Afghans hope Tokyo will bring long-term help | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 05.07.2012
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Afghans hope Tokyo will bring long-term help

Many Afghans are hoping the Tokyo Donors' Conference will secure long-term financial help for their country. They also demand the money is spent wisely and under the watchful eyes of the donor countries.

For weeks, Afghan media has been concentrating on the Tokyo Donor's Conference which will take place on Sunday, July 8 in Japan. So many Afghans are aware that the world will soon decide on conditions for further support for the country after the withdrawal of foreign troops. Many people hope that the international community will give nod to long-term cooperation with the Afghan people, says Rostam Yaqubi, a 23-year-old student.

"Our country still needs foreign support. I hope we will continue to receive this support so we can continue to develop."

Development help and investment

When the first Donor's Conference took place in Tokyo in 2002, not long after the fall of the Taliban regime, Afghanistan had almost been completely destroyed after over 20 years of war and civil war.

At the time of the first conference, the international community decided to provide around 5.4 billion US dollars by the year 2007 for the civil reconstruction of Afghanistan. Billions more were handed out in the years to follow. The Afghan government is hoping it will meet with similar generosity at Sunday's conference.

"We also hope," says Afghan Minister of Finance Omar Zakhilwal, "that private investors come to Kabul."

The minister wants to create economic growth. But the Taliban, with their increasing number of attacks, is trying to undermine that.

"Our enemies dread economic development. So they create an atmosphere of fear," said Zakhilwal.

But the Taliban, the finance minister continued, would not succeed. Nor would any other enemies of Afghanistan. Zakhelwal assured the press recently that the international community would not desert Afghanistan after 2014 - after the withdrawal of international troops. Many countries have already pledged to contribute development aid from 2015 to 2025.

Administering the aid

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai is going to Tokyo with clear demands. He wants the government to be able to decide over the allocation of at least 50 percent of financial aid. As of now, Kabul has only been able to spend 20 percent of the money; around 80 percent of it is administered by foreign aid organizations.

Donors have not been willing to give the Afghan government control over the money because of its giant problem with corruption. Abdulqayum Sajadi, an Afghan member of parliament, said the foreign donors were right in not fully trusting the government.

"In the past decade, the Afghan government has promised time and again that it would do more to combat corruption, but hardly anything has changed. The world will only continue to support us if we manage to stamp it out."

Sajadi will ask of the donor countries in Tokyo that they spend their aid money on the development of the rule of law and democratization.

"They cannot just hand the government a blank check."

Women's rights

Fauzia Kofi, member of parliament and activist, hopes that special attention will be paid to women's rights at the Tokyo Donor's Conference. In cooperation with a number of women's organizations, she created a catalogue of demands and sent it to the organizers of the conference.

"We are asking the international community to allocate 30 percent of its financial aid to Afghanistan to women's causes. Afghan women need help to realize the full potential of their roles in our country."

Fauzia Kofi, who is up for candidacy in the 2014 presidential elections, is hoping for a "display of rationality" from the international community. She said aid money should only be spent on projects in close cooperation with the donors. Whether or not representatives of the nearly 90 countries attending the Tokyo conference will agree with her has yet to be seen. But it is clear there is not much trust in the Afghan government and the donors will surely thoroughly think through any further cooperation with Kabul before signing any checks.

Author: Ratbil Shamel / sb
Editor: Arun Chowdhury

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