may sound counterintuitive but it is because many areas are more secure now than they have been in a long time and we did take advantage of this. we need to bring as much as possible military and assistance to those areas to offset the risks, the life-saving risks that many afghans are running at the moment and then of course in that space which humanitarian dialogue is opening up with the taliban we need to use that space in other ways.we need to continue topromote the notion that women must work .
that minoritiesmust be represented . girls must advance in school. these are complex discussions with the taliban but this allows us to have those discussions on behalf of the internationalcommunity . >> in addition to the absence of civil conflict as the taliban government facilitated the humanitarian work thatyou and your un partners and eight agencies are doing ? >> i would say yes. it has at least i would say it has not put obstacles to the work that we do. and whenever we have encountered obstacles, remember this is a very fluid situation. this is an insurgent movement that has taken over a country much faster than they even imagined. therefore they have huge problems of managing this authority that they have acquired so there's many
problems that emerged all the time in many parts of the country's. the pattern has usually been one of cooperation. if the un, the un as a whole, the un mission lives highlights that there is a problem in an area generally not always generally this problem is addressed. if we don't have access, if our women employees are not allowed we flagged this issue and it is generally addressed so so far so good but of course the challenges remain very big. there are many areas in which we do not agree with the policies the taliban are enforcing but like i said there is open dialogue and that space is literally vital to millions of afghans . >> i know one of the biggest questions the international community would like an answer to is whether this new government , the taliban 2.0 is the same that ruled
afghanistan very harshly during the 1990s. what i would like to ask you is what does the taliban ideology and its outlook as we can observe today on certain issues including as you mentioned before mean for the work that unhcr is doing. how does that affect thevital assistance you are providing ? >> it's such an important question and it has many aspects. i tried to be quick in responding. first of all, is this the same type of taliban government we saw in the 90s? i've been involved in afghanistan for decades so i have some personal comparisons i can make. i don't know, it's difficult to say. certainly what has changed and it has been said many times is afghanistan itself. the afghanistan the taliban
took over in 1996 97 was profoundly different from the afghanistan they have taken over recently. they have to live with that. they have to cope with that. they have to deal with that situation and that i think is the sense that many investments were made. many people are saying all those investments are wasted. number all the investments made in 20 years between 2001 and 2021 have changed the country and have made it impossible or anybody to rule it in a way that was tried 25 years ago so there's a difference there. but what does it mean for us? it means we are dealing with complex aspects of that ideology and that motive governments. but that was so obvious to me even in the few days i spent there and it's certainly obvious to me, obvious to
colleagues ofmine that day in and day out are dealing with the taliban.they're not a homogeneous group . there's different constituencies. they have also have to cater to certain constituencies but there is certainly a vast among the taliban with whom we can talk also about the difficult issues that we have mentioned especially the rights of women and the rights of minorities which are still very open discussions. so the dilemma here or the difficulty here, the challenge is to balance the need to deliver quickly humanitarian assistance, to millions of afghans in desperate need and at the same time to keep open the discussion of the difficulties that without blocking humanitarian assistance that would be a great mistake. but it is a difficult balancing act as you can certainly appreciate. >> in august unhcr released a nonreturn advisory for afghanistan calling for a
halt to force return. can you describe the conditions for us that displaced afghans are living in right now. what sort of facilities are they bringing in, what support arethey getting from either the taliban government or the international community ? >> let me unpack this important issue. the un estimates there is about 9 million displaced people in the country. they have beendisplaced over the years by so many factors. drought,natural disasters and conflict . 3 and a half million at least by conflict . that's one of the biggest perhaps the biggest displacement situation inside the country of any country in the world. then you have refugees outside the country. there are at least 6 million afghans in neighboring countries in iran andpakistan in particular . two and half million about a
