International donors led by the United States and Britain have pledged to increase assistance to Zimbabwe but said they will not distribute the additional aid through the government.
Meeting in Oslo, Norway, the Friends of Zimbabwe, known informally as the Fishmongers Group, noted positive developments in Harare in recent months including the launch of electoral, media and human rights commissions, passage into law of a Reserve Bank reform bill, and the licensing of independent daily newspapers.
But donors said several longstanding concerns remain, including the “continuing lack of respect for the rule of law, protection of fundamental freedoms, and the slow pace of progress in improving governance.”
In addition to U.S and British officials, the Oslo meeting included representatives of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden and host Norway, which chairs the group.
Donors discussed the Harare unity government, debt relief and public financing, and indigenization. Also present were International Monetary Fund, World Bank, European Commission and UN representatives.
The African Development Bank with support from the World Bank is administering the Multi-Donor Trust Fund set up to channel aid to the Southern African country as it struggles to recover and reconstruct following a decade of political crisis, chaotic land reform that devastated the agricultural sector, and violent 2008 elections.
“This fund will play a critical role in supporting the transition process by financing the revival of Zimbabwe’s infrastructure in line with the priorities identified by the inclusive government," a group statement said.
Another fund is being administered by the United Nations Development Program.
Campaigns Director Briggs Bomba of the Washington advocacy group Africa Action called the moves by the Friends of Zimbabwe positive, adding that it is now up to Harare to accelerate key reforms.
The Friends of Zimbabwe urged Harare to adopt IMF policy recommendations and move towards establishment of an IMF staff-monitored program as a step toward forgiveness or rescheduling of US$7.2 billion external debt.