Canada pledges $400M more for Haiti

Canada is pledging an additional $400 million in aid and debt relief for Haiti over the next two years, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda says.
A woman walks along a rubble-strewn street in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday. The Jan. 12 earthquake killed 200,000 people and left more than one million homeless. ((Jorge Saenz/Associated Press))
Canada is pledging an additional $400 million in aid and debt relief for Haiti over the next two years, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said Wednesday.

Oda made the announcement at the United Nations in New York, where more than 100 countries gathered to hear Haiti's request for at least $3.8 billion in aid to rebuild from the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said donors went "far beyond expectations" and pledged $9.9 billion over more than three years. This includes pledges of $5.3 billion from governments and international partners within the first 24 months.

Oda said Canada's new pledge includes $110 million that represents half of the money the government promised in matching funds for the $220 million that Canadians donated privately.

"The other half of the matching funds will be used to support the continuing work of humanitarian development [non-governmental organizations] and institutions in their efforts," Oda told reporters.

Canada's commitment also includes $8 million in debt relief to Haiti, part of a broader cancellation of the impoverished country's overall $40 million World Bank debt.

"We all know the recovery and reconstruction of Haiti will take many years. Canada will stand behind Haiti," said Oda.

However, the minister could not explain how Canada will ultimately finance its long-term involvement in Haiti given that it will freeze its entire overseas development assistance budget next year at $5 billion to help slay the deficit.

Canada had previously pledged $85 million in Haitian relief aid. Haiti is already the second-largest recipient of direct Canadian aid, after Afghanistan, with $555 million earmarked for the country between 2006 and 2011.

Canada's Minister for International Co-operation Bev Oda speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 23, 2010. ((Blair Gable/Reuters) )

Earlier, the Haitian government presented a plan to help it recover from the quake that killed more than 200,000 people and left more than one million homeless.

"Our goal is not just to rebuild, it is to build back better," said Ban, adding that the cost of rebuilding Haiti is estimated at $11.5 billion over the next decade.

A new Haiti

Haitian President René Préval thanked the countries that have already contributed to relief efforts since the quake, and paid tribute to the actions of Haitians, both at home and abroad.

"Let us dream of a new Haiti whose fate lives in a new project," said Préval.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, co-chairman of the donors conference, said change in Haiti will require long-term commitment and collaboration among donor countries.

"In the face of tragedy, we are presented with opportunity," Cannon told the conference in New York. "Canada is prepared to accompany Haiti for as long as it needs us," he said.

The U.S. government is pledging about $1.15 billion US, said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"It will be tempting to fall back on old habits, to work around the government, rather than work with them [in] making the deeper, long-term investments that Haiti needs," Clinton said. "But we cannot retreat to failed strategies.… We have to follow through."

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton, now the UN's special envoy for Haiti, sat down with non-government organizations a few days ago. Clinton asked them to help create such a radically new Haiti that the country would no longer need the thousands of NGOs that operate there.

"In short, are we serious about working ourselves out of a job?" he said.

Haiti faces an uphill struggle in its rebuilding effort. The story is sliding from the headlines and Haiti was not mentioned at a recent meeting between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.S. President Barack Obama.

Jeanluc Demeneuze plays at a makeshift camp for earthquake survivors Monday in Port-au-Prince Monday.

Helen Clark, head of the UN Development Program, pointed out that the very first appeal for $1.4 billion in immediate humanitarian aid, made right after the January earthquake, came up far short of the mark, with barely half of the target met.

With the latest effort to raise reconstruction funds from the international community, Haiti's government will not have direct control over much of anything. Instead, a new international commission will be created to help oversee the billions of dollars in assistance.

The commission will include representatives from donor countries, the Haitian government, the Organization of American States, the 15-country Caribbean bloc known as CARICOM, plus non-governmental organizations and international institutions. Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive will co-chair the commission.

"We will monitor very closely how this money will be spent," Ban told CBC News. "We expect the Haitian government should show strong sense of accountability."

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press