Since the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan in August 2021, the role of the Afghan diaspora – particularly in Europe – has taken on renewed importance. As Afghanistan continues to face a multitude of challenges including floods, food insecurity, and a rapidly deteriorating economy, a multi-stakeholder and whole-of-society approach is essential to address both short- and long-term needs. Included within this approach must be a broad and representative group from the Afghan diaspora. With rich experience and vast networks both within and outside the country, the diaspora are key actors that must be afforded an ongoing and genuine ‘seat at the table’. Engagement must move beyond simply ‘listening’ to inclusion and dialogue.
An ever-evolving diaspora
The Afghan diaspora – like any other diaspora group – is heterogeneous and continues to evolve. Especially since mid-2021, the Afghan diaspora in Europe has grown significantly to include recent evacuees, civil society leaders, and numerous high-profile individuals. As the diaspora undergoes change it is incumbent upon everyone, including the diaspora, to adapt and to adjust to this new reality. For the diaspora, by engaging with fellow Afghans and by drawing together collective experience and expertise, there exists a cohesive and formidable voice to highlight protection needs for Afghans in Europe and further afield.
For policymakers, the diaspora represents an under-utilised resource and a body that has the potential to bring about support in implementation of programmes, nuanced policy perspectives, and innovative approaches to humanitarian action. Moreover, the diaspora understands the motivations for people movements, the challenges facing friends and family back home, and the feasibility of certain interventions.
A coming together for collective action
In recognition of the steep challenges facing Afghans and Afghanistan, on 15-16 May more than 100 members of the Afghan diaspora convened in Brussels, Belgium. This conference for Afghans in Europe represented a pivotal moment in the mobilization and collective endeavours of the Afghan diaspora. Across the two days, Afghans living in Europe shared their experiences, best practices, challenges and innovative ideas for improved responses and support to Afghans in need. The gathering was a testament to the drive, ownership, and commitment by Afghans to supporting one another, and to supporting host countries in Europe to developing more cohesive and long-term approaches to address Afghan displacement.
As part of the conference, delegates published a Call to Action from the Diaspora. This document – drafted and adopted by the diaspora themselves – presents four core recommendations to donors and European Union member states. Most importantly, the document acknowledges the need for greater humanitarian and development support inside Afghanistan, an increased focus on women’s rights, strategic engagement with the de facto authorities to ensure rights are upheld and strengthening asylum space for Afghans in Europe.
As we approach the one-year anniversary of the Taliban takeover, responses to humanitarian needs, Afghan displacement and human rights protections cannot operate in a vacuum. Answers cannot come from EU bodies alone. They cannot come solely from United Nations institutions and the humanitarian community. Equally, they cannot solely emanate from the diaspora. Instead, solutions must come from all stakeholders working together.
As a crucial stakeholder in forming long-term solutions for Afghanistan, the diaspora must be recognized as essential when it comes to crafting responses to the multitude of issues facing Afghans at home and abroad. By engaging closely with diaspora communities, policy makers, the donor community and civil society, more robust interventions can be delivered that better serve Afghans no matter where they are, to live in safety, dignity, and peace.