Rebuilding programme calls for US$50 billion

KABUL, 11 June 2008 (IRIN) - The government of Afghanistan is optimistic it will receive strong pledges from donors for its five-year national development strategy, to be unveiled at an international conference on 12 June in Paris.

"The finalised strategy has been submitted to the World Bank and other international organisations to orient it for the donors' meeting in Paris," Sultan Ahmad Baheen, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told IRIN in Kabul.

The Afghanistan National Development Strategy, the result of more than two years of extensive consultations with Afghan and international institutions on developing the war-torn country, seeks US$43 billion from donors in the coming five years.

To reduce poverty, improve governance, halve the maternal and infant mortality rate, and improve human and physical security, the strategy requires $50 billion, of which more than $6 billion will come from Afghanistan's own resources.

The country has pledges of about $24 billion from various donors for the coming five years, Baheen said.

"At the Paris conference we will ask donors for an extra $20 billion aid," he added.

Coordination crucial

Despite large amounts of aid money dispersed since 2002 - donors have spent about $15 billion on reconstruction, humanitarian and development efforts - Afghanistan is among the five least developed countries in the world. More than half its estimated 26.6 million people live on less than $1 a day, according to the national human development report.

The strategy identifies three main reasons for poor development - including weak coordination among donors and the Afghan government, inadequate aid, and the underestimation of the challenges facing the country.

Thus, the strategy proposes the "Afghanisation" of the whole development process, which so far has been considered "internationalised".

"The [strategy] is a roadmap for the long-desired objective of 'Afghanisation' and the transition towards stability, self-sustaining growth, and human development," states the executive summary.

Matt Waldman, Oxfam's policy and advocacy adviser in Kabul, said that while the strategy should be commended for its recognition of the challenges Afghanistan is facing, and for its attempt to establish integrated policies, "the question is whether there is sufficient commitment, capacity and support for its effective implementation, especially at the local level.

"Despite an over-emphasis on the potential for strong private sector-led growth, we broadly endorse the strategy. But it will need to be supplemented with further measures and the real challenge will be in its implementation," he added.

According to Waldman, the scale of funding requested also raises doubts about absorption capacity, accountability and transparency in Afghan institutions.

No security, no strategy?

More than six years since the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan is embroiled in a conflict that has not only killed thousands of people but hindered development and humanitarian activities in large swaths of the country.

While the strategy envisions a developmental and poverty reduction approach to conflict resolution, its very implementation hinges on the government's ability to have reliable access to all parts of the country, particularly the volatile south and southeast, and effectively implement projects.

The policy document tacitly concedes the pre-requisite of security for its implementation: "The stabilisation of Afghanistan, especially in the south and southeast, remains a necessary but insufficient pre-condition for implementation."

Should insecurity and attacks on development actors remain unchecked, the government will probably delay development activities in insecure areas but will implement the strategy in relatively secure northern and central parts of the country, Baheen said.

"In insecure areas, implementation may be delayed, but will not be disregarded," he said.

Biggest aid recipients

The strategy also includes six "cross-cutting" issues (capacity building, gender equity, counter-narcotics, regional cooperation, anti-corruption and environment), which will be mainstreamed into various programmes.

The biggest portion of its proposed $50 billion budget is earmarked for infrastructural development, where the government will invest more than $17 billion.

Building Afghanistan's security and defence capacity is the second biggest aid recipient, at $14.2 billion, followed by education and culture with over $4.8 billion, and agriculture and rural development, at more than $4.4 billion. Health and nutrition comes sixth with a budget of about $2.5 billion. 

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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