Who is Really Leading Reconstruction Efforts in Haiti?

By: Haiti Relief &
Reconstruction Watch, Center for Economic and Policy Research

After decades of bypassing the
Haitian government in the provision of aid, after the 2010 earthquake there was
an acknowledgment 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 others 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
from government officials that they are not
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.”
Haitian President Michel Martelly with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton in Washington last year. As for the aid community’s claim that the
Haitian government is leading he reconstruction effort, “It’s a lie.”