The recently concluded landmark conference in Kabul, Afghanistan heralds significant changes on how foreign aid will be managed in the war-torn country. At the historic forum – which was attended by more than 70 high-ranking officials, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton among others – it was agreed that aid will be channeled through the government of President Hamid Karzai within two years. Ahead of the conference, the U.K. announced it will increase its development assistance to Afghanistan by 40 percent over the next four years. The Asian Development Bank, for its part, suspended its planned aid cut to the Asian country. ADB’s board of directors agreed to provide USD548 million to Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012, as compared to the USD386 million under its planned phaseout.
Neighboring Pakistan is also a recipient of massive foreign aid, with Clinton detailing a series of projects worth almost USD700 million in the next few years. The projects are part of the five-year USD7.5 billion Pakistan aid law, which was approved in October 2009 by U.S. President Barack Obama.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, which in charge of ensuring that U.S. money spent in Afghanistan is not wasted through fraud and abuse, is criticized in a report for allegedly not properly conducting investigations on where the money is being spent. In his response to the report, SIGAR chief Arnie Fields said the newness of the office and funding delays were the reasons behind its poor performance.
Another major conference on a pressing issue is being held this week. The 18th International AIDS Conference kicked off July 18 in Vienna, Austria, and will run through July 23. Participants are expected to discuss a new global AIDS policy as well as several new HIV prevention and AIDS treatment measures. However, decreased funding on HIV/AIDS initiatives is threatening the 29-year war on the disease. A report presented by Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, or UNAIDS, and the Kaiser Foundation at the Vienna conference noted that overall donors’ support for the global AIDS effort has flattened out in 2009 as the global economy took a downturn. The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, former President Bill Clinton and philanthropist Bill Gates all warned of the drastic implications of recent cutbacks in HIV/AIDS funding. Bill Clinton and Gates also called on health workers engaged in HIV/AIDS programs to efficiently use the funds they are given, as these will be harder to come by because of the slow recovery from the global economic crisis.