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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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6 Months Later, “Lack of Progress is Not for Lack of Funding” Print
Friday, 09 July 2010 14:49
Monday will mark the six month anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, yet the situation on the ground remains dire. Despite billions in donor pledges and over a billion in private donations from the US alone, the relief and recovery efforts are simply not moving fast enough. A Doctors Without Borders (MSF) report this week notes, "that whilst the overall relief effort has kept many people alive, it is still not easing some of their greatest suffering." MSF is "very concerned about the lack of progress overall" in the provision of shelter, adding:
By far the biggest threat to people’s living conditions is the failure to provide any substantial, robust shelter. Sheeting and tents were never anything more than a very temporary solution. They [sheeting and tents] have a life expectancy of around six months.
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CARICOM Calls for Direct Support to Haitian Government Print
Thursday, 08 July 2010 10:17
Earlier this week CARICOM leaders met at a summit that included UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. Inter-Press Service reports on the meeting, noting that CARICOM called for "some "level of order" among the hundreds of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that they fear could undermine the fragile democracy in Haiti." Roosevelt Skerrit, the Prime Minister of Dominica and head of CARICOM is quoted as saying:
"With respect to the NGOs operating out of Haiti, we called on the U.N. secretary-general to do all that he can to bring some level of order to the situation, because while we speak about maintaining democracy in Haiti we can't at the same time be affording NGOs to undermine the democratic institutions in Haiti."
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Venezuela Leads World in Aid to Haiti Print
Tuesday, 06 July 2010 16:10

The Miami Herald reports on the role of Venezuela in the relief and reconstruction of Haiti. The article notes that Venezuela was "the first nation to respond", "became the first country to forgive Haiti's foreign debt", and pledged more than the US, EU or World Bank at the UN Donor Conference in New York. These are all amazing achievements, however the Miami Herald focuses on how "the aid is likely to slow" with an ongoing recession (which is global - this, like many other news articles, treats Venezuela's economy as if it's in a vacuum) and upcoming elections in Venezuela - a prediction for which no evidence is offered.  Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue is also quoted in the article, speaking about the political use of Venezuelan aid.

None of these things are characteristics that only apply to Venezuela, however. The United States is also facing a poor economic situation back home, and elections in November, yet aid from the United States is rarely subject to the same analysis. Unlike Venezuelan aid, USAID, the main avenue for US aid projects, has an expressly political goal. The USAID website says that, "U.S. foreign assistance has always had the twofold purpose of furthering America's foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developing world."

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Get Your Free Poster and Urge DHS to Parole in 55,000 Approved Beneficiaries to Reunite Families and Spur Haiti's Recovery Print
Friday, 02 July 2010 12:17
The following is from guest contributor Steven Forester who coordinates immigration policy advocacy for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH).

July 12 will be six months since the quake. Last Saturday a Washington Post editorial again, as on January 29, urged the Obama Administration to promptly parole 55,000 beneficiaries of visa petitions DHS has already approved -- but who otherwise will languish years longer in Haiti due to the visa backlog -- citing as precedent DHS's creation in 2007 of a Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program.  A favorable Post blog followed on Wednesday.
 
Creating a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program would serve the same goals as the Cuban program and give Haiti's recovery a huge blood transfusion via their consequent remittances to an estimated 550,000 or more Haitians.  You can support this goal.
 
HIAS has created a laminated poster that asks people to urge DHS (202 282 8495) and Congress (202 224 3121) to reunite these 55,000 separated Haitian families.  To get a free poster, email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with your name and address, and post them widely.
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Preval rejects calls for fair elections; How will Washington and the international community respond? Print
Thursday, 01 July 2010 16:19
The AP reported late last night that President Preval had rejected many of the recommendations outlined in Senator Lugar's report for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which we wrote about yesterday. While Preval did formally set a date for elections, a key recommendation of the report, he refused to work with international partners to reform the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) or to do more to ensure a fully inclusive electoral process. The Miami Herald and Reuters also have the story. As we wrote yesterday, and a number of times previously, Haiti's largest party, Fanmi Lavalas was excluded from 2009 elections and also from the planned February elections. Preval, however, defended the action, the AP writes:
He also defended the prohibition on the exiled Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas party in last year's elections, a ban that came after rival factions of the party submitted competing lists of candidates.

