UN Haiti Conference: More Than 100 Countries Pledge $15 Billion

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The UN's Haiti donor conference resulted in $15 billion in pledges over the short and long term. It is seen as a test of whether such massive rebuilding programs can work.

The unprecedented international solidarity with Haiti following the Jan. 12 earthquake - from as far away as the republic of Georgia and as near as the neighboring Dominican Republic - proved to be unflagging Wednesday: Pledges of more than $5 billion in short-term assistance were made at a donors' conference attended by more than 100 countries and international institutions.

Haitian authorities, who had asked for about $4 billion in aid for the next 18 months, described the outpouring as "testimony that Haiti is not alone."

For their part, world leaders are hailing the generous support for the small Caribbean nation long dismissed as a basket case as a vote of confidence in the potential of collective international action. "This signals a new level off global cooperation and ... commitment," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at closing press conference.

In addition to the $5 billion in short-term aid, 48 countries and institutions pledged nearly $10 billion for Haiti's long-term reconstruction needs over the next decade.

At the same time, leaders acknowledge that the effectiveness of the aid will be a test not just for Haiti but for the international community, as well. There is strong global skepticism about the effectiveness of the kind of massive rebuilding program that post- earthquake Haiti is undertaking.

"This is not only a conference about what we financially pledge to Haiti, we have to pledge to do better ourselves" at effective post-disaster rebuilding, Secretary Clinton said in opening the day- long conference.

'Build back better'

UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon set the tone by telling the conference that the goal is "not just to rebuild, but to build back better."

Among the long-term goals envisioned in an action plan unveiled by the government of Haitian President Rene Preval is a decentralized country based on smaller nodes of population in areas less prone to natural disaster than the capital of Port-au-Prince. The plan also targeted agricultural self-sufficiency and stricter building codes.

Most important, President Preval said, is development of an education system that does not leave more than one-quarter of Haitian children outside its doors, as the case even before the quake.

But many world leaders warned that the day-to-day living of millions of Haitians remains precarious. …