U.S. Senate Report Highlights Lack Of Progress In Haitian Rebuilding Effort

A lack of leadership, donor disagreements and overarching disorganization has led Haiti to make little progress in its rebuilding effort since the January 12 earthquake, according to a U.S. Senate report expected to be released on Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.

The “eight-page report is meant to give Congress a picture of Haiti today as U.S. legislators consider authorizing $2 billion to support the country’s reconstruction. That picture is grim: Millions displaced from their homes … Three weeks into hurricane season, with tropical rains lashing the capital daily, construction is being held up by land disputes and customs delays while plans for moving people out of tent-and-tarp settlements remain in ‘early draft form,’ it says.” According to the report, “many immediate humanitarian relief priorities appear to have been met,” but there are “troubling signs that the recovery and longer term rebuilding activities are flagging” (Katz, 6/21).

“The report cites 10 critical issues for Haiti’s rebuilding that require urgent attention by the Haitian government and Obama administration. They include conflicting messages from donors to [President Rene Preval], setting an election schedule and the lack of government guidance about its plans,” the Miami Herald reports (Charles, 6/21).

On three occasions, the report says reconstruction in Haiti has “stalled,” the AP reports. Only “2 percent of the $5.3 billion in near-term aid pledges have actually been delivered, up from 1 percent last week. The report expresses concerns that even once the money is in hand, it will not move quickly enough to help,” the news service writes. Though the report describes the 26-member reconstruction commission led by Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and former U.S. President Bill Clinton as the “‘best near-term prospect for driving rebuilding,’ it also says the panel ‘has the potential to dramatically slow things down through cumbersome bureaucratic obstacles at a time when Haiti cannot afford to delay.'”

According to the report, a variety of disagreements among donors “are undercutting recovery and rebuilding.” It is also critical of Haitian President Rene Preval and Bellerive and says the government has “not done an effective job of communicating to Haitians that it is in charge and ready to lead the rebuilding effort.” Preval should assume a “more visible and active role, despite the difficulties,” it says before highlighting the need for elections, which are scheduled for November (6/21).

According to the Miami Herald, “[i]t is the second time this month that an influential member of Congress has issued a report critical of Preval’s lack of prioritization and decision-making. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, earlier this month urged Preval to move faster to schedule presidential and parliamentary elections, or risk losing the confidence of the U.S. Congress” (6/21).

“The report was written by staff of Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and other Democrats who interviewed U.S., Haitian, United Nations and other officials and visited resettlement camps, hospitals and schools throughout the quake zone,” the AP notes. The article includes Bellerive’s reaction to the report. “We understand the impatience … It took some time. I believe four months (since a U.N. donors’ conference in March) to plan the refoundation from such a disaster is pretty acceptable,” he said (6/21).

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