On 10 June the Prime Minister announced an additional 40% of aid funding over four years, to support measurable outcomes to promote stability in Afghanistan. Following consultations with other Government Departments, my recent visit to Afghanistan alongside the Foreign Secretary for the Kabul conference, and discussions with the Afghan Government, I am pleased to confirm that the increase will focus on three key areas, which I see as critical to a better future for the Afghan people and a secure future for the UK:
First, improving security and political stability:
The Afghan Government are committed to stabilising 80 insecure districts. The UK is directly supporting this effort in central Helmand and will work with coalition partners to roll out the district delivery programme in all 80 districts. In Nad Ali, for example, a district in Helmand, a community council has been elected and has identified priority actions in education and roads. With UK funding, the Afghan Government are building two new schools in Nad Ali, to educate 1,900 children, and repairing up to 80 km of roads to open up trade and commerce.
In Kabul, President Karzai reiterated the commitment made at the London conference to increase police numbers to 134,000 by October 2011. The UK will work with European and US colleagues to help build a clean, competent future leadership cadre. We will support the development of professional standards for police and a complaints system to improve accountability and reduce corruption. In Helmand the UK will build new police stations, patrol bases and checkpoints, giving 2,500 recently trained police men and women the additional infrastructure they need to operate effectively.
The Afghan Government are committed to holding elections in communities across all 366 districts over the coming three years. The UK will help the Government work out how to elect local bodies that are genuinely democratic, represent the people, particularly women, and do this in an affordable way.
Second, stimulating the economy:
The Afghan Government have set out an ambitious programme of investment in mining, roads, power stations and irrigation to stimulate economic growth and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. The Government aim to maintain growth at 9% per year. The UK will support the infrastructure programme through the World Bank managed Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund, which reimburses the Afghan Government on the basis of receipts.
Agriculture and rural development will remain the bedrock of the economy. The UK’s support to these sectors will contribute to better access to safe drinking water, 12,400 km of new or repaired roads connecting district centres and farms to markets and 3,900 new or repaired village schools.
To reduce its dependence on foreign assistance, the Afghan Government are seeking to increase revenues by 0.7% of GDP each year. The UK will continue to provide expertise to the Government to meet this stretching but realisable target, and provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Mines to establish a fair and transparent process for managing Afghanistan’s mineral wealth.
Third, helping the Afghan Government deliver vital basic services:
The UK will continue to support primary and secondary education through the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund, so that within two years 6 million children are regularly attending school, up from 5.4 million today.
The UK will contribute to programmes which provide technical skills for up to 300,000 people, many of whom have never attended school.
The UK will support programmes that increase the number of young people receiving vocational training from 26,000 to 100,000 in the next three years.
Cutting across all Afghan Government programmes is the need to improve financial management and enhance accountability. At the Kabul conference, President Karzai set out important measures to reduce corruption, including strengthening oversight and enforcement bodies, and increasing penalties for ministers and officials who do not comply with rules on asset declaration. The UK will help improve the weak capacity of the Afghan Government, strengthening financial management, and equipping it to take action against corruption in 10 key spending Ministries.
At the Kabul conference, the Afghan Government reiterated their aspiration that at least 50% of aid should flow through Government systems. The UK remains committed to that target. Following intensive work with senior Afghan Ministers, a set of benchmarks have been agreed to measure progress on a six-monthly basis. The UK and other donors will need to see progress against those benchmarks to remain confident that funds are well spent and results and outcomes achieved.
I am committed to ensuring close monitoring and evaluation of all DFID support in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and will be ready to reallocate resources if programmes fail to deliver, or our partners underperform.