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Africa: Solidarity with Haiti

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Feb 2, 2010 (100202)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"Despite $402 million pledged to support the Haitian government's Economic Recovery Program [in April 2009] ... as of yesterday we estimate that 85% of the pledges made last year remain undisbursed. ... [we don't need more pledges] We need a reconstruction fund that is large, managed transparently, creates jobs for Haitians, and grows the Haitian economy. We need a reconstruction plan that uses a pro-poor, rights-based approach far different from the charity and failed development approaches that have marred interactions between Haiti and much of the rest of the world for the better part of two centuries." - Dr. Paul Farmer, U.N. Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti January 27, 2010

As international attention to Haiti begins to fade (see, relief efforts continue, but reconstruction has hardly begun. Both African governments and African non-governmental leaders have launched fund-raising efforts for these long-term needs. But, as veteran Partners in Health physician and other commentators note, the danger is that past dysfunctional patterns of international intervention will be repeated.

As Yash Tandon and other analysts warned in last week's issue of Pambazuka News (, what has happened and may happen in Haiti is "a microcosm of the crisis of development." It will be a test of capacity to respond not just to natural disaster, but to the man-made disasters that set the context and the capacity to respond to natural disasters.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains an appeal from the new "Africa for Haiti" coalition, excerpts from Dr. Farmer's testimony to the U.S. Senate, and a commentary by Monika Kalra Varma and Kerry Kennedy, of the RFK Center for Human Rights.

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out today focuses on the urgent need to cancel Haiti's debt, as well as the role that debt has played in keeping Haiti in poverty for over two centuries.

Among other commentaries and background on Haitian reconstruction:

Amy Wilentz, "The Haiti Haters"

Letter to PJ Patterson, Caricom's representative to the Montreal Conference on Haiti, by Norman Girvan

Note by Jocelyn McCalla, Senior Advisor, Bureau of Haiti's Special Envoy to the UN, former Executive Director, National Coalition for Haitian Rights / direct URL:

Official Website of Montreal Ministerial Conference on Haiti, January 25, 2010 / direct URL:

Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Pan-African solidarity with Haiti

Press Release, 22nd January 2010

Africa for Haiti

[For more information contact:

Buhle Mpofu-Makamanzi, African Monitor tel: +27 21 713 2801, mobile: +27 82 898 848,,

Bhekinkosi Moyo, TrustAfrica, tel: +221 33 869 4693, mobile: +27 78 111 2091,,]

The earthquake that recently struck Haiti has caused unprecedented devastation and suffering to the country and its people. Wednesday's aftershock aggravated an already grave humanitarian crisis.

Across Africa, government, church, business and civil society leaders are mobilizing support for the people of Haiti. In South Africa, CIVICUS and its partners - African Monitor, TrustAfrica, the Southern Africa Trust, CAF Southern Africa, the South African Red Cross Society, the National Welfare Forum, and Ivan May through 1485 Radio Today on 1484 AM in Jozi and through SADC (also DStv 169), the Synergos Institute, the NEPAD Business Foundation and the African Women's Foresight Network* - have agreed to join what is known as the "Africa for Haiti Campaign" and to help in co-ordinating efforts.

[* The Members of the African Women's Foresight Network are: Bisi Adeleye Fayemi, Bineta Diop, Aleya Hammad, Graa Machel, Gertrude Mongella, Gisele Yitamben, Mamphela Ramphele, Mary Wandia.]

The campaign has the support of church, business and civil society leaders including Mrs Graa Machel, Archbishops Desmond Tutu, Njongonkulu Ndungane, Malusi Mpumlwana, Thabo Makgoba, and businessmen Trevor Ncube and Reuel Khoza.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation hosted a press conference at its offices in Houghton on 22 January where more details were provided about the "Africa for Haiti" Campaign.

The "Africa for Haiti" campaign will identify, in partnership with Haitian civil society organizations, initiatives in which it can assist. It also hopes to provide Africans from all walks of life an opportunity to demonstrate their collective solidarity and support for the people of Haiti thereby uniting Africans in compassion and giving.

Addressing the press conference Mrs Machel suggested that the "Africa for Haiti" campaign focuses its efforts on reconstruction in Haiti. The objective of this campaign is not to provide immediate relief but rather to contribute toward the medium to long-term reconstruction of communities in Haiti. As a result, it is estimated that fundraising for this campaign may continue for six months.

The campaign also aims to unite individuals, NGOs and corporates across Africa behind this cause by disseminating information and enlisting support from their extensive networks.

