Below is a note from Mike Levy who has been monitoring and providing translations of the local news in Haiti from L'Agence Haitienne de Presse/Radio Solidarite. Their news coverage is available online in French and Kreyol at www.ahphaiti.org.
Most of the news reported over the past week by AHP News and Radio Solidarité has focused on the many conferences and preparatory meetings convened by the international community as well as the Haitian private sector, the Haitian Diaspora, commissions of the Haitian Parliament, civil society organizations and NGOs, and individual governments. Surely the sheer breadth and number of these meetings should be enough to indicate the high stakes involved. There can also be no question that Haitians are well able to match the international organizations and governments - if not with equal resources to hold meetings, at least with expertise, focus, commitment and passion. Some of these meetings were already taking place before the nightmare of the January 12th earthquake. Some draw upon documents prepared in recent years. All of them indicate a capacity and willingness to hold consultations on the question of rebuilding a better Haiti.
The Haitian government document reportedly seeks $3.8 billion in aid over the next 18 months. Emergency needs continue, and decisions have not yet been finalized as to how to relocate Haitians to safe areas that will have access to vital services, including shelter, food and water, employment, health care, security etc. Most locations where hundreds of thousands of Haitians have arrived to take shelter after leaving Port-au-Prince lack the capacity to provide necessary services and are themselves (such as Gonaïves) vulnerable to hurricane damage.
At the risk of oversimplifying and making vast generalizations, here are a very few brief points highlighting concerns raised by Haitians about the process of deciding on plans for the reconstruction of the country that seem to emerge from my understanding of the vast coverage by AHP/Radio Solidarité:
1) Most Haitian groups make a distinction between Haiti's immediate emergency needs and her long term rebuilding requirements. There is very broad support for quick action on the emergency needs of temporary housing to protect the 1.3 million displaced Haitians from the dangers of the imminent rainy season. There is considerable report for ensuring that the long term plan be developed in a democratic, transparent manner.
2) There is great concern that the calendar for consultations and development of long term plans devised thus far by the international community with a lot of input from the Haitian government not be rushed in a way that results in the exclusion of important haitian sectors in the decision-making process.
3) What should be the role of the current Haitian government in administering the plan? There seems to be almost a consensus that the political exclusions and shenanigans of the past that have taken place with the support of the international community resulting in coups against constitutional government must end.
4) There are a number of specific concerns about the draft plans that will be discussed at the international donor's meeting that opens at UN headquarters in NY tomorrow, March 31st including the following:
A) How will the results of the many plans developed by the various sectors and actors through emergency consultations and meetings be incorporated in the documents and decisions that may be taken at this international donors meeting?
B) How can Haiti maintain its sovereignty throughout this process? The key proposals and documents would as they now stand make Haitians a voting minority on the special interim commission that would administer the aid over the next 18 months.
C) How can Haitians ensure that the administration of aid funds is a transparent process?
D) How can Haiti ensure that enough of the billions in international aid will actually be spent in Haiti, and with Haitians involved as key players at every step of the way, from drafting plans to overseeing, to hiring, contracting, etc. Will Haitians from the Diaspora and within Haiti be given priority in hiring for all aspects of planning and implementing reconstruction? Who will be in charge of the hiring?
E) How to ensure that the reconstruction process ends the long history of exclusion of important sectors of the Haitian population? How to prevent that the elite with a history of access to the international donor community and to employment do not inappropriately dominate the process?
F) How to boost Haitian national production. Will, for example, how should Haiti's energy needs be met? Through fossil fuels or alternative energy? How will these decisions affect the availability of agricultural land for growing crops for domestic consumption? This type of question applies to every sector.