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Haiti: The Not So Consultative Group

July 2004

On July 19 and 20, representatives of the world’s major donor countries and institutions will gather in Washington to discuss aid to Haiti. Four prestigious and powerful actors-The United Nations, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the European Commission–will host the meeting and make a pitch for $924 million to help jumpstart an economy that is clearly on life support. One expects the four hosts will come up with something to sweeten the pot for the bilateral donors.

They will base the pitch on a set of documents that lay out an “Interim Cooperation Framework.” (ICF) The idea of creating a social and economic development plan for Haiti and presenting it to the international community makes all the sense in the world. But, of course, it makes all the difference in the world how you create the plan.

According to Hervey Sylvain, an adviser to Haiti’s U.S.-picked Prime Minister, Gerald Latorture, “This is the first time in Haiti where everyone got together and established some sort of vision for the future.”

Everyone? Everyone must mean all major stakeholders, right?

The ICF was a bonanza for international technical consultants as hundreds of them participated in one or another aspect of the process. The luxury hotels on the hills around Port-au-Prince have been lobbying for an extended process…business is great for them. Many key government functionaries have also participated with their own consultants, and both the World Bank and the United Nations insist that the process has been and will remain “Haitian-led.”

The progressive civil society organizations that hold the key to democratization in Haiti–GRI’s partners among them–were almost completely left out of the process. Not surprisingly, they are mad as hell about a process that they see as more of the same for Haiti. The organizations include many accomplished professionals and economists, and they have been spending a lot of time analyzing the documents and trying to get their voices heard in this process. For them, the “new” reconstruction plan repeats many of the mistakes of the plan drawn up in the early 1990s, and this just does not have to be. Jane Regan, perhaps the best English-language journalist working in Haiti, has written a fine article summarizing both civil society and government views of the ICF process.

Groups of international agencies from England and from the European continent have both contacted their governments to insist that those governments require more civil society participation/voice in any plan that they eventually support. We hope that a similar initiative gains support in the U.S., as well.

Thankfully, this Consultative Group is only an early step in what will be a long process of trying to mobilize international resources to support development in Haiti. What is clear today is that the resources are needed and that Haitian organizations plan to have a voice in the use of those resources…should any be forthcoming. We at Grassroots will be supporting them in that effort, and we hope you will, too.


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