What Next for Haiti’s Reconstruction?
March 4, 2010
Q1: What is the current situation on the ground in Haiti?
A1: It has been almost two months since a catastrophic magnitude 7.3 earthquake leveled Port-au-Prince. Since that time, Haiti has become the focus of global attention as an overwhelming outpouring of international goodwill has resulted in unprecedented donations to support the victims of the quake. Over $895 million has been raised through private channels, and total U.S. government humanitarian assistance to date (March 1) has totaled $712,727,890 (includes USAID and DOD figures). One-third of the Haitian population has been affected in some way by the earthquake. There were 700,000 displaced persons in Port-au-Prince. As the rainy season approaches, the primary need is for shelter since there are large populations living in two massive tent cities with no proper sanitation and tremendous overcrowding. In addition, there is a high likelihood of epidemic diseases such as typhoid and cholera spreading in the next six to eight weeks due to poor sanitation conditions. Standing water from the coming rains will also increase the incidence of malaria. USAID, along with the United Nations and hundreds of international nongovernmental organizations, are working to resolve these priority humanitarian needs. The clock is ticking, however, as spring rains will start this month, and hurricane season officially begins in May.
Q2: What can we expect when the international donor community convenes at the United Nations at the end of March?
A2: The UN meeting in March will follow up on the initial road map to recovery that donors and multilateral lending institutions and the government of Haiti developed in Canada on January 25. Specifically, the meeting at the United Nations will include a donor pledging session on March 28 and a larger event on March 31 to consider a framework for long-term sustained support for Haiti’s rebuilding. Discussions will focus on a multi-donor trust fund to provide the medium-term (5-year) and longer-term (10-year) resources that Haiti’s prime minister says are essential to bring the country back to where it was before the earthquake, to improve vital infrastructure and social services, and to attract foreign investment to the country. Whatever format this trust fund takes, it must include the government of Haiti, the United Nations, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank in order to allow for the harmonization of activities, to provide a transparent fiduciary mechanism for all donors to monitor the allocation of resources, and to provide ongoing accountability of funds for the reconstruction effort. Central to the future success of any effort will be to learn from past lessons and ensure that Haitian voices—its government, civil society, and the private sector—are heard as rebuilding goes forward.
Q3: How can we ensure that the government of Haiti remains a vital part of the planning for reconstruction?
A3: Haiti does have a legitimate working government that is engaged in the reconstruction planning. It will need assistance to carry out the complex projects that will be supported with international funds. Right after the earthquake, the Haitian government formed six committees to manage the details of reconstruction, including committees dedicated to sanitation and engineering. President Rene Preval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive are actively working with the donor community to revise a reconstruction plan and seek sustainable projects in infrastructure, education, health, agriculture, and energy. In addition, a post-disaster needs assessment is still incomplete, but is essential to determine the timing and priorities for each of the affected regions of the country. Preval has also designated his minister of tourism, Patrick Delatour, as chief of reconstruction. A proposal to create a Haitian Development Authority, led by the government of Haiti, but including international donors and Haitians, is also under consideration since a legitimate institution to make decisions about rebuilding will be needed once the terms of the current legislators end in spring 2010. Action on this type of arrangement should be a priority and one outcome of the March donors meeting.
Groups Engaged in Haiti Reconstruction
Group of Friends of Haiti: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Peru, United States, Uruguay
Other major donors and key regional and multilateral partners engaged in Haiti: European Union, Japan, Spain
Neighboring Caribbean country: Dominican Republic
International organizations: Caribbean Development Bank, CARICOM, Inter-American Development Bank, International Monetary Fund, Organization of American States, United Nations, World Bank
Johanna Mendelson Forman is a senior associate with the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
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