Canada pledges $227M in aid to Afghanistan

Canada and other major donors sought to assure Afghanistan that development aid will not dry up when foreign troops leave the country by pledging billions of dollars through 2015, on the condition the money is not squandered through corruption or mismanagement.

OTTAWA — Canada and other major donors sought to assure Afghanistan that development aid will not dry up when foreign troops leave the country by pledging billions of dollars through 2015, on the condition the money is not squandered through corruption or mismanagement.

Weariness after more than a decade of fighting, and exasperation over the inability or unwillingness of President Hamid Karzai’s government to tackle rampant corruption and graft, have weighed on the international community’s resolve to keep supporting Afghanistan.

The landlocked Central Asian country is highly dependent on foreign aid, and there is concern Afghanistan could descend into chaos if the government cannot support itself after most NATO troops withdraw in 2014.

Donors from around 70 countries and organizations pledged $16 billion in development aid for Afghanistan on Sunday at a one-day conference in Tokyo.

Canada will contribute an extra $227 million in development aid between 2014 and 2017, with the money aimed at empowering women and girls in the areas of education, human rights and humanitarian assistance.

The money is in addition to the initial commitment of $300 million that Canada promised between 2011 and 2014.

Conservative MP Chris Alexander, the parliamentary secretary for national defence, attended the Tokyo conference and said Canada and other donors will keep a close eye on how the money is spent.

“That needs to be done, because the flows are substantial and we know there have been shortcomings, not necessarily relating to Canadian spending, but certainly relating to some of the assistance that has come to Afghanistan,” Alexander said.

“But if you read this declaration, it’s very clear what areas the international community is requiring the Afghan government to take action on. One is governance. Two is a more serious fight against corruption. Our impression to date is literally that President Karzai and his team have not been serious on this issue, and that has to end.”

There will be regular reviews for how the development aid is spent, and Kabul must show it is serious about stamping out its deep-seated problems with corruption. There must also be improved governance and finance management, and a safeguarding of the democratic process, rule of law and human rights, particularly those of women.

“We will fight corruption with strong resolve wherever it occurs, and ask the same of our international partners,” Karzai told the donors. “Together we must stop the practices that feed corruption or undermine the legitimacy and effectiveness of national institutions.”

Canada’s decade-long combat mission ended last year when the military pulled out of Kandahar, and a smaller contingent of Canadian troops has been deployed primarily to Kabul as part of a training mission that is scheduled to wrap up in 2014.

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