Meet obligations

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 July, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 July, 2002, 12:00am

The international community has made many promises to Afghanistan, offering hope to people who have known only misery for more than two decades of foreign rule and civil war. Some of those pledges have been fulfilled, but others - crucial to the nation's future - remain empty gestures.

Officials have warned that unless hundreds of millions of dollars in development aid pledged by foreign donors is forthcoming soon, Afghanistan could again slide into turmoil.

Several humanitarian organisations have already said that a lack of funding has forced them to scale back operations, cutting urgently needed food and medical supplies.

After the horror of the September 11 attacks in the United States, the developed world was only too willing to take on the Taleban rulers and their backers, the al-Qaeda terrorist network. The Taleban was swiftly overthrown, but mopping up the remnants of both groups has proved problematic.

A re-emergence of warlords and their supporters has also made the countryside less stable than the allies hoped. Banditry has returned and the assassination of two high-ranking government officials has made for increased uncertainty.

The longer the war against terrorism goes on, the more it costs donor countries. The US$4.5 billion (HK$35 billion) in development aid promised over the next five years is trickling rather than pouring in, hampering the ability of President Hamid Karzai's fledgling government to meet its goals. Only half of the US$1.8 billion which should have already been handed over has materialised.

Collapsing stock markets, slower-than-expected growth rates and rising unemployment are putting increased demands on donor countries. But the hardships of people in the developed world are minor compared to the hunger, disease and lack of safety that Afghans are still suffering.

The international community has an obligation to honour its pledges. It initiated a change in Afghanistan and it must now ensure that the promises are kept. To do otherwise would be to rob hope from all people in developing countries.


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