Globe-trotting Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende spent much of his weekend in Afghanistan and pledged an extra NOK 50 million (USD 7.5 million) in financial aid to the new government of President Ashraf Ghani. Brende said Norway wants to help Ghani make the reforms that his predecessor failed to secure.
Norway had cut its aid to Afghanistan by NOK 50 million when the former government of Hamid Karzai failed to make progress on women’s rights and anti-corruption measures.
Now the country will once again get a total of NOK 750 million in annual aid for 2015, up from NOK 700 million, on the theory that Ghani’s new government shouldn’t have to answer for what happened during his predecessor’s rule.
“The Karzai government didn’t do enough to prevent corruption by making reforms in public management,” Brende told newspaper Aftenposten on Saturday. “That led to Norway cutting its aid for 2014 by NOK 50 million.” Brende said Norway also wants to see much more reform that will lead to progress in the status of women and the legal system.
He said Afghanistan’s new president has experience from the World Bank “and the best starting point to push through new reforms.” Norway wants to support that, knowing full well, however, that Afghanistan “is an extremely difficult land” to assist. Norway has recently funneled its foreign aid to Afghanistan through a selection of “recognized partners” that “have good routines for control” in making sure the money gets to where it’s supposed to go.
Brende met with President Ghani and other top officials and said he received assurances that the new Afghan government wants reform in such important areas as women’s rights, anti-corruption efforts and the legal system. Brende also met Ghani’s wife, Rula Ghani, who will take part in a high-level symposium on the status of women in Afghanistan. The symposium will take place in Oslo on November 23.
Rula Ghani has taken on a highly visible public role, as opposed to Karzai’s wife who was hardly ever seen during his 13-year rule. New NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the former Norwegian prime minister who also visited Afghanistan last week, told Aftenposten that she is “the first first-lady in Afghan history. She has a very high profile and a strong message about women’s position in society.”
Brende also took part in the launch of an Afghan-American partnership to promote women’s rights in Afghanistan, where many girls still can’t go to school and were many women still die in childbirth, face daily threats of violence and death, and widespread discrimination.