Hello…Taliban…can you hear us?

Martin Griffiths, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), during a meeting in Kabul with the Taliban leadership

This article is the second part of the previous editorial “The Afghanistan of the Taliban and Us“. The latter highlighted some of the reasons for Western failure in that country, sanctioned by the Taliban’s victory.

This editorial also invited us to anticipate the challenges common to the Afghanistan of the Taliban as well as to the community of Nation States at the UN: humanitarian and economic challenges, human rights and representativeness challenges, terrorism challenges, drug challenges and geopolitical challenges.

Today, it is a question of challenging the Taliban. What do you really want? Your representative in Doha, Suhail Shaheen, recently said “Nobody has an interest in weakening Afghanistan”. But would it be in the Taliban’s interest to isolate themselves, both in the Afghan diversity and on the international scene?

Until recently, three-quarters of the previous Afghan government’s resources came from international aid. This aid has abruptly stopped with the freezing of assets and the interruption of all development aid in a poor country affected by drought and the consequences of a conflict lasting more than 40 years! How do the Taliban intend to deal with this major crisis and assume politically the responsibilities they have taken up by arms?

Afghanistan on the slope of economic collapse and humanitarian catastrophe.

Afghanistan is engaged on the slope of an announced economic collapse and a humanitarian catastrophe which threatens to the point that it seems indecent to speak about this country while forgetting this drama which affects all the population and particularly, according to the United Nations, 18 million men, women and children, families, who do not eat enough and who are threatened with famine whereas the always rigorous winter approaches.

A family eats a meal at their home in Mazar, Afghanistan, September 15, 2021. The World Food Program is helping displaced people and vulnerable families with food and cash. @WFP/Arete

The health system is on the verge of collapse. Already 2,000 health facilities have closed due to lack of salaries for 23,000 health workers, including 7,000 women, according to Alexander Matheou of the IFRC.

According to Richard Trenchaut of the FAO, the drought threatens the livelihoods of 7 million farmers and herders who are the backbone of the country’s economy. Seed distribution is urgently needed in October to enable the harvest of winter wheat.

According to the WFP and UNICEF, the situation of children is especially critical for half of the under-five children, that is to say 3.2 million girls and boys who are at risk of becoming rapidly victims of severe malnutrition.

Thus, during the recent meeting in Doha between the Taliban, the United States, the European Union and several member states including France, Great Britain and Germany, Ursula Von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, announced an aid of 1 billion euros to “avoid a humanitarian disaster” and “a collapse of basic services”. France, through the voice of Jean-Yves Le Drian, had already announced an aid of 100 million euros on September 13. This is good because humanitarian aid is never negotiable in the name of humanity.

However, the Taliban in power must allow and facilitate access to this aid over the long term throughout the country, without restriction, and must ensure its security while respecting humanitarian principles, including the impartiality of aid and the freedom to assess, provide assistance and report on it.

All humanitarian aid involves assessments with populations to help the most vulnerable first. @Solidarités International

The Taliban should make clear official commitments on this issue and make them known. The humanitarian and economic crisis could result in the forced exile of countless Afghans.

Development assistance will certainly be subject to political considerations and the existence of competent public services. In the meantime, I would suggest an immediate and large-scale expansion of humanitarian programs such as the Emergency Development Nexus, which would provide massive support for agriculture, livestock, and basic services in all areas throughout the country.

The cornerstone of human rights and representation.

To counter the women’s demonstrations in Kabul, the Taliban had the idea of organizing a parody of a counter-demonstration of Taliban women in an amphitheater where they were all dressed in the same sinister gray burqa as a uniform. As an Afghan friend told me, this type of women’s clothing had never been seen before in Afghanistan. It was a sinister and disturbing comedy.

Here’s a question for the Taliban. In your country, aren’t the women Afghan, Muslim, mothers of your children. Haven’t women also suffered the devastating effects of war for more than 40 years, multiple deprivations while feeding numerous children. Many of them have lost their husbands in the war and have had to face adversity.

They are entitled to respect and consideration. And Afghanistan has a great need for women to care for women especially. Afghanistan has a great need for them to educate girls in order to participate actively in the indispensable development of a country among the poorest in the world.

The Taliban have made many declarations and promises that must now be kept in order to be credible. Let us also be realistic. In a predominantly rural country, the work of women, as well as men, is primarily in the fields to produce the daily bread.

Finally, despite the deep divisions inherent in the war, the Taliban want to seek national unity and therefore ensure that diversity, especially ethnic diversity, is represented. Is this not the condition for a lasting civil peace?

The war against terrorism and against drugs.

