World raises nearly $10bn for quake-hit Haiti

International donors pledged nearly $10-billion on Wednesday to help shell-shocked Haiti recover from January’s devastating earthquake.

The $9,9-billion pledge from about 50 donors includes $5,3-billion for the 2010/11 period, far in excess of the $3,8-billion that was sought by conference organisers for that period.

That target was meant to fund a $4-billion action plan put forward by the Haitian government to fund reconstruction projects over the next two years in the poorest country in the Americas.

“The member states and international partners have pledged $5,3-billion for the next two years and $9,9-billion in total for the next three years and beyond,” UN chief Ban Ki-moon told a press conference wrapping up the meeting.

“Friends of Haiti have acted far beyond expectations.”

The aim of the meeting was to help the battered Caribbean country “build back better” after the 7,0-magnitude quake on January 12 levelled parts of its capital, Port-au-Prince, killing at least 220 000 people and leaving 1,3-million homeless.

Wednesday’s biggest contributions came from the United States and the 27-member European Union.

Several dignitaries emphasised the need to follow through on the pledges, which Ban said “will be published and tracked by a web-based system” established by the UN and Haiti.

“Reconstruction will be Haitian-led, inclusive, accountable, transparent, coordinated and results oriented,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the press conference.

The US chief diplomat, co-hosting the conference with Ban, offered $1,15-billion, saying the funds would go toward supporting Haiti’s plan “to strengthen agriculture, energy, health, and security and governance”.

Doing things differently
The EU, meanwhile, pledged an additional $1,6-billion, with France offering to disburse €180-million in 2010/11 for food and the restoration of government authority.

Some 138 countries, international bodies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, non-governmental organisations and Haitian expatriates took part in the one-day conference.

Officials have estimated Haiti needs $11,5-billion in aid for reconstruction over the next 10 years.

Stressing the need not to repeat past errors in helping impoverished Haiti, Clinton appealed to the world to “do things differently” this time.

“We cannot retreat to failed strategies,” she added. “We need Haiti to succeed.”

Her husband, US special envoy to Haiti and former US president Bill Clinton, meanwhile said that he and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive would lead an Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) tasked with overseeing the pledges.

The IHRC, which will have an 18-month mandate, is meant to give the Haitian government “influence over how and where aid is spent and will ensure that the reconstruction is well coordinated” and addresses the needs of all Haitians.

UN Development Programme administrator Helen Clark joined calls to put “the government and people of Haiti … in the driver’s seat of the recovery” and stressed the need to involve civil society, the private sector and the Haitian diaspora.

Unique occasion
The World Bank, meanwhile, said it would provide $479-million in aid through June 2011, of which $250-million was new funding.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick called for another meeting in six months’ time, coinciding with the annual General Assembly session in September to assess the progress.

“This is an opportunity to go from tragedy to trying to do something very differently, and the key to this is to be able to combine capable Haitian ownership with an effective donor partnership,” he noted.

He said this would require “budget support to help the Haitian government”.

“To make this easier for the various donor countries, the bank will be serving as the fiscal agent for the multidonor trust fund, which we’ve helped set up with the other international agencies so as to try to assure stronger fiduciary controls,’ he added.

International Monetary Fund managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn described the conference as “a unique occasion to try to rebuild the Haitian economy” and said the proposed trust fund was “the right way to move forward”.

Among other key donations, Canada, a major provider of aid to Port-au-Prince, said it would also chip in with $390-million while Brazil pledged $172-million, including $15-million in direct budget support for the Haitian government.

Japan offered $30-million in addition to $70-million already announced. — AFP

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Gerard Aziakou
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