UN to host Haiti donors meeting in March

International donors will meet in March at the United Nations headquarters in New York to continue discussions on rebuilding the battered nation of Haiti, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says.
People walk through rubble in the market area in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 18. ((Gerald Herbert/Associated Press))

International donors will meet in March at the United Nations headquarters in New York to continue discussions on rebuilding the battered nation of Haiti.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon made the announcement Monday at the conclusion of a daylong international meeting in Montreal to assist Haiti's reconstruction after a massive earthquake on Jan. 12.

Cannon said the meeting produced the beginnings of a "roadmap towards Haiti's long-term reconstruction, and a clear and sustained commitment to follow through."

Cannon said he was confident the Montreal conference had come up with "one plan that ties us all together."

The conference brought together foreign ministers from more than a dozen countries, notably U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, along with eight international bodies including banks and six major non-governmental organizations.

Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the international community should be prepared to make a sustained, long-term commitment to the rebuilding of Haiti.

"Ten years of hard work, at least, awaits the world in Haiti," Harper told reporters.

"The task ahead of us is great, but our determination to give hope back to our Haitian friends … is even greater.

Canada as a world leader is taking its role very seriously."

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told the Montreal meeting that Haiti has set up six committees to deal with the crisis caused by the earthquake. ((Canadian Press))
He added that the harmonization of international efforts in Haiti would be essential to success.

"In order to do the greatest amount of good, we must work together," Harper said.

Immediate need remains: Bellerive

A long-term commitment is vital to the future of Haiti, said Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, but there is a continuing and immediate need for emergency aid.

"We need it now, just as we needed it yesterday," Bellerive told reporters. "The emergency which has been declared over will continue for some time."

Haiti needs 200,000 tents to house people who were displaced by the earthquake, Bellerive said. More than 400,000 families are also in need of health care, he said. 

Bellerive predicted it will take four to five years to get Haiti back to where it was before the earthquake.

Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff, who was to meet with Bellerive on Monday evening, told CBC's Power & Politics that he agreed with Harper's statement that the international community will need to make a long, sustained commitment in Haiti.

"This is a long-term commitment and the worst thing we could do is come in there, pump a tonne of aid in there and head for the exits," he said. "We need to sustain and sustain and sustain in a partnership over a long period of time."

Harper said he hoped the one-day conference would "set the stage for broad international action on reconstruction that will mobilize the will and resources of all of Haiti's partners."

Haiti to take lead role

Many attendees, including Bellerive, agree that Haitians must take a lead role in rebuilding the country.

He told delegates his government has set up six committees to deal with the crisis, including sanitation and energy problems.

He told CBC News that it's important "to recognize there is a legitimate government working with the support of the Haitian population."

"We are fully conscious that the prime responsibility of our future lies in the hands of the Haitian government and the Haitian people," he said.

"The problem is there is a confusion about the fact that we don't have any buildings, we don't have public servants at our disposal. The government is functioning."

Some banks and gas stations have reopened and the government is working with the private sector to clear the streets of rubble and debris, he said.

"We are rebuilding it slowly, but we are rebuilding it," he said.

Technology key to recovery

Cannon said technology will be an important element in bringing the Caribbean country back from the earthquake that has left much of it in ruins.

As a result, wind power, which could reduce the country's dependence on fossil fuels, could play a key role, Cannon said.

Haiti and those helping with its reconstruction need to seize the opportunity to make the impoverished country better than it was, he said.

Some 200,000 people are believed to have been killed in the quake, including at least 21 Canadians. Another 171 Canadians are missing.

With files from The Canadian Press