The attacks of Daech or Islamic State in Khorassan on August 30 at Kabul airport, then on October 8 in Kunduz and on October 15 in Kandahar against Shiite mosques at prayer time call into question the ability of the Taliban to keep their main promise, that of security. Other attacks could still take place.

Afghanistan, Suicide bombers attack claimed by Daech against the Shiite Fatemieh mosque in Kandahar at prayer time on October 15 killing more than 40 people and injuring 70. @UPI / Alamy Image Bank

While the Taliban are fighting Daech in Afghanistan, there does not seem to be a strong and unequivocal condemnation of this terrorism that has already killed 600 Afghans. If the experts consider that the Taliban never had an international terrorist agenda, this asserted position would have a strong impact, so why wait? Similarly, the neutralization of Al-Qaeda, which caused Afghanistan’s misfortune after the destruction of the World Trade Center, is a matter of simple political realism and the country’s interest.

In 2020, opium production was 6300 tons in Afghanistan. @Davrik

A declaration of the decision to eradicate poppy, opium and heroin production through a broad program of international support for alternative crops would have a real impact. It could reflect the intention, despite the difficulties, to establish a virtuous, representative, accountable and credible state.

Preliminary conclusion.

What do the Taliban want? What can the Taliban do? It certainly takes time in this country, but it is from the beginning that a direction is given and decides for many the future.

The 6 challenges are there to illustrate the responsibilities of the Taliban:

  • Facilitate access and security for humanitarian relief wherever it is urgently needed in the country and support agriculture and livestock and essential public services.
  • Re-establish an administration capable of dealing with the economic crisis with competent and honest managers and experts.
  • Mobilize women, especially for health, education, the humanitarian and economic crisis and implement a policy of national reconciliation.
  • Unequivocally condemn and fight against terrorism.
  • Engage in poppy eradication and mobilize alternative production with international assistance.
  • Not to isolate itself geopolitically and, why not, to become once again a “free, neutral and non-aligned” country, an independent and stable buffer state for its neighbors.
Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the UN.

Let us conclude by quoting UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres: “The world will pay a heavy price if it does not help Afghans overcome this crisis. Without food, without jobs, without protection of their rights, we will see more and more Afghans fleeing their homes in search of a better life. The flow of illegal drugs, criminal and terrorist networks will also likely increase. This will not only seriously affect Afghanistan, but also the region and the rest of the world.


Alain Boinet.

Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2021 – Key figures

The Global Humanitarian Assistance Report has been published for over 20 years by Development Initiatives.

It provides a detailed picture of international humanitarian assistance, based on extensive and accurate data. You will find here a summary of 4 of the 5 chapters of this report, the last one being the methodology.

Enjoy your reading!






Find access to the PDF of the full Development Initiatives report here.

Summaries of 2018, 2019 and 2020 GHARs can be found on the Humanitarian Challenges website, in the “Studies” section.

Chapitre 1: People and crisis

This first chapter takes stock of the extent of global poverty in four points. The central message is that the pandemic has both exacerbated existing needs and fueled new crises in countries that did not need humanitarian assistance, increasing the total volume of aid needed.

People living in extreme poverty are increasingly concentrated in fragile countries at high risk from the impacts of Covid-19

Source: Development Initiatives based on World Bank  PovcalNet, national sources, INFORM Index for COVID Risk and OECD.

  • People living in extreme poverty are increasingly concentrated in countries that are fragile and at high risk from the impacts of Covid-19. In 2020, 66% of people living in extreme poverty (less than $1.90/day) were also living in one of the 52 countries classified as fragile by the report, up from 40% in 2010. Poverty reduction is progressing overall but is very uneven and has increased by 8% in fragile states.


  • Acute food insecurity disproportionately affects the poorest and has been stimulated by the pandemic. The report estimates that more than 80% of people living in severely food insecure areas live below the international poverty line ($3.20/day).


  • The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbates humanitarian crises, with more people in more countries affected. The pandemic has exacerbated existing crises but has also been the main driver of humanitarian needs in some countries like Iran. The report estimates that 243.8 million people in 75 countries have been assessed as needing humanitarian assistance (224.9 million in 65 countries in 2019). High numbers of people in need remained concentrated in a small number of countries: more than half of those in need in 2021 lived in just nine countries.


  • The number of displaced people increased for the ninth consecutive year to 82.1 million (+3.4%). In 2020, 10 countries hosted 54% of IDPs, a similar proportion to 2019. Many IDPs are in situations of protracted displacement with no possibility of safe return to their homes.
    • 58% were forcibly displaced within the country;
    • 32% were refugees (26.3 million);
    • 5.1% were asylum seekers (4.2 million);
    • 4.4% (3.6 million) were Venezuelans displaced abroad.


