Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

Haiti: 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.

On the same day as a high profile event laying the corner stone of “one of the largest and most modern” industrial parks in the Caribbean, an investigation by Better Work Haiti found “evidence of violations of freedom of association” at other Haitian textile factories. Alison Macgregor of the Montreal Gazette reports:

Gildan Activewear Inc. has ordered its Haitian subcontractor to reinstate four workers after an independent investigation concluded they were illegally fired in September because of their involvement with a local union.

The union members worked for the Genesis S.A. factory near the Portau-Prince [sic] airport. The tax-exempt plant, owned by the powerful Apaid family, produces almost exclusively for Gildan. The investigation found there was “evidence of violations of freedom of association” at the factory, Peter Iliopoulos, Gildan’s senior vice-president (public and corporate affairs) said in an interview Tuesday.

[It is also worth noting that the workers’ reinstatement follows pressure from the International Labor Rights Forum, United Students Against Sweatshops, Workers Rights Consortium and other labor solidarity groups.]

Until this past September there was only one union in the Haitian garment sector, and none in Port-au-Prince. In September, the Sendika Ouvriye Takstil ak Abiman (SOTA) union was formed as a sector wide movement. On September 16, SOTA obtained registration from the Haitian Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, yet as the Better Work investigation states:

Between 23 and 30 September 2011, six members of the Executive Committee of a new trade union formed by workers in the garment sector in Haiti (SOTA) were terminated by three factories in Port-au-Prince.

In each case, Better Work found that the “employer has not provided sufficient information to counter the allegations of anti-union discrimination”. The report suggests the re-hiring of those fired with back pay and concludes:

There is strong circumstantial evidence to demonstrate that the officers of the SOTA trade union were terminated based on their trade union affiliation. The fact that 6 out of 7 officers of the SOTA union were fired by three employers within two weeks of the registration of the union with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs strongly suggests an effort by employers to undermine the new union, and to curtail its growth before it had the opportunity to expand its membership.

With the garment industry heavily promoted by the Haitian government and international donors, it will be imperative to ensure that worker’s rights are respected and strengthened.

New Industrial Park Center of Economic Development Plan

The new industrial park, touted as “the largest single private investment in modern Haitian history”, is part of a larger effort to put textile manufacturing at the heart of Haiti’s economic development.  Haiti has duty-free access to the U.S. market through the HOPE program, and as Paul Collier explained in his influential 2009 report (PDF), “Due to its poverty and relatively unregulated labour market, Haiti has labour costs that are fully competitive with China, which is the global benchmark. Haitian labour is not only cheap it is of good quality.” Yet some question if below subsistence wages will be the answer to Haiti’s lack of jobs and enduring poverty. Macgregor previously reported:

In an April 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech at an Apaid family factory – the same family owns the Genesis factory – in which she praised the creation of new jobs in the industry, with wages at “two to three times the minimum wage.”

But Etienne [Yannick Etienne is the coordinator of Batay Ouvriye] said that in reality many of the factories take advantage of their workers. She said workers are often required to assemble an unrealistic number of garment pieces per day to earn a daily wage of 250 gourdes (about $6.30 Canadian). Since it is impossible to complete the work in a regular work-day, the workers, who are usually woman, end up working 12-to 13-hour shifts.

Even after working 12-13 hours shifts, the wages are generally below what could be considered a “living wage”. The AFL-CIO Solidarity Center released a study in March looking at the cost of living for factory workers in the SONAPI export processing zone near Port-au-Princes airport. The study found that for a single woman with two children, average monthly living expenses totaled $750. Assuming a 48-hour work week, that breaks down to about $29 a day.

The most recent Better Work report (PDF) on Haiti, published in October, found that garment factories were generally compliant with core labor standards on child labor, discrimination, forced labor and freedom of association and collective bargaining but found significant non-compliance in working conditions and operational safety and health. The report found that “Twenty-one out of 23 factories (91%) were found non-compliant in Minimum Wages.” The finding backs up what Etienne had said, as the report notes that much of the non-compliance has to do with an inability to meet production targets during a regular day. Only “an average of 22% of workers reach their targets and earn at least 250 Gourdes per day for ordinary hours of work,” the report found. The Nation reported in June on efforts by contractors, Haitian industrialists and the U.S. government to “block a minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers.”

Additionally, although the report did not note any non-compliance of freedom of association, with only one union it is hard to accurately report this metric. As Ansel Herz reported:

But the low non-compliance rate is potentially misleading. “Although no non-compliance findings are cited in the current report under Union Operations,” the report notes, there are “very significant challenges related to the rights of workers to freely form, join and participate in independent trade unions”.

“If you look at the reports, in Haiti there is only one unionised factory (in Ouanaminthe) out of 23 operating factories. In the factories in Port-au-Prince, there are no unions. We don’t have any evidence,” [Better Work Haiti’s director Richard] Lavallée said.

He explained that if a factory owner fires a person for trying to organise workers, it won’t be noted in the employee records reviewed by his team.

Asked if Better Work Haiti isn’t really measuring anything when it comes to conditions for labour organising, because there are almost no unions, Lavallée responded, “Exactly.”

Herz also spoke with Yasmine Shamsie, a Canadian scholar who has advocated for a different approach to the garment industry in Haiti. Shamsie notes that the new industrial park was “not conditional on allowing unions to organise that space”. Herz continues:

Her 2010 report for the Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum called for a “high-road approach” to the Haitian apparel industry’s expansion, including unionising workers and providing welfare programmes to raise their living standards.

She said she didn’t understand the “lack of interest” in that strategy from international donors. “To be frank, it’s a no-brainer,” Shamsie said. “You say you want to create employment and reduce poverty – then give workers the tools to advocate for better than poverty wages.”

The report is available here (PDF).

Update 12/01: Alison Macgregor reports this morning that Hanesbrands will urge the Multiwear factory to reinstate, with back pay, the employee who was fired this past September. A spokeman for the company told Macgregor, “We are sending our director of labour relations down to the faculty to review our global standards for suppliers”.

On the same day as a high profile event laying the corner stone of “one of the largest and most modern” industrial parks in the Caribbean, an investigation by Better Work Haiti found “evidence of violations of freedom of association” at other Haitian textile factories. Alison Macgregor of the Montreal Gazette reports:

Gildan Activewear Inc. has ordered its Haitian subcontractor to reinstate four workers after an independent investigation concluded they were illegally fired in September because of their involvement with a local union.

The union members worked for the Genesis S.A. factory near the Portau-Prince [sic] airport. The tax-exempt plant, owned by the powerful Apaid family, produces almost exclusively for Gildan. The investigation found there was “evidence of violations of freedom of association” at the factory, Peter Iliopoulos, Gildan’s senior vice-president (public and corporate affairs) said in an interview Tuesday.

[It is also worth noting that the workers’ reinstatement follows pressure from the International Labor Rights Forum, United Students Against Sweatshops, Workers Rights Consortium and other labor solidarity groups.]

Until this past September there was only one union in the Haitian garment sector, and none in Port-au-Prince. In September, the Sendika Ouvriye Takstil ak Abiman (SOTA) union was formed as a sector wide movement. On September 16, SOTA obtained registration from the Haitian Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, yet as the Better Work investigation states:

Between 23 and 30 September 2011, six members of the Executive Committee of a new trade union formed by workers in the garment sector in Haiti (SOTA) were terminated by three factories in Port-au-Prince.

In each case, Better Work found that the “employer has not provided sufficient information to counter the allegations of anti-union discrimination”. The report suggests the re-hiring of those fired with back pay and concludes:

There is strong circumstantial evidence to demonstrate that the officers of the SOTA trade union were terminated based on their trade union affiliation. The fact that 6 out of 7 officers of the SOTA union were fired by three employers within two weeks of the registration of the union with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs strongly suggests an effort by employers to undermine the new union, and to curtail its growth before it had the opportunity to expand its membership.

With the garment industry heavily promoted by the Haitian government and international donors, it will be imperative to ensure that worker’s rights are respected and strengthened.

New Industrial Park Center of Economic Development Plan

The new industrial park, touted as “the largest single private investment in modern Haitian history”, is part of a larger effort to put textile manufacturing at the heart of Haiti’s economic development.  Haiti has duty-free access to the U.S. market through the HOPE program, and as Paul Collier explained in his influential 2009 report (PDF), “Due to its poverty and relatively unregulated labour market, Haiti has labour costs that are fully competitive with China, which is the global benchmark. Haitian labour is not only cheap it is of good quality.” Yet some question if below subsistence wages will be the answer to Haiti’s lack of jobs and enduring poverty. Macgregor previously reported:

In an April 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech at an Apaid family factory – the same family owns the Genesis factory – in which she praised the creation of new jobs in the industry, with wages at “two to three times the minimum wage.”

