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The Haitian government wants to overhaul the aid industry in the wake of Oxfam's sex abuse scandal, but will the International Community let it do so?

Posted by hougansydney.com on Sunday, February 25, 2018 Under: National
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Aviol Fleurant, Haiti’s minister of planning and external cooperation, left, meeting on Thursday with the Oxfam officials Simon Ticehurst and Margalida Massot.

Haiti seems to be on the verge of having Its #Metoo movement with non profit organizations; the Haitian government appears to be determined to overhaul the aid industry in the wake of the Oxfam sex abuses scandal. But with so much interests and billions of dollars involved, will the International Community let this happen?

The Republic of NGOs; that’s Haiti’s other nickname.  Haiti is a “must-have” experience for a humanitarian career. This country has more non profit organizations operating within it than any other country in the world. Because of the limited capacity of the Haitian government and weak institutions, NGOs have risen to play a very prominent role, one equivalent to a semi-state with more money, power and structures than the Haitian government itself. Their power and presence increased even more significantly following a devastating earthquake in 2010, but even before the earthquake, NGOs provided 70% of healthcare, and private schools, mostly NGO-run accounted for 85% of national education.

On January 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, killing an estimated 300.000, rendered a near equal number of injured and made homeless 1.5 millions.

Thousands of aid organizations rushed to “help” Haiti on behalf of the goodwill of the global community and with the entire international aid budget in their bank accounts -some $10 billion- they built a powerful parallel state accountable to no one but their boards and donors. From the very beginning, NGOs followed their own agendas and set their own priorities, largely excluding the Haitian government and civil society. In the first rush of aid after the earthquake, just 1 percent of all donor funds available for emergency assistance was channeled through the government. And out 1.500 contracts given to rebuild important infrastructures such as government offices or schools, only 20 went to Haitian company.

"Several miles northwest of downtown sits the Logistical Base, or Log Base, the headquarters for the United Nations and its recovery efforts. Here, it’s a different world. Within the massive blue-and-white compound are revamped trailers, golf carts and more glistening public toilets than any other place in Haiti. (Log Base is germ—and cholera!—free.) Flowers line the walkways, and machines blow a cool mist into an outdoor restaurant whose menu, on one random day, included sushi, jasmine rice, German potatoes, Brazilian cheese bread, halal shawarma and Häagen-Dazs ice cream. The American dollar, not the Haitian gourde, is the currency of choice.

Shortly after the earthquake, Log Base became the nerve center of the international recovery effort, the place where aid organizations could coordinate reconstruction strategies. At the peak, there were more than seventy coordinating meetings each week among aid agencies and other interested parties— though not all interested parties. Few Haitians can cross from one side of the compound’s walls to the other. To do so requires identification documents and an invitation from someone on the inside, two things very few Haitians have. And when they do, they find that most meetings are held in English, not Creole or even French. When a steering committee for NGO coordination was elected in July 2010 at Log Base, sixty international organizations cast their votes, but since there were no local NGOs present, Haitians were not represented."  The Nation

NGOs that swooped in to “rescue” the population, largely sidestepped the Haitian government, which they deemed too weak and corrupt to consider working with directly. International donors also concerned about the volatility of Haitian politics and the near incapacity of Haitian institutions following the disaster, made the NGOs the main thoroughfare for foreign assistance. NGOs are seen as more accountable to them than the government. 

There were no coordination whatsoever, each organization followed their own agendas, spending the millions collected however they see fit. 

What happened to the billions of dollars donated after the earthquake?

If the Oxfam sex scandal is any indication, most of the billions of dollars that poured into Haiti following the earthquake, have mostly been wasted, mismanaged and stolen, and there is no accountability whatsoever.
Only a minor portion went to earthquake relief efforts and reconstruction.

How the Director of Oxfam in 2011, used donated money for the earthquake to pay for underage prostitutes in Haiti and "orgies"

Donations made to international charities to help Haiti, got spent on the charities' normal expenses. Unscrupulous businesses, cut behind the scene deals to make sure pledged money was used to buy supplies and services from their own companies at considerable profits. Some countries even re-paid themselves from the money that they have just donated for the services they provided. The people of Haiti were left wondering if their own government was stealing all the alleged money that was promised and indeed been donated, even though the local government had been stripped of all control of said funds.

-The American Red Cross launched a wildly successful appeal immediately after the Earthquake, raising close to $500 million in 2010 alone. As of 2013 only U$ 200 million of the funds raised were spent in reconstructions and relief efforts. The year before, the spokesperson for the American Red Cross Julie Sell,  admitted in a press conference: " The remaining millions are being kept in short-term, conservative government-backed investments. Any interest generated will be spent on Haiti"  Yes, you have heard right. 350.000 people were still living in tents in Haiti 3 years after the earthquake, while American Red Cross had nearly U$300 million left from the money received for Haiti through donations, sitting in a bank's coffer, generating interest. 

