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One Billion Pledged…Don’t Hold Your Breath, Haiti

July 2004

The international donor conference on Haiti closed on July 20 with pledges of $1.037 billion from the international community, including $239 million from the United States. As the weeks and months pass, we will watch closely what becomes of these pledges.

The World Bank sounds absolutely giddy in its post-conference press release.  One billion dollars sounds great, but it is worth noting that none of these pledges are on paper: They all come from press statements like the one made by Colin Powell. At Grassroots International, our auditor insists that a pledge must be very specific and in writing before it is considered real. The same standard should apply to these donor conferences. 

A spokesperson at the United Nations said that the U.S. pledge was “a bit of this and a bit of that” and probably included a lot of humanitarian assistance, which is being handled in a totally separate appeal to the international community. In short, talk is cheap and the Haiti donor conference was a lot of talk.

And then there is the question of the nature of the plan presented to the Consultative Group. Writing in the Washington Post , interim Prime Minister Gerald Latorture makes his case for aid to Haiti. He is right about the need, but he fails to mention that he sought and received no input from civil society organizations representing Haiti’s poor majority. Most importantly, he fails to explain how the Interim Cooperation Framework (ICF) departs from the structural adjustment regime (called “the death plan” by Haitian activists) that is at least partly responsible for Haiti’s economic collapse.

Even if the $1.037 billion comes through, there is little reason to believe that it will represent a departure from the past for Haiti. A number of Haiti solidarity organizations held a demonstration at the site of the Consultative Group meeting on July 20. Their press release offers another view of the ICF. While it is heavy on rhetoric, the statement is very consistent with what progressive Haitian organizations have been saying about the reconstruction plan. This convergence in views between U.S. Haiti solidarity organizations and Haiti’s popular movement is to be welcomed.

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