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16· Politics ·1st March 2010


Clinton inHaiti: prospects for sustainability

Ingrida Kerusauskaite speaks to Paul Collier, Flavia Pansieri and CarolynMiller about Clinton’s role in coordinating relief and reconstructionworks in Haiti

Around a billion pounds in donations from around the world has poured intoHaiti since the disastrous earth- quake in January. Since then, around 1000NGOS have registered with the UN, with perhaps just asmanymore operating in the countrywithout hav- ing registered. However such rapid and committed response, despite the good intentions, may at times com- plicate rather than assist relief oper- ations. Aid workers returning from Haiti have expressed frustrationwith the numerous NGOs “tripping over each other”, often duplicating other NGOandUNoperations.The sheer number of organizations operating in the country also requires a certain degree of bureaucracy, which has slowed down or even jeopardized certain food and water distribution operations. Given such issues, the major task to coordinate relief and reconstruction efforts of the “zoo of different actors”, as the economist Paul Collier puts it, has been tasked to former US president Bill Clinton.

Yet many ask the question, why an

American? Some might see the ap- pointment of Clinton as clear evidence of the spread of US imperialism, ask- ingwhy it is not an international body, such a UN agency, leading the relief operation. However, Ban Ki-Moon, the secretary general of the UN, has himself appointed Bill Clinton. “The UN is saying that Clinton is the right person,” said Collier. Flavia Pansieri, the UN Volunteers Programme Exec- utive Coordinator, pointed out that Clinton had already been formally ap- pointed as theUN’s Special Envoy for Haiti inMarch 2009, before the earth- quake, “and in this capacity he would continue to support Haiti relief ef- forts”. Paul Collier believes that the ap-

pointment, which will see Clinton forming a decision-making structure alongside senior Haitian politicians, will be ideal for the earthquake stricken country. Collier,who had pre- viously worked for the UN in Haiti, noted that the disastrous collapse of the UN building in Haiti, in which senior ranking officials died, means “the UN is starting in Haiti from scratch again”. Moreover, numerous UN agencies,

as well as the World Bank and other organizations all believe that they should be the ones coordinating the relief and reconstruction operations. It



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It is difficult to seewhere these feel-

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is thus felt that a widely recognized public figure is required to cut through such departmental in-fight- ing. “So, inmymind, Clinton is ideal,” states Collier, commenting on Clin- ton’s involvement and popularity in Haiti. Clinton is “uniquely well- placed” to coordinate the private and public sectors in Haiti: via his role in the government, as well as with the ‘Clinton Global Initiative’, which en- courages the private sector in the US to invest inHaiti. Far fromrepresent- ing US imperialism, Clinton’s public profile will be intended to boost the Haitian response internationally. However, such a comprehensive

UN Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton and Haitian President Rene Preval, October 1st.

This historical reliance has raised

concerns that in a couple of year’s time,when the unprecedented aid that is currently being donated toHaitiwill cease, there will be a sudden abandon- ment of such comprehensive recon- struction and relief projects. “You all generously donated now, but will you still donate in three years’ time?” Miller asks. Indeed, how long will the

foreign role raises questions about the sustainability of the development and reconstruction effort in Haiti. The troubled country’s infrastructure was extremely poor before the earthquake that has finally focused international attention there. “Haiti has not had a functioning government for as long as most of us can remember”, said Car- olynMiller, Chief Executive ofMER- LIN (Medical Emergency Relief International). For the past two decades, Haiti had been heavily rely- ing on foreign aid to sustain basic serv- ices and infrastructure in the country. According to a 2006 World Bank study, 92% of Haiti’s schools and 70% of healthcare operations were under- taken by NGOs.

‘You generously donated now,

butwill you still donate to Haiti in three years time?’

CarolynMiller, Merlin CEO

international community need to “guide” Haiti’s politics and develop- ment until it can stand on its own two feet? Collier deems Clinton’s and the in- ternational community’s involvement

be necessary during the coming 3 or 4 years, and “to do practical things”, such as set up an efficient network of electricity and infrastructure.The fact is that “it’s not that [the power net- work] has fallen down, it was never there”.One of themost important les- sons learned from previous disasters, according to Miller, is that “it takes a very long time to rebuild”, and early abandon of developmental projects could have devastating effects, as seen in Sierra Leone. However, such statements point to

the need for a lengthily international engagement with Haiti that many Western governmentsmay not be keen to honour, despite the efforts of promi- nent diplomats such as Clinton. All international responses to crisis

manage a balancing act between the immediate need to act and issues of sustainability for the country that will soon be “yesterday’s news”. Despite the robust international response thus far, serious questions remain forHaiti. How long will it take the country, which has been largely dependent on foreign aid for the past few decades, manage to successfully move away from NGO and international actors’ patronage? Only time will tell if the humanitarianism of the last few months will be sustained by aid donors and the recipient government alike.

ings come from. An October 2007 Newsweek profile of Palin and Janet Napolitano, the Democrat governor of Arizona, said “Governors like Napoli- tano, 49, andPalin, 43, aremaking their mark with a pragmatic, post-partisan approach to solving problems; a style thatworks especiallywellwiththe large numbers of independent voters in their respective states”. It continued: “In Alaska, Palin is challenging the domi- nant, sometimes corrupting, role of oil companies in the state’s political cul- ture…Although she has been in office less than a year, Palin, too, earns high marks fromlawmakers onthe other side of the aisle”. Palin’s popularity stems from the

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Americans seeking change are now

looking elsewhere. In November the Democrat governors of Virginia and NewJerseywere oustedbyRepublicans. January sawaRepublicanelected to the Senate by solidly Democratic Massa- chusetts. Obama’s approval rating has slumpedfrom68%to 49%.Arecent poll putObama on 44%against a hypothet- ical Republican candidate on 42% in 2012.At 11%, just three percent behind the Republican favourite for the 2012 nomination,Mitt Romney, the Pitbull may yet have a run at theWhiteHouse. Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28
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