ECO members yet to meet promises over Afghan fund

Islamabad – Out of 11 million dollars pledged by Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) member states in 2002 for the Special Fund for Reconstruction of Afghanistan (SFRA), so far only four million dollars have been transferred to the fund, it is learnt reliably here.

According to official documents available with The Nation, in 12th Council of Foreign Ministers (COM) meeting, four ECO countries including Pakistan, Turkey, Iran and Azerbaijan had pledged US$11,150,000 for the establishment of SFRA. The move was later supported by the 7th summit (October 14, 2002, Istanbul). The 14th COM (September 12, 2004, Dushanbe) approved the modalities for establishment of the SFRA and instructed the secretariat to start project implementation.

The total pledges made by the member states, amounted to $11,150,000 including US$ 5 million each pledged by Pakistan and Turkey, $1 million by Iran and $ 150,000 by Azerbaijan. So far, an amount of US$3,535,517 has been transferred by the member states to the ECO SFRA including $1,999,835 by Pakistan, $985,761 by Iran, $399,946 by Turkey and $149,975 by Azerbaijan.

The issue of SFRA is also on the agenda of 28th ECO Regional Planning Council (ECORPC) meeting which started here on Monday.

The amount received under SFRA has mainly been disbursed for implementation of four reconstruction projects in Afghanistan. Two projects – Construction of Deh Mazang Public Park and Rehabilitation of Kabul Zoo and Construction of Block A of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development Training and Research Center in Kabul – have been completed.

Two projects including construction of a maternity hospital in Faryab province and construction of a school in Bamian province are underway. In 2014, the Afghan authorities reported progress of ongoing project on construction of a maternity hospital in Faryab province saying it was complete up to 90 percent but no further progress report was sent later by the secretariat regarding the project for construction of a school in Bamian province, the document revealed.

During the secretary general’s visit to Kabul on September 6, 2016, the issue of updated status was discussed with the Afghan authorities. It was informed that maternity hospital in Faryab province was complete and ready for inauguration.

The member states have been regularly requested by the ECO secretariat to pay their pledged money and contribution to the fund, as a gesture of solidarity with the people and the government of Afghanistan.

Following the signing of MoU between the Turkish International Cooperation Agency (TICA) and the ECO secretariat on 5th August, 2010 regarding contribution of TICA to the ECO Special Fund for Reconstruction of Afghanistan, the Afghan authorities forwarded their project proposals to the ECO secretariat (May 2011) to be funded by TICA. In addition, a list of projects in the areas of education, rural development, agriculture and Kabul municipality forwarded by the government of Afghanistan to the secretariat in June 2011 and, based on that, the secretariat officially requested the member states making their remaining payments and contributions to the SFRA.

In 2014, new list of projects were proposed by Afghanistan to be funded by ECO fund. The 25th RPC in 2015 also took note of the financial and executive issues of the completed and ongoing projects and requested the member states that have not transferred their pledges to the ECO SFRA as yet, to do so, enabling the secretariat to complete the ongoing projects and to initiate new projects, as submitted and followed up by relevant authorities of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the document revealed.

The RPC in December 2016 acknowledged the need for revisiting the terms of reference of the ECO SFRA with a view to contributing more effectively to the development-related activities in Afghanistan.

Accordingly, the council requested the secretariat to convene a special meeting on Afghanistan with the participation of Afghan authorities, fund’s donors and other interested ECO member states to review the fund’s performance and to develop a new ECO advocacy approach/ policy for Afghanistan including new possible missions. Potential partners from outside the region may also be involved in this exercise.


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