Reconstruction And Humanitarian Efforts In AfghanistanArthur E. Dewey , Assistant Secretary Of State For Population, Refugees and Migration
James R. Kunder; US Agency For International Development Deputy Administrator For Asia And The Near East
August 29, 2002
(11:00 a.m. EDT)
MS. CASSEL: I would like to welcome you all to this special briefing we're having today on reconstruction and humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan. We have three speakers today. We'll start with Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, Mr. Dewey, who will be followed by US Agency for International Development Deputy Administrator for Asia and the Near East, Mr. Kunder, who also just got back from being the head of the AID mission in Kabul. And finally we're lucky enough to have an additional briefer today, Patricia Haslach who is the Director of the Office of Afghan Reconstruction in the Bureau of South Asian Affairs.
So I will turn the floor over to Mr. Dewey, who will give a short statement and then I think Mr. Kunder wants to give a short statement and then we'll open it up for questions.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: There are two main issues for Afghanistan that were reinforced during my recent 6-day visit there. I came back a couple of weeks ago.
The first is that there is a promising, even exciting structure and order that's taking shape in Afghanistan to manage the international effort. Normally no one, especially the press, gets excited about structure or order, but this is different because it makes so much sense and because it's so unusual -- so unique in my memory over the last three decades of participating in or observing emergency recovery operations.
And this structure and this order is called a Program Secretariat Structure that is designed to hold the lead United Nations agencies, such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Food Program, to hold those lead UN agencies and other international organizations accountable within their sectors. But more important, this structure is twinned with counterpart Afghan ministries to bring in the -- you hear the criticism from the Afghans, themselves, that, you know, we're on the sidelines. And this structure brings them in. It meshes the Afghan structure.
This ingenious twinning arrangement offers the best and perhaps and perhaps the only critical path to eventually transition responsibilities and capabilities and eventually funding from the lead UN organizations to the Afghan Government. Now this structure doesn't automatically generate news headlines. But it ought to for two reasons: it is the first time in my memory, and I'm looking back at Bosnia and Kosovo, most recent memory. It is the first time where we could really hold UN agencies to account. They could, in effect, be fired for not doing their job. And this is possible now in Afghanistan.
Second, while news reports pick up this litany that Afghanistan is a contrast between the well-paid UN workers that are taking charge and the impoverished Afghan ministries that are on the margins of the action. The Program Secretariat Order offers the best example in modern experience of how to solve these problems. And this exciting structure can also make the link between life saving and society-building between outsiders saving Afghan lives and Afghans saving themselves and starting to build their own future.
Now the United States Government is getting behind this promising structure in two ways. We recognize that no international structure can run on autopilot and that we have to work behind the scenes to make it work. And we're also backing up this multilateral support with strong financial support. Too strong, some would argue.
If we look at the facts, throughout the war on terrorism, the United States has contributed an average of 80 percent of all the donor-state food contributions through the UN World Food Program. And my bureau in the State Department has had to go well beyond its normal financial contribution of 25 percent of the overall refugee costs, in this case of Afghanistan refugee returning costs and internally displaced person returning costs incurred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The second overriding impression which was reinforced by my recent trip was that our donor-state allies, especially in the European Union, are not doing their fair share. The are both not generous enough in living up to their financial commitments made at the Tokyo conference in January, and they are not multilateral enough in supporting the UN World Food Program with food and in supporting the UN High Commissioner for Refugees with cash.
And here are the potential impacts of our fellow donor-states not doing enough: it's going to be tougher getting through the winter not to mention the winter after this winter. The meager welcome home package given the returnees from Pakistan and Iran means that there may not be enough to sustain returns. When the welcome home package runs out, returnees in rural areas may flock to Kabul or other cities, and they are already bursting at the seams, and they may find little help there. And they may need to return where they know there is help, that is back to Pakistan.
The impact of this should place a heavy burden on those donors that have not lived up to their promises. The impacts include food for work. That has been sharply cut back. Food for teachers, food for schools, food for government workers who get much or all their salary in food has had to be cut back or eliminated.
Getting the full range of income generating activities going, getting serious recovery operations going, utilizing the agricultural inputs and getting visible infrastructure projects going needs this breathing space. And much of this breathing space has to do with continuing and sustaining the overwhelming number of returning refugees and internally displaced persons who have trusted the international donors for their future.