But Etienne [Yannick Etienne is the coordinator of Batay Ouvriye] said that in reality many of the factories take advantage of their workers. She said workers are often required to assemble an unrealistic number of garment pieces per day to earn a daily wage of 250 gourdes (about $6.30 Canadian). Since it is impossible to complete the work in a regular work-day, the workers, who are usually woman, end up working 12-to 13-hour shifts.

Even after working 12-13 hours shifts, the wages are generally below what could be considered a “living wage”. The AFL-CIO Solidarity Center released a study in March looking at the cost of living for factory workers in the SONAPI export processing zone near Port-au-Princes airport. The study found that for a single woman with two children, average monthly living expenses totaled $750. Assuming a 48-hour work week, that breaks down to about $29 a day.

The most recent Better Work report (PDF) on Haiti, published in October, found that garment factories were generally compliant with core labor standards on child labor, discrimination, forced labor and freedom of association and collective bargaining but found significant non-compliance in working conditions and operational safety and health. The report found that “Twenty-one out of 23 factories (91%) were found non-compliant in Minimum Wages.” The finding backs up what Etienne had said, as the report notes that much of the non-compliance has to do with an inability to meet production targets during a regular day. Only “an average of 22% of workers reach their targets and earn at least 250 Gourdes per day for ordinary hours of work,” the report found. The Nation reported in June on efforts by contractors, Haitian industrialists and the U.S. government to “block a minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers.”

Additionally, although the report did not note any non-compliance of freedom of association, with only one union it is hard to accurately report this metric. As Ansel Herz reported:

But the low non-compliance rate is potentially misleading. “Although no non-compliance findings are cited in the current report under Union Operations,” the report notes, there are “very significant challenges related to the rights of workers to freely form, join and participate in independent trade unions”.

“If you look at the reports, in Haiti there is only one unionised factory (in Ouanaminthe) out of 23 operating factories. In the factories in Port-au-Prince, there are no unions. We don’t have any evidence,” [Better Work Haiti’s director Richard] Lavallée said.

He explained that if a factory owner fires a person for trying to organise workers, it won’t be noted in the employee records reviewed by his team.

Asked if Better Work Haiti isn’t really measuring anything when it comes to conditions for labour organising, because there are almost no unions, Lavallée responded, “Exactly.”

Herz also spoke with Yasmine Shamsie, a Canadian scholar who has advocated for a different approach to the garment industry in Haiti. Shamsie notes that the new industrial park was “not conditional on allowing unions to organise that space”. Herz continues:

Her 2010 report for the Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum called for a “high-road approach” to the Haitian apparel industry’s expansion, including unionising workers and providing welfare programmes to raise their living standards.

She said she didn’t understand the “lack of interest” in that strategy from international donors. “To be frank, it’s a no-brainer,” Shamsie said. “You say you want to create employment and reduce poverty – then give workers the tools to advocate for better than poverty wages.”

The report is available here (PDF).

Update 12/01: Alison Macgregor reports this morning that Hanesbrands will urge the Multiwear factory to reinstate, with back pay, the employee who was fired this past September. A spokeman for the company told Macgregor, “We are sending our director of labour relations down to the faculty to review our global standards for suppliers”.

This is the second part of a series of posts analyzing USAID’s increasing reliance on contractors and how this has affected efforts to provide greater oversight, implement procurement reform and improve the efficacy of U.S. aid. Part one is available here.

Procurement Reform – Moving Forward?

One primary aspect of USAID Forward is procurement reform. The goal is to “Increase use of reliable partner country systems and institutions”, strengthen local capacity by allocating more grants to local NGOs and increase the “percentage of total dollars through direct contracts with local private businesses.” The program also aims to “[d]ecrease both the number and/or dollar value of large indefinite quantity contracts” which have been labeled as “high risk”.

These reforms deserve to be supported, and there is some evidence that efforts are being made to implement them. The GAO report (discussed in the part one), for instance, acknowledges that procurement documents indicated, “whether those activities will be targeted at local firms or organizations or use traditional partners.”

Nevertheless, in Haiti, only .02 percent of contracts from USAID have gone directly to Haitian companies, while the largest contracts have gone to for-profit development contractors in the form of “high-risk” indefinite quantity contracts. The overwhelming majority of contracts have gone to companies in the Washington DC area (Beltway), as can be seen in Table I. The percentage that has gone to local firms in Haiti is even lower than USAID’s worldwide average, which over the past three years has been 0.63 percent. Through USAID Forward, the agency aims to reach 2 percent by fiscal year 2013.

Table I.

Contractor Location

Amount Received

Percent of Total

Beltway

 $ 242,204,401

82.96

Haiti

 $           48,641

0.02

All Other

 $   49,691,198

17.02

Total

 $ 291,944,240

100

Source: FPDS, author’s calculations.

While USAID’s “implementing partners” are supposedly encouraged to increase their use of local subcontractors, USAID lacks the capability to actually track these metrics. On the USAID Forward website it states:

Unfortunately, the Agency does not have the systems in place to track sub-grants and sub-contracts so it is not possible to state precisely the number of partners or the percentage of USAID funds that flow to local nonprofit organizations (or, for that matter, to local private businesses) through these indirect arrangements.

Although the Agency admits to not having systems in place, the absence of this data is especially troublesome given that the contract with the largest benefactor of USAID funds, Chemonics, specifically requires information regarding subcontractors as well as weekly, monthly and annual expenditure reports. Chemonics has received an astonishing $167 million from USAID since the earthquake, over 60 percent of all USAID contracts awarded. A copy of a contract with Chemonics from January 2010, obtained by Relief and Reconstruction Watch, reveals that Chemonics is required to “track and report on the overall monthly commitments and disbursements for all activities and non-activity expenditures.” Further, the contract states that Chemonics “is required to provide a detailed budget and vouchers for all subcontractors.” There is even an activity database, which is a “means of supporting activity development, documentation, reports, financial tracking, and real-time monitoring and evaluation to inform ongoing programmatic decisions and management.”

One clear problem with these requirements is that Chemonics itself is largely responsible for providing oversight of their work. Regarding the activity database, Chemonics is responsible “for ensuring that the database contains accurate, complete, and up-to-date information.” Not only is the contractor solely responsible for providing accurate data, but they are also intimately involved in the overall evaluation process. The contract states that USAID and Chemonics “are expected to jointly develop a system of processes and tools for the monitoring and evaluation of the country program.”

Through USAID’s own admission, they lack the resources and capabilities to provide adequate oversight and accountability of their largest contractors. With little input from, or involvement with, Haitian entities, these contractors are accountable neither to their funders nor their intended beneficiaries.  Although the Forward initiative is a step in the right direction, until USAID can provide basic oversight of their contractors, there is little reason to believe the ambitious reform initiative will reap quick rewards.  

Next: Chemonic’s Track Record and the Development Indsutrial Complex.

Update 12/01: For more information on indefinite quantity contracts and how they function, see this analysis from the Haiti Justice Alliance.

This is the second part of a series of posts analyzing USAID’s increasing reliance on contractors and how this has affected efforts to provide greater oversight, implement procurement reform and improve the efficacy of U.S. aid. Part one is available here.

Procurement Reform – Moving Forward?

One primary aspect of USAID Forward is procurement reform. The goal is to “Increase use of reliable partner country systems and institutions”, strengthen local capacity by allocating more grants to local NGOs and increase the “percentage of total dollars through direct contracts with local private businesses.” The program also aims to “[d]ecrease both the number and/or dollar value of large indefinite quantity contracts” which have been labeled as “high risk”.

These reforms deserve to be supported, and there is some evidence that efforts are being made to implement them. The GAO report (discussed in the part one), for instance, acknowledges that procurement documents indicated, “whether those activities will be targeted at local firms or organizations or use traditional partners.”

Nevertheless, in Haiti, only .02 percent of contracts from USAID have gone directly to Haitian companies, while the largest contracts have gone to for-profit development contractors in the form of “high-risk” indefinite quantity contracts. The overwhelming majority of contracts have gone to companies in the Washington DC area (Beltway), as can be seen in Table I. The percentage that has gone to local firms in Haiti is even lower than USAID’s worldwide average, which over the past three years has been 0.63 percent. Through USAID Forward, the agency aims to reach 2 percent by fiscal year 2013.

Table I.

Contractor Location

Amount Received

Percent of Total

Beltway

 $ 242,204,401

82.96

Haiti

 $           48,641

0.02

All Other

 $   49,691,198

17.02

Total

 $ 291,944,240

100

Source: FPDS, author’s calculations.

While USAID’s “implementing partners” are supposedly encouraged to increase their use of local subcontractors, USAID lacks the capability to actually track these metrics. On the USAID Forward website it states:

Unfortunately, the Agency does not have the systems in place to track sub-grants and sub-contracts so it is not possible to state precisely the number of partners or the percentage of USAID funds that flow to local nonprofit organizations (or, for that matter, to local private businesses) through these indirect arrangements.

