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UN points to Taliban order to ban female workers, tells Afghan staff to stay home News

UNITED NATIONS/KABUL, April 4 (Reuters) – The United Nations “received notice of an order” from Taliban authorities barring Afghan women from working for the world body in Afghanistan, the Taliban spokesman told reporters in New York on Tuesday. the UN, Stephane Dujarric.

Dujarric said this was the latest in a “disturbing trend” that is undermining the ability of aid organizations to work in Afghanistan, where some 23 million people, more than half the country’s population, need help.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres would see any ban on Afghan women working for the United Nations in his country as “unacceptable and, frankly, inconceivable”, he said.

Spokesmen for the Taliban administration and the Afghan Information Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Two UN sources told Reuters concerns about the ban’s enforcement had prompted the United Nations to ask all staff not to come to the office for 48 hours.

“We are still investigating how this development would affect our operations in the country and we hope to have more meetings with the de facto authorities tomorrow in Kabul. We are trying to find some clarity,” Dujarric said.

“We have nothing in writing as of now.”

The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Tuesday expressed concern that female staff in the eastern province of Nangarhar were unable to report to work.

“UN national staff (men and women) will not come to UN offices for 48 hours due to a threat to enforce a ban on female national staff in light of the enforcement from today in Jalalabad” a senior UN official told Reuters, referring to the capital Nangarhar.

Fridays and Saturdays are normally weekend days at the UN offices in Afghanistan, meaning staff would not return until Sunday at the earliest.

The Taliban administration, which seized power when US-led forces withdrew from Afghanistan after 20 years of war, says it respects women’s rights in accordance with its strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Since toppling the Western-backed government in Kabul, the Taliban have tightened controls on women’s access to public life, including banning women from entering university and closing most secondary schools to girls.

In December, Taliban authorities blocked most NGO employees from working, which aid workers say has made it harder to reach women beneficiaries and could lead donors to withhold funding.

The restrictions did not initially apply to the United Nations and some other international organizations. In January, the UN Assistant Secretary General expressed concern that the authorities could restrict the work of Afghan women in international organizations.

It was not immediately clear if foreign embassies in Kabul had received similar instructions regarding female staff.

The ban on working as UN workers could pose major challenges to continued UN operations in Afghanistan. Article 8 of its governing charter requires the UN to place no restrictions on men and women working for UN agencies.

Aid officials have also pointed to the risk that donor countries cut funding out of frustration over restrictions on women as other international crises take hold.

The massive UN humanitarian response plan for Afghanistan by 2023 has received less than 5% of its funding needs, currently the lowest-funded aid operation globally.

A UN briefing scheduled to update member states, including donors, on the situation in Afghanistan in New York on Tuesday was postponed at the last minute without explanation.

Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield and Michelle Nichols; edited by Frank Jack Daniel and Mark Heinrich

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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