PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic – PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic (AP) — Haiti's struggling democracy is in jeopardy if millions of earthquake survivors' lives are not improved, the top U.N. representative to the country said Wednesday at a conference on its reconstruction.
The meeting, held at the resort of Punta Cana, is the first for the reconstruction committee led by former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. Together they will oversee an estimated $5.3 billion in reconstruction projects through next year.
Some 90 international delegations met to discuss the priorities to be given to 40 projects including housing, free-trade zones, electricity, education, government strengthening and agriculture.
"The longer that the victims continue living in precarious conditions, the more they will have reason to be discontent. That discontent can be manipulated for political ends," U.N. envoy Edmond Mulet said.
Clinton, who toured the hard-hit Haitian city of Leogane on Tuesday, stressed the urgent need to provide shelter during hurricane season, which began this week.
"We can not let people die for lack of safe shelters," Clinton said, lamenting that shortages persist despite pledges of international aid.
Earthquake camps in the Haitian capital are swelling instead of shrinking, with an estimated 1.5 million people now living under tarps, tents and a few transitional shelters. Many can no longer pay rent, or have left standing homes in search of aid begin delivered to the homeless.
Officials also discussed ways to finance a planned Nov. 28 election to replace President Rene Preval, whose term expires next year. Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States, pledged help creating the electoral roll and modernizing computer systems for the vote.
Preval set off protests when he published a law extending his term by up to three months if the election is not held on time. On Wednesday, he reiterated a pledge to step down as scheduled on Feb. 7.
Other proposals discussed included a $14 million wind farm on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic that would provide 20 megawatts of energy.
The reconstruction committee is scheduled to hold its first working meeting later this month. It includes Haitian legislators, local officials, union and business representatives and a delegate from the Caribbean Community trade bloc.
The panel also has a representative from each donor who has pledged Haiti at least $100 million over two years or $200 million of debt reduction. Among them are the United States, Canada, Brazil, France, Venezuela, the European Union, Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank and United Nations.
Associated Press Writer Jonathan M. Katz in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, contributed to this report.