On the occasion of the 2020 Afghanistan Conference held in Geneva 23-24 November, President Peter Maurer of the International Committee of the Red Cross shared these thoughts:
In Afghanistan, we talk of peace, yet violence continues to kill, maim and displace. We talk of development, yet even basic services are scarce. We talk of the future, and we hope that history does not repeat.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has been working in Afghanistan for 33 years. We know the scars this protracted war continues to leave on millions.
Decades of fighting have all but decimated the healthcare system. As COVID-19 rips across the country, millions of Afghans need health care more than ever.
We welcome the peace negotiations as they offer an opportunity for Afghanistan and its people to end decades of conflict. However, since the start of the peace talks we have seen hostilities intensify, with rising numbers of people wounded by weapons admitted to hospitals.
Today we make three calls. First, we appeal to all parties to ensure civilians, health workers and health facilities are protected from attacks in line with international humanitarian law. The track record of deadly attacks against civilians and the medical mission in this conflict is nothing short of shocking.
Second, peace talks must include humanitarian concerns. We encourage the parties to the conflict to reach agreements on specific issues that would help to alleviate the suffering of all those affected.
Third, we call for commitments to support humanitarian work. Even if a peace agreement is reached tomorrow, it will not alleviate the deep needs of people.
Afghanistan is at a crossroads: ensuring the protection of people affected by the conflict and addressing their deep-rooted humanitarian needs is an essential precursor to peace, prosperity and self-reliance.