Economic and Social Development Issues

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ON DEVELOPMENT: Brazil’s School Lunch Program Is Putting Food on the Table for the Country’s Small Farmers

PRI The World, pulitzercenter.org4 min read, original
Donna Marinova (left) and Joise Lopes, both family farmers in Promissão, Brazil, harvest cassava roots to sell to local public schools. Image by Rhitu Chatterjee. Brazil, 2015

Donna Marinova (left) and Joise Lopes, both family farmers in Promissão, Brazil, harvest cassava roots to sell to local public schools. Image by Rhitu Chatterjee. Brazil, 2015

Two women walk between rows of pumpkin plants in the outskirts of Promissão, a small agricultural town about 300 miles north of São Paulo. One of them, Donna Marinova, who is in her 50s, owns this farm. Her companion is Joise Lopes, 38. Together, the two women run a farmers’ cooperative in this farming community.

A few brown cows graze in the fields nearby as Lopes and Marinova head towards a cluster of tall, woody cassava plants. They stop by a couple of taller plants, bend down and pull out the roots with their bare hands.

“This is manioc,” says Lopes, holding out the tubers in her hands. They are brown, covered in dirt, except for the bright white flesh where they were torn from the roots. These women will sell the tubers to local public schools to be used in school meals. Public schools have become a regular source of income for the 20 or so farmers in their cooperative.

In the past, they had to depend heavily on middle men to sell their produce.

“We had to accept whatever they offered, or we would lose everything,” Lopes says.

But for the past three years, she says farmers like her have been able to bid directly with the city government to supply local schools. It’s been a big help, Lopes says.

“There were times we didn’t have anything, and suddenly a little bit of money came in from the school meals program and I’d say “Oh, God, this money is so good and it came at the right time,” she says.

Brazil’s National School Feeding Program feeds every student enrolled in the public school network, says Eduardo Manyari, the international advisor for the program. “We’re talking about 42 million students each day.”

In the city of São Paulo alone, 900,000 students are fed every day through the school meal program, says Danuta Chmielewska, an education official in Sao Paulo city who works on the city’s school feeding program. “We serve around two million meals per day. If you think about how [much] food we need to buy to provide the food, it is a huge market.”

The market has been traditionally dominated by big food companies and middle men who buy produce from small farmers at negligible prices and sell for higher profits. Until recently, family farmers like Lopes and Marinova didn’t have access.

“It’s not just payment,” Chmielewska says. “Many times, the farmers are not seen, like invisible people. They work hard, every day, from Monday to Monday, and many times they are not recognized.”

Brazil is better known for its big industrial farms, which grow sugarcane, coffee, oranges, and soy, all for exporting. It’s a top exporter for some of these commodities. And yet, most of the food Brazilians eat is grown by family farmers. But most of them are poor and uneducated and struggle to compete with bigger, industrial farms and food companies. Many farmers have given up, moving to cities in search of jobs and a better life.

That’s why in 2009, the government passed a law requiring cities to spend at least 30 percent of their school meal budget on produce from family farmers. The law was based on the older Public Acquisition Program, which allows small farmers to sell a part of their produce directly to local governments.

“The idea that we have now, is a way to buy directly from family farmers,” Chmielewska says, so that a section of the market is reserved just for them. This has helped local family farmers, she says, while also improving the quality of school meals.

“In 2013, for the first time we bought rice from family farmers, and even better, we bought organic rice for the whole school feeding program,” she says. The city continues to use organic rice for school meals even though it is 30 percent more expensive than regular rice. But the “law allows a higher price for better quality.”

The program has become an example for other developing countries that are also trying to boost local agriculture while providing food and nutrition security to students in poor communities.

However, implementing the law hasn’t been easy, admits Chmielewska. “For example, here in São Paulo, the first purchase from a family farmer was in 2012,” she says, three years after the law was passed. There aren’t enough farmers near São Paulo city to meet the demands of the city’s schools, she says, and it has taken time and effort to reach out to farmers living farther away.

Many cities still don’t buy the minimum required from family farmers. Corruption and lack of political will can get in the way. Big food companies and big farmers, sometimes called the “meals mafia” here, bribe their way into winning the bids.

Some of the farmers are just too poor to participate in the program, saysBernardo Mançano Fernandes, an expert on agrarian reform and rural development at the State University of São Paulo. “Today, to produce you need technology. These people don’t have capital, [and] don’t have money.” Families who are slightly better off have been able to take advantage of the program, he says.

Back in Promissão, Lopes has just returned to her three-bedroom house after an hour washing, cutting and packaging pieces of cassava at her small vacuum packaging plant next door. She is eager to show me her house, which she recently finished expanding. The wrap-around porch is new, she tells me, the floor still wet with fresh cement. Inside, the walls look newly painted.

The extra money she has been making by selling to local schools has gone into home improvements, Lopes says. “I added a new room for my son, an attached bathroom for my bedroom, and I finished the kitchen,” she says.

Managing the cooperative and supplying public schools has also taught her new skills.

“It has taught me how to work with the producers, and have a way of talking to them,” she says. She also had to learn how to handle documents and deal with bureaucracy. “It has inserted me to into public power,” she adds, looking proud. “I am a member of the rural municipal council because of my cooperative. I learned how to have a dialogue with people in power.”

That afternoon, I visit her at work in her sister’s home up the road from her house. The entire family is busy, preparing for a delivery to schools. They line up big, green crates on the porch and label each one with the name of a school and the order.

Lopes, in shorts and a cotton top, is clearly in charge. Holding papers that have the details of this week’s orders, she reminds family members what they need to supply and who will bring what.

“One school wants five kilos of eggplants,” she says, and the family will supply them.

When the crates are filled, a rented truck will deliver them to schools. The cooperative will soon get their own delivery truck with a government grant Lopes applied for, which means higher profits.

It takes a lot of organization and financial planning, Lopes says. But she loves every bit of it.

“People make fun of me,” she says. “But I like to go after a project, deliver it, and go to the meetings. This is what I like to do.”

“You’re a successful businesswoman,” I say.

“Yes, I am,” she says, laughing. “I consider myself one.”

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AFGHANISTAN; DEVELOPMENT: UN reduces Afghanistan appeal but urges other donors to do more

As hunger and malnutrition threaten millions of Afghans, UN in Kabul says US aid to the country is ‘small change’ compared with its military spending

theguardian.com, by Sune Engel Rasmussen, Jan. 27, 2016, original

A Lazeez food truck in Kabul, which caters to the wealthier residents of the city.

A Lazeez food truck in Kabul, which caters to the wealthier residents of the city. For millions of other Afghans, food security and poor nutrition is the reality. Photograph: Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images

The UN has implored member states to keep humanitarian aid flowing to Afghanistan as the organisation seeks to limit its focus to life-saving assistance.

Although an estimated 8.1 million Afghans will need help this year – about one-third of the population, and 700,000 more than last year – the UN said on Wednesday it was lowering its request for funding inits humanitarian appeal from $405m (£283m) in 2015 to $393m this year.

The cut will primarily affect efforts to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition. Three million Afghans are malnourished. One million are in acute need of treatment. But the UN’s humanitarian aid will now only target malnutrition caused by displacement, not by poverty and general food shortages.

The UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Kabul, Mark Bowden, said the reason for the narrower focus is because malnutrition is mostly a development issue, not a humanitarian one.

“The problems of food insecurity have increased because poverty has increased,” Bowden said. “It’s not being dealt with as a development problem, and the humanitarian resources are not sufficient to deal with it.”

However, development agencies and the Afghan government are unlikely to be able to pick up the slack.

“I’ve been frustrated by the lack of response from both the international donor community and government on this. We’ve been talking about it for two years,” Bowden said. “We’ve been having meetings with USAid and others as to how to deal with it. It’s not being well prioritised.”

Humanitarian appeals are a balancing act between what is needed and what can realistically be achieved. Last year, the UN in Afghanistan received 70% of its request, one of the most successful UN appeals.

Humanitarian assistance makes up about 10% of the overall non-military assistance to Afghanistan, which also includes development and government assistance.

This year, donors are expected to renew commitments set out at the2012 Tokyo conference, where they pledged $4bn annually in assistance to Afghanistan.

The UK in particular, said Bowden, has pushed donor countries to boost aid. Last year, the UK gave the UN’s humanitarian appeal $16m, tripling 2012 levels and making the UK the third-largest national donor after Japan and the US. In total, the UK donated £25m in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan last year, according to an embassy spokesperson in Kabul.

Diplomats in Kabul point out that for European countries, aid can be a way of reducing the inflow of migrants, of whom Afghans make up 21%.

“It is essential that the most vulnerable Afghans receive appropriate life-saving assistance, quickly. If their needs are not met, Afghans will choose to migrate out of their country as a last resort,” said the German ambassador to Kabul, Markus Potzel.

About half of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan – $141m – comes from the US, but the figure is dwarfed by the $4bn the US pays annually to the country’s security forces.

“I hate to say it but, for the US, humanitarian assistance really is small change,” Bowden said.

Related: Impunity in conflict has cast a dark shadow over humanitarian work in 2015 | Clár Ní Chonghaile

With the Taliban taking over territory across the country, civilian hardship is likely to worsen. The number of Afghans in need of assistance is expected to rise from 7.4 million in 2015 to 8.1 million in 2016, according to the UN. Mass displacement caused by armed conflict, the expulsion of undocumented Afghans from Pakistan and natural disasters, is a major driver.

“With it being El Niño year, the likelihood of more flooding is quite considerable. It’s certainly not going to be any better than last year,” Bowden said. “And, depending on how you see conflict developing, possibly worse.”

Pockets of Islamic State fighters, primarily in the country’s east, also present challenges. Isis seems less accepting of international agencies and immunisation campaigns than the Taliban, with whom the UN negotiates access to affected areas. After the Octoberearthquake in north-east Afghanistan, the Taliban offered a unilateral ceasefire to allow delivery of aid.

Although Afghanistan is still one of the most dangerous countries in which to be an aid worker, Bowden said “there is a great respect for international humanitarian law across the board”.

“Though there is a risk of some of that eroding, basically we’ve been able to work with all parties to get assistance through.”

Crucially, attacks on health facilities are becoming rarer, he said, “with the glaring exception of Kunduz”, where a US gunshipattacked a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in October, killing at least 42 staff and patients.

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ON DEVELOPMENT: Getting Rid of Helping that Hurts

By Catherine Parrill, Founder, Creative Exchanges Initiative, Jan 9, 2016

Twenty-five years ago I went to Haiti to work in a school. It was a short trip. But in only ten days two things happened that would alter my life. I fell in love with Haiti and its people. And I knew intuitively, though I couldn’t put it to words, that we were doing something wrong. Our project had built a school and clinic and we were ramping up to add an agriculture program. What could be wrong with that?

Yet, as I became more involved, I became evermore certain that in spite of our good intentions, and in spite of the positive effects that our work was having in some ways, we were also perpetuating poverty and oppression. Armed with curriculum I’d created from models such as Paolo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, I packed up and moved to Haiti in 1996, to train teachers. More about that another time. For now, suffice it to say that over the course of the next two years, I learned first-hand about how our efforts were feeding corruption, fostering inequality, and perpetuating poverty.

Well-intentioned donors don’t like hearing this. They want to help, not hurt. In the last few years, since misuse of earthquake relief funds has become more common knowledge, I’m getting a different question. One that keeps me awake at night.

People have now begun to ask me whether they should entirely stop donating to development or charitable works.

Absolutely not! 

With nearly 800 million people on this earth lacking sufficient food to lead a healthy, active life, we can’t stop. Instead, we have to do more. But we have to change what we’re doing. Turn the old model upside down and work from the inside out. I’ll be sharing more about that in future posts here.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t already done so, check out The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of Acumen. She first went to Rawanda a couple of years before I first went to Haiti. She learned from the inside out. And she is turning the world of philanthropic works upside down. You can check out her Ted Talk here.

Are you involved in development or charitable work abroad? Is it working like you want it to? I’d love to hear.

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ON DEVELOPMENT: The Negative Effects on Haiti of Too Much Foreign Aid

dailysignal.com, Commentary: James M. Roberts, Dec. 18, 2015, original
In Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, the wheels of economic progress grind forward slowly. In the case of a newly-rehabilitated flour mill in Port-au-Prince, however, those grinding gears can actually be seen and heard.For a nation struggling with hungry citizens thereopening of the Moulins d’Haiti (LMH) flour mill isn’t small potatoes. The mill was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake, and rebuilt at a cost exceeding $75 million by a consortium that includes U.S. companies, Seaboard Corp., and Continental Grain Co.

Now, in the years since the reopening of the mill, the price of flour has stabilized and supply has increased, meaning more, cheaper flour available to Haitians.

Meanwhile, Haiti struggles with the insidious and negative effects of what could fairly be labelled as “over-aid” from its developed friends, especially the United States. Since 2010, hundreds of millions of dollars and dozens of metric tons of food have poured into Haiti from the U.S. in an effort stave off life-threatening hunger in the disaster-weary nation.

However, as early as 2010 the Haitian government called for an end to current food aid. Despite the unpopularity of this in Haiti, this appeal has been echoed by outside organizations. Haitian farmers growing staple foods already face disadvantages in cost versus imports ofsubsidized rice from the U.S., and the massive quantities of food distributed by aid organizations have not made it any easier for Haiti to learn to support itself again.

So what are the bright spots in a situation that seems rife with complications?

First, the new LMH mill, which is nearly 25 percent more efficient than its predecessor. Despite difficult and possibly unfair competition from the Dominican Republic, the LMH mill is a true step towards solving the Haitian hunger problem.

A second bright spot can be found in an unassuming little Haitian fruit—the Francique mango—which is a Haitian delicacy as suitable for export as it is for helping to bridge the gap between the caloric deficits that many Haitians face daily.

Non-profits, in a refreshing move away from the “over-aid” model, are working with farmers to increasedomestic production and to expand overseas markets for the product. Some farmers have tripled production and last year it was found that, for the first time, Whole Foods was able to import over 50 percent more mangoes to U.S. supermarkets than it had originally planned.

Lastly, a shift can be observed in the aid model through which Haiti has been simultaneously supported but also stifled during the previous years.

Institutions such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank have instituted projects to develop the infrastructure and the capacity for Haitians to achieve sustainable long term, private-sector-led economic growth through the production of value-added and marketable products.

Nobel laureate, Harvard economist, and philosopher Amartya Sen once wrote: “the challenge is to respond to the plight of the hopelessly impoverished without neglecting to insist that help come in useful and productive forms.”

For our Haitian friends, that help must be multi-dimensional and not create the dependency that accompanies traditional foreign aid models.

To paraphrase the old Chinese axiom, Haitians must learn how to fish and not just be given cans of tuna.

The deeper truth is that most Haitians do know how to fish (in fact, many who escape that country’s deeply corrupt business environment become successful entrepreneurs). But back at home they need access to a boat – which for Haitians means securing greater property rights and rule of law at home while gaining greater access to world markets.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of James M. Roberts

James M. Roberts is the Research Fellow in Freedom and Growth at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for International Trade and Economics. Roberts’ primary responsibility is to produce the Index of Economic Freedom, an influential annual analysis of the economic climate of countries throughout the world.

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HAITI, DEVELOPMENT: Ignoring the plight of the poor in Haiti

bostonglobe.com, Commentary by Louise C. Ivers, original

Haitian human rights activists and victims of cholera rallied last month in front of the of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Port-au-Prince.

As Haitianstake to the streets to protest the results of their recent presidential election, a quieter but more deadly battle continues throughout the country against the world’s largest cholera outbreak.

The toll is enormous, particularly for the poor. Although cholera is entirely preventable and completely treatable, five years after the disease appeared in Haiti for the first time in recorded history, 9,041 deaths have been registered, and more than 750,000 have been sickened in its grip. The real numbers are likely much higher.

By its nature, the disease is an inequitable attacker, a disease of poverty — it tends to strike hardest where access to toilets is limited or nonexistent, and where clean water is beyond financial reach. In the absence of public water systems, for many of Haiti’s poorest people, buying water purification tablets can only be done at the expense of buying food, or soap, or medicine, or school supplies. These are impossible choices. But unfortunately attention has waned to the point where progress has stalled, with devastating consequences. In 2014, more cases of cholera per population were registered in Haiti than in any other country reporting to the World Health Organization.

