Afghanistan is outlining a five-year plan at an international conference in London, aimed at dragging the country out of poverty. More than 50 nations and a dozen international bodies are attending the meeting where they are expected to pledge more aid to Afghanistan, especially to fund the fight against illegal drugs.
Delegates will be looking for assurances that Afghan officials will tackle corruption and the narcotics trade. Afghanistan is the world’s prime source of opium – 87 per cent of the world’s heroin supply comes from there.
Four years after the US-led invasion ousted the Taliban, Afghanistan is still one of the world’s poorest countries and security remains a major obstacle to development. More than half the children are malnourished.
Afghanistan has received more than 12 billion euros in international aid since 2001 but critics say that has done little to improve people’s lives. “There has been a lot of aid given to the government,” said one elderly man. “But it all goes to the pockets of powerful people. We are poor, we remain poor, nobody cares about us.” Keen to boost foreign investment in his country, Afghan president Hamid Karzai is presenting a new development strategy at the conference. He aims to boost annual growth by 10 per cent in the next five years and is hoping for more than three billion euros in aid.