After the Earthquake: Empowering Haiti to Rebuild Better – Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

May 20, 2010

From Andrew Natsios's testimony:

As the U.S. transitions from short term humanitarian assistance towards the reconstruction of Haiti’s shattered capital and economy, our aid must alter the power structure within the Haitian government and economy, open the society up to genuine democratic principles and to a free market economy. Too many policymakers in Washington too often take reconstruction literally — as bricks and mortar alone — when it fact rebuilding needs to address much more than that. Clearly, port facilities, roads, bridges, schools, health clinics, and water systems (which were already crumbling before the earthquake) must be rebuilt. But, if that is the extent of our reconstruction efforts, then Haiti will simply revert to its failed state status and whatever is reconstructed will begin to crumble over time without institutions to ensure maintenance.

If western countries want to end the dysfunctional cycle of crisis and failed band aid development in Haiti, only an institution-based model of reconstruction will succeed. U.S. aid programs must be designed to facilitate better governance by the Haitian government in addition to economic growth across Haitian society. Priority must be placed on the agricultural sector and the secondary road network to create an integrated national Haitian economy, rather than one dependent exclusively on the capital, Port-au-Prince. The professional expertise of the Haitian diaspora should be utilized, and scholarships must be extended to train professional managers and technical staff in GOH ministries. And, such initiatives should be complemented by security sector reform that produces a functioning criminal justice system and police force to protect the Haitian people. While history may project a pessimistic outlook for Haiti’s transformation, it also provides critical lessons that the GOH and international community must consider in order to move Haiti towards a brighter future.

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