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Donors pledge USD 20b for Afghanistan

Published on June 13, 2008

13 June 2008

PARIS – World donors pledged USD 20 billion (EUR 13 billion) to rebuild Afghanistan on Thursday but also called on President Hamid Karzai to do more to fight corruption and strengthen the rule of law.

"This is a success because we were expecting, in our dreams, 17 billion dollars," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said as he announced a final tally of about USD 20 billion.

Karzai asked donors to finance part of a USD 50-billion development plan over the next five years to counter widespread poverty and a Taliban insurgency.

The lion’s share of funds came from the United States, which offered USD 10.2 billion over the next two years.

"Afghanistan has reached a decisive moment for its future. We must not turn our backs on this opportunity," US First Lady Laura Bush told the conference attended by more than 80 donor countries and international organisations.

Big pledges also came from Britain, which announced USD 1.2 billion over five years, Germany, which put up more than USD 600 million over three years, and Japan, with USD 550 million.

But donors also expressed concern over whether the funds would reach those who really need it.

Heading into a presidential election next year, Karzai is under pressure over his apparent inability to deal with corruption and opium production, seen as prolonging the Taliban insurgency.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Kabul to take "active measures" to fight corruption, guarantee transparency and be accountable to donors backing Karzai’s ambitious development plan.

"It is only by combating corruption and strengthening the rule of law that our commitment will be efficient," stressed German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier.

Among key funds promised, the World Bank said it would channel about USD 1.1 billion over five years and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) offered USD 1.3 billion.
ADB vice president Liqun Jin called on Kabul to show "more resolve to firmly address widespread and institutionalised corruption."

Karzai’s blueprint focuses first on infrastructure, with plans to build roads, dams and power plants, but building up the army is also a priority along with developing agriculture.

"This conference marks a new commitment to work more closely together under Afghan leadership to support the Afghanistan National Development Strategy," said a final declaration from the conference.

International donors and the Afghan government agreed to conduct regular audits of aid programmes and strengthen Kabul’s ability to be accountable for the massive aid.
The final tally was double the amount raised at the London donors conference two years ago.

Australia and the United Arab Emirates offered USD 250 million each to back Karzai’s development plan.

Canada said it would provide USD 600 million in new funds, part of which will be spent on rebuilding a dam in the southern Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.

President Nicolas Sarkozy announced French financial aid would be "more than doubled" with priority given to agriculture and health, bringing its assistance up to USD 165 million over the next two years.

More than six years after US-led forces ousted the Taliban, Afghanistan remains mired in poverty and its people lack many basics while the extremist militia has pushed on with its insurgency in the south.

Relief organisations have complained that too much international aid is spent on security while development projects vital to fight poverty and strengthen the state are neglected.

Of USD 25 billion previously promised by the international community, only USD 15 have reached Afghanistan, according to aid groups.

[AFP / Expatica]