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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Investigation Finds Evidence of Violations of Union Rights in Garment Industry Print
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 15:41

On the same day as a high profile event laying the corner stone of “one of the largest and most modern” industrial parks in the Caribbean, an investigation by Better Work Haiti found "evidence of violations of freedom of association" at other Haitian textile factories. Alison Macgregor of the Montreal Gazette reports:

Gildan Activewear Inc. has ordered its Haitian subcontractor to reinstate four workers after an independent investigation concluded they were illegally fired in September because of their involvement with a local union.

The union members worked for the Genesis S.A. factory near the Portau-Prince [sic] airport. The tax-exempt plant, owned by the powerful Apaid family, produces almost exclusively for Gildan. The investigation found there was "evidence of violations of freedom of association" at the factory, Peter Iliopoulos, Gildan's senior vice-president (public and corporate affairs) said in an interview Tuesday.

[It is also worth noting that the workers’ reinstatement follows pressure from the International Labor Rights Forum, United Students Against Sweatshops, Workers Rights Consortium and other labor solidarity groups.]

Until this past September there was only one union in the Haitian garment sector, and none in Port-au-Prince. In September, the Sendika Ouvriye Takstil ak Abiman (SOTA) union was formed as a sector wide movement. On September 16, SOTA obtained registration from the Haitian Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, yet as the Better Work investigation states:

Between 23 and 30 September 2011, six members of the Executive Committee of a new trade union formed by workers in the garment sector in Haiti (SOTA) were terminated by three factories in Port-au-Prince.


In each case, Better Work found that the “employer has not provided sufficient information to counter the allegations of anti-union discrimination”. The report suggests the re-hiring of those fired with back pay and concludes:

There is strong circumstantial evidence to demonstrate that the officers of the SOTA trade union were terminated based on their trade union affiliation. The fact that 6 out of 7 officers of the SOTA union were fired by three employers within two weeks of the registration of the union with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs strongly suggests an effort by employers to undermine the new union, and to curtail its growth before it had the opportunity to expand its membership.

With the garment industry heavily promoted by the Haitian government and international donors, it will be imperative to ensure that worker’s rights are respected and strengthened.

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Leaked Contract Reveals Inadequate Oversight of Beltway Contractors; Haitian Firms Remain Sidelined Print
Monday, 28 November 2011 15:31

This is the second part of a series of posts analyzing USAID's increasing reliance on contractors and how this has affected efforts to provide greater oversight, implement procurement reform and improve the efficacy of U.S. aid. Part one is available here.

Procurement Reform – Moving Forward?

One primary aspect of USAID Forward is procurement reform. The goal is to “Increase use of reliable partner country systems and institutions”, strengthen local capacity by allocating more grants to local NGOs and increase the “percentage of total dollars through direct contracts with local private businesses.” The program also aims to “[d]ecrease both the number and/or dollar value of large indefinite quantity contracts” which have been labeled as “high risk”.

These reforms deserve to be supported, and there is some evidence that efforts are being made to implement them. The GAO report (discussed in the part one), for instance, acknowledges that procurement documents indicated, “whether those activities will be targeted at local firms or organizations or use traditional partners.”

Nevertheless, in Haiti, only .02 percent of contracts from USAID have gone directly to Haitian companies, while the largest contracts have gone to for-profit development contractors in the form of “high-risk” indefinite quantity contracts. The overwhelming majority of contracts have gone to companies in the Washington DC area (Beltway), as can be seen in Table I. The percentage that has gone to local firms in Haiti is even lower than USAID’s worldwide average, which over the past three years has been 0.63 percent. Through USAID Forward, the agency aims to reach 2 percent by fiscal year 2013.

Table I.

Contractor Location

Amount Received

Percent of Total

Beltway

 $ 242,204,401

82.96

Haiti

 $           48,641

0.02

All Other

 $   49,691,198

17.02

Total

 $ 291,944,240

100

Source: FPDS, author’s calculations.

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GAO Report Suggests that USAID Remains "More of a Contracting Agency Than an Operational Agency" Print
Monday, 21 November 2011 13:33

“But I think it's fair to say that USAID, our premier aid agency, has been decimated. You know, it has half the staff it used to have. It's turned into more of a contracting agency than an operational agency with the ability to deliver.” – Hillary Clinton, Senate Confirmation Hearing as Nominee for Secretary of State

