G20 Holds Extraordinary Virtual Meeting on Afghanistan

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Tuesday’s closed virtual summit on Afghanistan focused on peace, humanitarian aid and human rights in the country. The summit was held less than three weeks before the G-20 world leaders’ summit to be held in Rome on 30 and 31 October.

Since the Taliban returned to power on August 15, following the withdrawal of US military forces after 20 years of war, there has been concern about the humanitarian situation in the country.

The leaders will hold discussions on how to fight terrorism, how to guarantee freedom of movement, both within and outside Afghanistan’s borders for Afghan people as well as members of non-governmental organizations, and the condition of women in the country, which Draghi has designated a “priority.”

A screen shows international leaders as they hold an extraordinary meeting of G20 leaders on Afghanistan virtually, October 12, 2021. (Photo: Filippo Attili/Palazzo Chigi Press Office via REUTERS)

A screen shows international leaders as they hold a virtual extraordinary meeting of G20 leaders on Afghanistan, October 12, 2021. (Photo: Filippo Attili/Palazzo Chigi Press Office via REUTERS)

The prime minister spoke about Afghanistan in a recent interview on Italian state television.

Draghi said the future we defend for the country is basic rights, women’s rights and protecting all those who over the years have exposed themselves (into dangerous situations) to defend those rights in Afghanistan.

The big challenge is to pressure the Taliban to guarantee the rights of women who face discrimination and violence, including their full return to school and work and their recognition in political life.

Only boys are allowed to attend secondary schools and now more than 2 million girls are denied access to education. According to the World Bank, Afghanistan has one of the lowest literacy rates for women in the world.

The summit was extended to the Netherlands, Spain, Singapore and Qatar, which play an important role in the Taliban’s dialogue with the West.

Neighbors Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran were not invited to attend the summit and Chinese media reported that President Xi Jinping would not take part. But to maximize engagement, various organizations have also joined, including the United Nations, European Union, World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

An Afghan refugee family, fleeing violence in their province, stands near a tent at a makeshift shelter in Shahr-e Naw park, in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 4, 2021. (Photo: Reuters)

An Afghan refugee family, fleeing violence in their province, stands near a tent at a makeshift shelter in Shahr-e Naw park, in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 4, 2021. (Photo: Reuters)

Afghanistan’s economic downturn and the need to provide humanitarian support, as well as to countries closest to accepting refugees, are at the heart of the summit.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said he asked for an “increase in funding for cooperation in Afghanistan to help civilians.”

He added that whatever must be done to avoid the country from collapsing because he said, “if Afghanistan collapses, we will face uncontrolled migration to nearby countries and subsequent instability in the region”. [ps/jm]

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