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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Thursday 25 March 2004

AFGHANISTAN: At Berlin, Kabul to seek longer-term commitment from doors

KABUL , 24 Mar 2004 (IRIN) - Two years after the Tokyo conference, Afghanistan is preparing to participate in a two-day international donor meeting in Berlin next week. The Afghan government will ask donor nations to make a longer-term commitment by appealing for upwards of US $30 billion over the next 10 years, enabling the country to move into a sustainable development phase.

"We have prepared a document that summarises a strategy and vision for development in the next seven to 10 years," Ramazan Bashardoost, the newly-assigned Afghan planning minister, told IRIN in the Afghan capital, Kabul, a week before the event was scheduled to begin on 31 March.

In addition to the international donor conference, to which governmental representatives and officials from donor nations have been invited, there will be a meeting of investors and private-sector actors, as well as a meeting of representatives from civil society.

But according to Bashardoost, the government was no longer going cap-in-hand to wealthy nations. "This funding request is not about charity. Rather we are asking for long term investment to benefit Afghanistan and the international community," he maintained.

To break the vicious cycle of persistent insecurity, a growing criminal economy, slow reconstruction and lack of faith in the government, the Afghan government believes that it needs to achieve a per capita annual income of around $500 within 10 years.

But according to a policy briefing document from CARE International, achieving this goal will require economic growth that is fast enough, and sufficiently equitable, to absorb those now involved in the illicit economy dominated by warlord militias and the burgeoning opium trade.

"Families must be able to support themselves without growing poppies or sending their sons to fight for warlords," said the CARE document, "The Cost of Doing Too Little", which will be released to coincide with the Berlin Conference.

CARE said previous estimates of needs that were made at the Tokyo conference - around $10 billion - needed revising. "Now two years after, we have a clearer idea what the reconstruction cost can be for basic infrastructure, and what are the problems and realities in terms of security in Afghanistan," Paul Barker, the country director of CARE, told IRIN in Kabul.

CARE recommended that donor governments and financial institutions should endorse the new multi-billion needs assessment and commit to implementing the accompanying reconstruction plan over the next seven years.

"Donor governments and international financial institutions should narrow the reconstruction funding gap by making new multi-year commitments at Berlin," CARE urged. But the agency, acknowledging donor concerns, called on the Afghan government to ensure transparent and accountable use of the resources provided by the international community.

Another change Kabul will be pushing for at Berlin will be in the way in which donor money is distributed. According to the planning minister, most of the cash donated after Tokyo was channeled through international organisations involved in the Afghan reconstruction process. In part this was because many donors were not convinced that Karzai's inexperienced post-Taliban administration had the capacity to administer the funds.

However, this time, the minister said the government would insist that all the funds should go through central government. "The post-Tokyo funding situation was a bad experience and Afghans are not satisfied with rehabilitation work so far," he said.

He added that the international aid system of often by-passing the government was undermining Kabul's fledgling authority at a time when it had to be seen to be delivering to the people. Presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for later this year.

Also, the government feels it is not really in charge of the whole reconstruction process. "We do not know how much money was given to Afghanistan and where it was spent," the minister noted.

Despite the need for reform and capacity building in the government, security remains the number one concern for many involved in development in the country.

In recent months, at least a dozen local and international aid workers have been killed in terrorist attacks in the country. Civilians continue to be victimised due to factional fighting among rival warlords.

On Sunday the minister for civil aviation was killed in the western city of Herat along with a number of others, following feuding between regional strongman and provincial governor Ismail Khan and a local commander loyal to central government. This city was viewed as one of the most stable in the country.

"I think the events of Herat in recent days highlight that all is not well in Afghanistan. We must accept that there are major security issues that must be dealt with," Andrew Wilder, director of the Afghanistan Research and Rehabilitation Unit (AREU), a Kabul-based think tank, told IRIN.

Wilder urged the donor community to remain engaged in Afghanistan for a much longer period, "not to look for quick solutions and a quick exit strategy to spend money quick and then leave", he noted.


This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2004

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