Geneva/Kabul, 24 November 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday highlighted the challenges his country is facing at an international donor conference in Geneva, where expectations for funding were low and the focus was on ending the devastating conflict that has caused so much suffering.
The last Afghanistan donor conference in 2016 shored up around 15 billion dollars. Diplomats said ahead of Tuesday’s meeting that they expected a lower amount this time around.
Ghani argued the aid was vital for fighting Covid-19 and alleviating widespread poverty amid the human tragedy caused by decades of conflict.
Intra-Afghan peace talks initiated in mid-September have not led to any breakthroughs, with the two sides still deadlocked over the agenda of the negotiations in Doha, Qatar.
“Plans to achieve peace did not materialize as imagined. Suffering and killing continue on a daily basis. It’s unbearable. The uncertainty it brings is tangible. We have to confront this uncertainty,” Ghani said in a remote speech to participants.
International grants were still financing around 75 per cent of the total public spending in Afghanistan, Ghani said in earlier comments, imploring donors not to make “precipitous” reductions in support.
In his own video speech to the conference, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Afghans have suffered far too long.
He asked that a ceasefire be put in place, not only to prevent further spread of Covid-19, but to provide “a conducive environment for the Afghanistan peace negotiating team in Doha.”
While donors pledged their continued support for Afghanistan, some made clear that the aid is tied to conditions.
The EU’s international partnership commissioner, Jutta Urpilainen, said the bloc would commit 1.2 billion euros (1.4 billion dollars) for the next four years, the same amount as in the past four years.
However, she said EU support would depend on Afghanistan’s commitment to democracy, human rights, and gender equality.
Britain did not make a four-year pledge but promised up to 155 million pounds (207 million dollars) of development funding for next year.
British South Asia Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon held out the possibility of further support, but he stressed that “we want to see an end to violence and the negotiation of a just and sustainable political settlement between Afghans.”
In addition, corruption must be reduced and the rights of women and minorities must be protected, he said.
The Geneva conference is co-hosted by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland’s Foreign Office and the United Nations.