Those of us with incomes of more than one dollar a day are rarely affected by cholera, and the pharmaceutical industry sees little opportunity for profit in this market. Recent studies on the role of an oral cholera vaccine, Shanchol, have confirmed that it is safe, feasible, and effective in preventing cholera in Haiti (and in other countries), yet the vaccine’s manufacturer (Shantha Biotechnics, a Sanofi company) decreased production of the vaccine in 2015, instead of increasing it as they had promised to do. Epidemic cholera was eliminated from Europe and North America a century ago by investments in safe public water and sanitation systems, yet access to potable water has actually decreased in Haiti over the last 25 years, and only 19 percent of rural Haitians have access to basic sanitation. These collective failures have resulted in a protracted humanitarian crisis.

Colleagues in the Haitian government, nongovernmental organizations, and bilateral and multilateral agencies have the knowledge and the technical know-how to eliminate transmission of cholera in Haiti, and in doing so could save thousands of lives. However, they lack the funds and the vaccine needed to implement solutions. A 10-year plan to eliminate cholera from Haiti includes a call for major investments in water and sanitation, as well as in health care, hygiene education, and vaccination. Yet, the plan is still largely underfunded. The United Nations remains officially silent on the fact that members of its peacekeeping force inadvertently started the outbreak, and has not provided the kind of financial input toward solving the problem that is commensurate with the organization’s culpability.

The human and financial costs of this cholera outbreak are unacceptable. That cholera continues ravaging poor communities in Haiti and around the world is a shame on our society — one that we can and must do something about.

Louise C. Ivers is an infectious disease physician, senior health and policy advisor for Partners In Health and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Ivers served as clinical director for PIH in Haiti from 2008-2010 and chief of mission from 2010-2012.

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HAITI, DEVELOPMENT: Could a Superfood Help Save Haiti’s Forests? [No!]

takepart.comoriginal

Haiti is the most impoverished country in the northern hemisphere, and trees, or the lack thereof, are part of the problem.

After centuries of agricultural exploitation and the population’s demand for charcoal and fuel wood, 98 percent of Haiti’s landscape is deforested, leaving the country vulnerable to environmental disasters. In 2008, four storms in quick succession resulted in flooding responsible for 800 deaths and $1 billion in damage. The massive earthquake that same year killed more than 220,000 people.

Numerous studies have supported the link between deforestation and poverty in the country. One hundred thousand children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition, less than half of households have access to safe water, and one-third of the women and children are anemic. Everyone from conservationists to actor Sean Penn sees trees as the answer. The question is, which trees?

Some believe the answer could be moringa, a native of the Himalayan foothills in northwestern India and the latest imported ingredient anointed with “It Superfood” status (see also: quinoa, acai, chia). The tree—called variously “the miracle tree,” “tree of life,” “mother’s best friend,” and the “never die tree”—can shoot from seed to 15-foot stature in the span of a year; flourishes in hot, dry subtropical climates; and can be put to use from root to pod. Nutritionally, moringa has more calcium than milk, more vitamin C than oranges, more vitamin A than carrots, more iron than spinach, more potassium than bananas, and just as much protein as eggs.

Could two of Haiti’s problems—deforestation and poverty—be solved by moringa?  It’s a potential solution floated by Oakland-based social enterprise company Kuli Kuli, in a partnership with the Clinton Foundation and a Haitian nonprofit, theSmallholder Farmers Alliance, to develop a new moringa supply chain in Haiti. That chain would result in Kuli Kuli’s newest product, a Soul Cycle–appropriate cousin to 5 Hour Energy called Moringa Green Energy Shots, to be sold nationwide at Whole Foods.

Chef José Andrés is in on the action, too. His nonprofit organization, World Central Kitchen, is working to improve nutrition in Haiti and other developing nations using moringa and is also promoting recipe competition on Instagram, using the hashtag #MoringaInspired.

Kuli Kuli has succeeded with this model before. In Ghana, the planting of 60,000 moringa trees has provided a sustainable livelihood for 500 women farmers for the past three years and enabled Kuli Kuli to launch its Moringa Superfood Bars in stores in the U.S. Kuli Kuli pays 30 percent over the market price, and it prepays for harvests to ensure that the crop remains sustainable.

But while its nutrition benefits are irrefutable, is mass-planting moringa the right reforestation tactic for Haiti? S. Blair Hedges, director of the Center for Biodiversity at Temple University, doesn’t think so.

“Although it is true that [Moringa oleifera] has benefits for humans (food, medicine), the major claim made, that Haiti would benefit by reforestation with this species, is misleading,” Hedges, whose work preserving Haitian flora and fauna has led to the discovery of several new species of Haitian frogs, wrote in an email.

“Moringa has been grown in Haiti for over 50 years and so is far from being an invasive species,” Kuli Kuli CEO Lisa Curtis told TakePart. “We’re not bringing anything new to the country; we’re simply working with smallholder women farmers to help them plant more moringa trees and develop an export market for value-added moringa powder.” The trees, she added, would be grown alongside limes, coffee, and other vegetable crops.

“It would put money in someone’s pocket but would not solve Haiti’s environmental problems or protect Haiti’s rich biodiversity,” Hedges said. That, he added, would require a more local solution.

“A forest full of native Haitian species would do much better in stopping erosion, protecting water resources, and providing food, shelter, and energy for the Haitian people,” he continued.

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AFGHANISTAN, DEVELOPMENT: The Next Refugee Crisis: Afghanistan

New York Times, OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
By MICHAEL KUGELMAN, OCTOBER 21, 2015

WASHINGTON — With the war in Afghanistan heating up, thousands of Afghan refugees are fleeing their country. But Iran and Pakistan, which house most of the Afghan refugees from previous cycles of violence, are increasingly unwelcoming. So the new exodus has begun to flow toward Europe, already inundated with Syria’s refugees.

Yet these Afghans have attracted little attention from Western policy makers; they do not seem to recognize the Afghans’ desperation, and the challenges their flight poses for Afghanistan, its neighbors and Europe. For Afghans, it is a recurring nightmare. Like previous exoduses going back to the 1970s, this one is stripping the country of precisely the professionals who are vital to its future as a modern state.

President Obama has an opportunity to change that on Thursday by putting the issue high on his agenda, and calling international attention to it, when he hosts Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, in Washington.

The new surge of refugees began with the Taliban’s offensive this year, and intensified after fighting reached populated areas like Kunduz. Last month, employees at Afghanistan’s passport agency said they were issuing an average of 2,000 passports daily — triple the number of six months ago.

In recent decades, most Afghan refugees have wound up in Pakistan, which now hosts nearly three million. But refugees there complain that this year, officials have been forcing them to return home. The International Organization for Migration says 90,000 Pakistan-based Afghans did just that since January. Now the government refuses to extend identity cards for 1.5 million refugees, many of whom have been in Pakistan for decades, when their permits expire at year’s end.

Iran, too, has been deporting refugees. One reason is fear that Afghans with ties to the drug trade will compound Iran’s own drug-use problems.

Deportation can be a harsh sentence. Some returnees end up in United Nations camps near Jalalabad, a stronghold for former Taliban militants who joined the Islamic State. The danger may be worst for ethnic Hazaras; they are Shiite Muslims, and many fled slaughter by the Taliban.

Afghans cannot expect much help from their own government. One official American report says the State Department stopped funding a training program for Afghanistan’s refugee and repatriation ministry last year after finding the ministry corrupt and dysfunctional.

Helping Afghan refugees is not an easy issue for Pakistani officials, who already deal with a million internally displaced Pakistanis fleeing conflict in their own border areas.

So the Afghan exodus increasingly looks to Europe as its destination, after a perilous trek across Iran, Turkey and the Mediterranean.

According to United Nations and European estimates, more than 20 percent of the roughly 500,000 people who have arrived this year via the Mediterranean have been Afghans.

The flow poses a serious challenge for Europe, which is already experiencing its greatest refugee crisis since World War II and needs no further scapegoats for its anti-immigration demagogues to attack.

But if Europe closes its doors to them, that would only shift the challenge back to Pakistan, where Afghans could be expected to resume arriving in greater numbers. Even in normal times, tens of thousands of Afghans pass back and forth monthly through two border checkpoints, most of them as legitimate temporary visitors. The temptation to cheat at those crossing points would increase even as other desperate Afghans stepped up the flow across more porous parts of the border. That would surely exacerbate a growing public resentment of Afghan refugees, whom many Pakistanis already associate with terrorism, drug abuse and a drag on their economy.

So the world must acknowledge the plain fact that Afghanistan’s refugees need help. Their own government, beleaguered by war and its own dysfunction, is not up for the task, and its two largest neighbors are increasingly indifferent to their plight.

It is unrealistic to expect Pakistan to voluntarily accept more Afghan refugees. Still, it should better help those already there. Mr. Obama should press Mr. Sharif to extend the identity cards about to expire. He should urge a more gradual and humane repatriation process. And he should assure Mr. Sharif that Americans remain committed to financial support for international aid programs that assist Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran — programs now under budgetary pressure.

Iran, which houses the second-largest Afghan refugee population, has extended the visas of 450,000 Afghans. Yet Afghans there also report forced deportations and other bad treatment. According to one recent report, Iranian border policemen shot and killed seven Afghans trying to enter the country. These policies must end.

As for the Western countries, the European nations whose troops took part in NATO’s mission in Afghanistan should ensure that Afghans are included in any European Union quotas that distribute refugees among member states. And Washington should expedite special visas for those Afghans who worked for the United States government or military and say that their lives are endangered. In September, at least 13,000 Afghans and Iraqis with that status were still waiting.

And, if security can be assured, international aid groups should accelerate the creation of safe zones within pacified areas in the country, where the United Nations says the total internally displaced population numbers nearly a million. These people need incentives to stay in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, some of Afghanistan’s other neighbors should band together to help. Bordering countries in Central Asia, along with Russia, China and Iran, all need more stability in Afghanistan and fear the specter of heavy refugee flows into their countries; they should pool funds to support the formation of permanent safe areas inside Afghanistan, in places like Bamian Province that still enjoy relative stability.

Given the lack of quick fixes for Afghanistan’s violence, corruption and economic distress, safe areas may be the best possible incentive for Afghans to remain in their country. It is only a stopgap, but one that might help keep a dangerous crisis in check.

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HAITI, DEVELOPMENT – To find success in Haiti’s recovery, go local

devex.com, by Catherine Cheney21 September 2015, original
A roadside market in Haiti.  Photo by: Catherine Cheney / Devex

The release of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails surfaced a commanding perspective on U.S. development policy from a self-described “invisible soldier.” Chelsea Clinton, the former (and potentially future) first daughter and an emerging force at theClinton Foundation, pulled no punches in her assessment of the post-earthquake response in Haiti five years ago.

“To say I was profoundly disturbed by what I saw — and didn’t see — would be an understatement,” Chelsea wrote in a 2010 email to her parents, who have taken a special interest in the country ever since they honeymooned there. “Haitians want to help themselves and want the international community to help them help themselves.”

Her letter, written after four days in Haiti with Paul Farmer andPartners in Health, dives into the details of dysfunction she witnessed. She calls the United Nations and international NGO workers she came across, “anachronistic in their thinking at best and arrogant and incompetent at worst.”

Over the past five years, the media has continued to expose the large scale failure of aid to the country, asking just how the American Red Cross spent $500 million in donations for disaster relief, and exposing the role Nepalese U.N. peacekeepers played in causing the 2010 cholera epidemic that followed the earthquake.

“I guess while you’re there I’d challenge the assumption that the fundamental dynamic is outsiders trying to solve Haitian problems,” Jonathan Katz, author of “The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster,” wrote Devex during a trip to Haiti with Chelsea Clinton and a delegation of supporters in July. “More often, we are the problem. I’d look outside the development world completely and try to understand how Haitians manage to survive and deal with their own problems in spite of us — Clintons and all.”

On site visits and long drives between Port-au-Prince and the Central Plateau, Clinton Foundation staff members repeated the mantra that they are trying to work themselves out of a job. But their involvement in Haiti’s reconstruction is not likely to end anytime soon. The Clinton Global Initiative’s Haiti Action Network has made 100 Commitments to Action valued at $500 million when fully funded and implemented. Fortunately, as organizations like the Clinton Foundation have transitioned from disaster response to capacity building, they have sought to learn from past mistakes and built on their strengths.

From disaster response to job creation

“Problems really can be solved here, and we see them being solved,”Chelsea Clinton told Devex after visiting with women entrepreneurs in the Central Plateau, one of several stops on a tour highlighting the Clinton Foundation’s work with Haitian women. The view from the press bus windows put human faces to Haiti’s myriad challenges. The country is often called the “Republic of NGOs” because of the way the aid industry has become more powerful than the government itself. It is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, and in many places poverty and illiteracy seem more abundant than clean water and electricity.

But this makes the signs of resilience all the more powerful. While it was certainly in the Clinton Foundation staff’s interest that delegates and reporters see signs of progress, this trip did seem to leave Clinton more encouraged than disturbed. Some of her optimism about the role the international development community can play in Haiti seems to have returned in the interim between that first trip with Paul Farmer and her most recent one. Partnership with Haitians is what makes the difference in Clinton’s view.

“There are so many reasons to be optimistic,” she told Devex, adding that constant doom and gloom journalism reporting is “disrespectful to the amazing work that’s being done in Haiti by Haitians to solve their own challenges.”

Chelsea Clinton talks to Devex reporter Catherine Cheney about reasons for optimism in Haiti.Sabine Toussaint, senior program manager for the Clinton Foundation in Haiti, explained that the Clinton Foundation has returned to its original focus on sustainable job creation in Haiti after going into emergency relief mode following the earthquake.

“The Clinton foundation is uniquely placed. We are able to be the great convener because we have President Clinton,” she said, elaborating on how the Clinton Foundation gathers stakeholders to support its focus areas in Haiti: building capacity, bringing in investment, and empowering women entrepreneurs. “Just as we assessed ourselves and knew that disaster relief was not our forte, each individual organization should do an assessment of themselves and ask what are our strengths?”

As an operating foundation, most of the money the Clinton Foundation raises for projects around the world is used to operate programs, but given the unique needs for capacity building and job creation in Haiti, the staff there provides targeted grants. Throughout the trip, the foundation staff talked about how they want to support small and medium enterprises in ways that reduce, not grow, their dependence on external support. Take the fair trade manufacturer Caribbean Craft, which was devastated by the earthquake but now employs 400 artisans. There, Clinton Foundation delegates watched as mostly female employees turned recycled materials into artisan products, including papier-mache animal sculptures that Clinton Global Initiative members like West Elm will place in stores and catalogues.

Magalie Dresse, who founded Caribbean Craft, spoke with Devex about the value of the Clinton Foundation approach of supporting local entrepreneurs. “When an NGO gets free access to money, they don’t need to fight for any sales because everything is paid for,” she said, explaining how good intentions can have negative implications. “They can lower the cost of the item where it doesn’t even have any margin on it because it’s covered by a grant. Now you’re killing me as a producer, and I have no chance.”

Later, Yve-Car Momperousse, CEO of the beauty supply company Kreyól Essence, led Clinton Foundation delegates through a castor oil production facility in Mirebalais, Haiti, where women who once worked over open charcoal pits now work in the shade with uniforms and goggles thanks to Clinton Foundation support. “If you take a market based approach to solving these socially complex issues, development can be sustainable,” she said. “There are proven models and clear successes.”

Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods transforms waste into compost after responding to a need voiced by the local community for ecological sanitation. An entire tab of their website is devoted to what makes them different from the many organizations in Haiti tied with another, unproductive, kind of waste. They emphasize their cultural fluency, with 90 percent Haitian staff, and their social business model, with low barriers to entry and multiple sources of revenue.

“The art of the possible has a special meaning in Haiti,” Sally Yearwood, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Caribbean Central American Action, told Devex after joining the Clinton Foundation in Haiti. She wrote a newsletter for her readers reflecting on the trip and how struck she was by the many women she saw building a better future for themselves, their children, and therefore the country as a whole.

With devastation comes disruption

The 7.0-magnitude earthquake killed 300,000 people and left 1.5 million Haitians homeless. But with devastation came disruption — the kind of disruption that breeds new ideas. Many technologists have called Haiti’s earthquake “the big bang of digital disaster relief.”

Patrick Meier, a thought leader on humanitarian technology, captures in his book Digital Humanitarians how digital technologists used tools like text messaging and mobile mapping to aid collaboration. “It wasn’t the technology that caused us to help,” he said later in a talk at the PopTech conference. “What the technology allowed us to do was help manifest that humans want to go and help others who are suffering. So that technology actually made us more human by extending our emotions to actions.”

