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Japan gives UN $35 million to help disarm ex-combatants in Afghanistan

Japan gives UN $35 million to help disarm ex-combatants in Afghanistan

Japan signed an agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kabul today for a $35 million contribution towards disarming and reintegrating former combatants in Afghanistan, one of the world's most heavily armed countries.

The scheme, named "Afghanistan's New Beginnings Programme," will identify, collect and store heavy and light weapons and offer former soldiers and militia combatants' alternative sources of income. Incentives will include one-time cash and/or in-kind benefits, targeted micro-credit programmes, vocational training and possibly financial support for small and medium-sized enterprises.

A main target will be middle-rank militia commanders, who still control many communities. "As long as these commanders are seen to provide economic opportunities for their communities, they are likely to remain powerful," said UNDP Country Director in Afghanistan, Ercan Murat.

The programme is expected to open a main office in Kabul by mid-March and establish regional offices by early May in Mazar-i-Sharif, Kandahar, Jalalabad, Kunduz, Bamiyan, Parwan, Gardez and Herat.

After two decades of almost continuous warfare, there are many heavily armed militias throughout the country. Canada and the United Kingdom have already contributed to demobilization and reintegration efforts, and the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United States are among potential donors.

A disarmament programme in Faryab province, northern Afghanistan stalled last month over factional differences after collecting some 500 light and heavy weapons in just five days.