According to Peter Maurer, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), last September, the Afghan countryside’s landscape was littered with freshly dug graveyards and damaged homes shortly after images of desperate Afghans swarming Kabul’s airport dominated worldwide news. Many millions of Afghans are suffering from a cold, hungry winter, as the rest of the world now knows – or should know.
When people are in need, in archetypal moments of disturbance of lives and livelihoods, Humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross try to support them impartially and unconditionally, but various more concerns are on the horizon for 2022.
Along with the foundational principle of assisting individuals affected by conflict and violence, there are six other topics at the forefront of the humanitarian agenda in 2022:
- Delivering a shot in the arm
The global response to COVID-19 has been unequal, and the rapid emergence of the Omicron variety demonstrates how vulnerable we all are when significant portions of the world are not vaccinated. If we want to end the COVID-19 epidemic, we must vaccinate persons living in particularly vulnerable situations, such as those who are displaced, stigmatized, or jailed, the urban poor, and those who are exposed to violence and war. More than 100 million people today live in regions controlled by non-state armed organizations, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Armed confrontations are unpredictable, and they can devastate infrastructure. Negotiations with armed organizations take a long period and are delicate. It is difficult to vaccinate folks in these places. It is, nonetheless, necessary. In 2022, we must intensify our efforts to address this humanitarian issue: a global, decisive, and coordinated effort is required to reach all communities in need of protection from COVID-19.
- Dealing with dangerous hot zones
In conflict zones, topics such as the climate catastrophe are extremely difficult to address. Conflict, climate change, pandemics, poverty, and poor governance are all deadly combinations. ICRC’s Somalia teams recently visited Galgaduud, where a severe drought has affected over 300,000 people. On top of that, major violence broke out in late October between the Somali National Army and an armed group, killing dozens of people and causing 100,000 people to flee. Nine of the ten most susceptible countries to climate change are in Africa, and seven of those nine are also impacted by armed conflict. Climate adaptation in vulnerable contexts should receive a larger part of climate money, according to Peter Maurer. Carbon reduction efforts are critical, but they must be accompanied by efforts to assist people in adapting to a changing climate.
- Encouraging technology to participate
Although misinformation, deception, and hate speech are not new, their spread has been accelerated by the use of digital technology, fueling conflict dynamics, violence, and harm. When online hate speech incites violence against a minority group, for example, this creates tangible harm outside of the digital realm. This is a humane situation. Online/offline harassment, slander, and intimidation can cause psychological and social suffering, which can lead to persecution, discrimination, or displacement.
Should Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies do more to keep this under control? Sure, but it extends beyond those businesses. It’s past time to agree on responsible behavior principles: governments, the corporate sector, media corporations, civil society, and those who are affected must all work together to address these issues. It’s time for multi-stakeholder governance to take center stage.
- Ensuring that human control is maintained
The impact of digital technologies, autonomous weapons, and cyber operations requires immediate international attention – not just from humanitarian organizations, but from a broader range of partners, organizations, and governments. Autonomous weapons alter the battlefield calculus by selecting and applying force to targets without the need for human interaction. This technological advancement has the potential to revolutionize warfare in the same way as the discovery of gunpowder did.
Another source of risk is cyber activities. Several countries have admitted to using cyber operations alongside kinetic military operations, and some even deploy them outside of armed conflict. Civilian services, such as hospitals, water and electrical infrastructure, and nuclear and petrochemical facilities, have been damaged or disrupted as a result of this. These occurrences serve as a sobering reminder of the potential humanitarian consequences of hostile cyber activities. The world must recognize the dangers that autonomous weapons and cyber operations can pose to society. To confront these changes, an immediate and comprehensive international response is required.
- Keeping water flowing throughout long-term warfare
Syria’s essential infrastructure has been ravaged by a decade of violence. In some sections of the country, electric power generation has decreased by 70%, and damage to interdependent resources like the country’s seven metropolitan water plants might take years to repair, even outside of warfare. Everything from bakeries to morgues is being disrupted as a result of these plants being mainly on their knees. Syria is far from unique, but it serves as a lesson about how quickly violence erodes a middle-income country’s vital infrastructure.
Humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) work at a breakneck pace just to protect essential services like water, sanitation, health facilities, electricity, and schools from collapsing. This is a race that we will eventually lose.
Beyond the humanitarian sphere, we need to combine forces with partners, resources, and skills.
If these donors chose essential infrastructure as a life-saving strategic investment, countries will be able to recover more quickly once the bombs stop.
- Taking humanitarianism to the next level
Humanitarian aid is available to help people in the most vulnerable places avoid the worst-case scenario. As a result, finding long-term solutions to larger problems necessitates a systemic approach involving a wide range of stakeholders. With vast global fault lines causing instability, our message to states is to cooperate rather than compete. Afghanistan is a sad example of this. Over 22 million Afghans are currently suffering from extreme hunger, which is classified as a crisis or an emergency. Humanitarians aren’t the only ones who need to stand up to the plate to fix these issues. That is why the world community needs to discover innovative ways to rescue these people from poverty and despair. This must be a high priority for the years 2022 and beyond.
Either we care or we don’t, and both options have implications. Either we care completely for those who are suffering as a result of this upheaval in order to prevent total collapse, or we wait until political conditions are favorable to our views and watch as millions of people face calamity and instability.