‘Shortfall of aid money undermines Afghan peace’

March 25th, 2008 - 2:35 pm ICT by admin  

Kabul, March 25 (DPA) Hopes for peace in Afghanistan have been undermined by the failure of major international donors to deliver some $10 billion in pledged humanitarian assistance and the “wasteful and ineffective” use of available aid money, a report by a humanitarian group said Tuesday. The new report, entitled Falling Short, was issued by the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR), consisting of 94 agencies including Oxfam, Christian Aid, CARE, Islamic Relief and Save the Children.

Following the ouster of Taliban regime in late 2001, the international community pledged to deliver some $25 billion to reconstruct the war-shattered country and build up its security forces to fight insurgents.

But since then only $15 billion have been delivered, leaving a 10-billion-dollar shortfall for the country, where some 90 percent of public spending comes from international aid money, the report said.

The US government, which is the biggest international donor to Afghanistan, “also has one of the biggest shortfalls”, delivering only half of the $10.4 billion of pledged money until 2008, it said.

Meanwhile, other donors such as the European Commission and Germany distributed less than two-thirds of their respective $1.7 billion and $1.2 billion in commitments, it said, adding that the World Bank has distributed just over half of its commitment.

The report said that some 40 percent of the spent aid money has returned to rich countries such as the US, through corporate profits, consultant salaries and other costs, “vastly pushing up expenditure”.

“The reconstruction of Afghanistan requires a sustained and substantial commitment of aid - but donors have failed to meet their aid pledges to Afghanistan,” said Matt Waldman, Afghanistan policy adviser at international aid agency Oxfam and the report’s author.

“Too much aid from rich countries is wasted, ineffective or uncoordinated,” Waldman said.

Aid to tackle poverty is a fraction of what is spent on international military operations.

“Whilst the US military is currently spending 100 million dollars a day in Afghanistan, aid spent by all donors since 2001 is on average less than a tenth of that - just 7 million dollars a day,” the report said.

The report also indicated that “a disproportionate amount of aid” … “is being used for political and military objectives rather than reducing poverty”.

Six years since the formation of the Western-backed Afghan government, the country suffers from woeful poverty. Only 20 percent of its people have access to potable water, only five percent to electricity.

According to the recent reports from southern province of Ghazni, residents in remote villages were eating grass to quench their hunger, while many families in the northern provinces have sold their children because they were not able to feed them.

“Some two-thirds of foreign assistance bypasses the Afghan government, which undermines efforts to build effective state institutions, especially at sub-national level,” the report said.

“This is partly attributable to problems in budget execution, weak governance, inadequate government human capacity and widespread corruption - which the Afghan government and donors over the past six years should have done more to address.”

The report called on the international community to urgently increase the volume of aid and ensure it makes a sustainable difference for the poorest Afghans, especially in rural areas.

“Aid must address Afghan needs, build local capacities and help Afghans help themselves,” Waldman said.

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