Life and Death: NGO access to financial services in Afghanistan

Published 27. Jan 2022|Updated 26. Jan 2022
Afghanistan faces a looming humanitarian catastrophe. Transferring funds into Afghanistan has become a major challenge for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) since the Taliban’s return to power on 15 August 2021.

Coupled with the liquidity crisis, it is driving unprecedented levels of humanitarian needs, making the 2022 humanitarian appeal for Afghanistan the biggest country appeal ever. However, in the current environment it is not clear how these funds, if raised, will reach the Afghan people.

This report addresses NGOs financial access challenges by mapping out 12 types of payment channels available to NGOs for transferring humanitarian funds into, and around, Afghanistan. It explores the associated risks (domestic, regional, and international) of each channel, as well as the reliability, cost, and volume capacity.

The report finds:

  • The ability of humanitarians to respond to the crisis is hampered by the fact that Western governments and financial institutions are making it impossible to transfer and withdraw sufficient funds into and across the country.
  • Lack of clear guidance to international banks regarding what is permissible under sanctions means bank de-risking of NGO financial transactions is widespread.
  • When NGOs are able to make transfers, the suspension of the Central Bank means domestic banks in Afghanistan don’t have enough bank notes in the country to allow NGOS to withdraw sufficient cash from our accounts.
  • Public and private banks in country risk collapse, facing major challenges regarding access to physical bank notes, with withdrawal limits complication matters further for NGOs.

The report concludes with a set of recommendations for the United States Treasury, donor governments, the United Nations, and NGOs.