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$1.3 billion needed 'now' for Afghan recovery, Annan tells Tokyo donor forum

$1.3 billion needed 'now' for Afghan recovery, Annan tells Tokyo donor forum

Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Donors from around the world pledged generously today towards the recovery effort in Afghanistan as United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the opening of an international conference in Tokyo that the war-battered country needed $1.3 billion "right now" to cope with the most immediate tasks.

"For the first time in decades, Afghanistan is not being torn apart by war," Mr. Annan told the two-day International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan, which brought together over 60 countries and 22 international organizations. "For the first time in many years, the international community is united around a vision of the country's future."

The Secretary-General warned, however, that success could not be taken for granted, since more than once in recent years, countries had sunk back into conflict just when peace seemed to be taking hold. "We are here today to do our part in making sure that does not happen in Afghanistan," he told the donors who had before them a document spelling out the country's reconstruction needs. Prepared by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, the Preliminary Needs Assessment estimates that the reconstruction of Afghanistan will cost some $15 billion over the next decade.

Describing Afghanistan's recovery requirements as "immense," Mr. Annan said that an estimated $10 billion would be needed in the next five years to cover a wide array of tasks, from reintegration of former combatants, to revival of economic activity and restoration of basic services. He noted that it was separate from, and must be additional to, any commitments already earmarked for humanitarian relief.

As for the country's immediate requirements, the Secretary-General stressed that even before spending plans for the longer-term needs could be worked out, Afghanistan needed $1.3 billion "right now," including $237 million for the recurrent costs of the Interim Authority, $376 million for quick impact and recovery projects that are ready to go, and $736 million for humanitarian assistance which has yet to be funded.

According to preliminary estimates, by the end of the day donors at the Tokyo conference made commitments exceeding the first year needs assessment target of $1.7 billion, and expressed substantial support for medium and long-term assistance to the country. The commitments by the conference's four co-chairs include up to $500 million over two and a half years, with a maximum of $250 million for 2002 from Japan; $296 million for 2002 from the Untied States; $500 million for 2002 from the European Union; and $220 million for three years from Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile Mr. Annan's Special Representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, told the Tokyo meeting that security remained an issue of "paramount importance."

"To ensure security for the long-term, Afghanistan must build genuinely national, credible and affordable security institutions; a police force, a national army, an independent judiciary within a legal framework which installs the rule of law, that the people of Afghanistan crave for," Mr. Brahimi said. He stressed, however, that this "formidable task" would require significantly more financial resources than the need assessment has anticipated

Drawing attention to another "important and urgent" matter, Mr. Brahimi stressed that the Interim Administration had absolutely no funds in its coffers to pay salaries for Government employees.

For his part, UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown told reporters at the conference that priorities were for "schools, fields and jobs – the need to get kids in school by the time of the school year in March, a similar deadline for getting seeds out, and the need to get the economy going." He stressed that it would be important to "shift the political economy from where the most important asset you can have is a gun to one where the tools of peace, from ploughs to computers, are what people value."