On April 14th, representatives of some 30 nations and international organizations met in Washington, D.C., to participate in a Donors Conference to benefit Haiti. The Inter-American Development Bank, which is sponsoring the event, hopes to garner generous pledges in support of the Haiti priority reconstruction program.
Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. About 80 percent of its population lives on less than $2 a day. Nevertheless, despite a number of serious socio-economic problems, such as malnutrition, lack of education and massive unemployment, it had enjoyed 3 consecutive years of economic growth and improved social and political stability, thanks in part to a United Nations stabilization mission, as well as the determined efforts of Haitian leadership to stabilize the country.
Unfortunately, the effects of sharp spikes in food prices followed by the global economic crisis, on top of a billion dollars' worth of damage caused by last year's 4 major tropical storms, undermined the progress that Haiti had achieved since 2006.
Still, with continued assistance from its international partners, Haiti is poised to grow, wrote United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a recent article. The Secretary General said that new U.S. trade legislation, known as Hope II passed in December of last year, offers Haiti preferential access to U.S. markets for certain textiles and hence represents a significant opportunity to create jobs.
The recently announced USAID/Sogebank Haitian Diaspora Challenge Facility also offers new possibilities for economic development in Haiti. The objective of the program is to create jobs and strengthen productive capacity in Haiti, by providing grants to complement investments made by members of the Haitian Diaspora in businesses owned and operated in Haiti. The new program is expected to begin accepting proposals from potential investors in the second quarter of 2009.
In a recent speech to the U.N. Security Council, United States Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice said that Haiti stands at a turning point between risk and renewal:
"With continued effort from Haiti’s leaders, relentless determination of its remarkable people, and enhanced support from the international community, Haiti can move towards lasting security that will sustain itself, towards democracy that grows deeper roots, and towards economic progress for all," said Representative Rice. "Haiti will ultimately choose its own way, but we must all do our part to help the Haitian people succeed."