U.S. Lays Out Goals For Role In Haiti Recovery

As donors from more than 100 countries gather at the U.N. in New York Wednesday to discuss the rebuilding of earthquake-ravaged Haiti, Cheryl Mills, an advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, said that the U.S. “will be focusing on agriculture, energy, health and security. Also (on) support to the government in holding elections,” Agence France-Presse reports (3/30).

Ahead of the conference, an internal assessment by the Obama administration concluded “that the U.S. government has provided $4 billion in aid to Haiti since 1990 but ‘struggled to demonstrate lasting impact,’ according to a summary of the review, which has not been publicly released,” the Washington Post reports.

The newspaper examines how the U.S. now plans to “do things differently” in Haiti, pointing to “an effort to build up Haiti’s fragile government instead of working around it.” The Post reports that “the Obama administration insists that its plan will help the Haitian government with its own priorities – not impose a U.S. vision.”

Mills said, “We are completely focused on how to build the capacity of the Haitian government effectively. That is something everyone has recognized as being one of the failures of aid in the past” (Sheridan, 3/31).

Bloomberg/BusinessWeek writes: “Haitians ‘are not looking to rebuild the past,’ U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Esther Brimmer told reporters. The U.S. foresees ‘ownership by the government of Haiti of the rebuilding and the recovery,’ she said” (Varner, 3/31).

According to the New York Times, “Major international donors and the Haitian government itself have said that the rebuilding presented an opportunity to try to break the traditional cycle in which donors finance projects through nongovernmental organizations, bypassing the government. Too many donors decide what Haiti needs and then find someone to make it happen, Haitian officials said” (MacFarquhar, 3/30).

The Associated Press/Washington Post reports that as part of its $3.8 billion request to be presented at the donor meeting, Haiti will propose the “Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), an initial 23-member body tasked with coordinating and paying out the aid money expected to flow in. It is a key step to allaying donor concerns over Haiti’s history of official corruption and political unrest who want assurances that the money will go where it is intended. The commission will be co-chaired by Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and will also include two Haitian legislators, local authorities, union and business representatives, and a delegate from the 14-nation Caribbean Community trade bloc. The board will also have a representative of each donor who is pledging at least $100 million over two years or $200 million of debt reduction – currently the United States, Canada, Brazil, France, Venezuela and European Union along with the Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank and United Nations” (Katz, 3/31).

Additional news coverage of developments in Haiti:

NPR’s “All Things Considered” examines Haiti’s long-standing dependence on foreign aid and the effect that has had on the development of the country’s government. In light of Haiti’s past and future, the piece looks at the U.N.’s role as well as the estimated 10,000 non-governmental organizations working to improve conditions in the least-developed country in the Western hemisphere.  NPR reports, that “who controls the reconstruction of Haiti and who provides the overriding vision could have a huge effect on what kind of country gets built” (Beaubien, 3/30).

The New York Times examines one element of the plan to rebuild Haiti: the redistribution of “large parts of the population of Port-au-Prince to smaller Haitian cities, many of them at a safe distance from areas most vulnerable to natural disaster.” The article looks at the history of Haiti’s development and how this “nascent” plan could improve, among other things, access to health care (Ouroussoff, 3/30).

The Miami Herald looks at a USAID-supported public-private partnership to improve farming in Haiti. According to the newspaper, “with many countries juggling funding, some long-term projects like this one are being cut to support immediate humanitarian efforts” (Boodhoo, 3/30).

The U.N. News Centre examines World Food Program efforts to boost food security through the local production of food (3/30).

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