Clinton cites exodus effect from Haitian capital in recovery strategy talks

By Robert Burns
Associated Press / January 26, 2010

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MONTREAL - An effective recovery strategy for Haiti must take into account a sudden rush of thousands of quake survivors from Port-au-Prince into the countryside, where the economy cannot sustain them, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said yesterday.

Clinton, speaking to reporters during a break in a daylong conference intended to review and improve the delivery of short-term aid as well as chart a course for long-term recovery, said she was encouraged by the analysis of Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive of Haiti.

Bellerive told the conference that the exodus from Port-au-Prince has added a new twist to the postquake challenge.

“The distribution of people [and] their needs have changed,’’ he said. “We have to reassess the whole country,’’ in terms of job creation and requirements for housing.

The Haitian government asked the international community to provide $3 billion for Haiti’s reconstruction, said Haiti Tourism Minister Patrick Delatour, who was designated to prepare the reconstruction plan.

Countries meeting yesterday committed to helping Haiti for at least the next 10 years. At a closing news conference, Clinton said the United States would host an international donors conference for Haitian recovery in March at UN headquarters in New York, once the long-term needs become clearer.

Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon of Canada told the final news conference that yesterday’s talks had produced “the beginnings of a roadmap’’ for helping get Haiti back on its feet, as well as a “shared vision’’ of the island nation’s longer-term rebuilding.

Earlier, Clinton said after a one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada that she was pleased to see Haitian leaders addressing this problem.

“I was quite heartened to hear the prime minister say that as part of our multilateral efforts to assist Haiti we should look at how we decentralize economic opportunity and work with the Haitian government and people to support resettlement, which they are doing on their own as people leave Port-au-Prince and return to the countryside from which most of them came,’’ she said.

Harper said he shared Clinton’s view.

“It does also indicate to us the need for us to work closely with the Haitians, who do understand the conditions on the ground maybe a little better than some of us with high intentions but a little farther-away view,’’ Harper told reporters.