Statement by Principals of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee on Afghanistan: Women’s participation in aid delivery must continue

Statement by Principals of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee on Afghanistan: Women’s participation in aid delivery must continue


The decision by Afghanistan’s de facto authorities to ban women from working in humanitarian nongovernmental organizations is a major blow for vulnerable communities, for women, for children, and for the entire country.

Female staff are key to
every aspect of the humanitarian response in Afghanistan. They are
teachers, nutrition experts, team leaders, community health workers,
vaccinators, nurses, doctors, and heads of organizations. They have
access to populations that their male colleagues cannot reach and are
critical to safeguarding the communities we serve. They save lives.
Their professional expertise is indispensable. Their participation in aid delivery is not negotiable and must continue.

Banning women from
humanitarian work has immediate life-threatening consequences for all
Afghans. Already, some time-critical programmes have had to stop
temporarily due to lack of female staff. This comes at a time when more
than 28 million people in Afghanistan, including millions of women and
children, require assistance to survive as the country grapples with the
risk of famine conditions, economic decline, entrenched poverty and a
brutal winter.

While humanitarian organizations continue to engage the de facto
authorities, we cannot ignore the operational constraints now facing us
as a humanitarian community. We will endeavour to continue lifesaving,
time-critical activities unless impeded while we better assess the
scope, parameters and consequences of this directive for the people we
serve. But we foresee that many activities will need to be paused as we
cannot deliver principled humanitarian assistance without female aid

We remain resolute in our
commitment to deliver independent, principled, lifesaving assistance to
all the women, men and children who need it. 

We urge the de facto
authorities to reconsider and reverse this directive, and all
directives banning women from schools, universities and public life. No
country can afford to exclude half of its population from contributing
to society.



  • Mr. Martin Griffiths, Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
  • Mr. Qu Dongyu, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
  • Ms. Shahin Ashraf, Chair, International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) Board, (Islamic Relief)
  • Mr. Ignacio Packer, Executive Director, International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA)
  • Ms. Miriam Sapiro, President and Chief Executive Officer, InterAction 
  • Ms. Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, Chief Eexcutive Officer, Mercy Corps
  • Ms. Janti Soerpinto, President and Chief Executive Officer, Save the Children US
  • Mr. António Vitorino, Director General, International Organization for Migration (IOM)
  • Mr. Volker Turk, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
  • Mr. Andrew Morley, President and Chief Executive Officer, World Vision International
  • Ms. Sofia Sprechmann Sineiro, Secretary-General, CARE International
  • Ms. Paula Gaviria Betancur, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (UN SR on HR of IDPs)
  • Mr. Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
  • Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
  • Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat)
  • Mr. Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
  • Ms. Catherine Russell, Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
  • Ms. Sima Bahous, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director (UN Women)
  • Mr. David Beasley, Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP)
  • Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO) 



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