Leaders to gather in Montreal for Haiti rebuilding talks
Published Sunday, January 24, 2010 10:14PM EST
Foreign ministers from around the world, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, will meet in Montreal Monday to lay the groundwork for a long-term plan to rebuild Haiti.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon will serve as host of the six-hour meeting, officially known as the Ministerial Preparatory Conference of the Group of Friends of Haiti.
Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive arrived in Ottawa on Sunday and was given a warm reception from Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Parliament Hill.
Later, Bellerive was greeted at Rideau Hall by Gov. Gen Michaelle Jean.
"First, we need to explain that, even with all our problems, we still want to have the leadership when deciding the vision of what should be done in Haiti's future," Bellerive told The Canadian Press.
The mini-summit was organized this past week and will occur less than two weeks after the 7.0-magnitude quake struck the impoverished Caribbean nation.
The Haitian government estimates that more than 100,000 people have been killed, while hundreds of thousands more have been left homeless and in dire need of food, water and medical attention.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner will also take part.
Cannon told reporters in Ottawa Sunday that the meeting "is an initial, albeit critical, step on the long road to recovery."
"Obviously the government of Haiti will have a very large say in this ... I think it's going to be extremely important to get the input from President Preval's team as well as the Prime Minister, Bellerive."
"Together with the government of Haiti we need to roll up our sleeves and begin to lay the groundwork for the enormous task ahead."
Representatives from the Group of Friends of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the European Union, Spain and Japan will also take part in the meeting.
They will be joined by the Organization of American States, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the UN, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, among other organizations.
Several non-governmental organizations will also be in attendance.
Cannon said the meeting has two objectives: to establish a commitment from the attending nations and organizations on "responsibility, accountability and long-term engagement," and to identify key priorities for aid in the weeks and months ahead.
He said Monday's meeting will also lay the foundation for an international conference on Haitian reconstruction.
"I look forward to a successful outcome of the Montreal meeting," Cannon said. "I trust it will provide a clear sense of the next steps ahead, restoring the lives and livelihoods of the Haitian people and, as Prime Minister Bellerive put it, building a new Haiti will be foremost on our minds."
Despite global involvement, keeping Haitian leadership at the forefront of the rebuilding process is paramount, said Fen Hampson, an international affairs expert at Carleton University.
"In the current crisis, we should be going out of our way to respect and work with its leaders," he said.
"The Haitian people also need to know that their own government is getting its own handle on the crisis and moving forward. The country's political stability will ultimately rest on Haiti's government's ability to deal with this crisis -- not simply on what we and other donors do."
Canadian casualties rise
On Sunday evening, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced that the Canadian death toll has risen to 20.
Meanwhile, 207 Canadians are still unaccounted for and 1,948 have been located.
Since the quake, 2,424 Canadians have been evacuated from the country aboard 27 flights.
Cannon said officials are now focused on identifying and repatriating the quake's Canadian victims.
"I extend my deepest condolences to the families as well as the friends of those affected."
With files from The Canadian Press