On March 23, on the first day of the school year in Afghanistan, the Taliban regime issued a decree prohibiting female students in secondary schools from going to school. After the first school closure at the end of August, following the Taliban takeover, many girls were once again denied the right to education.
Indignation spread not only among the Afghan population and the girls directly affected by this measure, but also among the international community. The latter immediately pointed out how this decision will affect the dialogue with the Afghan government, especially concerning possible international funding, useful to alleviate the drastic humanitarian situation in the country.
The problem of funding and donations
In fact, since the Taliban’s seizure of power last August, the financial and humanitarian aid system has suffered a major setback as a result of the international community’s refusal to recognize the new government. Among the causes of this decision there is mainly the lack of respect of fundamental human rights in the country, such as guaranteed access to education for all, especially for girls, and freedom of movement and expression.
This has meant that the Taliban government has experienced a cut of funding of billions of dollars, which over the years have helped the Afghan government to function and tried to give humanitarian support to the serious situation of poverty and food shortages that characterize the country. According to data provided by the United Nations, about 23 million people suffer from acute hunger and 95 percent of the population does not get enough to eat.
The international community’s decisions on Afghanistan
Given the centrality of the issue of funding support from the international community, the UN co-organized with the governments of Qatar, the United Kingdom and Germany conference on March 31. The meeting, held online at ministerial level, was attended by major international donors. During this event, the United Nations requested humanitarian aid investments of $4.4 billion. A request that at the moment has been partially accepted with the decision to allocate in the immediate future 2.4 billion of dollars in support of humanitarian response. Some international financial institutions made additional statements: the Asian Development Bank announced 405 million dollars in support of basic services and the World Bank Council decided to make available 1.2 billion dollars from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund. In addition, generous support has been offered from Afghanistan’s neighbors who provided food, energy and infrastructure assistance, and support for large numbers of refugees who have fled Afghanistan.
Another meeting happened in Brussels, on April 5, 2022, when the Special Representatives and Special Envoys of the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States gathered to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. Deborah Lyons, SRSG for Afghanistan, also attended the meeting, which included technical sessions with the World Bank and UNICEF. At the end of the summit the participants issued a joint statement where they underlined that international donor assistance will depend, among other things, on the right and ability of girls to attend equal education at all levels. Furthermore, it was stressed again that the progress towards normalized relations between the Taliban and the international community will depend mostly on the Taliban’s actions and their delivery on commitments and obligations to the Afghan people and to the international community. Finally, the expanded role of the UN work in Afghanistan was welcomed during the meeting. It is based on the Security Council Resolution 2626 (2022) which renews the mandate of UNAMA, and the appointment by the Human Rights Council (HRC) by Richard Bennett as special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Afghanistan.
What remains to be seen now is how the relationship between the international community and Taliban government will develop and what the consequences on humanitarian aid to the population will be.
* Ilaria Bertocchini is a WIIS Italy mentee.