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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.
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
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.
This is a joint post with and Danny Cutherell.
Over on the Global Dashboard blog, Seth Kaplan has posted a critique of CGD’s Pakistan initiative. In a post titled, “What’s Wrong With CGD’s Pakistan Initiative” Kaplan knocks the CGD Pakistan initiative for saying “almost nothing specific about Pakistan”; “ignoring the “drivers of its political economy”; and relying on “one-size-fits-all solutions.” As members of CGD’s Pakistan initiative, we welcome Seth’s critique of our work (indeed, we were happy to feature another one of our critics in a previous blog) and take this as an opportunity to clear up any misunderstanding about our approach and findings.
This commentary also appeared on The Huffington Post and Global Post
Last week at a United Nations conference, donors pledged more than $10 billion to finance reconstruction and development investments in Haiti. The United States promised a hefty $1.15 billion.
But pledging money is the easy part. The United States, the lead donor and friend with the greatest interest in Haiti's future development, can do much more, in two ways: its own aid programs can be more effective; and it can take steps beyond aid that are far more critical to long-run prosperity for Haiti's people.
This is a joint posting with Cindy Prieto.
Since the coup ousting Honduran president Manuel Zelaya last June, the international community has responded with strong words and a mix of mostly mild actions. The Organization of American States (OAS) unanimously voted to suspend Honduras when the de facto regime ignored its demand for the immediate reinstatement of Zelaya, and the UN General Assembly has also adopted a resolution denouncing the coup. The United States and European Union have halted some forms of non-humanitarian aid. But despite some calls for action , the United States and other major trade partners have yet to adopt trade sanctions or to freeze the coup leaders' assets.
*This is a joint post with Steve Radelet
Yesterday in an interview with NPR, Defense Secretary Robert Gates made a strong and smart argument for supporting American troops. No surprises there, right? Except for the fact that he is defending the build-up of civilian troops -- our diplomatic and development corps -- to be America's front line of defense in fighting global poverty and insecurity. Much as he did in his brilliant speech at Kansas State University in November, Gates encourages the United States to devote more resources and create new institutions for nonmilitary means of influence abroad: diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action, and economic reconstruction and development. His message:
If we are to meet the myriad challenges around the world in the coming decades, this country must strengthen other important elements of national power both institutionally and financially, and create the capability to integrate and apply all of the elements of national power to problems and challenges abroad.
And, how specifically do we elevate global development policy in the national interest? Says Gates:
What is clear to me is that there is a need for a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security -- diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action, and economic reconstruction and development....The way to institutionalize these capabilities is probably not to recreate or repopulate institutions of the past such as AID or USIA. On the other hand, just adding more people to existing government departments such as Agriculture, Treasury, Commerce, Justice and so on is not a sufficient answer either -- even if they were to be more deployable overseas. New institutions are needed for the 21st century, new organizations with a 21st century mind-set.
Robert Kaplan of The Coming Anarchy fame (how scarcity, crime, overpopulation, tribalism, and disease are rapidly destroying the social fabric of the planet, especially Africa) has a new short piece in The Atlantic on the US military's development of a central Africa Command, or AFRICOM.