By Esther Brimmer, Huffington Post
As a participant at the recent International Donors’ Conference for Haiti, I was heartened to see the overwhelming show of support for the people of Haiti as they work to rebuild their nation.
Over 150 nations and institutions were present at the Donors’ Conference, and all listened intently as Haitian officials, including President René Préval, laid out an Action Plan for National Recovery and Development of Haiti.
We were reminded that in only 35 seconds, on January 12, one of the worst natural disasters in modern times occurred in Haiti killing over three hundred thousand, wounding hundreds of thousands of Haitians, leaving more than a million homeless and Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince in ruins.
The strong outpouring of international support for Haiti over the past two months has been extraordinary, and represents a global response to a global crisis. Since January, over 140 nations, including the United States have provided immediate assistance and relief to millions of Haitians. In cooperation with the Haitian government, the UN and international community have moved quickly to help provide temporary shelter, food, sanitation and medical assistance.
We have seen again how important the United Nations and global institutions are to addressing serious crises around the world, whether they are natural or man-made. While not perfect, the response of the United Nations, including by the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, which lost 100 peacekeepers to the earthquake, has been inspiring, and it is a glimpse into the true potential of the international community to respond to global disasters and conflicts.
At the Donors’ Conference, we witnessed the same spirit of cooperation, resolve and support for Haiti. Over 60 countries and institutions pledged to assist Haiti during its long-term recovery process. The conference, yielded close to $10 billion for Haiti’s reconstruction. Of this amount, more than $5 billion was pledged for 2010 and 2011 – exceeding the target of $3.9 billion
The United States expressing support for Haiti’s long-term recovery pledged $1.15 billion over the next two years. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated, “This money will go toward supporting the Government of Haiti’s plan to strengthen agriculture, energy, health, security, and governance.”
Remarkably in a show of solidarity with Haiti, several of the world’s poorest countries, also stepped forward and announced their nation’s pledges. As President Preval stated at the Donors’ Conference, “Small and large countries contributed, demonstrating that Haiti is not on its own.”
Clearly Haiti is not on its own. The pledges of assistance at the conference, including from the U.S., and conference Co-Chairs Brazil, France, Canada, Spain and the European Union, will support the Haitian Government’s Action Plan and its focus on building Haiti back better.
We know from previous natural disasters that Haiti’s – short and long-term recovery will not be easy – its infrastructure and economy are destroyed. Even with the goodwill of the international community, generous pledges of assistance and support for Haiti, the challenges facing the Haitian Government and people are substantial, the road ahead difficult, and we must guard against complacency, failures to coordinate and consult and a lack of transparency.
At the Donors’ Conference, Secretary Clinton spoke about reconstruction and these challenges and avoiding failed strategies in Haiti. She presented two dramatically different paths Haiti can take in the coming months and years, one of progress, revitalization and prosperity or a path where Haiti slides backwards, reconstruction is haphazard, disorganized and decades old problems resurface.
To that end, as Haiti’s leaders assume responsibility for their nation’s reconstruction, the UN and international cooperation with the government of Haiti must be closely coordinated, their action plan sustainable, accountable and inclusive of all Haitians. We must also continue to focus on the immediate humanitarian assistance in Haiti – that will help provide a stable environment for Haitians and allow for long-term rebuilding efforts.
Avoiding failed strategies means working shoulder to shoulder with the Haitian people and government, to build back Haiti better and incorporate disaster risk reduction and mitigation and environmental protection as new homes, churches, schools and factories are built to withstand hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural hazards. This is particularly important as thousands of Haitian children go back to school this week.
Building back a better Haiti also means; ensuring human rights, greater economic, political and social opportunities for all Haitians, addressing security needs and preventing sexual violence, and creating the conditions conducive for civil society and the economy to thrive.
Despite difficult challenges and recognizing the long road to recovery we join with the Haitian government, the UN and international community in looking forward with hope to a new future for Haiti. There is a window of opportunity for Haitians to take hold of their destiny, rebuild their country and transform their nation. The United States, the UN and the international community, as articulated in the final statement of the conference co-hosts and co-chairs, “are invested in Haiti’s long-term success,” and will be with the Haitian government and people every step of the way.
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