HaitiHaiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch is a blog that tracks multinational aid efforts in Haiti with an eye towards ensuring they are oriented towards the needs of the Haitian people, and that aid is not used to undermine Haitians' right to self-determination.

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Fast Company Magazine reports on the use of Open Source mapping software in the relief efforts. Open Source developers Tom Buckley and Schuyler Erle are working in Haiti.  Fast Company reports:
The pair are advising the World Bank on the use of crowd-sourced mapping, primarily through the open-source program OpenStreetMap, in the relief and recovery effort in Haiti.

Patrick Elie, former Defense Minister under Aristide and current aid to President Preval had the following to say to Inter-Press Service regarding private contractors in Haiti:
"These guys are like vultures coming to grab the loot over this disaster, and probably money that might have been injected into the Haitian economy is going to be just grabbed by these companies and I'm sure that they are not only these mercenary companies but also the other companies like Halliburton or these other ones that always [come] on the heels of the troops."

The Associated Press recieved exclusive access to the flight logs at Port-au-Prince airport, revealing a chaotic period where distribution of vital aid was often delayed or rerouted. AP reports:
The Air Force did initially give priority to military units that were sent to secure the airport, distribute aid and keep the peace. But then it started taking flights according to a reservation system open to anyone.

Because of that, key aid was delayed in some cases while less-critical flights got in.

Roger Noriega of the American Enterprise Institute and former State Department official during the Bush administration writes today about “Priming the pump of private capital and promoting free market mechanisms,” in order to ensure Haiti’s recovery. The article was co-written by Francis Skrobiszewski. Noriega writes that:
Aid agencies are intensely preoccupied with providing essential humanitarian assistance in Haiti. Haitians, however, cannot wait for traditional development assistance experts to conceive and implement public and private-sector capacity-building, policy reform, educational initiatives and other long-term programs.

A broad coalition of groups with extensive experience in Haiti made their recommendations yesterday in advance of the donor conference scheduled for March. The coalition is comprised of: Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at NYU School of Law, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), Partners In Health/Zanmi Lasante, and the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center).

The recommendations focus on four main areas: building the capacity of the government to ensure human rights, transparency, accountability, and the empowerment of Haitian citizens.

To read the full recommendations click here.
Last week the FAO announced its worry that immediate agriculture needs were not being adequately funded, there is also evidence of rising prices for basic foods such as rice. Following up on these reports, Inter-Press Service reports today on the likelihood of an emerging food crisis in post-earthquake Haiti:
"Everybody needs to understand the need to act right now, otherwise the planting season will be lost," Geri Benoit, Haiti's ambassador to Italy and the Rome-based UN food agencies, told IPS.

Media monitor and analyst Danny Schecter probes beneath the superficiality of TV-coverage of Haiti relief, and the focus on celebrity benefits, saying that “Entertainment and popular culture are moving and valuable but ongoing popular education on the issues is more important.”

Among Danny’s recommendations:

We need another professionally staffed website to insure public accountability and transparency on where all the money raised by international agencies, national governments and charities is going.

Colum Lynch, longtime Washington Post United Nations reporter, reports for the Turtle Bay blog at Foreign Policy:
The U.N.'s top humanitarian relief coordinator John Holmes scolded his top aid lieutenants for failing to adequately manage the relief effort in Haiti, saying that an uneven response in the month following the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake was undercutting confidence in the U.N.'s ability to deliver vital assistance, according to a confidential email obtained by Turtle Bay.
Click here to read more, including the entire confidential e-mail.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy landed in Haiti this morning, the AP reports. It was the first visit by a French president to Haiti, described by the AP as once being the "nation's richest colony."

AP reports:
Some Haitians are welcoming France's new interest in their nation as a counterbalance to the United States, which has sent troops there three times in the past 16 years. But Sarkozy's visit is also reviving bitter memories of the crippling costs of Haiti's 1804 independence.

A third of the population was killed in an uprising against exceptionally brutal slavery, an international embargo was imposed to deter slave revolts elsewhere and 90 million pieces of gold were demanded by Paris from the world's first black republic.

*This post has been edited slightly for accuracy.

With the Inter-American Development Bank saying that the reconstruction of Haiti could cost upwards of $14 billion, and with billions in aid already coming in to Haiti, it is vitally important to keep a close eye on where that money is being spent.

The Federal Procurement Data System - Next Generation, has set up a function where you can track contracts awarded for Haiti related work. The list, however, is not exhaustive; there is a message on the site saying that the list only “represents a portion of the work that has been awarded to date.”  For instance the US Agency for International Development lists only two contracts totaling just under $150,000. USAID, however, says that through the Office of Transition Initiatives they have already given $20 million to three companies: Chemonics, Internews, and Development Alternatives Inc. The reality may be that these companies have received even more money than that though. The Miami Herald reported on February 8 that:

The U.S. Agency for International Development has given two assignments for Haiti-related work to two beltway firms involved in international development: Washington, D.C.-based Chemonics International and Bethesda, Md.-based Development Alternatives Inc.

