- Faith & Family
Almost two years after an earthquake devastated Haiti, less than half of the $4.6 billion in pledged aid has been disbursed and political squabbling is threatening to bring coordinated reconstruction efforts to an abrupt halt. An ambitious panel tasked with overseeing efforts to rebuild Haiti, co-chaired by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, was created three months after the January 2010 quake destroyed much of its capital, toppling hundreds of thousands of homes and throwing more than a million homeless into squalid camps. But the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, or IHRC, disappeared in October after Haitian officials failed to renew its mandate or to create a Haitian-run agency to assume its role of coordinating reconstruction efforts. Haitian officials say that 120 projects submitted to the disbanded panel remain on hold and experts fear that without the IHRC or a version of it, new donations will stop or dwindle and already pledged money won’t come in because donors fear that the money will be squandered.
“Without the IHRC, the donors will renege on their promises — I’m afraid of that,” said Raul Pierre-Louis, an engineer who represented municipal authorities as a board member of the IHRC. Former board members on the panel also fear that reconstruction efforts will go adrift. Laura Graham, COO of the Williams J. Clinton Foundation and chief of staff to the former leader, said Clinton would continue to ask donors to fulfill their pledges.
“If you don’t have the IHRC or a similar platform we worry if the donors will come to the table,” Graham said by telephone. “That is President Clinton’s main concern — that donors don’t walk away from Haiti.”
Creating a new commission won’t be easy for the same reason the original one’s 18-month mandate died: A proposal must go before Parliament for approval. And lawmakers routinely spar with Haitian President Michel Martelly, a pop star-turned-president whose old onstage antics as “Sweet Micky” sometimes make a cameo in his new role. International donors say the need for a new commission is urgent.
“We call on President Martelly and Prime Minister (Garry) Conille to take the necessary steps to address this issue in a timely and effective manner,” Justin Broekema, a spokesman for Canada’s Ministry of International Cooperation, said in a statement.
Modeled after a commission for post-tsunami Indonesia, the reconstruction panel sought to shy away from the haphazard practice of bilateral negotiations in an effort to rebuild the nation from scratch. It also wanted countries including the United States, France and Venezuela to sit literally at the same table with Haitian leaders and avoid a duplication of projects.
By Trenton Daniel