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Activities of Secretary-General in Switzerland, 12-14 September

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres arrived in Geneva, Switzerland, on Sunday, 12 September, for a short trip during which he would chair the high‑level event on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan that he had recently convened.

On Monday morning, 13 September, the Secretary‑General held a series of bilateral meetings with Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis of Switzerland; Minister for Development Cooperation of Denmark Flemming Møller Mortensen; and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas of Germany.  He also met with the Director‑General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Tatiana Valovaya, and the Director General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

After meeting with Under‑Secretary‑General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths, the Secretary‑General spoke at the opening of the high‑level event on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.  The event was attended by more than 150 participants, of which 96 were Member States - with half of them speaking at the ministerial level; 33 were international and regional organizations; and 22 were non‑governmental organizations.

In his opening remarks, the Secretary‑General stressed that the people of Afghanistan need a lifeline, and that now is the time for the international community to stand with them.  He also said that, to continue its life‑saving efforts in Afghanistan, the United Nations family needs four things right away.  First is funding, he said, urging support for the flash appeal for $606 million.  Second, the United Nations needs help to boost humanitarian access, including the airbridge with Kabul and other hubs in Afghanistan, while, in the third place, it needs to safeguard the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.  Finally, the United Nations needs to ensure that its humanitarian response saves not only lives but also livelihoods; the international community has to find ways to make cash available to allow the Afghan economy to breathe.  Finally, the Secretary‑General expressed admiration and gratitude to United Nations staff and the entire aid community in Afghanistan, the vast majority of whom are Afghan nationals.  (See Press Release SG/SM/20896.)

Later in the afternoon, the Secretary‑General gave a press conference on the high‑level event.  In his remarks to reporters, the Secretary‑General announced that more than $1 billion in pledges were mentioned by participants.  The United Nations chief reiterated the importance of ensuring that assistance does not come at the expense of hard‑won gains for women and minorities in Afghanistan over the last 20 years.  While immediate concern focuses on the provision of emergency aid to avert a major humanitarian crisis in the country, the Secretary‑General warned that such assistance will not solve the problem if the economy of Afghanistan collapses.  “And we know that the risk is enormous,” he said, “and that there is a dramatic lack of cash.”  The United Nations is very much concerned with making sure that humanitarian assistance will be an entry point “for effective engagement with the Taliban in all other aspects of concern of the international community,” said the Secretary‑General, noting that the current flash appeal of $606 million is to provide urgent assistance to 11 million people over the next four months.

The Secretary-General travelled back to New York on Tuesday, 14 September.

For information media. Not an official record.