GENEVA (AP) – The European Union and other donors on Tuesday offered new funding to Afghanistan as a UN official said it was “not the time to get away” from years of hard work to bring peace and stability to a poor country. where Taliban fighters have broken forward against the internationally backed government.
In Geneva, a largely virtual, one-day pledge conference hosted by Finland attracted representatives from more than 70 countries in four years at the first such event. This comes at a time when the COVID-19 crisis has attracted worldwide attention and the virus outbreak in Afghanistan has exacerbated persistent diseases such as corruption and extreme violence.
Countries such as Britain, the Netherlands and Canada have made hundreds of millions of dollars in promises to Afghanistan as the meeting began, following speeches by senior officials such as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who welcomed the country. ” ambitious development and reform agenda “.
“The United Nations is on the road to peace, development and self-sufficiency with the people of Afghanistan,” Guterres said, hoping that the donors’ promises would “bring real progress and concrete improvement for the people of Afghanistan.”
The European Union has pledged € 1.2 billion ($ 1.43 billion) in aid to Afghanistan over the next four years, but, like many others, has made its support conditional on the conflict-stricken country committing itself to democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the rule of law. rights and gender equality.
“Afghanistan’s future career must preserve the democratic and human rights benefits since 2001, especially in terms of women’s and children’s rights,” said EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell. “Any attempt to restore the Islamic Emirate will have an impact on our political and financial commitment.”
The conference came in the midst of a complex situation in Afghanistan, 19 years after the US-led international coalition overthrew the Taliban government supporting al-Qaeda. The Taliban insurgents and the Afghan government are currently involved in peace talks in Doha, Qatar, and the Trump government recently announced a further withdrawal of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, said the country was “at an unprecedented opportunity but in a time of deep insecurity and growing anxiety” and said Afghans were committed to maintaining the gains of recent years.
“But they will need the continued support of the international community: political, financial and technical,” Lyons said. “Now is not the time to leave.”
Ghani has announced a strategic plan for Afghanistan.
“Over the past two decades, a new Afghanistan has emerged, and with it a whole new set of expectations on the part of our citizens,” he said, acknowledging the “lessons learned” from abroad and the development of a strong civil society and a free press.
“The main theme of our development agenda is to meet these new expectations by doing much more and less in the face of formidable challenges,” he said.
Statistics in Afghanistan remain grim after decades of international aid. In the pandemic, the poverty rate rose to 70% – from 54% last year. Despite the billions of dollars flowing into the country over the past two decades, more than half of the population lives on $ 1.14 a day.
According to a U.S. guard, he has lost more than $ 19 billion in U.S. money alone through abuse, fraud, and waste.
Lyons said that despite some progress, Afghanistan remains one of the worst places in the world to be a woman or a child. He criticized the steep rise in fighting losses, both due to Taliban attacks and American and Afghan bombings.
Kathy Gannon in Islamabad, Pakistan and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to the report.