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UN rep: Afghans deserve 'New Deal'

Latest update : 2008-06-11

In an unusually frank interview with FRANCE 24, the UN’s aid chief in Afghanistan says too much Western aid goes back to the donor countries, instead of the Afghan people it was intended to help. (Report: N. Germain)

Western nations have pledged billions of dollars in aid to Afghanistan since the US-led invasion ousted the Taliban in 2001, but the money has too often found its way back to the donors instead of the Afghan people it was intended to help, according to Kai Eide, head of the UN’s aid mission to Afghanistan.

"Too much of the donor money falls back into the hands of the donor country itself and never reaches the Afghans," Eide told FRANCE 24’s Claire Billet in an exclusive interview on the eve of a major Afghan aid conference being held in Paris on June 12. "That is a big  problem."

International aid is often spent on lucrative contracts for foreign consultants and companies – who frequently come from the countries that gave the money.

"Another problem is that we do not follow what are the plans and priorities of the Afghan government," Eide continues. "We start our own projects and sometimes the Afghans don't even know about it, what we are doing in the field."

"Third, we have to spend our money in a way that is sustainable, that means that the Afghans can carry it forward. Quick impact projects very often become quick collapse projects. It is because the Afghans don't have the capacity [to develop projects further], we have to give them that capacity. So the more we invest in building that ability for the Afghans themselves to take ownership the better it will be."

Eide, who was appointed to the post in March, said that much progress had been made in certain areas – notably health and education – but that aid could be administered more efficiently to better benefit the Afghan people. "We hear about huge amounts of money but we do not yet see the kinds of results we want to see."

At the Paris conference, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to ask donor nations to help fund a $50 billion five-year national development plan. The donors will likely urge Karzai’s government to do more to fight corruption which siphons off much of the aid.

"I hope this conference will be a kind of 'New Deal'," Kai Eide told France 24. "A new chapter in our relationship, in our partnership with Afghanistan. And I want that chapter to be people-oriented. In everything we do I would like us to concentrate on the results we'd like to see, and where? It's on the ground because that's where the people live and I'd like to reach them and we have to have a convincing message from the Paris conference that what we do is aimed at people on the ground."

Date created : 2008-06-11

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