How a World Bank “success” undermines Haitian democracy

by Haiti Grassroots Watch (Haiti Liberte)
A $61 million, eight-year World Bank community development
project implemented across half of Haiti has successfully repaired roads, built
schools, and distributed livestock. However, the Project for Participatory
Community Development
(PRODEP) – Projet
de développement communautaire participatif
 –  has
also undermined an already weak state, damaged Haiti’s “social tissue,” carried
out what could be called “social and political reengineering,” and raised
questions of waste and corruption.

            As part of
an overall strategy encouraging communities to participate in the choice of
development project in their regions, PRODEP awarded $17,500 grants to almost
1,500 community-based organizations (CBOs) in 59 communes. But an eight-month
investigation by Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW) found that PRODEP subverted real
community development.
encouraging groups to form in order to get cash grants, PRODEP contributed to
Haiti’s growing status as an “NGO Republic.” The projects also damaged
traditional solidarity systems and in some cases even strengthened the power of
local elites.
HGW’s extensive fieldwork was concentrated in the Southeast, new reports by
World Bank economists support the idea that the findings can be extrapolated.
            In their articles
and a new
Localizing Development: Does
Participation Work?
– Ghazali Mansuri and Vijayendra Rao found that many
“community driven development” or CDD projects tend to benefit the “wealthier,
more educated” participants who are “often more politically connected” and who
“tend to make decisions in community meetings.” These same “elites” can even
build political support and run for office, the economists said.
PRODEP’s national director touts the creation of new politicians. At a press
conference last July, Michael Lecorps, director of the Haitian government’s
Office of Monetization of Aid and Development Projects (Bureau de monétisation des programmes d’aide au développement or
BMPAD) which oversees PRODEP, said:
“There are a lot of people who became deputies [parliamentarians] because of
PRODEP. They created platforms, they became leaders!”
Lecorps may see the use of World Bank dollars to consolidate political fiefdoms
as positive, others associated with PRODEP – even those sitting on the local
community councils that oversee the projects – do not. Emile Théodore, a farmer
outside the southeastern town of Bainet where HGW centered their research,
deplored this construction of “political capital” as well as the sudden birth
of dozens of “organizations” created solely to go after the funding.
            “The fact
that there was $17,500 for small projects meant that a lot of organizations got
created so they could get those grants,” Théodore told HGW.
investigation looks at several questions: What is the PRODEP project? What are
its objectives and were they achieved? What do the projects look like in and
around Bainet, in Haiti’s Southeast Department? How has the work been received
by participants and staff at implementing agencies? What are the principal
findings of the World Bank economists who warn of the dangers of “development
fads”? What long-term harm might have been done to Haiti’s society and “social
What is PRODEP?
In 2004, the World Bank launched PRODEP in Haiti. The work
is mostly subcontracted to two international aid agencies: CECI (Centre d’Etude et de Cooperation
or the Canadian Center for
International Studies and Cooperation
) and PADF (Pan-American Development Foundation). CECI and
PADF set up technical bureaus throughout the country where staffers surveyed
existing organizations and oversaw the creation of new ones.
            Based in
part on a similar program in Brazil, a key intent was to calm the population.
“PRODEP began after all the political turbulence in the country,” explained
Rincher Fleurent-Fils, coordinator of PRODEP’s technical office for the
Southeast Department, in Jacmel. “The concern was to create social peace.”
            This claim
is substantiated by Bank documents written in conjunction with other principal
supporters and funders of the de facto interim
government that was put into power following the illegal overthrow of President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004.
            The Interim
Cooperation Framework
(ICF) – released in July 2004 by the World Bank, the
United Nations, European Union, and Inter-American Development Bank – is a
policy document meant to guide the “democratic transition” from a head of
state’s illegal removal to a democratically elected government.
            “The ICF is
inspired by lessons learned in similar needs identification exercises in
post-conflict countries, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor, and Liberia,”
the authors note, even though the realities of those countries differ
drastically with Haiti.
            In fact,
the Framework can be seen as a roadmap meant to insure the Haitian people
accept the unconstitutional regime change and UN blue helmet occupation. The
map was laid out, the document claims, with participation from the “Haitian
Government” and “civil society” – but was characterized by “the strong
involvement of 26 bilateral, multilateral and United Nations agencies,” in
other words, “the friends of Haiti.”
