The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan published a much-needed explanation of its cash shipments to Afghanistan on Monday stating that the money is controlled solely by the organization once in the country and is not benefiting the Taliban.
The document, titled a Media Information Sheet, comes after weeks of speculation about whether the Taliban has benefitted from the millions of dollars shipped in each week, and whether this stream of hard cash has been suspended following the group’s ban on higher education for women and the subsequent ban on women working for NGOs.
Since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, the international community has been sending in between $40 million and $80 million each week, and every week the Taliban-controlled central bank announced the arrival and the amount received on its Twitter account.
Following the Taliban’s ban, issued on December 20, on women getting a university education, the weekly tweets by the central bank stopped. In their last tweet, on December 14, the central bank said the amount received had been $40 million.
On Friday, January 6, Martin Griffiths, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today show that the Taliban was not benefitting from the cash aid flowing into the country and that the funds “were very tightly controlled”.
“At the moment, we have a temporary suspension on taking funds in while we see where this particular edict (the ban on women working for NGOs) is going,” he said adding that he did not think the UN was the Taliban’s “banker” as the group was raising its own money in various ways including through taxes.
However, the UN and its partners divulged few details on this steady flow of cash into the country and only on Monday did the organization throw some light on the situation. But no mention was made on whether the “temporary suspension” that Griffiths mentioned last week was still in place.
While the Taliban-run central bank announced the arrival of the cash each week, up until December 14, 2022, the UN stated Monday in its information sheet that the “United Nations does not comment on the methods, timings, dates and amounts of individual cash shipments.”
The organization also stated that “none of the cash brought into Afghanistan is deposited in the Central Bank of Afghanistan nor provided to the Taliban de facto authorities by the UN.”
In addition, the UN stated: “All cash brought in to Afghanistan is placed in designated UN accounts in a private bank for use by the United Nations.”
The organization did however confirm that since this transfer mechanism commenced in December 2021, “the UN has brought in to Afghanistan approximately $1.8 billion in funds for the United Nations and partners to conduct their work.”
UNAMA’s explanation was a bullet-point list and was published as follows:
• The United Nations transports cash in to Afghanistan for use by UN agencies. The UN uses the funds to conduct its work in Afghanistan, primarily in providing critical humanitarian assistance to millions of Afghans requiring support. A central reason the UN brings cash in to Afghanistan is due to the disruption to international banking transfers and liquidity issues since August 2021.
• All cash brought in to Afghanistan is placed in designated UN accounts in a private bank for use by the United Nations.
• All these funds are then distributed directly to the United Nations entities, as well as to a small number of approved and vetted humanitarian partners in Afghanistan.
• None of the cash brought in to Afghanistan is deposited in the Central Bank of Afghanistan nor provided to the Taliban de facto authorities by the UN.
• The cash transfer mechanism has proved to be essential in the provision of life-saving assistance to more than 25 million Afghans by the UN in Afghanistan, including Unicef, UNHCR, WFP, UN Women, OCHA, UN Habitat, WHO, FAO, IOM and others, who manage expenditures in line with their own operational processes and priorities. Further information may be obtained from the respective UN agencies, funds and programs.
• The cash brought in to Afghanistan for use by the UN and approved partners is carefully monitored, audited, inspected and vetted in strict accordance with the UN financial rules and processes.
• Since this transfer mechanism commenced in December 2021, the UN has brought in to Afghanistan approximately $1.8 billion in funds for the United Nations and partners to conduct their work.
• The United Nations does not comment on the methods, timings, dates and amounts of individual cash shipments.
• The need for further cash shipments for the United Nations in Afghanistan is dependent on multiple factors including, but not limited to, whether the banking sector is sufficiently robust to enable bank transfers and upon the financial requirements of UN entities to conduct their work. The amount of cash brought in to Afghanistan is proportional to the UN’s programme of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. If the volume of assistance that the UN is able to provide diminishes the amount of cash shipped will be reduced.
• The current process of bringing in cash for the United Nations remains the most feasible means of ensuring donor funds can quickly reach the millions of Afghan men, women and children who are in urgent need of aid.