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.
It’s the land stupid The International Red Cross and Red Crescent group hasn’t yet erected one single transitional house. After weeks of hunting, they can’t find available land.
Relief agencies can’t build shelters in the jammed tent camps that sprung up after the quake on every available inch of public land in Port-au-Prince, as well as on the private property of schools and businesses.
Nor can they build on most plots where the homeless previously resided because about 80 percent of them were renters, and the agencies fear the intended recipients would only be evicted by landowners.
“Finland is giving Haiti 12.5 million euros, part of which could be used for the construction of homes and other buildings using Finnish methods.”
PS: First Haitian-American-owned firm lands USAID contract. The company isn’t a newbie; it has a long history of landing federal contracts.