West plans to tie aid for Afghan teachers to promise of girls’ education | Afghanistan

The West plans to incentivize the Taliban to keep their promise to allow girls to go to school by funding teachers’ salaries only in provinces where the pledge is kept.

The Taliban claimed this week that the group would allow girls of secondary school age to attend school from March, the start of the next school term. Skeptical diplomats said they would need more than verbal assurances, physical and budgetary evidence of preparations being necessary.

If no credible national commitments were made or implemented, Western diplomats said a plan to fund teachers’ salaries would only be implemented in provinces where girls were allowed to attend school. Some provinces have been less repressive of women’s rights.

The payroll funds are said to come from the World Bank-administered Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), the largest source of aid to Afghanistan before the Taliban took power in August. Worth £1.5billion, the fund has since been frozen.

Next month, the World Bank’s board is expected to discuss how more money can be released from the fund, not just to help with humanitarian work but, for the first time since August, with payment for workers. keys to health and education.

As reports of urgent humanitarian needs mounted in December, £280million was released, but it was mostly sent to the World Food Program and Unicef, and not spent on salaries.

Accused of failing Afghanistan, diplomats say there is a growing consensus that the West must go beyond conventional humanitarian aid and fund teachers’ salaries, but only if girls are not excluded from education.

London and other capitals have been pushing for a larger tranche of ARTF funding to be released, but are awaiting a document from the World Bank board, which will outline how the money could be released for the wages in education, health and agricultural production without reaching the Taliban. . The West refuses to recognize the group and the United States has imposed sanctions on many of its leaders.

The main proposal is that UN agencies, such as Unicef ​​or the International Red Cross, produce lists of frontline health and education workers so that payments can be sent directly to their bank accounts. A source stressed that the plan was medium-term, adding that the Taliban were “slowly realizing this was the only way it would work”.

Money for key workers is just one aspect of how the humanitarian crisis is made worse by sanctions.

The Norwegian Refugee Council on Thursday became the latest aid agency to say it is almost impossible to get money to Afghanistan due to the state of banks and fears of Western financial institutions. that the transactions do not fall under US Treasury sanctions.

Before Christmas, the UN Security Council passed a resolution to shield banking transactions for humanitarian purposes from the sanctions regime. Since then, the US Treasury has issued six general licenses to authorize such payments and is in discussions with Citibank, the main bank that handled the Afghan transactions, to reassure its officials that it will not be sanctioned if it returns to the market. The UK is also introducing the UN Humanitarian Exemption into the UK Sanctions Act and providing £280m to Afghanistan this year.

US officials are meeting with the Afghan Central Bank to discuss how to make it more independent and credible. Western officials say it is a misunderstanding to consider ACB’s £8billion frozen reserves as a potential source of humanitarian funding, as it is seed capital for the bank, and if it were returned to the Taliban, this would amount to diplomatic recognition of the group.

On Tuesday, the Asian Development Bank’s board released £405 million, mostly for Afghanistan’s agricultural sector.

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