Donor reaffirm aid pledges, insist on reforms
KABUL (PAN): The international fraternity on Wednesday reiterated the aid pledges held out at last year’s Tokyo Conference, asking Afghanistan to keep its promises with regard to governance reforms, counter-corruption measures and improving women’s situation.
“We had good discussion today. Our international partners have reiterated their assurances to implement the aid pledges,” Finance Minister Dr. Omar Zakhilwal told a joint news conference with UNAMA’s deputy chief in Kabul.
The news briefing came at the end of a day-long meeting that evaluated progress in implementing the commitments made by the international fraternity and the Afghan government.
Representatives from more than 50 nations and international organisations attended the event. Both sides renewed their vows to cling to a mutual accountability framework -- a mechanism aimed to ensure transparent aid utilisation and the economic growth of Afghanistan.
On July 8, 2012, donors at the conference in Japan had pledged to give Afghanistan $16b in aid over the next four years to safeguard its future. As Afghanistan accepted new conditions to stem endemic corruption, the US, Japan, Germany and the UK led the way in offering assistance.
Zakhilwal said representatives of donor countries and Afghan government had agreed to meet once a year to assess the enforcement of aid pledges.
For his part, UN Secretary General’s Deputy Special Representative Mark Bowden said the donors told the Afghans corruption remained a concern that needed to be addressed seriously. They the issue of ensuring respect for human rights was also discussed at length.
He made clear administrative corruption and human rights were the major issues, saying the participants underlined concrete action by the government to address the problems in order to pave the ground for sustained development.
Earlier in the day, UNAMA chief Jan Kubis said the world body would encourage the global fraternity to extend long-term assistance to Afghanistan, stressing that foreign aid must be used in a transparent and judicious manner.
The meeting was co-chaired by Foreign Minister Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal from the Afghan side and Jan Kubis from the international community. Senior officials from 40 donor countries and 8 international organisations, civil society and private sector representatives participated.
Kubis called for close cooperation between donor countries and Kabul in making the aid effective. He recalled Afghanistan and donor nations had jointly devised in February a new strategy for spending foreign assistance.
He said the UN and the world were ready to continue to assist the war-torn country in areas of peace, prosperity and security. The diplomat added the UN would motivate the world to keep on helping Afghanistan, which expected aid to promote democratic values and ensure development.
While commending the government’s efforts to counter graft, he said the participants would explore ways of dealing with hurdles to next year’s presidential and provincial council elections.
The polls would be conducted in a fair and inclusive way in line with the government’s commitment, he hoped, stressing the need for an effective framework in this regard.
In response to his call, Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul said the government clung to its commitments. He added Kabul kept on trying to put in place a system of accountability for the sake of continued foreign aid flows into the impoverished country.
Zakhilwal, referring to progress in different sectors, noted positive changes in Afghans’ economic life. He said much headway had been made in the fields of education, health, building roads and drinking water supply.
The level of hunger had been reduced and women’s given due rights, he said, acknowledging the problem of corruption that might damage efforts at good governance. But the government remained serious about addressing the challenge, he continued.
Zakhilwal said in his opening remarks: “Our international colleagues have once again renewed their commitment to 16 billion dollars assistance, which had been promised at the Tokyo Conference.”
He added: “It is very important that the assistance is delivered in accordance with the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework and the Afghan government’s priorities through the national budget in order to make the assistance more effective.”
Civil society appreciated the progress made toward the commitments made by the Afghanistan side in the Tokyo Conference. A detailed report on the evaluation of commitments from both sides was presented.
The government and the international community agreed on Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF) for the effective flow of the international financial aid to Afghanistan in the decade 2014-2024.
A representative of the US embassy said there is no doubt that Afghanistan had made tremendous progress over the past decade. In many sectors, including health and education, the gains were unprecedented...”
But he hastened to explain Afghanistan’s full potential was yet to be realised, and hard-won gains could far too easily be lost. “That is why a year ago we agreed at Tokyo to put the relationship between Afghanistan and its partners on a foundation of mutual accountability, to pursue continued political, economic, and social development...”
“The United States reaffirms its commitment, as spelled out in the Strategic Partnership Agreement, to the people and democratic government of Afghanistan and pledges continued support through the ongoing security and political transitions and into the next decade,” he added.
He also announced the establishment of a new $175 million bilateral incentive programme to encourage progress on the full range of Tokyo reforms. The US plans to make up to $75 million in incentive funding available this year and up to an additional $100 million next year.
The new program will promote Afghan reform progress with flexible funding to be used for development projects or other needs prioritised by the Afghan government. But the funds will only be available if specific and concrete progress is made toward the Tokyo goals, including on elections, anti-corruption, and women’s rights.
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