• Brookings: action needed on “humanitarian” transition

Brookings: action needed on “humanitarian” transition

02 September 2013

A prominent US think tank says that more needs to be done to address the possible humanitarian consequences of next year’s “triple transition” in Afghanistan.

In the first of three articles, Brookings Institution analyst Khalid Koser outlines the possible effects of the security, political and economic transitions on humanitarian needs and displacement in the country.

He says the international community has strongly emphasised the importance of the security transition - the transfer of security responsibilities to Afghan forces. 

However, Koser says that in terms of issues affecting refugees and displacement, “Many people within Afghanistan also believe that the other two transitions are equally important.”

“What has not yet received sufficient attention either inside or outside Afghanistan….are the implications of these multiple transitions for Afghanistan’s citizens, including the millions already displaced inside and outside the country.”

Koser suggests that the political transition – leading to Presidential elections next April – is likely to be linked with insecurity and uncertainty.   The economic transition would also have an impact.  The UN's 2012 humanitarian appeal for Afghanistan was less than 50 per cent funded.  The withdrawal of international forces and foreign civilian organisations by the end of 2014 would affect local economies and jeopardise the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Afghans.

Meanwhile the humanitarian impacts of the triple transition were likely to be compounded by their direct effects on the ability of the humanitarian community to respond.  Humanitarian access to those in need, Brookings suggests, was likely to decrease.   

Given all these factors, the report says, it was very unlikely that significant numbers of Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan would start returning home in the near future.  Indeed, such factors “are likely to prompt further migration and displacement within and outside the country; and they will reduce the already very limited capacity of the government to cope with the challenges of internal displacement.”

The Brookings Institution says that more has to be done to address such challenges.  Khalid Koser puts forward the following recommendations:

  • Awareness needs to be raised of the humanitarian consequences of the transitions facing Afghanistan, including displacement.
  •  While the international community can have little direct influence over security threats to its staff, helping to promote and maintain a perception of ‘neutrality’ of the UN within Afghanistan is important, especially in light of the increasing violence against people associated with international organisations.
  • There is a need to highlight to donors the need for sustained support for humanitarian and development activities in Afghanistan and the sub-region, delinked from military and political agendas and processes.