Afghanistan: UK support for aid workers and the Afghan people – Report Summary

This is a House of Commons Committee report, with recommendations to government. The Government has two months to respond.

Author: International Development Committee

Related inquiry: Afghanistan

Date Published: 4 March 2022

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UK and allied forces left Afghanistan in August 2021. The Taliban takeover was rapid. The humanitarian jeopardy is extreme, and the scale of the humanitarian response required is unprecedented. At the same time, the safety of aid workers has been compromised.

Any contingency plans that the Government had for evacuating aid workers were neither apparent to the aid sector nor scaled adequately. Some Afghans who worked on projects funded by the UK Government are now reporting that their lives are at risk of reprisals from the Taliban authorities. Afghan aid workers who advocated for, with UK Government encouragement, freedoms for women and minority groups are now at risk of reprisals from the Taliban authorities. The UK Government’s schemes do not adequately support those aid workers seeking safe passage to the UK. Some Afghan aid workers feel abandoned by the UK Government.

The UK Government has a long history of interventions in Afghanistan. It has a moral obligation to the Afghan people. The Government has pledged significant sums of aid since its withdrawal from Afghanistan, but the release of that aid to the people who so desperately need it has been excruciatingly slow.

A cash liquidity crisis is strangling the remaining life out of the country. Sanctions against the Taliban have stifled the provision of aid. Women, children, and minority groups have suffered disproportionately as a result of the regime change and those sanctions.

The Government has been too slow to work with its international counterparts to lift or revise sanctions, unblock the banking system in Afghanistan and unfreeze nominated World Bank funds to provide desperately needed financial support to the Afghan people.

The UK Government has called repeatedly for other Governments across the world to step up and deliver humanitarian funding for Afghanistan. However, there is scant evidence that it has been providing effective leadership on the world stage to secure that funding. ‘Global Britain’ feels like a hollow slogan. Meanwhile, more time passing means more lives are lost. The longer-term trajectory of Afghanistan looks bleak.

We humbly thank the people working in the aid sector, with deep gratitude, for all that they have done and do to support the people of Afghanistan. The work that they do is phenomenal. We are ashamed that the Government has not given them the support and the clarity that they need.

If the UK Government wants the people of Afghanistan, or indeed any other countries, to engage with Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) projects and programmes then it needs to be clear that people who work for UK funded aid projects will not be abandoned if conflict breaks out and a government hostile to some of the values FCDO is promoting comes into power.

More than 23 million people, over half the population of Afghanistan, are facing starvation. The Government must provide the support and the clarity that people working in the aid sector have told us that they need. The Government must do this to help the people of Afghanistan, now.