A Conference in Brussels School of International Studies
On Monday, 9 October 2023, the Afghanistan & Central Association (ACAA), organised a conference at
Brussels School of International Studies (BSIS), University of Kent, Belgium titled ‘Humanitarianism in
Afghanistan – Lessons after two years of Taliban Rule’, with over 80 people in attendance, including EU and
British parliamentarians, the Afghan Diaspora, journalists, and academics.
In light of the current situation in Afghanistan, prior to the start of the panel discussion, a minute of
silence took place to mourn the lives of more than 3,000 Afghan people who lost their lives in the last
Subsequently, an in depth panel discussion was moderated by Shabnam Nasimi, former policy advisor
to minister for Afghan Resettlement Victoria Atkins MP and minister for refugees Richard Harrington. Shabnam
highlighted the lack of understanding of the local context and what the actual needs of Afghan people are. To
do so, she said, “we need to listen to people of Afghanistan, especially those in exile and people of the
The discussion shed a spotlight on the dire humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s
takeover, the political and geopolitical landscape of Taliban controlled Afghanistan, the international
community’s (including NGOs) humanitarian response since the takeover, challenges of delivering
humanitarian aid, the refugee crisis as well as the state of human rights and women’s rights.
Ms Lailuma Sadidm, who is a former diplomat in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Embassy to the
Kingdom of Belgium, in charge of NATO and a current senior correspondent, was the keynote for the panel
discussion. She expressed her frustration of excluding the people of Afghanistan in the decision-making and
stated, “the world engages with the Taliban without asking the people of Afghanistan,” questioning whether
the humanitarian aid is helping civilians or empowering the Taliban. She also warned that recognising the
Taliban not only is dangerous for Afghanistan, but it is also dangerous for the world.
Seán Kelly MEP, was in the first panel alongside Elena Yoncheva MEP and Dr Nooralhaq Nasimi MBE
discussing the importance of humanitarian assistance and reflecting on the humanitarian consequences from
NATO’s rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan and its subsequent policies of aid weaponization against the Taliban.
Seán Kelly, who has recently urged the European Commission to take immediate action to support girls and
women’s education in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, said, “the withdrawal of US troops has led to a
humanitarian crisis, particularly for women, girls, and other minorities”. However, he noted that “the EU could
lead by example; together we can provide hope to the people of Afghanistan.”
Following the Taliban tightened its grip on Kabul controlling its government and institutions,
weaponising humanitarian aid became a controversial subject for the international community and whether
the continual of this aid helps innocent civilians or the Taliban. Elena Yoncheva MEP argued that “there is a
need to construct a dialogue with the Taliban to support humanitarian efforts.” Conversely, Dr Nooralhaq
Nasimi MBE, who is the founder of the ACAA experienced first hand what fleeing from the Taliban entails, said
that “The Taliban does not represent the majority of the people of Afghanistan” and that the raw realities of
Afghanistan need to be heard and its people need the time and place to spread awareness about what is
happening not the Taliban.
In the second panel titled ‘The future of aid delivery to Afghanistan – the role of Europe and the
Diaspora.’ The speakers, Keith Best, MP, Dr. Bojan Savić and Ms Lailuma Sadidm, discussed the organisational,
logistical and geopolitical challenges of delivering humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan since the Taliban
takeover while exploring how the Afghan Diaspora, Europe and the rest of the international community could
be mobilised to open the potential pathways for humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. While aid is being
weaponised, “64% of households are unable to meet their basic needs,” and “6.5 million Afghans still live as
refugees in neighbouring countries” said Keith Best, MP, highlighting the urgency of sending aid to Afghan
Dr. Bojan Savić, the final speaker, who has an academic interest in the affairs of Afghanistan, shared
his experiences of travel to Afghanistan and said, “humanitarian aid is one of the many foreign policy tools
used to control Afghanistan.” He attributed Afghanistan’s current enduring situation, in part, to its reliance on
aid. He ended his speech, though, saying “I don’t think that Afghanistan is a failed state but a failed colonial
After the enlightening discussions by both the panels, Shabnam Nasimi noted the lack of academic
research about Afghan culture and heritage and addressed young academics and researchers urging them to
conduct more research in those realms.
The conference turned out to be a great success where all the speakers agreed that supporting the
diaspora and relevant organisations is the most important approach to help the citizens of Afghanistan.
Blog by Malak Alkasadi, Political Communications Intern