Confronting the Crisis in Afghanistan: Eight Priorities for the International Community

World Refugee & Migration Council Statement — 22 August 2021

As the tragedy unfolds in #Afghanistan, global leadership is desperately required to avert further human suffering and bloodshed. Read @WRMCouncil's urgent call for action. Click To Tweet

As the tragedy unfolds in Afghanistan, global leadership is desperately required to avert further human suffering and bloodshed. International efforts should embody the principles of the “responsibility to protect” and ensure that the Taliban does not foment further violence and persecution against the citizens of Afghanistan and adheres to the obligations of all states and political authorities under international humanitarian and human rights law. The Taliban should also be put on notice that it will be held fully accountable for human rights violations against its own people.

The Taliban has shown itself capable of gross violations of human rights, including reprisals against dissidents, violence against women and girls, and gross abuses of human rights. There are tens of thousands in Afghanistan who assisted the NATO forces in one way or another.  There are countless others, including many women, who assumed key positions in government, the judiciary, the educational sector, and nongovernmental organizations, who are now at grave risk. Because of the speed of the Taliban offensive, these individuals remain in the country because the NATO alliance was not able to evacuate them in an orderly manner.  

In holding the Taliban to account, the international community has two main sources of leverage. The first is recognition of the Taliban’s new government. The second is access by the Taliban to important sources of financial support, including its special drawing rights in the International Monetary Fund, which have been suspended. Recognition and access to financing should be withheld until the objectives listed below are achieved.  

Particular attention must be focussed on the plight of the millions of Afghan displaced persons to ensure their protection and survival.

There are eight urgent priorities:

  1. The Hamid Karzai International Airport should be kept secure for evacuation flights for a long as necessary. There should be no artificial deadlines for the removal of NATO forces that have been deployed to secure the airport. 
  2. UN Member States must ensure that UN Funds and Agencies on the ground in the region have the requisite resources to provide humanitarian relief to the hundreds of thousands of Afghans who have been forcibly displaced in recent months. More than 10 percent of the Afghan population has been forcibly displaced and there is a 60 percent shortfall in the United Nations’ Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA). The mandate and funding of UNAMA should be extended and strengthened as required. Monitoring and reporting on the Taliban’s human rights performance should be one of its functions along with the creation of the land corridor. 
  3. A humanitarian land corridor should be negotiated with the Taliban to permit access to humanitarian assistance for those in Afghanistan facing famine and those who have been displaced by the decades long war. 
  4. Consistent with the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) we call on the international community to move expeditiously to develop a coordinated, predictable, and equitable means of providing support for those Afghans who wish to relocate outside their country.[1]
  5. The future of Afghan refugees should not be determined simply by geography but according to the principles of responsibility sharing in the Global Compact. Some states like Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States have already pledged to accept a specific number of Afghans. But fulfillment of the pledges should not be made impossible by red tape. Self-imposed country quotas should be sufficiently flexible to meet the evolving situation. Countries bordering on Afghanistan should be encouraged to keep their borders open for Afghan refugees and the international community should ensure that these countries receive the full support they need. The processing of Afghan applications for resettlement should be organized through dedicated sites where vetting and assessments can take place as was the international practice during the exodus from Vietnam in 1978-79.
  6. The Secretary-General should hold a multi-stakeholder pledging conference, similar to the one held in 1979 for Vietnamese refugees, with the aim of gaining commitments from Afghanistan to protect the rights of its citizens and provide avenues of orderly departure, from neighboring countries to admit Afghan asylum seekers at their borders, and other countries to commit to provide essential humanitarian aid and pledge robust resettlement opportunities for those seeking to exit. 
  7. The most vulnerable population in Afghanistan are women, girls, and LGBTQ+.  These communities historically have faced grievous challenges in Afghanistan, especially under Taliban rule. For that reason, the international community should maintain continuous monitoring of the Taliban’s behaviour toward these vulnerable populations by strengthening UNAMA’s mandate.
  8. The Secretary General of the United Nations should appoint an adequately resourced special envoy to coordinate international efforts to assist the people of Afghanistan and to promote the achievement of these priority objectives. Member states should designate focal points to work in tandem with the UN envoy.

World Refugee & Migration Council Members

  • Pamela Aall, American University and Senior Adviser, United States Institute of Peace
  • Madeleine Albright, WRMC Honorary Chair and former US Secretary of State
  • Shaima Al Zarooni, Founder and President, Camp01
  • Lloyd Axworthy, WRMC Chair and former Foreign Minister of Canada
  • Alexander Betts, Professor & Director, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford
  • Aya Chebbi, African Union Youth Envoy, Co-founder of the Voice of Women Initiative and Founding chair of Afrika Youth Movement
  • Sarah Cliffe, Director of New York University’s Center on International Cooperation
  • HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal, WRMC Honorary Chair
  • Jérôme Elie, forced displacement policy expert
  • Jonathan Fanton, former President American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Former President MacArthur Foundation
  • Elizabeth Ferris, WRMC Vice President of Research and Professor, Georgetown University
  • Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate, Founder and President Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa
  • Fen Osler Hampson, WRMC President, Chancellor’s Professor, Carleton University
  • Per Heggenes, Chief Executive Officer, IKEA Foundation
  • Paul Heinbecker, WRMC Deputy Chair, former ambassador of Canada to the United Nations
  • Hina Jilani, WRMC Co-chair, human rights and democracy activist, and lawyer and advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan
  • Jakaya Kikwete, WRMC Co-chair and former President of Tanzania
  • Susan Martin, Donald G. Herzberg Professor Emerita of International Migration at Georgetown University
  • Rosemary McCarney, former Ambassador of Canada to the United Nations
  • Glenn Mifflin, Chief Executive Officer, Cuso International
  • Devota Nuwe, Head of Programs Refugee Law Project, School of Law, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
  • Ratna Omidvar, Independent Senator, Senate of Canada
  • George A. Papandreou, Former Prime Minister of Greece
  • Nirupama Menon Rao, retired Indian diplomat, foreign secretary and ambassador
  • Allan Rock, former Minister of Justice, Attorney General and Ambassador of Canada to the United Nations
  • Güven Sak, Executive of the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV), professor of public economics, TOBB University of Economics and Technology
  • Eduardo Stein, former vice president and foreign minister of Guatemala, special representative for Venezuelan refugees and Migrants of UNHCR and IOM
  • Rita Süssmuth, WRMC Co-chair, German politician and scholar

[1] Specific tools included in the GCR, including the SSAR Support Platform for Afghan Refugees, must adapt to current circumstances and include resettlement programs for those Afghans who wish to relocate outside their country.

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