Following the earthquake, technologists gathered around the world for hackathons, developing new tools for crisis management in front of computer screens and pizza boxes. But hackathons like the one held four days after the earthquake from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. atDevHouse on Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Campus did not involve Haitians, so struggled to create lasting solutions to local needs. Flash forward to February 2013, when Haiti hosted its first hackathon.

Digital Democracy, an organization based in Oakland, California that works with marginalized communities to defend their rights through technology, helped organize the hackathon. It gathered Haitian technical students, members of the Haitian women’s organization KOFAVIV, and a mix of international software developers and designers who experienced for the first time local constraints like slow internet connections.

“This event has brought us back to a piece of Haitian culture, the ‘konbit,’ that we have largely left behind,” Richardson Ciguene, then a student studying databases and programming, said after spending three days building tools in support of a call center for survivors of gender-based violence.

“Konbit is a very significant concept in Haitian culture, and every Haitian knows what konbit means, because that was the way they survived the years after the revolution,” Emily Jacobi, executive director and founder of Digital Democracy, said of the Creole term for gathering, or coming together in solidarity in the face of adversity. “The effective earthquake responses I saw involved Haitians coming together in a konbit fashion.” In the Digital Democracy model of fully transitioning work to its local partners, Ciguene and other students went on to host the first official “Konbit Teknolojik” in June 2013, continuing the hackathon model without the direct involvement of an outside organization.

The disruption extends beyond the digital space. A bulletin from theWorld Health Organization on tuberculosis in the aftermath of the earthquake highlights the little known success story that the earthquake did not devastate basic health programs in Haiti. Given the interplay between HIV and tuberculosis, with HIV positive individuals more likely to get TB, the expectation was that breaks in the supply chain would lead to outbreaks of disease. But because of the dedication and collaboration of health workers, relief agencies, the patients themselves, and the government, the proportion of TB patients with HIV remained stable.

William Heisel, director of global engagement at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, sat down with Devex at the IHME offices in Seattle and showed visualizations of this promising health data on a screen suspended from the ceiling. “Overall, there’s a lot of hope in this paper, which makes me wonder if we’re on the verge of seeing a new phrase emerge as the thing you’re most likely to think of when you hear the word ‘Haiti,’” he wrote in a post responding to the WHO bulletin. “That phrase would be: ‘Rapid response.’”

Lauren Hashiguchi, a policy translation specialist at IHME who worked on the WHO study, first traveled to Haiti as a college undergraduate in 2009. Frustrated by the many unregulated medical missions she saw, she made a promise to herself that she would not return unless she had a master’s degree in public health and the opportunity to work with a Haitian organization. “After the earthquake I was very tempted to go back, but I realized I didn’t have valuable skills,” she told Devex. “I would just be a body in the way of actual aid work.”

When she did return in 2013, it was to work with GHESKIO, a health service and research organization. “External aid will never be rapid response,” Hashiguchi said, calling the best rapid responders people like “the physicians at GHESKIO … who trained in Canada and France and the U.S., who choose to come back to Haiti and work in difficult places and understand the population and their needs.”

Investing in Haiti’s future

One of the reasons GHESKIO has succeeded where other organizations have failed is its partnership with the Haitian government. Next month’s presidential elections in Haiti will be another test for those partnerships, and for the Haitian government’s commitment to leading the reconstruction effort.

“While it is important for Haiti’s international partners to continue to lend generous support to the country’s democratic process, it is equally crucial to recognize the work of the Government of Haiti in ensuring that its institutions can fully take charge of the elections,” Jessica Faieta, UNDP director for Latin America and the Caribbean,said at a gathering at U.N. headquarters.

Some outsiders aiming to do good in Haiti have cited corruption as the reason they circumvent the government. But their critics point to the money they spend on overhead costs. Foreigners driving new SUVs and living in gated neighborhoods are particularly conspicuous next to communities where people cram into decorated tap-tap buses that drive past shacks ready to slide down the hill.

“For too long, aid to Haiti has bypassed the government over a concern of poor governance and corruption,” Jake Johnston, the lead on the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch, relayed to Devex. “Instead billions have been funneled to unaccountable NGOs and private actors. For most Haitians, the high overhead costs and salaries are just as corrupt.”

The parallel public delivery system is part of what has created voter apathy in Haiti. Johnston explained that it is not so much about who wins the election, but what the process is like, and whether the aid community will begin to work through the government and strengthen its capacity to provide services to its population.

Clinton called Haiti a good laboratory for development, and a range of new actors appear to agree, trying new approaches that might build out the list of successes.

TOMS, the shoe brand that has gotten a mix of good and bad press for its “one-for-one” model of aid, recently came under fire again for its “This is Haiti” campaign, which showed a bunch of models lounging and laughing in the Caribbean sun with only a few locals in sight. But TOMS is one of several companies that has invested in the country years after the earthquake, when Haiti’s place in international headlines is less secure.

At the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting, TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie announced that the company would be building a factory there in 2014. It was a major shift in approach, with the company pledging to produce a minimum of one-third of all the shoes it gives in the places where those shoes will be distributed.

Lisa Curtis, the founder and CEO of Kuli Kuli, talked with Devex over an assortment of her products at a coffee shop just beneath her Oakland, California, office. Kuli Kuli sources high quality moringa oleifera from women’s cooperatives in the developing world and sells the superfood in the form of bars, teas and protein powders.

The social enterprise recently announced a partnership with theSmallholder Farmers Alliance and the Clinton Foundation to develop moringa for export in Haiti. Curtis said the organization learned about the importance of working with local partners from its experience launching in Ghana. There, they work with Fair Harvest, an organization that shared the goal of empowering women farmers growing moringa and had just started to try to export the product to the United States.

Anecdotal successes lack the cohesion to reorient Haiti’s narrative around learning, partnership, and innovation. Outsiders can play a helpful role in building and strengthening connections between those who are driving solutions.

After visiting a peanut supply chain enterprise on the Clinton Foundation trip, delegate Alexis Miesen, who leads the social venture of Blue Marble Ice Cream, is planning on using those peanuts for ice cream toppings once her store opens in Port-au-Prince this fall. The Port-au-Prince location will employ survivors of sexual violence in a shop built from repurposed shipping containers outfitted with solar panels, thanks in part to support from the Clinton Foundation.

It was only by partnering with Haitian native Lionel Bernard that Miesen could know the power of opening her shop — Bel Rev — in Fontamara, in the northwest corner of Port-au-Prince. “The shop is being built in front of my house where I grew up in Haiti,” Bernard said in a conversation with Caribbean Life on the decision to build further down the hill in Port-au-Prince, versus higher up where the wealth is. “It’s almost like a little tree growing with so many different branches. That’s the love and the beauty that we’re getting out of it.”

Of course, while anyone familiar with the range of problems and solutions in Haiti acknowledges the need to listen to local needs and work with local partners, there are larger scale roadblocks to proven approaches like local procurement. “What we have seen is a shift in rhetoric, but that has yet to result in significant changes on the ground,” Johnston lamented, acknowledging that there are organizations doing good work, but emphasizing that fractured responses cannot change the big picture. “The problems of the aid industry are systemic and unless the root of the problem is addressed, it’s unlikely there will be a major change in how the industry operates.” Donor dollars are often far removed from the people on the ground who will supposedly benefit from that aid, which is part of the reason for new models of building local capacity.

Robert Maguire, professor of international affairs and director of the Latin American and Hemispheric Studies Program at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, explains how listening is key for successful development work in Haiti.“You go to Haiti and you’ll never go back, or you go to Haiti and you’re hooked,”  Leigh Carter, executive director of Fonkoze USA, the 501(c)3 that raises funds for Haiti’s leading microfinance institution, told Devex of the way the country pulled her in and kept her committed. “I really believe we have to put the future in the hands of Haitians.”

On flights from Haiti to the U.S., Carter said customs officers are constantly asking, “Where did all the money go?”

She finds herself holding up lines telling them the stories that do not make the headlines, the stories that suggest the international community can in fact play a positive role in Haiti.  But, echoing Dresse, Carter lamented the way so many people have started their own NGOs in Haiti rather than supporting community organizations and connecting them to the capacity they need.

“I would recommend people seek out Haitian institutions,” she said. “I don’t want to badmouth the big NGOs. But just because the Red Cross has the resources to go on CNN and accept donations via text doesn’t mean they’re doing the best job. Just be a smart philanthropist.”

The Haiti earthquake taught all those involved that navigating an emergency is as much about preparation as response. Gary Philoctete, senior vice president for Haiti operations and country director for JP/HRO, a relief organization founded by actor Sean Penn in response to the earthquake, said his team is realizing how preparation and contingency needs to be a part of their planning moving forward.

“For example, no matter how nice the house you build someone is, or how quickly you build it, the structure won’t take away the fear of that house falling down in a subsequent disaster, unless you engage the resident in understanding why and how the house is safer,” Philoctete explained to Devex. “Education is what puts a roof over someone’s head in that case, not just construction. Folks in Haiti understand sustainability better than anyone, because the fears can be so immediate. If we’re not planning for the next earthquake, as we build back from the last, our solutions won’t work for the people we serve.”

Clinton articulated it well in that note to mom and dad. Years after the earthquake, Haiti continues to need support, to recover from a recent history of devastation and prepare for what lies ahead. But the best way outsiders can learn from mistakes and build on strengths is by ascribing to a spirit of partnership that’s been there all along — the Haitian spirit of konbit.

This article was updated at 11:28 am.

Conflict in Context is a monthlong global conversation on conflict, transition and recovery hosted by Devex in partnership with Chemonics, Cordaid, Mercy Corps, OSCE andUSAID. We’ll decode the challenges and highlight the opportunities countries face while in crisis and what the development community is doing to respond. Visit the campaign site and join the conversation using#ConflictinContext.

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AFGHANISTAN, DEVELOPMENT: Afghanistan’s Other Security Threat: Brain Drain

m.voanews.comoriginal, by Hasib Danish Alikozai, September 7, 2015

Each day an estimated 7,000 Afghans apply for passports

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A family from Afghanistan arrives from the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos to the Athens’ port of Piraeus on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015. Photo: AP

Afghans do not apply for passports unless they intend to travel outside the country since they do not use passports for identification at home.

That means more than 200,000 Afghans plan on leaving the country each month — a sudden and dramatic increase.

The head of the Afghan passport distribution directorate, General Sayed Omar Saboori, told VOA the directorate’s central and provincial offices have the capacity to provide only 2,500 passports on a daily basis.

“The system was primarily designed for 1,000 passports countrywide, but in recent months because of the rising demand, we are working both shifts,” said General Saboori. “Thousands of applicants wait all day long, and we can only do so much to meet the rising demand.”

Dangerous journey to Europe

Right now, Afghans are the second largest group — behind Syrians — waiting on the shores of Europe, hoping to embrace a new life on the continent.

Most undertake unthinkably dangerous journeys seeking a better future in Europe.

According to Babar Baluch of United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Hungary, of the 140,000 people who sought asylum in Hungary alone this year, 40,000 of them are Afghans.

“[And most arrive] in ships that can easily capsize because of the overload and a lot of them did, resulting in the tragic death of countless people who drowned in the ocean,” he said.

Zalmai Rasooli, who lives in northern Parwan province, experienced this journey himself.

“Two years ago, I decided to leave the country and reach Europe,” he said. “I went through Iran and Turkey and reached Greece after months of travel and tremendous amount of hardship. I was caught at the border of Greece and deported back to Afghanistan.”

Rasooli recalls seeing a boat capsize. To this day he’s convinced none of its 40 refugees could have survived.

But that immense risk will not deter him from making the journey all over again.

Afghanistan, he says, doesn’t have anything to offer him, and he plans to leave the country soon.

Disappointed youth

On Monday, hundreds of Afghans took to the streets in the capital, Kabul, to protest against the rising unemployment in the country. Protestors were complaining about the lack of employment opportunities and warned of “mass exodus” if the government fails to address the issue.

“If the unemployment issue is not addressed, we will soon witness an empty Kabul,” said Sharif, a protestor, who like many Afghans goes by only one name.

Over 60 percent of Afghans are aged 18-25, making Afghanistan one of the youngest countries in the world.

The Afghan government acknowledges the seriousness of unemployment in the country. Spokesperson for the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, Ali Eftekhari, told VOA the government is working on short and long-term projects to address unemployment.

“In the long-run, we will provide enduring employment opportunities for Afghans through building economic infrastructures in the country, but in the short run, we are in discussions with a number of Arab countries that are in need of workers,” he said.

Opportunities for the educated

Hanif Sufizada, a Fulbright scholar who graduated from Cornell University’s Institute of Public Affairs, paints a rather bright picture of opportunities in Afghanistan.

“After graduating from Cornell University in public administration, I came back to Afghanistan to join a newly established National Unity Government because of ample employment opportunities in the area of my specialization,” he said.

One of the 450 Afghan Fulbright scholars who came to the U.S. for education, Sufizada said that some fellow scholars, pessimistic about the direction their country was headed in, chose to remain in the U.S. upon the completion of their degrees. Others returned and are working in various sections of the Afghan government.

Despite the situation of youth in Afghanistan, thousands are employed by the Afghan government and international organizations.

In the last 14 years, tens of thousands of Afghans have left the country in pursuit of academic opportunities. Similarly, tens of thousands graduated from local universities, a potentially tremendous asset for the Afghan economy should they be given the opportunity.

But a young society can be a double edged sword. Employed, young people contribute to the country’s economy; unemployed, they can be a force of instability. As one of those who took part in Monday’s protest in Kabul said, “It’s unemployment that pushes Afghan youth to join the insurgents or use drugs.”

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HAITI, DEVELOPMENT: America’s Neo-Colonial Mandate: The Clinton Plan for Haiti.

globalresearch.ca, by Dady Chery, September 07, 2015, original

When news of Haiti died down in the mainstream media two months after the earthquake, things had not cooled down: quite the contrary, they had just started to simmer. A highly controversial State of Emergency Law had already been drafted and presented to Haiti’s Lower House for a vote.

This was a law to allow an Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), led by former US President William J. Clinton, to run the country for an 18-month State of Emergency. Haiti’s Lower House, a large majority of which belonged to President René Préval’s party, INITE, met for a vote on March 8, 2010. That meeting of the Members of Parliament (MP) was extremely contentious. Outside, a small group of protestors urged the legislators to vote no. At least 20 legislators walked out, hoping to break the quorum, and they declared the law to be unconstitutional. Others stayed and voted against the law at the start of the meeting, hoping to stall the proceedings. One legislator proposed an amendment that would have allowed a senatorial commission to oversee the IHRC. All their efforts failed. The deal had been made from the start. Forty-three MPs voted yes, 6 voted no, and 8 abstained.

How did all this come to pass? First, the Préval-led government had come from elections that had excluded Fanmi Lavalas and 14 other political parties. So this government was highly unrepresentative. Second, the most vocal opposition to the IHRC and the State of Emergency Law had come from those who had supported previous dictatorships. The great majority of the population categorically rejected this group, which demanded that the Haitian Armed Forces (Forces Armées d’Haiti, FAd’H) be re-established, MINUSTAH departs, and the Haitian Constitution and UN Charter be respected.

Their calls of protest fell on the deaf ears of a population well acquainted with their brutality. Finally, Préval’s government was considered to be a great embarrassment. Among other things, it had failed to account for its expenses during the first three months of 2010. Préval himself had campaigned for the State of Emergency Law, although the stated reason for this law was a need to circumvent the State’s corruption. In typical style, he had insisted that everyone dirties their hands along with him and the law be voted on by the entire Parliament. When criticized about dragging the country into the depths of dependency and handicapping the next administration, he shrugged and lapsed into absurdities like Haiti is “a weak state” but still “possesses its sovereignty.”

With the Lower House in the bag, the next obstacle was the Senate. During an April 8, 2010 meeting, the senators voted no to the State of Emergency Law and the IHRC. In advance of another vote on April 13, Préval held a press conference at which he pleaded with the senators not to “miss this chance.” Several demanded to know why he needed the Parliament to ratify a commission with a majority of foreigners.

They pointed out that he could take full responsibility for his miserable commission and establish it by presidential decree. Others, like Acluche Louis Jeune declared: “the president wants to dissolve the Parliament to give the occupier a free hand.” The April 13 vote was successfully blocked by the lack of a quorum. The Haitian Senate then numbered 25 because of two earthquake deaths. It needed a quorum of 16, but only 15 senators participated; two of those senators had showed up merely to snub the meeting.

Enter Michelle Obama on April 14, 2010. What did she do during her surprise visit to Haiti, besides draw fishes and compare them to the more advanced art of the Haitian elementary-school children? What inducements or threats did she bring to the Senate on behalf of the US? Might her statement of the innocent-sounding proverb “Little by little, the bird makes its nest” have been a sign that a deal was made for the occupation?

