The UK continues to take a leading role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Since 11 September 2001 the UK has contributed a total of £303 million to UN agencies and other international organisations towards the rehabilitation and reconstruction effort in Afghanistan.
At the international donor conference in Tokyo in January 2002, the UK announced that it would provide £200 million over five years for both reconstruction and development assistance in Afghanistan. In April 2004, at a further donor conference in Berlin, the UK increased its pledge to at least £500 million over the same period. In addition to this money, the UK is providing logistical and technical support and personnel (secondees and advisers). The UK also provides significant levels of multilateral assistance through contributions to the UN, European Commission (19% of €1billion over five years) and international development banks. The majority of the funds will be used to fund continuing humanitarian and recovery activities.
UK support for the UN agencies has helped support Afghanistan's education system by providing assistance through UNICEF for their Back to School Campaign which encouraged children to register as well as provided teaching materials. Through the UN and NGOs, the UK's Department for International Development (DfID) has also supported the refurbishment of schools throughout Afghanistan. UNICEF estimated 1.8 million girls and boys from across Afghanistan attended primary schools on the first day of the new school year in March 2002, many of whom entered a formal classroom for the first time in six years. In March 2003 the figure of children attending the first day of school had risen to 4.2 million. 37% of students were girls. There are now 70,000 teachers (a third of whom are women) and 6,500 schools.
Since April 2002, 72 hospitals, clinics and women's healthcare centres have been rebuilt. The Ministry of Health has established a Child and Adolescent Health Department and a Department of Women and Reproductive Health to tackle high infant and maternal mortality rates.
The World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development and the European Community are helping the Afghan Ministry of Health, through NGOs, to provide a basic healthcare service to the entire population. The package consists of services for (i) maternal and newborn health; (ii) child health and immunisation; (iii) nutrition; (iv) communicable disease; (v) mental health; (vi) disability; and (vii) supply of essential drugs.
Immunisation is having a real impact. Since 2002 UN agencies have administered 12 million immunisations against polio and 16 million against measles, saving an estimated 30,000 lives. Cholera and diarrhoeal diseases are being tackled through health education, water chlorination and the construction of wells throughout the country. A programme to vaccinate 4 million girls and women aged 15-45 against tetanus by 2005 is now underway (UNICEF).
In October 2003 The United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the Afghan and Iranian governments met in Geneva and agreed to focus on identifying and removing any obstacles to repatriation. They stressed the importance of reintegration and reconstruction in Afghanistan as long-term solutions to the refugee problem. To date improved living conditions and the support of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees have enabled over 3.1 million refugees to return home from Pakistan, Iran and Central Asia. An estimated 500,000 internally displaced Afghans, who were forced to flee from one part of Afghanistan to another, have also been able to return to their homes.
A lot has been achieved but there is still much to do. Improving security and developing competent state institutions is essential.
This year the UK (DfID) will provide more than half of its annual development assistance through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, which allows donors to pool their resources for Afghanistan, in a way that reduces transaction costs, improves co-ordination and allows Afghans to prioritise their own needs. The fund pays for civil service salaries and for programmes within the National Development Budget. We also work directly with key Afghan Ministries, delivering the technical assistance they need to help them to manage resources effectively.
The UK through DfID works particularly closely with the Ministry of Finance. We have provided technical assistance to help establish the Central Bank and are now working with them on improving the national budget formulation process. We are also supporting the Ministry of Finance to enhance domestic revenues by providing technical assistance on customs reform.
We are also providing substantial technical assistance to the Ministries of Rural Rehabilitation and Development and Agriculture and Animal Husbandry and to the Civil Service Commission, and will soon begin work with the Office of the President.
Support for the Afghan Civil Service Commission, chaired by Vice-President Arsala, is another key area. A £3 million economic management project with the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank and the Adam Smith Institute includes assistance in rationalising civil service pay structures.
DFID has also provided £20m to the Afghan Stabilisation program to re-establish basic security and good governance at district and province level across Afghanistan, through well-sequenced and coordinated developmental interventions focussing on security, governance and reconstruction.
We are working with the Afghan government ministries responsible for rural issues, agriculture and irrigation to improve their capacity to develop, co-ordinate and supervise implementation of the national development programmes on ‘Livelihoods and Social Protection' and ‘Natural Resource Management' (covering agriculture based livelihoods). Our strategy includes development of alternative livelihoods in poppy-growing areas.
We are also working with the Ministries responsible for the private sector trade and investment in Afghanistan. We are helping to address some of the key capacity constraints in the Ministries which interact with the Private Sector. Our strategy is to assist the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the domestic business sector to help create an enabling environment for private sector development.