Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Haitian people wait and doubt

Now that the United Nations conference to drum up pledges to Haiti is over, the Haitian people still wait, and the Haitian people doubt. They wait because the rebuilding plan proposed at the conference has yet to begin. The wait because the money pledged for the rebuilding plan is only beginning to trickle in.

The Haitian people also doubt. Because the international community has pledged money before, but only gave a fraction. They also doubt the rebuilding plan will rebuild Port-au-Prince, but will only rebuild the Haitian government.

From the IPS, writer Armin Rosen gives us this round-up of some of the concerns of the Haitian people and their advocates.

"Oxfam has witnessed other huge pledging conferences," said Nicole Widdersheim, the director of Oxfam's New York office. "At the end of the day when the cameras turn off and everyone goes home, these are promises. They're not real cash yet."

She said that it was up to "media organisations and advocacy organisations" to hold donor nations accountable for their promised reconstruction spending. Questions about both the dispersal of aid money and the framework for reconstruction planning and implementation have also muted any celebration of the conference. While the meet succeeded in doubling its goal of raising 3.8 billion dollars for the next 18 months of reconstruction work, a Time magazine piece found that Haitians were sceptical as to whether that money would produce any benefits for them.

Time reporter Jessica Desvarieux wrote from Port-Au-Prince that "Haitians are concerned that aid money will not trickle down to the people but instead be used by the government to take care of its own." This echoes pre-conference concerns over using reconstruction funds to prop up a government that has historically been wasteful and corrupt.

On the other hand, Widdersheim said that the reconstruction process has excluded Haitians, and explained that the government's post-disaster relief assessment was made with virtually no input from earthquake survivors.

"A lot of Haitian organisations on the ground feel that the consultative process was null and void," she said. "The average person sitting under a plastic sheet in a camp around Port-au-Prince wasn't really asked what they wanted to see."

According to Widdersheim, the Haitian government rushed the post-disaster assessment in order to finish it in time for the donors' conference, which meant that relatively few earthquake survivors were even aware that the reconstruction process had begun.

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