UN panel requests aid to move Burundi from relief to development

A United Nations panel mandated to assess Burundi's requirements as the country emerges from decades of ethnic conflict says it needs adequate assistance to move its socio-economic status from needing relief to promoting sustainable development, if peace is to last.

In a report from the UN Economic and Social Council's (ECOSOC) Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Burundi, prepared for a 29 June to 27 July meeting on African countries after war, the Group appeals for "assistance to answer short- and medium-term needs in the context of the transition from relief to development to put the country on track for poverty alleviation and sustainable development."

A pledging conference in January 2004 raised approximately $1 billion for the period from 2004 to 2006, but donors have been slow to honour their pledges or have paid in sums lower than the original commitments, "mainly owing to the unrealistic budget projections, poor absorption capacities of the Government and particularly the high level of uncertainty surrounding the political transition in the country," the Group says.

At this advanced stage in its peace progress, the national authorities and the international community must work together to head off economic failure because the people of Burundi need concrete manifestations of international support. Giving the new Government adequate resources now will be critical to ensure that the peace process is irreversible, the Group said.

"Research and experience in post-conflict countries show that half of the countries emerging from conflict return to violence within five years, and that an exceptional level of predictable financial support is necessary for close to 10 years to face the challenges associated with post-conflict recovery. Consistent and generous development aid will therefore be needed to prevent a potential return to war," it says.

For the first time, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) jointly signed cooperation agreements with the authorities of Burundi in April for the period from 2005 to 2007, covering such fields as governance, poverty alleviation, water and sanitation, youth programmes, reproductive health and combating HIV/AIDS.

The joint programme was estimated to cost a total of $80 million, of which $23 million would come from the agencies' core resources and the rest would be raised from donor contributions, the Group says.