            Among other actions, the ICF
recommended the “establish[ment] of decentralized participatory structures”
since local authorities are “weak.” The Framework then goes on to call for
“rapid impact” and decentralized development “interventions” outside of
government structures. Instead, they would be implemented by “the specialized
local national organizations using a
participatory approach in accordance with models already tested in Haiti,” the
report reads.
organizations do not exist, they will be created,” the Framework says. PRODEP
did just that.
to the World Bank’s own reports, at least 232 new CBOs were “created as a
result of the project” and then built into regional councils and federations,
almost like a set of private “Communal Assemblies,” the participatory
assemblies called for in the Haitian Constitution which have yet to be
established. A virtual parallel state.
            The new and
existing CBOs were given training and structured into regional councils called
COPRODEPs. With assistance from CECI and PADF, the new councils oversaw the
submission of projects from CBOs, voted on which ones PRODEP should fund, and
were mandated to supervise them. The projects fell into three categories:
“productive” related to livestock, agriculture, fishing, etc.; “social” such as
a community stores, schools, or community centers; and “infrastructure” such as
bridges, roads, and water systems.
to the World Bank, the projects built or rehabilitated 785 kilometers of road,
444 water distribution points, and 448 classrooms, and also contributed to
building or stocking other community services like health clinics. The World
Bank spent a total of $29 million on 1,519 projects.
each group actually got less than $17,500. According to a PRODEP/PADF official,
12% went for administration: 3% ($525) for the COPRODEPs, and 9% ($1,575) went
to the technical office overseeing the region.
additional $32 million – more than half of PRODEP’s $61 million budget – went
for training, administration, evaluation, and other costs for BMPAD, CECI, and
PADF staff, according to the Bank. (Because HGW was never provided a budget or
a copy of the evaluation completed in June 2012, it was impossible to verify
how money was actually spent.)
Building “social
The PRODEP process was far from organic. PRODEP staff and
the central government had control over which organizations were given the
right to submit projects, sit on the councils, and decide on projects.
According to Fleurent-Fils, an organization had to have been officially
recognized by both the local mayor’s office and by the Social Affairs Ministry
to qualify.
            “We looked
at all the groups [in a region] to see what kind of organizations they were,”
he said. “Are they really community organizations? Once we were in touch with
them, we helped them restructure themselves so they could enter into the PRODEP
officials claim that “over 70%” of projects were “successful,” first of all
because the concrete goals were achieved, and secondly because they created
“social cohesion.” This is a term used in PRODEP documents and by PRODEP staff,
such as Lecorps and Arcène Gérome, who heads up PRODEP in the five geographic
departments where PADF ran the program.
            “When all
of the community organizations are federated into the COPRODEP, we have
achieved our goal of reinforcing organizational capacity, reinforcing
‘networking,’ meaning links between them, to create what we call ‘social
cohesion,’ because as we say, the objective is to construct ‘social capital,’”
Gérome said.
Gérome’s claims run counter to the recent findings of the World Bank
economists. In their June
2012 paper
Can Participation Be
Induced? Some Evidence from Developing Countries
,” Mansuri and Rao said
that “there is little evidence that induced participation builds long-lasting
cohesion, even at the community level. Group formation tends to be both
parochial and unequal… [P]eople are induced to participate and build networks.
But they do so in order to benefit from the cash and other material payoffs
provided by the project.”
projects tend to have very limited impact in building social cohesion or in
rebuilding the state. They tend to exclude the poor and are dominated by
elites,” the authors noted. “Induced participation – particularly when it is
packaged within a project – is almost set up for failure.”