A late-night parliamentary session the next day did the trick. With barely a quorum of 16 senators, 13 voted for the State of Emergency Law, with all but one of the yes votes coming from INITE. One senator voted against the law, 2 abstained, and 9 stayed away from the meeting altogether. It was extraordinary that even this highly unrepresentative government had put up such a fight for sovereignty. Haiti would not be an easy conquest.

In the IHRC, which was Bill Clinton’s wet dream of a government and was to be led by him, a majority of foreigners had hoped to administer Haiti.

FOURTEEN INDIVIDUALS WOULD REPRESENT FOREIGN INTERESTS

Nine representatives who are major donors. They would be chosen by an IHRC administrative council. This was a strictly pay-to-play affair. To get a seat, a country or institution had to donate at least $100 million over a two-year period or erase debts worth at least $200 million. The original list of these donors included the US, European Union, France, Canada, Brazil, Venezuela, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), United Nations, and World Bank.

One representative of Caricom.
One representative of the Organization of American States (OAS).
One representative for all the other donors without a seat.
One representative of the non-governmental organizations (NGO) in Haiti.
One representative of the Haitian diaspora.

SEVEN UNELECTED INDIVIDUALS WOULD REPRESENT HAITI

Three representatives of the Haitian government, nominated respectively by the executive, judiciary, and local authorities. Jean-Max Bellerive, who was chosen by Clinton for this group, got a laughable equal billing with him. In October 2009, Bellerive had been foisted by the US on Préval as Prime Minister. President Préval himself would not actually be a member but would have symbolic veto rights.

One MP, to be chosen from a list submitted by the political parties in the Lower House.

One senator, to be chosen from a list submitted by the political parties in the Senate.

One union representative, designated by the union syndicates.

One business representative, nominated by the business community.

There is much to be learned from this affair about the leaders of supposed democratic countries. This is how they would run everything if they could. Consider the World Trade Organization (WTO). Watch closely and pray against natural disasters. The next pay-for-play commission might well be for your state or country.

Though the IHRC boasted of its plans to restore urban centers and build homes throughout Haiti, its real mission, also stated quite explicitly, was to proceed with privatizations, in particular the privatization of the sea and air ports of Port-au-Prince. The plans for sweatshops were there too, though not as explicit. Indeed, even as homeless Haitians were being bused one hour away to a desert to live, presumably because there was no room for them in the city, ground was being broken in town for new factories. The IHRC would additionally grant opportunities to foreign companies to invest in agriculture and tourism, which were euphemisms for land grab.

After much controversy in April 2010 about the 11 articles under which Bill Clinton’s IHRC would operate in the country, three new articles were appended to the organization’s charter without oversight. In Article 12, the IHRC gave itself the “full power to deliver proprietary titles and licenses for the construction of hospitals, power companies, ports, and other projects of economic development.” In a clear sign of power reversal, the Article called on Haiti’s ministries to work with the IHRC to accelerate its high-priority projects.

At the conclusion of its 18-month term, the IHRC would become an “Agency for the Development of Haiti,” with an indefinite mandate. So any democratically elected government in the future would find itself at the helm of an island nation, but without control of its ports, and therefore without the means to tax its imports and exports. Much of the country’s lands would be in foreign hands. The only way to raise revenue would be to go begging for aid funds. This had gone on for some time, but it would become institutionalized.

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HAITI, DEVELOPMENT: The Clintons’ Haiti Screw-Up, As Told By Hillary’s Emails

politico.com, by Jonathan M. Katz, September 2, 2015, original
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It’s hard to find anyone these days who looks back on the U.S.-led response to the January 12, 2010, Haiti earthquake as a success, but it wasn’t always that way. Right after the disaster, even as neighborhoods lay in rubble, their people sweltering under tarps, the consensus—outside Haiti—was that America’s “compassionate invasion” (as TIME Magazine called it) had been “largely a success” (Los Angeles Times), offering further proof that “in critical moments of the history of mankind … the United States is, in fact, the indispensable nation” (Expresso, Portugal).

As the latest release of Hillary Clinton’s personal emails by the U.S. State Department Monday revealed, that perception was not an accident. “We waged a very successful campaign against the negative stories concerning our involvement in Haiti,” Judith McHale, the under-secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, wrote on February 26, 2010. A few weeks before, the public affairs chief had emailed newspaper quotations praising U.S. efforts in Haiti to Secretary Clinton with the note “Our Posts at work.” Clinton applauded. “That’s the result of your leadership and a new model of engagement w our own people,” she replied. “Onward!”

But one person even closer to the secretary of state was singing a different tune—very, very quietly. On February 22, after a four-day visit to the quake zone, Chelsea Clinton authored a seven-page memo which she addressed to “Dad, Mom,” and copied their chief aides. That informal report tells acontinuing story of the unique brands of power and intelligence wielded by the Clinton family in Haiti and around the world—and of the uniquely Clinton ways they often undermine themselves.

First off, there was the secrecy. The memo—by a Clinton, with a master’s in public health from Columbia University, pursuing a doctorate in international relations from Oxford and with a prominent role at her family’s foundation—would have obliterated the public narrative of helpful outsiders saving grateful earthquake survivors that her mother’s State Department was working so hard to promote. Instead, like so much of the inner workings of the Clintons’ vast network, it was kept secret, released only in an ongoing dump of some 35,000 emails from Hillary’s private server, in response to a Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit wrapped up in the politics of the 2016 presidential election.

Chelsea Clinton was blunt in her report, confident the recipients would respect her request in the memo’s introduction to remain an “invisible soldier.” She had first come to the quake zone six days after the disaster with her father and then-fiancé, Mark Mezvinsky. Now she was returning with the medical aid group Partners in Health, whose co-founder, Dr. Paul Farmer, was her father’s deputy in his Office of the UN Special Envoy for Haiti. What she saw profoundly disturbed her.

Five weeks after the earthquake, international responders were still in relief mode: U.S. soldiers roamed Port-au-Prince streets on alert for signs of social breakdown, while aid groups held daily coordination meetings inside a heavily guarded UN compound ordinary Haitian couldn’t enter. But Haitians had long since moved on into their own recovery mode, many in displacement camps they had set up themselves, as responders who rarely even spoke the language, Kreyòl, worked around them, oblivious to their efforts.

“The incompetence is mind numbing,” she told her parents. “The UN people I encountered were frequently out of touch … anachronistic in their thinking at best and arrogant and incompetent at worst.” “There is NO accountability in the UN system or international humanitarian system.” The weak Haitian government, which had lost buildings and staff in the disaster, had something of a plan, she noted. Yet because it had failed to articulate its wishes quickly enough, foreigners rushed forward with a “proliferation of ad hoc efforts by the UN and INGOs [international nongovernmental organizations] to ‘help,’ some of which have helped … some of which have hurt … and some which have not happened at all.”

The former first daughter recognized something that scores of other foreigners had missed: that Haitians were not just sitting around waiting for others to do the work. “Haitians in the settlements are very much organizing themselves … Fairly nuanced settlement governance structures have already developed,” she wrote, giving the example of camp home to 40,000 displaced quake survivors who had established a governing committee and a series of sub-committees overseeing security, sanitation, women’s needs and other issues.

“They wanted to help themselves, and they wanted reliability and accountability from their partners,” Chelsea Clinton wrote. But that help was not coming. The aid groups had ignored requests for T-shirts, flashlights and pay for the security committee, and the U.S. military had apparently passed on the committee’s back-up plan that they provide security themselves. “The settlements’ governing bodies—as they shared with me—are beginning to experience UN/INGO fatigue given how often they articulate their needs, willingness to work—and how little is coming their way.”

That analysis went beyond what some observers have taken years to understand, and many others still haven’t: that disaster survivors are best positioned to take charge of their own recovery, yet often get pushed aside by outside authorities who think, wrongly, that they know better. Her report also had more than an echo of the philosophy of her Partners in Health tour guides. More than five years later, her candor and force of insight impress experts. “I am struck by the direct tone and the level of detail,” says Vijaya Ramachandran, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.

Jonathan M. Katz won the James Foley/Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism for his coverage of the 2010 Haiti earthquake and cholera epidemic, and the Overseas Press Club of America’s Cornelius Ryan Award for his book, The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. He reported on the Clintons in Haiti for POLITICO on a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Follow him on Twitter @KatzOnEarth.

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Haiti, Development: Chelsea Clinton, “Incompetence of the Haitian relief effort”

businessinsider.com, by Allan Smith, Insider, 

An email from Chelsea Clinton addressed to “Dad” and “Mom” became one of the more interesting nuggets within former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s State Department email release Monday.

In the 2010 email discussing the Haitian relief efforts following a massive earthquake, Chelsea wrote she was “profoundly disturbed” and “the incompetence was mind-numbing.”

Although the date of the message is not known, the seven-page memo ripping into the United Nations’ handling of the relief effort was written some time after Chelsea had spent four days in Haiti working as a part of the relief effort.

“If we do not quickly change the organization, management, accountability and delivery paradigm on the ground, we could quite conceivably confront tens of thousands of children’s deaths by diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid and other water-related diseases in the near future,” she wrote.

President Barack Obama had announced in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake that Bill Clinton, along with George W. Bush, would be tasked with leading the fundraising effort in conjunction with the United Nations.

At the time, Hillary made a visit to Haiti and assured Haitians that the US would assist in any way possible.

“We will be here today, tomorrow and for the time ahead,” she said.

Americans citizens donated $1.4 billion to recovery efforts in Haiti in the year following the earthquake, and the US government allocated $4 billion for the stricken country,according to NBC. The United Nations said that $13.4 billion had been set aside to spend on Haiti through 2020.

You can read the memo in its entirety here.

Read the original article on INSIDER. Copyright 2015. Follow INSIDER on Twitter.

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Why Is the United States Letting Its Military take over its Foreign Aid?

As America blows billions by using its military as a one-size-fits-all solution for emergencies around the world, USAID is understaffed, underfunded, and on the cusp of crisis.

Why Is the United States Letting Its Best Foreign Aid Tool Fall Apart?

Gown shop owner Jill Andrews is probably not who you would have picked to solve one of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) most pressing problems during the Ebola crisis in West Africa. After all, the Baltimore dressmaker typical day is spent helping soon-to-be brides look “a glass of milk,” as she told the Washington Post. But after responding to an email advertising a challenge (complete with prize money) to help USAID update the so-called “moon-suit” – the protective equipment that medical personnel wear to avoid infection while treating Ebola patients — Andrews became part of a team of experts charged with updating the gear for Liberia’s stifling climate. The problem they were facing was that, in the West African heat, medical personnel could only function in these suits for 20 minutes at a time; in addition to which, contaminated suits were clumsy to remove. But with her help, Andrews’s team developed a suit that not only fit better and was easier to take off, but could be worn three times longer.

At a time when the Defense Department was on its way to spending nearly a billion-and-half dollars to respond to the Ebola crisis, the USAID program fixed a critical glitch by dangling prizes of $100,000 to $1 million to folks who could offer creative (and cost-effective) solutions for healthcare workers on the front lines of the Ebola crisis. Meaning that while the soldiers were in the headlines, America’s most effective and inexpensive agency arm for handling crises of this kind was working to much greater effect with much less fanfare. That’s because these civilian development and humanitarian aid professionals prefer to build local capacity instead of dependency. But USAID’s own capacity is on the cusp of crisis: its staff is divided between veterans who are aging out and greenhorns, with too few in the middle. From the standpoint of national capacity, America has a development donut. And it’s a problem that so far has gone all but unnoticed by policymakers or the public.

The U.S. response to Ebola is a good example of why this matters.

Six months after the response was in full sway, the forces of Operation United Assistance, according to the New York Times, wound up treating only 28 patients at two of the 11 units they had built. Given the total military costs, that’s about five million dollars per patient. The emphasis on constructing treatment centers may have made for good media optics, but it turned out to have much less impact than less expensive, more nimble measures USAID and NGOs took on the ground to halt the outbreak, among them public outreach and education. For one-fifth of that single-patient cost, the kind of public-private crowdsourcing initiative to fix a critical wardrobe malfunction, for instance, proved far more effective.

The “Fighting Ebola Grand Challenge,” launched in December 2014, is only one of many under USAID’s new Grand Challenge for Development program, a new business model featuring community-based, public-private approaches to foreign assistance as opposed to more conventional, top-fed, state-building programs. Also last fall, in partnership with Volvo, USAIDlaunched work on 10 academies to provide industrial skills training to hundreds of students each year from Morocco, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, and other countries. This part of the Middle East and North Africa Investment Initiative is aimed at disenfranchised youth, who are most vulnerable to recruitment by dark and illicit networks.

At the same time, with Shell Foundation and Berytech, USAID beganinvesting in job entrepreneurial capitalization designed to create thousands of sustainable jobs through small enterprises in Iraq and Lebanon, both of which are under a heavy burden from the influx of Syrian refugees and the threat of the Islamic State. Then, in April, the agency revealed a multiyear plan to drive down the price of medicines and increase delivery speed, enabling millions more patients to be treated for the same cost. So far, these innovations — which cost in the millions compared to the billions the Pentagon spends to go after the threats emerging from those same problems in the same places — have scored reasonable successes. But the small scale of the wins shrinks in comparison to the challenges.

Part of the problem is money.

Since 2009, USAID has witnessed about a 16 percent real drop in funding while its partner across the Potomac fought a successful campaign to limit decreases to increases, as I reported a couple months back. But cash flow is the lesser matter. Even if USAID were to get all that money back since the 2010 Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development recognizeddevelopment as evenly vital to U.S. national security and a strategic, economic, and moral imperative, USAID’s institutional lack of bandwidth prevents it from playing on par, no matter how compared. When I was a military liaison at USAID during the Haiti earthquake crisis in early 2010, we saw that USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance — America’s lead mechanism for humanitarian response — could keep no more than two dozen of its personnel for a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) there at one time. In only one location alone, it could field no more than the equivalent of an infantry platoon.

The real issue, therefore, is personnel. Over the last two decades, about one-third of USAID’s professional staff, according to the U.S Global Leadership Coalition has gone away, leaving it more or less a contracting office for NGOs, who are fortunately doing much better aid work than before. But there’s only so much even they can do, given their likewise limited economies of scale — which is one reason a leading global power has an international development ministry to begin with.

At a briefing delivered at the National Defense University in April, USAID’s “Human Capital and Talent Management” staff reported that its agency has about 10,000 personnel total worldwide — about the same number of Army Civil Affairs officers, and about half the number in military bands. Just fewer than 4,000 of these, however, are Foreign Service officers or civil servants — the professional core of the agency. The remainder consists of non-American subject matter experts making up approximately 80 percent of overseas staffing, in addition to contractors. About one-third of senior officers in leadership positions at USAID are political appointees, further limiting the agency’s ability to maintain continuity and focus on a line of work that requires a more strategic, anticipatory approach — much like how Wayne Gretzky skated to where the puck was going rather than where it was.

What really limits America’s capacity, however, to foster its long term international standing and national security is a cavity of human capacity right in the middle of the organization. Over 50 percent of the agency’s professional workforce — its institutional memory — are now past retirement age. Over 70 percent of the remainder has less than five years of experience. That means a serious shortage of seasoned staff in a middle management mode – and a dearth of future seasoned senior leaders.

A hiring “surge” after 9/11 peaked at about 280 people in 2010 has since dropped precipitously to about just over 50 per year. At the same time, attrition has been creeping up with generational turnover kicking in, the losses now outstripping the gains for the past two years. USAID has been employing a number of methods to mitigate the impact, including implementation of a five-year “Global Workforce Learning Strategy” to promote better on-the-job training and align skill sets while keeping staff operationally engaged — with only 10 percent of learning taking place in classrooms.

At that same time, USAID has made significant strides in effectiveness, in good part due to far greater legislative scrutiny than goes to the Pentagon. In addition to installing organizational efficiencies and introducing initiatives like the Grand Challenge for Development, Country Directed Collaboration Strategies, and tapping into techies at Harvard College’s “Developers for Development,” a largely private initiative to leverage “social impact technology” for aid, the agency is doing a better job of demonstrating return on investment, as its Annual Performance Reports have shown since 2007. It has even had the temerity to suspend an under-performing contractor. There are still improvements to be made, but despite those so far, Uncle Sam’s development arm is still atrophying.

Not that anyone seems to care.

