What The Haiti Earthquake Can Teach Us About Pakistan Flood Response

The emergency phase of the Pakistan flood effort continues at pace.  Apparently, there are some 800,000 people reachable only by air.  That’s 800,000 people who’s only lifeline is a handful of US and Pakistani helicopters in the area.

In about one month there will be another meeting at the UN for the launch of a “consolidated appeal” for Pakistan.  This happens when the emergency phase of a humanitarian disaster ends and the long term recovery efforts begin.  This typically costs much more than emergency operations.  The Pakistan flood appeal is likely to be the biggest ever. 

The thing is, this appeal is just that–an appeal. There is only a little bit of designated money  set aside for these things.  Donors don’t have to give if they don’t want to–and there are plenty of places around the world that don’t seem to capture donors’ attention.  Still, because of the strategic importance of Pakistan, chances are they will elicit a pretty good response from donors. The problem is, donors might be wary of how their money is spent. In fact, there are already concerns that fear of government corruption are slowing donors’ reponse. 

Here is where the response to the Haiti earthquake might provide some guidance for a way forward:  In both places you had a democratic and internationally supported but weak civilian government.  For long term recovery efforts to be sustainable, donors must ultimately empower and strengthen the civilian government’s capacity to deliver services to its people.  To help thread the needle between wanting to empower a civilian government while satisfying donor’s concerns about transparency, the Haitian government created an Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, co-chaired by Haiti’s Prime Minister and Bill Clinton, to “conduct strategic planning and coordination and implement resources from bilateral and multilateral donors, non-governmental organizations, and the business sector, with all necessary transparency and accountability.”

Having a high profile, internationally respected non-Haitian as a co-chair is certainly a boon to Haiti’s fund raising effort, while having the top government official as a co-chair ensures that this is a Haitian-driven proces.  Will Pakistan create a similar hybrid commission?  If so, who would be the prominent international co-chair?  On the one hand, the United States is by far the largest donor to Pakistan relief efforts so far. On the other hand, a prominent US role may be politically untenable

Who would you nominate to co-Chair an “Interim Pakistan Recovery Commission?”  Queen Rania?  Tony Blair?  Send us your thoughts via Twitter, @UNDispatch.