by Gerard Aziakou
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — The global community on Wednesday pledged nearly 10 billion dollars for Haiti over more than three years to put the quake-ravaged nation back on its feet.
As part of the 9.9-billion-dollar total, UN member states and international organizations participating in a donors’ conference here pledged 5.3 billion dollars for the 2010-2011 period, far exceeding the 3.8 billion that was sought by conference organizers for that period.
That target was meant to fund a 4.0-billion-dollar 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 dollars for the next two years and 9.9 billion dollars in total for the next three years and beyond,” Ban 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 leveled 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 emphasized 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. “Aid has never saved a country. Our goal must be the empowerment of the Haitian people.”
The US chief diplomat, co-hosting the conference with Ban, offered 1.15 billion dollars, saying the funds would go toward supporting Haiti’s plan “to strengthen agriculture, energy, health, and security and governance.”
The EU meanwhile pledged an additional 1.6 billion dollars, with France offering to disburse 180 million euros (243 million dollars) in 2010-2011 for food and the restoration of government authority.
“This is only the beginning,” Catherine Ashton said in comments addressed to Haitian President Rene Preval. “But I think everyone here is committed to supporting you to the end of the process.”
Earlier she told the meeting that EU contribution was on top of 295 million euros already pledged, bringing total EU public and private contributions “close to three billion dollars.”
Some 138 countries, international bodies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, non-governmental organizations and Haitian expatriates took part in the one-day conference.
Officials have estimated Haiti needs 11.5 billion dollars in aid for reconstruction over the next 10 years.
The World Bank said it would provide 479 million dollars in aid through June 2011, of which 250 million was new funding.
Canada, a major provider of aid to Port-au-Prince, said it would also chip in with 400 million Canadian dollars (390 million US).
Brazil, the main contributor of troops to the UN stabilization mission in Haiti, pledged 172 million dollars, mainly for health projects, while Japan offered 30 million dollars in addition to 70 million already announced.
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 the 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.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick suggested a division of labor among international agencies to avoid “tripping over one another.”
He also called for another meeting in six months’ time, coinciding with the annual General Assembly session in September to assess the progress.
UN Development Program 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.
And Bellerive outlined his four-billion-dollar, two-year recovery and development plan, with focus on rebuilding destroyed government institutions and infrastructure, some 1,300 schools and 50 hospitals and health centers.
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