Foreign Ministers Gather On Haiti Aid

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said a daylong conference in Montreal on Monday was "the beginning of a conversation" about Haiti's future. The meeting of diplomats and aid organizations to discuss Haiti's long-term needs will be followed by an international donors conference in New York in March.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Madeleine Brand in California.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And in Washington, I'm Robert Siegel.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it the beginning of a conversation about Haiti's future. She was speaking at a daylong conference in Montr�al, where diplomats and aid organizations gathered to discuss Haiti's long-term needs after the recent earthquake. Today's meeting will be followed by an international donors conference that Clinton said will be held in New York in March.

BRAND: NPR's Michele Kelemen joins us now from Montr�al.

And, Michele, what's the message Secretary Clinton wants to get across at this meeting?

MICHELE KELEMEN: Well, she came here saying that there's been a strong commitment, a strong outpouring from countries, donor nations that are concerned about what's happening in Haiti. But she said donors really have to come up with a way to better coordinate. This was a problem before the earthquake even, she said.

And so, the idea is to come up with, as she put it, a mechanism to funnel aid money, one that's transparent, one that's accountable. And she says donors have to be ready for this transition from the emergency aid they're providing right now to rebuilding aid. And they have to be ready to commit for the long term.

BRAND: And I'm wondering if this gathering in Montr�al came up with some concrete proposals on how to do that, on how to coordinate the rebuilding effort for the long term.

KELEMEN: Well, the host, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said this is really in the early stages. There's going to be a real donors conference in the coming weeks. This was the first step. And there clearly is still a debate in the corridors here about who's going to take the lead, how it's all going to be coordinated. And even how much, I mean, you've been hearing talk about a $10-billion aid package for five years. The Haitian prime minister was here talking about the need to rebuild this country from five to 10 years.

You know, the U.N. is obviously going to be central, but it suffered terrible losses. The secretary said that the U.N. death toll could top 300 by the time this is all over. The international financial institutions are here: the World Bank, IMF. They're all making big loans. And the Inter-American Development Bank, which survived the earthquake, is also playing a key role and will likely play a key role in the weeks ahead.

BRAND: The Haitian government was essentially destroyed. The presidential palace, the parliament, government ministries all wrecked. There's essentially no functioning government there in Haiti.

What sort of proposals are there now for helping the Haitian government get back on its feet?

KELEMEN: I mean, it is a real problem. Everyone - the secretary on down - keep saying that you have to have the Haitian government set the priorities and take a lead in the rebuilding. But practically, as you said, a lot of the government buildings were demolished. We've heard stories about the Inter-American Development Bank getting satphones for cabinet ministers, just so they could communicate with each other, or the Organization of American States offering space for the Foreign Ministry.

The U.N. is now talking about hiring about 300 Haitians to help government ministries function and get back on their feet. Haiti's Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive is here in Montr�al and he told the meeting that the whole country has changed, that, you know, many people are going back to the countryside. So it's, you know, time to reassess the future of Port-au-Prince, but also, you know, figure out ways to create jobs throughout the country and have a more balanced approach to development.

BRAND: NPR's Michele Kelemen speaking to us from Montr�al, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is discussing with other world diplomats the future of Haiti.

Thank you very much.

KELEMEN: You're welcome.

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