Haiti Conference in New York: Highlights and Sidelights

    At the end of the Haiti donors’ conference on March 31, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters at the U.N. headquarters that organizers “can report very good news.” He was alluding to the USD9.9 billion pledged by delegates to the New York event to help rebuild the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere from the devastation caused by the Jan. 12 earthquake.

    The sum includes USD5.26 billion in short-term aid, nearly 40 percent more than the USD3.8 billion sought to fund projects over 18 months as cited in the interim recovery plan for Haiti.

    According to the U.N., 59 donors made new pledges. The biggest commitments came from the U.S., which co-organized the event, and the European Union. The former committed USD1.15 billion, and the latter pledged USD1.6 billion. Donors that also made substantial pledges include the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Canada, Spain, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, France, Brazil and Norway. The event Web site, www.haiticonference.org, provides statements, including pledges, by representatives of different donors.

    “Today it has been demonstrated that the international community will continue to support Haiti in the long-term and we will meet the needs,” said Haitian President René Préval in a statement.

    “Thank you. The international community did their part, and now the Haitian people will do their share,” he added. “The recovery process must continue, preparing the ground for long-term development and investments.”

    Preval said the money will be used to “build back better,” a mantra that emerged in the early days of the disaster and has grown louder days before the March 31 donor conference.

    The conference reaffirmed principles agreed in the Jan. 25 Montreal conference, including ownership, through involving Haitians in developing and implementing projects. But some were not convinced there will be a follow-through.

    “Despite universal lip service about the necessity of the Haitians themselves taking ownership of their own rebuilding, no one was really fooled. Mrs. Clinton, as U.S. secretary of state, was co-chair of the conference,” said Lee Hockstader of the Washington Post. “And not only was the United States financing more than a quarter of the initial, two-year international recovery project of USD3.9 billion, but Mr. Clinton himself – known hereabouts as the ‘United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti’ – will be calling the shots in the near term in conjunction with the Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive as to the strategy, coordination and direction of the billions of dollars in international aid soon to be flowing into the beleaguered country.”

    Hockstader called the event “The Bill and Hillary conference on Haiti.” An earlier New York Times piece quoted a senior European diplomat calling the gathering ”The Bill and Hillary Show.”

    Britain also garnered attention, mainly for not pledging fresh aid for Haiti. As such, The Times reports, it “was denied a speaking slot” at the New York gathering.

    On the sidelines, Cheryl Mills, chief of staff of Secretary of State Clinton, met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, according to State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley. Although the two touched on the issue of detained State Department contractor Alan Gross, Crowley maintained the talks centered on Haiti.

    “Cuba has volunteered, I think, in the significant assistance in the health sector, and they want to see – make sure that this assistance is implemented in a coordinated fashion,” Crowley said during a press briefing April 1 in Washington. “So it was a specific meeting about Cuba’s – the support that they wish to provide to Haiti.”

    About the author

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      Eliza Villarino

      Eliza Villarino is an associate editor for Devex and leads the company's news team in Manila. She played a critical role in conceptualizing the Development Newswire. Prior to joining Devex in 2004, she has already published articles and news briefs for Internet media organizations and for the Institute for Ethics and Economic Policy at Fordham University in New York. She earned her bachelor's in political science and master's in public affairs from the University of the Philippines. Eliza is a member of Mensa Philippines.