25 Apr 2012
The difference in Port-au-Prince today is striking. The visible progress is testament to the limitless dedication of Haitians towards rebuilding their country. It also shows unprecedented support from the international community.
As the humanitarian effort winds down, it is crucial to understand Haiti will continue to face humanitarian situations, but these must be integrated into medium and long-term recovery and development strategies.
The international community cannot forget Haiti and must scale up the quality and quantity of its support. In particular, support should ensure Haitians are genuinely front and center of the reconstruction process. For their part, Haitians and in particular the economic and political elites must revive the extraordinary sense of unity and solidarity which was so moving after the earthquake. Urgent decisions on realistic actions plans that count on actual available resources are needed. Agreements between the legislative and executive and between ministries regarding division of labor and issues of leadership are critical for any progress to materialize.
Furthermore, improving the quality of aid requires new focus and investments to build durable Haitian institutions. Haiti’s ability to successfully manage people and resources, establish and enforce norms, monitor and report progress, is foundational to its development.
The government and the international community must reverse years of neglect in coaching, establishing systems, training, and the transfer of tools to Haitians. Such investments are difficult to sell to donors; they lack the winning immediacy of quick gains. On the other hand, Haitian counterparts also prioritize equipment and materials rather than engaging on the difficult medium and long-term internal overhaul of how a ministry functions. The high turnover in leadership adds to this imbalance, tilting the incentive structure towards short-term visible results.
Investing in capacity-building requires developing a scheme to supplement government salaries across ministries, implementing civil service reforms, establishing programming and study units in each ministry and ensuring that all projects include a strong backbone to accompany, coach and train public officers. This is how donors are incentivized to provide more resources through government systems and avoid parallel channels such as large NGOs. Ensuring necessary aid coordination also depends on a strong government counterpart capable of organizing and directing the development process.
Only by focusing on the long-term challenges will Haiti continue to make progress.
Talk to us: How can we best invest in Haiti’s future? Twitter: @undphaiti