The UK Government has committed to co-host a virtual pledging summit for Afghanistan on 31 March 2022.
The member organisations of the British & Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group (BAAG) welcome this commitment, with hope that the UK Government will be highly ambitious in both the planning and in the follow up to the summit.
BAAG has urged the UK Government to make every effort to ensure that not only the humanitarian funding targets are met but also real progress is made towards stabilising the economy. Support for Afghanistan has never been more urgently needed. Political instability, economic collapse, drought, and Covid-19 have created an unprecedented amount of humanitarian needs.
24 million people inside Afghanistan and 5.7 million in neighbouring countries are in immediate need of assistance. Gender inequalities and the marginalisation of minority groups have deteriorated due to the events of recent months, with vulnerable women and children most at risk from hunger, and religious and other minorities exposed to repression. It is essential to prioritise women’s access to public spaces and respect of humanitarian principles.
BAAG has called on organisers of the summit to listen to the following considerations for the event:
Diverse representation and the inclusion of voices increasingly marginalised under the de facto authorities of Afghanistan is vital to the success of the summit. Organisers should prioritise the views of Afghans, especially women’s and minority voices.
They should make sure they are safely and effectively heard by decision-makers before, during, in follow-up, and future conferences. This should include the active involvement of Afghan civil society.
This needs to involve the establishment of a joint FCDO-civil society steering group, use of surveying and feedback mechanisms to request written and verbal input into the design, outcomes and follow-up to the conference, integrating Afghan voices throughout and a webcast of the conference translated into Dari/Pashto.
2. Quality and quantity
While it’s important that the main goal of meeting the $4.4bn humanitarian funding target is realised and quickly disbursed, the quantity of money pledged to the emergency response should not be the only measure of success. The UK should set a clear example, providing quality humanitarian funding that is flexible, long-term and available to front-line responders, including local NGOs.
It is essential that humanitarian funds are directed via, or in genuine partnership with, local humanitarian actors with a strong track record with funds. Humanitarian aid must empower Afghan institutions and organisations that can be developed as long-term agents of humanitarian relief and development.
Additional funding commitments to stabilise the broader economy is critical, not only because of the devastating impact of economic collapse on the Afghan population, but because the humanitarian response is seriously curbed by the financial crisis. With multiple crises globally, it’s crucial that urgent support for Afghanistan does not come at the expense of the UK’s response elsewhere.
3. Policy commitments beyond funding
Preventing long-term mass suffering in Afghanistan will require tough political decisions. Without urgent action to stabilise Afghanistan’s financial system and wider economy, and a sustained joint approach to instability that affects the Afghan people’s lives, humanitarian needs will only grow.
The summit should promote the full and effective reengagement of the World Bank, IMF, and other International Financial Institutions in Afghanistan, including regional development banks.
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Restarting the activities of financial institutions and comprehensive development financing must allow for salary payments of key workers and avoid creating parallel delivery structures which further undermine institutional capacity and establish greater aid dependence.
A functioning central bank is critical. A coordinated commitment is needed to resume full technical support to the central bank as part of a wider plan to ensure it begins to operate independently and effectively by the end of 2022.
The release of all frozen assets to support the Afghan economy, with exploration in to the possibility of disbursement and avoidance of harm is vital. The summit needs to bring donors together to agree on a roadmap to safeguard past investments and prevent the collapse of critical Afghan state structures, services, and financial institutions.
4. The regional and global role
The crisis is regional by nature, with millions in need of assistance in neighbouring countries. It is important to include regional actors and civil society. Every effort should be made to fulfil the UNHCR’s $623m regional funding appeal for Afghan refugees and lessons must be learnt from past and ongoing crises. Western governments should show concrete support and action by outlining how they will improve access to safe pathways to asylum outside the region.
5. Tracking and follow-up
The pledging conference should be the start rather than the end of a process. Organisers should agree a framework for tracking and following up on pledges, both financial and political, to ensure commitments are met.
Tracking of financial pledges should clearly distinguish between allocations already planned, new money and the analysis of the quality of those funds, while benchmarks for policy commitments are needed for effective implementation and follow up.
It is heartening that the UK Government acknowledges the urgency of the devastating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. But strong action is needed to prevent the crisis from getting worse.
Find out more about Member Organisations of the British & Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group.