            Who is
right? PRODEP or the World Bank authors? Have “social capital” and “social
cohesion” been constructed? Are 70% of projects successful? What is “success”?
looked at projects in and around Bainet. All visits and interviews in the
Southeast took place in August 2011.
to PADF, PRODEP funded a total of 60 projects in the commune of Bainet – six in
the small coastal town itself, and six in each of Bainet’s nine communal
sections. HGW visited two in town. The first, the water purification project
run by the Organization of Bainet Women (Òganizasyon
Fanm Bene
or OFB) in downtown
Bainet, was never operational, according to observers and an OFB member who
asked that her name not be used.
gave us a bunch of machinery that never worked,” she said unlocking the
storefront.  Inside, dust-covered
machinery filled the room. Plastic bags that were supposed to be filled with
purified water lay in flat heaps on the floor.
            Nearby, the
“OPA-net” cyber-café was also locked up tight. Run by the Organization of
Peasants in Action (Oganizasyon Peyizan
an Aksyon
or OPA) and funded with almost $20,000 according to World Bank
documents, OPA-net has been shut for nearly three years now. Dusty screens,
towers, chairs, desks, and a dirty photocopy machine fill the rented space.
coordinator Saint-Gladys Fleuranville said the project came to halt on Jan. 12,
2010, the day of the deadly earthquake, because the dish connecting the center
to the Internet was displaced.
            “It was
working very well until then,” he said. “PADF has a Reinforcement Program that
will help us. We are waiting for them because this is the only cyber-café in
the entire community.”
            Asked about
the water and cyber-café projects, Rincher Fleurent-Fils, coordinator of the
PRODEP/PADF technical bureau in Jacmel, acknowledged that some ventures had “a
few problems” that still needed to be addressed, such as the cyber-café’s
internet connection. “And,” he said, “they couldn’t pay their bills.”
supervisor, Arcène Gérome, said he was aware that both the water purification
project and the cyber-café projects were closed down.
            “The way
those projects began was a little amateurish,” Gérome admitted. So much so that
119 of the 700 or so projects PADF oversaw needed some kind of “correction” or
“reinforcement,” he noted.
            HGW visited
four more projects in Bainet’s 9th communal section, Anba Grigri.
Anba Grigri sits on the other side of the Bainet River along a bumpy, muddy,
and rocky road. The hamlet and surrounding hills are home to about 10,000
people who have no electricity, access to clean drinking water, or modern
sanitation. Farmers grow potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, sorghum, and herd cows
and goats; coastal residents fish. For weeks at a time, villagers from Anba
Grigri cannot reach Bainet because of the rain-bloated river. After Hurricane
Isaac passed over Haiti in August 2012, the community was cut off to the east
for three months.
            One of the
most infamous PRODEP grantees is the fishing project. The Organization for the
Development of the 9th Section (Oganizasyon
pou Devlòpman 9vyèm Seksyon
or OD9S) got $17,500 to buy boat engines,
netting, line, coolers, a generator, and batteries.
immediately, the organization split over how the money should be used. The
fishermen prevailed, buying new engines and other materials that helped them go
further out to sea and catch more fish. But there were accusations of faked
receipts with inflated costs for materials and theft. The resulting fish are
still being sold at regular market price, according to an OD9S member who spoke
to HGW on camera but asked that his name not be used.
fisherman also admitted that at least one engine and some of the money meant
for maintenance “disappeared,” and that other gear had been lost due to
“natural causes.”
            “We hope
PRODEP-PADF can help us so we can buy more equipment,” he added.
Community Store of Bainet sits on the main road that runs through Anba Grigri.
It stocks the same, mostly imported, items that jam shelves in many small
stores or “boutiques” throughout Haiti: canned goods,
rice, beans, spaghetti, cooking oil, tomato paste, crackers, rum, and other
products. The Community Store sells its products at the same price as other
local vendors and doesn’t receive much business. During a HGW visit, store
manager Delva Henry asked a friend to “buy” something for HGW’s camera.
            “There are
a lot of other stores in our communal section,” the store manager admitted. He
said he was thinking of “writing a proposal” to ask for more money so that he
could better stock his store, which he runs with his wife.
members reported that the store is no different than other markets. “It’s a
private business,” according to François Brunel, a member of OJDB (Oganizasyon Jen pou Devlòpman
Organization of Bainet Youth for Development). Brunel and others reported that
the store offers no credit or discounts to local residents. “It’s a success
because it exists and it is functioning, but they say you have to be a member
of their organization to get a little credit,” he said. “I think all members of
the community should benefit.”
