Six Lessons for Disaster Relief in Haiti

January 26, 2010
I'm joined this week by John Simon, a visiting fellow here at the Center for Global Development. Before coming to the Center, John served in a range of influential positions, from U.S. Ambassador to the African Union to Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. During the George W. Bush administration, he was a member of the National Security Council, serving as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Relief, Stabilization, and Development.That last role placed him at the center of the American response to natural disasters including the 2005 South Asia earthquake and Hurricane Stan. On the Wonkcast, he shares some of the lessons he learned through those experiences, expanding on a blog post he wrote last week (a post I highly recommend reading!).John's six lessons cover the full range from the need for good logistical management of relief efforts to the need to start thinking about long-term reconstruction and private investment potential. I ask him to judge the relief efforts so far on each of the six criteria he laid out in his post. Some of the Haiti coverage takes on a new light when seen through the lens of John's experience. He gives a quick history of how the relationship between civilian aid agencies and the military evolved through the course of the Asian tsunami and the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan and explores how the current response handles that relationship.On the need to prioritize critical supplies, John notes media reports of some relief shipments being turned away from the airport in Port-au-Prince. He tells me, "When I hear those things I'm thinking, 'Someone's doing their job. Someone's making sure that it's not first come first served." Listen to the Wonkcast to hear the interview. Have something to add to the discussion? Ideas for future interviews? Post a comment below. If you use iTunes, you can subscribe to get new episodes delivered straight to your computer every week.


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