Although the Agency admits to not having systems in place, the absence of this data is especially troublesome given that the contract with the largest benefactor of USAID funds, Chemonics, specifically requires information regarding subcontractors as well as weekly, monthly and annual expenditure reports. Chemonics has received an astonishing $167 million from USAID since the earthquake, over 60 percent of all USAID contracts awarded. A copy of a contract with Chemonics from January 2010, obtained by Relief and Reconstruction Watch, reveals that Chemonics is required to “track and report on the overall monthly commitments and disbursements for all activities and non-activity expenditures.” Further, the contract states that Chemonics “is required to provide a detailed budget and vouchers for all subcontractors.” There is even an activity database, which is a “means of supporting activity development, documentation, reports, financial tracking, and real-time monitoring and evaluation to inform ongoing programmatic decisions and management.”

One clear problem with these requirements is that Chemonics itself is largely responsible for providing oversight of their work. Regarding the activity database, Chemonics is responsible “for ensuring that the database contains accurate, complete, and up-to-date information.” Not only is the contractor solely responsible for providing accurate data, but they are also intimately involved in the overall evaluation process. The contract states that USAID and Chemonics “are expected to jointly develop a system of processes and tools for the monitoring and evaluation of the country program.”

Through USAID’s own admission, they lack the resources and capabilities to provide adequate oversight and accountability of their largest contractors. With little input from, or involvement with, Haitian entities, these contractors are accountable neither to their funders nor their intended beneficiaries.  Although the Forward initiative is a step in the right direction, until USAID can provide basic oversight of their contractors, there is little reason to believe the ambitious reform initiative will reap quick rewards.  

Next: Chemonic’s Track Record and the Development Indsutrial Complex.

Update 12/01: For more information on indefinite quantity contracts and how they function, see this analysis from the Haiti Justice Alliance.

“But I think it’s fair to say that USAID, our premier aid agency, has been decimated. You know, it has half the staff it used to have. It’s turned into more of a contracting agency than an operational agency with the ability to deliver.” – Hillary Clinton, Senate Confirmation Hearing as Nominee for Secretary of State

This is the first part of a series of posts analyzing USAID’s increasing reliance on contractors and how this has affected efforts to provide greater oversight, implement procurement reform and improve the efficacy of U.S. aid.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has changed drastically over the past 20 years. Beginning in the early ‘90s and continuing through the 2000s, USAID saw its reliance on contractors increase drastically. From 1990 to 2008 USAID experienced a 40 percent decline in staff, from 3500 to 2200. Over the same period, funds under their responsibility skyrocketed. The American Academy for Diplomacy noted in a 2008 report that, “[i]mplementation of programs has shifted from Agency employees to contractors and grantees and USAID lacks the technical management capacity to provide effective oversight and management.” The Academy also noted that “USAID employs only five engineers worldwide, despite a growing number of activities in that sector.” However it was not just NGOs that benefited from the increased use of contracts and grants; the for-profit development industry has gained as well. From fiscal year 1996 to fiscal year 2005, “the share of funds awarded to for-profit contractors rose from 33 percent to 58 percent.” These companies, generally based in the greater Washington, DC area, have taken a leading role in U.S. foreign aid.  In a 2008 Senate hearing on USAID, Senator Patrick Leahy stated (PDF):

USAID’s professional staff is a shadow of what it once was. We routinely hear that the reason USAID has become a check writing agency for a handful of big Washington contractors and NGOs is because you don’t have the staff to manage a larger number of smaller contracts and grants.

Sometimes these big contractors do a good job, although they charge an arm and a leg to do it. Other times they waste piles of money and accomplish next to nothing, although they are masters at writing glowing reports about what a good job they did.

Meanwhile, the small not-for-profit organizations are shut out of the process. This is bad not only for U.S. taxpayers but also for the countries that need our help.

With the election of Barack Obama and a change in the leadership of the State Department and USAID, this situation was supposed to change. Incoming USAID director Rajiv Shah announced the USAID Forward project, which aims to “change the way the Agency does business.” Additionally, in 2008 Congress appropriated funding for the Development Leadership Initiative that aimed to double USAID’s Foreign Service workforce by 2012, overturning the previous decades of declining staff. However both the USAID Forward program and the Development Leadership Initiative have not led to drastic changes on the ground as of yet, and potential funding cuts from Congress will only exacerbate the slow pace of reform.

Staffing Problems Lead to Delays in Reconstruction Efforts in Haiti

Trenton Daniel of the Associated Press reported last Thursday on a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on USAID’s efforts in Haiti. The report analyzed USAID and State Department infrastructure projects in Haiti, finding that out of $412 million that has been allocated, just $3 million or 0.8 percent has been spent. The GAO report blamed much of the delay in spending on problems with staffing. Daniel reports:

The report noted that 10 of the 17 U.S. government employees in Haiti left just after the quake, and there was no mechanism to quickly replace them or expand staff numbers. Remaining staff members were forced to take on duties outside their areas of expertise while it took months to fill the vacancies, the GAO said.

USAID does not expect to have all of their Foreign Service officers assigned to Haiti until February 2012, over two years after the earthquake. The lack of engineers employed by USAID mentioned earlier was also a limiting factor. The GAO report notes that:

USAID was unable to reassign U.S. direct-hire engineers from other missions around the world because USAID has few engineers worldwide, according to mission officials.

For example, the mission’s chief engineer, who is responsible for overseeing construction activities in the energy sector, arrived in April 2011, and an engineer overseeing the construction of health facilities arrived in May 2011.

The report also placed blame on the fact that, as the AP reports, “there was only one U.S. officer in Haiti authorized to award contracts of more than $3 million.” Yet while this may have delayed infrastructure contracts, it didn’t prevent a few for-profit development firms from securing large contracts for work in Haiti.

Next: “Procurement Reform – Moving Forward?”. Find out who has been receiving USAID contracts in Haiti and how efforts to increase oversight and accountability are progressing under the USAID Forward Initiative.

Update: This post has been edited slightly for clarity.

“But I think it’s fair to say that USAID, our premier aid agency, has been decimated. You know, it has half the staff it used to have. It’s turned into more of a contracting agency than an operational agency with the ability to deliver.” – Hillary Clinton, Senate Confirmation Hearing as Nominee for Secretary of State

This is the first part of a series of posts analyzing USAID’s increasing reliance on contractors and how this has affected efforts to provide greater oversight, implement procurement reform and improve the efficacy of U.S. aid.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has changed drastically over the past 20 years. Beginning in the early ‘90s and continuing through the 2000s, USAID saw its reliance on contractors increase drastically. From 1990 to 2008 USAID experienced a 40 percent decline in staff, from 3500 to 2200. Over the same period, funds under their responsibility skyrocketed. The American Academy for Diplomacy noted in a 2008 report that, “[i]mplementation of programs has shifted from Agency employees to contractors and grantees and USAID lacks the technical management capacity to provide effective oversight and management.” The Academy also noted that “USAID employs only five engineers worldwide, despite a growing number of activities in that sector.” However it was not just NGOs that benefited from the increased use of contracts and grants; the for-profit development industry has gained as well. From fiscal year 1996 to fiscal year 2005, “the share of funds awarded to for-profit contractors rose from 33 percent to 58 percent.” These companies, generally based in the greater Washington, DC area, have taken a leading role in U.S. foreign aid.  In a 2008 Senate hearing on USAID, Senator Patrick Leahy stated (PDF):

USAID’s professional staff is a shadow of what it once was. We routinely hear that the reason USAID has become a check writing agency for a handful of big Washington contractors and NGOs is because you don’t have the staff to manage a larger number of smaller contracts and grants.

Sometimes these big contractors do a good job, although they charge an arm and a leg to do it. Other times they waste piles of money and accomplish next to nothing, although they are masters at writing glowing reports about what a good job they did.

Meanwhile, the small not-for-profit organizations are shut out of the process. This is bad not only for U.S. taxpayers but also for the countries that need our help.

With the election of Barack Obama and a change in the leadership of the State Department and USAID, this situation was supposed to change. Incoming USAID director Rajiv Shah announced the USAID Forward project, which aims to “change the way the Agency does business.” Additionally, in 2008 Congress appropriated funding for the Development Leadership Initiative that aimed to double USAID’s Foreign Service workforce by 2012, overturning the previous decades of declining staff. However both the USAID Forward program and the Development Leadership Initiative have not led to drastic changes on the ground as of yet, and potential funding cuts from Congress will only exacerbate the slow pace of reform.

Staffing Problems Lead to Delays in Reconstruction Efforts in Haiti

Trenton Daniel of the Associated Press reported last Thursday on a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on USAID’s efforts in Haiti. The report analyzed USAID and State Department infrastructure projects in Haiti, finding that out of $412 million that has been allocated, just $3 million or 0.8 percent has been spent. The GAO report blamed much of the delay in spending on problems with staffing. Daniel reports:

The report noted that 10 of the 17 U.S. government employees in Haiti left just after the quake, and there was no mechanism to quickly replace them or expand staff numbers. Remaining staff members were forced to take on duties outside their areas of expertise while it took months to fill the vacancies, the GAO said.

