Thursday, April 01, 2010

One last post on the UN-Haiti conference

One last post about the Haiti donors conference focuses on the expectations for the future. The conference hosted by the United Nations to drum up pledges of money to earthquake shattered Haiti well surpassed it's goals. However the international community has broken pledges many times in the past, so there is no reason to call the conference a success yet.

In all, 10 billion dollars was pledged to rebuild and reconstruct Haiti, the UN had a goal of 3.9 billion.

From the IPS, writer Armin Rosen asked some experts about what they hope to see done with all this pledged money.

The rebuilding process is still fraught with uncertainty, largely because of the possibility that the international community will not follow through on its commitments.

Marc Levin, a professor of sustainable development at Columbia University's Earth Institute who was in Haiti in the period immediately after the earthquake, told IPS that the rebuilding process will have to play out before the conference can be considered a success.

"A major part of story is going to be about the international community being ready to get really involved with the Haitian people and government and helping to pay for it," he said. "The donors' conference doesn't really give you any clues if that's going to happen. These are the baby steps of a process that could lead to a great recovery."

He cited the Marshall Plan, the U.S. government's programme for restructuring European economies and governments after World War II, as a model for the kind of comprehensive, far-reaching redevelopment that will be needed in Haiti.

He wondered if today's donors are actually serious about taking up that challenge. "The donor countries have a history of forgetting about [development goals in Haiti] rather rapidly," he said. "The pledges are nonbinding."

In a press release, Oxfam spokesperson Philippe Mathieu expressed similar concerns about the donor nations' commitment. "The last time the region was hit by a natural disaster of this scale, Hurricane Mitch of 1998, only less than a third of the nine billion dollars promised materialised," he wrote. "This cannot be allowed to happen this time."

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