Aim of UN Donors Meeting: $3.8 Billion to Rebuild a Better Haiti

Article excerpt

The UN and the US are co-hosting a high-level donors' meeting on post-earthquake Haiti. The goal is to secure $3.8 billion in international pledges for a decade-long recovery program.

The global spotlight that focused on Haiti's monumental rescue and stabilization efforts in the weeks after the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake turns back to the Caribbean nation Wednesday.

This time, the international community seeks to finance and fashion a multibillion-dollar reconstruction program that doesn't just repair the weak and impoverished country but uses the opportunity to build a better Haiti.

The United States and the United Nations are co-hosting a high- level donors' conference that US officials say will draw more than 100 countries and international development organizations. The goal is to secure an initial $3.8 billion in international pledges for a decade-long recovery program the Haitian government estimates at $14 billion.

IN PICTURES: Rebuilding after an earthquake

The international community will express a common spirit of support for Haiti in opening remarks to be offered by leaders including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and his special envoy for Haiti Bill Clinton. Haitian President Rene Preval will outline his government's plan for national renewal.

What role for whom?

But several contentious issues will have to be addressed if Haiti's massive reconstruction effort is to be a success: Is the international community turning too quickly to visions of rebuilding what is virtually a failed state, when the immediate relief needs of millions of Haitian people are unmet? Is it wise to expect the Haitian government to take charge of the rebuilding effort, given that its weaknesses were only compounded by a natural disaster? And is the US taking too dominant a role in the rebuilding program?

"This is not a traditional donors' conference; this goes far beyond simply rebuilding the physical structures destroyed by an earthquake," says Francois Pierre-Louis, a political scientist and Haiti expert at Queens College in Flushing, N.Y. This one-day conference is about building the tangible (physical infrastructure) and the intangible (such as governance), he says, "and it may be too ambitious to do both at once."

Some international development experts and US officials cite the reconstruction of Aceh in Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami as an example of how rebuilding can be done successfully - and they say the international community can apply the lessons it learned in Aceh to Haiti. But others say the Haiti reconstruction will be more daunting, in part because an already-ineffectual nation was decimated by the disaster. …