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Afghanistan: Doubling Reconstruction Aid Needed

Afghanistan: UN Official Calls For Doubling International Aid For Reconstruction

Calling for at least doubling international assistance for Afghanistan, a senior United Nations official said today that international financial commitments were neither large enough nor coming in fast enough to guarantee the war-ravaged country's reconstruction.

"I would say that even very conservatively one would have to double the amount of assistance coming into this country to really assure that Afghanistan can really get on the road to recovery," Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Nigel Fisher, told a briefing in Kabul, the Afghan capital. "So we're still far short of that goal."

Noting that at a meeting in Tokyo in January there had been a commitment of $4.6 billion to Afghanistan, Mr. Fisher said: "(It) sounded like a lot of money, but when the World Bank and the UN made an estimate of what was actually needed in this country for the next three years, they estimated conservatively $13 billion and optimistically $19 billion. So you put the $4.6 billion commitment for reconstruction in that context it's not enough."

He pointed out that the Afghan government requested $2.2 billion for this year's budget, while promises by the international community made in Brussels in March totalled just under $2 billion, even without counting additional costs for elections.

The speed at which commitments were coming in was also inadequate, Mr. Fisher said. He cited the Law and Order Trust Fund, necessary for reforming the police, which needs $121 million dollars this year but has so far only received $11 million. The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund is seeking $600 million this year but has only got $63 million. The UN has a programme this year of $728 million dollars but has so far only got $220 million.

But Mr. Fisher also pointed to improvements in the country. Some 2.4 million devices were destroyed last year in de-mining action. Last year's wheat harvest of 2.6 million tons was an 80 per cent increase over 2001. This year's harvest is estimated at 4.6 million tons, 64 per cent better than 1978, the last year of normal production before the wars began.

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