So a lot has been done, the biggest return in modern history of refugees, about 1.6 million now have come back, a tremendous investment on their part in the international community promises.
In sum, the US is the champion and the predominant financial supporter of the multilateral relief and recovery effort in Afghanistan. We desperately need our flagging and all too unilateralist allies, especially from Europe, to join the multilateral bandwagon and come up to their fair share. Thank you.
MR. KUNDER: I would like to say something very briefly on where we are with the reconstruction effort. I know better than to stand up here and try to give you a happy face picture that everything is fine in Afghanistan. As Gene has pointed out, a lot of problems remain. And after 23 years of war, as several commentators have noticed, the level of infrastructure destruction and institutional infrastructure destruction is profound. And so the work ahead is substantial. But in light of a lot of coverage recently of the fact that we need to build some roads in Afghanistan, I just want to say when I arrived in Kabul in January and walked into some of the ministries -- unheated buildings with no electricity -- the main problem we were facing at that time was whether we were going to get through the winter without massive starvation across Afghanistan.
If someone had predicted at that time, in January, that we would be standing here in August having successfully gotten children back to school with textbooks in their hands, boys and girls; if someone had predicted we would have stood up a Ministry of Women's Affairs and it would be functioning; if someone had predicted that we would have 82 percent increase in crop production over last year; if someone had suggested that we would have gotten through a Loya representative, if not perfect Loya Jirga; if someone had suggested that we would have created more than three million jobs across the country; and if someone had suggested we would have more than a hundred infrastructure programs up and running, which we do -- schools, hospitals, roads. If someone had suggested all of that back in January, I would have told them they were crazy. So I guess my comment is that there is very much a cup half-full. I think the Afghans have every right and I'm empathetic with their desire to do more because so much remains to be done, and clearly there is interest in some visible infrastructure projects in the transportation arena.
But I would close with if someone doubts that the cup is half-full in Afghanistan, those who really know what the situation is like on the ground are not us international development personnel who show up or the UN agencies or the NGOs. The people who really know what it's like to be there day after day are those who have a choice of staying in Pakistan and Iran or coming home. We could easily have been standing here in August talking about the refugee flows going to Iran and Pakistan. And instead, as Gene has reported, more than a million and a half people have voted with their feet and they are headed towards Afghanistan.
So again, I don't want to belittle or make light of the enormous reconstruction task ahead, but the reconstruction work that has been done thus far has been substantial and important and a good basis for what we need to do in the future. Thank you.
QUESTION: Jim, a question for you. $4.5 billion was pledged in Tokyo in January for reconstruction. $600 million has been dispersed, and I understand there's been a slowing down in that. Is that true?
MR. KUNDER: The 600 figure that I've heard quoted several times, I believe, comes from Afghan Government data. I should point out, by the way, the reason they are able to maintain such data is that the US Government provided them with a data management system to allow them to keep track of this funding.
The most recent international meeting we had on this of the Afghan Reconstruction Steering Group in Paris, to look at these numbers, showed that the donors believe that they have given a lot more than that number that was reported. Yeah. Those were numbers from July. And again, it's not a dig at the Afghan Government. They are doing the best they can to keep up with this complex accounting system.
I do not believe the numbers have slowed. Most donors reported at that time that they would meet their pledges by the end of the calendar year and I believe that to be the case. I think the fundamental problem is the one that's been the problem from day one, is that quite appropriately, the bulk of that money went into immediate needs. It went into heading off the famine last winter; it went into resettling those returnees, returning refugees. It went into the seeds and fertilizer distribution that helped to boost agricultural recovery. And that's not visible. You don't see it when you walk through downtown Kabul or out into the countryside so I know there's a, misperception about that, but I do not believe that the number is that low and I do not believe it's slowing down.
QUESTION: Well, then where does the, then how do come out so harshly against the EU? And also, just before then, you're saying the Afghan figures are wrong because of the Afghans or because of the US equipment that you gave to them? Is it somehow faulty?
