2010 Haiti Donors Conference and the Way Ahead

  • Posted on: 2 April 2010
  • By: Bryan Schaaf

The 2010 Haiti Donors’ Conference concluded yesterday.  The last such conference was held almost a year ago under very different circumstances.  This was very much an international event with Brazil, Canada, the European Union, France, and Spain actively engaged.  Over 130 nations, NGOs, and other organizations participated.  Fifty nine pledged 9 billion, of which 5 billion will be for 2010 and 2011 – provided that these pledges actually become contributions which is not always the case.  As Phillipe Matieu of Oxfam puts it, “…pledges need to turn into concrete progress on the ground.  This cannot be a VIP Pageant of half promises.”   Below is a summary of what we know about the way ahead as of April 1st.


Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the event by calling on participants to provide $11.5 billion over the next 10 years for the reconstruction of Haiti.  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the U.S. pledge of $1.15 billion for Haiti's recovery and reconstruction.  The United States will not try to do everything but instead will focus on areas where it has a comparative advantage - health, agriculture, energy and security.  Other nations will focus on areas where they have more expertise such as Brazil and Canada with education. Participants acknowledged that without agriculture, there can be no decentralization.  Without disaster risk reduction, long term economic recovery will be tenuous at best.


Donors acknowledged that past strategies have failed.  All too often, when ill conceived development projects or initiatives thought up by people who only know the Haitian people from afar ultimately fail, the “beneficiaries” are called fatalistic, dependant, corrupt, or dysfunctional.  It is insulting.  All too often, the problem is us and our failure to listen, our failure to learn, and our failure to offer solidarity instead of charity.


Donors also acknowledged the balance between reconstructing Port au Prince and rebuilding the economy of the rest of Haiti where most Haitians live.  Donors noted the importance of addressing the humanitarian needs of the 1.3 million Haitians who still lack shelter.  So far, the humanitarian appeal had only been funded by 50 percent  Relief is needed so that a transition to development can become possible.


As Secretary Clinton said, “...aid is important but it never saved a country.  Our goal must be the empowerment of the Haitian people.  They are the ones who will carry on the work of rebuilding Haiti long after our involvement has ended.  Haiti does not only need medicines and surgeries, but it needs the doctors and nurses who can deliver the regular care and sustain a thriving health system.  Haiti not only needs new school buildings, but it needs teachers and administrators.  It needs the people of Haiti to be given the tools to be able to deliver on the promise of their own future. “  Over the long run, Haiti will need trade more than it needs aid.  Donors committed to use Haitian firms and workers whenever possible and to strengthen labor standards, and the Haitian government has committed to introduce reforms to make the investment climate more conducive to businesses, such as by establishing a clear land ownership policy and developing an up-to-date registry.


Clinton went on to emphasize the importance of innovation in developing the Haitian economy, stating Haiti could potentially be the first wireless country in the Caribbean or the first completely self-sufficient country in energy. John Holmes, the U.N. humanitarian chief, said investment would be the best sign of Haiti's recovery.  International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn predicted Haiti would see an average of 8 percent growth annually for the next five years – but only if the Haitian government is in the driver’s seat.


The Haitian government will be insistent from here on out that development projects be coordinated with its priorities. Participants want the Haitian government to take on this leadership role but there is also skepticism as to the extent to which it can do so in an accountability and transparent way.  For decades, donor nations have avoided direct aid to the government and its ministries.  Instead funds were provided to non governmental organizations and international organizations that substituted for the government ministries – doing what they should be doing if they had the will and the resources.  Donor nations intend to build up the collapsed Ministries, not just the buildings, but also the capacity of its staff to be efficient and accountable.  It will be a long a long and challenging process, but improving governance is key to reconstruction and one of the missing pieces of the development puzzle. 


An Interim Haiti Recovery Commission will guide construction over the next 18 months and lay the foundation for a Haiti Redevelopment Authority.  Bill Clinton accepted the Haitian government’s offer to co-chair.  He will play a major role in strategic planning and oversight.  Also of note, participants agreed to a robust internet-based tracking system to report on the delivery of their assistance and an emphasis on measuring performance and results.