Testimony of Dr. Paul Farmer to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

27 January 2010

[Excerpts: full testimony, including footnotes, available on / direct URL:]

Thank you for inviting me to testify today before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. I speak as the U.N. Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti - President Clinton, as you know, is the Special Envoy - and also as a physician and teacher from Harvard who has worked for over twenty-five years in rural Haiti. Today, my hope is to do justice to Haiti not by chronicling the events of the past two weeks, which are well known to you, but by attesting to the possibility of hope for the country, and of the importance of meaningful investment and sustainable development in Haiti.

That said, I will not pretend that hope is not at times difficult to muster.

As I was flying from Port-au-Prince to Montreal on Monday, headed to a conference on coordinating responses to the massive earthquake, I did the painful math in my head and counted close to fifty colleagues, friends, and family members who had lost their lives in the space of a minute.

The afternoon of the earthquake, several of my colleagues from Partners In Health and the UN, were, ironically, in Port-au-Prince for a meeting about disaster risk reduction. Partners In Health, through its Haitian sister organization, provides health care to the rural poor. By focusing on training and employing local talent, we have grown a great deal over the years. We are currently serving a population of well over 1.2 million and count about five thousand employees, most of them community health workers.

Of course, not all our colleagues survived. But the vast majority of them did survive, and they have spent the last two weeks working day and night to relieve the staggering suffering of the wounded and displaced. President Clinton, our colleagues, and I have been in the cities of Port-au-Prince, Jacmel, and Logne, as well as the less-affected Central Plateau and Artibonite Valley. Everywhere we have seen acts of great bravery and solidarity.

In addition to the heroism of friends and colleagues, I would like to note for the record the dignity and patience of the long-suffering Haitian people. ... A few nights ago, we sat in empty wards: hearing of impending aftershocks, the patients bolted outside with their IVs dangling from their arms. They refused, as have so many, to sleep inside the building - any building - but instead found tarpaulins and sheets, and lay down in the open courtyard.

This scene has repeated itself throughout the country and is a reminder of the logistics challenges facing all those who would be involved in the provision of shelter, clean water, and healthcare. The relief efforts, focused now on addressing the initial wave of devastation from the earthquake, will soon turn to a new set of concerns. Hastily cobbled together camps are at risk of outbreaks of cholera and other waterborne disease. The Haitian government has wisely proposed avoiding huge camps, which will be difficult to manage, but we must hasten our efforts to get tents, tarpaulins, and latrines or composting toilets to Haiti. It is humbling to see the relief efforts be so slow - in large part because delivery of services was so weak before the quake. Now we must do more to get food and water to people every day for some time to come. Creating safe schools and safe hospitals, even makeshift ones, is a known need in rebuilding a society, and storm resistant housing must also be a carefully considered priority since there is little time before the rainy season. Students need to be back in school; the planting season cannot be missed and requires fertilizer, seeds, and tools.

How will we fund such settlements, ongoing relief, the sowing of seeds, and the reconstruction that must follow? Major pledges have been made by the U.S., Canada, Japan, Spain, Brazil, the European Union, the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, and others. Indeed, most countries have responded. Even in far away and once-afflicted Rwanda, a group of community health workers making less than $200/month have been able to pull together $7000 in donations for their colleagues in Haiti. This is but a small portion of the billions needed, but hard to surpass as an eloquent testimony of human solidarity.

Even if adequate resources are available, the task before us will be extremely difficult. Medical jargon, though at times arcane, can be helpful here. Today, Haiti is facing what we would term "acute on chronic" problems. Before January 12, the country was already facing huge long-term challenges in public health and education, the unemployment rate over 70%, and a majority of its population was living on less than two dollars a day. Food and water insecurity were already huge problems. Does this catastrophe create a chance for all of us to have a sounder, more solidarity-based relationship with Haiti? Or is it to be yet another chapter in a jeremiad of suffering and abuse of power? In my last testimony here, in 2003, I expressed concern that the latter possibility was likely given our policies at that time. Today I will spend my time focusing on the potential for an entirely reconsidered relationship between the two oldest independent countries in the Americas: Haiti and my own.

Let me offer, as one example of the difficult relations between Haiti and the international community (and an echo of the nineteenth-century machinations I discussed in my last testimony before this committee), the donor conference I attended here in Washington last April. It was one of only two donor conferences I have ever attended, the second being in Montreal earlier this week. The results of the first are noteworthy and worrisome: despite $402 million pledged to support the Haitian government's Economic Recovery Program, when the country was trying to recover from a series of natural disasters resulting in a 15% reduction of GDP, it is estimated that a mere $61 million have been disbursed. In the Office of the Special Envoy, we have been tracking the disbursement of pledges, and as of yesterday we estimate that 85% of the pledges made last year remain undisbursed.

