Afghanistan shuts down 150 Afghan, foreign aid groups

KABUL Tue Nov 9, 2010 3:11pm IST

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KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan has ordered around 150 aid groups, including four foreign organisations, to shut down for failing to submit reports on their projects and finances, a government official said on Tuesday.

The ruling by a government-backed commission which monitors aid groups includes 145 domestic organisations and has immediate effect, said a spokesman for the Economy Ministry, which heads the commission.

The commission was established as part of an anti-corruption drive by President Hamid Karzai, who has long been critical of foreign organisations in Afghanistan and says they have been involved in widespread graft.

"The commission has decided the organisations should be dissolved because they have not submitted reports to the Ministry of Economy for the past two years," ministry spokesman Sediq Amarkhil said.

Amarkhil said he did not know why the NGOs had failed to submit reports, but suggested it may be because they were not registered with the government.

According to Afghan law, non-government organisations (NGOs) must submit reports every six months to the ministry, disclosing details about their funding and activities, Amarkhil said.

WARNING LETTERS

None of the NGOs ordered to close had submitted those reports despite warning letters from the ministry, Amarkhil said, adding government institutions and other donors had been informed not to provide any funding to the groups.

Laurent Saillard, director of the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR), an umbrella group for NGOs in Afghanistan, said they were presented with the list of groups and had no objections to their closure.

"The government is simply implementing the law. We don't even know if some of these NGOs on the list even exist at all," said Saillard, adding none of the groups came under ACBAR.

He said there were around 1,300 NGOs in Afghanistan, including 360 foreign organisations, employing 45,000 people.

In May, the commission shut down 172 NGOs, including 20 foreign groups, for the same reason. The government later that month suspended the activities of two Western aid groups on suspicion of proselytising.

The latest ruling also comes after a decree by Karzai in August calling for all private security firms to be disbanded, a move which spurred concern in Washington that aid work could suffer.

Last month, Karzai offered a small concession to those firms guarding aid projects by extending the deadline from December until next February.

But ACBAR has said the ban would only affect profit-oriented development companies which rely on security guards for protection and would not hit the work of not-for-profit NGOs.

(Editing by Paul Tait and Ron Popeski)

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