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Haiti: Three Years After the Quake and Not Much Has Changed

January 12 will mark the third anniversary of the tragic Haiti earthquake that killed over 220,000 people, displaced millions, and flattened much of Port au Prince. Damage and losses estimated at $7.8 billion exceeded Haiti’s entire GDP at the time. The country received unprecedented support in response: more than $9 billion has been disbursed to Haiti in public and private funding since 2010. Private donations alone reached $3 billion, much of it from individuals donating small sums via text messages to the Red Cross and other charities. Official donors tripled their assistance from 2009; in 2010 aid flows were 400 percent of the Haitian government’s domestic revenue.

Postcard from Haiti: Life after the 2010 Quake

This is a joint post with Julie Walz.

On January 12, 2010, at 16:53 hours, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the city of Port-au-Prince, killing over 200,000 people and leaving several million homeless. Foreign aid poured into Haiti, at the rate of almost a thousand dollars per Haitian. For the past two years, we have been putting together the various pieces of data we could find on aid flows and foreign involvement after the quake. We found that the big international NGOs and private contractors have been the primary recipients of billions of dollars in U.S. assistance have been not been required to report systematically on how they use the funds. There has been a lack of accountability to both the funders and recipients. Our preliminary impressions based on our visit to Haiti are that this lack of accountability is if anything worse on the ground: the NGOs are frequently not accountable to the Haitian government or to the people they aim to serve. We even learned something about earthquakes--for example, did you know that Haiti’s two major faults (the northern Sententrional fault and the southern Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault) are called slip-strike faults, and are similar to the San Andreas Fault in California? It was the southern fault that triggered the quake two and a half years ago.

Thunderstorm over Port-au-Prince

Credit: Vijaya Ramachandran

A Review of the U.S. Government's Review of Its Haiti Quake Response

This post is joint with Julie Walz.

Last week, USAID finally published an external review on its activities in Haiti: “Independent Review of the U.S. Government Response to the Haiti Earthquake”. The report is dated March 28, 2011. Yes, 2011. It took over a year to post the document on the USAID website. The review was conducted by MacFadden and Associates – which operates an $80M Indefinite Quantity Contract from USAID. There are some frank and enlightening assessments of USG response and coordination, but very little discussion of aid accountability.

Haiti: Where Has All the Money Gone?

This is a joint post with Julie Walz.

The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act (H.R. 1016) was approved by a voice vote in the Senate this week, almost a year after it was passed by the House. The Act “directs the President to report to Congress on the status of post-earthquake humanitarian, reconstruction, and development efforts in Haiti” including progress of programs, alignment with the Haitian government priorities, and coordination among U.S. agencies and other donors.

A Challenge for Jim Yong Kim, New President of the World Bank—What to Do in Fragile States?

This post is joint with Ross Thuotte

Today, the World Bank announced that Jim Yong Kim will be the institution’s next president. As the dust settles from the leadership selection debate, the focus will necessarily shift to the issues that confront Kim and the world’s leading development institution. One of the most difficult and important questions is: how can the bank more effectively engage in fragile and conflict-affected countries?

Fresh Ideas for New U.S. Ambassador to Haiti

Update: On March 29, the U.S. Senate confirmed Pamela White to be Ambassador of the United States of America to the Republic of Haiti.

Assuming she is confirmed by the Senate, Pamela White is set to become the next U.S. ambassador to Haiti. In her March 14 confirmation hearing, White and the senators agreed on one message: Haiti’s unstable government is impeding post-earthquake recovery, including U.S. aid efforts. But White could consider alternative approaches—from migration policy to mobile money—that might do more to help Haitians right now.

SERGIO and the Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century

This is a joint post with Lauren Young.

A dashing Brazilian man who keeps a flakjacket in his midtown Manhattan office, two firefighters from New York and Miami, a terrorist attack, and an attempted rescue using nothing but a string and a ladies handbag. Would you believe that this is a film about the United Nations? Sergio, which premiered on HBO this month, is the story of Sergio Vieira de Mello, an extraordinary public servant who died in the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Iraq. The film (based on the book by Pulitzer-prize winning author Samantha Power) is a tribute to his leadership and service in the world’s worst troublespots.

Sergio Vieira de Mello began his career with the United Nations in Bangladesh, at the age of 23, and continued to mediate conflicts for the next three decades in countries such as Sudan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Mozambique, and Lebanon.

Blurring the Line between Defense and Development

This is a joint post with Julia Barmeier.

In a little-noticed move in January, private military contractor DynCorp bought 100% of the shares of international development contractor Casals & Associates (the value of this acquisition was not disclosed). DynCorp says it plans to integrate Casals & Associates into its International Global Stabilization and Development Solutions division. In 2007, CGD research highlighted the Pentagon’s ever-expanding role in the development space. In the administration’s 2010-2011 budget proposal, 20% of the 2011 Department of State and Agency for International Development (USAID) budget is slated for “securing frontline states” (Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan). The DynCorp-Casals merger suggests a blurring of the line between development and defense in the private sector, as well.

Should we be worried?