Archive for December, 2010

December 18, 2010

At DC panel, lessons from Liberia on USAID’s transparency

Haitian diaspora gathering in Washington, DC, March 2010 -- was that the last one?

Editor’s Note: You require transparency from us but none from yourselves.  That’s the charge leveled at USAID by Liberia’s finance minister (and a couple of other people), at a recent Brookings Institution panel on the lack of transparency among aid organizations. Haiti’s finance minister probably feels the same way.  As poorly as Haiti ranks on the corruption index the US ranks near the bottom in international aid transparency. And what comes out of this panel is that while we’re great at measuring other governments’ corruption, we apparently suck at competently measuring ourselves, the donors.  Read on for the Liberian minister’s edited remarks, which also raise the question, is the Haitian diaspora lobbying Congress to improve USAID?

Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, minister of finance, Liberia I concur fully with the assessment … that aid transparency is a necessary condition for effectiveness…. Liberia is a highly aid-dependent country.  I don’t want to go through the history of civil war, the destruction, and the reconstruction efforts.  As we speak we receive more flows to the country through aid than even our domestic revenue.  [And] although the amount of [aid passing] through our budget [had] been very insignificant–around 2-5 percent–it has gradually gone up to 15 percent.  We are hoping that as we improve our country’s systems, more donors can use them.

Now, [however]… we have a situation where most donors want to use parallel [NGO] systems [and not] government systems.  [But] the parallel systems [have to] give us better development outcomes … otherwise, the moral justification of using the parallel system does not exist.

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December 15, 2010

Haitian diaspora missing opportunity to help reform USAID?

(AFP/Getty Images)

Sometimes the Haitian diaspora gets so caught up in old school methods of helping Haiti (remittances, barrel shipping, Haitian politics), it forgets to read the tea leaves of US foreign policy–and act before policy gets made or shot down.  Key word: before. Reform is all about timing; miss the boat one year, the opportunity won’t come around again for another 20 years.

Making the rounds this week is an Associated Press report that Haitian firms get $1.60 of every $100 of U.S. contracts paid out since January 12th to rebuild Haiti–or, less than 2 percent of $267 million.  It is possible to tip that ratio in favor of local business owners (and the U.S. firms who sub-contract to them), but the Haitian diaspora has to act now.

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December 11, 2010

Eyes on the prize | Creating employment in Haiti

A year after the quake, do nonprofits still have cash for cash-for-work? (Howard LaFranchi/The Christian Science Monitor)

Over the last month all eyes have been on actual and potential post-election violence in Haiti but there’s more than violence and frustration going on there (see below). Business happens in Haiti, too, but it’s a topic that won’t typically be reported on in the media–to the detriment of Haitian diaspora who’re either looking for sustainable ways to help their country or who want to magnify the impact of foreign aid.

Fact: investment opportunities exist in Haiti.  Business coverage can help to foster not only more of them but more open commercial transactions.  Fact: if there’s one word that the Haitians I talked to this summer repeated most often, it’s “job.”  Despite that, most of our media and community conversations in the US, even among the diaspora, center not on job creation but on charity–as if alms ever lifted any mass of people out of poverty.

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December 8, 2010

Election Results | Letter from Port-au-Prince

Fires are set in Haiti after the electoral commission yesterday announced the results of last week's controversial election. (Reuters/Allison Shelley)

Ed Note: Like most readers I’ve been receiving reports, rumors, online arguments, news, fearmongering, calls for calm, etc all day.  This morning I received a letter from a Haitian-American friend who lives in Port-au-Prince. Unlike most readers this is my first time worrying for loved ones in Haiti.

Dear Friends,

As Haiti week begins I think its important to talk about what is happening right now.  Many cities are burning today and no one can go outside. There are tires burning, Haitians being shot, wounded, gassed; manifestations, Aux Cayes is burning down, and essentially the country is burning down due to the presidential results announced last night.  Everyone is hearing gunshots and seeing smoke above their cities, including myself. Right now its Cap, Leogane, Aux Cayes, and Port au Prince…for now.

I’m sure you all have been up on the news but as Haiti week begins lets put Haiti into perspective because so long as the people are not respected and their freedoms are not respected, there will be no peace, and the people will continue to suffer even more.

Things are developing minute by minute and we don’t know if it will be a turn for the worst or that the unrest will be scaled down.  I pray for a resolution and hope that these events send some healing energy to our beloved Haiti.

Big Love,

[R.]

December 5, 2010

Johnny Celestin | Revolution no answer to Haiti’s post-election crisis

Johnny Celestin, founding president, Haitian Fund for Innovation and Reconstruction

Editor’s Note: Concerned by Diaspora reactions to recent post-election unrest in Haiti, Johnny Celestin calls for order not chaos in his second post for DH.

I have been alarmed at the nonchalant ways in which observers from the Diaspora, especially friends whom I deeply respect have been bandying about the need for a revolution in Haiti.  They argue that because of claims of election irregularities, Haitians must take up arms against the current government – one more time.

They write that it would be a tribute to our revolutionary ancestors who 203 years ago, on 29 November 1803 issued a preliminary declaration of independence through military force. Yes, Haiti is in the midst of yet another crisis.  But rule of law, not more chaos and violence, is the answer that the Diaspora should seek.

For starters there is a tendency to over-simplify the Haitian revolution and downplay its impact on ordinary Haitians.

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