MR. KUNDER: The Afghan figures are not wrong. The Afghan figures were their best estimate, based on the last time they did a collection of the data, which was based on July numbers. And so I'm saying that the numbers are updated since then and, you know, the Afghan fiscal year is March to March. Our fiscal year is, you know, October to September. The EU fiscal year is a different base. It is difficult to capture that data accurately, but that was their best cut at it. It was a good cut at it based on July figures, and I'm saying that those figures are now out of date.
QUESTION: Well, but she just said the other figures were from July.
MS. HASLACH: The Afghanistan figure that he's quoting comes from July, but what those numbers don't include -- those were only pledges that were made in Tokyo for reconstruction. They don't include humanitarian assistance and they do not include assistance to the security sector. And I might point out that's an area that doesn't get a lot of publicity, but with the help of the Germans, they are helping train the police with the United States and the Germans, the Italians are helping build up the Judiciary, as well as the United States is helping to build the Afghan National Army so security is an important component of international assistance to Afghanistan. But the numbers that have been quoted do not include the humanitarian assistance that's being provided through the UN agencies.
QUESTION: Okay. So the Afghans are going to have a German police system and an Italian court system. That sounds excellent.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: Can I just clarify on the Europeans? The problem with the Europeans is that we need reliable partners in this humanitarian action and recovery action. We try to be reliable in the US Government by using the multilateral system and we contribute 25 percent minimum, of the refugee costs of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
We have corresponding percentages for the International Committee of the Red Cross, for UNICEF, for International Federation of Red Cross, Red Cross Societies -- all the international organizations that are involved in this. We need reliability from the Europeans. The European Community Humanitarian Office, ECHO, ought to be reliably counted on for about 25 percent, also, of UNHCR's refugee costs.
What they are doing, however, is 15 percent of UNHCR's refugee costs and they are spending the rest of their refugee money directly through European NGOs outside of the framework, outside of the protection regime of the International Committee of the Red Cross, outside of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. What is wrong with that is that for refugees and now in Afghanistan for internally displaced persons, it's increasingly important to link assistance with protection. There's only one agency that has an international protection mandate for refugees and that's the UNHCR. I don't have it in the Refugee Bureau, the US Government, certainly ECHO or the European Union does not have that kind of a mandate, so that's what we're urging them to do.
As far as food, just look at the numbers on food. The European Commission has contributed less than 20,000 metric tons of food for Afghanistan, while the US has provided over, about 13 times that amount -- 256,470 tons of food. It's that waiting for the US to do it that bothers us. Or counting on the US to bail them out when they run out of food at the end of October so that we can get till the end of November. That's the problem that we have with the Europeans.
QUESTION: That 20,000 figure you just gave, is that through the World Food Program?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: That's through the World Food Program, right.
QUESTION: Do you know how much goes to NGOs?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: I don't know how much -- no, I don't have that breakout. There is some of that as well for food as well as cash for (inaudible) here. I don't have that breakout.
QUESTION: The 20 --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: That's from the beginning of the emergency -- October through the end of this year.
QUESTION: In the US, that year is the same from October?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: Yes.
QUESTION: So what's your estimate of the shortfall in contributions by European Union countries below what they had pledged in Tokyo? Is it possible to put a figure on that one?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: We can get you a figure on that, too. As Jim said, we expect that they, by the end of the year, that they will come up to their pledge level in Tokyo, but the important thing now is the timing of that. It's the fact that that bureaucracy in Europe is so hopeless that it's nearly impossible for them to respond in a timely manner.
QUESTION: Winning friends and influencing people. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: That's their response? You've complained to them that they are slow and that's their response? Their bureaucracy is helpless?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: That's part of their response. I find that when we discuss these things with the Europeans, individual European States, particularly in the north will say, gee, we're glad you're saying that. We've been saying that for years to the European Community Humanitarian Office and to the Commission. You ought to do things multilaterally. You ought to contribute cash to the UNHCR and you ought to give food to the World Food Program.
But there the tug is from maybe some of the Southern European Countries, Italy for example, that like this system very well of doing things unilaterally, that is giving most of the contribution through NGOs that are not part of any order, that are not part of any structure or any framework.
