Afghans look to Paris conference for boost and money

June 11th, 2008 - 12:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Paris, June 11 (DPA) Representatives from 80 nations and organisations will gather Thursday in Paris to provide a much-needed political boost, and some much-needed money to the international effort to stabilise Afghanistan. Although the host French are careful to say that the meeting is not primarily a donor conference, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is looking to reap as much as $50 billion from his friends and allies in the international community.

However, the conference will also make demands on Karzai and his government.

In a report, the World Bank urged the authorities in Kabul for more accountability in the reconstruction of their country and its economy.

The report, titled Building an Effective State: Priorities for Public Administration Reforms in Afghanistan, asked for more assurances that whatever money is pledged Thursday will be properly spent.

Aid organisations charge that much of the donated money and other aid never reaches the population. In addition, an Afghan source said in Paris that about 40 percent of US aid never even reaches Afghanistan.

The World Bank also urged the Afghan government to take on more of the work that is currently carried out by others.

For its part, the Afghan government will use the conference to present the Afghan National Development Strategy (ANDS), a five-year plan (and wish list), for economic and infrastructure reconstruction.

Priorities for the funds donated at the conference will be agriculture, energy, public health, education, transportation and, above all, security, which alone requires some $14 billion in aid.

In addition, Karzai has set a goal of the year 2013 for the establishment of a constitutional state, full security for Afghan citizens, democracy and the use of a free-market economy to combat poverty.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to increase the use of civil organisations in Afghan reconstruction, in order to integrate the radical Islamic group Taliban in the effort.

The military approach, which costs $100 million a day, must not be the only method employed in Afghanistan, he has said.

Currently, some 47,000 foreign soldiers, most of them from NATO member countries, are stationed on Afghan territory, to support the 63,000-strong Afghan army.

In September, Kabul is to host a conference on displaced persons.

Elections in the war-torn country have been scheduled for September 2009.

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