USAID does not expect to have all of their Foreign Service officers assigned to Haiti until February 2012, over two years after the earthquake. The lack of engineers employed by USAID mentioned earlier was also a limiting factor. The GAO report notes that:

USAID was unable to reassign U.S. direct-hire engineers from other missions around the world because USAID has few engineers worldwide, according to mission officials.

For example, the mission’s chief engineer, who is responsible for overseeing construction activities in the energy sector, arrived in April 2011, and an engineer overseeing the construction of health facilities arrived in May 2011.

The report also placed blame on the fact that, as the AP reports, “there was only one U.S. officer in Haiti authorized to award contracts of more than $3 million.” Yet while this may have delayed infrastructure contracts, it didn’t prevent a few for-profit development firms from securing large contracts for work in Haiti.

Next: “Procurement Reform – Moving Forward?”. Find out who has been receiving USAID contracts in Haiti and how efforts to increase oversight and accountability are progressing under the USAID Forward Initiative.

Update: This post has been edited slightly for clarity.

The level of grant support is only marginally higher than in 2009, before the earthquake, while overall spending levels are actually below 2009 levels. Despite the billions pledged in aid, budget support for the Haitian government was lower in 2011 than it had been in 2009.

The January 12 earthquake, which caused an estimated $8 billion in damages, led the Haitian economy to contract by 5.5 percent in 2010. With the prospect of large reconstruction projects backed by donor pledges of $4.6 billion, the economy was expected to begin growing rapidly in 2011. The IMF projected growth of over 8.5 percent in their first review of Haiti’s economic program in May:

Real GDP is expected to grow by 8.6 percent, assuming concerted strong efforts by the authorities and the international community to speed up the reconstruction.

As we have written about previously, disbursements from donors have been slow to materialize, a problem only exacerbated by the five months it took to form a new government. In addition to the effects on the ground, over 550,000 still living in tarp shelters with little services, the slow pace of reconstruction is also slowing economic growth. Updated projections from the IMF now expect slower growth of 6 percent in 2011.

Surprisingly, given the immense needs, government spending contracted sharply in 2011 compared to 2010. In 2010, with substantial grant support (including direct budget support) from donors, government spending reached 27.5 percent of GDP. In 2011 expenditures were significantly lower at 19.7 percent of GDP as grants decreased by ten percentage points to just 7.5 percent of GDP in 2011. The level of grant support is only marginally higher than in 2009, before the earthquake, while overall spending levels are actually below 2009 levels. Despite the billions pledged in aid, budget support for the Haitian government was lower in 2011 than it had been in 2009. The decreased expenditure most drastically affected capital expenditures, which fell from 16 percent of GDP in 2010 to below 10 percent in 2011.

Table I. Economic Indicators (In percent of GDP)

 

2009

2010

2011

2012

Real GDP Growth

2.9

-5.4

6.1

7.5

Total Revenue and Grants

17.9

29.6

20.4

28

   Domestic Revenue

11.2

11.9

12.9

13.5

   Grants

6.7

17.8

7.5

14.5

      Of Which Budget Support

1.5

3.4

1.1

0.7

Total Expenditure

22.3

27.5

19.7

32.6

   Current Expenditures

11.5

11.5

10

11.1

   Capital Expenditures

10.8

16

9.8

21.5

As can be seen in Table I, the IMF is expecting a reversal of the decline in spending for 2012, with capital expenditures more than doubling as a percent of GDP. Certainly much of the responsibility will rest with President Martelly and the newly formed Conille government, but donors pledged significant support in March 2010, much of which has been slow to show up in Haiti. A recent World Bank report, while touting many successes of the reconstruction, acknowledges that:

[P]rogress has not kept pace with the expectations of the population, which increases the risk of volatility, and has led to criticism of the international community in the media.  

Based on the lowered projections for GDP growth, progress has not kept pace with the expectations of the International Monetary Fund either.

The level of grant support is only marginally higher than in 2009, before the earthquake, while overall spending levels are actually below 2009 levels. Despite the billions pledged in aid, budget support for the Haitian government was lower in 2011 than it had been in 2009.

The January 12 earthquake, which caused an estimated $8 billion in damages, led the Haitian economy to contract by 5.5 percent in 2010. With the prospect of large reconstruction projects backed by donor pledges of $4.6 billion, the economy was expected to begin growing rapidly in 2011. The IMF projected growth of over 8.5 percent in their first review of Haiti’s economic program in May:

Real GDP is expected to grow by 8.6 percent, assuming concerted strong efforts by the authorities and the international community to speed up the reconstruction.

As we have written about previously, disbursements from donors have been slow to materialize, a problem only exacerbated by the five months it took to form a new government. In addition to the effects on the ground, over 550,000 still living in tarp shelters with little services, the slow pace of reconstruction is also slowing economic growth. Updated projections from the IMF now expect slower growth of 6 percent in 2011.

Surprisingly, given the immense needs, government spending contracted sharply in 2011 compared to 2010. In 2010, with substantial grant support (including direct budget support) from donors, government spending reached 27.5 percent of GDP. In 2011 expenditures were significantly lower at 19.7 percent of GDP as grants decreased by ten percentage points to just 7.5 percent of GDP in 2011. The level of grant support is only marginally higher than in 2009, before the earthquake, while overall spending levels are actually below 2009 levels. Despite the billions pledged in aid, budget support for the Haitian government was lower in 2011 than it had been in 2009. The decreased expenditure most drastically affected capital expenditures, which fell from 16 percent of GDP in 2010 to below 10 percent in 2011.

Table I. Economic Indicators (In percent of GDP)

 

2009

2010

2011

2012

Real GDP Growth

2.9

-5.4

6.1

7.5

Total Revenue and Grants

17.9

29.6

20.4

28

   Domestic Revenue

11.2

11.9

12.9

13.5

   Grants

6.7

17.8

7.5

14.5

      Of Which Budget Support

1.5

3.4

1.1

0.7

Total Expenditure

22.3

27.5

19.7

32.6

   Current Expenditures

11.5

11.5

10

11.1

   Capital Expenditures

10.8

16

9.8

21.5

As can be seen in Table I, the IMF is expecting a reversal of the decline in spending for 2012, with capital expenditures more than doubling as a percent of GDP. Certainly much of the responsibility will rest with President Martelly and the newly formed Conille government, but donors pledged significant support in March 2010, much of which has been slow to show up in Haiti. A recent World Bank report, while touting many successes of the reconstruction, acknowledges that:

[P]rogress has not kept pace with the expectations of the population, which increases the risk of volatility, and has led to criticism of the international community in the media.  

Based on the lowered projections for GDP growth, progress has not kept pace with the expectations of the International Monetary Fund either.

Haitian Cholera Victims Seek Justice

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) held a press conference today in New York regarding the complaint [PDF] they filed Thursday on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims seeking damages from the UN. The complaint states that

The cholera outbreak is directly attributable to the negligence, gross negligence, recklessness and deliberate indifference for the health and lives of Haiti’s citizens by the United Nations (“UN”) and its subsidiary, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (“MINUSTAH”).

IJDH Director Brian Concannon explained on Democracy Now! this morning:

“We’re hoping that this is the case that’s too big to fail. That the evidence against the United Nations is so overwhelming here that the U.N. will have no choice but to finally take responsibility for its malfeasance.” “What we’re asking for, what our clients are asking for, is the U.N. and international community to step up and to give Haiti the sanitation infrastructure it needs to stop the epidemic.”

The AP’s Trenton Daniel summed up the goals of the complaint in an article today:

Concannon said he hoped the U.N. mission would set up a tribunal to evaluate the claims filed on behalf of the cholera victims. He also said he hoped the U.N. force would fund and create a lifesaving program that would provide sanitation, potable water and medical treatment. He also said he wants a public apology.

“We’re obviously hoping that the U.N. will step up and do the right thing,” he said by telephone.

If that doesn’t happen, the group plans to file the claims in a Haitian court, he said.

As the complaint [PDF] notes, the UN has failed to provide Haitians with the mechanisms they need to seek redress that are required under the Status of Forces Agreement governing MINUSTAH’s legal status:

the UN has failed to establish a standing claims commission as required by the Status of Forces Agreement (“SOFA”).  Under the SOFA, the claims commission is the forum that has jurisdiction to hear  civil  claims of Haitians injured by MINUSTAH’s actions.  The UN has yet to establish this commission, leaving victims without a clear route to seek accountability and relief.

