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Donors pledge $9.9 billion for Haiti

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Donors pledge $9.9 billion for Haiti

UNITED NATIONS – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says donors went "far beyond expectations" and pledged $9.9 billion over more than three years to rebuild earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Haiti had appealed for $3.8 billion for the next two years. The U.N. chief said the $9.9 billion includes pledges of $5.3 billion from governments and international partners for the first 24 months of reconstruction, far-exceeding Haiti's request.

Ban told a news conference at the end of a daylong donor conference on Wednesday that the international community had come together "dramatically and in solidarity with the Haitian people" to help them recover from the Jan. 12 earthquake.

The quake destroyed the government and commercial center of the capital, Port-au-Prince, killed more than 217,000 people and left an estimated 1.3 million people homeless.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appealed to the world's nations Wednesday to donate $3.8 billion to start rebuilding earthquake-ravaged Haiti — and the world responded even more generously.

In the first minutes of a day-long donors conference, the United States and the European Union pledged more than two-thirds of the requested amount.

By late afternoon, a U.N. tally showed that nations and organizations had pledged nearly $5.1 billion for the next 18 months.

It was not immediately clear if all those pledges were new money, as some delegates appeared to be describing already existing aid projects.

"By the end of this day I am confident we will truly have helped Haiti along the road to a new and better future," Ban said in his opening address.

Haiti's President Rene Preval asked donors to focus on education and help the country's 9 million people provide for their own future.

"Let us dream of a new Haiti whose fate lies in a new project for a society without exclusion, which has overcome hunger, in which all have access to secure shelter ... (and their) health needs provided," he told diplomats and ministers from more than 130 countries.

Clinton announced the United States' pledge of $1.15 billion over the next two years. Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign affairs chief, then announced the EU's pledge of 1.235 billion euros, equivalent to over $1.6 billion.

The $3.8 billion Haiti is seeking for the next 18 months is just the initial part of a $11.5 billion package Preval's administration wants to rebuild schools, hospitals, courthouses and neighborhoods destroyed when the magnitude-7 earthquake pulverized its capital on Jan. 12.

Haiti's government has detailed its plans for the money in a 55-page rebuilding plan that lays out the interim reconstruction committee. It includes requests for $350 million in direct budget support to the government, which Edmond Mulet, the top resident U.N. envoy there, said is crucial for the country's progress.

"We need Haiti to succeed," Clinton said. "What happens there has repercussions far beyond its borders."

She said the donors conference was not only to pledge financial support but "to offer support in a smarter way."

Haiti's leaders must guide "a transparent recovery," Clinton stressed, and the international community must change its past practice of working around the government and ensure that it is working with the government.

At the core of the quake-ravaged country's request for help is the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, or IHRC, which will be co-chaired by former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.

The commission's two-dozen members will be tasked with coordinating and paying out the aid money expected to flow in. It is a key step to allaying donor concerns over Haiti's history of official corruption and political unrest who want assurances that the money will go where it is intended.

Its members include some Haitian legislators, local authorities, union and business representatives, and a delegate from the 14-nation Caribbean Community trade bloc. The board will also have a representative of each donor who is pledging at least $100 million over two years or $200 million of debt reduction — currently the United States, Canada, Brazil, France, Venezuela and European Union along with the Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank and United Nations.

The former U.S. president was tapped for the role earlier this week, Bellerive said. Clinton, who as U.N. special envoy to Haiti visited three times since the earthquake, will likely be spending much more time in the impoverished country in his new role.

In keeping with his work as U.N. special envoy, Bill Clinton pushed private investment at the conference.

Most notably he helped shepherd a $7.5 million project with the Coca-Cola Company to help mango producers supplying the "Haiti Hope Mango Lime-Aid" made by its Odwalla brand.

The board Clinton will help lead is a source of consternation among some Haitian lawmakers, who are now considering a legislative package submitted by Preval to approve the commission's authority.

Opposition lawmakers are threatening to block the bill unless Preval's administration first publishes a report on how aid money was spent in the initial aftermath of the disaster.

However, passage is possible without them, as the president's newly formed Unity Party has the largest voting bloc in both houses.

The earthquake struck just miles (kilometers) from Haiti's capital on Jan. 12 and destroyed its government and commercial center, home to nearly a third of the population. Varying government estimates put the death toll between 217,000 and 300,000 people.

An estimated 1.3 million people lost their homes in a country that before the quake was the poorest in the Western hemisphere.

A group of protesters gathered across the street from the U.N. headquarters, waving Haiti's blue-and-red flag and denouncing a process they said has not included most of the Haitian people.


Associated Press Writers Matthew Lee and Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report from the United Nations

Source: Yahoo/AP

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