HL Deb 01 March 2004 vol 658 cc42-3WS
Baroness Amos

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development has made the following Written Ministerial Statement today.

Afghanistan remains a high priority for the Government. A lot has been achieved during the past two years. Around 3 million refugees have been helped to return to Afghanistan. Improvements have been made in education, with more than 4 million children back at school. Thirty seven per cent of pupils are now girls, up from 5 per cent in 2001. Twelve million children have been immunized against polio and 16 million against measles since 2002, saving 30,000 lives. Women are increasingly taking part in politics and the new constitution guarantees women 25 per cent of seats at the new parliament and equal rights and duties before the law. But there are still challenges ahead.

As part of the UK's continuing commitment to Afghanistan I will be announcing, at the donor conference taking place in Berlin on 31 March and 1 April an increase in our assistance to at least £500 million over five years. This represents an increase of 150 per cent on our original commitment for the reconstruction of Afghanistan made in Tokyo in January 2002 to provide £200 million over these five years (the financial years 2002–03 to 2006–07). So far we have provided £110.5 million of this. This new pledge will include at least £75 million a year for reconstruction, plus assistance for counter-narcotics and conflict prevention.

One of the major challenges Afghanistan faces is security, particularly in the south and east of the country, and the need to tackle the drugs trade. The UK is working to support the Afghan police and helping to build a new Afghan national army. We are also assisting with the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of former combatants. Our new financial commitment will help to address all these issues.