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The Challenges and Prospects of Humanitarianism in Afghanistan

Written by Cristina Clopatofsky – Volunteer at ACAA

In an increasingly unstable and conflict prone environment, it has become more challenging for NGOs and development partners to deliver humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. In this light, the ACAA partnered with the LSESU Student Action For Refugees to host a lecture evening at the LSE with four speakers sharing their own experiences and insights on humanitarianism in Afghanistan.

The choice of speakers was based on their varied backgrounds and experiences to provide a broad  platform for discussion on new perspectives of how to deliver assistance and gain a holistic understanding of the on-ground situation in Afghanistan. As one attendee stated, the evening provided “an effective analysis of the latest and current situation of the IDPs camps in Afghanistan, characterised by the weak and not addressed policies of the Afghanistan government.”

Justin Dell, British Red Cross Country Manager for Afghanistan and Pakistan, explained the on-ground experience of the Red Cross by outlining its impartiality principle whereby intervention is based on needs, and is not tied to political or military purposes.

Ghulam Ali Farzam, the Economic and Cultural Affairs Consulate General of Afghanistan in Mumbai India, shared the views of the government of Afghanistan on the role that NGOs play and the challenges arising from their involvement.

Darius Nasimi, an ACAA representative, depicted the views of the Afghan diaspora on how to best promote human rights in the context of Afghanistan by talking about the organisation’s experience with the Citizens’ Advice Centres in Kabul and Pul-e-Khumri.

As a moderator, Prof. Chaloka Beyani, Associate Professor of Law at LSE and former UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights in Afghanistan; provided the views from an academic and practitioner perspective on the problems of promoting human rights principles to environments of conflict.

Since the international troop withdrawal in 2014, there has been increased insecurity which directly threatens Afghan civilians and NGO practitioners. With increased attacks on NGO centres, practitioners face the dilemma of whether to cancel their humanitarian operations, to risk their lives as they continue their activities, or to equip themselves with expensive bulletproof cars and bodyguards. However, each of these options come at a cost; the first would worsen the humanitarian situation, the second would put  NGO practitioners at risk in an increasingly unsafe environment, and the third would cause a divide between the local communities and those delivering the assistance and dramatically raise the cost of humanitarian assistance. Moreover, since the government of Afghanistan is one of the most corrupt in the world, there is a pressing need to implement mechanisms to hold the government and donors accountable for the effectiveness of aid.

Given these challenges, the main recommendations emerging from the discussion were to:

Coordinate the international NGOs activities by partnering with local NGOs and government ministries

Deliver aid equitably across provinces and urban/rural areas

Increase the capacity of local NGOs to deliver more assistance and have a greater reach

Identify and assist the vulnerable groups who suffer most from conflict. IDPs and particularly children were found to be the most affected and should be offered protection mechanisms.

Engage the local community in policy-making processes through community-based approaches. Successful examples of this are the National Solidarity Programme and the subsequent Citizens’ Charter Programme.

Support the Afghan diaspora as means to increase the civil society engagement and promote human rights

Despite the highly insecure environment in Afghanistan, development partners must commit to continuously deliver humanitarian assistance to support civilians whose human rights are being violated.

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