Donor meeting reaffirms international commitment

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

KABUL, 7 Apr 2005 (IRIN) - A key meeting between the Afghan government and international donors ended on Wednesday with renewed commitment from wealthy nations to reconstruction and Kabul calling for more attention on what it called “neglected infrastructure building.”

Donor countries that have contributed billions of dollars in humanitarian and development aid to the country in the post-Taliban period, got the chance to talk directly to authorities about progress in reconstruction at the third Afghanistan Development Forum (ADF).

“It was a dialogue of real partnership between Afghanistan and the international community,” Dr Abdullah Abdullah, Afghan foreign affairs minister, told IRIN as the meeting in the capital Kabul drew to a close.

Jean Arnault, Special Representative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), underlined the international community's ongoing commitment to the country.

"We have to make sure that the effort at creating peace in this country will not end on 18 September with the parliamentary election, but will be extended for as long as it takes to make sure that this process of peace consolidation is successfully translated into strong peace dividends," he said.

Concensus was reportedly reached on the need to promote the rebuilding and fresh construction of infrastructure, and to rapidly address poverty reduction, Abdullah added.

Finance Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Ahadi reiterated Kabul’s desire to have a greater say in how foreign aid money is spent in the country. “We asked the international community to allow the government to have a greater say in the allocation of resource for development, for social protection and for nation-building.”

President Hamid Karzai’s government has long been unhappy that the bulk of foreign aid does not pass through its hands, [but?] some donors argue the fledgling administration does not have the capacity to handle the vast sums involved. “We argued that at leas two-thirds of the assistance should be channelled through the government,” Ahadi maintained.

The government, in turn made a new commitment at the conference to be open about where donor money was being spent. “From the discussions it is clear the government needs to improve its criteria for accountability and transparency,” Abdullah noted.

Although the gathering was not a pledging conference, Ahadii noted that the United Kingdom - one of the lead nations fighting the massive narcotics problem in Afghanistan - announced an additional US $151 million contribution to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF).

“The ADF was a good opportunity to take stock of what was agreed in Berlin in terms of economic strategy, assess continuity and to articulate any changes that need to be considered,” Steve Symansky, International Monetary Fund (IMF) head of mission, told IRIN at the conference.

Donors pledged $8.3 billion over two to three years at the 2004 ADF in Berlin, but some of that money must still be committed to specific projects, partly due to ongoing insecurity in many parts of the south and east of the country.

Source: Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a project the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. IRIN is UN humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.

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