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UN Envoy To Lay Out Plans For Afghan Aid Effort

UN special envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide
BRUSSELS (Reuters) -- The head of the UN mission in Afghanistan wants better aid delivery and more specialists to help the civilian reconstruction effort, a spokesman said today.

Kai Eide, the UN special representative for Afghanistan, was expected to set out his plans at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers today and December 4 and to say that the United Nations is the best organization to coordinate international aid.

"He'll be making the point that he retains the overall responsibility for coordination of all civilian efforts in Afghanistan," Dan McNorton, a spokesman for the UN mission in Afghanistan, said by telephone.

"Institution-building and economic development are the priorities on the civilian side and that's what we are absolutely committed to ensuring."

NATO foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels following U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement of an increase in troops in Afghanistan to help tackle a Taliban insurgency.

Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said on December 2 the civilian effort in Afghanistan could be strengthened by better coordination.

"We have a unified military command but we have an 'ununified' international effort that involves the United Nations, individual countries, hundreds and hundreds, maybe thousands, of NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] and other international institutions," Holbrooke told reporters.

"We believe that we need to coordinate that civilian effort better," he said.

Part of the challenge facing Eide is the scale and fractured nature of the aid committed to Afghanistan, with hundreds of independent NGOs trying to work alongside the U.N., NATO, the European Union, the United States, and bilateral aid missions.

"There is certainly a need to strengthen coordination," said McNorton. "The focus needs to be on getting these things right, it needs to work for the international community and has to engage with the Afghan government too."

Eide was expected to call for more specialists in economic development and governance, and for a new committee bringing together himself, the civilian representative of NATO, the European Union, big donors, and the Afghan government.

Eide has been the head of the UN Afghanistan mission since March 2008. His tenure was marred by a spat in October with a former deputy, U.S. diplomat Peter Galbraith, who accused him of playing down reports of widespread corruption in Afghanistan's presidential election in August.

Eide denied the allegation and Galbraith was sacked.