As ABC News’ Matthew Mosk and Rym Montaz reported, IJDH’s complaint was “filed with the UN under the rules established when the international body first deployed peacekeepers to Haiti.” The complaint

describes how cholera is endemic in Nepal, how new Nepalese troops arrived in the village of Meille in October of 2010, how the troops failed to maintain sanitary conditions at their encampment, how witnesses described dark plumes of refuse leaching into a major waterway, and how cholera exploded in the region near the Meille camp in the weeks after their arrival.

Further, it cites numerous independent studies that match the strain of cholera to the one in Nepal using DNA and other evidence. One study, published in the medical journal The Lancet in July, found that all the evidence pointed to the Nepalese UN troops.

The UN’s response to the evidence that MINUSTAH troops had introduced the cholera strain, as we’ve noted over the past year, has been one of denial. Even in September, as ABC News reported, Anthony Banbury, the assistant secretary general for field support said, “We don’t know if it was the U.N. troops or not. That’s the bottom line.”

But the complaint does not equivocate on MINUSTAH’s responsibility, and it also suggests that more complaints are to come:

The conduct of the UN and MINUSTAH has  caused severe injury to and death of the country’s citizens.  In this petition and others to follow, the victims seek effective remedy.  They seek a fair and impartial hearing.

For their part, the cholera survivor petitioning the UN constitute a diverse group. From the complaint:

They are individuals who are filing a claim (a) for their own injuries from cholera; (b) as parents on behalf of their minor children who contracted cholera; or (c) as next-of-kin on behalf of family members who died from cholera. Most Petitioners are from the Mirebalais,  St. Marc, Hinche, and Port-au-Prince regions of Haiti.

They include, for example,

the daughter of a man who was the sole provider for her family. The father fell
sick in the middle of the night with continuous diarrhea. His family rushed him to the Cholera Treatment Center in Mirebalais. After three days, his condition worsened and he was transferred to the hospital. There, the daughter watched as her father lay still for hours until he died.  The daughter and her family are now struggling to survive without any financial support.

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) held a press conference today in New York regarding the complaint [PDF] they filed Thursday on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims seeking damages from the UN. The complaint states that

The cholera outbreak is directly attributable to the negligence, gross negligence, recklessness and deliberate indifference for the health and lives of Haiti’s citizens by the United Nations (“UN”) and its subsidiary, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (“MINUSTAH”).

IJDH Director Brian Concannon explained on Democracy Now! this morning:

“We’re hoping that this is the case that’s too big to fail. That the evidence against the United Nations is so overwhelming here that the U.N. will have no choice but to finally take responsibility for its malfeasance.” “What we’re asking for, what our clients are asking for, is the U.N. and international community to step up and to give Haiti the sanitation infrastructure it needs to stop the epidemic.”

The AP’s Trenton Daniel summed up the goals of the complaint in an article today:

Concannon said he hoped the U.N. mission would set up a tribunal to evaluate the claims filed on behalf of the cholera victims. He also said he hoped the U.N. force would fund and create a lifesaving program that would provide sanitation, potable water and medical treatment. He also said he wants a public apology.

“We’re obviously hoping that the U.N. will step up and do the right thing,” he said by telephone.

If that doesn’t happen, the group plans to file the claims in a Haitian court, he said.

As the complaint [PDF] notes, the UN has failed to provide Haitians with the mechanisms they need to seek redress that are required under the Status of Forces Agreement governing MINUSTAH’s legal status:

the UN has failed to establish a standing claims commission as required by the Status of Forces Agreement (“SOFA”).  Under the SOFA, the claims commission is the forum that has jurisdiction to hear  civil  claims of Haitians injured by MINUSTAH’s actions.  The UN has yet to establish this commission, leaving victims without a clear route to seek accountability and relief.

As ABC News’ Matthew Mosk and Rym Montaz reported, IJDH’s complaint was “filed with the UN under the rules established when the international body first deployed peacekeepers to Haiti.” The complaint

describes how cholera is endemic in Nepal, how new Nepalese troops arrived in the village of Meille in October of 2010, how the troops failed to maintain sanitary conditions at their encampment, how witnesses described dark plumes of refuse leaching into a major waterway, and how cholera exploded in the region near the Meille camp in the weeks after their arrival.

Further, it cites numerous independent studies that match the strain of cholera to the one in Nepal using DNA and other evidence. One study, published in the medical journal The Lancet in July, found that all the evidence pointed to the Nepalese UN troops.

The UN’s response to the evidence that MINUSTAH troops had introduced the cholera strain, as we’ve noted over the past year, has been one of denial. Even in September, as ABC News reported, Anthony Banbury, the assistant secretary general for field support said, “We don’t know if it was the U.N. troops or not. That’s the bottom line.”

But the complaint does not equivocate on MINUSTAH’s responsibility, and it also suggests that more complaints are to come:

The conduct of the UN and MINUSTAH has  caused severe injury to and death of the country’s citizens.  In this petition and others to follow, the victims seek effective remedy.  They seek a fair and impartial hearing.

For their part, the cholera survivor petitioning the UN constitute a diverse group. From the complaint:

They are individuals who are filing a claim (a) for their own injuries from cholera; (b) as parents on behalf of their minor children who contracted cholera; or (c) as next-of-kin on behalf of family members who died from cholera. Most Petitioners are from the Mirebalais,  St. Marc, Hinche, and Port-au-Prince regions of Haiti.

They include, for example,

the daughter of a man who was the sole provider for her family. The father fell
sick in the middle of the night with continuous diarrhea. His family rushed him to the Cholera Treatment Center in Mirebalais. After three days, his condition worsened and he was transferred to the hospital. There, the daughter watched as her father lay still for hours until he died.  The daughter and her family are now struggling to survive without any financial support.

After the January earthquake, a number of donors and NGOs began large scale food distribution programs. Post earthquake surveys had found a large spike in food insecure households directly after the earthquake.  A recent World Bank Policy Research Working Paper from Damien Échevin notes that three weeks after the earthquake “31% of the households were experiencing limited or severe food insecurity (22% and 9% respectively), that is a [sic] nearly double the food insecurity prevalence observed before the earthquake.” In a follow up survey four months later, the number of food insecure households had decreased, but only to 27 percent. Échevin concludes:

So, shortly after the earthquake, assistance programs allocation prove not to have been effective in targeting the most vulnerable people in the directly affected area. Five months after the earthquake, it appears that things had not really changed: although food assistance may have contributed to decrease the prevalence of food insecurity over the period, authorities still seemed unable to provide an efficient allocation of assistance programs…indeed, assistance also appeared to benefit less to families headed by women and less to households with disabled members, which is contradictory with an “optimal” targeting that would make those most vulnerable eligible for assistance in priority.

The World Bank report also has some interesting conclusions about Food-for-Work and Cash-for-Work plans:

When focusing of cash and food-for-work programs, we find that these programs are not specifically targeted at people who are most in need, be it because of their low level of subsistence or because of earthquake-related losses. Pre-earthquake participation to programs appears to be an important determinant of post-earthquake participation. What is more, cash-for-work is very rarely declared as the main source of household income.

The report provides some statistical backing to the first-hand accounts of the problems with food distribution in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and with the problematic Cash-for-Work programs from USAID/OTI.

After the January earthquake, a number of donors and NGOs began large scale food distribution programs. Post earthquake surveys had found a large spike in food insecure households directly after the earthquake.  A recent World Bank Policy Research Working Paper from Damien Échevin notes that three weeks after the earthquake “31% of the households were experiencing limited or severe food insecurity (22% and 9% respectively), that is a [sic] nearly double the food insecurity prevalence observed before the earthquake.” In a follow up survey four months later, the number of food insecure households had decreased, but only to 27 percent. Échevin concludes:

So, shortly after the earthquake, assistance programs allocation prove not to have been effective in targeting the most vulnerable people in the directly affected area. Five months after the earthquake, it appears that things had not really changed: although food assistance may have contributed to decrease the prevalence of food insecurity over the period, authorities still seemed unable to provide an efficient allocation of assistance programs…indeed, assistance also appeared to benefit less to families headed by women and less to households with disabled members, which is contradictory with an “optimal” targeting that would make those most vulnerable eligible for assistance in priority.

The World Bank report also has some interesting conclusions about Food-for-Work and Cash-for-Work plans:

When focusing of cash and food-for-work programs, we find that these programs are not specifically targeted at people who are most in need, be it because of their low level of subsistence or because of earthquake-related losses. Pre-earthquake participation to programs appears to be an important determinant of post-earthquake participation. What is more, cash-for-work is very rarely declared as the main source of household income.

The report provides some statistical backing to the first-hand accounts of the problems with food distribution in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and with the problematic Cash-for-Work programs from USAID/OTI.

In addition to the problems of allocating food aid discussed in the previous post, another significant problem is the lack of local procurement, which can be more effective than importing in emergency situations. The U.S. government, which has begun a local and regional procurement pilot project, found in a 2009 study (PDF) that:

Local and regional purchase is an important tool, enabling food aid agencies to respond quickly to emergency food needs, both during and after food crises and disasters.