If the Armed Forces had anything half approaching the intensity of this kind of human resources handicap, the rafters would be rattling on Capitol Hill. Yet, hardly anyone in the nation’s body politic or the media seems to have noticed this crisis. The Obama administration has so far shown less urgency in exhorting Congress to turn things around at USAID than it has in making the much easier sell not to cut defense spending. And for pretty much the same reason: “national security,” suggesting it hasn’t taken to heart the broader understanding of this term it laid out in its own National Security Strategy that says the United States should be less dependent on military power.

Nor has the administration paid much attention to the well-established reality that humanitarian assistance and economic development are not done well by warfighters, as Iraq and Afghanistan showed. Over two years before the Ebola response, a General Accountability Office report spelled out that too many military-led humanitarian relief efforts have proven outright ineffective if not cost-inefficient.

No doubt there is a key role for the military in disaster relief. DoD’s Joint Humanitarian Assessment Survey Team is working very effectively with the DART, but the military’s role is supporting, not supported in this line of work. It’s not the military’s core competency, although the Universal Joint Task List considers it an important mission.

“Everyone who has done stability operations jobs likes to think they know how to do development,” Blue Glass Development’s Karen Walsh told an audience of military students at the Naval War College in early May, “but I’m willing to bet hardly any of you have ever had any real training or experience in it. There’s no such thing as a Military Occupational Specialty code for development. This has to change if you work in a field with trained professionals.”

The development donut debilitates the ability of the United States to go after the center of gravity — the drivers of conflict and instability rather than the threats emanating from them — of modern people-centric struggles of identity seen in the Middle East and Africa. Governance and civil society closer to communities than capitals also form the locus where the U.S. and it partners can seize an all-too-important strategic opportunity to get at vital gaps in governance and civil society and deny them to extremist groups. The capabilities to address these gaps do not reside in the military — they reside with developers, in and out of government.

Throwing money at problems is almost never an optimal solution.Development, in fact, is not as money-intensive as defense. “We’re smarter about this because we have less money than the military,” Walsh added. Nevertheless, the kind of institutional build-up of the development sector with the same seriousness as to what happened to the defense sector in the 1980s might be in order. But nothing approaching that is in the second Quadrennial Diplomacy & Development Review, as Gordon Adams explainedearlier in this magazine.

Even if Congress were to appropriate all of the recommendations in the State Department’s earlier Diplomacy 3.0 and USAID’s Development Leadership Initiatives, it would amount to only 1,500 more staff at the two agencies — hardly an uptick in their rosters. Both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue as well as the aisle should demand the same kind of rigor the General Accounting Office and many think tanks are devoting to “national security” issues to a systemic and strategic look at the nation’s capability to get at the sources of conflict and instability, as well as create new economic opportunities.

Then they could show USAID the money. The nation’s global developmentbudget this coming fiscal year — covering Development Assistance, Global Health Programs, International Disaster Assistance, Food for Peace, Transition Initiatives, Complex Crises Fund, and organizational administration — will be somewhere around $22-billion, or about half what the Defense Department spends on petroleum, oils, and lubricants for all its equipment. That does not represent a serious investment in something that, as the president put it, demonstrates how America leads with “the example of our values.”

Development has often been seen as something nice-to-do. That has never been true, but less so now than then. It is part of the core business of a country the world continues to rely on but now also more relies on the world, a business linked to peace and prosperity as well as to security. Whether a job for dressmakers or developers, it should not be a boutique industry.

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Media, Development: Stories from the soils: an audio series

Stories from the soils: an audio series produced by AMARC, in collaboration with FAO

2015 has been declared the International Year of Soils (IYS) by the 68th UN General Assembly. The IYS aims to be a platform for raising awareness of the importance of soils for food security and essential eco-system functions.

The IYS aims to attain the following objectives:

  • Create full awareness of civil society and decision makers about the fundamental roles of soils for human’s life;
  • Achieve full recognition of the prominent contributions of soils to food security, climate change adaptation and mitigation, essential ecosystem services, poverty alleviation and sustainable development;
  • Promote effective policies and actions for the sustainable management and protection of soil resources;
  • Sensitize decision-makers about the need for robust investment in sustainable soil management activities aiming at healthy soils for different land users and population groups;
  • Catalyze initiatives in connection with the SDG process and Post-2015 agenda;
  • Advocate rapid enhancement of capacities and systems for soil information collection and monitoring at all levels (global, regional and national).

The multiple roles of soils often go unnoticed. Soils don’t have a voice, and few people speak out for them. They are our silent ally in food production.
José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General

An audio series

As part of the International Year of Soils, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) is partnering with the Office for Corporate Communication of theUnited Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to facilitate the production of 80 audio pieces by producers and community radio journalists in an effort to engage discussion, improve public education and encourage the sharing of scientific knowledge on the topic of environment, climate change, food security, agriculture, sustainable development, resilience and economical, cultural and political issues related to soils.

From March to December 2015, two productions a week will be featured on AMARC’s and FAO’s website. This audio series aims to illustrate how different community interact and deal with issues related to soils. AMARC and FAO wishes to share the communities’ voices and help them resonate on an international level.

More information: http://www.amarc.org/?q=node/2121

If you wish to participate or have a question, please contact secretariat@si.amarc.org

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Haiti, Development: Bill and Hillary – The King and Queen of Haiti

By JONATHAN M. KATZ, May 5, 2015, Politico

Sunday, January 30, 2011. Two hundred thousand people occupied
Egypt’s Tahrir Square, defying a military curfew to demand the ouster
of President Hosni Mubarak. Tunisia’s authoritarian leader had just
been overthrown, unleashing a wave of anti-government protests from
Yemen to Syria to Morocco. South Sudan’s provisional president
announced his people had voted overwhelmingly for independence,
clearing the way for the breakup of Africa’s largest country. Yet as
Hillary Clinton rushed to Andrews Air Force Base to catch her battered
government-issue 727, the secretary of state was not headed to Cairo,
Tunis or Juba. She was going to Haiti.

Haiti doesn’t seem like a place that would be central to a U.S.
presidential candidate’s foreign policy. It’s a small country, whose 10.3
million people inhabit the western third of a Caribbean island the size of
South Carolina. They are the poorest people in the hemisphere when
you average their country’s meager $8.5 billion GDP among them, and
would seem poorer still if you ignored the huge share held by the
country’s tiny elite—which controls virtually everything worth
controlling, from the banks and ports, to agriculture and, often, politics.
It is not a major exporter of anything. Even its location, 500 nautical
miles from the Florida Keys, has been of only passing strategic
importance to the United States since a brutal 1915-1934 U.S.
occupation assured no European power would surpass its influence
there.

Yet the world’s most powerful couple have an abiding interest in this
out-of-the-way place; the island where Bill Clinton four decades ago
recommitted himself to politics after an eye-opening journey and an
evening with a Vodou priest. During her tenure at State, Hillary traveled
to Haiti four times, as often as she did Japan, Afghanistan or Russia. Bill
Clinton continues to visit even as her presidential campaign starts up.
He attended the February dedication of Port-au-Prince’s new luxury
Marriott hotel, a trip on which he reaffirmed, once again, that his work
in Haiti represented “one of the great joys of my life.”

Over the past two decades, the once-and-perhaps-future first couple
repeatedly played a key role in Haiti’s politics, helping to pick its
national leaders and driving hundreds of millions of dollars in private
aid, investment and U.S. taxpayer money toward its development.
They’ve brought with them a network of friends and global corporations
that never would’ve been here otherwise. Together, this network of
power and money has left indelible marks on almost every aspect of the
Haitian economy. The island nation, in many ways, represents ground
zero for the confusing and often conflict-ridden intersection of her
State Department, the Clinton family’s foundation and both of their
foreign policies.

“When it’s happening you don’t realize it, [but] after everything is in
place … you see the Clintons at every level,” says former Haitian Prime
Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, who was Clinton’s co-chairman on the
commission charged with rebuilding Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
“Even if they are clever enough to make you think sometimes that you
are the one having the idea.”

The legacy of the Clintons’ efforts here is decidedly mixed, a murky
story filled with big promises and smaller results. Despite the huge
amounts of aid and investment, the sweeping visions they’ve offered of
transformative prosperity—promises delivered by a broad network of
friends they recruited and deals they negotiated—have been tripped up
by realities on the ground.

Five years after the hemisphere’s deadliest single natural disaster,
when both Clintons assumed leading roles in the rebuilding efforts,
little progress has been made on many core problems in Haiti, and the
government that Hillary Clinton helped put in power during that
January 2011 trip—and that both Clintons have backed strongly since—
has proven itself unworthy of that trust. Economic growth is stalling,
and the nation’s politics look headed for a showdown in the next year
that could once again plunge the country into internal strife.

A World Bank study released in December showed that despite modest
declines in extreme poverty—mainly in the capital, Port-au-Prince—
Haiti remains the poorest and most economically depressed country on
the continent, with the richest 20 percent of households accounting for
64 percent of the country’s total income. (The bottom one-fifth of the
population earns less than 1 percent.) The report warned that
impending political instability could quickly reverse the few gains made
since the earthquake.

Hillary Clinton once hoped that Haiti would be the shining jewel of her
foreign policy. But far from transforming this poorest of countries,
many of the Clintons’ grandest plans and promises remain little more
than small pilot projects—a new set of basketball hoops and a model
elementary school here, a functioning factory there—that have done
little to alter radically the trajectory of the country. Visiting some of
their projects over the course of an April research trip affirmed as much
about their tenuousness as about the limited benefits they’ve provided.
Many of the most notable investments the Clintons helped launch, such
as the new Marriott in the capital, have primarily benefited wealthy
foreigners and island’s ruling elite, who needed little help to begin with.

Even for those who know how Haiti operates, there are many more
questions than answers when one examines the Clintons’ recent work.
Did Hillary Clinton keep her promise when she said, soon after taking
office at State, that “we will demonstrate to ourselves as well as to the
people of Haiti and far beyond that we can, working together, make a
significant difference”?

Five years after her husband pledged to Esquire magazine that he was
“prepared to spend three years” helping Haitians get “the right things
for their country,” what does it mean that the vast majority of Haitians
still haven’t gotten much of anywhere?
***
The Clintons like to cast their relationship with Haiti in personal
terms—invariably starting with their 1975 visit as newlyweds to Portau-
Prince, where they watched Vodou penitents walk on coals and the
country’s then-dictator, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, lay a wreath
at the base of a memorial to Haiti’s founding victory over slavery and the
French empire. But there is more than sentiment at stake.

When Hillary Clinton became secretary of state in 2009, America’s
poorest neighbor was slated to be one of the first beneficiaries of what
she called “the power of proximity.” One of her first directives at State
was to review U.S. policy toward Haiti—“an opportunity,” she would
write in her memoir Hard Choices, “to road-test new approaches to
development that could be applied more broadly around the world.”
That approach had business at its center: Aid would be replaced by
investment, the growth of which would in turn benefit the United
States. Underscoring the importance of the policy, she tasked her chief
of staff—former Clinton White House deputy counsel Cheryl Mills—to
oversee the Haiti review personally.

Clinton had two other tools to make Haiti an even more auspicious
“road test.” Shortly after she was confirmed, her husband accepted
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s offer to serve as his
special envoy for Haiti. As president, Bill Clinton had intensified a
crippling embargo against Haiti’s then-ruling military junta and ordered
the 1994 U.S. invasion to restore the democratically elected president,
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to power. Now he was supposed to finish the
job, spearheading development after a hunger crisis and a series of
damaging hurricanes that had struck in late 2008. Haitians weren’t sure
what to think: Clinton was popular with the masses for returning
Aristide to power and hated by the elites for the same reason. But few
understood his vague new role. Joking that he must be coming back to
lead a new colonial regime, the Haitian press dubbed him Le
Gouverneur.

The other tool was the Clinton Foundation, which was simultaneously
embarking on its own program to boost Haiti’s economy, securing
commitments worth more than $130 million from foreign leaders,
corporate executives and philanthropists to help Haiti “build back
better,” as Clinton put it, from the 2008 storms.

Everything seemed to be falling into place when, on January 12, 2010, a
magnitude-7.0 earthquake ripped through the mountains of Haiti’s
southern peninsula, leveling much of the capital and killing 100,000 to
316,000 people—the deadliest single natural disaster ever recorded in
the hemisphere. The earthquake destroyed the presidential palace,
government ministries, schools, offices and countless homes.

It also threatened to upend the Clinton State Department’s nascent
Haiti policy. Mills’ team had completed its review just a few hours
before the ground shook, concluding in a draft report that Haiti was
poised for an economic renaissance, citing indicators such as marginal
declines in child mortality and upticks in employment in the country’s
garment-assembly industry. Undeterred, in the final, 89-page postquake
version of the report, the State Department team would call the
response to the disaster “a moment for U.S. partnership, leadership and
strategic investment.”

I was the Associated Press correspondent in Haiti at the time. I had been
posted in Port-au-Prince for 2 ½ years when the earthquake shattered
the walls of my house with me inside. That night, suddenly homeless
like millions of others, I moved through the devastated city with my
Haitian friend and colleague, Evens Sanon, taking stock of the
devastation and watching Haitians rescue and comfort one another as
best they could. The living sang prayers of salvation. Everyone was
waiting to see what kind of help would come. I remained in Haiti for
another year to report on the response, watching up close the central
role Hillary and Bill Clinton came to play in the attempt to rebuild.

Four days after the quake, Hillary Clinton was at Port-au-Prince’s
damaged airport, holding meetings with then-Haitian President René
Préval. That same day, Bill Clinton was in the White House Rose Garden
with President Barack Obama, agreeing to lead fundraising efforts on
behalf of the beleaguered country along with former President George
W. Bush. Two days later, on January 18, Bill arrived in the quake zone
with daughter Chelsea and her fiancé, Marc Mezvinsky. In short order,
the Clintons became the most important figures in the response. They
co-moderated a U.N. donors conference at which 150 nations and
organizations pledged $9 billion for Haiti’s recovery. Bill was tapped at
the same meeting to co-chair the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, a
nominally Haitian entity that was supposed to direct the spending. At
every stage of Haiti’s reconstruction—fundraising, oversight and
allocation—a Clinton was now involved.

“I believe, before this earthquake, Haiti had the best chance in my
lifetime to escape its history, a history that Hillary and I have shared a
tiny part of. I still believe that,” Bill Clinton had said in the Rose Garden,
alongside Obama and Bush. “It is still one of the most remarkable,
unique places I have ever been, and they can escape their history and
build a better future if we do our part.”
***
Hillary Clinton never took her eye off Haiti as secretary of state, even
as so many geopolitical hotspots competed for attention. The island
represented a key piece of what Clinton called “economic statecraft”—
her theory that U.S. foreign policy should not simply respond to security
threats but should actively bolster both America’s economy and global
influence through diplomacy, trade and economic development abroad.
By far the most consequential moment was that visit on Sunday,
January 30, 2011. Two months before, just 10 months after the quake,
Haiti had plowed ahead with a presidential election under pressure
from Washington. Donors blamed then-President Préval, a skeptic of
foreign aid and investment, for what had clearly become a glacial mess
of a reconstruction effort. In short, they wanted him out. But the
election was a fiasco. Voting halted five hours early on Election Day as
nearly every candidate threw out accusations of fraud. When the results
showed the candidate of Préval’s party advancing to a runoff anyway,
supporters of the eliminated No. 3 candidate, the Haitian pop star
Michel Martelly—better known by his stage name, “Sweet Micky”—
rioted in protest for days.

Despite all that was happening around the globe that day, the secretary’s
most important mission was to make sure all the parties in Haiti agreed
to put Martelly back into the race—salvaging the election, in her view,
and with it Haiti’s place in U.S. economic statecraft.

Martelly was a left-field candidate, a massively popular singer famous
for taking off his pants during performances. But he was not a political
neophyte. A longtime resident of Miami, he’d been a strong backer of the
now-disbanded Haitian military and an opponent of Aristide. In 2002,
the Washington Post called him a “favorite of the thugs who worked on
behalf of the hated Duvalier family dictatorship before its 1986
collapse.” Martelly was also a businessman and, in contrast to Préval, an
enthusiastic backer of foreign investment in Haiti.

Clinton met with the top three candidates at the U.S. ambassador’s
mansion in the hills above Port-au-Prince. Then she went to the
grounds of the destroyed national palace to confront a recalcitrant
Préval.

