Senate Hearing on Haiti

A very refreshing hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Haiti just concluded. Paul Farmer who is Bill Clinton’s Deputy UN Special Representative on Haiti, RAND’s Jim Dobbins (a UN Dispatch favorite), and Rony Francois, the incoming director of public health for the state of Georgia testified on what is needed for Haiti’s long term recovery. 

All three of the witnesses echoed what can be described as a UN-perspective on nation building. This means making sure that recovery efforts strengthen Haiti’s fragile institutions of government.  Paul Farmer based this conclusion on his years helping to strengthen the public health sector in Haiti. His NGO, Partners in Health, has been working for over a decade to bolster Haiti’s public health infrastructure–which means supporting Haiti’s health bureaucracy.  Dobbins, who’s experience in Haiti stretches back to the 1994 US-led intervention, urged that the United States empower the United Nations to continue the progress it had made in Haiti since the peacekeeping mission began in 2004. He repeated his call that the United States dispatch Kreyole speaking police officers to help speed the UN-led training of the Haitian National Police.     

In his opening statement, Republican Ranking Member Richard Lugar, too, offered his support of the concept of a UN-led longterm recovery effort:

The relationship between the United Nations and the Haitian government should be a consensual, cooperative arrangement that preserves Haitian participation in decisions, while ensuring that the resources and expertise of the international community are brought to bear on the daily problems of Haiti. If the UN plays an increased security and recovery role, I believe Haitians will more quickly gather their bearings and begin to rebuild their lives and their country.

In general, there was a sense that the Senate Committee was willing to think creatively about ways to empower Haitian-led reconstruction efforts, which as I said, made the whole thing very refreshing. 


Image: Flickr (United Nations Development Programme) “From left to right, Charles Pierre, Rosita Blaise, Michele Mary Dennis and Jislaive Lassalle create fuel briquettes out of recyled material. The cash for work programme provides critical employment for hundreds of Haitians. The programme was expanded to include rubble clearance and reconstruction in the aftermath of the 12 January earthquake.”  (There are number of great pics in from the UNDP. Check them out.)