Accountability key to $16B Afghan aid package: expert
Published Sunday, July 8, 2012 11:24AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 9, 2012 7:32AM EDT
Canada is contributing an extra $227 million in development aid to Afghanistan as part of a commitment of $16 billion from 70 nations made at a conference in Tokyo on Sunday to carry the war-torn country though 2015.
But at the crux of the billions in grants are questions as to how the notoriously corrupt government of Hamid Karzai will handle the money and what protections will be in place to prevent it from being frittered away.
Weariness after more than a decade of fighting, and exasperation over corruption and graft, have weighed on the international community's resolve to keep supporting Afghanistan.
“I think these funds are very important for the development of Afghanistan because at this time 100 per cent of development is funded externally,” University of Ottawa professor Nipa Banerjee told CTV News Channel Sunday.
But as an expert on Afghanistan aid programs, she’s not convinced there are sufficient accountability mechanisms in place to protect donor money.
“I would think the work of the donors now should be to set out a regular monitoring mechanism within the country,” Banerjee said in a telephone interview from Tokyo.
While there’s a mutual accountability process in place, Banerjee believes it should be more frequent, perhaps on a quarterly basis.
“We have done that in other countries,” she said.
Canada’s funding does come with strings attached, emphasizing rights for women and girls, human rights, promoting democratic principles, government accountability and better financial management, Banerjee said.
Despite those conditions, she still finds the mutual accountability system “quite weak” in terms of results and their indicators.
“I still think they do not have proper review and monitoring mechanisms in place,” Banerjee said.
At the same time, there’s still opportunity before the money begins to flow to enhance that accountability, she said, adding Canada has been quite forceful in demanding an end to corruption.
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.
Canada’s contribution will provide funding between 2014 and 2017.
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.
“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.
With files from The Associated Press