Press releases, 13.09.2021

Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, head of the FDFA, took part in a UN conference on Afghanistan in Geneva today. The international community convened to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and respond to the country's grave humanitarian needs. In view of the emergency situation, Switzerland plans to allocate an additional CHF 33 million in humanitarian aid. Mr Cassis held bilateral talks on the margins of the conference with various officials, including UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis gives a speech.
Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis gives a speech. © Keystone

On 13 September, UN Secretary-General António Guterres invited the international community to join him in Geneva for an urgent ministerial conference. The aim of the conference was to raise awareness of the great humanitarian needs in Afghanistan and to secure emergency financial aid for its people.

The people of Afghanistan are facing an extremely difficult situation due to the long years of conflict, a severe drought and the COVID-19 pandemic. The current crisis threatens to aggravate the plight of the population. Some 18 million Afghans – almost half of the population – are now dependent on aid. More than 550,000 people have been displaced since January 2021 alone. One in three people in Afghanistan suffer from food insecurity and over half of the children under five are at risk of acute malnutrition.

Mr Cassis welcomed the representatives of the international community on behalf of the host state and announced additional funding for Afghanistan.

Humanitarian aid on the ground is to be increased by CHF 33 million. Together with the regular budget for 2022, Swiss aid to Afghanistan and neighbouring countries will amount to CHF 60 million over the next 16 months.

Mr Cassis also stressed that financial support alone was not enough: "Those who are in control of Afghanistan's territory are responsible for ensuring that international organisations and NGOs have unfettered access to the population." He added that respect for human rights, in particular the protection of minorities and of women and girls, must be guaranteed.

At the conference, Mr Cassis met with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Martin Griffiths, and the Director-General of UN Geneva, Tatiana Valovaya. Discussions focused on emergency humanitarian aid and the future of international development cooperation in Afghanistan.

Switzerland's committment

Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world and a priority country for Swiss development cooperation. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) runs a cooperation Programme in Afghanistan with an annual budget of CHF 26 million.

Switzerland temporarily closed its office in Kabul in August 2021. Switzerland is working closely with the UN, international NGOs and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The SDC will continue its support for Afghanistan's population in the current context. In addition to immediate humanitarian needs, the medium- and long-term outlook must not be forgotten.

Switzerland is concerned about the deterioriating security situation in Afghanistan. It calls on all actors involved to respect international humanitarian law and human rights. At the diplomatic level, Switzerland is ready to offer its good offices for the benefit of the Afghan people, either as a host state of future international conferences or to facilitate talks should the parties involved request it.

Further information:

Welcoming speech of Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis

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