Many of us worry that, if what's past is prologue, Haitians themselves will be blamed for this torpor. But as we have argued before, there are serious problems in the aid machinery, and these have contributed to the "delivery challenges" on the ground. The aid machinery currently at work in Haiti keeps too much overhead for its operations and still relies overmuch on NGOs or contractors who do not observe the ground rules we would need to follow to build Haiti back better. The fact that there are more NGOs per capita in Haiti than in any other country in the hemisphere is in part a reflection of need, but also in part a reflection of overreliance on NGOs divorced from the public health and education sectors.

Haiti will continue to need the contractors, and the NGOs and mission groups, but more importantly we will need to create new ground rules - including a focus on creating local jobs for Haitians, and on building the infrastructure that is crucial to creating sustainable economic growth and ultimately reducing Haiti's dependence on aid.

In other words, what we need is a way of "building back better" that strengthens governance but also strengthens the Haitian economy to provide for the needs of its people, especially the vast majority of Haitians who are desperately poor. There is an opportunity not only to build Haiti back better, but to build a more functional and beneficial aid structure. Over the past two decades, US aid policies have seesawed between embargoes and efforts to bypass governments, including elected ones not to Washington's taste. Neither the international community nor the United States provided credible, long-term, financial investment in Haiti. Restructuring foreign aid and forgiving Haiti's crippling debts are essential to helping the country recover. US laws, including the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and its later revisions, prevent direct investment in the public sector; we will need to revisit these policies. Debt forgiveness is also needed to ease the financial drain that would otherwise hinder economic recovery and growth.

In building back Haiti, a credible body that has been working in Haiti could help to house a recovery fund. We need to commit funds and also to disburse them. To quote Jeff Sachs, "Haiti does not need a pledging session; it needs a bank account to fund its survival and reconstruction." Such an account should be managed in collaboration with partners, the UN, and, of course, Haitian leadership, which would work directly and openly with partners to design and implement recovery plans coordinated at central and local levels. The effort must include a comprehensive post-disaster needs assessment, which should be supported by the US and other partners.


I joined President Clinton six months ago as his deputy in the UN role he originated. As Special Envoy for Haiti, President Clinton has focused his attention not only on holding donors to the financial pledges they made, but also on reducing the risk of disasters and on job creation through the massive public works that are necessary to reforest Haiti, protect watersheds, and improve agricultural yield the backbone of the Haitian economy. ...

This has been our mission: to build back better from the 2008 storms. We believe that these efforts were beginning to bear fruit. We had scheduled a meeting last week in the Hotel Montana to bring in another round of investors and also to discuss job creation. As many of you know, this hotel is no longer standing, and most inside it perished on January 12. But the need for such investments, and the need for public works that would create hundreds of thousands of jobs, remains.

If there is any silver lining to this cloud, it is that we can push job creation. It is a strange irony that supporters of economic assistance to Haiti are now obliged to shill for "cash for work" programs - for the quaint notion that people should be paid for their labor. Let us at least be honest: it is absurd to argue that volunteerism and food-for-work programs will create sustainable jobs. But if we set the ground rules on reconstruction correctly, we will be able to create sustainable jobs.

In other words, if we focus the reconstruction efforts appropriately, we can achieve long-term benefits for Haiti. The UNDP is helping to organize programs of this kind, which should be supported and extended around the country. Putting Haitians back to work and offering them the dignity that comes with having a job and its basic protections is exactly what brought our country out of the Great Depression.

This was always the right thing to do, and aid programs persistently fail to get it right. So here is our chance: if even half of the pledges made in Montreal or other such meetings are linked tightly to local job creation, it is possible to imagine a Haiti building back better with fewer of the social tensions that inevitably arise as half a million homeless people are integrated into new communities.

Haiti needs and deserves a Marshall Plan - not the "containment" aspects of that policy, unless we are explicit about containing the ill effects of poverty, but the social-justice elements. But we need to be honest about the differences between post-war Europe and Haiti in 2010. Part of the problem, I've argued, is the way in which aid is delivered now as compared to in 1946 - well before the term "beltway bandits" was coined. We need a reconstruction fund that is large, managed transparently, creates jobs for Haitians, and grows the Haitian economy. We need a reconstruction plan that uses a pro-poor, rights-based approach far different from the charity and failed development approaches that have marred interactions between Haiti and much of the rest of the world for the better part of two centuries.

Our country can be a big part of this effort. Debt relief is important, but only the beginning. Any group looking to do this work must share the goals of the Haitian people: social and economic rights, reflected, for example, in job creation, local business development, watershed protection (and alternatives to charcoal for cooking), access to quality health care, and gender equity. Considering all these goals together orients our strategic choices. For example, cash transfers to women, who hold the purse strings in Haiti and are arbiters of household spending, will have significant impact. This is a chance to learn and move forward and build on lessons learned in adversity - to build
hurricane-resistant houses with good ventilation to improve air quality from stove smoke; to build communities around clean water sources; to reforest the terrain to protect from erosion and to nurture the fertility of the land for this predominantly agricultural country. ...