This is the first part of a series of posts analyzing USAID's increasing reliance on contractors and how this has affected efforts to provide greater oversight, implement procurement reform and improve the efficacy of U.S. aid.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has changed drastically over the past 20 years. Beginning in the early ‘90s and continuing through the 2000s, USAID saw its reliance on contractors increase drastically. From 1990 to 2008 USAID experienced a 40 percent decline in staff, from 3500 to 2200. Over the same period, funds under their responsibility skyrocketed. The American Academy for Diplomacy noted in a 2008 report that, “[i]mplementation of programs has shifted from Agency employees to contractors and grantees and USAID lacks the technical management capacity to provide effective oversight and management.” The Academy also noted that “USAID employs only five engineers worldwide, despite a growing number of activities in that sector.” However it was not just NGOs that benefited from the increased use of contracts and grants; the for-profit development industry has gained as well. From fiscal year 1996 to fiscal year 2005, “the share of funds awarded to for-profit contractors rose from 33 percent to 58 percent.” These companies, generally based in the greater Washington, DC area, have taken a leading role in U.S. foreign aid.  In a 2008 Senate hearing on USAID, Senator Patrick Leahy stated (PDF):

USAID’s professional staff is a shadow of what it once was. We routinely hear that the reason USAID has become a check writing agency for a handful of big Washington contractors and NGOs is because you don’t have the staff to manage a larger number of smaller contracts and grants.

Sometimes these big contractors do a good job, although they charge an arm and a leg to do it. Other times they waste piles of money and accomplish next to nothing, although they are masters at writing glowing reports about what a good job they did.

Meanwhile, the small not-for-profit organizations are shut out of the process. This is bad not only for U.S. taxpayers but also for the countries that need our help.

With the election of Barack Obama and a change in the leadership of the State Department and USAID, this situation was supposed to change. Incoming USAID director Rajiv Shah announced the USAID Forward project, which aims to “change the way the Agency does business.” Additionally, in 2008 Congress appropriated funding for the Development Leadership Initiative that aimed to double USAID’s Foreign Service workforce by 2012, overturning the previous decades of declining staff. However both the USAID Forward program and the Development Leadership Initiative have not led to drastic changes on the ground as of yet, and potential funding cuts from Congress will only exacerbate the slow pace of reform.

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Slow Pace of Reconstruction Leads to Lower Economic Growth Print
Thursday, 10 November 2011 15:30

The level of grant support is only marginally higher than in 2009, before the earthquake, while overall spending levels are actually below 2009 levels. Despite the billions pledged in aid, budget support for the Haitian government was lower in 2011 than it had been in 2009.

The January 12 earthquake, which caused an estimated $8 billion in damages, led the Haitian economy to contract by 5.5 percent in 2010. With the prospect of large reconstruction projects backed by donor pledges of $4.6 billion, the economy was expected to begin growing rapidly in 2011. The IMF projected growth of over 8.5 percent in their first review of Haiti’s economic program in May:

Real GDP is expected to grow by 8.6 percent, assuming concerted strong efforts by the authorities and the international community to speed up the reconstruction.

As we have written about previously, disbursements from donors have been slow to materialize, a problem only exacerbated by the five months it took to form a new government. In addition to the effects on the ground, over 550,000 still living in tarp shelters with little services, the slow pace of reconstruction is also slowing economic growth. Updated projections from the IMF now expect slower growth of 6 percent in 2011.

Surprisingly, given the immense needs, government spending contracted sharply in 2011 compared to 2010. In 2010, with substantial grant support (including direct budget support) from donors, government spending reached 27.5 percent of GDP. In 2011 expenditures were significantly lower at 19.7 percent of GDP as grants decreased by ten percentage points to just 7.5 percent of GDP in 2011. The level of grant support is only marginally higher than in 2009, before the earthquake, while overall spending levels are actually below 2009 levels. Despite the billions pledged in aid, budget support for the Haitian government was lower in 2011 than it had been in 2009. The decreased expenditure most drastically affected capital expenditures, which fell from 16 percent of GDP in 2010 to below 10 percent in 2011.

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Haitian Cholera Victims Seek Justice Print
Tuesday, 08 November 2011 15:40

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) held a press conference today in New York regarding the complaint [PDF] they filed Thursday on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims seeking damages from the UN. The complaint states that

The cholera outbreak is directly attributable to the negligence, gross negligence, recklessness and deliberate indifference for the health and lives of Haiti’s citizens by the United Nations (“UN”) and its subsidiary, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (“MINUSTAH”).

IJDH Director Brian Concannon explained on Democracy Now! this morning:

“We’re hoping that this is the case that’s too big to fail. That the evidence against the United Nations is so overwhelming here that the U.N. will have no choice but to finally take responsibility for its malfeasance.” “What we’re asking for, what our clients are asking for, is the U.N. and international community to step up and to give Haiti the sanitation infrastructure it needs to stop the epidemic."

The AP’s Trenton Daniel summed up the goals of the complaint in an article today:

Concannon said he hoped the U.N. mission would set up a tribunal to evaluate the claims filed on behalf of the cholera victims. He also said he hoped the U.N. force would fund and create a lifesaving program that would provide sanitation, potable water and medical treatment. He also said he wants a public apology.

