November 19, 2012
After decades of bypassing the Haitian government in the provision of aid, after the 2010 earthquake there was an acknowledgement by international NGOs and donors that this time had to be different. The sentiment was summed up well by Nigel Fisher, the deputy special representative for MINUSTAH in Haiti when he told The Nation:
Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people are here delivering aid, but they are doing functions that should be done by the Haitians…You cannot complain about failures of the Haitian state if you don’t support it to grow stronger. For decades, we have not invested in that very much.
And yet, as HRRW and other have documented time and time again, just as in the past, the Haitian government, civil society and businesses were largely bypassed again. Less than one percent (PDF) of humanitarian aid went to the Haitian government or Haitian organizations in the 18 months after the earthquake. Just over one percent of the $450 million or so in USAID contracts have gone to Haitian firms. Furthermore, there have been consistent complaints from government officials that they are not consulted by international partners. Nevertheless, donors continue to tout the “Haitian-led” reconstruction effort. Another quote from Kathie Klarreich and Linda Polman’s recent Nation article makes it clear this is nothing more than rhetoric:
A spokesman for one of the largest UN organizations in the country offered a stunningly blunt portrait of this dynamic. Asked whether the government of Haiti has ever told him what to spend donor money on, the spokesman, who insisted on remaining anonymous, said: “Never. They are not in the position, because they are financially dependent. Recently, there was a government press conference. There was nothing ‘government’ about it; we organized it and told them what to say.” He chuckled, then added: “Very sad, really.”
As for the aid community’s claim that it has been playing a supporting role and letting the Haitian government lead the reconstruction effort, he said, “It’s a lie. It’s tragic, but it’s a lie.”