Donors Meet to Bankroll a New Future for Haiti

NEW YORK, New York, March 30, 2010 (ENS) – The Haitian people will help in their country’s recovery from January’s catastrophic earthquake through food-for-work projects to stimulate the agricultural sector under a new plan announced today by the United Nations World Food Programme. Starting in April, 70,000 people will receive food and cash for their work on recovery projects.

The new food-for-work plan was unveiled ahead of the International Donors Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti taking place Wednesday at UN Headquarters in New York to raise funding for recovery and reconstruction of the country over the next decade.

Locally grown foods for sale in a Port-au-Prince market. January 27, 2010. (Photo by Roger Burks courtesy Mercy Corps)

Working with donors and the Haitian government, the World Food Programme will buy food locally. Schoolchildren will be fed a daily, nutritious meal under the new plan, while pregnant and nursing women, malnourished children under the age of five, orphans and hospital patients will also receive food.

More than 200,000 people lost their lives in the magnitude 7.0 earthquake. Since the disaster, WFP has reached nearly 3.5 million people with rice, flour, beans, oil and other foods, thanks to contributions of $260 million from donors.

But more than $150 million is still required to launch cash and food-for-work projects, as well as provide logistical support in advance of the hurricane season, in its next phase of operations, the agency said.

More than 100 countries will take part in the International Donors Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti. The meeting will be led by Haitian President Rene Preval, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as co-hosts with UN Special Envoy for Haiti, former President Bill Clinton.

The conference will be co-chaired by Brazil, Canada, the European Union, France and Spain, as the leading donors to Haiti. Member states of the UN can register national pledges of assistance to Haiti. Private sector donors and others will have alternative opportunities to register their offers of assistance.

Port-au-Prince crumbled into ruins during the January 12 earthquake. (Photo by Alejandro Lopez Chicheri courtesy WFP)

The “smart” rebuilding of Haiti will require some $11.5 billion of spending over the next 10 years, Secretary-General Ban said Monday. “That is our challenge in New York – not to rebuild but to ‘build back better,’ to create a new Haiti.”

In Brussels, EU High Representative/Vice-President Catherine Ashton said today, “This earthquake has been a terrible tragedy, but it has galvanized a tremendous global response. The European Union’s Member States and the European Commission have come together and as a result, I can announce that the EU will contribute over 1.2 billion euros to Haiti’s reconstruction and development process.”

“But the EU recognizes that re-building Haiti also implies long-term commitment on the part of its development partners,” Ashton said. “Therefore, I and my fellow Commissioners will stress the need for a 10-year economic plan to be put in place to allow the Haitian people recover from this tragedy and emerge stronger to face a better future that they clearly deserve.”

Under an as yet unannounced plan, an Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission will channel nearly $4 billion into specific projects and programs during the next 18 months, with the remaining funds spread over the next decade.

Conference preparations have included a series of outreach consultations with Haitian civil society, the private sector, the Haitian Diaspora, Haitian state and local government, stakeholders to MINUSTAH the UN mission in Haiti, and nongovernmental organizations. The EU hosted a consultation in Brussels last week where some 50 NGOs from Haiti, Europe and the United States discussed with representatives of the Haitian government how best to combine NGO activities with the government’s overall national recovery and development strategy.

From left, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Haitian President Rene Preval, former U.S. President George W. Bush. (Photo courtesy Clinton Bush Haiti Fund)

On March 22, former U.S. Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, who head the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, visited Haiti to assess relief and recovery efforts, and work with organizations and people on the ground.

In a joint statement, they said, “In the midst of profound challenges, we saw the astounding resilience, courage, and hope of the Haitian people. We saw their fierce resolution to rebuild their communities, their neighborhoods, their cities – and their nation.”

The Fund has received more than 200,000 contributions that include medical equipment for critically injured patients at a 240-bed tent hospital; supplies for a Port-au-Prince clinic that has been transformed into a camp; food, water, emergency shelter kits, and delivery of relief supplies including water purification tablets, hygiene kits, mosquito nets, and temporary latrines.

“These efforts are only the beginning,” the presidents said. “The needs will continue to be urgent as the rainy season sets in, bringing new threats for those still homeless.”

As they plan for long-term reconstruction, Presidents Clinton and Bush said, “We are insisting on sound rebuilding and economic growth plans that will lead to a better life for the Haitian people.”

A UN human rights expert advised today that donors must not only focus on the country’s physical and institutional reconstruction, but also on ensuring the rights of Haitian citizens to prevent the conditions that made January’s quake so devastating.

“The loss of an estimated 220,000 lives in the 12 January earthquake cannot be solely attributed to an act of nature,” said Michel Forst, the UN’s Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti.

Forst pointed to the policies and poor governance that resulted in many Haitians living in poverty and in inadequate housing as having “clearly amplified the deadly impact of the earthquake, as well as of the hurricanes that periodically test Haiti’s preparedness and the strength of its infrastructure.”

“Those responsible for the country’s reconstruction, at the national and international levels, must guard against recreating the same factors that helped perpetuate rampant inequality and poverty, as well as widespread violence,” Forst said today.

As welcome as donor aid is, he said, plans and strategies must be driven by the needs and rights of “ordinary Haitians, rather than imposed according to some external model.”

Of vital importance, Forst said, is the future of Haiti’s legal system to ensure the human rights of the population.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.