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Afghanistan Donor Conference A Failure

Institute For Afghan Studies (IAS)

“Tokyo Donor Conference on Reconstruction of Afghanistan Falls Short of Expectations!”

The Tokyo conference fell short of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's goal of raising USD 10 billion over the next 5 years. The 61 donor nations and the World Bank pledged USD 1.8 billion in fiscal 2002 as part of a USD 4.5 billion commitment over the next five years. Aside from being insufficient the current pledges may not all turn into actual contribution from experiences and examples elsewhere.

For a pledge to become a viable money unit it has to make it through several layers of bureaucracy. There can be problems at every step of the way and the end result would be for the actual usable money at the field to be only a fraction of the promised amount. The fate of an emergency start-up fund created in December to finance Afghanistan's interim government highlights the difficulty ahead. Only $9.7 million of the $17 million fund had reached Kabul as of January 17.

The head of the interim administration of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, returned to Kabul with a handful of promises that fell short of expectations. The task that lies before his month-old government is vast and complex. The Afghan economy is in ruin, the physical infrastructure is destroyed, more than two-thirds of Afghanistan's adults are illiterate, half its children are chronically malnourished, electricity is largely unavailable, and the country's harsh landscape remains strewn with land mines that kill or maim thousands each year.

There are plenty of reasons why the rich West should reach deeper into its pockets. First, battered as Afghanistan's infrastructure already was before Sept. 11, it has since been almost entirely flattened. Considering that the War Against Terrorism is costing the United States more than USD1 billion each month, it is hard to believe that the United States is offering a meager USD 297 million. Similarly, the leading Muslim country, Saudi Arabia pledged only USD 67 million a year for a three-year period. Other oil rich Muslim Gulf States seem to have side tracked from their cries of Muslim solidarity. Second, as with any other impoverished nation, aid will foster economic stability and trade with other countries while diluting the appeal of political extremism. Third, it can be argued that because Afghanistan's difficulties over the years have been compounded by foreign interference, the world has a particular obligation to help.

The Institute for Afghan Studies believes that while aid by Afghanistan’s neighbors is deeply appreciated, it should in no way be given or received in a spirit other than fraternal feelings for the Afghan nation. The IAS also questions the rather silent attitude of the Russian government, who as a direct heir of the former Soviet Empire, should have taken up the issue of payment of war damages to Afghanistan.

The Institute for Afghan Studies believes that there is need for a series of conferences regarding world participation in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and that those conferences should go deeper into the issue of pledging aid in a bid to addressing the real needs of the country. These conferences should be planned as soon as possible. Afghan authorities and the United Nations can work together on this issue.


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