World Bank freezes Afghan projects after Taliban bans girls from high school

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The projects, which were to be funded by the new Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, were being prepared for implementation by United Nations agencies to support projects in the areas of agriculture, education, health and livelihoods.

But the bank’s guidelines require that all ARTF-funded activities support access – and equity of services for – women and girls in Afghanistan, the bank said, citing deep concerns about the ban. by the Taliban to attend secondary school for girls.

Accordingly, the bank said, the four projects will only be presented to ARTF donors for approval “when the World Bank and international partners have a better understanding of the situation and are confident that the projects’ objectives can be achieved. “. It was not immediately clear when this might happen.

Last week, US officials canceled scheduled meetings in Doha with the Taliban over the decision to keep girls out of secondary school.

The World Bank‘s board on March 1 approved a plan to use more than $1 billion from the ARTF fund to finance urgent education, agriculture, health and family programs that would bypass the sanctioned Taliban authorities and would disburse the money through UN agencies and aid. groups.

The ARTF was frozen in August when the Taliban seized power as US-led international troops left after 20 years of war.

Foreign governments have also ended financial aid representing more than 70% of public spending, accelerating the country’s economic collapse.

When agreeing to release ARTF funds for new projects to be implemented by UN agencies, the World Bank stated that it expected “a particular emphasis on participation and benefit support for girls and women”.

The Taliban has reversed gains in women’s rights over the past two decades, including preventing them from working and restricting their movement unless accompanied by a close male relative. Most girls were also banned from going to school beyond the seventh grade.

But Taliban leaders had said all girls would be allowed to return to class later this month.

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