Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Haiti: Brazil first major contributor to Haiti Reconstruction Fund

Source: The World Bank Group

The Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF) gathered momentum today after Brazil contributed US$55 million to the multilateral mechanism set up to help the Caribbean nation rebuild following its devastating January 12 earthquake.

Brazil is the first donor country to make such contribution, but at least 14 other countries are expected to chip in to replenish the fund that has been in operation since April with an initial grant of US$189 million by the World Bank, the fund's fiscal agent and administrator, Bank officials said.

Confirmations of intent to date have come from donors such as Canada, Estonia, Norway, Sweden, Saudi Arabia and the United States, while discussions with other potential contributors are underway, noted Haiti country director Yvonne Tsikata.

In welcoming Brazil's contribution, the Bank praised its long-standing commitment to Haiti, which has become increasingly prominent over the last few years in project funding, peacekeeping initiatives and technical advice. Brazil's announcement comes on the heels of increasing recognition of the growing role of emerging powers in global affairs, in what World Bank president Robert B. Zoellick has called "the end of the Third World".

"Brazil leadership in supporting Haiti underscores an important feature of our multipolar world where emerging powers are taking on new responsibilities to assist those struggling with major development challenges," said Zoellick during a ceremony held at the Bank's Washington D.C headquarters, where Brazil's Secretary-General of External Relations, Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, signed US$55 million over to the fund in the presence of Haiti's Ambassador to the United States Raymond Joseph, and multilateral officials.

The HRF was set up by the government of Haiti and multiple donors to pool mobilize and allocate resources from the international community in support of Haiti's recovery and development. The fund will channel resources "in a manner that builds the capacity of the Haitian state and society in the longer term," said HRF manager Josef Leitmann, while adding that the fund will be flexible enough to respond to unmet priorities in the recovery program, including the provision of budget support.

Activities financed by the HRF can include technical assistance and capacity building, infrastructure investments, delivery of basic services, community development, environmental protection and clean-up, job creation and income generation, Leitmann said. The fund regroups the World Bank, United Nations agencies and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Brazil's secretary-general Patriota noted that after the initial show of support for Haiti, the challenge is now to keep such momentum going and translate international support into effective and timely reconstruction projects.

To achieve this goal, he said, "it is important to stress that we see this as an opportunity for Haiti to embark on a route to sustainable development and the overall improvement of its infrastructure and the livelihood of the Haitian people who for too long have been struggling with chronic difficulties."

"Brazil is proud to be the first country to contribute to the Fund and invites others to join us in this effort," he added.

The international community pledged US$5.3 billion towards Haiti's reconstruction over the next two years at a March 31 United Nations meeting in New York. Judging from experiences with previous reconstruction funds, about 10-15 per cent of those pledges will find their way into the HRF, which has been designed to fill gaps in the financing available from development partners, according to Bank officials.

Ambassador Joseph thanked Brazil for its generous contribution to the fund and President Zoellick for providing safekeeping of the fund resources "which has given confidence to a lot of people and a lot of countries."

"Haiti cannot do it alone, but I have no doubt that others who have pledged at the March 31 conference will soon follow the example of Brazil," he concluded.

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