Local and regional purchase can be a timely and effective complement to in-kind food aid programs.

The pilot project is also “based on the view that local and regional purchase has potential value for strengthening and expanding commercial markets, stimulating local and regional production, and reducing emergency food aid requirements.”  Yet thus far, the pilot project has only limited funds and was undertaken in just 12 countries in 2010 (only seven countries are benefactors of the program in 2011).  Together the 12 country programs made up less than one percent of all U.S. food aid in Fiscal Year 2010.

After the earthquake, noting that Haiti has gone from producing nearly 50 percent of their annual rice consumption in 1988 to around 15 percent now, CEPR published a report on food aid  that proposed “that international donors seeking to support Haiti’s agricultural sector and provide food to those in need could help Haiti become more self-sufficient by” using local procurement to purchase Haitian rice. According to the World Food Program Food Aid Information System, Haiti received over 110,000 metric tons (MT) of rice as food aid in FY2010, with the U.S. providing 57,000 MT of the total. According to the WFP, only about five percent of this came in the form of local procurement, despite the previously discussed advantages. Upon further review, however, even this low number is drastically overstated.

The WFP reports 5,566 metric tons of locally purchased rice was provided as food aid and that over 60 percent of this total (3,564) came from the United States.  This appears to be stretching the definition of local procurement.  The U.S.  International Food Assistance Report 2010 notes that USAID purchased “3,564 tons of commercial rice of U.S. origin in Haiti with assistance from USDA.” While technically this purchase was made locally, the purchase was for rice of U.S. origin.  Eliminating this from the amount of rice purchased locally drops the share down to less than two percent of total rice distributed. The table below shows the breakdown by country of local purchases, after removing the purchase of U.S. rice in Haiti.

Table: Local Purchases of Rice – 2010

Country

MT

WFP

700

France

660

Germany

302

Canada

300

NGOs

40

Total

2002

Total as % of Overall

1.8%

Although it is clear that at the policy level the United States and other donors are starting to grasp the importance of local and regional purchases, this recognition has yet to manifest itself on the ground in any significant manner, at least in Haiti. To read about the role of the shipping industry in preventing food aid reform, check out the post from earlier this week.

In addition to the problems of allocating food aid discussed in the previous post, another significant problem is the lack of local procurement, which can be more effective than importing in emergency situations. The U.S. government, which has begun a local and regional procurement pilot project, found in a 2009 study (PDF) that:

Local and regional purchase is an important tool, enabling food aid agencies to respond quickly to emergency food needs, both during and after food crises and disasters.

Local and regional purchase can be a timely and effective complement to in-kind food aid programs.

The pilot project is also “based on the view that local and regional purchase has potential value for strengthening and expanding commercial markets, stimulating local and regional production, and reducing emergency food aid requirements.”  Yet thus far, the pilot project has only limited funds and was undertaken in just 12 countries in 2010 (only seven countries are benefactors of the program in 2011).  Together the 12 country programs made up less than one percent of all U.S. food aid in Fiscal Year 2010.

After the earthquake, noting that Haiti has gone from producing nearly 50 percent of their annual rice consumption in 1988 to around 15 percent now, CEPR published a report on food aid  that proposed “that international donors seeking to support Haiti’s agricultural sector and provide food to those in need could help Haiti become more self-sufficient by” using local procurement to purchase Haitian rice. According to the World Food Program Food Aid Information System, Haiti received over 110,000 metric tons (MT) of rice as food aid in FY2010, with the U.S. providing 57,000 MT of the total. According to the WFP, only about five percent of this came in the form of local procurement, despite the previously discussed advantages. Upon further review, however, even this low number is drastically overstated.

The WFP reports 5,566 metric tons of locally purchased rice was provided as food aid and that over 60 percent of this total (3,564) came from the United States.  This appears to be stretching the definition of local procurement.  The U.S.  International Food Assistance Report 2010 notes that USAID purchased “3,564 tons of commercial rice of U.S. origin in Haiti with assistance from USDA.” While technically this purchase was made locally, the purchase was for rice of U.S. origin.  Eliminating this from the amount of rice purchased locally drops the share down to less than two percent of total rice distributed. The table below shows the breakdown by country of local purchases, after removing the purchase of U.S. rice in Haiti.

Table: Local Purchases of Rice – 2010

Country

MT

WFP

700

France

660

Germany

302

Canada

300

NGOs

40

Total

2002

Total as % of Overall

1.8%

Although it is clear that at the policy level the United States and other donors are starting to grasp the importance of local and regional purchases, this recognition has yet to manifest itself on the ground in any significant manner, at least in Haiti. To read about the role of the shipping industry in preventing food aid reform, check out the post from earlier this week.

Between January 14 and February 26 2011, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) signed nine contracts with three shipping companies to send 73,000 Metric Tons of rice and other commodities in Title II emergency food aid to Haiti, public records from the Federal Procurement Database System show. The contracts in total cost taxpayers over $18 million dollars, as shown in the table below.

FoodAidShipping

According to the World Food Program Food Aid Information System, Haiti received over 110,000 Metric Tons of rice as food aid in 2010, yet only five percent came in the form of local procurement. Although we have previously discussed the benefits of local procurement of food aid and efforts to increase it, the role of the shipping industry has often been neglected from these discussions. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found in a 2009 report that:

Certain legal requirements to procure U.S.-grown agricultural commodities for food aid and to transport those commodities on U.S.-flag vessels may constrain agencies’ use of LRP [local and regional procurement].

The role of the shipping industry in preventing food aid reforms in the U.S. was the subject of a 2010 paper entitled “Food Aid and Agricultural Cargo Preference” (PDF) from researchers at Cornell University. The paper explains why the barriers to reforming the delivery of food aid are so much greater in the U.S. than elsewhere:

The sheer size and history of US food aid programs obviously create inertia that differentiates it from most donors. But in political economy terms, arguably the most distinctive feature of US food aid programs is the intimate involvement of ocean carriers, who benefit from little?known agricultural cargo preference (ACP) requirements absent in other donor countries. While food aid policy reforms have had to overcome resistance from agribusiness and some nongovernmental organization (NGO) interests in every donor nation, the “iron triangle” of interests formed by agribusiness, some NGOs and ocean carriers has been a uniquely effective lobby for the status quo in US food aid policy.

In addition to the problems associated with the actual delivery of food aid, the report finds that the cost of the agricultural cargo preference to U.S. taxpayers is significant:

We find that meeting ACP requirements for USDA and USAID programs cost US taxpayers roughly $140 million per year in FY2006 and that roughly half of those costs were borne by food aid agencies rather than by the Maritime Administration. ACP costs USAID a significant portion of its food aid programming resources under Title II of Public Law 480, nearly equivalent to the value of USAID’s entire Title II non?emergency food aid to Africa.

Between January 14 and February 26 2011, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) signed nine contracts with three shipping companies to send 73,000 Metric Tons of rice and other commodities in Title II emergency food aid to Haiti, public records from the Federal Procurement Database System show. The contracts in total cost taxpayers over $18 million dollars, as shown in the table below.

FoodAidShipping

According to the World Food Program Food Aid Information System, Haiti received over 110,000 Metric Tons of rice as food aid in 2010, yet only five percent came in the form of local procurement. Although we have previously discussed the benefits of local procurement of food aid and efforts to increase it, the role of the shipping industry has often been neglected from these discussions. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found in a 2009 report that:

Certain legal requirements to procure U.S.-grown agricultural commodities for food aid and to transport those commodities on U.S.-flag vessels may constrain agencies’ use of LRP [local and regional procurement].

The role of the shipping industry in preventing food aid reforms in the U.S. was the subject of a 2010 paper entitled “Food Aid and Agricultural Cargo Preference” (PDF) from researchers at Cornell University. The paper explains why the barriers to reforming the delivery of food aid are so much greater in the U.S. than elsewhere:

The sheer size and history of US food aid programs obviously create inertia that differentiates it from most donors. But in political economy terms, arguably the most distinctive feature of US food aid programs is the intimate involvement of ocean carriers, who benefit from little?known agricultural cargo preference (ACP) requirements absent in other donor countries. While food aid policy reforms have had to overcome resistance from agribusiness and some nongovernmental organization (NGO) interests in every donor nation, the “iron triangle” of interests formed by agribusiness, some NGOs and ocean carriers has been a uniquely effective lobby for the status quo in US food aid policy.

In addition to the problems associated with the actual delivery of food aid, the report finds that the cost of the agricultural cargo preference to U.S. taxpayers is significant:

We find that meeting ACP requirements for USDA and USAID programs cost US taxpayers roughly $140 million per year in FY2006 and that roughly half of those costs were borne by food aid agencies rather than by the Maritime Administration. ACP costs USAID a significant portion of its food aid programming resources under Title II of Public Law 480, nearly equivalent to the value of USAID’s entire Title II non?emergency food aid to Africa.

