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The UK is hosting a conference for the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan: this is everything you need to know
On the 31 March the UK will co-host a United Nations virtual pledging summit to help address the growing humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan, where poverty and hunger levels have spiralled.
The summit, co-hosted by the UK, Germany, Qatar and the UN, will aim to raise $4.4 billion; the largest amount the UN has ever requested for a single country. Donor countries, UN agencies and Afghan civil society will take part.
Why this summit is so important
Political instability, economic collapse, drought, and Covid-19 have created unprecedented humanitarian needs for 24 million people inside Afghanistan and 5.7 million in neighbouring countries, which need an immediate response. Half the country’s population are facing acute hunger.
"The scale of need is unparalleled, and consequences of inaction will be devastating," Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement.
What else we hope for from the summit in addition to funds
Quality as well as quantity
While it is critical that the primary goal of meeting the $4.4bn humanitarian funding target is achieved, and funds quickly disbursed, the quantity of money pledged to the emergency response should not be the only measure of success.
We believe that the UK should set an example by allocating quality humanitarian funding that is flexible and available directly to front-line responders, including local NGOs. Local groups can shape programmes in a contextually appropriate, culturally sensitive way because they base them on a community's own understanding of its needs. They are better positioned to ensure accountability and respect long-term perspectives because they are closer to communities and have their trust.
Additional funding commitments to stabilise the broader economy is also critical, not only because of the devastating of impact of economic collapse on the Afghan population, but because the humanitarian response itself is seriously constrained by the financial crisis in the country.
Preventing long-term mass suffering in Afghanistan will require tough political decisions to be made. Without urgent action to stabilise Afghanistan’s financial system and wider economy, and a collaborative approach to the instability that affects Afghans’ lives, humanitarian needs will only grow. On a practical level, this should include:
- A functioning central bank, which is critically needed not only for the humanitarian response but also for the wider economy.
- The release of all frozen assets to support the Afghan economy.
- The reengagement of International Financial Institutions in Afghanistan and the recommencements of activities of such institutions must allow for salary payments of key workers. This will prevent further aid dependence.
Diverse representation, especially the inclusion of voices that are increasingly marginalised, is critically important to the success of the summit. We must ensure that the people of Afghanistan, in particular women’s and minority voices, are safely and effectively heard by decision-makers.
Tracking and follow up
The pledging conference should be seen as 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.
It is vital that this pledging conference results in ambitious commitments that lay out a clear pathway to addressing both immediate and long-term challenges the country faces. As the co-hosts, the UK has a role to ensure that its own International Development strategy that is under development, focuses on tackling the crisis in Afghanistan but also the multiple crises facing the poorest and most marginalised people in other countries, with the necessary investments to tackle the root causes driving these crises in the first place.
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