Assistance to Afghanistan continues

Heli Kanerva, Head of Mission at Finland’s Embassy to Afghanistan, has faced many challenges in her work. A massive evacuation operation started in Afghanistan after the extremist organisation Taliban seized power in August 2021. In a precarious situation, Finland is taking global responsibility, supporting the realisation of human rights and meeting the basic needs of Afghans in distress. In particular, Finland is focusing on securing the position of girls and women.

Photograph: Anna Palmén

How would you describe the current situation and the biggest challenges in Afghanistan?

The humanitarian situation and the economy in Afghanistan are in critical states. The UN estimates that almost half of all Afghans, more than 20 million people, are in need of humanitarian assistance. Organised crime, terrorism, narcotics and migration are among the greatest challenges in Afghanistan.

Finland’s Embassy in Kabul is closed, and we are working from Doha in Qatar and from Helsinki. The international community has not recognised the Taliban government, and there is little cooperation with the Taliban. There is very active cooperation and coordination among the ambassadors of EU Member States and the UN agencies and civil society organisations operating in Afghanistan.

How is Finland cooperating with Afghanistan?

While Finland’s bilateral development cooperation in Afghanistan was suspended last year after the Taliban seized power, we are delivering a significant amount of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. Finland’s support is used to safeguard people’s basic needs and help especially girls and women who are now very vulnerable. The support is primarily channelled through UN agencies, such as UN Women. The problem is that we are unable to monitor the situation in Afghanistan. Fortunately, UN agencies are still operating in Afghanistan, and through them we get very important information about events in the country.

How do you see the future of Afghanistan?

Afghanistan is facing a long and strenuous time of peacebuilding. The country will continue to struggle with economic challenges for a long time to come. On top of that, climate change is affecting Afghanistan, and the problems caused by drought will become worse in future. Much depends on what kind of an attitude the Taliban government will be adopting towards the common values and norms of the international community.

What has uplifted you personally in Afghanistan and what can we learn from the locals?

It has been uplifting to see how people in Afghanistan have strength to believe in the rise and survival of their country. You can see the tenacity of individuals and how they uphold their personal dignity.


In this article series, Finnish ambassadors around the world tell what is happening in their duty station.


Written by Anna Palmén