The United Nations is hosting a donors' conference in New York to raise funds for rebuilding Haiti after January's devastating earthquake.

The UN aims to raise a total of $3.9bn for an 18-month recovery period at the conference on Wednesday, which is expected to be attended by representatives of more than 100 countries.

Bill Clinton, the UN special envoy, had made a plea before many non-governmental organisations at the New York University on Tuesday.

"We're needed now more than ever. But we are being asked to do something we have never really been asked before, and that is work with a country and a government that shares our aspirations, if we share theirs," he said.

The earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12 claimed up to 220,000 lives and and displaced more than a million people, according to the UN.

The Haitian government says it needs $11.5bn for a wide range of post-disaster needs ranging from infrastructure rebuilding to disaster risk management.

Al Jazeera's Cath Turner, reporting from New York, said each pledging country will have up to three minutes to state how much they are donating and what they prefer their money to be spent on.

Public skepticism

The reconstruction effort will be run by an interim agency chaired by Jean-Max Bellerive, the Haitian prime minister, and includes a board made up of the largest donor countries.

It is a temporary measure to help get the Haitian government back on its feet over the next 18 months, so that it can take over once again.

But most Haitians are openly skeptical and suspicious of Western countries and their promises of help. 

Kristalina Georgieva, the European commissioner for humanitarian aid, admits past donation efforts by Western countries should not be used as a model for Haiti.

"There is a significant acceptance of the Western side that top-down approaches, in which somebody flies from outside and tries to fix a problem in another country, doesn't work," she said.

Edmond Mulet, the highest-ranking UN official in Haiti, sees the new UN initiative as an opportunity for real change in the struggling country.

"This is the time now to change and for the international community to work with the Haitian state in order to strengthen their insititutional capacities. If we don't do that now we will be turning in circles for many years again," he said.

Source: Al Jazeera