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UN summit seeks to raise $3.8 billion for quake-devastated Haiti

Text by Sarah LEDUC

Latest update : 2010-03-31

International donors are gathering at a UN conference in New York on Wednesday to seek funding for an ambitious reconstruction programme for Haiti. The UN’s most urgent priority: to provide shelter to quake survivors ahead of the hurricane season.

More than 100 countries and international organisations are meeting at the UN’s headquarters in New York Wednesday for a donors’ conference on reconstruction in Haiti, where a massive earthquake killed 220,000 people on Jan. 12.

The UN summit aims to raise at least 3.8 billion dollars for the next 18 months or so in order to finance the Caribbean island’s government recovery plan.

The conference is being chaired by Haitian President Rene Preval, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton serving as co-hosts.

'Shelter, shelter and shelter'

The UN’s key priority is to provide shelter before the hurricane season for the more than 1.3 million Haitians left homeless by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake.

“We have three priorities: shelter, shelter and …shelter. And we need money to build more solid structures and roofs for the Haitians,” said Edmond Mulet, the acting UN envoy for Haiti, in an interview with FRANCE 24 ahead of the conference.

"Haiti knows the world is watching"
The UN summit will also pledge money for food, education and the coordination of refugee camps. French NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) is calling for the development of an efficient healthcare system, while the Catholic Committee Against Hunger and for Development is arguing for a 'Marshall' plan-style reconstruction package for Haiti.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton kicked off the meeting by pledging 1.15 billion dollars for long-term reconstruction. Clinton's office said the United States will make health, agriculture, energy and security its priorities in Haiti ahead of the event.

The donors’ conference target of raising 3.8 billion dollars represents the first instalment of the estimated 11 billion dollars required to fund a massive reconstruction effort over 10 years.

Even before January's quake, the former “Pearl of the Caribbean” had already been devastated by decades of civil strife, economic stagnation and political chaos. According to UN figures, Haiti’s gross domestic product plunged by 40 percent between 1985 and 2007, prompting some 30 percent of the country’s population to emigrate in search of a better life.

Building a better Haiti

The gathering’s organisers plan to build a better Haiti by insisting on transparency and institutional capacity-building. One of the summit’s other objectives is to help the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country tackle its systemic corruption.

“I’m convinced that the international community is going to launch a major effort in order to bring Haiti away from this vicious circle,” Mulet said.

“We’re demanding that Haiti be accountable for its people […] we’ve always been looking for an excuse not to work with the Haitian government because they’re corrupt, they’re inefficient, they’re weak," Mulet explained.

But right now, he said, "we need to work with and through the Haitian government".

The UN has confirmed that the Haitian government would be closely involved in the reconstruction process.

A reconstruction agency co-managed by the international community and the Haitian government will be set up to monitor financial flows and accounting transparency over 18 months, reported Mulet.

Date created : 2010-03-31


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