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Finishing Haiti’s Unfinished Work

By Jean-Max Bellerive and Bill Clinton

The New York Times
July 11, 2010

(Click here to view the original article)

SIX months have passed since the earthquake that shook the coast of Haiti. But for the people who live there, today is just another day in the long process of rebuilding and re-imagining their future amid a hurricane season that threatens to undo the progress they’ve made.

As co-chairs of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, we are well aware that the scale and urgency of needs on the ground continue to be enormous: millions of people still require shelter; access to basic services like education, water and sanitation, electricity and health care; and the tools to lift themselves from poverty.

After the earthquake, Haiti’s president, René Préval, worked with the international community to create the reconstruction commission to accelerate rebuilding efforts. Our mandate is to coordinate the efforts of government donors, nongovernmental organizations and the business sector to ensure that reconstruction projects are aligned with the priorities of Haiti’s development plan. It is also to see to it that the work takes place with the full transparency and accountability that Haiti’s leaders are committed to maintaining, and that donors have every right to expect.

The commission is structured similarly to the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency, or B.R.R., which was set up in Indonesia after the 2004 South Asia tsunami. The B.R.R. is widely recognized as a success, and the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission is moving as quickly as the B.R.R. moved after the tsunami.

It has done so despite the grim reality that the Haitian earthquake, unlike the tsunami, devastated the country’s government, killing 17 percent of its work force and destroying all but one ministry building, along with its phones, vehicles, computers and other infrastructure. Haiti must deal with all this destruction as well as the pressing issues it faced before the earthquake.

Still, has the reconstruction process been as quick and as far-reaching as many of us had hoped? No, not when so many Haitians remain homeless, hungry and unemployed. Has progress been made? Unequivocally, yes. But we must — all of us involved in Haiti’s recovery — do better.

For example, to date, only 10 percent of the $5.3 billion pledged by governments at a United Nations conference in March has been disbursed to the Haitian government. Without reliable schedules for disbursement, the commission is unable to plan, finance projects or respond quickly to immediate needs.

Haiti’s government has done everything it’s been asked to do by international donors to inspire confidence, maintain transparency and ensure that not one single cent is lost to corruption. We cannot turn our backs on Haiti’s government and its people when the time comes to write the check.

In addition to these disbursements, we need the partnership and cooperation of the World Bank. As the steward of the multi-donor trust fund, the World Bank has a responsibility to ensure that money pledged by governments and their taxpayers around the world is delivered quickly to the Haitian government or to projects approved by the reconstruction commission. We hope the World Bank will work with us to make this happen, by streamlining the process for releasing money and preventing reconstruction funds from being diverted to redundant technical reviews.

We have no time to waste: hurricane season has already begun, and Haiti has been lucky to have avoided another natural disaster thus far. With this in mind, on June 17 our board — balanced equally between Haitians and international representatives — approved $31 million in projects that will help bridge the Haitian government’s budget shortfall and provide shelters from hurricanes. Hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of projects are in the pipeline.

For the overall effort to succeed, however, we need the participation of everyone involved: nongovernmental organizations must submit their projects to the commission for approval, as most have agreed to do; businesses and government ministries should notify the commission of their programs, as most have agreed to do; and donors should honor their pledges.

For those governments, donors and businesses that have not yet committed to investing in Haiti’s economy or aiding relief and reconstruction efforts, we urge them to do so quickly. In addition to short-term needs like rubble removal, there are ample opportunities for investments with longer-term dividends — in agriculture, construction, tourism, manufacturing, service industries and clean energy, especially solar.

No matter how people choose to help, the most important thing is that we work in alignment with the priorities of Haiti’s development plan, with a sense of urgency, and in partnership with one another in the service of the people of Haiti. (The effort can be followed at, a new Web site providing transparency for the reconstruction process.)

Ultimately, we will measure the success of reconstruction efforts not in the number of days that have passed since the earthquake, nor in the dollar amounts pledged, but in tangible results that improve the lives of the Haitian people, so that in the next six months, and in the six months after that, they will be closer to the future they envision for themselves, their children and generations to come.

Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive of Haiti and Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States, are co-chairs of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission.