Ed note: January 12 marks the one year anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Over the next few days we will be running a series of posts taking a look at progress over the past year and what still needs to be done to help get Haiti back on its feet.
• First, the impasse that has delayed the presidential runoff election that was supposed to occur this month must be resolved. Haiti needs a legitimate leader to take office and appoint a skilled team to implement a development vision for the country. The international community must work to change the elites’ traditional calculus that a crisis is an opportunity, and we must make clear that alleviating the suffering of the Haitian people is our first priority. Any candidate sabotaging the ongoing efforts by the Organization of American States to solve the election crisis should be disqualified
• Second, the donor community must communicate a clear and coherent rebuilding vision and strategy with timelines and benchmarks. The United States can play an important role by publicly articulating an overarching development policy to guide the allocation of over $1 billion in assistance appropriated by the Congress last July. Haitian ownership of any plan is key, but the obstructionism and unwillingness to lead cannot be tolerated any longer.
• Third, we must recognize and reinforce the remarkable success of the U.N. peacekeeping operation and the newly trained Haitian National Police, both of which have been critical to stability and the rapid decline in crime.
• Fourth, Haiti must take better advantage of the experience and know-how of its highly skilled and wide-ranging diaspora. The government has many vacancies that émigrés can fill — at a minimum through a fellows program — to provide critical support to ministries as they attempt to stand up and reorganize.
Finally, we must recognize that rebuilding Haiti will require a sustained commitment and a long-term partnership. The United States and the international community have done good work in Haiti in the past, and Haiti is better for it today, but the work was piecemeal and short-term.
Partnership entails commitment and maturity on both sides. Haitians across society — from the economic and political elite, to the nascent and unsteady civil society, to the masses of poor — have to realize that our concern for their welfare does not give them leverage to shun our demands for progress. We cannot do the tasks that only they can do.
That was published yesterday. Today, the Herald posts and op-ed from UNICEF director Anthony Lake who urges people to “look beyond the rubble.”
…as we look back, we should remind ourselves not only that it might have been far worse, but that real progress has been possible, even in such dire circumstances.
Working together, Haitian relief organizations, 140 donor countries, international NGOs and the UN, including UNICEF have saved and improved many lives. More than eight million liters of clean water have been trucked every day; mobile nutrition units have helped to avert widespread acute malnourishment; almost two million children and young people have been immunized.
Thousands of children have been reunited with their families. Almost 100,000 children continue to benefit from a network of child-friendly spaces that provide psychosocial care. And the new “All to School” campaign is reaching around 80 percent of children directly affected by the earthquake.
This is only a start. In Haiti — as in every emergency — we can and must do a better job channeling pledged aid to people and communities in greatest need. We need to ensure better coordination among government, the international aid community and local NGOs. And we need to do more to support communities’ efforts to drive their own recovery.
When so much remains to be done, and when so many continue to suffer, it is no time for self-congratulation. But neither should it become an occasion for self-flagellation.