QUESTION: I take it that your public comments today follow unsuccessful and repeated, repeated unsuccessful attempts to get the Europeans to pony up their --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: Well we picked up the beat recently. I don't think it's been persistent enough in the past. It surprising to me if, when this is the first time some people have heard about this. It may be the first time some of you in this room have heard about this, this issue we have. Now we're talking our way through it and we're trying to be very constructive with the Europeans and try to get on the same picture as to why it's important to support the multilateral structure, in this case in particular.
And I'm optimistic we can make some progress. We'll have to chip away at it though, incrementally. It won't be something that changes overnight, but I will be going to Brussels in early September to talk about this.
MS. HASLACH: Could I just add something to that? It's important that you separate, sort of the discussion that we've just been having on humanitarian assistance from reconstruction assistance. The European Union is one of the co-chairs for the Afghan Reconstruction Steering Group. And they've been very forthcoming on that and they've indicated that they will be stepping forward with some additional support for the Afghan Transitional Authority. What we're looking for is also some budget support to help support the ATA.
And I mentioned before that they've also been helping us on the security front as well.
QUESTION: But that's all medium and long-term type stuff. I mean, the real need, I think, is what you're saying is this emergency --
MS. HASLACH: No, the budget assistance is immediate. They have a budget shortfall somewhere -- well, that pays the police, that pays the teachers, that's a very important part of assistance.
QUESTION: Right. It may, but it doesn't pay any peasants and it doesn't put food on their, on their tables so the emergency --
MS. HASLACH: Right. Assistant Secretary Dewey is referring to the Humanitarian Emergency Assistance. What I'm referring to is the Reconstruction Assistance. And some of that is immediate. The European Union has been providing assistance to the agriculture sector, they have been providing assistance to various ministries and they have been providing budget support, as have we.
QUESTION: But haven't there been all kinds of complaints from the Afghans that that money has been way to slow in coming, that Reconstruction Assistance?
MS. HASLACH: Well, it's even been difficult for our government. It's hard to get governments up and geared into action to, you know, there are needs all over the world. Since October the United States has provided $450 million dollars and we're hoping to provide more.
We've just gotten some funds released for, additional funds with the 2002 Supplemental. We have a budget request before Congress for FY03. We're asking for additional assistance. It's the same -- every government has the same process that they have to go through and I think we are going to be seeing that the governments that, especially the European Union and European members will meet their pledge commitments. That's what we're expecting on the reconstruction side. Thank you.
QUESTION: Could I just clarify with Assistant Secretary Dewey -- is your complaint with regard to the Humanitarian Aid from the Europeans that they are not contributing enough overall or that they are not contributing in the mode in which you would prefer that they do it, i.e. multilaterally rather than through NGOs?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: It's both. If you separate the two sources in Europe, The European Commission is the food source. They are not giving enough -- 20,000 versus the 256,000 that we're giving. To the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the problem is how, how they are doing it, how the European Community Humanitarian Office, ECHO, is dispersing its money. As I say, they give approximately 15 percent of their refugee funding to the mandated, designated hitter in the refugee business, the UNHCR. They give 85 percent in this scattered way through NGOs.
QUESTION: So is it fair to say, are you fearful that if this situation continues you're going to lose the peace in Afghanistan?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: I'm saying it makes our job harder. It makes the UN's job harder; it makes the job of the Afghan Government harder to show progress, to show sustainment of this, particularly sustainment of this huge refugee return. It's a kind of thing that almost has to be held in the hands of the very good team that exists in Kabul, but they have to spend a lot of the time just trying to bring the scattered pieces together, making the points to the lagger donors that they've got to have more to get through the winter. They've got to have more to protect this investment. They've got to have more to keep the momentum of society building which is taking place. It just makes it harder. And we're going to do it. And it's not just through financial support that we're going to do it. We're going to do our best in this government to help pull those pieces together to support Brahimi, who's a superb leader for the Secretary General, to support Nigel Fisher, who's a superb leader of the twin responsibilities of reconstruction and recovery and emergency response.
We have a world-class team there. It just is harder for that world-class team to do it. And it's harder for us in our support role.
QUESTION: What does this experience in Afghanistan foreshadow in terms of the rebuilding of Iraq, if that's the next project that the world has to -- (laughter).