As the AP reported last week, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission’s (IHRC) mandate expired on Friday, October 21. The mandate had called for a transition to a Haitian government development authority to take the place of the commission. The date passed with little fanfare and no official statements from the IHRC itself. Reports in the Haitian press indicate that newly designated Prime Minister Gary Conille intends to submit a bill asking for the panel’s extension to Parliament, where some members have already expressed their reluctance to vote for it. Conille is a former advisor to Bill Clinton; Clinton co-chairs the IHRC.

Throughout the relief and reconstruction process, many have pointed out that the Haitian government has largely been bypassed and that Haitians themselves have been left out of the decision making process. In response, donors often point to the IHRC. The United States, for instance, said in January 2011 that “[t]o ensure that the reconstruction is Haitian-led, the U.S. Government coordinates all its recovery assistance through the IHRC.”

For its part the United State seems convinced the panel will be renewed. Although the U.S. government has made no official statement, USAID extended the contract of an undisclosed foreign contractor on September 30. The award description states, “The purpose of this modification is to extend the POP from September 30, 2011 to October 21, 2012 to serve as the disbursing agent of the IHRC; and increment funds in $45,387.00.” Then on October 20, the day before the mandate expired, the same contractor received an additional $20,000. Overall USAID has given more than $500,000 to this contractor to act as a steward of IHRC funds. It is unclear why the US would extend the contract until October 2012 without knowing if the IHRC would even continue to operate.

Regardless of whether or not the panel continues, after 18 months of operations the IHRC has little to show. The June report (PDF) from the Performance and Anti-Corruption Office of the IHRC provides the only detailed analysis of IHRC projects. All together the commission approved 75 projects worth a total of $3.2 billion dollars, and many of these projects were already planned prior to the earthquake. Of the 75 projects, only four had been completed and an additional 41 projects were either in the contracting or funding phase. Overall — although not all projects provided financial updates — just $117.7 million had been reported as disbursed out of the $3.2 billion in projects, a rate of just 3.7 per cent.

The IHRC, which approves projects but does not provide funding, has relied on the Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF) to fund priority projects. The fall report (PDF) from the HRF notes that “[a]t the request of the IHRC, the HRF Steering Committee has allocated US$267.08 million of available funds for 15 projects.” Yet the same report notes that the vast majority of this money remains unspent. The HRF implementing partners (World Bank, IDB and UN) had spent just 15 percent of the $267 million as of September 30.

The lack of progress should come as little surprise as the US Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) May 2011 assessment found the IHCR barely operational. With just five months left in its mandate, only two out of five director positions had been filled and of the 34 positions that were called for, 22 had yet to be staffed. The GAO report noted that the PAO, whose June report provided the first update on projects, had no staff and had conducted no risk analyses of any of the IHRC approved projects. The GAO noted that international donors have “filled some of the commission’s day-to-day staffing needs with consultants and temporary staff” but these stop-gap measures were clearly not enough to make the agency functional and may have undermined what little independence the IHRC was supposed to have.

The other serious limitation the GAO report found was that the IHRC had very little control over how money was allocated since donors often wanted their money allocated to certain sectors. As a result, the IHRC signaled that “funding for reconstruction projects is unevenly spread among sectors and does not necessarily reflect Haitian government priorities.” This criticism is echoed in the HRF annual report, as one of the HRF’s goals for next year is to “dissuade existing and future donors from preferencing their contributions so that the GoH has maximum flexibility to use HRF resources to finance strategic priorities.” The US, which is the largest contributor to the HRF, attached preferences to the entire $120 million that was given. Although the sectors for which it earmarked its donations are all important, it takes away the flexibility that is supposed to be the hallmark of the HRF and IHRC and limits the ability of the government of Haiti to lead the reconstruction process.

As the AP reported last week, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission’s (IHRC) mandate expired on Friday, October 21. The mandate had called for a transition to a Haitian government development authority to take the place of the commission. The date passed with little fanfare and no official statements from the IHRC itself. Reports in the Haitian press indicate that newly designated Prime Minister Gary Conille intends to submit a bill asking for the panel’s extension to Parliament, where some members have already expressed their reluctance to vote for it. Conille is a former advisor to Bill Clinton; Clinton co-chairs the IHRC.

Throughout the relief and reconstruction process, many have pointed out that the Haitian government has largely been bypassed and that Haitians themselves have been left out of the decision making process. In response, donors often point to the IHRC. The United States, for instance, said in January 2011 that “[t]o ensure that the reconstruction is Haitian-led, the U.S. Government coordinates all its recovery assistance through the IHRC.”

For its part the United State seems convinced the panel will be renewed. Although the U.S. government has made no official statement, USAID extended the contract of an undisclosed foreign contractor on September 30. The award description states, “The purpose of this modification is to extend the POP from September 30, 2011 to October 21, 2012 to serve as the disbursing agent of the IHRC; and increment funds in $45,387.00.” Then on October 20, the day before the mandate expired, the same contractor received an additional $20,000. Overall USAID has given more than $500,000 to this contractor to act as a steward of IHRC funds. It is unclear why the US would extend the contract until October 2012 without knowing if the IHRC would even continue to operate.

Regardless of whether or not the panel continues, after 18 months of operations the IHRC has little to show. The June report (PDF) from the Performance and Anti-Corruption Office of the IHRC provides the only detailed analysis of IHRC projects. All together the commission approved 75 projects worth a total of $3.2 billion dollars, and many of these projects were already planned prior to the earthquake. Of the 75 projects, only four had been completed and an additional 41 projects were either in the contracting or funding phase. Overall — although not all projects provided financial updates — just $117.7 million had been reported as disbursed out of the $3.2 billion in projects, a rate of just 3.7 per cent.

The IHRC, which approves projects but does not provide funding, has relied on the Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF) to fund priority projects. The fall report (PDF) from the HRF notes that “[a]t the request of the IHRC, the HRF Steering Committee has allocated US$267.08 million of available funds for 15 projects.” Yet the same report notes that the vast majority of this money remains unspent. The HRF implementing partners (World Bank, IDB and UN) had spent just 15 percent of the $267 million as of September 30.

The lack of progress should come as little surprise as the US Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) May 2011 assessment found the IHCR barely operational. With just five months left in its mandate, only two out of five director positions had been filled and of the 34 positions that were called for, 22 had yet to be staffed. The GAO report noted that the PAO, whose June report provided the first update on projects, had no staff and had conducted no risk analyses of any of the IHRC approved projects. The GAO noted that international donors have “filled some of the commission’s day-to-day staffing needs with consultants and temporary staff” but these stop-gap measures were clearly not enough to make the agency functional and may have undermined what little independence the IHRC was supposed to have.

The other serious limitation the GAO report found was that the IHRC had very little control over how money was allocated since donors often wanted their money allocated to certain sectors. As a result, the IHRC signaled that “funding for reconstruction projects is unevenly spread among sectors and does not necessarily reflect Haitian government priorities.” This criticism is echoed in the HRF annual report, as one of the HRF’s goals for next year is to “dissuade existing and future donors from preferencing their contributions so that the GoH has maximum flexibility to use HRF resources to finance strategic priorities.” The US, which is the largest contributor to the HRF, attached preferences to the entire $120 million that was given. Although the sectors for which it earmarked its donations are all important, it takes away the flexibility that is supposed to be the hallmark of the HRF and IHRC and limits the ability of the government of Haiti to lead the reconstruction process.

Last Thursday, Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald reported on Haitian President Michel Martelly’s plan, announced some time ago, to return inhabitants of six IDP camps back to 16 neighborhoods, known as the 16-6 plan. Charles writes:

For weeks, families like Simin’s have quietly moved out of the camp and into permanent homes as part of a housing initiative launched by Haitian President Michel Martelly. With help from the International Organization for Migration, families are getting $500 in rental subsidies. It’s part of a larger program Martelly launched recently to target the town square and five other Port-au-Prince tent cities hoping to find a permanent solution to reconstruction’s most vexing problem: housing.

The program has won the support of the international community, with U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis recently telling the UN Security Council, that “[t]he use of the neighborhood returns approach, instead of mere camp evictions, is the type of humane approach the United States fully supports.” Yet the plan has already come under serious criticism and rather than limiting evictions, multiple camps in the plan have already been forcibly evicted. Journalist Justin Podur wrote last week that even if the program works, its effectiveness will be limited:

In total, if the program succeeds, it will touch 5000 families, or 4% of the camp population. I spoke to the director of 16-6, Clement Belizaire. So far, 190 families have been resettled from the first camp, Place St. Pierre, in Petionville. Belizaire expects the 1500 families who live in the first two camps, Place St. Pierre and Place Boyer, to be in their neighbourhoods by the end of November. He expects the process to speed up as it progresses. If Belizaire’s estimates are extrapolated for all six camps, 4% of Haiti’s current camp population will be in housing by March 2012.

