June 2, 2008 / 3:42 PM / 12 years ago

U.N. envoy urges 'New Deal' for Afghan aid

OSLO, June 2 (Reuters) - The international community must start trusting the Afghan government more and give it a much bigger role in distributing aid, a senior U.N. official said on Monday.

Kai Eide, the United Nations’ special envoy to Kabul, said next week’s aid conference in Paris will allow the international community to forge a “New Deal” with Afghanistan and help set development priorities.

Kabul has said it hopes to raise $50 billion in Paris but Eide emphasised the need for stronger Western support to the Afghan authorities.

“We should not judge Paris on the amount of money pledged,” the Norwegian diplomat told foreign correspondents in Oslo.

“We need an enhanced, strengthened partnership between the Afghan authorities and the international community,” said Eide, who was appointed special envoy in March.

More than six years after U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban, Kabul and its Western backers face a revived insurgency and a public frustrated with the lack of security and disappointed at the slow pace of development.

Eide said the development plan for Afghanistan, which will depend on international aid, must be controlled and implemented by local authorities, not foreign states, to keep credibility.

He said that too often foreigners feel they must “win over the hearts and minds” of ordinary Afghans. But he said that was a task the Afghan authorities must do to become more effective.

Analysts say some two-thirds of Afghan aid has not been channelled through the Kabul government, partly because donors fear large chunks of their cash will disappear into the pockets of corrupt officials. This keeps the state weak and gives it little if any control over development, Eide said.

“You would get absolutely nowhere if you don’t start trusting the Afghans more. It is their society,” he said.

The twin priorities at the Paris conference will be to strengthen Afghan state institutions, including the justice system and police, and to boost the fledgling Afghan economy, especially in agriculture and energy, Eide said.

The international community should admit that resources have not been spent as effectively as possible, and the Afghans should pledge to do more to fight corruption, he said.

Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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