            Nearby, the
Coordination of Bainet Woman (Kòdinasyon Fanm Bene or KOFAB) received a grant to set up a corn mill. HGW noted that
it was up and running and appeared to be frequented by members of the
            “Before we
had the mill, we had to thrash corn and sorghum with a pestle… or walk a long
way,” said an elderly woman. “The mill has made things easier.”
            But that’s
not to say that KOFAB runs it. “The project is a success because, as you can
see, it is employing me!” explained Fabien Jean André Paul who said he manages
the mill business, rather than KOFAB. “From time to time I meet with the women
and give them a report.”
project also produced results: goats. A peasant organization received a grant
to buy goats, which reproduced enough so that almost every member of Mouvman Peyizan Kay Anwò (Houses on the
Hill Peasant Movement) now has a goat.
not too many of our members had goats,” said 
member Alezi Jean Bastien. “Now
almost everyone has a goat because our organization got the project funding.
Life has improved a little bit for people because the goats are worth 2,000 or
3,000 gourdes [about $50-75] each.”
Assessments and
PRODEP’s track record in and around Bainet is not as good as
the “over 70% success” touted by PRODEP and PADF. Two of the Bainet projects
have been closed for years, and of the six Anba Grigri projects, two – 33% –
were barely operating.
projects didn’t work out the way they were supposed to,” said COPRODEP
community council member Emile Théodore. “The majority of them have
disappeared. You can’t find a trace of them. There are others that are run by a
husband and wife, like the community store. As for the fish project, a little
group of people is running that one also.”
            The main
reason, Théodore and others say, is that once the money is disbursed, there is
little follow-up and verification.
            “In some
cases, it takes a while for that [supervision] to happen,” admitted Gérome. He
denied knowing of any cases of corruption. “Let’s just say that sometimes there
are administrative problems.”
            But in the
evaluations posted online, in the literature distributed at news conferences,
and in interviews, PRODEP and PADF officials made no mention of any
            The most
recent documents available online call PRODEP performances “satisfactory” with
no more detail, although a 2010 document does note that evaluation had been a
“main challenge.” But if “over 70%” of the projects were “successful,” by
deduction somewhere between 20% and 30% were not, meaning that funding for some
400 projects – over $6 million – has been wasted.
            PRODEP and
World Bank reports do not mention whether or not people accused of corruption
or waste were brought to justice or held accountable.
numerous promises, HGW never received a copy of the PRODEP final evaluation
that was completed in June.
            What HGW
did discover was that the apparent lack of monitoring, verification, and
evaluation are not unique to Haiti. In their survey of dozens of so-called
“community driven development” (CDD) programs around the world, World Bank
economists Mansuri and Rao noted “a pervasive inattention to monitoring
systems.” They found that only 40% of CDD projects they surveyed had any kind
of monitoring and evaluation at all.
majority of project managers participating in the survey stated that the Bank’s
operation policies do not provide incentives for effective monitoring and
evaluation,” the authors wrote.
            With these
kinds of numbers, does PRODEP have the right to call its project a “success”?
Thanks to PRODEP,
Haiti’s “failed state” fails again
One of the most questionable outcomes of the PRODEP system
is what appears to be a deliberate undermining of Haiti’s “failed” state.
decades, development and emergency funding has mostly bypassed the Haitian
state, which many foreign governments and agencies dismissed as corrupt and
inefficient. There were and still are internal reasons for Haiti’s poorly run
government institutions. But, as Oxfam Senior Policy Advisor Angela Bruce
Raeburn recently
: “Understanding how the U.S. and other international
donors have bypassed the Haitian government in the past is key to
understanding” Haiti’s weak state of the present.
            A 2011
from the UN Office of the Special Envoy showed that in 2007, for
example, only 3% of bilateral aid, and 13% of multilateral aid, was “budget
support,” meaning support for government ministries and programs, including
communal section elected officials and their budgets.
document states, however, that the most effective way for aid to strengthen
public institutions is by channeling through them. However, in Haiti, “most aid is still channeled in the form of grants directly to
international multilateral agencies, and non-state service providers (NGOs and
private contractors).”
