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Harper: Sustained, Significant Int'l Efforts Needed in Haiti Reconstruction

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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Monday called on the international community to be prepared for a sustained, significant effort in Haiti, working closely with the Government of Haiti.

"As we continue to focus on fast and effective humanitarian assistance, we must, at the same time, begin to look to the longer- term challenge of reconstruction," said the Prime Minister during an address to delegates at the Ministerial Preparatory Conference on Haiti held in Montreal, Canada.

Harper outlined principles to guide the work of Haiti reconstruction as sustainability the world must commit to Haiti for the long term, effectiveness resources must be directed to where they are most needed to help the people of Haiti, and accountability the commitments made must be firm and lasting and ensure that tax dollars are used effectively, as Canadian taxpayers expect.

"It is Canada's hope that this meeting will set the stage for broad international action on reconstruction that will mobilize the will and resources of all of Haiti's partners," said the Prime Minister.

Harper appealed to the international community to a strategic and coordinated effort to rebuild Haiti.

"The generosity seen over the past two weeks is a testament to the kindness and compassion that unites humanity in the face of catastrophe," he said. "Thanks to decisive international action, medical and humanitarian support is pouring into the country and saving lives."

Earlier, Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said at the Introductory session that his government has been contacting extensively with various aspects of the society and is determined to rebuild a new Haiti with generous international supports.

The conference, focused on critical first steps in rebuilding the earthquake-ravaged country in the long term, were attended by foreign ministers and delegates of the Group of Friends of Haiti, the neighboring Dominican Republic, and major donors and key regional and multilateral partners engaged in Haiti: the European Union, Spain and Japan.

A number of international organizations and key international financial institutions, including the Organization of American States, the Caribbean Community, the United Nations, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Caribbean Development Bank, also are represented.

In addition, non-governmental organizations, Montreal's Haitian Diaspora are also represented at the Conference.

Founded in the early 1990s, the Group of Friends of Haiti is an informal association of like-minded nations that meets on the margins of the UN Security Council. Member states are Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Peru, the United States and Uruguay.

On January 12, a strong earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale struck areas close to Port-au-Prince, causing widespread loss of life and extensive damage to infrastructure. Significant aftershocks followed, the strongest with a magnitude of 5.9 on January 20.

The Canadian death toll in Haiti has risen to 19, and 213 Canadians remain unaccounted for as of on Sunday.

On Saturday, Harper praised the donation of more than Canadian$67 million by Canadians to earthquake relief as exceeding the government's "wildest expectations."

Harper also said his government has lifted a Canadian$50-million ceiling on its dollar for dollar pledge to match public contributions to eligible relief organizations.

Canada and Haiti officially established diplomatic relations in 1954 and Haiti is the highest beneficiary of Canadian development assistance in the Americas and the second highest in the worlds after Afghanistan.

(Xinhua News Agency January 26, 2010)