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: Well, I won't discuss any specific country, but I am so encouraged that finally, after my three decades of experience in complaining about structures and being part of inadequate structures that we have a structure which has a chance of working in Afghanistan. And I would hope that for any future operation, and goodness knows there may be some, that we learn a lesson. I never use the term "lessons learned." But if we could learn this one, I will start learning because it does provide the best opportunity to fix accountability on the UN agencies-which have not been held to account before enough. And to transfer that capacity building and policymaking and financial resources to a host government.
QUESTION: It's not just the European countries that you have a problem with. Isn't it also some of the Arab donors? And does this also follow the model that the problem is on the humanitarian assistance and immediate assistance side and not the reconstruction money? Because once again, Saudi Arabia is also on the steering committee right, for reconstruction?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: Yes. No.
QUESTION: So where are the problems with the Arab countries?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: And I think you're right about the President talking to the Saudis about their need to do more. No, it's more than European countries. It's just the bulk of the money out to be counted on from the European countries. And also the need to tie this emergency to reconstruction. The High Commissioner for Refugees is very concerned about that. Jim Kunder and I are very concerned about that as our coordination which is very good, very close, State and AID on this -- we talk about overlaying the AID projects over those areas where refugees and IDP's are returning. That's very important to do -- for every donor to do. And that's heavy on the mind of the High Commissioner. You've got to make that linkage if you're going to sustain these returns.
QUESTION: But are you having trouble getting money out of those countries for immediate, immediate assistance as well? Or is it just the reconstruction? It's not the reconstruction money, it's just the immediate food aid and so on?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: It's also immediate food aid. Exactly.
QUESTION: They are not providing their share of reconstruction aid, either?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: No. No. No, they are not. They are not. We would like to have them give a lot more wheat rather than maybe some of the things they would like to give.
QUESTION: You said Europeans are 15 instead of 25. What is the percentage that the Arab countries are not meeting? Is there a percent on what they --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: Let's see what I have on the Arab countries. It probably doesn't come up to the, come up on the screen at all in terms of their contributions on the emergency side. Pat, you may be aware of -- any emergency contributions from any of the Arab states?
MS. HASLACH: They tend not to use that particular way of channeling funds, but a number of the Arab states have made pledges, did make pledges in Tokyo. And a number of them have been providing assistance. And we have been talking to them about, especially talking to them about providing some budget support directly to the government. And some countries have made contributions in kind -- Soviet-made era weapons to help us train the ANA Army have been coming from countries in Eastern Europe and places like that, and that's very important.
QUESTION: I didn't think there was a shortage of weapons.
MS. HASLACH: Well it's, I probably shouldn't have raised that, but the issue is that when you're training the military, you want to make sure that you're training them on equipment that won't turn around and backfire on them, so what we're trying to do is provide them on equipment that will not be a safety hazard. And then hopefully we will be taking care of the other weaponry that's out there.
QUESTION: What kind of weapon is not a safety hazard?
MS. HASLACH: Just a regular gun.
QUESTION: That's not a safety hazard?
MS. HASLACH: No, no. The ones, the ones that they have out there, apparently, people have been telling us that if you fire them they can turn around and just in 50 percent they can fire back on you. So we want to make sure that we're not killing the recruits that we're trying to train.
QUESTION: Are you really saying that there's a problem getting enough wheat to the people but there's not a problem getting enough weapons?
MS. HASLACH: No. That's not what I'm saying. Clearly not. I mean, what we're talking about is that different countries provide contributions in different ways. Some country would provide trucks, some country provides blankets, some country provides wheat. I'm just trying to point out that there's all types of assistance that are being provided to Afghanistan and their needs are enormous. They have a need on every single front.
QUESTION: Since the President raised this with Prince Bandar two days ago in Texas, could you give some specifics as to what the Saudis have done or not done?
MS. HASLACH: Well, Saudi Arabia is one of the members of the Steering Group. In fact, they hosted the recent Afghan ARSG Support Steering Group meeting in Paris. And they have indicated that they, they made a pledge in Tokyo. I think their pledge was about $200 million. And they've indicated that a portion of that pledge would be provided to the government, I believe in the form of budget support. I don't have any details on what came out of the actual meeting, though.