In 2012, Red Cross came under fire after a report came out about its intention to spend $3 million in the construction of a hotel in Port-au-Prince, for its workers!
An extensive investigative report was conducted and published by NPR in collaboration with Probublica, showing how the Red Cross raised U$500 million following the earthquake and only built six homes in Haiti.

How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti ­and Built Six Homes

- World Vision raised U$194 million in the name of Haiti's earthquake. In an interview given to The Nation, a prominent US newspaper, World Vision's spokesperson Amy Parody, in 2012, admitted that only $107 had been spent in Haiti. The rest were being kept in " Low-risk investments accounts."

-Instead of hiring Haitian firms for the reconstruction of schools, and other important structures, agencies responsible for said projects hired companies from their respective countries without the consideration of capable locals who also were not able to benefit from the important earthquake resistant home building training they would have gained in the process. All the money went to pay the salaries of foreigners and to rent expensive apartments and cars for the foreigners while the situation of the country continued to degrade. Out of 1.500 contracts given, only 20 were to Haitian companies.

-Doctors Without Borders spent 58% of the hundreds of millions it collected, on staff and transportation costs.

-Chemonics International was awarded U$150 million to rebuild the Haitian parliament, it built a U$ 1.9 million temporary home as the new parliament, presented it to Haiti as a gift and, well, the rest of the money is history.

-The Clinton-Bush fund was supposed to help small business owners by providing them loan with low interest, U$ 2 million of that money got invested on Royal Oasis, a brand new 5 star luxury hotel in the hills of Petion-Ville, Haiti's wealthiest suburbs.

-The U.S State Department, under the leadership of Hillary Clinton, reimbursed from the donated funds, U$655 million to the US Department of Defense for the services it provided to Haiti days after the earthquake and $200 million to the Department of Health and Human Services for the health related relief efforts.

The Haitian government, usually quiet in a corner, angrily observing from afar the waste of millions of dollars by non profits and others operating in the country, while dreaming about all that it could and would accomplish if it had access to them, has taken the recent revelation that many employees of the British non profit organization, Oxfam, with aid money had hired prostitutes, possibly underage for orgies, as the perfect opportunity to impose some control on this rogue industry and wrestle some of the power away. But any control resulting in a significant shift of the balance of power, the big players involved will not let it happen.

Aid does not help, but undermines

The old calculus of foreign aid that poor countries are merely suffering from a lack of money, no one is buying it anymore . Development has more to do with the strength of a country’s institutions – political and social systems that are developed through the interplay of a government and its people.

Aids are usually not given in the interest of the local people like the donors always allege. Foreigns aids are mostly given to support strategic allies, commercial interests or moral or political beliefs, rather than the interests of the local people. They are also given or held to get concessions from local governments. If you don't do as I say you don't get a dime.

Canada, one Haiti's largest donors, is visibly worried about the development of the Oxfam sex scandal and how the Haitian government is responding to it so far. A day after officials of the Haitian government met with representatives of Oxfam to discuss their future in the country, the Canadian Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, Mrs Marie Claude Bibeau, was in Haiti to support women and highlight Canada’s goal in supporting the empowerment of women and girls in Haiti “to make the country’s whole population stronger more resilient and more self reliant.”

Canadian Minister of International Development announces $8.3 million in support of Haitian women while also reaffirming her support for Oxfam

She made a number of announcement, including $8.3 million 
for women initiatives. Was it a way of wooing the Haitian government to not revoke Oxfam's license, an organization which receives millions of funding from Mrs Bibeau's ministry to do work in many countries around the world, including in Haiti?

Unlike the British government, Canada will not cut its ties with Oxfam,  in fact The Canadian Minister of International Development implores Canadians to maintain faith in the humanitarian organization and its workers, arguing in a telephone interview from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on Monday, that while ”a case is a case of too much", that should not "generalize" and talk about a "corporate culture" within the organization based in Britain.

Haitian President Jovenel Moise did not not  let Mrs Bibeau's reassurances or millions, deter him from suspending Oxfam's license to operate in the country.

Breaking News: Haitian government temporarily suspends Oxfam license to operate in Haiti

How about the United States, Haiti's largest foreign donor. Will it let its millions fall under the control of any Haitian government?  How about France?

Powerful donors with heavy interest vested in Haiti such as the United States, Canada, France, and even Japan to some extent and others are not the only ones watching closely how the Haitian government handles this, poor countries around the world are looking at Haiti's response and see if they could take it as a template to overhaul their own aid industry. But will the International Community let it happen?

In : National