“What we envision today is wholesale national renewal,” United Nations SEcretary General Ban Ki-moon said, opening a one-day conference of some 120 countries, international organizations and aid agencies. (Reuters)
Ban called for quick donations in response to a U.N. request for $1.4 billion in immediate humanitarian assistance for Haiti, which even before the January 12 earthquake was the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
Ban described the plan as “concrete, specific and ambitious” and said he hoped it would build a “better future” for Haiti. (BBC) “Our goal is not just to rebuild, it is to build back better,” Ban added. (CBC)
So far, the request has only been half funded, fueling fears that the rainy season will compound the disaster for some 1.2 million Haitians left homeless by the disaster.
U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, co-host of Wednesday’s meeting, said the United States would pledge $1.15 billion for long-term recovery, which she said must be planned and executed by Haiti’s government. “We also have to pledge our best efforts to do better ourselves, to offer support in a smarter way, a more effective way that produces real results for the people of Haiti,” Clinton said. (Reuters)
“It will be tempting to fall back on old habits, to work around the government, rather than work with them [in] making the deeper, long-term investments that Haiti needs,” Clinton added. “But we cannot retreat to failed strategies… we have to follow through.” (CBC)
Clinton was joined on the dais by her husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the U.N. special envoy for Haiti who will coordinate relief efforts for the country. Mr. Clinton sat down with non-government organizations a few days ago. Clinton asked them to help create such a radically new Haiti that the country would no longer need the thousands of NGOs that operate there. “In short, are we serious about working ourselves out of a job?” he said. (CBC)
The Haitian president also welcomed Gov. Gen. Michëlle Jean, who was born in Haiti, and attended the conference as an observer.
The U.N. meeting seeks to raise funds for a Haitian government recovery plan that includes decentralizing the economy to create jobs and wealth outside Port-au-Prince, the capital of some 4 million people.
Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said his government, which saw all but one of its ministries destroyed, had a vision for Haiti’s future but needed help. “The resources must be available. That’s why we ask in our plan for budgetary support of $350 million for the next six months so we can face up to our responsibilities,” he said. (Reuters)
Haitian President Rene Preval thanked the countries that have already contributed to relief efforts since the quake, and paid tribut to the actions of Haitians, both at home and abroad.
Mr. Preval said he wanted to make education the focus of a new Haiti. “I call on Haitians, both at home and abroad, to add their resources to those of our friends from the international community in order to transform Haiti to a place of knowledge,” he said. (BBC)
“Let us dream of a new Haiti whose fate lives in a new project,” he added. (CBC)
Earlier, UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said it was crucial to get the first step in reconstruction right. “There should be a clear plan of action and a clear vision of how Haiti is going to be reconstructed which is endorsed by the international community,” he said. “The pledging of those funds for the immediate future is very important as a sign of the willingness of the international community to actually do that.” (BBC)
Already in Haiti, unemployment and illiteracy were high among its nine million population, with about 80% living on less than $2 a day.
In the crowded, squalid quake survivors’ camps of Port-au-Prince, thousands clamoured on Wednesday for basic necessities. Overnight rains have soaked fragile shelters and turned dusty alleyways to mud.
“We need water, food, toilets, healthcare, light and tents – shelter,” said Silverin Nono, elected leader of a camp that has mushroomed into being on a barren, refuse-strewn hillside called Bas-Canaan north of the city. (Reuters)
Ban said the new Haitian Recovery Commission would aim to channel $3.9 billion into programs in the next 18 months, launching a border project to improve basic health, sanitation, education and housing services.
Edmond Mulet, the acting head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, said the international community was “co-responsible” for the weakness of Haitian institutions. “We’ve always worked not with the government or through the government, because it has been too corrupt, too weak,” he said. “But if we don’t address the situation we will have a peacekeeping mission in Haiti for the next 200 years.” (BBC)
The World Bank group, which will manage reconstruction funds, said it would make $79 million available through June 2011, including the total cancellation of Haiti’s remaining World Bank debt. World Bank President Robert Zoellick said it was crucial that donors coordinate efforts to avoid producing “islands of development in a sea of deprivation.” (Reuters)
“The budget support is fundamental,” Zoellick added, noting that many donors had resisted this kind of assistance in the past out of concerns over corruption and the government’s ability to carry out projects. (New York Times)
Major international donors and the Haitian government itself have said that the rebuilding presented an opportunity to try to break the traditional cycle in which donors finance projects through non-governmental organizations, bypassing the government.
Too many donors decide what Haiti needs and then find someone to make it happen, Haitian officials said. “In the end, the government has nothing to do with it,” said Gabriel Verret, a senior economic adviser to Mr. Preval. “That is the frustration.” (New York Times)
The European Union and a coalition of U.S.-based humanitarian groups have indicated they would pledge more than $2.7 billion, while governments around the world also started announcing pledges.
“We want to work with the government of Haiti. This is their plan; they have to own it, we have to help,” said Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief.
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said that if the world community fulfills its pledges, Haiti’s economy could grow at an average of 8 percent in coming years – almost 50 percent faster than under previous IMF forecasts. “That’s possible, but condition one is to have the Haitian authorities really in the driver’s seat,” he told reporters. (Reuters)
Canada is pledging an additional $400 million in aid and debt relief for Haiti over the next two years, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said Wednesday. Oda said Canada’s new pledge includes $110 million that represents half of the money the government promised in matching funds for the $220 million that Canadians donated privately. “The other half of the matching funds will be used to support the continuing work of humanitarian development [non-governmental organizations] and institutions in their efforts,” Oda told reporters. (CBC)
Canada had previously pledged $85 million in Haitian relief aid. Haiti is already the second-largest recipient of direct Canadian aid, after Afghanistan, with $555 million earmarked for the country between 2006 and 2011.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, co-chairman of the donors conference, said change in Haiti will require long-term commitment and collaboration among donor countries. “In the face of tragedy, we are presented with opportunity,” Cannon told the conference in New York. “Canada is prepared to accompany Haiti for as long as it needs us,” he said. (CBC)
With the latest effort to raise reconstruction funds from the international community, Haiti’s government will not have direct control over much of anything. Instead, a new international commission will be created to help oversee the billions of dollars in assistance. The commission will include representatives from donor countries, the Haitian government, the Organization of American States, the 15-country Caribbean bloc known as CARICOM, plus non-governmental organizations and international institutions. Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive will co-chair the commission.
“We will monitor very closely how this money will be spent,” Ban told reporters. “We expect the Haitian government should show strong sense of accountability.” (CBC)