20 countries with the largest forcibly displaced populations and risk of impacts from
Covid-19, 2019 and 2020

Source: Development Initiatives based on data from UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Index for Risk Management (INFORM) and Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

The report also makes two findings:

  • Women and girls in conflict zones are twice as likely to experience gender-based violence. This gap is likely to increase with the pandemic. The UN estimates that there will be 13 million early child marriages between 2020 and 2030 due to the pandemic.
  • The availability and delivery of covid vaccine has not been equitable, and countries experiencing a protracted crisis have some of the lowest single-dose vaccine coverage rates in the world (2.4% compared to 12.5% in other developing countries covered by COVAX).



Chapitre 2 : Humanitarian and wider crisis financing

In this chapter, the report highlights that in 2020 global humanitarian needs have increased faster than ever, while the growth of humanitarian aid has stalled. International humanitarian aid volumes had been growing steadily over the years 2012 to 2018 (12% per year on average), peaking in 2018 at $31.3 billion.

International humanitarian assistance, 2016–2020

Source: Development Initiatives based on Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Financial Tracking Service, UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and our unique dataset for private contributions.

Funding needs through UN-coordinated appeals were also following a steady increase (+90% compared to 2015). However, actual funding declined for the first time in 5 years. Of the $38.8 billion requested, $18.8 billion (including $5.7 billion related to covid) was not funded, compared to $11.1 billion in 2019.

Of the 55 calls in 2020, only 7 received 75% or more of the required funding. The number of calls with less than a quarter of the funding requirement met worsened significantly in 2020, with 17 calls receiving less than 25% coverage. In 2019, no calls were funded at less than 25%.


Funding and unmet requirements, UN-coordinated appeals, 2011–2020

Source: Development Initiatives based on UN OCHA FTS and UNHCR data

The UN-coordinated appeals do not represent all the needs, so significant funding is provided outside of the appeals. For example, in 2020, the needs of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) rose sharply to a record level of over 1 billion, while the funding gap continued to widen (58% coverage).

In addition, the role of the broader development community is increasingly important and countries in crisis now receive far more development funds than humanitarian funds.

Official Development Assistance (ODA) received by countries in crisis has thus increased from 47% of total ODA in 2010 ($51 billion) to 65% in 2019 ($94 billion). The proportion of ODA reported as humanitarian aid has doubled from 15% in 2010 ($7.6 billion) to 29% in 2019 ($27.2 billion).


ODA from multilateral development banks to the 20 largest recipients of humanitarian
assistance, 2010–2019

Source: Development Initiatives based on OECD DAC CRS

Multilateral development banks (MDBs) have become increasingly active in crisis contexts, providing increasing volumes of ODA to countries in crisis.

MDB disbursements to the 20 largest recipients of humanitarian assistance have doubled since 2014, from $5.4 billion to more than $10.7 billion in 2019. However, the share of disbursements in the form of grants has decreased significantly in favor of loans.

For the epidemic response, total MDB financing reached $120 billion in April 2021, 95% of which was in the form of loans. The IMF has been the largest contributor, committing $50.4 billion to date.

Finally, the total volume of ODA with disaster risk reduction as its primary objective has increased from $1.4 billion in 2018 to $1.9 billion in 2019.


Chapitre 3 : donors and recipients of humanitarian and wider crisis financing

This third chapter makes the key finding that most government donors increased their contributions in 2020, but significant reductions by a few key donors caused overall aid to stagnate.

The volume of international humanitarian aid from the top 20 government donors in 2020 stabilized at $23.1 billion. As in previous years, the top 20 public donors in 2020 contributed 96 percent of total international humanitarian aid allocations. The top three donors (US, Germany, and the UK) accounted for 61% of total donor contributions.


20 largest public donors of humanitarian assistance in 2020 and percentage change
from 2019

Source: Development Initiatives based on OCED Development Assistance Committee (DAC), UN OCHA Financial Tracking Service and UN Central Emergency Response Fund data

The largest donors to Covid-19 were the United States, Germany, and Japan.

It should also be noted that many donor countries also hosted exiles and that most government spending within their own borders is not accounted for. In the previous year, three countries accounted for nearly two-thirds of all in-country refugee spending: Germany (29 percent), the United States (21 percent), and France (13 percent).

Another important indicator highlighted in this chapter is the proportion of gross national income (GNI) devoted to international humanitarian assistance because it reflects the importance of humanitarian spending relative to the size of a country’s economy. Within this framework, five donors provided more than 0.1 percent of GNI as international humanitarian assistance in 2020, as shown in the following infographic.


