Sunday, January 31, 2010

Caught Between Aid and Reconstruction

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the power of new media and the generosity of millions of people around the world, including nearly half of American households, for donating money to help the people in Haiti after the earthquake.

These donations and relief efforts are still significant. As former US President Bill Clinton called for more aid at The World Economic Forum in Davos, even more than two weeks after the earthquake, Haitians are still lacking the most basic supplies.

Speaking at the Elliot School, panelists had also urged the need for "a really solid infrastructure in place in terms of arrivals, treatment, recovery, rescue, and sustennance," and "the two imporatant long-term goals are to bolster Haiti's institutions and to maintain stability."

Nevertheless, the panelists warned that Haitians must be included in this process, too, and something more substantial are obviously needed to 'reconstruct' Haiti.

Paul Collier, an economics professor at Oxford, special adviser on Haiti to the United Nations secretary general in 2009, and Jean-Louis Warnholz, the managing director of a business consulting company, an economic adviser to Haiti's prime minister in 2000 wrote: "Haitians need something more fundamental than relief from the present situation; they need jobs that they can count on for years ahead. For this, the private business secor is essential."

They also wrote:
Davos provides an opportunity for businesses that might invest in Haiti -- international fashion brands, hotels and coffee chains, for example -- to coordinate with companies that provide logistics and markets, so that together they could make mutual commitments. The foundation for such coordinationa has already been laid -- by Bill Clinton, who led 200 international investors to Haiti last October.
"The earthquake has, of course, changed opportunities in Haiti," they wrote, "but it has not necessarily reduced them."

It is true that the people of Haiti must be included in the conversation for the reconstruction of their country. At this stage, although it is important to consider the long-term economic strategy and goals, we must, I beleive, be aware of the very conditions people are suffering from.

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