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Afghanistan: UN hopeful donors continue support for recovery efforts

Afghanistan: UN hopeful donors continue support for recovery efforts

UNDP's Ercan Murat (L) & David Lockwood
The overwhelming donor response to the crisis in Afghanistan -with some $2 billion delivered in 2002 - has officials from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) hopeful that, whatever happens on the international scene in the coming months, the long-suffering Afghan people will be able to continue their march towards recovery.

Lauding the commitment of the international community during a press conference at UN Headquarters, two senior UNDP officials said yesterday that current estimates were that donor assistance would not be less than $2 billion this year, and most of the major donors had made commitments already and were delivering.

"We're very hopeful that no matter what else might happen on the international scene, the commitment to continue aid to Afghanistan will continue, and we look forward to helping the Government play a more and more important role in carrying out is duties," said David Lockwood, Deputy Director of UNDP's Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific.

Asked if the Iraq crisis could undermine the donor community's pledged assistance to Afghanistan in the near term, Mr. Lockwood said, "We certainly hope it won't. The commitments made by countries that are already engaged are well and truly on the table. And we're assuming that countries will honour those commitments".

He stressed that it was critical that countries lived up to those pledges, at least for existing commitments, because if they did not, Afghanistan could easily slide back to what had happened in the early 1990s. "I think their sincerity at this point is guaranteed," he added.

Also joining the press conference was Ercan Murat, the UNDP Country Director for Afghanistan. He said the agency had been working to make the presence and the visibility of the Government as strong as possible not only in Kabul, but also - more importantly and more challengingly - outside of the capital.

"Currently, the UNDP is working with a number of government ministries to enhance their presence in about 32 provincial locations," Mr. Murat said, adding that eventually he hoped nearly 400 district level locations throughout the country could be reached.

Stressing that a number of formidable challenges still lay ahead, chiefly security, which continued to be the number one priority, Mr. Lockwood said UNDP was playing a major role in building a national army and a national police force, as well as in the demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, and addressing the ongoing drug and mine problems.