Thematic areas: Child Protection, Landmine Ban
The withdrawal of international forces and rapid takeover by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA-Taliban) are game changers in Afghanistan, where overlapping armed conflicts, COVID-19 and its socio-economic consequences, and extreme weather have already created a complex emergency. The humanitarian community will need to quickly adapt how they work to save lives and protect civilians already subject to dramatically declining socio-economic conditions and insecurity.
In Kabul and other provinces, while some hostilities continue, pockets of resistance are already positioning themselves in anticipation of the potential results of negotiations over the country’s future. The IEA has not yet formed a government and needs to demonstrate to the Afghan population and the international community its ability to effectively run the country. They will need to show they can maintain public institutions and services, and secure areas of the country where armed organisations with diverse power and political agendas operate. The potential for full-fledged hostilities is high and securing compliance with humanitarian norms by all armed organisations remains a critical priority for humanitarian engagement.
Unsurprisingly, Afghanistan faces a paradox: increasing humanitarian needs and shrinking humanitarian space. The application of international counter-terrorism laws and policies, sanctions, closure of the banking system, and the lack of clarity over the new rules of engagement are disrupting the flow of humanitarian aid within the country and essential financial transfers. At the same time, the closure or restriction of most borders and all airports and airstrips have also cut the majority of humanitarian supply-lines.
Uncertainty regarding security and continued violence have jeopardised the safety of humanitarian workers and the civilian population alike. Despite the international aid community’s goal of continuing its essential work, engagement with the IEA is a new practice for most in this context. Trust-building between the IEA and the aid community requires additional support to ensure protection and respect of humanitarian norms, without which humanitarian space will continue to shrink.
Geneva Call’s activities in Afghanistan
– Deepened engagement: Geneva Call is leading direct humanitarian engagement with armed organisations, with the objective of increasing its acceptance as a reliable and neutral actor promoting humanitarian norms.
– Extending outreach: Geneva Call is leading a series of indirect humanitarian engagement sessions with constituencies, including political parties, religious and tribal leaders and journalists to advance awareness of international humanitarian norms. These sessions open direct humanitarian engagement with armed organisations focusing on the protection of education, medical care and humanitarian access.
– Engagement initiated: Geneva Call presented its approach to support the ban on AP Mines to two armed organisations by promoting the Deed of Commitment for Adherence to a Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines and for Cooperation in Mine Action.
– Adapting to the context: Geneva Call initiated the development of educational materials to be used during training sessions and awareness raising campaigns. These include the development of a new phone App ‘conflict has rules too’ and linking the 15 rules for fighters in internal armed conflict to relevant Islamic references.
- Total number of civilians casualties increased by 47% compared with 2020.
- 38% of all civilian casualties was caused by non-suicide explosive devices.
- 16 incidents of direct targeting of schools and personnel, and 26 incidents in which schools or education personnel were incidentally impacted.
- 28 incidents of direct targeting of healthcare facilities or workers, and 24 incidents where healthcare facilities or personnel were incidentally impacted.
Alex Virtanen – COUNTRY DIRECTOR