“We’re obviously hoping that the U.N. will step up and do the right thing,” he said by telephone.

If that doesn’t happen, the group plans to file the claims in a Haitian court, he said.

As the complaint [PDF] notes, the UN has failed to provide Haitians with the mechanisms they need to seek redress that are required under the Status of Forces Agreement governing MINUSTAH’s legal status:

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Local Purchases of Rice as Food Aid Overstated Print
Friday, 04 November 2011 16:32

In addition to the problems of allocating food aid discussed in the previous post, another significant problem is the lack of local procurement, which can be more effective than importing in emergency situations. The U.S. government, which has begun a local and regional procurement pilot project, found in a 2009 study (PDF) that:

Local and regional purchase is an important tool, enabling food aid agencies to respond quickly to emergency food needs, both during and after food crises and disasters.

Local and regional purchase can be a timely and effective complement to in-kind food aid programs.

The pilot project is also “based on the view that local and regional purchase has potential value for strengthening and expanding commercial markets, stimulating local and regional production, and reducing emergency food aid requirements.”  Yet thus far, the pilot project has only limited funds and was undertaken in just 12 countries in 2010 (only seven countries are benefactors of the program in 2011).  Together the 12 country programs made up less than one percent of all U.S. food aid in Fiscal Year 2010.

After the earthquake, noting that Haiti has gone from producing nearly 50 percent of their annual rice consumption in 1988 to around 15 percent now, CEPR published a report on food aid  that proposed “that international donors seeking to support Haiti’s agricultural sector and provide food to those in need could help Haiti become more self-sufficient by” using local procurement to purchase Haitian rice. According to the World Food Program Food Aid Information System, Haiti received over 110,000 metric tons (MT) of rice as food aid in FY2010, with the U.S. providing 57,000 MT of the total. According to the WFP, only about five percent of this came in the form of local procurement, despite the previously discussed advantages. Upon further review, however, even this low number is drastically overstated.

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World Bank Report Finds Allocation of Emergency Food Aid Not Effective in Targeting Most Vulnerable Print
Friday, 04 November 2011 15:47

After the January earthquake, a number of donors and NGOs began large scale food distribution programs. Post earthquake surveys had found a large spike in food insecure households directly after the earthquake.  A recent World Bank Policy Research Working Paper from Damien Échevin notes that three weeks after the earthquake “31% of the households were experiencing limited or severe food insecurity (22% and 9% respectively), that is a [sic] nearly double the food insecurity prevalence observed before the earthquake.” In a follow up survey four months later, the number of food insecure households had decreased, but only to 27 percent. Échevin concludes:

So, shortly after the earthquake, assistance programs allocation prove not to have been effective in targeting the most vulnerable people in the directly affected area. Five months after the earthquake, it appears that things had not really changed: although food assistance may have contributed to decrease the prevalence of food insecurity over the period, authorities still seemed unable to provide an efficient allocation of assistance programs…indeed, assistance also appeared to benefit less to families headed by women and less to households with disabled members, which is contradictory with an "optimal" targeting that would make those most vulnerable eligible for assistance in priority.

The World Bank report also has some interesting conclusions about Food-for-Work and Cash-for-Work plans:

When focusing of cash and food-for-work programs, we find that these programs are not specifically targeted at people who are most in need, be it because of their low level of subsistence or because of earthquake-related losses. Pre-earthquake participation to programs appears to be an important determinant of post-earthquake participation. What is more, cash-for-work is very rarely declared as the main source of household income.

The report provides some statistical backing to the first-hand accounts of the problems with food distribution in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and with the problematic Cash-for-Work programs from USAID/OTI.

 
Barriers to Reform: The Big Business of Shipping Food Aid Print
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 15:09

Between January 14 and February 26 2011, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) signed nine contracts with three shipping companies to send 73,000 Metric Tons of rice and other commodities in Title II emergency food aid to Haiti, public records from the Federal Procurement Database System show. The contracts in total cost taxpayers over $18 million dollars, as shown in the table below.

FoodAidShipping

According to the World Food Program Food Aid Information System, Haiti received over 110,000 Metric Tons of rice as food aid in 2010, yet only five percent came in the form of local procurement. Although we have previously discussed the benefits of local procurement of food aid and efforts to increase it, the role of the shipping industry has often been neglected from these discussions. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found in a 2009 report that:

Certain legal requirements to procure U.S.-grown agricultural commodities for food aid and to transport those commodities on U.S.-flag vessels may constrain agencies’ use of LRP [local and regional procurement].