QUESTION: Two questions: One is, what is the shortfall for the winter? In other words, if you can describe it as either food or oil that you need to make it through the winter? And the second is, the mention about food for work and food for teachers programs being cut back. My understanding was that was the cornerstone for how this was going to be a real difference in terms of society-building, and -- could you just give us some details about to what extent those programs are being cut and how you plan to address that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: On the shortfall for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees going into the winter, the emergency program was $271 million from the start of this calendar year through March of next year, 15-month program. That is about 90 percent funded. But that $271 million dollars was based up a returnee population of 800,000. And now we have 1.6 million who have come back. So although the requirements, if you made it a needs-based requirement, it could conceivably be almost twice that $271 million.
What the UNHCR has had to do is to reduce its expenditures back to what the donors will give. So 90 percent funding of the $271 doesn't mean a whole lot because when you combine it with the shortfall in food, the fact that we're just barely keeping up month to month in food and have had to cut back on the welcome home package of 150 kg of wheat per family to now 50 kg, with a voucher for the remainder, when you've had to cut, the overall food input to Afghanistan cut back so far by the World Food Program, that's what has caused the drop-off of the, the food for work projects, the food for teachers projects, the food for school project. And that's cutting into the bone. That's not just cutting out the fat. That's bone chips that we're seeing falling out here. So that's a concern.
What is the UN doing about it? Nigel Fisher told me yesterday, and I try to talk with him every week on the phone from Kabul to stay up to date, he said what I've had to do on this is to try to redirect WFP strategically, that they've got to get into the work for cash business, that they've got to help other international organizations that are generating work projects.
So people can get cash. Cash is the answer because they can access markets then and they can buy food and they can buy other things that they need. But that's a strategic reorientation that has had to be considered and probably will be put in effect because of the shortfall in food.
MR. KUNDER: I will touch on that briefly. If you want the numbers, I mean, our Food for Peace office can give you the month-by-month projections and the month-by-month supply in the pipeline, but the bottom line is that the pipeline looks like it will dry up around November. Now that is to say we have food in the pipeline to ensure deliveries, albeit at the reduced rates that Gene was talking about through November.
Now, the fact that we just completed the World Food Program and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, just completed this crop survey that I referenced earlier and the fact that that showed a substantial increase, 82 percent increase in cereal production, 2002 crop year over 2001 crop year means that there may be more grain available in Afghanistan. And under those circumstances, I don't want to bore you with the minutiae of this. We may want to shift more of our support away from the food for work programs into the cash for work programs, which would both, as Gene just said, support the Afghans who need money for survival, but also support the Afghan farmers, in other words, provide a market for their crops that they just produces.
So, I mean, this is part of the day-to-day calculation of how to construct the AID packages in the multi-varied equation here. We're depending on local supply and availability from the international pipeline.
But there is a serious shortfall that's got to be made up before the winter comes. And as you well know from covering this topic, I mean, we just don't snap our fingers and food arrives; you've got to secure the shipping and the supplies, so this has got to be secured now to keep the pipeline flowing through the winter months.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: And I should add, one of the things we're doing on that topic that I think is a critical and interesting part of this picture is that we've got to, even though we're looking at the issues of building some large infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, like the major roads, there are some absolutely essential supply routes that have got to be taken care of now because going through the winter weather, if the passes aren't open for the delivery of humanitarian supplies, we could have all the food in the country we want and it won't get through to the people who need it.
So we just committed $7 million for some critical infrastructure projects in the short term, like repairing the road between Kabul and the famous Salang Tunnel, the world's highest tunnel, which is the main north-south access route in Afghanistan, to keep that supply route open during the winter. And that work has to be done now because the tunnel was at 12,000 feet and the weather gets bad for construction very, very early. So we've already started putting some money into those critical steps. So it's a combination both of getting the formula right so that we don't undercut Afghan farmers, getting enough food in the pipeline, and then building some of these key infrastructure segments now without which we will not be delivering any food this winter.
QUESTION: I need to know about the children. Do you have some special assistance for children, refugee children, like to build schools, hospitals, something like that?
