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Afghanistan conference draws donor pledges and calls for lasting ceasefire
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 25 - 11 - 2020

International donors pledged financial and political support for Afghanistan's peace process at the 2020 Afghanistan Conference in Geneva on Tuesday, anticipating a sustainable ceasefire that will help the country rebuild and heal after decades of conflict.
"Today, I believe, is a good day for Afghanistan, and for the people of Afghanistan", Deborah Lyons, head of the UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA), told a news conference.
She said the world had come together to give an emphatic message to the people of Afghanistan.
"What is the message? We stand with you."
Violence has continued in Afghanistan despite peace talks that began in September. Twin explosions in the central Afghan city of Bamiyan on Tuesday killed at least 14 people, injuring 45 or more, media reports said.
The pledges of financial support are expected to total billions of dollars. But the money was not free, Ms. Lyons said: donors expected it would be well spent and the Government would be held accountable for how it was distributed, with an expectation that the country would hold on to the gains made in the past and keep strengthening institutions of governance and the protection of human rights.
Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto, whose Government co-hosted the event together with Afghanistan and the United Nations, said 66 governments and more than 30 international organizations had taken part in the conference, mostly online, because of COVID-19.
"All eyes in Afghanistan are towards Geneva", said Afghan Deputy Minister of Finance Abdul Habib Zadran. "They are expecting a lot from the international community."
Earlier, UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the conference in a video message, saying the Afghan people had suffered for far too long, and Afghan women had paid a high price in the conflict, many suffering extreme violence and the loss of homes, loved ones, and communities. It was absolutely essential that women played a meaningful and equal role in determining the outcome of the peace process, he said.
He called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire to save lives and prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the country.
"Progress toward peace will contribute to the development of the entire region and is a vital step towards the safe, orderly, and dignified return of millions of displaced Afghans. The United Nations stands with the people of Afghanistan on the path toward peace, development, and self-reliance."
Mr. Guterres' remarks were followed by a keynote speech from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, delivered via video link.
Speaking via video-link, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told the conference that his government faced the challenges of corruption, the pandemic, poverty, uncertainty, and insecurity, and he also wanted an immediate ceasefire.
"What is the main priority of the Afghan people? A demand for peace. Today, we the Afghan people, government, and the international community share a vision of a sovereign, unified, democratic Afghanistan at peace with itself, the region and the world, capable of preserving and expanding the gains of the past two decades", he said.
"We must bring an end to the violence that is haunting our lives and robbing our children of the joys of childhood", President Ghani said. — UN news

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