Together with Germany, Qatar and the UK, UN Secretary-General António Guterres convened an online ministerial meeting for the international community on 31 March. The aim of the conference was to raise awareness of growing humanitarian needs in Afghanistan and to secure further emergency financial aid for people in the country.
The Afghan people have endured very hard conditions since August 2021. The fall of the government, the takeover by the Taliban and the impact of sanctions on the population have worsened an already dire humanitarian crisis. A large proportion of the Afghan middle class has now fallen into poverty. The UN estimates that over 24 million Afghans (62% of the population), including almost 13 million children, currently depend on emergency assistance. Over 700,000 people have been displaced since January 2021 alone. One in three Afghans face food insecurity, with more than half of all children under five at risk of acute malnutrition.
Respect for human rights and protection of minorities
Switzerland is extremely concerned about the growing humanitarian crisis and the deteriorating human rights situation in Afghanistan. At the UN conference, Mr Cassis pledged an additional CHF 30 million in funding to be provided to Afghanistan and neighbouring countries by the end of 2022. This amount is largely in line with the usual annual figure budgeted for the crisis-hit country.
Mr Cassis also stressed that financial support is not enough in itself. Responding to the recent decision by the de facto Afghan authorities to ban girls over the age of 12 from attending school, Cassis called for human rights and, in particular, the right to education to be respected. He stated that Switzerland would continue to follow developments in Afghanistan closely, affirming that "Switzerland would continue working to ensure that human rights are upheld and, in particular, that women and minorities are protected."
At the diplomatic level, Switzerland is willing to offer its good offices for the benefit of the Afghan people, if the parties so require, either by hosting further international conferences or acting as mediator in talks.
Priority country for Swiss development cooperation
Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. With a minimum annual budget of CHF 27 million, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has been operating a cooperation programme in Afghanistan since 2002. Having temporarily closed its Kabul office in August 2021, Switzerland is sustaining its efforts in the current situation, with the office's transferable staff continuing their work from Bern. Swiss assistance for Afghanistan is provided on the ground through partners such as the United Nations, international and local NGOs, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Switzerland maintains close contact and liaises regularly with its partners.
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