“That day I realized why she is a great woman and a great politician,”
former Prime Minister Bellerive, who was at the meeting, told me. “She
said, ‘Look René … I care about you, because you are my only friend
there. … What is happening in the international community is that they
are making you appear as a little crook that wants to control the
elections and put a puppet in the national palace. We cannot accept that.
Because, in a way, you are the father of the democracy. You are the only
president that was elected two times … that never [fled] the country,
that never killed people, that enforced liberty of press. She went into a
story I’ve never heard about what President Préval represented and I
see that guy—vvvvhh—deflate. And he was not anymore in a fight mood.
So my [election files] that I brought were never used. At the end of it,
when we separated, I realized that the fight was over.”

Bill Clinton applauded from a few feet away.

Many in Haiti thought the Clintons’ influence had reached its peak
when, shortly after Martelly took office, he selected one of Bill Clinton’s
top aides, Garry Conille, to be his prime minister. Conille had been Bill
Clinton’s chief of staff at the U.N. Office of the Special Envoy, and many
in the Haitian political elite assumed that the Clintons had imposed him
to keep an eye on the unpredictable new president.

If that was the idea, it failed. Conille lasted just four months. He was
replaced by Laurent Lamothe, Martelly’s longtime business partner,
whom the former pop star had once referred to, lovingly, as a “true
bandit” in a song.

Things have only gotten more discordant since. Haiti has not held a
single election, at any level, in Martelly’s four years in office. Parliament
disbanded late last year when the terms of its members expired, leaving
Martelly to rule by decree. Both the Clintons and the State Department
tried to remain enthusiastic about the Martelly-Lamothe
administration. But when opposition protests broke out last year, even
Bill’s last-ditch endorsement of the prime minister in a Miami Herald
interview could not save him from being forced to resign.

Shortly thereafter, a New York Times article by reporter Frances Robles
spotlighted criminality surrounding the Martelly administration,
including its protection of members of an alleged kidnapping and drug
smuggling ring. A day after the article’s publication, one of the most
prominent allies of the president, Woodley Ethéart, was indicted on
charges of kidnapping and murder—only to be freed within weeks.
I asked Hillary Clinton’s spokesperson, Nick Merrill, whether Martelly’s
track record had changed her opinion about the leader she helped put in
power. “She supports democratic elections, just like she did as
secretary,” Merrill said. He declined further comment.
***
The hardest thing about evaluating the Clintons’ work in Haiti is that
there is so much of it. There’s the Clinton Foundation, which has
directed $36 million to Haiti since 2010, but also the $55 million spent
through the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, and the $500 million in
commitments made through the Clinton Global Initiative’s Haiti Action
Network. On Hillary’s side, there’s her own diplomacy, the State
Department’s Office of the Haiti Special Coordinator, and the U.S.
Embassy in Port-au-Prince, as well as the U.S. Agency for International
Development, whose administrator reported to her.

The amounts of money over which the Clintons and their foundation
had direct control paled beside the $16.3 billion that donors pledged in
all. Even Bill’s U.N. Office of the Special Envoy couldn’t track where all
of that went—and the truth is that still today no one really knows how
much money was spent “rebuilding” Haiti. Many initial pledges never
materialized. A whopping $465 million of the relief money went through
the Pentagon, which spent it on deployment of U.S. troops—20,000 at
the high water mark, many of whom never set foot on Haitian soil. That
money included fuel for ships and planes, helicopter repairs and
inscrutables such as an $18,000 contract for a jungle gym that I found
buried in the U.S. Navy’s Haiti bills. Huge contracts were doled out to
the usual array of major contractors, including a $16.7 million logistics
contract whose partners included Agility Public Warehousing KSC, a
Kuwaiti firm that was supposed to have been blacklisted from doing
business with Washington after a 2009 indictment alleging a conspiracy
to defraud the U.S. government during the Iraq War. (That case is still
pending in U.S. federal court.)

But even looking at money and institutional heft alone barely captures
the reach and influence of the Clintons’ network in Haiti: a vast, diffuse
web of power in all its 21st-century permutations. Take the story of
actor Sean Penn and his unlikely transformation into a Haiti power
player. Penn used his celebrity to establish the aid group J/P HRO in the
weeks after the earthquake, then to forge a friendship with Bill Clinton
—who in turn used his foundation and his own celebrity to help turn J/P
HRO into one of the most powerful NGOs in Haiti. That led to deeper
ties to the newly elected government of Martelly, which named Penn an
ambassador.

When I returned to Haiti in April for nine days, the Clinton Foundation
put me in touch with about a dozen projects it is still running there.
Many surely do excellent work, such as the Haitian medical group
GHESKIO, one of the world’s oldest AIDS clinics, which is now engaged
in a host of medical issues including battling the pernicious cholera
epidemic imported into Haiti by United Nations peacekeepers in 2010.
The Clinton Global Initiative supports coffee growers and peanut
farmers, and has helped the Swiss fragrance supplier Firmenich expand
its access to Haitian limes and vetiver, a key oil in perfumes.
The money given directly by Clinton entities, often a few hundred
thousand dollars, is small change compared to the billions floating
around the humanitarian industry and the corporate world. But the
combination of carefully targeted money and connections is invaluable,
says GHESKIO’s founder, Dr. Jean William Pape: “He’s a catalyst. He
doesn’t give you funds to throw away. He gives you funds to get you
started.”

The Clintons have also had a hand in nearly all the new luxury hotel
projects that have sprung up around the Haitian capital. Denis O’Brien,
the billionaire owner of the major cellphone provider Digicel and
principal investor in the swank $45 million Marriott that just opened in
Port-au-Prince, said Bill Clinton conceived the project. “He said to the
two of us [O’Brien and Marriott CEO Arne Sorensen], ‘Why don’t you
build a hotel?’ And after a bit of a conversation, about half an hour, we
said, ‘We’ll put up the money.’”

One of the Clinton Foundation’s favorite lines is: “Everywhere we go,
we’re trying to work ourselves out of a job.” But at least in the case of
Haiti, it’s hard to see how that would happen. The Clintons themselves
are the only thing linking all of these projects and initiatives.
More than money, in other words, what the Clintons really provide is
access. That dynamic both leaves them open to criticism and makes
people loath to criticize for fear of being left on the outside. “I don’t
want to use names, but I have seen bad businessmen around Mr. Clinton
badmouthing the good businessmen and then the good businessmen,
seeing that, come into the Clinton Foundation. It’s life, it’s like that,”
says Leslie Voltaire, a longtime Haitian politician and government
minister who served as the Préval government’s liaison to Clinton at the
U.N. Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti. “Every businessman looks to
see if they can be next to power.”
***
The Clintons are hardly the first foreigners to try to remake this
island. The ancestors of today’s Haitians were survivors of one of the
most brutal periods of slavery, torture and exploitation the world has
ever known. More than 910,000 kidnapped Africans were taken to what
was then the French colony of Saint-Domingue between 1679 and 1797,
according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database at Emory
University. Their labor on sugar and coffee plantations turned the
colony into France’s most valuable engine of economic growth. That
period ended with the 1791-1804 Haitian Revolution, the only successful
slave revolt in modern history, which created the second-oldest
republic in the Western Hemisphere, behind the United States—and the
first in which all people were free. Haiti’s former French masters,
though, exacted a crippling indemnity in compensation for what they
deemed the lost value of land and bodies.

For the past century, it’s been the Americans, not the French, who
repeatedly reshaped the political landscape here. On July 1, 1915, the
U.S.S. Washington arrived on the north coast of Haiti, nominally in
response to political turmoil on the island. Within weeks, U.S. Marines
had taken the capital, placing the United States in control of Haiti’s
government and finances. Five U.S. presidents oversaw the occupation
of Haiti, waging war against Haitian insurgents, rewriting laws and
ensuring, as Duke University historian Laurent Dubois has written, a
“Haitian government [that] was compatible with American economic
interests and friendly to foreign investments.”

The Marines’ departure in 1934 did not end U.S. involvement in Haiti.
Exactly sixty years later, President Clinton ordered a new American
invasion—Operation Uphold Democracy—to restore exiled President
Aristide, who had been deposed in a 1991 coup. The story of the Clintons
and the first black republic had already been underway for a long time.
Their December 1975 trip as newlyweds is often described by the
Clintons as a seminal journey. It was paid for by a friend, Edwin David
Edwards, a junior executive at Citibank who had just set off a firestorm
by accusing his bank of improper currency transactions in the
Caribbean.

The newly married couple were at a critical juncture in their political
lives. Bill had just lost a congressional race in Arkansas and was giving
up on national politics. It was in Haiti that he decided instead to embark
on a run for Arkansas attorney general—the race that turned out to be
the start of his journey to the White House and, arguably, the beginning
of Hillary’s public life as well. We may never know what moved him. But
an important moment came outside the capital, at the Vodou temple of
Max Beauvoir, a Sorbonne- and City College of New York-educated
houngan, or priest. After a ceremony honoring Ogou—the god of iron,
war and politics—the Clintons and Beauvoir sat all night by the coralstone
peristyle talking about faith and the future, the houngan told me.
“We reached the conclusion that the pursuit of God is the pursuit of
excellence,” he recalls.

When Clinton ran for president in 1992, he blasted the George H.W.
Bush administration for rounding up boats of Haitians fleeing the
military junta that ousted Aristide and for taking too light a hand
countering the junta itself, many of whose leaders had received U.S.
training or money. Ultimately, Clinton’s intervention returned Aristide
to power. But Aristide did not live up to White House expectations. In
the years ahead, U.S. relations worsened, and in 2004 the George W.
Bush administration provided a plane to fly him into exile, touching off
years of instability and lost growth, all capped by the 2010 earthquake.
That last disaster presented another chance for the U.S. to get involved
and another chance for redemption.

Today, driving east from the city of Cap-Haïtien—where the U.S.S
Washington first arrived 100 years ago this summer—out along Haiti’s
north coast, past the banana-tree farms at the foothills of the Massif du
Nord, you enter the hotbed of U.S. post-quake reconstruction. The
agricultural region, a bumpy six-hour drive from Port-au-Prince, was
partly chosen to encourage people to disperse from places devastated by
the 2010 disaster. Development plans for the corridor include expanded
tourist facilities (visitors are expected to flock to the Citadelle
Laferrière, a monumental 19th-century Haitian fortress and UNESCO
World Heritage Site; Royal Caribbean’s lone pier in the country is also
nearby), ports, schools, roads and electrification. American Airlines
recently began flights to Cap-Haïtien.

The linchpin is the $300 million, 600-acre Caracol Industrial Park,
financed by U.S. taxpayer money and Inter-American Development
Bank and geared toward making clothes for export to the United States.
The Clintons were instrumental at nearly every step in its creation. The
development program Bill came to sell as U.N special envoy, written by
Oxford University economist Paul Collier, had garment exports at its
center.

As only he can, Bill Clinton managed to tout the idea as an exciting
departure from Haiti’s past. He successfully lobbied the U.S. Congress to
eliminate tariffs on textiles sewn in Haiti. (The powerful Association
des Industries d’Haiti lobbied, too, paying at least $550,000 to a D.C.
lobbying firm led by Andrew Samet, a former Clinton Labor Department
official, and Ronald Sorini, who was the chief U.S. Trade Representative
negotiator on textiles during the North American Free Trade Agreement
talks.)

Clinton won headlines by apologizing for having maintained as
president the import-substitution policies that destroyed Haiti’s food
sector—policies built on the dangerously misguided theory that factory
jobs obviated the need to produce rice and other food locally. He made a
special point to note that the policy had benefited farmers in his home
state of Arkansas. The message was clear: This time would be different.
And he had grand plans for what the industry could become. Clinton
predicted that with the right support to the garment sector, 100,000 jobs
would be created “in short order.”

Secretary Clinton joined in too: She hired Collier’s research partner in
Haiti, Soros Economic Development Fund consultant Jean-Louis
Warnhoz, as a senior adviser. She and her key aide Cheryl Mills
negotiated an agreement between the Haitian and U.S. governments,
multilateral financiers and the South Korean textile giant Sae-A
Trading Co. Ltd., which makes clothes for Old Navy, Walmart, Kohl’s,
Target and other retailers. The Haitian government provided the land.
To create a “plug and play” environment in a country lacking nearly all
basic services, IADB and USAID invested millions in roads, water
systems, a power plant, executive dormitories and the warehouse-like
“shells” that would house the factories. The Clinton Foundation “helped
to promote Caracol as an investment destination and worked … to
attract new tenants and investments to the park,” says Greg Milne, the
foundation’s director of Haiti programs.

In October 2012, Hillary and Bill Clinton flew down to join President
Martelly at the ribbon-cutting, where she pledged, “Our partnership, I
promise you, will extend far beyond my time as secretary of state. And
so, too, will the personal commitment that my husband and I have to
Haiti.”

If things went as planned, Caracol would be a triumph of the Clintons’
core model: the “public/private partnership”—U.S. taxpayer dollars,
Haitian land and private corporations working together to put cheap
clothes on American shelves and wages in Haitian pockets.

Today’s reality, though, falls far short of the 2012 dream—despite an
incredible financial investment. Far from 100,000 jobs—or even the
60,000 promised within five years of the park’s opening—Caracol
currently employs just 5,479 people full time. That comes out to roughly
$55,000 in investment per job created so far; or, to put it another way,
about 30 times more per job than the average Sae-A worker makes per
year. The park, built on the site of a former U.S. Marine-run slave labor
camp during the 1915-1934 U.S. occupation, has the best-paved roads
and manicured sidewalks in the country, but most of the land remains
vacant.

The park’s boosters respond that the number of employees has doubled
in the past year. One of Haiti’s richest men, Richard Coles, is opening a
new factory to produce for Hanesbrands there. The park’s 10-megawatt
plant is providing electricity to more than 8,000 people in the
surrounding area under a pilot project run by a Beltway-based energy
cooperative, bypassing the weak national electric utility. Mark D’Sa, a
former Gap Inc. sourcing director who now works for the State
Department, laughed at the idea that anyone could evaluate Caracol’s
success or failure after only 2 ½ years. “It’s a half-baked idea that’s still
in the oven,” he says, approvingly.

But the workers have their own complaints, starting with pay. Aselyne
Jean-Gilles, 35, makes the minimum 225 gourdes a day, or about $4.75.
She says she spends $3.19 on food, plus 45 cents each way for a group
taxi that takes her from her home in Cap-Haïtien to a town where she
can catch a free shuttle to work. She does not have children yet. “If you
do, you can’t afford to do anything,” she says.

Inside, Sae-A’s three warehouses are kept reasonably comfortable by
giant fans. A disc jockey plays Haitian kompa music to keep workers
energized. Enormous U.S., Haitian and South Korean flags hang
overhead. Seamstresses sit in forward-facing rows, stitching and
passing forward Mossimo and Old Navy tops under the glow of red signs
that keep track of the daily “meta,” or quota (the signs were imported,
along with middle managers, from older Sae-A factories in Central
America, at least one of which closed as the Haiti project was opening).
Quality checkers stand all day at the end of the row, discarding clothes
unfit for export. “From 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., I stand and stand. I can’t sit
down,” says Tamara Pierre, a 22-year-old quality checker, rubbing her
visibly swollen ankles as she waits for a bus home.

Outside the park’s walls some 336 families say they were forced off the
land to make way for Caracol and were not compensated enough to
make up for the loss of livelihoods. It was good, productive farmland in a
deforested, hungry country—chosen by the park’s planners precisely
because of its access to a good water supply. The farmers’ claims are
hard to prove, in large part because Haitian land law is a mess. Five
years after it became clear that disputes over land tenure were halting
reconstruction after the quake, Haiti still lacks a functioning land
registry.

Park officials say the proper channels were followed and compensation
was more generous than it had to be. But the peasant farmers believe
that once again they were taken advantage of by unaccountable, distant
powers. “Mr. and Mrs. Clinton,” specifies Milostene Castin, an area
farmer and organizer with the community group Je Nan Je, or “Eye to
Eye,” “they have been there since the cornerstone was laid. I think they
have monetary interests and political interests in the park.”

When I mentioned that President Clinton had apologized for harming
Haitian farmers in the past, Castin was unimpressed. “We call on them
to invest in the people, respect human rights and the law,” he says.
To many close observers of Haiti, the Clintons made the same mistake
that has been made for generations. Though striking a populist pose, in
practice they were attracted to power in Haiti, which meant making
alliances and friendships within the Haitian elite. “The strong push
toward Caracol is evidence of this,” says Robert Maguire, an expert on
development in Haiti and the director of The George Washington
University’s Latin American and Hemispheric Studies Program. Their
project responded not as much to the “more inclusive development
priorities pushed for by most Haitians and their government … but
rather to those supported by Haiti’s economic elites, who stood to
benefit the most from them.”

