On Sunday, October 8, 2023, the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies (CHS), in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), hosted a significant public lecture on The Impact of Sanctions on the Humanitarian Action: Afghanistan as a Case Study". The lecture featured Dr. Tristan Ferraro, the Senior Legal Adviser at the Legal Division of the ICRC, and was moderated by Dr. Laurent Lambert, Assistant Professor at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies.
The event was inaugurated by Mr. Mamadou Sow, Head of Delegation at the International Committee of the Red Cross – ICRC. In his opening remarks, Mr. Sow emphasized the critical timing of the lecture, given the impact of sanctions on ICRC operations, particularly in light of the political changes in Afghanistan. He highlighted the evolving role of humanitarian aid, stating that it has increasingly become entangled in politics.
Sanctions, often employed to exert political pressure on governments, can inadvertently worsen humanitarian crises in conflict affected areas. In the case of Afghanistan, a country that has been witnessing instability for decades, the repercussions of sanctions on humanitarian work have been profound.
Dr. Ferraro underscored the ICRC's commitment to mitigating the impact of sanctions on humanitarian work. He pointed out that in polarized contexts like Afghanistan, especially post-Taliban takeover, the effects of international sanctions are magnified. Dr. Ferraro explained that sanctions, though not specifically targeting humanitarian organizations, impede their work. He raised concerns about sanctions in countries like Afghanistan and Syria, where interaction often occurs with sanctioned individuals or government entities.
Additionally, Dr. Ferraro detailed how sanctions on finance, trade, and arms embargoes have affected the humanitarian sector. These sanctions impact essential operations such as banking transactions, access to vital resources like oil, water, and electricity, and the procurement of chemical materials and life-saving equipment, which are frequently needed and listed as sanctioned items.
Dr. Ferraro acknowledged the ICRC's dilemma in engaging with the Taliban to deliver humanitarian assistance to the affected population, potentially violating international sanctions. However, he noted that the ICRC's efforts paid off when the United Nations Security Council, through Resolution 2615, declared that "humanitarian assistance and other activities that support basic human needs in Afghanistan are not a violation" of the Taliban sanctions regime's asset freeze.
Following Dr. Ferraro's remarks, a question-and-answer session with the audience took place. The lecture drew a diverse audience, including academics from the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies, the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, and the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, as well as students from the Doha Institute. The event was also broadcast live on social media platforms.
The Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies (CHS) is an independent research and practice center based in Doha that engages in policy and practice on humanitarian action, post-conflict recovery, and conflict mediation in the Arab world and beyond.