MR. KUNDER: Again, in this information package, which I think is available to all of you, we have the precise budget figures, but much of the USAID program is targeted at women and children. Part of that is the back-to-school program where we've provided 10 million textbooks for the back-to-school program and are doing school reconstruction. Part of it is in the health arena because, as you know, the infant mortality rates are extraordinarily high in Afghanistan. So we have both focused on building health clinics and providing medical supplies, and there are more details on that in here. And we propose a continued large health and education program in the coming year.
QUESTION: Can I ask one more about this, a couple questions I thought Howard's question had answered it, but then it came up again in another question? The EU funding for UNHCR, they are still providing 25 percent, right, but only 15 percent of that is actually going to the UNHCR and the other 85 percent is going to European NGOs; is that correct?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: No, they're not giving 25 percent overall. We would like to be able to count on the European Union giving 25 percent, comparable to the US percentage for UNHCR, but they are not giving anywhere near that. The amount that they are giving to UNHCR is about the same as the Government of Netherlands by itself gives to UNHCR, which is 15 percent of a some $800 million budget.
QUESTION: And then 85 percent of that is going to programs outside of this new innovative structure you were talking about?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: Right, going outside of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, going directly to NGOs. It's like trying to play UNHCR yourself. I'm not courageous enough to do that.
QUESTION: And can I just clarify? You said that the European Commission is giving 15 percent of the UNHCR budget, and the Government of the Netherlands is giving another 15 percent? Are other European countries individually giving -- I mean, that seems like since the Netherlands is part of the European Union, it seems like they're giving 30 percent.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: I would hope that if you combined them, say the European Community Humanitarian Office and the individual governments of Europe, it would come up to about 50 percent of the UNHCR's budget.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: They're not doing that.
QUESTION: So what are you complaining about? That seems like a fairly -- I mean, it seems like --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: What I'm complaining about is --
QUESTION: -- as a proportion of GDP, it's much larger than the US contribution.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: What I'm complaining about is that they're doing that. They're not coming close to that.
QUESTION: Well, wait a minute. I'm even more confused now.
QUESTION: Only the Government of the Netherlands is doing this? The other Europeans are --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: The Netherlands is the best contributor of the individual countries to the UNHCR, and they are giving the same amount as all of the European Union contributions.
QUESTION: Is this, then, a problem --
QUESTION: -- 15 percent?
MS. CASSEL: We'll put together a fact sheet on this.
QUESTION: Well, this is hugely important because, I mean, if -- are you saying that right now the European Commission, plus all the individual members of the EU, you're saying they're giving 50, five-oh, percent of the UNHCR budget?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: No, I'm saying I would consider that a reasonable percentage for them.
QUESTION: To pay?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: To pay.
QUESTION: Okay. But they're not.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: They're not.
QUESTION: So in other words, other countries, countries other than the Netherlands are perhaps giving nothing by themselves?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: That's true.
QUESTION: Wait a minute, we're still confused.
MS. CASSEL: I really am going to have to cut this off. We'll --
QUESTION: Hold on, wait. You've gotten up here and accused the Europeans of being hopefully bureaucratic and --
QUESTION: Just one more question and maybe we'll clear it up. Do you have a figure for what percentage of the UNHCR budget is contributed by Europe together with the EC and individual countries? If you put all that together, what proportion of the budget comes from Europe right now? Not what you wish it would, but what actually is it?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: It's less than 50 percent. I'll have to get that to you. But we can get that.
MS. CASSEL: We'll put out a fact sheet that explains all of that.
QUESTION: But, I mean, more than 40 percent?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: It may not be more than 40 percent.
QUESTION: Well, it still sounds like, then, that the Europeans are giving more jointly and individually giving more than the United States is.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: I'd come back to the point it's the way. It's not so much the level of cash that's going to UNHCR, it's the way they are contributing to refugee programs worldwide.
QUESTION: -- money going to the UNHCR, which we're not talking about other money which is going to NGOs which deal with refugees, right?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: I'm talking about the direct contributions to UNHCR and --
QUESTION: -- apparently more than 30 percent? I mean, is other money going to NGOs --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEWEY: That figure we can get you. But I'm saying that the level could come up probably closer to the 50 percent that would be reasonable if, if ECHO gave their money to UNHCR, all of it to UNHCR.
MS. CASSEL: We'll have a fact sheet by the end of the day to try and put these figures into context for you. Thank you all.
Released on August 29, 2002