Darfur donors less than half target


A donor meeting for Darfur held in Cairo raised less than half the targeted $2 billion for development in Sudan’s violent western region after several countries refrained from pledging over security worries.

Despite the shortfall, Sudan said it was not disappointed by the results of the one-day meeting, which officials said raised $841 million for projects such as cement plants, roads and villages for displaced people in Darfur.
“What is more important is that the international community has pledged support to the Sudanese government in order to achieve peace in Darfur,” said Abdel Malik al-Naeem, media adviser for the Sudanese delegation.

Countries including the United States, Canada, Norway and Britain did not pledge at the meeting, saying the region was not secure enough for the proposed work.

Qatar, which in recent weeks oversaw the signing of two ceasefire deals between rebel groups and Khartoum, pledged $200 million in a further move to fashion itself a leading role in resolving the Darfur crisis.

The Gulf Arab state had already pledged $1 billion to a separate fund for Darfur and suggested donations from the conference be directed through that fund.

Egypt said it would consider the proposal and recommended forming a committee that included major donors to look into where the bank would be based and other details.

The Islamic Development Bank of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which backed the meeting, said it would give $355 million.

Turkey said it would give $60-75 million from now until 2015 for water, education and agricultural projects, and the European Union pledged $95 million collectively.

Crisis and development

Investment in infrastructure, health, education and agriculture is vital to ending conflict in Darfur and nurturing the relative peace from recent ceasefire deals, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said at the meeting’s opening.

The United Nations estimates up to 300 000 people have died since rebel groups took up arms against the Sudanese government in 2003, accusing it of neglecting the region. Khartoum puts the death toll at 10 000.
“Since the beginning of the crisis in Darfur, the basic issue has been one of development, which has taken on political, tribal and social dimensions,” Aboul Gheit said.
“This is what makes us certain the core solution to the Darfur crisis must focus on increasing rates of development and improving the standard of living for each citizen in Darfur,” he added.

Donors have convened several conferences for Sudan, stricken by multiple conflicts over the years, but complicated aid structures have held up some spending and not all pledges have fully materialised.

The Cairo conference was backed by the 57-member OIC, but also included representatives from China, the United States, Russia, Britain, France and others.

Pic: Darfur SLA rebels

Source: www.af.reuters.com