The European Union has announced 474 million euros ($ 535 million) in financial aid for Afghanistan as international donors gathered for a UN-backed conference focusing on development, peace, and security in the country.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani appealed for investment as the two-day conference opened on November 27 with top diplomats from dozens of countries in attendance.
The meeting aims to measure the progress of the Afghan government in using billions of dollars in foreign aid for education, health care, infrastructure, and fighting corruption since the last donors conference in 2016.
The European Commission said the new funding would go toward reforms in the public sector, health, justice, and migration and displacement issues, with 311 million euros aimed for supporting Afghanistan’s "reform agenda."
International donors are expected to pledge billions of dollars in support to aid-dependent Afghanistan during the conference.
Ghani promoted his government’s reforms that are meant to improve the business environment, ease trade, improve infrastructure, and unlock natural resources.
"It’s a different Afghanistan," Ghani said. "We are open for business. I hope you are open for partnerships."
Dozens of countries are attending the high-level talks on November 27-28, during which the Afghan delegation is expected to renew its commitment to reform and discuss aid contributions in its bid to achieve stability and security.
"This is one of the worst moments for the people of Afghanistan, but on many fronts important progress has been made in the last 24 months," Toby Lanzer, the deputy chief of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, told a press conference on November 27.
The UN, which is co-hosting the summit with the Afghan government, said in a statement that the conference will be "crucial in measuring results against the $ 15.2 billion committed by the international community for Afghanistan" at the last funding meeting in Brussels in 2016.
The Afghan delegation is expected to present its growth strategy, ranging from maintaining security and building infrastructure to fighting corruption and female empowerment.
The conference comes at a time when U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is actively seeking to launch a formal peace process with the Taliban.
The Afghan delegation is expected to call on the international community to "support an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process" amid efforts to end the 17-year conflict.