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The UN secretary-general on Monday declared a flash appeal conference a success, with more than $1 billion in pledges made at a special high-level ministerial meeting on Afghanistan’s humanitarian situation in Geneva.

“More than $1.1 billion pledges were made, but I cannot tell you the exact number that corresponds to the flash appeal in itself,” Antonio Guterres told a press conference.

“This conference has fully met my expectations in relation to the solidarity with the people of Afghanistan,” he said, pledging the UN’s continued support for Afghanistan over many decades, even during Taliban rule.

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The flash conference had 156 participants, including 96 UN states represented at the ministerial level, with three international and regional organizations and 22 international NGOs.

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The UN chief warned, however: “Humanitarian aid will not solve the problem if the economy of Afghanistan collapses, and we know that the risk is enormous and that there is a dramatic lack of cash.

“We cannot even operate if the banks are not operating … to pay the salaries to our staff.”

Pledges from Taliban

Guterres said that the UN had received documents from the Taliban – which last week formed an interim government for Afghanistan – guaranteeing that full humanitarian work could continue and with security support.

He was asked about a speech earlier in the day by UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet on her concern about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

“Facing deepening humanitarian and economic crisis, the country has entered a new and perilous phase, with many Afghans profoundly concerned for their human rights, particularly women, ethnic and religious communities,” Bachelet said at the Human Rights Council.

“If we want to protect the human rights of the people of Afghanistan, the best way is to move on with humanitarian aid and engage the Taliban and take profit of that humanitarian aid to push for those rights to be implemented,” Guterres told journalists.

“We need to have a clear perspective of the primacy of humanitarian principles and at the same time a total determination to use them as a factor of engagement to make sure that the commitments that were made will be respected.”

He said the UN would not determine how the interim government in Afghanistan will be, how it will rule, or how the situation in the country will evolve.

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