World pledges $10.5bn for Afghanistan

Nearly 70 nations and international bodies have pledged $10.5 billion (€8.75bn) to help Afghanistan fight poverty, improve security and crack down on the drug trade.

    Blair: Helping Afghanistan and Iraq is crucial to global security

    Officials announced the figure on Wednesday at the close of a two-day conference on the troubled nation's future.

    "We have laid the foundation for change," Kim Howells, the British foreign office minister, said in announcing the funding promises. "This money will provide the necessary basis for getting Afghanistan's work under way."

    The pledges were intended to fund the goals set out in a five-year plan delegates signed on Tuesday for re-development in the country decimated by decades of war.

    Dubbed the Afghanistan Compact, it covers poverty reduction, economic development, counter-narcotics efforts and security and promises aid to help Hamid Karzai's government achieve the targets.

    Very thankful

    "I am very thankful and I am very confident that with this kind of support ... we will eventually be able to establish a very democratic society in Afghanistan," said Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi, the country's finance minister.

    Diplomats at the conference praised the progress Afghanistan has made since a US-led coalition toppled the Taliban government in 2001.

    But after decades of war and the Taliban's puritanical rule, the country is still plagued by violence and extreme poverty and they acknowledged it has a long way to go.

    Afghanistan is mired in extreme
    poverty in addition to violence

    Ameerah Haq, of the UN mission in Afghanistan, said it was now crucial that those building the country's future return home and put the new blueprint into action.

    "The clock of the Afghanistan Compact is now ticking," she said.

    The conference focused on Wednesday on boosting human rights and economic development.

    Afghanistan pledged in the new plan to build a functioning justice system in all its provinces by 2010 and reduce the number of people living on less than $1 a day by 3% per year.

    Howells said establishing the rule of law would be critical.

    "Without this, reconstruction, economic growth, poverty reduction and counter-narcotics will continue to be hampered," Howells said. "It's very important that the protection of human rights becomes part of the mainstream of Afghan politics."

    Combating drugs

    Howells said $77 million (€64 million) of the money pledged would go to fight drug production and trafficking.

    Afghanistan produces nearly 90% of the world's opium and heroin. "We need to stop this evil trade which affects us all," he said.

    The nation produces nearly 90%
    of the world's opium and heroin

    Hedayat Amin Arsala, Afghanistan's commerce minister and a senior government adviser, said changing the country's political culture would be difficult.

    "This is not a simple task," he said. "There is a whole generation of Afghans who have grown up seeing political causes advanced" through violence instead of democratic processes.

    Delegates pledged to keep aid to Afghanistan flowing.

    Tony Blair, the British prime minister, said that "at this moment when terrorism is fighting back in Afghanistan and in Iraq", helping both countries become stable was crucial to global security.

    "Because when they were left in that failed state, they were a threat to the whole of the world," he told the House of Commons in his weekly question session.

    Successor deal

    The five-year blueprint that leaders signed at the conference is intended as a successor to the deal reached at a December 2001 meeting in Bonn, Germany, which established a political process for Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban.

    Afghanistan promised in the new compact to build a professional army and police force, shut down all armed militias by the end of 2007, and teach its officials about human rights.

    It also vowed to provide electricity to 25% of rural homes and 65% of urban ones by 2010, repair roads and set up a system of land registration. It also said it would reduce infant and maternal mortality rates that are among the worst in the world by 20% and 15% respectively by 2010.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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