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Haiti Reconstruction Needs New Way of Thinking

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The international community has quickly risen to the rescue and reconstruction of Haiti, which was hit by a devastating earthquake.

Major donor countries and the United Nations are meeting Monday in Montreal of Canada to discuss how to better rescue and reconstruct the Caribbean island country.

The meeting will be held amid calls for aid with no strings attached, an operable mechanism of assistance and the sense of ownership by Haitians.

Reconstruction needs selfless aid

The Haitian government on Friday declared an end to search and rescue of life while the United Nations published the next day that as of Friday the quake had claimed the lives of upwards of 110,000 Haitians.

At a preparatory meeting held on Tuesday for the Montreal conference, Haitian President Rene Preval promised that neither the Haitian state nor the Haitian nation would die of the earthquake. He expressed gratitude to the international community for its generous aid and assistance.

During the rescue operation, the United States dispatched an aircraft carrier and some 10,000 troops to Haiti. But the American moves to take over controls of the Port-au-Prince airport and seaport have caused grumbles among some Latin American and European countries. Venezuela, Bolivia and Uruguay have stated that Washington was taking the opportunity to turn Haiti into another military base of its own in the Caribbean Sea.

Spain, which is serving the rotating presidency of the European Union, has proposed that the Haitians should lead off the reconstruction of their own country and that it should be the Haitians who are to decide the fate of their own country. In the meantime, the international community should cooperate without reservation and should disperse unease and suspicion in joint efforts to assist the Haitians in building a future with prospects.

Coordination for donations

What is needed most in Haiti at the moment is coordination for donations from all over the world, which would make the quake relief and reconstruction efforts more effective, according to Preval.

At Tuesday's preparatory meeting for the Montreal conference, participants have agreed in principle to set up a UN-led coordination committee in neighboring Dominican Republic to oversee reconstruction in Haiti. The committee would be tasked to collect donations and make good use of them. It would also be responsible for developing strategies to ensure the sustainability of reconstruction work and food security in the country.

Ownership by Haitians

The inclusion of Haitians in the reconstruction of their country is of utmost importance.

The Haitian Interior Ministry said Friday that about 610,000 people have been left homeless.

With the search and rescue work coming to an end, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is already in charge of early recovery efforts.

"The most important part is the early recovery, that is what we are concentrating now," said Rebecca Grynspan, UNDP assistant administrator and director of its regional bureau of Latin America and the Caribbean.

She said the UNDP, working with other international relief agencies, has started a cash-for-work program, which offers each worker an equivalent of US$5 per day to help clear up rubble and get the infrastructure running again.

Under this program, about 50,000 Haitians would get jobs in the coming three months.

The program was a priority of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and a central component of the UNDP's early recovery mandate.

It would serve to relieve humanitarian pressures and at the same time contribute to social stability by ensuring the population's participation in reconstruction activities, said Grynspan.

(Xinhua News Agency January 25, 2010)

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