Haiti's 'Group of Friends' agree to 10-year effort to rebuild from quake

The Miami HeraldJanuary 26, 2010 

The United States and other allies of Haiti agreed Monday to a 10-year effort to rebuild Port-au-Prince and foster the long-term development that has eluded the Caribbean country despite decades of foreign assistance.

The commitment grew from a conference of 19 foreign ministers and international organizations, known informally as the Group of Friends of Haiti, who gathered in Montreal to discuss how to manage what promises to be one of the most daunting reconstruction efforts in modern times.

"It's not an exaggeration to say that 10 years of hard work -- at least -- awaits the world in Haiti," said Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who hosted the meeting. "We must hold ourselves and each other accountable for the commitments we make."

The meeting produced few details about the scope of the damage from Haiti's Jan. 12 earthquake, or the potential cost of the reconstruction. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced plans to host a more comprehensive conference of donor countries in March at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

By then, Clinton said, the U.N. should have completed a review of all the needs in Port-au-Prince and the rest of the Haitian provinces, and their estimated costs. With emergency relief and rubble rescues still ongoing in the Haitian capital, a larger picture of the devastation and its long-term effects has yet to emerge.

"The extent of the devastation is almost more than any of us can grasp," Clinton said.

Haiti's prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, was noticeably uncomfortable discussing long-term reconstruction plans while tens of thousands of people in his country went another day searching for food, water and shelter.

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