After the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, the international community worked with the Haitian Government to establish an interim reconstruction commission, the HIRC, to manage the disbursement of international aid in Haiti. The HIRC is co-led by former President Bill Clinton, the UN Special Envoy to Haiti, and Haitian Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive. They pushed through the creation of that commission in such a way that allows them to bypass the Haitian Parliament and all other Haitian institutions that provide checks and balances to the allocation of aid and funds for a period of 18 months. Essentially, the HIRC sits above the Haitian state and has carte blanche to proceed however they want.
When the HIRC was established, most Haitians were critical of the structure because it essentially gave the foreign actors full control putting aside the Haitian Government, Haitian actors and Diaspora, and actually violated Haiti's Constitution.
Almost a year later, the 12 Haitian members of the HIRC are expressing frustration and outrage with the awarding of contracts and projects to foreign actors. The projects do not meet the needs of the country and are not strategic. Further, the process has excluded Haitian companies, government institutions and the Diaspora missing a critical opportunity to build capacity and economic opportunity in the Haitian community. President Preval has largely used the HIRC as a political tool believing that awarding no bid contracts will buy him support for his electoral coup and attempts to maintain power.
Overall, the rebuilding efforts have been progressing at an unimaginably slow pace. Still 1.7 million people are living in 1,370 makeshift camps without regular access to basic services, food or water. This is in spite of historic private and official donations to recovery and rebuilding. The American people gave $1.2 billion in private donations, and the American government gave approximately $2.9 billion. Of that, $1.2 billion was used by the US military in the aftermath of the earthquake to deploy troops for security, search and rescue, and immediate medical aid through the USS Comfort. Another $1.15 billion was approved by Congress in July but is languishing in the State Department bureaucracy awaiting release. There is another $500 million being held in the Senate pending elaboration of how the US Government will pay for it.
The following speech was delivered by the Haitian members of the HIRC during the last meeting of the organizations in Santo Domingo last month. The members are expressing outrage to the co-Presidents, Mr. Clinton and Prime Minister Bellerive, at their treatment and the secretive awarding of lucrative contracts to foreign companies. The following is a translation of their speech.
ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF HAITIAN MEMBERS' OF HIRC SPEECH:
Dear Mr. Co-Presidents:
We the 12 Haitian Members of the Haiti Interim Reconstruction Commission (HIRC) present, in regard to the experience we have accumulated within the aforementioned commission since its creation, feel a duty to express concern about the strategic framework put forward in today's agenda.
The 12 Haitian members present here today feel completely disconnected from the life of the HIRC. Even in this IT era, there exists a critical deficit of communication and information flow on the part of the Executive Secretariat and even more so with the Executive Committee despite our role in the governing structure of this institution, we have to this day, received no report on the activities of the HIRC.
Contact is established only the day before board meetings. As a result, as members, we have no time to read, analyze, or digest the information and even less time to react intelligently to the projects which are being presented to us at the last minute despite all the official complaints and all the promises made to address this issue.
Moreover, we are unable to answer, for lack of essential information, elementary questions from the public or from any interested persons. A good number of interlocutors think that there is a complete hold on information.
No effective functional bond exists between the Executive Secretariat and the Haitian section of the council, or between the latter and the Executive Committee. Projects are transmitted to the council in the form of summaries the day before meetings. Procedural changes to the online submission of bids for projects are changed without any consultation.
The recruitment of the personnel and the choice of the consulting firms were made without the knowledge of the Haitian members of the Board of Directors. No documents were received informing the council of the criteria for recruiting or the profiles for the candidates. This is also true for the firms which have received contracts, the Haitian members of the council are unaware of even the name of these firms that work for the HIRC or their roles.
Taking into account this deficiency, Mr. Co-Presidents, the Haitian members of the HIRC invited the Executive Director to give a progress report on the status of collaboration between the two sides (Haitian and foreign). The invitation was ignored.
In reality, the Haitian members of the Council appear to fulfill a puppet role, which is to rubberstamp the decisions adopted by the Executive Director and the Executive Committee. The comments of Professor Jean-Marie Bourjolly in his memorandum of October 4, 2010 summarize the situation well. And we quote: "We must devote the greatest part of our energies to build a plan with a strategy and tactics that conforms with the general principles stated in the Action Plan.