Vulnerability and Humanitarian Implications of UN Security Council Sanctions in Afghanistan


Executive Summary
This report has been commissioned by the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan to examine the impact of United Nations sanctions against Afghanistan on the humanitarian situation. The study took place over a period of several months, and involved extensive interviews and information gathering from humanitarian and diplomatic sources, Afghan civil society and individuals, and Taliban leaders. It follows accepted methodology, and focuses on two areas. First, a vulnerability analysis outlines the desperate state of large numbers of people in Afghanistan. This allows for a better understanding of the impact of any sanction regime, but also provides an analytical and statistical baseline for this and future assessments. Second, it addresses the direct and indirect impact of sanctions on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.

The situation in Afghanistan is now desperate for ordinary people. Twenty years of war, combined with the worst drought for over forty years has led to an appalling humanitarian situation. Over one million people rely on food aid, over four million people are thought likely to be seriously affected by the drought, while children go un-educated and un-vaccinated against deadly disease. While most of this can be traced to the insecurity and political repression, it is important to examine the impact of sanctions regimes on the situation.

The report finds that the direct impact of sanctions on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is limited but tangible. The ban on Ariana Afghan Airlines has to a certain extent reduced economic activity in some sectors, limited the possibility for the import of medical supplies, and constrained travel. The sanctions have also contributed to a deterioration in Ariana's domestic services and maintenance standards, which could put people at risk. The restrictions on Ariana also reduce the options for humanitarian agencies to bring humanitarian supplies into the country. Additionally, the curbs on the Afghan banking system act as a direct disincentive to investment in Afghanistan, and therefore discourages or inhibits to a limited extent rehabilitation activities. Rehabilitation activities in non-war affected areas are crucial to break the downward spiral of poverty for vulnerable populations.

The report also finds that there is a substantial indirect impact of the sanctions on the humanitarian situation. The sense of isolation and the lack of confidence about the future felt by Afghans can be linked to the future of the economy, the ability of civil society to influence the Taliban, and the ability to attract international investment and funding. The imposition of sanctions also led to a sharp but temporary devaluation of the Afghani, and a corresponding decrease in purchasing power of all Afghans, especially with respect to food.

Above all, it should be noted that the high levels of vulnerability in Afghanistan exaggerate the impact of what would otherwise be fairly insignificant effects of the sanctions regime. The ability of ordinary Afghans to withstand any kind of deterioration in their situation after twenty years of war is extremely limited, and seemingly innocuous actions can have a serious impact on the lives of millions of people.

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