Port-au-Prince – On Friday July 25 the United States Congress passed the S.1104, The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act. CWS has played a big role in advocating for the passage of this Act, and encouraged allies in Congress to consider the bill favorably. As CWS Country Representative for Haiti – and someone who has lived in Haiti for many years – I want to thank members of Congress who took an interest in this legislation, which measures the progress of recovery and development efforts in Haiti following the earthquake of January 12, 2010.
Many people have asked many times ‘where the money went’ that was donated to the people of Haiti and the reconstruction of their country. The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act will contribute to finding a better answer to this question. It requires the Secretary of State to submit to Congress a report on the status of post-earthquake recovery and development efforts in Haiti no later than December 31 and annually thereafter through December 31, 2017. The report should include information of work done by US government agencies, housing strategy, strengthening Haitian governmental and nongovernmental organizational capacity, consultation with civil society, accountability, anti-corruption efforts, and efforts to address the particular needs of vulnerable populations.
Much of the money went back to the United States, either through imported materials or contracting. This represented a failed opportunity to invest in Haitian companies and local human resources. Donated food products are in competition with local production; ironically, Haitian rice (to name just one example), is more expensive than imported rice. Haiti can produce, but is limited by foreign aid. Forty years ago Haiti was self sufficient in food and this is where it wants to be once more. Food distribution is no sustainable solution; increased agricultural production is.
This is also where the Assessing Progress Act can play a role, since it does not only require the Secretary of State to report, but also to submit a three year Haiti strategy, which must include plans to improve capacity building of the Government of Haiti, assist the Government of Haiti in holding free and fair elections, reduce corruption, consolidate rule of law and an independent judiciary, develop sustainable housing, promote agricultural development, and improve access to potable water and sanitation services.
The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act opens new opportunities to address corruption and government effectiveness. Haiti will only develop when it has a well functioning, strong and respected government that is taken seriously and that takes itself seriously, taking responsibility of its country and citizens. Corruption has had too much of a history in Haiti, disrupting both government and private institutions, while forcing the poor to pay bribes to get access to basic services.
Other areas of intervention of CWS in Haiti include food security, child protection, housing and integration of people with disabilities, all addressed by the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act. The majority of people depend on farming and Haiti is a country full of natural richness. It is time that these natural resources be exploited, in a positive sense, by and for its citizens.
The earthquake made many people disabled. People with disabilities have historically been hidden in Haitian society, they are not seen as ‘full’ citizens with capacities and rights. They are a vulnerable population, as the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act says, and their needs require to be addressed. The same goes for children living in forced domestic service, also called restavèk.
At the same time, assessments of housing projects show mixed results. There are fewer homes constructed than was planned, many empty houses, and, for some of these projects, there has been ambiguous beneficiary selection. Some private initiatives have definitely made a change, but coordination remains difficult.
The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act has a lot of potential to address pertinent issues. CWS will continue to strive for realizing progress in Haiti.