Here's the good news - the first hurricane of 2009 passed on by. The bad news is that we've got a long way to go until hurricane season is over. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that there will be seven to eleven named storms in the Atlantic before the end of November, with the potential for three to six hurricanes. As we saw last year, tropical storms can wreck havoc on both crops and infrastructure. Humanitarian responders are gearing up.
The past month has been important for Haiti. The World Bank, IMF, and the IDB forgave $1.2 billion of Haiti’s debt. Deals were reached with members of the Paris Club to cancel an additional $152 million in debt. Bill Clinton made his first trip to Haiti as UN Special Envoy. Plus, discussions at the G8 Summit indicated we may be on the verge of a historic shift in how food assistance is delivered, to the benefit of Haiti and other food insecure countries.
Associated Press Writer Jonathan Katz recently wrote an article entitled "From Haiti, a Suprise: Good News about AIDS." In reality, it is far from a suprise. We've long known that Haiti has been, despite numerous challenges, one of only a handfull of countries to reverse its epidemic. Treatment models pioneered here are being applied in Sub-Saharan Africa. Haiti shows us what an engaged civil society and sustained political will, backed by international support, can accomplish in even the most difficult circumstances. I am proud and hope you are as well.
The second annual International Congress of the Haitian Diaspora will take place August 6-9, 2009 at Trump International Beach Resorts in Miami Beach, Florida. The purpose of the event is to capitalize on the resources that the Diaspora can bring to help build Haiti’s economy. The agenda includes a variety of issues such as boosting tourism, stimulating agricultural production, restoring forests and ecology, managing water supplies, preparing for disasters, achieving literacy, and job creation. A schedule of events is copied below. If you would like to participate, you can register here. Contact information is listed below if you want to volunteer.
Jonathan Katz reported that the World Bank, IMF, and IDB canceled $1.2 billion of Haiti's debt Tuesday, freeing up millions of dollars for much needed poverty reduction programs. Needless to say, this is excellent news. Given the scope of Haiti's needs, it never made sense its citizens should have to pay $1.6 million in debt per month, most of which was acquired under dictators that they never voted for. This represents a measure of confidence in the Preval Administration, which now has a bit more economic flexibility than it had before. More info below.
Copied below is a strategy paper that Prime Minister Pierre Louis recently released on how the Haitian government intends to meet its short term goals. I was pleased to see the attention devoted to agriculture, the private sector, and infrastructure development. Unfortunately, the Haitian government has yet to receive one gourde from the Haiti Donors' Conference. Hopefully, Special Envoy Clinton has not lost his touch and will be able to encourage Friends of Haiti to honor their pledges. The paper is brief but balanced and well thought out. Please feel free to post your thoughts about it in the comments section.
Dialogue concerning Haiti's development is changing. First, there is more discussion than ever before about Haiti's private sector, and a sense that trade will do more for Haiti in the long run than aid. Second, there is a growing emphasis on integrating Haiti economically and socially with the rest of the Caribbean and Latin America. Finally, donors are increasingly helping the Haitian government to address its own priorities. There are many challenges but also many possibilities. As Haitian say, little by little birds make their nests...
It has been a busy month for Haiti. The Donors Conference turned out reasonably well. At the Summit of the Americas meeting, members of the Organisation of American States (OAS) expressed their willingness to offer long-term support to Haiti. OAS Secretary General José Miguel welcomed the focus on Haiti, noted that the Haitian government drafted a plan on how the international community can help. As he put it, 'Now you know exactly what you have to support…I think things are really going to begin to happen for Haiti.'' We hope so as well.
Delegates from 28 countries and multilateral organizations participated in the 2009 Haiti Donors Conference. Given the global economic downturn , now is a tough time to hold such an event. Donors pledged to provide $324 million in additional aid to Haiti over the next two years, of which $41 million is for budget support in 2009. Not as much as hoped for, but if the Haitian government can spend it well, this may open doors for increased support from donors later on.
President Obama is in the United Kingdom this week as part of the G20 Summit. As Nicholas Kristof wrote an op-ed, more is at stake than banks. According to World Bank estimates, the global economic crisis will cause an additional 22 children to die per hour, throughout all of 2009. Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank, stated, “In London, Washington and Paris, people talk of bonuses or no bonuses...In parts of Africa, South Asia and Latin America, the struggle is for food or no food.”