May 28, 2010
In two weeks I leave for Haiti for most of the summer. I’ll be based in Port-au-Prince so if anyone there wants to help this indie journalist escape aid-worker prices, holler. I’ve been doing DH off-line these last few weeks so this post is an update on what I’ve been getting into and what I’ll be doing in Haiti–besides learning Kreyol and swapping the E train for top-tops.
I’m going to Haiti to work on a long article to finish my degree (which is also what’s kept me busy these last weeks). Won’t say what the article’s about yet but it’ll take most of my time and get me into nearly every facet of Haitian society. Other than that, I’m there to watch, talk to everyone and write. I try to look at how systems work so while there I’ll focus on sustainable projects over those run on the charity model, the Haiti Reconstruction Commission and for-profit enterprises. I’ll be running DH from there so definitely check back.
While I’m in Haiti, I’ll find out if I get the grant that kicked off this site in the first place. Fingers and toes crossed. As appreciative as I am, this site can’t live by accolades alone.
I’ve been investigating a map of NGO’s in Haiti. I have a dream of going online to see which NGO’s doing what and where in Haiti. I have a dream of being able to search by city and project focus. I have a dream of better NGO coordination and avoiding duplication or concentration of similar services in one specific area. I have a dream of using that NGO map to enhance public-private partnerships and resource sharing. So far, I’ve heard from a few sources that such a map(s?) exists; still trying to pin it down.
Right now, I’m writing a story about Haitian-American business interests in Haiti. My research led me to an upcoming investment conference being held this June in Montrouis and Jacmel. It’s sponsored by the American Chamber of Commerce of the Dominican Republic, which of course, is well-positioned to take advantage of business opportunities in Haiti. If I can work out transportation and sleeping arrangements, I will definitely be reporting from there, too.
That’s it for now. Have a great Memorial Day weekend. I’ll be with my fam; hope you’re with yours.
May 13, 2010
about land, what else? Until the Haitian government makes deals with private landowners to free up space for evacuees, all the complaints about tents, proper housing and the coming rainy season won’t mean much. Consider: tent cities turn into long-term cities and folks riot if they think land’s being unfairly appropriated. This March article provides an excellent overview of the land issue and identifies key decision-makers. (that’s what journalism does that blog posts typically don’t)
One US think tank advises using food aid money to buy all of Haiti’s rice for the next two years:
International donors have committed $5.3 billion for the next 18 months, or $3.53 billion on an annual basis. The cost of buying Haiti’s rice crop is therefore only 1.8 to 2.3 percent of international aid funds.
And the Haitian government and diaspora could take some cues from the Liberian government, which is working hard at tapping its diaspora for development.
May 9, 2010
Panelists (L to R) Nancy Dorsinville, Taina Bien-Aimé and Alice Backer discuss Haitian women's absence in the reconstruction plan
Last Tuesday I attended another capacity-crowd diaspora panel, Reconstructing Haiti: Women at the Center subtitled, Where are the voices of Haitian women in the post-earthquake recovery of their country? Again I left this gathering of experts with the main question unanswered: if I want to help and complain–in this case on behalf of women–where is the best place to go? The public square is full, the crowd’s fists balled but no one is yet telling it where to strike.
I have yet to hear The One speak at the flurry of post-earthquake meetings of various diaspora and allied groups. So now I focus on why not. Without a tactician, it’s very possible that the crowd will remain a disorganized mass of well-meaning but politically impotent individuals. Their contribution to Haiti will remain their tangle of separately-run humanitarian projects in the Republic of NGO’s. That’s not a good thing.
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May 8, 2010
The new website that tracks how and who spends the US$9.9 billion in donor pledges is good news. But applauding the UN and the Haitian government’s transparency effort would be like congratulating a parent for acting like one so I won’t go there. One clue as to how ineffective this site may be however, comes from the UN’s top man on the island:
“It also provides a portal through which the people of Haiti can monitor use of the funds and hold their elected representatives accountable for how those funds are spent.”
Half the Haitian population is illiterate. And it’s fair to presume that the remaining literate portion won’t spend regular time online in at least the next year or two. Second major point, with the exception of the president and the prime minister there are no elected representatives on the 21-member [SEE UPDATE BELOW] reconstruction commission tasked with rebuilding Haiti over the next 2-3 years. So this site can’t possibly be for “the people of Haiti”–which means, the Haitian diaspora has to step up. This site will only be as informative and effective as the media and ordinary people force it to be.
June 2010 Update: elected reps do sit on the, now, 28-member reconstruction commission. Voting members include 12 Haitians and 12 international representatives of the major donor countries. Four members, including one representing the diaspora, hold seats but can not vote. Click here for the finalized list. This should quell early fears that Haiti’s elected government won’t lead the reconstruction, no? It seems that Haitians, through their elected representatives, will have a say in the reconstruction.
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May 7, 2010
Early this week Peter Beinart, the Daily Beast’s senior political writer buzzed Develop Haiti on the Beast’s “Smart People Recommend” board. Beinart made his name as the wunderkind former editor of The New Republic and considering he’s not yet 40 his other credentials make you wonder what you’ve been doing all your life. To me though, he’s just my prof at CUNY’s J-School and one of the best (read: most encouraging and refreshingly-without-ego) editors I’ve ever had. Beinart’s new book, which sounds like a caution to President Obama to rein in U.S. foreign policy, will be on my reading list when it comes out in June.
Speaking of June, I’ll be in Haiti then (and waiting to hear whether DH got the grant). I’ll be reporting, writing and drinking Barbancourt for most of the summer so holler if you’ll be there, too. Teach me to speak more Kreyol than “Nap Boule.”
And I’ve saved the best news for last.
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May 4, 2010
Katleen Felix who puts in serious legwork for microfinance group Fonkoze sent around this UNICEF announcement (after the jump). I’d heard through the reliable grapevine that development organizations weren’t welcoming diaspora Haitians but I wasn’t able to confirm. Let me know if you’ve been rejected out of hand so that I can follow up. I’m not a therapist so I can’t do much with a general “they suck” complaint. If publishing your name bothers you, we can work around it.
Before the listing, one eye-opening stat from UNICEF’s recent Haiti report:
—90% of Haiti’s schools are non-public. That’s complicating the ability to find money for and therefore, pay teachers. I attended a New York City fundraiser for a P-au-P school a couple of weeks ago. Great event, everyone gave generously and the founder-principal-teacher-problem fixer-adoptive mother (she’s all those things) will make those dollars stretch–but the exercise still struck me as an inefficient way to finance a school. What happens to kids from areas where principals don’t know any well-connected Haitians living in the States? What’s a more efficient option between government financing and ‘luck of the draw’ fundraising? Tough question but great opportunity for entrepreneurs.
UNICEF job announcement after the jump:
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