Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Focus on the structure of aid in Haiti

U.S. soldiers tell Haitians who were taking goods from a damaged store to leave the building in Port-au-Prince last week. In Haiti, only a combined effort of the state, civil society and private enterprise can succeed in rebuilding.

Associated Press

U.S. soldiers tell Haitians who were taking goods from a damaged store to leave the building in Port-au-Prince last week. In Haiti, only a combined effort of the state, civil society and private enterprise can succeed in rebuilding.

The catastrophe in Haiti presents the world community with the immense responsibility of a wise response. In the immediate time frame, the priorities are clearly to provide the emergency relief that will save as many lives as possible, stem outbreaks of disease, and comfort the bereaved and wounded. Lessons from other humanitarian disasters reveal the pitfalls to avoid. As well-wishers send in assistance and thousands of organizations turn up to help, one key challenge is providing appropriate direction, enabling the right decisions to be made.

This requires the careful design of a management system that combines the discipline of command and control — and maintenance of order — with flexibility to respond to continuously evolving circumstances. This task will fall to U.S. leadership under the ambassador, with the military under Lt. Gen. Ken Keen providing the backbone of transport and logistical response. Although money, people and supplies might be plentiful, the greatest challenges will be information gathering, sense-making, and careful logistical planning to match those resources to the greatest needs.

Although some inefficiency can be expected, much waste and corruption in the aid effort can be avoided. First, donors must insist on full transparency in tracking funding. These systems can be set up from the start, and donors must understand some mistakes will be made. Second, the multiple contracting layers and duplication can be minimized through smarter design of programs that put as much trust as possible in communities to manage their own affairs. Simple and fair rules will overcome the sense of random allocation that can breed resentment and distrust. Afghanistan's National Solidarity Program is one example of a program that reaches communities directly and empowers them to make their own decisions about how to use resources.

Once the immediate concerns are addressed, attention must turn to the task of helping Haitians recover from the crisis and return to the path of creating their nation. Reconstruction often focuses mainly on physical infrastructure, but must also take account of the psychological toll and trauma of bereavement and dislocation. The terrible tragedy will present an opportunity for a renewed partnership between Haitians and the global community. Action must be taken to avoid the pitfalls of previous efforts in Haiti — for these a frank account can be found in the National Academy of Public Administration's 2006 report, "Why Foreign Aid to Haiti Failed" — and elsewhere.

First, no amount of external coordination can ever match a national policy framework led by a country's legitimate authorities. Allowing the space for the country's leaders in consultation with their citizens to define their own needs and future is imperative.

Second, accountability systems must be in place both for the use of the country's own resources — which will allow greater trust in direct support — and in aid provided by public and private donations. The use of multidonor trust funds with strict rules for disbursement can help, if they have the flexibility in the short run for rapid disbursement against programs that are well designed.

Third, neither the state, nor civil society, nor private enterprise alone can solve the political instability and poverty. The key is finding the right balance between the three. Attention to institution-building, as well as market-building and civil society engagement, must be carefully balanced.

Fourth, instead of always looking to what is not there and needs to be brought in from the outside — whether human or financial capital — the international community must look for the assets that already lie within Haiti's natural, human and institutional capability. For example, instead of bringing in outside experts, the emphasis should be on vocational training within Haiti. Instead of looking to a perpetual flow of donor funding, the medium-term goal should be a Haiti that grows its own economy and moves toward fiscal independence.

Fifth, this might present the time for imaginative solutions to some of Haiti's persistent problems, including the opportunity to create smaller towns and ports in different parts of the country that would open up the country to new opportunities. Haiti could look not only to government aid, but to private foundations, universities, cities, and other sources of knowledge for new types of partnership.

Clare Lockhart is co-founder and chief executive officer of the Institute for State Effectiveness and co-author with Ashraf Ghani of Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Focus on the structure of aid in Haiti 01/30/10 [Last modified: Saturday, January 30, 2010 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Comedian and activist Dick Gregory dies at 84

    Nation

    The comedian Dick Gregory rose to national prominence in the early 1960s as a black satirist whose audacious style of humor was biting, subversive and topical, mostly centered on current events, politics and above all, racial tensions. His trademark was the searing punchline.

    Dick Gregory, a comedian, activist and author, died Saturday. [Tribune News Service, 2011]
  2. Winter Haven police investigating armed robbery at Dollar General

    Crime

    WINTER HAVEN — Police are investigating an armed robbery Friday night of a Dollar General store on W Lake Ruby Drive.

  3. Rowdies settle for draw at home

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  4. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  5. 'Free speech rally' cut short after massive counterprotest

    Nation

    BOSTON — Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged Saturday on downtown Boston in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short their planned "free speech rally" a week after a gathering of hate groups led to bloodshed in Virginia.

    Thousands of people march against a “free speech rally” planned Saturday in Boston. About 40,000 people were in attendance.