HAITI: “A Coup without an Army,” Plus “the Bill and Hillary Fund”

Posted on July 14, 2010


Today, Democracy Now focused on the real issues impacting the people of Haiti:  food, water, shelter, mega NGOs, land, sovereignty, and the international commission that is running Haiti.  Mario Joseph, Haitian human rights attorney, says that Haiti has been taken over by  “a coup without an army.”  Go to DemNow to view the show.

Clintons Will Have a Big Say in Haiti’s Future
Updated: 15 hours 37 minutes ago

by Emily Troutman

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (July 14) — In this city, it is called the Interim Haitian Recovery Commission. But in Washington, skeptical insiders have dubbed it “the Bill and Hillary Fund.”

The Interim Haitian Recovery Commission (IHRC) was created by an official decree of President Rene Preval in April and will be a joint Haitian and international advisory board to oversee distribution of funds for Haiti’s earthquake recovery. At a U.N. donors’ conference in March, the international community pledged $5.3 billion to this effort.

The IHRC’s mission is to “seek coordinated, effective and efficient planning and implementation.” But most believe that the commission’s real role is to add a layer of American authority to reconstruction efforts. Transparency, accountability, direction and effectiveness have been the holy grail of international aid to Haiti for decades.

Former President Bill Clinton will serve as co-chairman of the Interim Haitian Recovery Commission, an advisory board that will oversee distribution of funds for Haiti’s earthquake recovery.

However, this latest structure is raising concern from Haiti to Geneva, worrying officials with the U.N. and nongovernmental organizations, who privately concede they have no idea where they will fit in.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton will co-chair the commission’s board with Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.

One of the largest donors to the fund will be the United States, which aims to contribute at least $1.15 billion over the next two years, largely on advice of the State Department, led by Hillary Rodham Clinton, and her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills. Mills is a longtime Clinton confidant and has played a major role in Haitian affairs since the earthquake. She will serve on the commission’s board as a voting member, representing the United States.

It is an unusual confluence of power for the Clintons and for the United States. The former president also directs the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund and the Clinton Foundation.

Mills made clear in a speech Monday that a new paradigm will control aid in Haiti. Regarding the IHRC, she said, “The donor community is going to have to step up to and actually play the role that they have an obligation to play and be good partners.”

The model of the commission has been critically described as “pay to play”: Countries or multilateral donors that give at least $100 million can have a vote on how money is spent. That will not include charities such as the Red Cross, which instead will have one nonvoting rotating member representing the “community of international nongovernment organizations.”

The United Nations will be represented by Helen Clark, who is the administrator of the U.N. Development Program. Bill Clinton, who is also the U.N. special envoy to Haiti, will relinquish this mostly honorary role during sessions of the board.

Haitian representatives will make up at least half of the commission’s board, according to the law. Members have been nominated and selected from a wide range of stakeholders, including labor unions, the executive branch of the Haitian government, the judicial branch, local government, the Senate, the Chamber of Deputies, the business community and the Caribbean Community.

The board members of the commission met for the first time last month, but revealed few details from the closed-door meeting. Bill Clinton has said he eventually wants the meetings to be open to the media and for meeting minutes to be posted on the Internet, but as of publication time for this article, the IHRC was not able to provide minutes from its June 17 session.

A Frequently Asked Questions section on the IHRC website is so far the most detailed description of how the commission will allocate funds. Charities and organizations operating in Haiti are now required to submit project proposals of “national significance” to the commission for approval.

Funding will be distributed in alignment with the Action Plan for the Reconstruction and National Development of Haiti, a 34-page document that broadly outlines goals such as improved infrastructure, education and governance.

Projects valued between $1 million and $10 million are subject to approval by Clinton and Bellerive. Projects valued at $10 million or more will be subject to approval from the entire 26-member board. Smaller projects, whose value is $1 million or less, can be approved by the executive director of the IHRC, who has not yet been hired. Preval retains veto power.

All projects then have to go through a separate approval process led by experts at the World Bank. In an op-ed in The New York Times on Saturday, Clinton and Bellerive seemed to anticipate the challenge of these new bureaucracies and encouraged the World Bank not to adopt “redundant technical reviews.”

The position description for the commission’s executive director, which can be seen on the IHRC website, is a fascinating — if daunting — look at the challenges the commission will face. The executive director will manage all of the day-to-day tasks of the commission, which include advising both Clinton and Preval, supporting the board and providing a road map for strategic spending.

Rumors indicate the director will be Haitian, though others were recruited for the position and declined. It will likely be a thankless and high-profile job, rife with controversy.

The job description calls for someone who is “comfortable speculating about alternative futures without all of the data,” “thrives in crises” and is “not afraid to make negative decisions.”

The IHRC is modeled after the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency, which led Indonesia’s recovery after the 2004 South Asia tsunami. That agency was considered successful, though it leaned more heavily on existing government structures.

Haiti’s government lost most of its buildings and 20 percent of its staff following the Jan. 12 earthquake. Effective civil service is an old problem here, and the interim recovery commission is Haiti’s best new hope.

Donors anticipate that the close, collaborative relationship between international stakeholders and local decision makers will help speed things along. The government of Haiti is still stalled on major land-use policies, which has left 1.5 million people in the streets.

The international community funded 120,000 transitional shelters, meant to last two years or more. But only a few thousand have been built.

For the moment, the structure, policies and processes of the commission are still somewhat irrelevant. Member states pledged donations of $5.3 billion at the U.N. conference in January, but less than 10 percent has actually been delivered.