I am in the United Nations in New York, right at the opening of the International Donors’ Conference “Towards a new future for Haiti”. On the podium are the Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary of State of the US, Hilary Clinton, the President of Haiti, René Préval, and the special envoy of the UN for Haiti, Bill Clinton. Their presence gives an idea of the level of ambition of the meeting. The mood in the room is amazingly positive, like during the Obama “Yes, we can” campaign. There is a sense that if we succeed in building up a new Haiti, we will be able to do anything, from eradicating poverty and hunger, to fighting climate change together.
Eight hours later, the mood is even better. The day achieved a lot – for Haiti, a commitment of over 5 billion USD for the next 2 years, well above the 3.8 billion the government hoped for; and another 4 billion for the years to follow. For the European Union, a sense of unity among the 27 Member States and the Commission, coming together with a very generous joint pledge of 1,235 million euro, more than 1.6 million US $ (in addition to the 322 M€ of our humanitarian effort and the 650 M€ from the European civil society). For the world, a rare demonstration of multilateral consensus, and hope for the future of other UN talks, like those on climate change.
Today we celebrate, but tomorrow we will all face the difficult tasks that lie ahead. To start with, the humanitarian crisis is far from over. We are still facing urgent problems that need urgent measures – like the need to move people more exposed to rains and hurricanes to safer ground, to provide security in the camps, and to replenish depleted stocks to prepare for future emergencies.
Then we need to think about the way the reconstruction should be done. New houses will have to resist hurricanes and earthquakes; farmers will have to be able to produce enough to feed the people of Haiti, and in a sustainable manner; new education structures have to be in place to train new generations to lead the country; and the necessary economic conditions have to be in place to attract investment and to create jobs. It is a herculean job full of risks. But a job that, according to my former boss Bob Zoellick, the president of the World Bank, is worth taking — “the cost of failure will be much higher”.