Political situation & Foreign impact
Dear Rise Haiti followers,
During our 10-days on-site visit in February - next to our work on the court -our team was able to get an impression of the country’s economic and political situation.
The earthquake in 2012 as well as the previous hurricane Mathews in 2016 have left huge parts of Haiti devastated. For the first catastrophe the country has received over 13.5$ billion in recovery aid from all over the world (Source 2). However, those funds did not allow for any remarkable improvement of the populations circumstances. How can Haiti’s development be justified - what was the money used for?
94% of the humanitarian funding went to donors own military and civilian entities, UN agencies, international NGOs and private contractors (Source 3). However, from this point onwards it is very hard to follow the tracks. It is impossible for the outsider to find out who are the final recipients of this money. One reason that explains the inefficient use of foreign aid is the growing reliance on the U.S. as well as other international contractors. To illustrate this with an example – it costs $33,000 to build a new housing unit in one post-earthquake program (U.S. Government Accountability Office) (Source 2). However, this is five times the amount than non-profits e.g. Mission of Hope spends per house using local contractors. Another related issue we were told is the issue with oversupply of clothes and other means of material aid. For example, the UN decided to donate 50.000 flip flops. However only a minority of this supply was actually used/demanded. This implies that money has been spent on something which could have been invested elsewhere. Often these oversupplies end up being sold for dump prices on the regional markets.
A solution to this dilemma is actively pushing the cooperation between aid organizations as well as local groups. This approach definitely has its difficulties: local organizations partly lack capacity, difficulty of establishing control mechanisms to monitor the work and different business standards - but projects can be utilized with much lower investment costs and jobs can be created (Source 4).
The trust of the population in the political system as well as in the political leaders of the country is seriously flawed. Since the 7th of February 2017 Haiti has a new president, Jovenel Moise. Only 20% of the Haitian population went to vote meaning only 600,000 (10% of the Haitian population) actually supported his election (Source 5). One reason for this mistrust is the involvement of foreign donors, who have poured millions of dollars into “democracy promotion” programs as well as a UN military “stabilization” mission to ensure order and stability. Additionally, the American government also has a huge influence as well on the elections and basically assures that the current elite is reelected again (Source 5). The money of the American government and foreign donors is used to finance the elections, observers justify them and Haitian elites reap the benefits.
The elite of Haiti’s political system faces several challenges it has to solve in order to improve the devastating situation for a vast majority of the population. First, the government needs to tackle malnourishment and poverty - over 25% of Haitians are living in extreme poverty (UN Report) (Source 1). Furthermore, other focus topics are the establishment of a proper healthcare education as well as a water- and sanitation system. The construction of infrastructure still remains a basic need for Haiti. Last but not least the government has to find solutions regarding inflation and rising unemployment.
Finally, these improvements will only be possible if the political structural and conjectural crisis are dissolved and a stable democratic government is elected that fights corruption in its core. Especially smaller, more agile foreign organizations who don’t spend a majority of funds on administration as well as partner up with local organizations, can provide efficient solutions and support in tackling these challenges.