Donors Give Afghanistan $1.8 Billion for 2002

TOKYO, Japan, January 22, 2002 (ENS) - Demining, security, clean water, sanitation, capacity building, governance, education, health, infrastructure, and the relocation of refugees and displaced persons - the needs of Afghanistan are "immense," United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan told an international meeting of donors here.

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UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (Photo courtesy UN)
The two day International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan brought together donors from over 60 countries and 22 international organizations. They were told Monday that reconstruction of the war-shattered country will cost some $15 billion over the next decade.

Annan told the donors that Afghanistan needs $1.3 billion "right now" to cope with the most immediate tasks, in addition to any commitments already earmarked for humanitarian relief.

The donors rose to meet the challenge. At the conclusion of the conference today, they announced the donation of $1.8 billion in pledges and contributions for 2002, which prompted Annan to describe the forum as "remarkably successful."

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A girl from Tozalokai, a refugee camp on Tajic Afghan border. (Photo by Rita Plotnikova courtesy IFRC)
Commitments by the conference's four co-chairs include up to $500 million over two and a half years, with a maximum of $250 million for 2002 from Japan; $296 million for 2002 from the Untied States; $500 million for 2002 from the European Union; and $220 million for three years from Saudi Arabia.

A total of over $4.5 billion in pledges and contributions was announced in Tokyo, in addition to $1.8 billion pledged for the current year.

"For the first time in decades, Afghanistan is not being torn apart by war," Annan told the donors. "For the first time in many years, the international community is united around a vision of the country's future."

The Secretary-General warned that success could not be taken for granted, since more than once in recent years, countries have sunk back into conflict just when peace seemed to be taking hold.

"We are here today to do our part in making sure that does not happen in Afghanistan," he told the donors who had before them a document spelling out the country's reconstruction needs prepared by the UN Development Programme, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.

Annan said that an estimated $10 billion would be needed in the next five years to cover a wide array of tasks, from reintegration of former combatants, to revival of economic activity and restoration of basic services.

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World Bank president James Wolfensohn (Photo courtesy UN)
World Bank president James Wolfensohn told the donors that he would propose to the World Bank's shareholders $500 million in concessional assistance to Afghanistan over the next 30 months, with immediate action to provide an additional $50 to 70 million in grants.

Especially important, Wolfensohn said, is investment in demining and infrastructure, education and health, access to clean water, energy and communications. Currently one in four Afghan children dies before the age of five. Less than 23 percent of the population has access to safe water, and only 12 percent have access to adequate sanitation.

Stressing the importance of an "early peace dividend," Wolfensohn said, "It is imperative that the Afghan authorities and the international community show quick and tangible benefits to the Afghan people. The fight against poverty is central to long term peace and stability. The Afghan people need and deserve our immediate help."

Annan's Special Representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, told the Tokyo meeting that security remains an issue of "paramount importance."

"To ensure security for the long term, Afghanistan must build genuinely national, credible and affordable security institutions - a police force, a national army, an independent judiciary within a legal framework which installs the rule of law, that the people of Afghanistan crave," Brahimi said. He stressed that this "formidable task" will require "significantly more financial resources" than the need assessment has anticipated.

UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown told reporters at the conference that priorities are for "schools, fields and jobs - the need to get kids in school by the time of the school year in March, a similar deadline for getting seeds out, and the need to get the economy going." He stressed that it would be important to "shift the political economy from where the most important asset you can have is a gun to one where the tools of peace, from ploughs to computers, are what people value."

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Pakistan Red Crescent workers unloading tents & tarpaulins, donated by the German Red Cross, at the main warehouse in Peshawar, Pakistan. (Photo by Andrew MacColl courtesy IFRC)
On Wednesday, Annan sets off on a visit to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. He will travel from Tokyo to Islamabad, then heads to Kabul on Friday. The UN chief will tour parts of Kabul that have been damaged by the war and visit with ordinary Afghans. Annan then travels on to Teheran on Saturday, spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York.

"In Kabul, the secretary-general will be meeting with the head of the Interim Administration, Hamid Karzai, the other members of the Interim Administration and the International Security Assistance Force leaders," Eckhard said.

"If the neighbors, who in the past have backed various warring factions in Afghanistan, continue to do that, then their influence on the country will be divisive," Eckhard warned. "Most critical will be Pakistan and Iran, and he'll be urging them to work more closely together to keep the security situation in Afghanistan stable, arguing that it's in their common interest to do so."