2014 marks an important date for Afghanistan as it will see the end of the ‘security transition’ timetable with the withdrawal of the foreign military forces that have been in Afghanistan since the post-9/11 invasion. At the same time the presidential elections mark an important political transition. Both events will have an impact on the security situation within the country, where insecurity is already on the rise.
Insecurity is, and for many years has been, a major cause of displacement and an impediment to the sustainable return or settlement of Afghan refugees and IDPs. Over 35 years of conflict – and recurrent natural hazards too – have left Afghans vulnerable as well as poor. Afghans used to be the single largest refugee population in the world and one of the largest protracted case-loads. Since 2001, some six million refugees have returned (although with questionable success) with three to four million remaining outside, both officially and unofficially, as refugees or (undocumented) economic migrants. Migration to and from Afghanistan continues, often with displacement cloaked as voluntary or temporary migration.
Displacement inside Afghanistan has been steadily increasing over the past few years, and is projected to continue to do so. 100,400 Afghans were reported to be internally displaced in 2012, with a further 60,000 newly displaced people in 2013, bringing the total number of conflict-induced IDPs to 612,148 persons as of the end of September 2013.
Afghanistan is surrounded by volatile political situations, including in the neighbouring countries where millions of Afghans are still refugees or undocumented; the regional aspects of the refugee situation are seen as central in respect of return and effective first asylum, and international geopolitics will also play a significant role in Afghanistan’s future.
Inside the country the administrative and physical infrastructure is incapable of providing basic public services for all and it is usually claimed that the government does not have the capacity to protect or assist its displaced people. There are wide gaps in protection and assistance for returnees and IDPs, especially in respect of housing, land and property; employment and livelihoods; and food security. There are some marginalised minority groups at risk of displacement or of becoming stateless.
Against this background, the main policy strategies for Afghanistan’s future still focus on voluntary return of refugees (ie repatriation) and IDPs, and stabilisation of the situation in order to enable return and sustainable settlement.
Afghanistan has been an important testing and learning ground for humanitarian practice, theory and analysis. Whatever the future holds for humanitarian need and responses in Afghanistan, there are likely to be further important lessons to be learned. This issue of FMR aims to look at the lessons of the past, the current situation and the prospects for the future for Afghanistan and its displaced people. The FMR Editors are looking for practice-oriented submissions reflecting a diverse range of opinions (while remaining focused on displacement) which provide analysis, recommendations and examples of good practice and which address questions such as the following:
- What are the effects of protracted displacement? What are the obstacles to durable solutions? What viable or preferable solutions are there for those in protracted displacement in or outside Afghanistan? What would be the choices of the displaced people and are these the same as those of the government, external actors and donors?
- What are the protection challenges faced by Afghanistan’s growing IDP population and how far are their needs being met?
- What are the current conditions of returnees? Of those who have integrated locally? Of those who have been resettled elsewhere? Of those deported back to Afghanistan?
- What are the possibilities for new or renewed displacements, especially in light of the actions of armed non-state actors and increasingly limited options of asylum?
- What has been the legacy of the international military intervention for forced migrants and what are the prospects for security, development and financial assistance after withdrawal of military forces?
- How do conditions in the countries of displacement or resettlement and in the diaspora affect the choices of and solutions for displaced Afghans?
- What are the particular issues raised by displacement caused by natural disasters?
- Is anyone at risk of becoming stateless, and how can this risk be mitigated?
- What role will international agencies and donors be able to play in maintaining protection space for displaced populations in Afghanistan as well as in countries of asylum?
- What are the particular protection needs of young and elderly displaced Afghans and others with particular vulnerabilities? Are there differences in protection needs between rural and urban areas?
- What has been learned about the protection space for IDPs and returnees in Afghanistan that needs to be applied by the government of Afghanistan or the governments of the neighbouring states hosting Afghan refugees? How can protection be enhanced by external support for these governments?
- What roles do or can local/national NGOs play in the protection of and assistance to displaced people? What local capacity exists in Afghanistan and its neighbours to support ‘stabilisation’ and enable durable solutions for displaced people?
- What are the current/future absorption capacities and economic standing of Afghanistan to accommodate returnees and care for its displaced population?
- What are the coming challenges likely to be in respect of humanitarian access, ethics and principles? What can be done to improve adherence to the Geneva Conventions?
Maximum length: 2,500 words
Deadline for submission: 3 February 2014
PLEASE NOTE: This will be a short issue of FMR and we will only be able to accommodate a limited number of articles. If you are interested in submitting an article, please email the Editors in advance of writing (and as soon as possible) at firstname.lastname@example.org with a proposed outline.
Authors are reminded that FMR seeks to include articles with a gendered approach or a gender analysis as part of them. And we are keen to reflect the experiences, knowledge and voices of Afghan communities and individuals. Please consider writing for us even if you have not written an article before. We would be happy to work with you to develop an article.
Your article, if accepted for publication, may well be shortened but you will of course be consulted about any editing changes. Please see guidelines at http://www.fmreview.org/writing-fmr