Afghanistan: Humanitarianism under Threat

Based on extensive field interviews in Afghanistan, this briefing paper is an update of a 2006 study on perceptions of humanitarian action in Afghanistan, which was part of the Humanitarian Agenda 2015 research program. The paper highlights critical issues affecting the provision of humanitarian action and suggests how they could, partially at least, be redressed.

Building on data collected through interviews in the aid community as well as with ordinary Afghans, the briefing paper finds that humanitarianism is under deep threat in Afghanistan because of the perceived association of aid agencies with the US-led intervention. Humanitarian actors and the principles they profess are under attack. The ability of humanitarian agencies to address urgent need is compromised by internal and external factors, i.e., both by the organization and modus operandi of aid agencies on the ground, and by an extremely volatile and dangerous operating environment.

The aid community in Afghanistan faces severe challenges that need to be urgently addressed so that civilians in need can be protected and assisted and the credibility of the humanitarian enterprise restored. Opportunities for more principled humanitarian action, by separating or insulating it from political and military agendas, should not be missed. Failure to do so will have dire consequences for Afghans and for the future of humanitarianism worldwide.






Thumbnail image of report cover

This study examines how anticipatory action was perceived and experienced among Ethiopians living with drought alongside other crises.

Image of Brief Cover: Actingin in Advance of Flooding

In 2022 UN OCHA led a pilot anticipatory action intervention in South Sudan. This brief presents UN actors’ perceptions of this intervention.

Report cover thumbnail

This report provides insights and perspectives from participatory workshops with displaced female youth in the Kurdistan region of the Republic of Iraq (KRI).

Cover of Report "Sex, age (and more) still matter"

This report reviews progress, outlines barriers to further progress, and makes recommendations to advance gender equality in the humanitarian system.

Thumbnail of Famine Prevention Report Cover

This study reviews what we have learned regarding policies and interventions to prevent famine, and how these can be scaled up more rapidly.

cover of report: Education and Female Youth in Dsiplacement in South Sudan and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq

This paper examines the role of marital status and motherhood on schooling experience and educational interruption, attainment, and aspirations in South Sudan and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Load more