U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon envisions a "Wholesale National Renewal" for the Haitian people

Secretary Clinton, U.N. Secretary-General Ban (center) and Haitian President Préval preside over the "New Future for Haiti" conference. Donor nations pledged $9.9 billion for rebuilding.

Secretary Clinton, U.N. Secretary-General Ban (center) and Haitian President Préval preside over the "New Future for Haiti" conference. Donor nations pledged $9.9 billion for rebuilding.

31 March 2010

Donors Envision National Renewal for Haiti

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Staff Writer (Department of State)

Washington — Haitian President René Préval provided an international donors’ conference with a $3.9 billion post-earthquake reconstruction plan to begin the initial work of rebuilding the small Caribbean nation — the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. And international donors responded with $9.9 billion in pledges, which includes more than $5.3 billion for the first two years of reconstruction.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the pledges at the conclusion of the daylong donors’ conference at U.N. headquarters in New York March 31. Earlier in the day, Ban told donors that he envisions a “wholesale national renewal” for the Haitian people. He said reconstruction must move in tandem with emergency relief and urged donors to provide further support to the revised humanitarian appeal for Haiti.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised the United Nations for its indispensable coordination in the aftermath of the January 12 earthquake that struck Haiti.

According to the Haitian action plan Préval presented to the donors, “rebuilding Haiti does not mean returning to the situation that prevailed before the earthquake. It means addressing all these areas of vulnerability, so that the vagaries of nature or natural disasters never again inflict such suffering or cause so much damage and loss.”

The plan is directed at spending the initial outlay of nearly $4 billion of the $11.5 billion being sought by the United Nations for specific projects through the newly created Interim Haiti Recovery Commission during the next 18 months.

“What we envision, today, is wholesale national renewal. A sweeping exercise in nation-building on a scale and scope not seen in generations,” Ban told delegates from nearly 130 nations gathered in New York.

The total value of damage and losses sustained has been set at approximately $7 billion, according to the U.N. Development Programme. But economists at the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) conducted a preliminary study of the damages (PDF, 240KB) and estimated that it would take approximately $8 billion to $14 billion over a decade to rebuild the island nation.

Secretary Clinton told the donors’ conference the United States was committed to $1.15 billion for helping in the rebuilding of Haiti. Haiti was struck by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake on January 12 that killed an estimated 230,000 people and displaced nearly 3 million in the nation of about 9 million Haitians.

The earthquake destroyed more than 105,000 homes, 50 hospitals and health centers, 1,300 school and university buildings and the National Palace, parliament and most government buildings in the capital city Port-au-Prince. Port-au-Prince is the center of the nation’s government, commerce and economy.

The European Union pledged $1.6 billion and Brazil pledged $172 million. Spain pledged $346 million for the donor fund for reconstruction, and $121.5 million will be given this year, followed by increments of $75 million in 2011 and an additional $74.5 million in 2013 with more to follow, said María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, the first vice president of Spain. “This is aid that will go as a matter of priority to the government of Haiti according to its priorities — water and sanitation, education, basic living standards, environmental sustainability, food security, agriculture and primary production,” Fernández said.

Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno said the bank would make $200 million a year in grants to Haiti for the next 10 years at no cost to the Haitian government, and the bank will provide debt relief to Haiti “in an amount close to $500 million.”

World Bank President Robert Zoellick said there needs to be a division of labor among international agencies to avoid duplication of effort. He also called for another meeting in six months, coinciding with the annual high-level debate of the U.N. General Assembly in September to assess progress.

“This can be our accountability report to the people of Haiti,” Zoellick said.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, told delegates that Haiti likely will see annual growth of 8 percent over the next five years during the initial reconstruction phase, but only if “we really have Haitian authorities in the driver’s seat.”

CONFERENCE SPONSORS

The ministerial-level conference was jointly sponsored by the United States and the United Nations in cooperation with the Haitian government, and also with the support of Brazil, Canada, the European Union, France and Spain. It is being called the “International Donors’ Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti.”

The Dominican Republic, which is Haiti’s nearest neighbor, hosted an international conference of high-level technical donors March 16–17 to evaluate the economic consequences of the earthquake. And on March 22, the IADB agreed to forgive $479 million of the country’s $1.2 billion in foreign debt.

Former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, at the request of President Obama, are spearheading international efforts to raise funds for Haitian relief. They met with President Préval on the grounds of the damaged National Palace in Port-au-Prince March 22 to help focus attention on the need for long-term reconstruction funding for Haiti. The nonprofit Clinton Bush Haiti Fund has raised approximately $37 million for Haitian relief. Obama has personally donated $200,000 to the Haiti Fund from his Nobel Peace Prize award.

The IADB said it would provide approximately $2 billion in new financing to Haiti over the next decade.

The Group of Seven nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — also announced in early February that it would cancel Haiti’s bilateral debt.

The World Bank’s board approved a $65 million project to support the recovery of Haiti’s critical infrastructure as well as the re-establishment of basic state functions. It is part of a $100 million emergency grant announced by the World Bank right after the earthquake.

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