UN in drive to rebuild quake-ravaged Haiti
  • | AFP | March 29, 2010 08:43 AM

HAITI, Port-au-Prince : People participate in a voodoo ceremony on March 27, 2010 in Port-au-Prince in memory of the victims of the January 12 earthquake which devasted the Haitian capital, killing at least 220,000 people and leaving over one million others homeless. AFP PHOTO/Thony BELIZAIRE

Donor countries are facing a daunting challenge this week as they gather for a conference that hopes to deliver more than three billion dollars to rebuild Haiti, where much of the earthquake-shattered capital lies in ruins.

More than 100 countries will take part Wednesday at the "International Donors Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti." It was to be led by Haitian President Rene Preval, with UN chief Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton serving as co-hosts.

Organizers see Wednesday's parley as crucial to helping the devastated Caribbean country -- already the poorest in the Americas before the quake -- "build back better" after the January 12 temblor leveled parts of its capital Port-au-Prince, killing at least 220,000 people and leaving 1.3 million homeless.

"This conference is about securing resources for Haiti's long-term reconstruction," said Helen Clark, the administrator for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which is playing a lead role in efforts to put Haiti back on its feet.

"These resources could form the lifeblood of Haiti's recovery from this devastating earthquake and create the foundation for the long-term recovery and development Haitians deserve," she stressed.

Jordan Ryan, head of UNDP's crisis prevention and recovery, told AFP that "we think it will be well attended. Over 100 countries, maybe more, will be represented."

He said UN member states were expected to pledge new resources to fund reconstruction for the next 18 to 24 months.

Ryan pointed out that the Haitian government has put forward a roadmap for reconstruction identifying a range of recovery needs, with an estimated price tag of 3.9 billion dollars.

"There is every hope that this conference will raise resources in excess of three billion dollars," he added.

The amount would represent a first installment on the estimated 11.5 billion dollars in aid needed for reconstruction over 10 years following an unprecedented disaster that caused nearly eight billion dollars of damage, equivalent to 120 percent of Haiti's GDP.

Almost 11 weeks after the 7.0-magnitude quake, progress is painfully slow and the Haitian government and international aid groups are racing against time to relocate more than 200,000 people in high-risk camps.

The pledging conference, which had been decided at a donors' meeting held in Montreal on January 25, will kick off with addresses by Preval, Ban and Hillary Clinton.

Other key participants will include UN special envoy for Haiti Bill Clinton, the former US president, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Khan, and Edmond Mulet, the interim head of the UN stabilization mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

Brazil, Canada, the European Union, France and Spain, all leading donors to Haiti, will also serve as co-chairs.

The New York Times said in an editorial Sunday that the aid conference augurs the "beginning of the long, slow birth of a new Haiti."

But while an outpouring of international cash is important, "it is not all Haiti needs," the Times warned.

"For this to succeed, the commitments made this week will need to be sustained for many years, and the rebuilding will need to clear away more than just rubble.

"It will need to sweep out the old, bad ways of doing things -- not only those of the infamously corrupt and hapless government, but also of aid and development agencies, whose nurturing of Haiti has been a manifest failure for more than half a century," the daily wrote Sunday.

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