Afghanistan pleads for $50bn in aid

Karzai attends donor conference seeking pledges from more than 80 countries.

    Sarlozy, left, said France would double its aid, but the US is donating the largest amount [AFP]
    The US pledged on Wednesday to to contribute $10bn to the country in 2009.

    The World Bank has reaffirmed its financial commitment to Afghanistan with $1.1 billion in aid over the next five years.

    Karzai told Al Jazeera earlier this year: "We have to go on and continue until we are fully satisfied ... Until we make sure Afghanistan is safe, Pakistan is safe and by extension, Britain and America are safe."

    Failing aid

    Transparency International, an organisation covering corruption around the world, ranks Afghanistan as the ninth most corrupt country out of 180 surveyed.

    Integrity Watch, an independent non-governmental organisation, says that 70 per cent of international funds to Afghanistan are not even channelled through the government and out of every $100 donated, only $20 reaches the people it was intended for.

    In video

    Al Jazeera on the problem of Afghanistan's security-led aid

    Mohammed Douad Sultan Soy, an Afghanistani MP and chairman of the country's economic committee, told Al Jazeera from the conference that funds which bypass the government "runs contrary to the democratic process which has been built in Afghanistan".

    "Corruption starts from [the] top, down and the remedy has to start from top, down too," he said.

    "Corruption is the mother of many other ills in Afghanistan at the moment, in terms of administrative weaknesses and people's dissatisfaction."

    "What the people of Afghanistan want is accountability and proper management and also transparency.

    "These funds aren't to be used on personal wishlists. The people of Afghanistan have to be the real recipients and they have to have a role in saying what should be done.

    "We need to put emphasis on sectors that can produce immediate results - agriculture and road systems, for example."

    Poppy poverty

    Most Afghans still live in mud-brick homes without proper sanitation and
    80 per cent have no electricity, despite US$15 billion in international aid since the removal of the Taliban in 2001.

    Afghanistan's econonmy is war-torn due to
    confrontations with the Taliban [AFP]

    Life expectancy remains under 50 years, and food shortages over the past year have pushed many Afghans to the brink.

    Drugs are a key part of the economy, as Afghanistan is the world's top opium producer.

    Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, urged world donors to co-ordinate and intensify their efforts to aid Afghanistan, and to insist on better governance by the Afghans.

    "Every act of corruption is a deliberate act by someone in a position of
    authority," he said.

    Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said: "If the donors just offer more of the same and ignore the need for systemic reform, including a commitment to take on warlords and address impunity, then the situation in Afghanistan is likely to deteriorate."

    Aid pledges

    Germany has already pledged €420 million (US$653 million) to support reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan through to 2010.

    Norway's civilian aid to Afghanistan will remain at US$145 million a year for the next five years.

    Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, told Karzai it was "the duty of all democrats to help you," in his opening speech, adding that France would "maintain its effort in Afghanistan as long as necessary."

    Sarkozy said France would more than double its aid, focusing on health and agriculture, takings its contribution to $165m over the next two years.

    Aid agencies in Afghanistan say France has spent around $80 million in aid since 2001, with a further $29.5 million pledged but not disbursed.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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