That does not mean that the Haitian elite are all fans of the Clintons. Far
from it. Many still smart over Bill’s decision to reinstate the overthrown
Aristide. Others are resentful of the power and money the Clintons
bring with them in their entourage, including billionaires like O’Brien
(who in turn have no love for the oligarchical power of the Haitian
import-export cartels). But infighting, the maneuvering of power and
political brinkmanship have long been tactics of the Haitian elite.
In a way, some whisper in Port-au-Prince, it’s as if the Clintons have
joined their ranks.
***
The Washington Post recently wrote that “the Clintons’ long
influence in Haiti is hard to overstate.” It’s indeed hard—but not
impossible. While the Clintons and their allies sometimes seem to be
omnipresent, they are not omnipotent. In part, that’s because, as a rule,
things in Haiti do not go as planned.

The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission closed shop in 2011, derided
for ineffectiveness and decisions “not necessarily aligned with Haitian
priorities,” according to the Government Accountability Office. In
December 2010, the IHRC’s Haitian members protested in a letter that
they were being sidelined by Clinton, Bellerive and major donors on the
board, including the U.S. representative to thecommission, Mills. “In
reality, Haitian members of the board have one role: to endorse the
decisions made by the Director and Executive Committee,” they wrote.
Washington was a bigger obstacle. Congress capped the U.S. money it let
the IHRC control at a comparatively tiny $120 million, and the Obama
administration then issued instructions on how the money had to be
spent. “That was the end of the trust fund as it was intended,” a former
senior Haitian commission official told me. (In a recent interview, Bill
Clinton told Town & Country that the IHRC was “incredibly
cumbersome.”)

Other allegations of double-dealing and pocket-lining have been based
on the dubious idea that the Clintons can do as they please in Haiti.
Conservative author Peter Schweizer recently set off a media storm
when he reported that a small mining company with rights to dig in
northern Haiti had Tony Rodham, Hillary’s brother, on its board. On a
sunbaked April morning, I hiked up a narrow path on Morne Bossa, the
mountain 160 miles north of Port-au-Prince where that mine is
supposed to end up. Spectacular countryside surrounded us. In the
distance, across a wide green valley, the Citadelle Laferrière soared atop
a 3,000-foot peak. Our destination inspired less awe: a sawed-off PVC
pipe in a concrete base the size of a shoebox, from which the company—
Victory, Championship, Strategic Mining—occasionally takes samples.
Schweizer’s report triggered a lot of speculation, inside Haiti and out,
that the Clinton network was enriching itself in Haiti, and that lonely
pipe on a remote hill became an object of fascination for the political
press. But the site looked more like another example of overblown
promises than a master scheme. There was no mining equipment
nearby, and judging by the complete lack of activity at VCS Mining’s
nearby office, little sign any would come soon.

VCS CEO Angelo Viard told me Rodham was a financial adviser, not a
member of the board as had been reported, and that he had met him—
through the Clinton Global Initiative—after the Haitian government had
already granted him the right to explore for gold and copper. “Mr.
Rodham … said very clearly, Haiti has been hurt by so many disasters, if
there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know. And we said, ‘Hey,
you might be able to help us with the capital,’ and he was very happy to
do so,” Viard told me. He estimates he needs $60 million to begin
digging, whenever the government might allow it again.

All mining programs in Haiti are on hold while the country’s mining law
is reviewed. VCS’s office, full of dusty bags and wooden boxes of rocks,
have no active staff beside the caretaker, Williamcite Noel, whose main
qualifications seem to be speaking a bit of English and living near the
site.

Many observers I spoke to think Viard is more likely to try and flip the
company than to ever actually start blasting the ground. What role Tony
Rodham might play in the company’s future, or what money he might
make off a future deal, is just as unclear as the mine’s future. Its
potential may never amount to anything, which some argue might
actually be the better outcome for Haiti. An open-pit mine on the site
could create environmental havoc while destroying the gorgeous view
from the Citadelle, harming tourism potential in the years ahead.
Others have questioned a $500,000 donation to the Clinton Foundation
made by the Algerian government after the 2010 earthquake, and a
$900,000 donation by Boeing to support Haitian schools at the same
time Secretary Clinton was lobbying the Russian government to buy
that company’s planes. The foundation has acknowledged it violated an
ethics agreement with the Obama White House by taking the Algerian
donation. Boeing indeed won a major contract, according to the
Washington Post.

But, though tracing the money in Haiti is difficult, there are no solid
indications that the donations went anywhere other than where they
were supposed to go. A Clinton Foundation spokesman says the
Algerian money went into a $16.4 million direct aid fund, which in turn
provided money to groups including Partners in Health, the operating
fund of the IHRC, and Sean Penn’s J/P HRO.

Boeing’s money went to a now-defunct NGO named Architecture for
Humanity, which rebuilt a quake-damaged school in the impoverished
Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Bel-Air. I visited on a recent school day.
While the new building does not scream luxury—there is no library or
computer lab, barely any furniture, and the school building does not get
electricity—it does seem to be a well-put-together piece of construction,
certainly by Haitian standards, where schools collapsed from shoddy
building materials even before the earthquake. The former lead for the
project, Kate Evarts, told me that while she no longer has immediate
access to the books, she thinks that $900,000 sounds about right as a
price tag when considering fees, licenses and the cost of subcontractors. The foundation says some money also went to teacher training.

Following the money in Clinton Foundation projects is often a
challenge. In recent weeks, under media pressure, the foundation has
admitted that its bookkeeping and transparency have been lacking at
times. Last week, after days of questions and press reports about the
Clinton Foundation’s work in various countries, acting CEO Maura
Pally posted a statement explaining the foundation was committed to
transparency: “Yes, we made mistakes, as many organizations of our
size do, but we are acting quickly to remedy them, and have taken steps
to ensure they don’t happen in the future.”

Even poring over documents doesn’t tell you much: In 2013, the most
recent tax year for which disclosures are available, the foundation
raised $295 million overall and spent $223 million—of which it says
$197 million, or 88 percent, went to “program services.” That
intentionally vague term, used universally by NGOs across the aid
world, includes anything that can be justifiably linked to specific
projects including travel, office expenses and salaries.

Clinton Foundation officials told me that, “unlike most organizations
operating in Haiti, the Clinton Foundation and its Haiti program do not
charge overhead expenses or collect an administrative fee for our work.”
It is easy to see how the Clintons’ influence in Haiti—where the power
players are few and the vast majority of people live on less than $2 a day
—can be misunderstood or raise suspicions. There is little transparency
in Haiti. Almost every deal, even a legitimate one, gets made out of sight
—and over the past five years, the Clintons have seemingly had a
representative or friend in all the most important backrooms. That
power discrepancy, along with the Clintons’ fondness for keeping their
cards close to the vest, has led to wild rumors everywhere. Many center
on the Clintons supposedly buying land, the traditional source of wealth
and power. “I’ve heard people say Bill Clinton was trying to buy the
Citadelle!” laughs Michele Oriol, an expert on land rights with a Haitian
government agency.

The complexity and limits of the Clinton model in Haiti can be summed
up in a complex of 750 pastel-colored houses up the road from Caracol.
The residents of Village La Difference are happy to have homes with
electricity and water cisterns. But the settlement has been plagued by
construction problems since the beginning. Two USAID contractors
have been suspended for failures including using shoddy concrete
blocks and failing to separate water and sewage pipes.

The village’s shining feature, however, and its most Clintonian
innovation, is a school. Lekol S&H’s monthly $8,400 budget is funded by
Sae-A. It’s a savvy public relations move that has yielded what is
probably the most dynamic elementary school in the country. The
principal, Jean V. Mirvil, was recruited from P.S. 73 in the Bronx. He and
his teachers, many of whom have completed teaching school (a rarity),
devised a cutting-edge curriculum that emphasizes instruction in
Kreyòl, rather than French, the traditional language of education and
the elites.

Like many of the Clintons’ interventions in Haiti, it is not a direct
project of the foundation but what Mirvil happily referred to as “the
Clinton network.” The Clintons provided contacts ranging from USAID
trainers to the Brooklyn Nets, who donated the basketball hoops out
back. Gold plaques in the hallways and cafeteria bear the hand-scrawled
inscriptions in English: “My best wishes to the children who will be
educated here and congratulations to Sae-A!—Hillary Rodham Clinton.”
(Bill’s scrawl adds, “To the children: Learn a lot!”)

But barring an angel investor willing to pay for the program nationwide
for a generation or so, Lekol S&H remains essentially a one-off,
dependent on a single company’s decision to stay and keep paying the
bills. The model is precarious—particularly given the increasingly likely
possibility that Haiti reenters a period of political instability.
***
Haiti’s current political troubles fall short of what might cause real
problems for Hillary Clinton as she touts her foreign policy bona fides
during her White House run. But that could quickly change.
Impatience with President Martelly is growing at all levels, even inside
the State Department. With the falling price of oil and the death of
Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, the seemingly free PetroCaribe money that
has bankrolled Haiti’s meager growth—and the Martelly
administration’s tenuous hold on power—is running out.

With the Martelly administration now able to set up elections on its
own terms, the long-delayed parliament vote is scheduled for August.
New presidential elections are slated for October. Martelly is barred
from running for reelection by the constitution. Both Lamothe and the
president’s wife, Sofia Martelly, are rumored to be exploring runs. No
one knows if the elections will go off on time.

“If the election is not held this year and there is a high level of violence
and turmoil, [the U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti] decides to leave, and
the 82nd Airborne or the Marines have to be sent here to keep order,
then yes, this could affect the U.S. election. It could lead to questioning
the ability of a Democrat in the White House to keep peace and stability
in a country like Haiti,” says Lionel Delatour, a prominent Haitian
businessman with ties to many in the U.S. government and private
sector. “The likelihood of such a series of events to take place is very
remote. But we have surprised the world before.”

The real date to watch is May 15, 2016, when Martelly’s five-year term
ends. If no election is held by then, a transitional government will take
power, there will be a constitutional crisis, or both. That date will fall
almost precisely as Hillary Clinton hopes to wrap up the Democratic
primaries and turn to the general election. Instability in a place where
she and her husband have planted a big flag would hardly help her
campaign.

It’s impossible to say how all this will turn out. From top to bottom, the
Clintons’ work in Haiti is far from over. Many promises remain
unfulfilled; many projects still, as D’Sa put it, “half-baked.” Bill Clinton
still goes there frequently, including a February stop to join Martelly
and O’Brien at the opening of the Port-au-Prince Marriott. His
comments are ever boosterish, but tinged with frustration. “If everyone
knew this country the way Denis and I do, your incomes would be three
times higher than they are, people would be flooding in here every day,
and we wouldn’t have had the problems we do,” the former president
told a group of Haitians, according to the Miami Herald.

If Hillary is successful in her presidential bid, the Clintons will have
another four or even eight years to drive U.S. policy toward this
Caribbean nation—for better or for worse. Perhaps unsure of how Haiti
will fit into the upcoming election, Hillary Clinton has been less
talkative than her husband. Her spokesman declined to comment on
how her experience in Haiti has shaped her foreign policy, saying she
would address that “when the time comes to do so.”

I asked Benel Etienne, a 32-year-old resident of Village La Difference
and construction day laborer at Caracol, if he had a message for the
candidate. “Mrs. Clinton, we hope you became president of your United
States, but at the same we hope you bring change for Haiti, because you
have good diplomatic relations with Haiti,” he told me. When I asked
what kind of change that might be, he smiled and shrugged. Haitians like
him have heard too many promises, and seen too many things, to think
they could really know.

Original URL:
http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/caribbean-haiti-clinton-politics-business

0

Media, Development: Bringing drones down to earth

irinnews.org

By Caterina Pino and Obinna Anyadike

KATHMANDU, 12 May 2015 (IRIN) – Disaster coverage now seems incomplete without amazing drone footage of the damage, accompanied by effusive media reports on the technological wizardry of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and their humanitarian application. But is that really the story? Here’s a look at the evolution needed for them to better fulfill their potential.Right tool for the job?

The advantage of UAVs is that they are a fraction of the cost of manned aircraft and the smallest can fit into the hand luggage of a humanitarian response team. They provide very high resolution imagery and can carry an array of sensors. “They provide extra information in the phase where you need a quick overview,” explained Arjan Stam, overall leader of international Urban Search-and-Rescue units in Nepal.

But misconceptions remain, including within the humanitarian community, over what UAVs can achieve. “People who have not seen UAVs often think of the military versions that can fly a long way and carry heavy payloads,” said Andrej Verity of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Commonly used micro-UAVs, like the quadcopter DJI Phantom, has a flight time of under 25 minutes and doesn’t fly in high winds and bad weather. There are larger, more capable UAVs, but drones are far from always the answer. In many circumstances old-fashioned helicopters, manned aircraft and people doing assessments on foot are better options.

“If we prioritise using the cool new toys instead of choosing the collection platform that meets needs and constraints, we risk being less useful than we could be and probably slower,” said John Crowley of UN Global Pulse. “[UAVs] can be amazing assets when they fit into a larger system that makes it safe, secure and legal to use them – [that requires] trained people, clear policies, and established protocols.”

UAVs in disaster response are largely privately operated. There are currently 10 UAV teams in Nepal, from Canada’s Global Medic to California-based Team Rubicon, whose philanthropic partner is US intelligence-linked data mining firm Palantir. Encouraging adherence to standard operating procedures and maximising the humanitarian value of these diverse teams has historically proven a challenge.

Coordination conundrum

“Disaster responders in an emergency are generally too overwhelmed to lead on innovative methods,” Crowley told IRIN. “A disaster is rarely the time to introduce unfamiliar tools with lots of elements that require coordinated action between several organisations.”

Keeping on the right side of the law can be the first challenge. While some countries have UAV legislation in place to cover safety, privacy, national security and insurance liability, many do not. Where no regulations exists, UAV flights are either cleared with national authorities on an ad-hoc emergency basis, or are flown without permission – a reality that has a host of implications.

Then there is the glaring gap in the humanitarian response structure to facilitate UAV use. OCHA serves as the secretariat for critical coordination mechanisms like the Inter-Agency Standing Committee and the UN’s rapid-response Disaster Assessment and Coordination system and International Search and Rescue Advisory Group. But it has no formal oversight role as far as UAV operations are concerned, and has been cautious in claiming a mandate.

Who can we talk to?

In the Philippines, during Cyclone Haiyan in 2013, there was little coordination or clarity over how UAVs were to be used. OCHA then worked with the authorities on recognizing the value of UAVs and including them in national disaster response plans. But in 2014, when Cyclone Hagupit arrived, there was only an ad-hoc link between UAV operators, the humanitarian community and the government.

In the wake of Cyclone Pam that tore through the Pacific islands of Vanuatu earlier this year, a World Bank project used the volunteer Humanitarian UAV Network (UAViators) to provide damage assessment imagery. There was better engagement with the government and military on basics like flight path clearance and notification to local communities, but the arrangement was still informal.

In Nepal, UAViators has taken the lead in engaging with the civil aviation authorities and the police, but it lacks institutional clout. For drones to be better established, the founder of UAViators, Patrick Meier, argues what is required is “strong backing or leadership from an established humanitarian organisation that is able and willing to mediate with appropriate ministries.”

In a Skype conversation with IRIN, he added: “The UN has not designated a formal focal point for UAV flights who can serve as liaison with [government]…. This is a big problem, as UAV teams need formal letters confirming that they are part of the humanitarian response. Also, we need this focal point to serve as initial liaison with ATC [air traffic control] and the military. In sum: [it is a] major institutional gap here.”

But in a disaster, where aid agencies and government officials are scrambling to respond and capacity is stretched so thin, should the appointment of a focal person to work with UAV operators always be a priority?

Sharing is caring

The purpose of UAV imagery is to help better shape the humanitarian response.

To get proper value out of UAVs “we need to make sure that we’re as clear as possible on where imagery needs are greatest, where the gaps in coverage may be, and how those imagery needs are going to be connected directly with practical relief efforts,” Andrew Schroeder, director of research and analysis at Direct Relief, a medical aid charity, told IRIN.

“We need an easy way for people and organisations to express where and why they need imagery so that priorities can be established quickly and those with skills and access to the technology can be appropriately tasked. We need to make sure that we’re sharing data effectively and adhering to open standards,” said Schroeder, who chairs the UAV working group at Nethope, an NGO consortium.But the reality is that people can be averse to sharing. This can be due to legal and political considerations, with some humanitarian organisations leery of associating too closely with private UAV teams, or data hoarding by the drone operators.