little less are registered as refugees and the others have other types of status and you have afghans in many other countries. in turkey, in europe. the diaspora is very big so what we sent to everybody, to countries posting afghans outside the country is don't send anybody back atthe moment . the situation is too fragile and what you're doing for displaced people inside the country, we're giving them humanitarian assistance because many of them are homeless . they need shelter. they need food . they need healthcare and we are also helping those that opt for going back to their provinces of origin so it's a very fluid situation. one more point which is important. look into thefuture. i am usually very prudent in my forecasts . but if the social and economic situation of the country is not tackled quickly, i foresee much
bigger movements. once the winter season ends and kabul conditions become easier. it's a real risk. here i have to add a very important point. humanitarian assistance that i have spoken about can keep the country going for a while. can keep the people going for a while but it's not going to be enough. remember, because of the takeover development assistance has been frozen. there is no cash resources circulating in the country. there's a lot of problems linked to sanctions and other political measures. this needs to be revisited. i understand why those measures are in place but i think they need to be balanced against the fact that the country needs to function needs to offer a minimum of basic services to its people . otherwise if that is not resolved i foresee almost without any doubt that we
will see larger internal displacement and also displacement across the borders to neighboring countries and maybe beyond. >> i'm going to push you on the economic question in a moment but first let's go back to iran and pakistan which you were mentioning in terms of receiving millions of afghan refugees. can you talk a little about your recent work with around with afghan refugees? >> i visited iran in december just before christmas and actually i was in pakistan also in september when i went to afghanistan. this is of course because for my organization work with afghan refugees and the vast majority are in these two countries is a priority. this is our core mandate. and here to flag an important point. there's a lot of focus on the
current crisis in afghanistan but let's not forget that these two countries have posted afghan refugees for more than 40 years. and in recent years it has become very difficult to mobilize the resources they need to fulfill this international responsibility of postingafghan refugees . my visit where my recent visits were also to assess whether we see an increase in the number of afghans crossing into the neighboring countries. and we have not seen a very big massive outflow as we saw in different period's of recent afghan history. although we haveseen people moving into these two countries . during my visit to iran, the government is estimating actually a rather large movement into iran. they estimate that this could be up to 500,000 people that
have moved into the country since august difficult for us to estimate because there is no statistics . no scientific program carried out but we've been discussing how we can have the new arrivals, where they are, organize them and provide them with assistance. i want to make another point related to iran. iran has always had very forward-looking policies, very humanitarian policies in respect to afghans. there are specific laws and provisions that allow all afghan children to have access to education. for example and certain sectors of iran's economy in particular the construction industry have traditionally been an important source of livelihood for millions of afghanistan's be they refugees or people with other status. of course iran is under sanctions.
iran is going through a different economic crisis of its own for many different reasons so at the moment they're struggling with supporting this additional afghan population and from the humanitarian point of view this is not a political judgment. of course i went there also to appeal to the international community for more help to be given to iran as it comes under renewed pressure because of the afghan refugeesituation . >> has there been a response from the international community in terms of providing the additional support that is needed in iran as you just mentioned and potentially in pakistan which is also facing its own economic and social challenges? >> there have been. one side effect if you wish of the august events was to bring more visibility to the afghan situation and for the first time in years we saw an increase in financial contribution.
you know, the un appealed that were put out in 2021 four afghanistan were largely subscribed. the refugee appeal that we put out an extraordinary one that we put out in september was 70 percent funded. you may think it's not much but compared to previous percentages it was a better response. next tuesday, the un including unit chef will put out another big humanitarian appeal. this for inside afghanistan and for the neighboring countries and i do hope and i would like to use this opportunity to really reinforce this. i do hope there will be a good response. it is vital to provide humanitarian assistance at the moment for all the reasons that we'vebeen discussing today .
