Throughout most of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives across Asia and will transform the social, economic, and political conditions for the coming decade. The challenges imposed by the virus exceed people's immediate physical health to threaten their economic existence, education opportunities, and the ability to meet their fundamental needs and the ones of their families. Local communities, governments, and international actors have pursued various strategies to cope with and mitigate the overwhelming number of parallel crises. Some of these efforts could have lasting repercussions for international, state–society, intercommunal, and personal relations, far beyond the end of the pandemic.
COVID-19 in Afghanistan: one crisis among – and connected to - many others
Afghanistan, where state capacity and societal cohesion are fundamental conditions for maintaining the Afghan peace negotiations' possible benefits, is no exception to this. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc throughout the country and continues to be a significant stress test for Afghanistan's already-weak institutions, both in terms of performance and legitimacy. At the same time, it has dramatically increased economic and social pressures on marginalized and vulnerable communities such as returnees, families depending on remittances, internally displaced persons, and prison inmates. In the past months, poverty and unemployment, as well as gender-based violence and discrimination, have increased. Has COVID-19 devastated Afghan society's potential for peace and reconciliation?
The pandemic's regional and global impacts have further exacerbated the crisis within Afghanistan. Travel restrictions, border closures, and a dramatic decline in work opportunities for Afghans abroad have set back Afghan ambitions for economic self-reliance. Moreover, financial crises in donor countries are likely to accelerate the ongoing withdrawal dynamics of the international civilian and military stakeholders and exacerbate pre-existing donor fatigue. Will a post-COVID-19 Afghanistan find itself out in the cold?
Recovery is needed – but where to start?
FES has been working since 2002 with Afghan civil society organizations, government authorities, and other stakeholders to build up capacities for social justice and inclusion that we deem essential for the country's transition from a never-ending war to sustainable peace. The systemic implications of this unprecedented crisis put these capacities at risk beyond today. Hence, an in-depth assessment of the impact is as needed as scenarios for future developments and recommendations for all stakeholders on how to mitigate the multiple crises the pandemic has created and how to rebuild Afghanistan's social, political, and economic capacities for peace.
FES is grateful to the authors of this unique report—Lucile Martin and Saeed Parto, from the Afghanistan Public Policy Research Organization (APPRO). Their report provides readers with valuable insights into the way COVID-19 has affected critical sectors of the Afghan economy and society and state-society relations and the multifaceted relationship between international partners and Afghan stakeholders. Their recommendations and suggestions for further work, both in research and practice, entail a clear vision for a possible path forward for Afghans and their international partners just ahead of the 2020 Afghanistan Conference in Geneva. To facilitate discussions among Afghan stakeholders, summaries have been published in Dari and Pashto as well.
Download the publication here or watch the video of the launch event below:
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