The role of the shipping industry in preventing food aid reforms in the U.S. was the subject of a 2010 paper entitled “Food Aid and Agricultural Cargo Preference” (PDF) from researchers at Cornell University. The paper explains why the barriers to reforming the delivery of food aid are so much greater in the U.S. than elsewhere:

The sheer size and history of US food aid programs obviously create inertia that differentiates it from most donors. But in political economy terms, arguably the most distinctive feature of US food aid programs is the intimate involvement of ocean carriers, who benefit from little‐known agricultural cargo preference (ACP) requirements absent in other donor countries. While food aid policy reforms have had to overcome resistance from agribusiness and some nongovernmental organization (NGO) interests in every donor nation, the “iron triangle” of interests formed by agribusiness, some NGOs and ocean carriers has been a uniquely effective lobby for the status quo in US food aid policy.

In addition to the problems associated with the actual delivery of food aid, the report finds that the cost of the agricultural cargo preference to U.S. taxpayers is significant:

We find that meeting ACP requirements for USDA and USAID programs cost US taxpayers roughly $140 million per year in FY2006 and that roughly half of those costs were borne by food aid agencies rather than by the Maritime Administration. ACP costs USAID a significant portion of its food aid programming resources under Title II of Public Law 480, nearly equivalent to the value of USAID’s entire Title II non‐emergency food aid to Africa.

 
IHRC Mandate Ends – 18 Months With Little to Show Print
Thursday, 27 October 2011 15:33

As the AP reported last week, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission’s (IHRC) mandate expired on Friday, October 21. The mandate had called for a transition to a Haitian government development authority to take the place of the commission. The date passed with little fanfare and no official statements from the IHRC itself. Reports in the Haitian press indicate that newly designated Prime Minister Gary Conille intends to submit a bill asking for the panel’s extension to Parliament, where some members have already expressed their reluctance to vote for it. Conille is a former advisor to Bill Clinton; Clinton co-chairs the IHRC.

Throughout the relief and reconstruction process, many have pointed out that the Haitian government has largely been bypassed and that Haitians themselves have been left out of the decision making process. In response, donors often point to the IHRC. The United States, for instance, said in January 2011 that “[t]o ensure that the reconstruction is Haitian-led, the U.S. Government coordinates all its recovery assistance through the IHRC.”

For its part the United State seems convinced the panel will be renewed. Although the U.S. government has made no official statement, USAID extended the contract of an undisclosed foreign contractor on September 30. The award description states, “The purpose of this modification is to extend the POP from September 30, 2011 to October 21, 2012 to serve as the disbursing agent of the IHRC; and increment funds in $45,387.00.” Then on October 20, the day before the mandate expired, the same contractor received an additional $20,000. Overall USAID has given more than $500,000 to this contractor to act as a steward of IHRC funds. It is unclear why the US would extend the contract until October 2012 without knowing if the IHRC would even continue to operate.

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Lack of Adequate Housing Plan “Most Glaring Failure of the Past Year” Print
Thursday, 13 October 2011 10:26

Last Thursday, Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald reported on Haitian President Michel Martelly’s plan, announced some time ago, to return inhabitants of six IDP camps back to 16 neighborhoods, known as the 16-6 plan. Charles writes:

For weeks, families like Simin’s have quietly moved out of the camp and into permanent homes as part of a housing initiative launched by Haitian President Michel Martelly. With help from the International Organization for Migration, families are getting $500 in rental subsidies. It’s part of a larger program Martelly launched recently to target the town square and five other Port-au-Prince tent cities hoping to find a permanent solution to reconstruction’s most vexing problem: housing.

The program has won the support of the international community, with U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis recently telling the UN Security Council, that “[t]he use of the neighborhood returns approach, instead of mere camp evictions, is the type of humane approach the United States fully supports.” Yet the plan has already come under serious criticism and rather than limiting evictions, multiple camps in the plan have already been forcibly evicted. Journalist Justin Podur wrote last week that even if the program works, its effectiveness will be limited:

In total, if the program succeeds, it will touch 5000 families, or 4% of the camp population. I spoke to the director of 16-6, Clement Belizaire. So far, 190 families have been resettled from the first camp, Place St. Pierre, in Petionville. Belizaire expects the 1500 families who live in the first two camps, Place St. Pierre and Place Boyer, to be in their neighbourhoods by the end of November. He expects the process to speed up as it progresses. If Belizaire's estimates are extrapolated for all six camps, 4% of Haiti's current camp population will be in housing by March 2012.

Also last week, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the University of San Francisco School of Law released a report criticizing the lack of progress in Martelly’s housing plan. The report points out that, among other faults, two of the six camps in Martelly’s plan have already been forcibly evicted:

In the meantime, one camp was closed in July (Stade Sylvio Cator) and one camp partially closed (Place St. Pierre), both without the protections or benefits promised in the Martelly plan. The families living at Stade Sylvio Cator were unlawfully evicted by the Mayor of Port-au-Prince and Haitian National Police without a court order, as required under Haitian law. The police destroyed residents’ tents and belongings, prompting condemnation from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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