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Volume 450: debated on Friday 20 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent assessment he has made of progress on reconstruction projects in Afghanistan; and if he will place in the Library copies of the relevant aid impact analysis reports. (95244)

Despite a legacy of more than 20 years of conflict, Afghanistan has made good progress in reconstruction over the last five years. In January 2005, the Government of Afghanistan launched the interim Afghanistan National Development Strategy and the Afghanistan Compact at the London Conference. This is a major step in setting the overall strategy for development policies including reconstruction. The international community fully supports this strategy and as a result pledged £10.5 billion towards implementation. There are now 60 per cent. more functioning health clinics, nearly 2,000 schools have been built or rehabilitated and 60,000 former combatants have been disarmed. Major road rehabilitation is connecting major urban centres and Afghanistan with its neighbours. Reliable electricity supply is being restored in urban centres and rural electrification programmes are under way. The telecommunications sector is growing fast, connecting businesses and people in Afghanistan.

DFID support for the National Rural Access Programme (£18 million) is helping to build essential infrastructure such as irrigation schemes, roads and bridges. Under this programme nearly 8,000 km of roads have been built or repaired, as well as schools, health clinics and water schemes. The programme has also generated over 13 million days of labour. DFID support for the National Solidarity Programme (£17 million) is helping local communities through elected Community Development Councils (CDCs) to identify what development is most needed in their areas and then receive grants to undertake their work. The programme has funded over 17,000 projects in the areas of agriculture, education, health, irrigation, power supply, transport and water supply.

None the less, the challenges remain great. While progress has been good there is a long way to go: DFID recognises this. DFID’s Interim Strategy for Afghanistan 2005-06 states that the highest immediate priority is to stabilise the country, to ensure the Government are able to deliver services nationwide and to establish the rule of law within a democratic political system that safeguards human rights.

DFID recently participated in a joint evaluation of Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan, 2001-05, with Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden. This focused on assessing the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency impact and coherence of the assistance and identifies the lessons learned. It concluded that assistance to Afghanistan has produced important results to date, but for sustainable impact, long-term development and peace-keeping is needed. I will ensure copies of this are placed in the Library.