20 donors providing the most humanitarian assistance as a percentage of GNI, 2020

Source: Development Initiatives based on OECD DAC, UN OCHA FTS, UN CERF, World Bank World Development Indicators and International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook data

The proportion of total private funding from individuals continues to grow. For example, in 2019, international humanitarian aid from private donors increased by 9%, from US$6.2 billion in 2018 to a record $6.8 billion in 2019.

Sources of private international humanitarian assistance, 2015–2019

Source: Development Initiatives based on GHA’s unique dataset of private contributions.

While total international humanitarian aid stagnated, 112 countries received more than $5 million in humanitarian aid compared to 69 countries in 2019. One explanation is that the top 10 recipients received 57% of all funding or $13.3 billion (-11%) in 2020 compared to 66% ($15 billion) in 2019.

In addition, with $1.3 billion provided in response to the pandemic, these countries actually received $12.0 billion for other pre-existing or emerging humanitarian needs in 2020, $3.0 billion less than in 2019.

Overall, countries outside of the top 10 recipients received more funding in 2020 than in 2019, but less if those for Covid-19 are removed.

10 largest recipients of international humanitarian assistance, 2019–2020

Source: Development Initiatives based on UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Financial Tracking Service (FTS) data.


CHAPITRE 4 : funding for effectiveness and efficiency

According to this chapter, international humanitarian assistance would have been provided broadly in the same way in 2019 as in previous years: multilateral organizations received most of their funding from public donors, and NGOs from private donors.

Channels of delivery of international humanitarian assistance, 2019

Source: Development Initiatives based on Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Financial Tracking Service (FTS) and UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) data and Development Initiatives’ unique dataset for private contributions.

Local and national actors are often the first to respond to crises, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions on access. Commitments made at the Grand Bargain, an agreement among the largest donors and humanitarian agencies in 2016, included a global target of 25% of total international humanitarian aid transferred to local and national actors by 2020. Since then, while the absolute volumes of international humanitarian aid passed directly to local and national actors have increased, the scale of this aid falls far short of expectations.


Direct funding to local and national actors reporting to UN OCHA FTS, 2016–2020

Source: Development Initiatives based on UN OCHA FTS data

Pooled funds are an increasingly important part of humanitarian funding because of their responsiveness and flexibility. They consist of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the Country-based pooled fund (CBPF). Contributions to the UN pooled funds fell sharply in 2020 to $1.5 billion from a record $1.8 billion in 2019.

It should be noted, however, that the proportion of PBC funding to country organizations continues to grow despite the absolute decrease in CBPFs.




Total funding to UN-managed humanitarian pooled funds, 2011−2020

Source: Development Initiatives based on UN OCHA’s CBPF Grant Management System and UN CERF data.

Quality funds (multi-year, unearmarked funding as a proportion of total funding) are another option favored by the Grand Bargain. They should represent 30% of international humanitarian aid by 2020. While they have increased significantly in volume by 2020, as a proportion of total funding, they remain below 2016 levels.

Proportion of resources received by UN agencies reported as earmarked and unearmarked, 2016–2020

Source: Development Initiatives based on data provided bilaterally by UN agencies.

Multi-year funding is, according to the Grand Bargain, funding that lasts 24 months or more from the start date of the initial funding agreement. This method of funding provides implementing agencies with predictable resource levels that can allow for efficiencies and effectiveness by allowing them to plan ahead.

15 donors, which provided 84% of total government humanitarian assistance in 2020, allocated 42% (US$6.5 billion) of their multi-year humanitarian funding in 2020 compared to 50% (US$7.3 billion) in 2019.

Finally, the volume of humanitarian cash and voucher assistance (CVA) continued to grow in 2020 across all types of organizations. This method that can be rapidly deployed in suitable areas was often the modality chosen to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.


Total funding for humanitarian cash and voucher assistance, 2015–2020

Source: Development Initiatives based on data collected with the help of the Cash Learning Partnership from implementing partners and on UN OCHA FTS data

To summarize, here are the key 2020 trends to remember:

– Humanitarian needs are growing: 243.8 million people living in 75 countries have been assessed as needing humanitarian assistance. The Covid-19 pandemic is exacerbating and creating humanitarian crises.

– While global humanitarian needs have grown faster than ever, the growth of humanitarian assistance has stalled. Appeal coverage rates are declining.

– Most government donors increased their contributions in 2020, but significant reductions from a small number of key donors have caused overall aid to stagnate. Overall, countries received less funding in 2020 than in 2019, particularly if those for Covid-19 are removed.

– The structure of international humanitarian assistance remains the same: Multilateral organizations received most of their funding from public donors, and NGOs from private donors. The funding commitments made at the Grand Bargain are far from being met.


Rodolphe Rouyer