>> mister commissioner i'd like to go back to afghanistan's economy which you mentioned prior to the taliban takeover was dependent on foreign aid. donor funds accounted for three quarters of the country's revenue and now with the taliban in charge much of that monetary flow has dried up and in addition the united states as frozen billions of dollars in afghan reserves held in new york banks exacerbating the economic crisis. do you believe as many us lawmakers and diplomats have urged that the united states and other nations need to be more accessible at providing financial assistance despite the sanctions you referenced earlier and how can we do that without running afoul of many of these laws that have put in place since 2001? >> of course i believe that flexibility is a must in a
situation like that. we're talking about millions of human lives . we're also talking about frankly the stability of the region that is beset by many problems. let's not forget that the taliban after they took over have had to face their own insurgency from other armed groups and of course, further impoverishment of the country will constitute, will create for child ground for new terrorists and new insurgencies which have terrible potentials to destabilize the region. that's why pakistan, iran, central asian states are so worried about that so i think it's important while the pressure is set on the key issues that we all care for for women, rights of
minorities. i've mentioned this many times already. we need tokeep that pressure also make sure that services function .that afghans that are sickgo to hospital . that the pitiful covid vaccination rates, less than 10 percent at the moment are increased. that there's a lot of talk about the roles in schools but if 70 percent of the teachers are not paid nobody can go to school. i think all this needs to be looked at with a great deal of balance and flexibility. the question will also be how to do that. i understand that this is a political issue but donor countries are reluctant to channel their funds to the taliban and authorities . they were channeled through the afghan government before and now they arereluctant to do that . at least until certain things are fulfilled by the taliban
and we are exploring many alternative systems to make sure that the services function like salaries through un agencies for example. all of this isvery technical . it's far beyond my limits but it's important but in the end, in the end it is important to mention that dialogue with the taliban cause all these systems will be temporary in nature. and how to ensure that afghanistan is a viable. is a viable country able to support its people i think will only be achieved through dialogue between the international community and the taliban themselves. but that won't be easy . we can look at at interim measures but in the end that dialogue is important and the dialogue goes both ways. when i was in kabul we all
told the taliban the same message. if you want your resources to be unfrozen, if you want the country to enjoy again substantive development support, you also have to take steps in their direction . it goes both ways it is a dialogue. it cannot be a wall-to-wall situation. >> mister commissioner we have time for one more question. i'd like to ask you a related question. do you believe that nations that have played a significant role in afghanistan's recent history particularly the united states and some of the nato nations that had a military presence for years, do you believe these countries have a moral responsibility to accept more refugees and explore some of the need or desire from afghanistan to resettle outside their country given the current conditions ? >> i think that there's 26, 27 million refugees around
the world. i'm not talking about the internal displacement, i'm talking about the refugees. less than one percent is resettled from countries, neighboring conflict or crisis to wealthier countries so this burden sharing between the countries that are near the crisis and the richer countries is minimal. and i think that on all countries hosting large refugees deserve more burden sharing in that sense you deserve richer countries to take more of those refugees. this is a general point and this applies also to iran and pakistan so i'm glad that some of the countries that have been involved in afghanistan for many years as you said have put forward offers to take more of those refugees as a consequence of what has recently happened.
the question is more complex about people that are inside afghanistan because this is what happened in august. there was a lot of direct evacuation out of the country mostly of people who hadlinks with those countries . mostly with bilateral fashion that is much more complicated now because now the country is under control of the taliban so we need to focus on resettling refugees from neighboring countries and if there are particularly complex cases inside the country that deserve to be considered for happening outside and being resettled to third world countries this will have to be looked at on a case-by-case basis but it's not going to be simple. >> i think i can squeeze in one final question. i think our viewers would be interested to hear a little bit more about the challenges and opportunities potentially that your teams working on the ground apply in
afghanistan are facing at this moment. our things different from the pre-august15 environment till now ? >> like i said and i know this may sound counterintuitive but security has been easier, better. security was the big challenge for us for years. since i am in this job i have been several times to afghanistan. i remember 2016, 2018, 2019. the main challenge, the main thing i discussed with my colleagues is how can we go to place x, to place why with the risk of attack, unexploded ordinance. of terrorist sites to our operations? all of that i will take all of that but a great deal of that is now better. we are in a place in which access is possible. so i think that we need to take advantage of this and
let me it once more. this window allows us because we are needed in afghanistan. we are required and the taliban understand without our support their humanitarian crisis will be even worse so we need to use that space one, to deliver to, to have dialogue with them and try to bring them to a more reasonable position on all the complicated issues of rights that we are discussing with them. >> now we are out of time.i want to thank youcommissioner for joining us here for this very important conversation . >> thank you for having me. >> thank you for joining us here at washington post life. for more information about future programs you can visit washington post life.com. thanks again and have a great day .
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