Wednesday, March 31, 2010

US Pledges $1.15 Billion As Haiti Donors Conference Opens

International donors have gathered at U.N. headquarters in New York, in an effort to raise $3.8 billion for rebuilding Haiti following January's earthquake.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began the conference by announcing the United States will pledge more than $1 billion for Haiti's reconstruction.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he envisions "wholesale national renewal" for Haiti. He said the rebuilding process would be an exercise in nation-building on a scope and scale not seen in generations.

To provide oversight for the donations, Haiti has established a 23-member body known as the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission to be chaired by Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The commission will coordinate incoming donations, determine how they will be spent, and try to ensure they are not wasted.

Mr. Ban is hosting the conference with Haitian President René Preval and U.S. Secretary of State Clinton.

In her opening remarks, Clinton stressed the importance of working with the Haitian government and coordinating aid to the country. She said in the past, the global community had worked around the government instead of working with it as a partner.

The roughly $3.8 billion Haiti hopes to raise Wednesday is expected to cover reconstruction costs for the next 18 months, in the first installment in a 10-year $11.5 billion reconstruction plan.

Officials say the plan will focus on rebuilding schools, hospitals and other key infrastructure projects outside the capital, Port-au-Prince, in an effort to decentralize the nation's economy.

Representatives from more than 100 countries are at the donors conference.

The January 12 earthquake leveled much of Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas. It left more than 217,000 people dead and 1 million others homeless. The U.N. says more than 500,000 people have left the capital to seek shelter elsewhere in the nation.

Source: VOA

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