Almost 20 years have passed since the fall of the Taliban, and Afghanistan is still dependent on foreign aid. Germany, the EU and other countries are now promising further support – but are demanding further progress.
At a largely virtual donor conference for Afghanistan, the EU and several countries pledged millions. A total of around 10.1 billion euros was raised for the peaceful development and reconstruction of the country. The money should flow over the next four years. The event, organized by the United Nations and Finland, was attended by representatives from more than 70 countries.
The European Union promised to make 1.2 billion euros available to Afghanistan again over the next four years. This was announced by the EU Commissioner responsible, Jutta Urpilainen. “In 2016, the EU made a strong commitment to Afghanistan by pledging 1.2 billion euros for a four-year period,” said the commissioner responsible for international partnerships. “It is my pleasure to announce today that we can maintain the level of support for the next four years.”
The EU foreign affairs representative Josep Borrell called at the conference for an immediate ceasefire in Afghanistan. He warned any efforts to build a caliphate in the country would undermine EU support. “Afghanistan’s future path must preserve the progress made in terms of democracy and human rights since 2001, particularly with regard to women’s and children’s rights,” said EU Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell. The United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Canada also pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.
430 million euros from Germany
Germany wants to support civil projects in Afghanistan in the coming year with up to 430 million euros. This was announced by Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the international donor conference for Afghanistan in Geneva. The aim is to “maintain a comparable level in the years up to 2024”, “if the circumstances permit,” Maas said.
He called on the Afghan parties to the conflict to work towards a comprehensive ceasefire. Afghan society is at a crossroads, said Maas, referring to the current peace negotiations between the Kabul government and the radical Islamic Taliban in Doha. “This unique opportunity must not be missed,” he demanded. “I call on both parties to be as flexible as possible and to start substantial discussions.”
Germany will “do its best” to continue supporting the peace process, said Maas. Afghans should know “that the international community is by their side in these times of uncertainty”. “We are ready to enter into a renewed partnership until the end of the transformation decade in 2024.” This partnership, however, depends on Afghanistan’s willingness to uphold democracy and the rule of law, implement good governance, fight corruption and uphold human rights. He called on the Taliban to end the “completely unacceptable violence”.
The US pledged $ 300 million for 2021. Another 300 million US dollars would flow in if the positions in the intra-Afghan peace negotiations converged.
Guterres hopes for “real progress”
The UN donor conference for Afghanistan takes place every four years. The aim of the meeting is to raise money to support the peace process in the country on the Hindu Kush. Afghanistan is almost entirely dependent on foreign grants. In 2016, 15.3 billion dollars (12.9 billion euros) were raised. It is expected that the international commitments this year would be lower in view of the costs of dealing with the corona crisis.
UN Secretary General António Guterres praised Afghanistan for an “ambitious agenda for development and reform”. The UN stood by the Afghan people on the path to peace, development and self-reliance, he said, hoping that donor pledges would lead to “real progress and concrete improvements for the people of Afghanistan”.
Guterres warned that the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan would escalate. The coming winter threatens to further increase the suffering of the population, he said. The adverse weather conditions could favor diseases such as Covid-19 and continue to affect the many poor people. He also expressed concern about the ongoing violence in Afghanistan, which affects many innocent civilians.
Peace talks are making slow progress
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani promised further efforts by his government to bring lasting peace to the torn country. “A new Afghanistan has emerged in the past two decades, and with it a completely new set of expectations of our citizens.” His country learned from abroad. “The main theme of our development agenda is to meet these new expectations by doing so much more with so much less in the face of frightening challenges,” he said. His country is “extremely grateful” that it is supported also in “a time of such collective suffering” because of the corona pandemic.
Despite years of aid, the statistical data for Afghanistan paint a bleak picture. Poverty has increased during the corona pandemic and more than half of the residents live on the equivalent of less than 96 cents a day. The Afghan government is currently holding peace talks with the Taliban. Increasing violence and the withdrawal of 2,000 more soldiers by January 15, announced by the outgoing US government, had recently overshadowed the peace negotiations currently underway.
Talks between the radical Islamic Taliban and the Afghan government began in the Qatari capital of Doha in September. But progress is slow. 19 years after the Taliban was overthrown by an international military alliance, the Islamists have regained control of large parts of Afghanistan. Deborah Lyons, UN special envoy for the country, said: “This is not the time to leave.”