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AFGHANISTAN: Government to have greater control over aid pledged in London

Kabul, 2 February 2006 (IRIN) - The Afghan government looks set to have more control over aid worth US $10.5 billion pledged at the London donor conference for the rehabilitation of the war-ravaged country, officials said on Thursday.

Hosted by the UN, as well as the Afghan and UK governments, the three-day conference that began on Tuesday, refocused international commitment to assisting Afghanistan and acknowledged the huge development challenges that still lie ahead.

Kabul was unhappy that it has had so little donor funds to allocate in the past, while foreign NGOs received the lion’s share of international money. Donors were reluctant to channel funds through the fledgling government, citing lack of capacity and corruption fears.

“During the past four years, the government was only receiving 22 percent of world aid and the remaining 78 percent was disbursed through NGOs, but now the government would directly receive more than 60 percent of world donations,” Aziz Shams, spokesman for the finance ministry, told IRIN in the capital, Kabul.

During the conference, the US pledged an extra $1.1 billion in financial aid for the coming US fiscal year from October. The World Bank pledged $1.2 billion. One billion dollars were pledged by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), $855 million from Britain, $480 million from Germany and $450 million from Japan.

In addition, the European Union (EU) pledged $268 million, Spain $182 million, India $181 million, the Netherlands $179 million, Saudi Arabia $153 million, Pakistan $150 million and Norway $144 million. France trailed well behind with just $55 million pledged.

The new international financial commitment to the country's future was welcomed by government. “The international community has pledged more money than we expected and shows its strong commitment to the long-term rehabilitation and self-sufficiency of Afghanistan,” Shams noted.

Some 80 per cent of the pledged funds represent new money, with the remainder made up of outstanding portions of earlier pledges, according to officials.

Afghanistan is recovering from decades of brutal war and internal conflict, which left millions of people homeless and destroyed much of its infrastructure.

The war-ravaged country became the training ground for Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda movement. It’s host, the Taliban movement, was overthrown by US-led forces in late 2001 after refusing to hand over bin Laden and others blamed for the 11 September 2001, attacks.

Taliban remnants remain and are continuing to wage an insurgency against the US-backed administration of President Hamid Karzai.

Theme (s): Conflict, Economy, Education, Food Security, Gender Issues, Governance, Health & Nutrition, Human Rights, Natural Disasters, Refugees/IDPs,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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