As a doctor, I can tell you that bad infrastructure and thoughtless policy are visible in the bodies of the poor, just as are the benefits of good policy and well-designed infrastructure. In my almost 30 years in Haiti I have witnessed many political interventions and multiple coups. They have been unpleasant, even if their effects pale in the shadow of what we are now experiencing. Many people look at Haiti and despair. They say that aid is wasted, that there is no hope for this country. I would answer them with the positive experience of building Haitian-led programs in the Central Plateau and Artibonite Valley regions that have created five thousand jobs for people who would otherwise have no steady work. I advance this model not because it is associated with our efforts, but because job creation is the surest way to speed up the cash flow that is essential now. It is also the fastest way to make amends for our past actions towards Haiti, which have not always been honorable.


For two centuries, the Haitian people have struggled for basic human and economic rights, the right to health care, the right to education, the right to work, the right to dignity and independence. These goals, which Haitians share with people all over the world, should direct our policies of aid and rebuilding.

As I wrote with colleagues in a recent op-ed - which is available in my written testimony - as physicians working in Haiti, we know first-hand that Haiti itself will soon be the casualty if we do not help build back better in the way envisioned by Haitians themselves.

Guiding Haiti's Roadmap to Recovery with Human Rights

By Monika Kalra Varma and Kerry Kennedy, February 1, 2010

Kerry Kennedy is president and founder of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. Monika Kalra Varma is director of the RFK Center for Human Rights. /

Overwhelmed by sadness, empathy and disbelief, the world's eyes are focused on the rescue and relief efforts for those in Haiti. However, many who have worked in Haiti fear that a preventable long-term disaster lies on the horizon if international interventions don't break with past patterns. As international aid begins to pour into Haiti, we have a brief moment to break with past mistakes and bring real change to the country.

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center) has partnered with the grassroots medical group Zanmi Lasante/Partners In Health in Haiti for the last eight years. During that time, U.S and international aid efforts could be characterized at best as unsustainable, and at worst, deliberately harmful.

In 2000, the United States and the Inter-American Development Bank approved millions of dollars of what would have been lifesaving loans for improvements to water, health, education, and road infrastructure, only to later withhold these funds because they opposed then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. While the loans were eventually released, communities where the very first water projects were to be financed still lack access, 10 years later, to reliably clean drinking water, contributing to countless deaths from waterborne illness.

In 2004, the international community pledged $1 billion to support Haiti. The RFK Center, along with Zanmi Lasante and the NYU Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, tried to track the fulfillment of those pledges, but never received clear and consistent answers from donor states on the status of the aid. With no transparency or coordinating body to turn to, the Haitian people had no hope of knowing if that money ever got to Haiti, much less where it was directed and how it could be used to improve their communities. Haitian government sources later confirmed that most of the pledges had never been fulfilled.

In 2008, after hurricanes ravaged the country, the international community convened another donor conference resulting in over $324 million in pledges. Prior to the earthquake, most of those pledges had still not been fulfilled.

Historically, interventions in Haiti have been viewed through the lens of charity. The international community, NGOs, international organizations and donor states have gathered time and again to announce pledges of support, only to quietly back away from these commitments. International goodwill is certainly critical today to Haiti's future, but charity alone will not be enough to ultimately rebuild a safer and more sustainable Haiti. Only by forging a new path, guided by a commitment to the human rights of the Haitian people, can the international community help to create real, lasting change.

Charity is a personal act of choice with no real repercussions. Human rights are legal obligations, grounded in our shared acknowledgement of human dignity - something that every government must respect and no government can take away.

In the aftermath of this disaster, every country and international organization working toward recovery in Haiti needs to ensure that their actions will promote the respect and dignity of the Haitian people based on constitutionally and internationally recognized rights to water, health, and education. By partnering with the Haitian government and local communities in assessing the nation's recovery needs and making long term pledges to support the government of Haiti in meeting these needs, donors can pave a sustainable path towards recovery. Additionally, the donor nations should commit to making their aid transparent so every Haitian knows where funds are going. Accountability mechanisms are needed to ensure that the government of Haiti, the international community and NGOs use these funds appropriately.

As the world looks for a way to help Haiti rebuild after the earthquakes, the international community has opportunity to avert a second manmade disaster. The United States, as well as international donor states and institutions, must act now to end a painful history of irresponsible aid policies in Haiti. By acting immediately, as recovery plans are developed, we can honor the survivors of this tragedy by supporting Haitians as they build a better Haiti.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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