Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Debating Reconstruction in Afghanistan: The World Bank and Pakistani NGOs

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Debating Reconstruction in Afghanistan: The World Bank and Pakistani NGOs

Article excerpt

As the Taliban regime fled Kabul, the World Bank and other development agencies began discussing their role in the rebuilding of Afghanistan. Meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan from Nov. 27 to 29, 2001, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) hosted a conference on "Preparing for Afghanistan's Reconstruction." Nearly 60 percent of conference participants were representatives of donor nations such as the United States and officials from the host institutions. NGO representatives and Afghan professionals comprised the remaining 40 percent. Issues were organized into three broad working groups, including Immediate Post-Conflict Recovery/Reconstruction of Afghanistan, Social Development, and Rebuilding Infrastructure, where topics such as education, housing, mine clearance, and private sector development were addressed.

At the conference, substantial attention was paid to private sector development, prompting Tore Toreng, chairperson of the Social Development Working Group, to warn of "a tendency of individuals to look for business opportunities. We have to avoid that."

Conference co-chairpersons Mieko Nishimizu (World Bank), Yoshihiro Iwasaki (ADB), and David Lockwood (UNDP) concluded the event by emphasizing the need to "continue to listen deeply to Afghans ... and avoid quick fixes and the tendency to set up inappropriate and costly precedents."

At present, the World Bank has pledged $500 million to the Afghan Interim administration, while the U.S. has committed $297 million. At the time of writing, a total of $4.5 billion had been promised to the reconstruction effort.

In late January, at the request of the interim government, a 10-member team of World Bank specialists visited Kabul. The mission's purpose was to help the provisional administration implement an effective and transparent system to manage reconstruction efforts. The team highlighted the prime sectors that require urgent attention. In terms of security, mine clearance is of principal concern. According to the Bank's Approach Paper, Afghanistan is one of the world's most heavily mined countries, reflecting 20 years of conflict. Other areas that warrant immediate attention are agriculture, school construction, health care facilities, and overseeing the safe return of refugees.

The World Bank has proposed that a Trust Fund serve as the primary financial mechanism to administer the Bank's overall reconstruction goals and projects. Bank president James D. Wolfensohn noted the advantages of a trust fund, chiefly that such a system could provide coherence, accountability, and convenience to aid management. …

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