Navigating Ethical Dilemmas in Afghanistan

Navigating Ethical Dilemmas for Humanitarian Action in Afghanistan

Date of publication: July 2023

In Afghanistan, the international aid sector faces a wrenching decision: uphold universal human rights values by refusing to comply with the Taliban's edicts against employing women, or prioritise the humanitarian imperative to continue providing what aid they can to millions in need.

The ban on employing women in the humanitarian response violates many of the values and principles invoked by humanitarian actors. International organisations have been left to grapple with these issues individually, with limited leadership or guidance from the international diplomatic or donor community.

The report examines how humanitarian actors are responding, and how to navigate the practical and ethical implications of these decisions.


Humanitarian Outcomes

Recommendations / learning

Humanitarian organisations mostly lack frameworks for ethical decision making, individually or collectively; more structured processes are needed for thinking through ethical dilemmas. .

There has been limited guidance from the donor community and a lack of diplomatic consensus or strategy to influence the Taliban, leaving the humanitarian community exposed for political engagement that they are not equipped for. 

Donors need to support agencies with capacities to support the intensive negotiations, flexibility and creativity in order for principled pragmatism to be more than rhetorical. 

Organisations should focus on programming that is important enough to warrant continuation even in the face of abhorrent working conditions, such as aid that addresses acute needs and maintains vital services.


Navigating Ethical Dilemmas for Humanitarian Action in Afghanistan