Five smart ways to rebuild Haiti
Haiti doesn’t need a Marshall Plan imposed by global elites. It needs improved conditions that empower all its people.
(Page 2 of 3)
Today, as relief gives way to reconstruction, foreign and domestic authorities have an unprecedented opportunity to reverse these historical trends. The March 31 donor conference offers a platform for the Haitian government, the United Nations and its emissary Bill Clinton, private banks, governments, businesses, and civil society to rebalance Haiti for good.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
At a minimum, they should consider a comprehensive strategy that includes the following five priorities:
1. Encourage real and meaningful decentralization. Close to 1 million Haitians have already fled Port-au-Prince for towns and villages from which they originally migrated since the 1960s. But if conditions in the countryside are not improved, and quickly, these people will drift back to Port-au-Prince and rebuild as before.
The Haitian government’s proposal to provide real opportunities in 200 towns and villages equipped with “welcome centers” merits support. These centers will issue short-term relief, and bundle health, education, job-creation, and investment services to help the rural economy take off.
2. Support the Haitian government’s efforts to establish a national civic service corps. Building on the symbolism of the magnitude-7.0 earthquake, a 700,000-strong civic service corps could harness underutilized labor in urban and rural settings. Youth can rebuild Haiti’s infrastructure. They could also support badly needed environmental rehabilitation and serve as rapid-response units for future calamities.
This is not a new idea. Provisions for civic service exist in the Haitian Constitution and local authorities have been discussing the idea since at least 2007. The idea parallels the creation of such US New Deal programs as the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. It is also analogous in some ways to volunteer youth schemes in at least a dozen other Latin American and Caribbean countries.
3. Support the reconstitution of Haitian state institutions through accompaniment, cooperation, and partnership. Rather than replacing or bypassing public entities, donors must focus on reinforcing them as a real and visible force in the lives of Haitian citizens. Civil servants will need to be recruited and trained, and physical facilities must be literally rebuilt from the ashes.
Haiti’s government deserves an outstretched hand. Since 2006, the Préval administration has earned international praise and recognition for its handling of domestic affairs. An international donors’ conference in 2009 expressed enhanced confidence. Although corruption, irregular migration, and narcotics trafficking remain important concerns to some governments, these gains should not be forgotten.