INTERVIEW-Shift aid focus in Afghanistan, says U.N. envoy

18 Jan 2010 05:04:08 GMT

Source: Reuters

* More focus on sustainable aid needed

* Approach to boosting governance sloppy

* Reconciliation efforts important

By Sue Pleming

KABUL, Jan 18 (Reuters) - International donors must focus on longer-term, more sustainable projects in Afghanistan rather than smaller tasks aimed at showing fast results back home, said the outgoing United Nations envoy on Monday.

Kai Eide, set to wrap up his two years in Kabul in the coming weeks, said there needed to be a shift in how success was measured in Afghanistan and a less "haphazard" approach to boosting the Afghan government's ability to deliver services.

"The donors focus on what they call low-hanging fruits," said Eide in an interview with Reuters. "We need to shift attention away from the small, quick-impact projects to growth-generating projects."

Of about 18,000 projects implemented by so-called provincial reconstruction teams so far, Eide said 14,900 were worth less than $100,000 each and often did not have a big impact on communities.

"These don't really generate economic growth or employment and they don't generate revenues," he said.

With an additional 30,000 U.S. troops coming in, he said the temptation would be to focus even more on quick-impact work. "Those who provide troops want to show to their constituents back home, 'look what we are doing, we are getting results'," he said.


He said the "surge" of troops should not be allowed to divert focus away from civilian and political goals in Afghanistan, where he said the approach on improving governance had not been systematic so far.

For example, many district governors lacked office space or transport and their salaries were often about $70 a month, with an operational budget of just $15.

"That means you don't attract the right people ... and you don't have a budget that allows you to deliver services," he said.

"Everyone says we must do more governance but ... it is fragmented, unsystematic and not based on an overall national plan that addresses the complexities of the challenge."

Eide said a goal of an international conference in London on Jan. 28 was to come up with a more coherent plan to deliver assistance and boost Afghan capacity.

Another focus would be on how best to reintegrate Afghan fighters into society and donors' plans to put seed money into a trust fund for this purpose. Britain, Japan and the United States have the lead on this.

There needed to be reconciliation efforts at the same time as reintegration, said Eide.

Earlier this month the Afghan ambassador to the United Nations gave the Security Council's sanctions committee a list of names of Taliban members who Kabul feels should be removed from the U.N. sanctions list in exchange for supporting the government.

"I strongly hope that process will now be pursued," he said. "This would be a very important confidence building measure which could help bring us into a peace process." (Editing by Alex Richardson)


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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