Data is power

“Some UAV teams have not (yet) expressed an interest in sharing their imagery. Some have not provided information about where they’re flying,” Skyped Meier. “Of course, they are incredibly busy. And besides, they are not required to share.… [W]ithout strong public backing from established humanitarian groups, there is little the network can do.”

“Data is power, and people perceive it that way,” said Nama Budhathoki, the head of Kathmandu Living Labs. His team of volunteers is working with OpenStreetMap, a crowd-sourced geographic information system (GIS), to map the impact of the Nepal quake.

A significant impediment to working with UAV imagery is the size of the data files, which in the case of a country like Nepal, with low internet bandwidth, impacts on the speed with which data can be analysed.

“Aerial imagery typically constitute large files, which means they take longer to upload, and with unreliable or low bandwidth it can take multiple repeat attempts to upload just one mosaic [GIS maps are composed of a multitude of data mosaics],” said Meier.

“Figuring out file transfers from the field… this is a huge problem… and getting it out of disaster zones is really not easy. We need to treat the logistics for this as seriously as the damage assessment,” Robert Banick, a GIS expert at the Assessment Capacities Project, told IRIN.

Build local capacity

“I think we’re so excited about the possibilities of UAVs and so challenged by making it work that we’re not giving full attention to the data analysis,” he added.

Kathmandu Living Labs is trying to reduce the dependence on external analysis by using local mappers, who have the additional advantage of a “better sense of location and geography,” said Budhathoki.

His goal is not only to build sustainability in GIS, but also to develop a local “UAV capacity with Nepal.” It’s a project that Meier and UAViators are collaborating on.

Reducing the need for external assistance by assisting national authorities and local NGOs build their capacity in high disaster risk countries like Nepal would be a step forward.

Caterina Pino works with German Technical Cooperation in Turkey. She has worked for OCHA’s Regional Office for Eastern Africa, and  the Somalia country office. In her last OCHA assignment, Caterina advised the Philippines government on how to include civilian UAV capacity in their disaster preparedness and response plans. Obinna Anyadike is IRIN’s Editor-at-Large.

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Media: Open Letter to The Media, re: Nepal Earthquake

From AidSpeak

Aid workers, you know how this goes. In approximately one year, the media is going too be all up in our grill.

Why? Because after a gazillion dollars in aid, Kathmandu will still not look like Singapore; some people will still be living in tents (as opposed to two-storey modular homes with Direct TV and WiFi); foreigners will have been seen going to meetings in white Land Cruisers; and, well, frankly no one was “accountable” or “transparent.” At least a few journalists will jump-start stagnating careers by writing books stridently critical of the aid industry (The Big Drone That Flew By, etc.) and at least two will claim to have been “the only foreign correspondent in Kathmandu at the time of the earthquake.” (They’ll refer to themselves as “earthquake survivors” in their bios and interviews.)

At the one year anniversary, major networks will run specials on “where the money went” or “did aid really help Nepal?” Of course, a bunch of new INGOs (some started up by failed climbers) specifically focused on the earthquake will be interviewed and featured at length. They’ll make outrageous (and impossible to verify) claims about how they cut through red tape and outwitted the aid system to deliver life-saving assistance to those who most desperately needed it.  (I’ll never understand why the go-to response by everyone who feels that the aid industry is an inefficient bureaucracy seems to be to start their own NGO, thus adding to the net amount of bureaucracy in the world. But obviously I digress.) They’ll use words like “bloated” to describe NGO salary structures, and point to the fact that aid workers took R&R as proof that everyone in the aid system is hopelessly self-interested.

At some point during year one there will be a celebrity visit that goes wildly/hilariously amuck: Someone (my money’s on Ian Birrel) will latch onto that as proof that “aid doesn’t work”, and do a lot of strident tweeting about it. Wonks from think tanks or universities that end in “ord,” who’ve never implemented anything even remotely close to a relief response, will give soundbites about the importance of innovation, humanitarian UAVs, and big data. Maybe Richard Engel or Ann Curry will fly in and have scripted heart-to-heart interviews with survivors, after which they’ll gaze into the camera and offer pithy one-line analyses in their best weary/soulful voices.

Yes, those of us in the aid industry know this is coming. It happens every time, it’s annoying as hell, and it sucks up precious overhead to deal with it on top of everything else. So maybe let’s just nip some of that in the bud right now.

Media, you’re on notice:

If you want to say that the aid industry was not accountable in Nepal, then articulate the baseline and the standard now. What is our target?

If you want to say that we are not delivering aid fast enough, then do share—what’s the metric that we’re aiming for? At what objectively verifiable rate of delivery will this simply cease to be an issue for you?

If you want to complain that we’re not transparent, then tell us right now what level of transparency, in your expert opinions, is sufficient?

Please do explain right now what state of recovery Kathmandu should be in in one year’s time if we’re doing our jobs properly.

Too many INGOs swarming to Nepal? Okay, how many should there be? Do be specific. Too many foreigners going to too many meetings? Please, what is an optimal, or at least an acceptable foreigner-to-local ratio? And what is the preferred number of meetings per day/week/etc?

This will make all of our jobs (including yours) easier.

Thanks.

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Development: Don’t rush to Nepal to help. Learn from haiti and read this first

Guardian Newspaper, Monday 27 April 2015 , by 

You may want to help victims of the earthquake, but they don’t need unskilled volunteers or aid they can’t use. Here’s what you can do that won’t get in the way

As someone who has considered Nepal home for many years, the shock on hearing the news of the earthquake that has devastated the country was extreme. I felt pained at being away from home – cut off in rural Cambodia – at a time like this, impotent and powerless.

The quake has left thousands dead, many more injured and even more without shelter. What we also know from tracking events in natural disasters all over the world is that the situation only gets worse in the weeks following the event, as hospitals become overwhelmed, basic supplies become scarce and those living in temporary shelters succumb to exposure and disease. The example fresh in everyone’s minds is the 2010 earthquake in Haiti – a country in a similar economic condition to Nepal and which, despite an enormous influx of international aid, is still recovering from the disaster five years later.

Something that has been much discussed in the international aid community is the lack of coordinated response to the Haiti disaster. Ragtag brigades of well-intentioned do-gooders flooded the country: students, church congregations, individuals who had previously vacationed in the area, all clambering over one another looking for a way to make their mark and do good, but lacking either the skills or coordination to have an impact. Indeed, many ended up slowing down the aid efforts.

There were even reports of teams of doctors who arrived to help but were unable to feed themselves. This wave of unsolicited and poorly planned shipments of untrained people and donated goods was dubbed by some humanitarians “the second disaster”.

One of the biggest problems with relief work is that it is a free-for-all. Anyone who wants to, and who is privileged enough to afford a plane ticket, can pitch up. Unlike doctors or engineers, who need to train for years to gain qualifications that prove they probably know what they’re doing, no such qualification exists for aid workers.

What Nepal needs right now is not another untrained bystander, however much her heart is hurting. Nepal has one international airport for the entire country, which has itself sustained damage. That airport needs to be used for emergency supplies, immediate aid for the victims, and qualified, professional relief workers. My trip back to commiserate with loved ones can wait a few weeks.

Remember that it is not about you. It is not about your love for the country and its people. Your feelings of guilt and helplessness may be difficult to deal with, but you may not be what is needed right now. Do not rush to go there, at least for the next couple of weeks while the country is reeling. The exception to this is if you are a qualified professional with much-needed skills to offer. If you are, join up with an international relief agency that can place you in a position where you are needed most.

Do not donate stuff. Secondhand goods are difficult to distribute in a disaster area and are hardly ever what is actually needed. It is easier, and often in the long run cheaper, for organisations to procure goods themselves and distribute based on need. If you want to give away things you no longer need, sell them and donate the money to the relief fund. Or give them to a local charity shop, which can convert them into cash on your behalf.

Give money. More than your plane ticket or your collection of old T-shirts, what is most needed in Nepal right now is money. Donate what you can, to a reputable relief organisation, and do research to find out where your money will go. If you can, compare a few organisations with aid appeals and ensure that you agree with their approach.

In the short term, handouts are necessary. I have previously questioned this as a method of long-term development. However, in the immediate wake of such devastation, handouts are necessary to give victims the essentials for survival.

In the long term, rebuild sustainably. If in the coming months you want to contribute to the rebuilding efforts and the longer-term development of the country, consider sustainability as a factor. There will be many programmes to repair and rebuild destroyed houses. Nepal is an earthquake-prone country, so the buildings most likely to withstand another quake are not those that are cheapest, or those made by foreign volunteer labourers for “free”.

And if you do decide to go … Please look at the resources we have produced on the Learning Service website before you get on the plane. I am not against volunteering; I am imploring you to wait a while and think carefully about where to use your skills. Volunteering can have a wonderful impact on the world, when done mindfully. But it is not easy or automatically beneficial. Before signing up for a programme, spend time learning about Nepal and the complex nature of its recovery and development, and continue to be open to learning during your time there.

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Haiti: How Not to Report on an Earthquake

A police officer looking on as an excavator digs through rubble in search of bodies in Katmandu, Nepal, on April 27. Credit: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
As of Tuesday morning, exactly three days have passed since a 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook Nepal, killing thousands and leaving millions in need of help. In disaster response, the end of the first 72 hours is often considered an inflection point: the unofficial moment when the most acute phase passes, the odds of finding trapped survivors plunge and the relief effort tends to really pick up steam.

Three days into a crisis, roads and airports are often reopening, and outside responders and journalists are arriving in droves. The decisions made at this time can determine the course of the response. A misstep now can have ramifications lasting years, even decades.

I know this because I lived through a moment of just this sort five years ago, in Haiti. I was in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010, when a powerful quake rippled outward from an epicenter 15 miles from the capital. In 40 seconds, the shock waves, according to some estimates, literally decimated the population, killing 100,000 to 316,000 people in an overcrowded, overbuilt metropolitan area that was home to more than three million. Governments and aid groups mobilized cargo planes and ships, deploying thousands of soldiers, search-and-rescue teams and medical responders. I was the lone correspondent in the country’s lone full-time foreign news bureau when the quake hit, but I wasn’t on my own for long. By the 72-hour mark, hundreds of reporters — if not more — had joined me in town, beaming images and accounts of the destruction around the world.

Time seemed to stop during the earthquake, and only gradually picked up speed in the days that followed. The first night felt as if it would never end. Aftershocks roiled the ground. People were scouring the rubble for loved ones and neighbors, but the quake had hit in the late afternoon, and in a country with little infrastructure and electricity, it was impossible to continue the search once darkness fell. Nearly everyone who could be was outdoors that night, many of them singing and praying, waiting to see if help would come from outside.

It did, though slowly at first. A trickle of aid convoys arrived overland from the Dominican Republic the next morning. A United States military advance team landed at the damaged airport and took over its operations, setting up an emergency air-traffic-control system.

Then, on the third day, the skies filled with planes and the harbor with ships. Soon United Nations peacekeepers and American soldiers were scrambling to hand out food and water. My editors at The Associated Press made sure that my colleagues and I traded shifts covering the search-and-rescue efforts; they wanted to be certain we did not miss out on images of survivors being pulled from the rubble.

The old standby narratives of disaster coverage picked up from there. We watched for panic and desperation to turn to looting and violence. When aid groups began issuing warnings of impending post-disaster disease outbreaks, we repeated them.

Similar story lines are now emerging from Nepal (although, as of this writing, rumors of looting and violence have been confined mainly to social media). But in Haiti, as is often the case, those story lines turned out to be dead wrong. Most embarrassing for a journalist, they were wrong in ways that would have immediately been made clear had we taken the time to ask some basic questions.

Food and water, for example. When I was in Haiti two years later, to research the relief effort for a book, I was shocked to discover that no one could tell me with any precision if there was ever a food or water shortage in the first place. No one among the responders had even contacted the Coordination Nationale de la Sécurité Alimentaire — the Haitian government agency overseeing food security — to find out what might be needed. Indeed, earthquakes tend to inflict the worst damage on cities, not farms — especially in countries that already have limited infrastructure — and Haiti’s urban areas didn’t have any sewers or piped drinking water to begin with.

People indeed lost their homes and incomes, and markets closed. But theWorld Food Program had enough supplies in its Port-au-Prince warehouses — which survived the quake — to feed 300,000 people one full meal for three weeks. There was no acute food or malnutrition crisis after the quake; that much we know. But it seems very likely that the city could have avoided one even without the frenzied aid push.

Our focus on the organized rescue efforts was similarly misplaced. The constant media coverage and well-financed, specialized rescue teams created the impression in many viewers’ minds that large numbers of people were being saved by outside responders. In fact, according to a report by the French Defense Ministry’s Haiti mission, no more than 211 people were saved by all of the international search-and-rescue efforts combined, in a disaster in which hundreds of thousands were trapped.

This isn’t the responders’ fault; they worked as hard and as fast as they could. But disaster experts routinely note that a vast majority of rescues after an earthquake take place within the first 24 hours, and are almost always done by people from the area using their hands or simple tools. By contrast, the first American search-and-rescue team didn’t arrive in Haiti until nearly a full day after the disaster.

As for the notion of post-disaster disease outbreaks, epidemiologists have gone looking for evidence of epidemics resulting from calamities like earthquakes, and they have generally concluded that they don’t happen. (“The news industry is prone to emphasizing more dramatic and simplistic messages, and unjustified warnings will likely continue to be spread on the basis of an approximate assessment of risks,” the authors of a 2006 study wrote in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) If you look closely, news reports tend to cite unspecified “fears” or “threats” of disease, often sourced to nongovernmental organizations like the Red Cross. But those sources are rarely asked to produce any actual evidence.

There is violence after disasters, just as there is violence every day wherever humans live. But taking a hard look back puts the lie to the idea that societies somehow become less cohesive after a natural shock, at a moment when most people are busy trying to put their lives back in order. After Hurricane Sandy, in 2012, crime fell in nearly every category in New York City. (The murder rate in Nepal’s capital, Katmandu, when it was last measured nearly a decade ago, was higher than New York’s but comparable to Chicago’s in recent years.)

There is no way to know for sure if that was true in Port-au-Prince; crime statistics were unreliable before the quake and nonexistent after. The escape of prisoners from the city’s national penitentiary did lead to a series of murders over turf in the slum Cité Soleil, and there were reports of increased sexual violence in the months after the disaster. But there was no widespread civil unrest of the magnitude that would justify keeping 20,000 United States troops on call. Having been there at the time, I recognized the sentiment expressed by Donatella Lorch, a Katmandu-based writer, in The Times this week: “I am buoyed by the generous spirit of [Nepal’s] people. My son and I know that life here will get worse in the days and weeks ahead as fuel and water run low. But we also know we are in this together.”

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Afghanistan Reconstruction: Fact vs. Fantasy

John F. Sopko , Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction
Weill Cornell Medical College, New York City , May 5, 2015

Full Speech

Conclusion

For both humanitarian and national-security reasons, the U.S. mission to reconstruct Afghanistan is critical. And with $15 billion currently awaiting disbursement, with billions more to follow, there is both need to improve the effectiveness of the effort, and time to make a difference in the outcome.

We must not kid ourselves about Afghanistan. It will be a long struggle. Defeating a determined insurgency, improving health and education, altering attitudes toward women, reducing corruption, and building governmental competence are not casual, short-term undertakings. Impatience driven by temperament, election cycles, or fiscal-year budgeting can only impede progress.

We can also safely say that the struggle in Afghanistan won’t be shortened, much less won, by official happy talk and cheerleader-style press releases. Improving the likelihood of mission success requires, as a start, accurate, verifiable, and pertinent data-accompanied by a recognition that some key indicators require subjective evaluation by experienced and independent observers in the field. Let me emphasize the independence issue. Poor data and disregard of nonquantitative assessments that is biased by self-interest and turf protection can only lead to unrealistic judgments, unjustified hopes, and outright fantasies with no link to reality.

The 19th-century American humorist Josh Billings said, in the manner of Socrates, “I honestly believe it is better to know nothing than to know what ain’t so.”[28] SIGAR’s clinical examination of American reconstruction operations in Afghanistan has persuaded me that we know a lot more than nothing, but a lot less than we think. Budgeting, planning, oversight, course corrections, and decisions to adjust the targets, duration, and intensity of U.S. efforts there all require reliable information. At the moment, that is all too often a scarce commodity and, accordingly, our programs as we go forward may be based more upon fantasy than reality.

SIGAR will press on in the years ahead to carry out its assignment of pinning down facts; calling out fluff, felonies, and fantasies; and recommending improvements. We welcome your interest and support in that mission, as I welcome your comments and questions. Thank you.

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