UN sees Haiti's 'reimagined' future on horizon

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While the United Nations continues to provide emergency aid to Haitians, UN Secretary- general Ban Ki-moon and special envoy Bill Clinton signaled an initial strategy to begin reconstruction in the earthquake-ravaged country.

"I see getting out of this earthquake as a part of Haiti's larger development strategy," Clinton told reporters here after a closed-door meeting with Ban.

The United Nations, along with the World Bank, the International Development Program and the European Commission, has begun working on a post-disaster assessment, said Ban.

On Jan. 25, UN Humanitarian Chief John Holmes and the head of the UN Development Program (UNDP), Helen Clark, will attend a meeting on Haiti's short- and long-term reconstruction in Montreal, Canada.

"We will now have to move from the emergency response phase to ongoing relief and early recovery, and eventually to the reconstruction of the Haitian economy," Ban said.

Clinton expressed his support for the UN cash-for-work program in which Haitians are being hired to work in the early stages of recovery, such as cleaning up rubble and repairing fallen electricity lines.

"I think the cash-for-work program is the next step," he said. "It's really important to give young people something positive to do and a lot of people there want to be a part of rebuilding their country."

The UNDP has issued a flash appeal for 41 million U.S. dollars to fund the program, but Ban said the UN has "not received much response from the international community."

Looking to Haiti's future, Clinton met this week with private investors, including Haiti's biggest investor Irish telecom billionaire Denis O'Brien. Together, they hashed out the beginnings of a new "Marshall Plan," referring to the 1947 U.S. initiative to rebuild western Europe after World War II.

"I personally believe that (Haitians) are going to be given the opportunity to in effect reimagine their country through the rebuilding of Port-au-Prince, and through the rebuilding of other places," said Clinton.

Reconstruction can begin immediately, said Clinton, who suggested nationwide initiatives such as the reforestation of mangroves or accelerated investments in resort ventures outside of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

"I could give you ten other examples outside the area that would help the rebuilding of Port-au-Prince by strengthening the infrastructure of Haitian society and government," he said.

In the midst of this "awful tragedy," the Haitian government and the donor community are imagining a brighter future, said Clinton.

"They are really trying to think differently," he added.

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