Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Britain Comes Up Short on Haiti Aid

By Colum Lynch, TurtleBay

The U.N. pledging conference on Haiti raised more than $5.3 billion to rebuild the quake-ravaged island nation over the next two years, well beyond the $3.9 billion sought by the Haitian government. Even some of the world’s poorest countries, including Georgia, Gambia, Sudan, and Montenegro made pledges ranging from more than $10,000 to a $1 million.

But not everyone dug into their treasury to help pay for the rebuilding of Haiti. Traditional donors, including Britain and Austria, pledged nothing for reconstruction, according to a donor list produced by the European Union, which provided a total of $1.6 billion to the effort.

Greece, still reeling from its own financial crisis, also gave nothing. Poorer European governments, Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, and Romania, followed the example of their wealthier peers. “Everybody has budget constraints that make it difficult to give as much as we would like to,” said one European diplomat whose country made no commitment today.

The Haiti conference, which was co-hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, saw huge pledges from regional powers like the United States, which promised $1.15 billion, Canada, which pledged $400 million, and Brazil, which committed $172 million.

“Today, the international community has come together dramatically in solidarity with Haiti and its people,” Ban said after the meeting. “Member states of the United Nations, 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.”

The pledges came from 50 countries, including Venezuela, and several African states, citing Haiti’s role as the world first black nation to achieve independence, contributed to its reconstruction. “Haiti, the first black republic in the world, played a most significant role in the fight to end slavery,” said Sue Van Der Merwe, the deputy minister for international relations for South Africa, which contributed a few hundred thousand dollars. “The people of South Africa and her leadership have drawn considerable inspiration from the people of Haiti during our own struggle against racial discrimination.”

The frugal policy of Britain and other governments proved embarrassing for the country’s diplomats, who were not allowed to speak at the pledging conference. Britain’s deputy ambassador, Philip Parnham, who was expected to address the conference on Britain’s behalf, had to post his government’s speech on a U.N. website set up to track pledges. Delegates from Algeria, Cuba, Sudan, Benin, Mali and scores of other poor countries were able to speak.

Britain’s development minister, Mike Foster, had to counter a report in the London Times that his government has snubbed the organizers of the Haiti Conference.. Here’s a copy of the letter Foster sent to the Times. It was given to Turtle Bay by the British government.

“Dear Sir,
The UK has been at the forefront of the aid effort in Haiti following the terrible earthquake in January and remains committed to supporting the reconstruction effort (Britain turns off aid and delivers a snub to donor conference, The Times, 31 March).

Despite having no historic development links with Haiti, we are the sixth largest country donor to the effort with £33 million going through the EC, World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank.

This does not include the £20 million in UKaid pledged for the emergency relief phase, nor our £29 million given this year to the UN mission in Haiti – without which reconstruction could not happen.

We believe it is vital that the reconstruction effort is led by the international organisations, which is why we are now channelling our money through these bodies.
Alongside the pledges by the British public, the life-saving work of UK search and rescue teams, the secondment of a key adviser to the Haitian Prime Minister to help coordination and our longer term project to rebuild the country’s prisons, the UK has shown itself to be a true friend to the Haitian people. We will not turn our back on them now.”

Other European diplomats said that it was not a sign of stinginess. An Austrian official said that the country spent 5.9 million euros on emergency relief in the initial weeks following the country’s quake. “We are not such a big country: We have to prioritize our long-term aid, and therefore we weren’t able to pledge something for Haiti.”

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