- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday urged international donors to provide desperately needed money to Haiti as the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country struggles to recover from last year’s devastating hurricanes and food riots.

Clinton, who is to visit Haiti on Thursday, told a conference of more than 30 donor countries and international organizations that giving Haiti help during a period of global financial turmoil is a “test of resolve and commitment” to those in dire need.

The United States, Clinton said, is providing nearly $290 million in non-emergency aid to Haiti this year.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Haiti is at a critical moment and will either slide backward into deeper poverty and misery or move forward with the help of world donors.

“We have an opportunity to bring … a measure of real promise and potential prosperity,” Ban told the conference.

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group, a conflict watchdog, warned last month that deepening poverty and ineffective governance have left Haiti at risk for renewed violence and political instability.

The group pressed international donors to provide the struggling Caribbean country $3 billion over the next few years.

Donor countries and groups meeting in Washington were expected to consider a two-year economic recovery plan developed by the government of Prime Minister Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis.

Pierre-Louis spoke at the conference of a “feeling of urgency” and the “overwhelming task” that both her government and outside donors face during the worst global financial crisis in decades.

“The population is watching us, judging us and commanding us to take action,” she said, describing the need for new public services, jobs, investments and the building of roads to connect parts of the country that have been isolated for centuries.

The donor plan emerged after political turmoil and natural disasters hit Haiti, which had uncharacteristically enjoyed three consecutive years of economic growth and improved stability, the Inter-American Development Bank said.

That progress was interrupted when last April’s riots over high food prices overthrew the prime minister. Months later, the country was pummeled by four storms that left nearly 800 people dead, caused $1 billion in damage and halted economic growth.

The donor plan hopes to reduce vulnerability to natural disasters, revitalize the economy and maintain access to basic services.

Clinton called on the world’s powers to help Haiti:

_Improve security so that Haitians can work and go to school without fear of violence;

_Rebuild from the hurricanes;

_Develop a strong agricultural base in a country that suffers from 70 percent unemployment.

The United States has also given Haitians duty-free and quota-free access to its market for the next nine years.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, representing his personal foundation, and billionaire philanthropist George Soros, representing his Open Society Institute, were among others attending the conference.

The United Nations says continued humanitarian aid is critical to ensure many Haitians get enough food and can send their children to school.


Associated Press writer William C. Mann contributed to this report.

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