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WASHINGTON, DC – On Thursday, February 9, international aid organization Oxfam America hosted an unprecedented roundtable discussion between Haitian Prime Minister Garry Conille and representatives of 17 major nongovernmental aid organizations (NGOs) operating in Haiti. Two years after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, as emergency response turns to long-term reconstruction and development, the discussion came at a critical time for Haiti’s new government to renew a strategic partnership with NGOs.
Prime Minister Conille opened the discussion with a challenge: “How do we make sure that 20 years from now, your successors are not sitting across from our successors talking about the same things? What are we going to do differently? The question for us as a government is how do we channel the resources and energy that NGOs have brought to Haiti in a way that complements our country’s capacity?”
Since the earthquake, major NGOs have brought billions of dollars of life-saving aid into Haiti to deliver food, water, shelter, and other services to millions. But two years later, half a million people are still living in tents, half of the rubble remains strewn across Port-au-Prince, and many are still without basic services.
Paul O’Brien, Vice President for Policy and Campaigns at Oxfam America, said: “We are in an important time right now. All NGOs around this table can tell you about what we’ve done to save millions of Haitian lives since the earthquake. But two years later, this is not enough. We are frustrated, and we know you are frustrated. Recovery and development are not happening fast enough. The American public and media are asking questions. Most importantly, the Haitian people are asking questions.”
The Prime Minister, joined by a delegation of government officials and advisors – including Simon Dieuseul Desras, President of the Senate; Yanick Mezile, Minister of Woman Affairs; and Guy Gerard Georges, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee – emphasized two critical components of a more effective partnership between the government and NGOs: capacity building and coordination.
He expressed the need for technical and organizational support in the Haitian government, and the value of harnessing the resources and expertise that NGOs can bring to this process. “There is value in a transfer of functions. We need you to be committed to working yourselves out of a job by ensuring your Haitian counterparts can continue this work.”
The Prime Minister and his colleagues also appealed for help developing a comprehensive and effective NGO regulation law. Right now, thousands of aid organizations operate with little to no formal regulation in Haiti. Oxfam is one of only 79 NGOs that submitted financial reports to the Ministry of Planning in 2011. Conille asked for recommendations from the NGOs around the table to inform a law that will ensure effective coordination.
In turn, Oxfam urged the Prime Minister to create a permanent Haitian development agency and reinforce the role of Haitian civil society to hold the government and NGOs accountable.
The discussion at Oxfam concluded Prime Minister Conille’s three-day official visit to the United States where his delegation met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as leaders at the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other intergovernmental organizations.