KABUL (Pajhwok): The Asia Displacement Solutions Platform (ADSP) on Monday said protection and long-term solutions for Afghan refugees and internally displaced persons must be at the forefront of the international community’s discussion with the Afghan government in this month’s Geneva conference.
On November 23-24, government ministers and high-level officials from across the world Conference in Geneva.
Held every four years, the conference presents an important opportunity for the international community to express its commitment to the people of Afghanistan.
“At this unique moment in Afghanistan’s history, the Asia Displacement Solutions Platform (ADSP) believes that the protection – and long-term solutions for Afghan refugees and internally displaced persons – must be at the forefront of the international community’s discussion with the Afghan Government,” the platform said in a statement.
It said ADSP recognised the significance of the Afghanistan Conference and acknowledged its crucial function for the Afghan Government and the international community to commit to, and work towards, common development objectives.
Importantly, the statement said, states must ensure that displaced populations were not left behind and seek to advance long-term and sustainable solutions for displaced Afghans.
“This includes setting out a strategic vision to address displacement inside the country and across the region, to providing flexible and multi-year humanitarian funding for NGOs to meet immediate needs, and identifying linkages for government and development actors to support displacement-affected populations.”
Across the region, donors should continue to provide financial and technical support to neighbouring countries that host Afghan refugees such as Iran and Pakistan, and promote regional cooperation.
ADSP Coordinator, Evan Jones, noted that “While Afghanistan is at an important crossroads on its development path, there remain significant humanitarian challenges afflicting the country, and donor states will need to sustain their commitment for some time to come.”
He said addressing the humanitarian needs of growing numbers of IDPs and other displacement-affected Afghans must be at the forefront of these efforts.
One such displaced individual, Bostan, an Afghan refugee that has been living in Quetta, Pakistan for nearly twenty years, described his life as one of perennial limbo. He noted, “Afghanistan is my home, and of course I’d like to return one day. “
However, he said even the thought of returning made him scared for his life and it was better to stay in Pakistan where he could study, work and considered himself safe.
For many years, the concept of ‘return and reintegration’ has featured prominently on Afghanistan’s development agenda, including as a central tenet of Afghanistan’s National Peace and Development Framework 2017-2021.
Whilst returning Afghans can undoubtedly bring a boon in skills, financial capacity and knowledge, it must not be forgotten that Afghanistan remains a tumultuous country, and one that is presently not safe – nor conducive – for refugees to return in safety and dignity.
Furthermore, with an estimated 4.1 million Afghans already displaced inside country, the opportunities for successful reintegration are slim.
ADSP said the international community needed to double down on their efforts to support displaced Afghans, including those in neighbouring countries.
Countries like Pakistan and Iran have hosted millions of Afghan refugees for decades, and should not have to shoulder such a responsibility alone. In the spirit of international responsibility sharing, states must continue their support for refugee hosting nations, whilst simultaneously addressing barriers to return inside Afghanistan.
In addition, states should explore additional ways by which they can offer long-term protection to vulnerable refugees that are unable to return, including through traditional resettlement and complementary pathways.
With more than 14 million people in dire humanitarian need, and estimates of 14.7 million people experiencing acute food insecurity from August to October 2020, the ADSP remains steadfastly committed to supporting and working with all relevant stakeholders to achieve durable solutions for displaced Afghans across the region.