TOKYO: Donor nations on Sunday pledged $16 billion for Afghanistan to prevent the country from sliding back into turmoil when foreign combat troops depart at the end of 2014 but attached several preconditions to the aid, including Afghan reforms to clamp down on corruption.
A statement at the closing of the conference in Tokyo confirmed that donors would stump up $16 billion in civilian aid through 2015. Other conditions attached to the $16 billion pledge include representative democracy and fair elections (Afghanistan must hold credible and transparent elections in 2014 and 2015, with a timetable of dates for polls to be published early next year); governance, rule of law and human rights (Afghanistan must improve citizens’ access to justice, especially for women, respect human rights and allow the country’s Independent Human Rights Commission to do its work); fiscal transparency and banking (Afghanistan must improve the management of public funds and ensure transparency while boosting supervision of its banking sector, and must adopt international recommendations on ways to fight money laundering and terrorist financing); national revenues and local government budgets (Afghanistan must improve its tax collection, raising the ratio of tax revenue as a portion of gross domestic product to 15 percent by 2016 and 19 percent by 2025, from 11 percent now); and finally growth and sustainable development (Afghanistan must promote private-sector development and allocate sufficient resources to promote health, gender equality, education and food security).
Afghan President Hamid Karzai was in the Japanese capital along with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar for a gathering focused on the “transformation decade” following the imminent Nato drawdown.
“In the initial stage of the transformation decade, the international community committed to providing over $16 billion through 2015, and sustaining support, through 2017, at or near levels of the past decade to respond to the fiscal gap estimated by the World Bank and the Afghan government,” the statement said.
Pakistan on Sunday pledged financial assistance of $300 million for Afghanistan to be spent on health, education and infrastructure projects such as the Torkham-Jalalabad Road, Nishter Kidney Centre in Jalalabad, Jinnah Hospital in Kabul, Engineering University in Balkh and Rehman Baba School in Kabul. Addressing the conference, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar maintained that peace and stability in Afghanistan was in the core national interest of Pakistan. “At the bilateral level, our engagement with Afghanistan is focused on deepening cooperation in diverse fields, including security, peace and reconciliation, trade, transit, education, health, energy and infrastructure development in a way as to effectively contribute towards the goal of long term stability in Afghanistan,” she affirmed.
She also said that the recent formalisation of Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement and the continuation of Afghan transit trade even while Nato supply routes had remained locked showed Pakistan’s abiding commitment to strong bilateral relations with Afghanistan.
She acknowledged that peace and stability in Afghanistan was contingent upon commitment by regional countries to not use Afghan soil to destabilise its neighbours.She added that Pakistan would award 1,000 scholarships for Afghan students. The foreign minister further offered capacity-building programmes for Afghanistan in the areas of banking, finance, telecommunication and several other fields.
She also said Pakistan would undertake the construction of 25 basic health units and 25 schools in its war torn neighbour.“We have pledged an amount of US$300 million for the development and reconstruction of Afghanistan,” she told the delegates. “We are convinced and we know from history that political stability and economic progress are interdependent. The goal of long term political and economic stability in Afghanistan requires dealing with the issue in a holistic manner.”
The foreign minister pointed out that infrastructure projects linking the border areas of the two countries needed special attention. “Economic development in border areas will help address problems of terrorism,” she said, before adding, “We must show our commitment to actually providing alternatives to those who espouse terrorism as a way of life, and nothing is a better alternative than economic opportunity.”
She asserted that projects such as the Tapi gas pipeline, CASA-1000 and rail and road connections could alter the destiny of the region. “Regional connectivity must remain a priority,” she maintained. “We in Pakistan are optimistic that the sincere and committed efforts of the international community will help build a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan which is vital for the security and stability of its neighbourhood, the region and even the whole world. On our part, we remain committed to this shared objective,” she concluded.
Sunday’s conference was aimed at plugging the gap between what Kabul gets from its barely-functioning economy and what it needs to develop into a stable country. Kabul covers only a third of the $6 billion it spends each year, not counting security costs, and has for a long time been heavily dependent on aid. There are fears that once the US and its allies no longer have to worry about their soldiers dying in Afghanistan after the 2014 pullout, the country could be left to drift into the hands of drug lords and extremists.
Representatives from around 80 nations and international organisations were gathered in Tokyo to adopt the “Tokyo Declaration” pledging support and cash for Kabul.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a powerful plea Sunday for the rights of women in Afghanistan, using a global forum to insist that they must be part of the country’s future growth. “The United States believes strongly that no nation can achieve peace, stability and economic growth if half the population is not empowered,” she told the Tokyo conference. “The United States will continue to stand strongly by the women of Afghanistan. We need to put the commitments together in order to achieve a future that is worthy of the sacrifice of the Afghan people and many nations represented around this table,” Clinton said.
A senior US official told reporters there was a fear that women’s rights may be at risk, and countries at the Tokyo conference wanted to ensure that the final document “was as strong as possible” on women’s issues: “I certainly think in areas where insurgents are, you see women’s rights being rolled back,” he said, asking to remain anonymous.
Indian Minister for External Affairs SM Krishna, meanwhile, sought the assistance of the international community to help Afghanistan combat terrorism from across the border.
Addressing the Tokyo Conference, SM Krishna said though India was assisting Afghanistan to meet its long-term objectives enabling the terrorism-laden country to stand on its feet, it had to be acknowledged that the fundamental, ideological, surgical and financial basis of terrorism still haunted the region.
He maintained that while India was not a conventional donor state, it did however share its resources for the reconstruction and progress of Afghanistan. He announced a new financial programme for Afghanistan, saying India had vowed to provide an extra $2 billion dollars in assistance on account of Afghan development plans.