Leaders of Zimbabwe, Haiti Press for More Aid

    The heads of state of two countries facing a severe food crisis and humanitarian emergency took part in the closing ceremony of one among the most prominent European development platforms. Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his Haitian counterpart Michele Pierre-Louis called on rich countries to increase funding for international development. Even European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel criticized European governments at the end of the European Development Days in Strasbourg on Nov. 17 for their reluctance to up aid.

    The impact of the current global financial crisis on the economies of famine-stricken countries was among the main issues to be tackled by E.U. and government representatives during the 3-day gathering, which was attended, among others, by African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai.

    Several conference sessions addressed cooperation strategies based on local governance - a trend in international development as developed and poor countries are confronted with new, major challenges.

    According to Pierre-Louis, the international economic crisis might provide an opportunity to rethink aid policies to make them more effective and less rhetorical.

    "This crisis is somehow helpful as it let us go back to the issue and find solutions while unmasking the hypocrisies of international aid," she said at the event's closing ceremony.

    French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner also said that the financial crisis should be used as a chance to bring a major change to development policies.

    "The current crisis is not a mere incident. We now have a chance to give globalization a new meaning," he said.

    Kouchner, whose country is chairing the European Union, said that both the French government and Europe would continue to offer major support for international development. Europe was the first to offer public aid for development, he noted, while France was the first contributor to the European Development Fund.

    France's foreign minister also said that the E.U. and France would continue to support countries like Zimbabwe, whose regime has refused international aid, making the fight against poverty all the more difficult.

    Tsvangirai was recently appointed head of Zimbabwe's government even through President Robert Mugabe initially refused to share power following elections earlier this year. Tsvangirai, like Pierre-Louis, spoke about the daily challenges of his people, who continue to suffer from one of the highest inflation rates in the world as well as a loss of freedoms and democracy.

    "We are forced to appeal to the international community for them to come in help of the Zimbabwean people right now," Tsvangirai said, adding that, according to U.N. statistics, 45 percent of the country's population is currently malnourished.