Home | News    Tuesday 6 May 2008

Sudan seeks $6 bln at Oslo donors’ meeting

May 5, 2008 (OSLO) — Sudan will ask donor nations meeting this week for $6 billion over the next three years to help rebuild Africa’s largest nation after decades of civil wars, and host nation Norway said it would provide nearly $500 million.

The Sudan consortium, which began meeting on Monday, has met yearly since a 2005 north-south peace deal ended Africa’s longest civil war.

It is the stage for richer nations to show their support for maintaining peace in Sudan by pledging development funds.

But south Sudan’s semi-autonomous government says it has received less than donors pledged in the past, while funds earmarked for development have been diverted to aid for Darfur, where civil war erupted five years ago.

Southern Sudan Minister for Presidential Affairs Luka Biong Deng told Reuters that most donors had met their pledges up until 2007, but the problem was with disbursement of the money.

He blamed the inflexibility of donors and the World Bank-run system for distributing aid, and said the "low capacity" of Sudan’s central government was also a problem. He did not elaborate.

"There is now an improvement, there is an increased level of disbursement in the last six months," Deng said.

Norway would allocate 2.5 billion crowns ($487.3 million) over the next four years, Deputy Foreign Minister Raymond Johansen told Reuters on the sidelines of the May 5-7 meeting.

"I also hope this will encourage other states both to follow up on their previous obligations and come up with new pledges," he said after talks dealing with the Darfur crisis.

"PROVEN TRACK RECORD"

A report to the consortium, put together by the Khartoum government in conjunction with south Sudan’s administration, said Sudan needed $6.1 billion for development over the next three years — on top of $2 billion in humanitarian aid.

Deng said Sudan would face many new needs up to 2011, including preparations for elections in 2009, a referendum on the possible secession of the south in 2011 and as well as "making unity... an attractive option for the people of Sudan."

"I hope the donors live up to their commitments," he added.

In the report, south Sudan’s government said it had received only $550 million of the $4.1 billion, or about 13 percent of the sum pledged by donors following the peace accord in 2005.

South Sudan, one of the poorest areas on earth after being embroiled in civil wars on and off since 1955, has the world’s highest maternal mortality rate and lowest rate of primary school enrolment, according to U.N. figures.

South Sudan said the delay in donor funds had set back the provision of healthcare, roads and other infrastructure, and blamed the World Bank-led mechanism known as the Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) for being slow to disburse the funds.

World Bank officials defended the MDTF’s record.

"This is currently the best mechanism we have in Sudan in terms of speed, and it has a proven track record," said Hartwig Schafer, operations director in the office of the World Bank Vice President for Africa.

(Reuters)