"International donors need to look for an accord with the CEP and the political parties and the factions of Fanmi Lavalas," Preval said. "We are giving (the parties) the support that they need, and the factions need to figure it out (for themselves)."
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With Date for Elections Set, Next Step is to Ensure Full Participation Print
Wednesday, 30 June 2010 13:20
Haitian President Rene Preval signed a decree on Tuesday setting November 28, 2010 as the election date, the AP reports. According to AFP, not only will a new president be elected, but the entire Chamber of Deputies and one third of the senate are also up for grabs. Serious issues, however, have yet to be resolved. As we have noted numerous times before, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) excluded 15 political parties from participating in the legislative elections planned for February. Among the parties excluded was Fanmi Lavalas, the most popular party. There has been no indication if the exclusion will hold for the November elections.

There are also constitutional issues concerning the CEP. The Haitian Constitution calls for a Permanent Electoral Council, however the current Provisional council’s members were appointed by Preval during his term in office. The parties that had been excluded were predominantly opponents of Preval's INITE coalition, raising concern over the independence of the CEP. Al-Jazeera, in their coverage of the election decree, note that Preval "did not address opponents' calls for the council itself to be replaced before a vote is held."
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Haiti at a Crossroads Print
Friday, 25 June 2010 16:14
A Senate Foreign Relations Committee report entitled, "Haiti at a Crossroads" was released earlier this week which warns that "there are worrisome signs that the rebuilding process in Haiti has stalled." The report is critical of the Haitian government, especially as it regards the issue of resettlement, but also for not sufficiently communicating with the Haitian people and for dragging its feet in development projects. In an interview with the AP earlier this week, Prime Minister Bellerive responded to some of these criticisms, as AP reports:
With a chuckle, he also said it is unfair for U.S. officials to take him to task when the Senate still has not approved aid money that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton promised at the donors' conference.

"They ask me to move more projects when the money is still on hold," Bellerive said.
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As Tropical Storms Threaten Haiti, International Community Can, and Must, Do More for Shelter Print
Thursday, 17 June 2010 12:24
On Tuesday, AccuWeather.com reported that Haiti will be at an increased risk of flooding this weekend, as a "tropical disturbance toting heavy showers and gusty thunderstorms moves in from the Eastern Atlantic." The report continues, "In addition, Hurricane Expert Joe Bastardi is predicting a second surge of tropically induced rain in the next two weeks with a tropical wave following the current system...". Adding that in Haiti, "Most of the shelters available to refugees today consist of tarps and tents that may not be able to withstand extreme weather."

In fact, many on the ground in Haiti have been provided with neither tarps nor tents. Although the Shelter Cluster reports 134 percent coverage of emergency shelter materials, looking deeper at the data shows that this may be misleading. While coverage for some areas greatly exceeds 100 percent, for others the coverage is significantly lower. A total of 232,130 people are still without either tents or tarps according to Shelter Cluster data from June 8. In addition to this number, a recent document from the Shelter Cluster notes that, "Tarps and tents that were distributed  in the first three months are more likely to have reached the end of their life span and might need to be replaced." The number of households whose soul source of protection from the weather are tents and tarps distributed in the first three months is an amazing 276,422, or well over 1 million people.
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Katrina Redux: New Disaster, Same Contractors Print
Friday, 11 June 2010 08:50
Ben Fox of the AP reported earlier this week on foreign firms going to Haiti to try and capitalize on the long and expensive reconstruction process. One contractor, which we have written about previously is Ashbritt. Fox writes:
Pompano Beach, Florida-based AshBritt Inc. so far has invested $25 million in its Haitian reconstruction operation covering a soccer field.

Now all Perkins [the CEO of Ashbritt] needs is a government contract to make his investment pay off.
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Reforming Reform: Judicial Edition Print
Thursday, 10 June 2010 14:06
The Wall Street Journal reports on moves by the Senate Appropriations Committee to block some funding for criminal justice programs in Haiti following the massacre at the prison in Las Cayes. Dionne Searcey writes:
The Appropriations proposal, put forth by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, says that in light of the incident at Les Cayes "no funds ... should be obligated for justice programs in Haiti until a thorough, credible and transparent investigation occurs, the results of which are made publicly available, and the [Haitian government] takes appropriate action."

The language, while not binding, is still powerful and would likely be honored. If the proposal is approved, at least one U.S.-backed justice-reform program in Haiti expects to shut its doors, according to people close to the group.
The program that will be probably be stopped is a $20 million project, administered by USAID. Although Haiti's criminal justice system does clearly need improvement and reform, it is worth pointing out that USAID money for justice programs have, in the past, been used to undermine the democratically elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
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