The emergency work assignments, which are worth $50 million each, are likely the first of many the agency will hand out to private firms to help Haiti get on its feet after the devastating quake Jan. 12.

Bill Quigley, Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, writes over the weekend in response to a comment US Ambassador to Haiti Ken Merten made regarding relief efforts. Merten addressed humanitarian aid delivery at a press briefing by saying:
And I think, frankly, it’s working really well, and I believe that this will be something that people will be able to look back on in the future as a model for how we’ve been able to sort ourselves out as donors on the ground and responding to an earthquake.

The Washington Post had an article yesterday detailing the role that Haitian elites will play in the rebuilding of the country:
Haiti's elite -- a small, politically connected group as comfortable lobbying President René Préval as lawmakers in Washington -- is positioning itself for business opportunities emerging from their country's reconstruction.

Watch Aljazeera’s Fault Lines for an examination into the debate over reconstruction plans for Haiti. Unlike too many reports, Fault Lines presents perspectives from Haitian economists and other experts on how Haiti can rebuild and develop in order to best serve the needs of the Haitian people.

The report also looks at the self-organization in communities of displaced earthquake survivors that has helped ensure aid distribution remains orderly and reaches everyone in need.

As UN agencies met in Rome to discuss the response to the earthquake in Haiti, General Jacques Diouf, of the Food and Agriculture Organization issued a stark warning:
“At a time when Haiti is facing a major food crisis we are alarmed at the lack of support to the agricultural component of the Flash Appeal,”

Writing for The Nation yesterday, Naomi Klein makes the case that Haiti is actually a creditor, not a debtor. Therefore, she argues, to speak of debt cancellation is really only a step in the right direction.

Klein outlines three major sources of the West's debt to Haiti: The Slavery Debt, The Dictatorship Debt and The Climate Debt.

One could add that the United States, France, Canada, and the World Bank also owe Haiti for having deliberately destroyed the economy and de-stabilized the country from 2000-2004, in order to topple the elected government. Since this was done openly, including an international cut-off of vitally needed aid, has been documented, and is quite recent as compared to the previous debts cited by Klein, it should be of prime importance. The renowned medical journal, the Lancet, has estimated that the dictatorship installed after the 2004 coup murdered around 4000 people in the greater Port-au-Prince area alone. It also jailed officials and supporters of the constitutional government. The foreign governments, including the United States, who organized, funded, and contributed to this coup are also responsible for the violence that ensued.

Taiwans' Central News Agency reports that a China Times Group reporter, Liu Ping, who traveled to Haiti to cover the earthquake was upset by some of the media coverage of the security situation:
"Everyone was trying to survive, because they were looking for food and water, " the Washington-based correspondent said. "If there was more empathy in news reporting, the perspective would be different." Liu also lashed out at peacekeeping troops in Haiti. He said the troops told Taiwan's second rescue team not to go outside because it was not safe, but what the reporter saw were people who were staring over airport walls at the relief goods they hoped to receive as soon as possible.

The head of an emergency commission to provide shelter, Charles Clermont, says only a limited number of the 200,000 tents requested by the government have been delivered. Agence Haitienne de Presse reported1 on February 10 that according to Clermont:
[T]he Haitian government has only received 49,198 of the 200,000 tents it has requested from the international community, and only 15,000 of these tents are available in Haiti as of today.

The Miami Herald reported today that it has seen a copy of a U.S. plan - drafted by Secretary Clinton’s staff, and which the U.S. has presented to the Haitian government – for both Haiti’s short term and long-term relief and development.

The short-term is 18 months. This is the period of time over which an Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, which the plan calls for, would oversee the “urgent early recovery”. The long term is 10 years. This is at least for how long the plan’s “Haitian Development Authority” would “coordinate billions in foreign assistance.”

While there has not been much coverage in major media of the protests taking place in Haiti, Reuters reports:
"...a noisy, early morning protest by several hundred Haitians at the U.N. mission headquarters brought into sharp focus simmering anger over the dire need for shelter..."

With hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Haitians living in make-shift camps, the lack of rain since the earthquake has been a relief. Today, however, Reuters reports that:
Heavy rain drenched earthquake survivors in the tent camps of the Haitian capital on Thursday, bringing a warning of fresh misery to come for the 1 million people living on the streets.

While Haiti continues to dig itself out of the rubble, and various individuals and groups lay out their ideas for reconstruction, there is a notable absence in Haiti. Ousted in 2004, the overwhelmingly popular Jean Bertrand Aristide is still in Pretoria, South Africa.  Yesterday, actor and activist Danny Glover, recently back from Pretoria, appeared on Democracy NOW! He was asked why Aristide has not yet returned:
Well, he’s mystified by that. You know, there’s been several calls for him to return. His party still—the Lavalas is still the largest party, that’s not participating, that’s not active in the electoral process. And yet, he’s dismayed by that, the fact that both—it seems as if the South African government and the United States are complicit in his not returning to the hemisphere.


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