            Deputy UN
Special Envoy Dr. Paul Farmer prefaced the report by noting that “creating jobs
and supporting the government” is key to ensuring “access to basic services.”
He called on donors to “directly invest in the Haitian people and their public
and private institutions. The Haitian proverb sak vide pa kanpe – “an empty sack cannot stand” – applies
here. To revitalize Haitian institutions, we must channel money through them.”
driven development” (CDD) projects like PRODEP also work better when they work
with local governments, according to World Bank economists Mansuri and Rao. But
the PRODEP program deliberately channeled its funding almost exclusively to
non-state service providers: the agencies CECI and PADF, and the so-called
community based organizations or CBOs.
            It might
have made more sense to bolster Haiti’s local rural governments – the CASEC (Conseil d’administration de section communale or Communal Section
Administrative Council)  –whose
budgets pale in comparison.
            In 2008,
six CBOs in Anba Grigri received nearly $100,000 altogether, while the local
CASEC had only about $6,500 for the entire year – to build a “community
center,” repair a road, or host the town’s annual celebration.
Construction of a
parallel government?
Even before PRODEP began, the World Bank and other donors
called for the creation of organizations to “facilitate… rapid impact”
decentralized “interventions” outside of local government structures.
accomplished this by working with existing CBOs and by helping create new ones,
and then by offering training and support to create COPRODEPs councils, for
which the World Bank and PRODEP implementers had even more in mind.
            “The goal
is for the COPRODEP to mature from a project-specific tool into a locally
driven self-sustaining community institution, managing funds from multiple
sources and supporting the institutional capacity of local public
institutions,” according to 2010 World Bank document justifying $15 million in
additional PRODEP funding.
are today called CADECs (Conseils
d’Appui de Développement Communautaire
or Councils to Support Community
Development). PADF and CECI have been contracted to help the CADECs “in
becoming independent non-profit associations that may later develop into
Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) with the capacity to support local public
institutions, projects, and programs,” according to the World Bank document.
Local elected officials and “notables” are invited to sit on the councils, but
80% of seats go to CBOs.
            “It’s a
little revolution taking place at the departmental level today,” explained
Arcène Gérome. “The big challenge for us is to institutionalize PRODEP and for
the CADECs to become permanent local structures that run all local community
development activities.”
            What could
be seen as a decentralization of “The Republic
of NGOs
” has only reached about half of Haiti’s 140 communes, but PRODEP
officials recently said they are seeking $100 million to fund a nationwide PRODEP 2.
Harm to the
In addition to undermining local authorities, PRODEP’s
method also appears to have hurt local grassroots organizations and what the
World Bank economists call “organic” or “endogenous” participation, the kind of
organizing and participation that drives social movements.
Dirou, a farmer and member of Kòdinasyon Oganizasyon Bene (KOB or Coordination of Bainet
Organizations), lamented that “when these projects come into our communities,
they actually destroy organizations. They make people become enemies. People
that used to share what little they had – salt, matches, etc. – now turn their
backs” on each other.
said that KOB – founded in 1990, during the euphoric days of the Lavalas
democratic and popular movement – abstained from participating in PRODEP when
it realized the social and political reengineering that could result.
Mark Schuller has been documenting such societal changes since 2001. “With the
influx of NGOs and projects, people lose their sense of solidarity, of working
together,” said Schuller, a professor at the University of Illinois as well as
the State University of Haiti, and author of the recently published Killing With Kindness – Haiti, International
Aid and NGOs
. “I think this is one of the most direct effects NGOs have had
here. NGOs are based on contracts, on money, on ‘what can you do for me?’”
it’s foreigners who are helping, after a while, people even cease to believe in
Haitians!” he said. “They say ‘Haitians can’t do anything’ because the NGO is
doing all the work in their neighborhood… It has a direct impact on peoples
relationship with one another, with how they work together.”
PRODEP documents and officials claim the program aimed to “improv[e]
community governance and build social capital,” the World
Bank economists who surveyed CDD projects worldwide said that was nearly
            In their June
2012 paper
Participation Be Induced? Some Evidence from Developing Countries
,” Mansuri and Rao concluded
that “the idea that all communities have a ready stock of ‘social capital’ that
can simply be harnessed is naïve in the extreme.” They also note, in a
paper a year earlier
, that “participation [in CDD projects] has little
effect on the exercise of voice or
on community organized collective action outside the participatory structure.
