International donors pledged 20 billion dollars in aid to conflict-ridden Afghanistan, but want more done to eliminate corruption. Cyril Vanier explains.
World donors pledged 20 billion dollars 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 20 billion dollars (13 billion euros).
Karzai asked donors to finance part of a 50-billion-dollar 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 10.2 billion dollars 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 1.2 billion dollars over five years, Germany put up more than 600 million dollars over three years and Japan's 550 million dollars.
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.
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.
Among other funding promised, the World Bank said it would channel about 1.1 billion dollars over five years. Australia and the United Arab Emirates offered 250 million dollars each to back Karzai's development plan.
Canada said it would provide 600 million dollars in new funds, part of which will be spent to rebuild 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 165 million dollars 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.
Some 47,000 troops from a NATO-led force are fighting the Taliban alongside 20,000 US troops. The violence has left 8,000 people dead in 2007 alone including 1,500 civilians, according to UN figures.
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 the 25 billion dollars promised by the international community, only 15 billion have reached Afghanistan, according to aid groups.
Date created : 2008-06-12