Also last week, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the University of San Francisco School of Law released a report criticizing the lack of progress in Martelly’s housing plan. The report points out that, among other faults, two of the six camps in Martelly’s plan have already been forcibly evicted:

In the meantime, one camp was closed in July (Stade Sylvio Cator) and one camp partially closed (Place St. Pierre), both without the protections or benefits promised in the Martelly plan. The families living at Stade Sylvio Cator were unlawfully evicted by the Mayor of Port-au-Prince and Haitian National Police without a court order, as required under Haitian law. The police destroyed residents’ tents and belongings, prompting condemnation from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

(Residents of another camp on public land, in a park across from the St. Anne’s Church, have also just reported being threatened with forced eviction, supposedly to take place in the coming days.)

IJDH and USF School of Law undertook a survey in the six camps slated for closure to gauge the opinions and needs of camp residents. They found that conditions in the camps were “desperate” as family members “often go without any food or safe drinking water.” Additionally, there was very little consultation with those affected. As the report states:

In the five remaining camps still open, 38 percent of the households surveyed had heard of plans to close their camp. Of those, 53 percent learned from rumor from other residents, and only 12.7 percent heard it from a government official, the UN, IOM, or an NGO. Many complained that no details of the camp closure or relocation were provided. Only one respondent had heard of a date his camp would be closed (which was incorrect). Eighty-two percent of residents had not been consulted on their opinion for closure of their camp.

In the case of those evicted from Stade Sylvio Cator, the survey found that:

violence and threats of violence were used by Haitian authorities during the eviction in July. Thirty-five percent reported having been physically harmed or threatened with physical harm during the government’s eviction, while 30 percent reported destruction of their shelter or belongings.

A member of the Martelly administration working on the housing plan said that at least part of the relocation money came from the national treasury.

Eighty-eight percent of respondents described the new government camp as having worse access to security, lighting, clean toilets, water and food compared with the stadium.

Justin Podur visited Camp Bicentenaire where some of those evicted from Stade Sylvio Cator were relocated. Podur writes:

Camp Bicentenaire has been touted as a resettlement success story. It is on the national highway and has over 50 families, who were resettled from the camp at Port au Prince’s stadium, Sylvio Cator, on July 15. With Port-o-lets – some overflowing and others fallen over – for the camp located at the median of the highway, and garbage dumped directly into a ditch by the highway side, the camp has had no real support from the government or the NGOs besides the 10,000 gourdes (about $250 USD) that each family got in a negotiated agreement to resettle. The camp has the same kinds of problems with security as it does with sanitation. According to Mathias Jordanson of the camp committee, there has been one visit from a government official since July 15, and he’s aware of no further plan for the camp.

The lack of adequate solutions to the housing crisis led Mark Schneider of the International Crisis Group to tell the Miami Herald that “Haiti’s failure to adopt a national housing resettlement and reintegration strategy ‘stands as the most glaring failure of the past year.’”

In addition to stopping forced evictions, the IJDH and USF report recommends significantly greater outreach to communities, including being accountable to those who are most affected and creating more durable solutions. As the report notes, “Small payments to displaced families that are not tied to a comprehensive housing assistance program fail to conform with the ‘durable solutions to displacement’ required by the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement”.

The report concludes:

A rights-based approach to development ensures that the beneficiaries of aid are informed of the processes that affect their lives and have the opportunity to share their perspectives in a meaningful way. Haitians at all levels have found themselves left out of the decision-making processes on aid distribution – from top government officials overwhelmed by the “republic of NGOs” operating in their country, to the communities left homeless by the earthquake and struggling to survive. International agencies have largely provided humanitarian services through a top-down approach, making decisions about peoples’ needs without obtaining meaningful input from the communities receiving the aid.

Last Thursday, Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald reported on Haitian President Michel Martelly’s plan, announced some time ago, to return inhabitants of six IDP camps back to 16 neighborhoods, known as the 16-6 plan. Charles writes:

For weeks, families like Simin’s have quietly moved out of the camp and into permanent homes as part of a housing initiative launched by Haitian President Michel Martelly. With help from the International Organization for Migration, families are getting $500 in rental subsidies. It’s part of a larger program Martelly launched recently to target the town square and five other Port-au-Prince tent cities hoping to find a permanent solution to reconstruction’s most vexing problem: housing.

The program has won the support of the international community, with U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis recently telling the UN Security Council, that “[t]he use of the neighborhood returns approach, instead of mere camp evictions, is the type of humane approach the United States fully supports.” Yet the plan has already come under serious criticism and rather than limiting evictions, multiple camps in the plan have already been forcibly evicted. Journalist Justin Podur wrote last week that even if the program works, its effectiveness will be limited:

In total, if the program succeeds, it will touch 5000 families, or 4% of the camp population. I spoke to the director of 16-6, Clement Belizaire. So far, 190 families have been resettled from the first camp, Place St. Pierre, in Petionville. Belizaire expects the 1500 families who live in the first two camps, Place St. Pierre and Place Boyer, to be in their neighbourhoods by the end of November. He expects the process to speed up as it progresses. If Belizaire’s estimates are extrapolated for all six camps, 4% of Haiti’s current camp population will be in housing by March 2012.

Also last week, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the University of San Francisco School of Law released a report criticizing the lack of progress in Martelly’s housing plan. The report points out that, among other faults, two of the six camps in Martelly’s plan have already been forcibly evicted:

In the meantime, one camp was closed in July (Stade Sylvio Cator) and one camp partially closed (Place St. Pierre), both without the protections or benefits promised in the Martelly plan. The families living at Stade Sylvio Cator were unlawfully evicted by the Mayor of Port-au-Prince and Haitian National Police without a court order, as required under Haitian law. The police destroyed residents’ tents and belongings, prompting condemnation from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

(Residents of another camp on public land, in a park across from the St. Anne’s Church, have also just reported being threatened with forced eviction, supposedly to take place in the coming days.)

IJDH and USF School of Law undertook a survey in the six camps slated for closure to gauge the opinions and needs of camp residents. They found that conditions in the camps were “desperate” as family members “often go without any food or safe drinking water.” Additionally, there was very little consultation with those affected. As the report states:

In the five remaining camps still open, 38 percent of the households surveyed had heard of plans to close their camp. Of those, 53 percent learned from rumor from other residents, and only 12.7 percent heard it from a government official, the UN, IOM, or an NGO. Many complained that no details of the camp closure or relocation were provided. Only one respondent had heard of a date his camp would be closed (which was incorrect). Eighty-two percent of residents had not been consulted on their opinion for closure of their camp.

In the case of those evicted from Stade Sylvio Cator, the survey found that:

violence and threats of violence were used by Haitian authorities during the eviction in July. Thirty-five percent reported having been physically harmed or threatened with physical harm during the government’s eviction, while 30 percent reported destruction of their shelter or belongings.

A member of the Martelly administration working on the housing plan said that at least part of the relocation money came from the national treasury.

Eighty-eight percent of respondents described the new government camp as having worse access to security, lighting, clean toilets, water and food compared with the stadium.

Justin Podur visited Camp Bicentenaire where some of those evicted from Stade Sylvio Cator were relocated. Podur writes:

Camp Bicentenaire has been touted as a resettlement success story. It is on the national highway and has over 50 families, who were resettled from the camp at Port au Prince’s stadium, Sylvio Cator, on July 15. With Port-o-lets – some overflowing and others fallen over – for the camp located at the median of the highway, and garbage dumped directly into a ditch by the highway side, the camp has had no real support from the government or the NGOs besides the 10,000 gourdes (about $250 USD) that each family got in a negotiated agreement to resettle. The camp has the same kinds of problems with security as it does with sanitation. According to Mathias Jordanson of the camp committee, there has been one visit from a government official since July 15, and he’s aware of no further plan for the camp.

The lack of adequate solutions to the housing crisis led Mark Schneider of the International Crisis Group to tell the Miami Herald that “Haiti’s failure to adopt a national housing resettlement and reintegration strategy ‘stands as the most glaring failure of the past year.’”

In addition to stopping forced evictions, the IJDH and USF report recommends significantly greater outreach to communities, including being accountable to those who are most affected and creating more durable solutions. As the report notes, “Small payments to displaced families that are not tied to a comprehensive housing assistance program fail to conform with the ‘durable solutions to displacement’ required by the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement”.

The report concludes:

A rights-based approach to development ensures that the beneficiaries of aid are informed of the processes that affect their lives and have the opportunity to share their perspectives in a meaningful way. Haitians at all levels have found themselves left out of the decision-making processes on aid distribution – from top government officials overwhelmed by the “republic of NGOs” operating in their country, to the communities left homeless by the earthquake and struggling to survive. International agencies have largely provided humanitarian services through a top-down approach, making decisions about peoples’ needs without obtaining meaningful input from the communities receiving the aid.

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