The World Bank will play an important role in the reconstruction efforts.  It will manage a multi-donor trust fund, which will allow different countries to work jointly on projects.  The fund will provide as much as $479 million over the next 14 months.  Haiti's $39 million debt to the bank will also be canceled.  The funding will also include $151 million in grants, $100 million of which was announced in January, and $60 million for private-sector projects. An additional $229 million in grants to Haiti will come from money that was allocated for existing projects before the earthquake and has yet to be spent. The President of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, proposed a division of labour among international agencies to avoid “tripping over one another.”  He recommended that all parties meet again in six months to assess progress made to date, or as he put it, provide an accountability report to the people of Haiti.  That accountability report should be in Haitian Kreyol as should all of Haiti’s laws, regulations, announcements, etc.


There is concern that the earthquake will jeapordize years of steady progress against HIV/AIDS.  The health system, including clinics where antiretroviral treatment was available, has collapsed.  Drug resistance, from beginning and ceasing treatment, is a real concern for patients being treated for HIV/AIDS and TB.  Pregnant mothers who are HIV positive require treatment in order to prevent their babies from contracting HIV.  Women and children in the camps require protection in order to reduce their vulnerability to sexual exploitation and gender based violence.  Without community empowerment and the presence of either UNPOL, MINUSTAH, Haitian National Police, or foreign military, women and children will only become more vulnerable as the rains fall - usually mid to end April, with rain falling hard every afternoon in May.


Women’s Groups were said to be largely absent from the conference.  More than 100 women’s groups attended an alternative conference hosted by MADRE, a New York-based organization The Haiti Gender Equality Collaborative, a coalition of civil society organizations, placed its own spin on the document, issuing a modified “gender shadow report” at the MADRE conference, hosted across the street from the United Nation Secretariat. It highlights the gender concerns absent from Haiti’s PDNA, and offers recommendations for gender-sensitive plans of action. The Haitian government is dominated by men, and this has been part of the problem.  Women have been holding the country together but are far under-represented in government – ranging from law enforcement to elected officials.  Haitian women leaders are sorely needed. Disenfranchisement of women is holding Haiti back. Some civil society groups also complained that the creation of the Haitian government action plans were not transparent and did not include enough ordinary people.


Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet as his Special Representative in Haiti, succeeding Hédi Annabi, who died in the earthquake.  Mulet said at a press conference last week that while the numbers are unknown, reports of sexual violence and rape are on the rise. The UN considers the matter “urgent,” he said, and plans on deploying an all-female Bangladesh Formed Police Unit (FPU) of military peacekeepers imminently.  It will be the second-ever all-female FPU the UN has deployed, and Mulet anticipated their presence in the often cramped, poorly-lit displaced camps would be extremely helpful.


Education did not fall of the radar as some feared it might.  In his remarks, President Preval stated no development was possible without education.  He appealed for the support of the Diaspora in rebuilding Haiti’s educational system.


The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), of which the American and Haitian Red Cross societies are a part, pledged to extend the emergency phase of its work in Haiti for up to twelve months and committed more than $300 million towards Haiti's long-term recovery and reconstruction following the devastating earthquake of January., Collectively, more than 80 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have raised more than $700 million for earthquake relief, recovery and reconstruction since January 12.


What we don't know:  There was much talk about decentralization and also about foreign direct investment.  How can the government encourage companies to invest outside of Port au Prince in order to support decentralization?  Would companies really be interested in establishing operations in areas where roads are bad and electricity is minimal?  How can the perspectives and concerns of women be better incorporated into the reconstruction process?  Making better use of agriculture requires serious land reform - can we expect this before the end of Preval's term?  Can we expect movement on dual citizenship for the Haitian Diaspora? What is the government's stance on energy develoment, including alternative fuels such as jatropha, solar, etc.  Is the creation of a National Service Corps a priority for the Preval Administration?


Of course, you may have other questions and concerns.  Please feel free to post them below.  In the meantime, click here to view the documents that were discussed during the 2010 Haiti Donors Conference including the Action Plan, the Post Disaster Needs Assessment, MINUSTAH reports, updates on the economic and humanitarian situation, etc.  Ill continue to post updates as they become available.


Thanks for reading,



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