By Mike Blanchfield, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Last Updated: March 28, 2010 2:18pm
OTTAWA — Canada is preparing to pay $100 million to join an exclusive new international club that would guide the rebuilding of earthquake-ravaged Haiti, The Canadian Press has learned.
That’s the price tag for a seat on the proposed Interim Haitian Recovery Commission that is expected to be one of the key announcements to be made this week at the New York international donors’ conference on Haiti.
“Canada has been a major partner and a major donor to Haiti in the past years, so we will be there,” said a senior government official. “Not sure of the structure, but Canada will play a major role.”
The new commission will be made up representatives from more than a dozen donor countries, the Haitian government, the Organization of American States, the 15-country Caribbean bloc known as CARICOM, NGOs and international institutions. Its creation is one of two major announcements expected from Wednesday’s Haiti summit in New York, senior World Bank officials said.
The other is the creation of a trust fund for Haiti’s long term reconstruction that would operate in concert with the commission.
“The deliverable from New York is to really assure the international community and Haitians that the elements are in place,” Yvonne Tsikata, the World Bank director for the Caribbean said in an interview. “Fleshing out the reconstruction agency is one. Having the multi-donor trust fund operational is another.”
The World Bank and other international actors are keen to see Canada play an active role in the decision-making commission. Haiti’s government estimates it will ultimately cost $11.5 billion to rebuild from the Jan. 12 quake that killed more than 200,000 people.
“I see the role of both sharing Canadian experience in a number of sectors but also technical assistance and also the decision making process,” Tsikata explained, noting that Canada has shown expertise in education, governance and judiciary programs.
“I wouldn’t get fixated on the $100 million because that may be a small club, but everyone’s going to be contributing to Haiti — both small and big amounts. As you know, Canadian citizens did a fantastic thing in terms of their personal contributions . . . so every little bit counts.”
The government announced last month that it would match the $113 million in private donations to Haiti made by Canadians. So far, the government has made no specific spending commitments on Haiti. International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said Canada would make those decisions after hearing from key stakeholders at Wednesday’s meeting in New York.
Canada hosted the first international meeting on Haiti in late January. A major theme that emerged from that gathering of more than a dozen foreign ministers, international bankers and aid groups was that any future funding of Haiti would have to be accountable and not repeat failures of the past.
Tsikata said accountability would be directly addressed in New York, after the creation of the commission and the trust fund.
“Having in place an effective aid monitoring and aid tracking system is a third. And then the elements of how all of this is communicated, for transparency reasons, is also very critical,” she said.
Prior to the quake, Haiti was making economic progress, in part because of massive international aid, but it remained the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Haiti is the second largest recipient of direct Canadian aid after Afghanistan with $555 million earmarked for 2006-2011.
Tsikata said the Haitian government and its international partners are moving carefully to ensure the commission does not repeat the mistakes of the past.
“If this is going to be the key building block of the reconstruction architecture, then I think the time that’s spent to get it set up right is really, really important. But also to have a mechanism where one can auto-adjust or auto-correct as you go on,” she said.
“The importance of monitoring, evaluation, assessments with some frequency to try to adjust if necessary is equally important.”
Tsikata said that ideally the commission would only be in place for 18 months before it morphs into an independent Haitian government entity. In the meantime, it would allow for a “more co-ordinated, more harmonized,” approach to rebuilding Haiti.
Canada agrees with that approach.
“Co-ordination is a major point for every donor and major agencies that are involved over there,” said the senior Canadian official. “Who does what will be key here.”
Oda and Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon are representing Canada at the New York meeting, which is being held at United Nations headquarters.