Instead, some evidence points to a decline in collective activities outside the
needs of the project.”
participation” is not the same as homegrown. Organizations that “arise
endogenously” are part of social movements, while “induced” ones tend to
organize because they are seeking “cash and other material payoffs,” the
authors note.
            Anba Grigri
saw the birth of a number of new so-called CBOs. “Yes, there are a lot of
organizations created because of what PADF is doing,” according to Jean Louis
Nicolas, a local elected official. “They are waiting for PADF to fund them.”
has noted the same phenomenon in Haiti’s capital. “There are a lot of
organizations founded to channel funding from ‘NGOs,’” he said. “You could call
those organizations ‘fake’’ or maybe ‘pocket organizations,’ because they have
a piece of paper in their pocket that says they are an organization, but for
the majority of the population, they don’t really exist.”
“Elite Capture”

One final negative effect noted in the Southeast as well as
by Mansuri and Rao is that the people and organizations that tend to benefit
the most in CDD projects in poor countries are those who enjoy privilege and
power at the local level. This phenomenon, known as “elite capture,” was listed
as a risk in early PRODEP documents.
            Mansuri and
Rao’s survey found that in poor countries, “[a] few wealthy, and often
politically connected, men – who are not necessarily more educated than other
participants – tend to make decisions at community meetings.”
            Like many
others in and around Bainet, François Brunel, a member of OJDB (Oganizasyon Jen pou Devlòpman Bene or Organization of Bainet
Youth for Development), voiced
concerns that the projects and their benefits were being used to further
political careers. Brunel said CBOs that won the approval of the council were
those that “were in the same political group” as powerful council members.
            “They made
their choices with elections [inside the council], but in those elections, if
you weren’t a good ‘partner’ of the council members, your project would not be
chosen,” he said.
            Those whose
projects were funded voiced similar concerns. The corn mill employee, Fabien
Jean André Paul, told HGW that organizations “had to do a kind of campaign” to
make sure they got the votes they needed in order to receive their funding.
A “successful
According to Mansuri and Rao, over the past decade the World
Bank has spent some $80 billion dollars on CDDs and participatory development
projects worldwide. At least $61 million was spent in Haiti.
            Was it and
is it a success? Yes, according to its stated objectives. World Bank online
documents, cited earlier, say the projects built or rehabilitated 785
kilometers of road, 444 water distribution points, 448 classrooms, and also
contributed to building or stocking other community services like health
            But what
about the 20-30% of the projects which failed? Where did the $6 million in
funding money go? More than half of PRODEP’s $61 million – some $32 million
dollars – went to the agencies overseeing the project. How was that money used?
            Even if the
creation of new CBOs was an objective, don’t these “induced” organizations harm
Haiti’s social tissue and the existing grassroots groups? And isn’t it likely
that the monetization of community work and of relationships has a negative
effect, as the World Bank economists and anthropologists have claimed?
will the construction of a parallel state, a “permanent local development
structure” dependent on foreign aid, contribute to Haiti’s economic development
and transition to democracy?
Haiti Grassroots Watch
is a partnership of AlterPresse, the Society of the Animation of Social
Communication (SAKS), the Network of Women Community Radio Broadcasters
(REFRAKA), community radio stations from the Association of Haitian Community
Media and students from the Journalism Laboratory at the State University of
Frame from a video by
PRODEP, which the World Bank launched after the 2004 coup d’état to “create
social peace.” Instead it has harmed Haiti’s “social tissue,” the HGW
investigation found.
One of PRODEP’s
projects, the OPA-net cyber-café, was funded with almost $20,000 according to
World Bank documents. But OPA-net has been shut for nearly three years now.
Dusty screens, towers, chairs, desks, and a dirty photocopy machine fill the
rented space.
director, Arcène Gérome, is trying to “create what we call ‘social cohesion,’
because as we say, the objective is to construct ‘social capital.’” Apparently,
he is not succeeding.
Photos by Haiti Grassroots Watch