One year on, breaking the cycle of dependence: Letting Haitians lead

By jlee

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Washington, DC – One year after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, international humanitarian organization Oxfam America gathered leading development experts and US government officials with Representative Albio Sires (D-NJ) today to assess the effectiveness of foreign aid to Haiti.  

“As we commemorate last year’s tragic earthquake, it is important to highlight the many accomplishments and discuss the lessons learned during the humanitarian response, said Representative Albio Sires. “Today’s discussion provided a valuable opportunity to examine how the international community can move forward in the reconstruction process in partnership with both Haitian citizens and the Haitian government in order to create a strong and stable future for Haiti.”

President Obama has committed to “changing the way it does business” on development, announcing the first-ever US Global Development Strategy. Key to this change is letting recipient countries lead their own development. With a weak government system and underdeveloped basic institutions strained even further by the earthquake, Haiti deserves the investment and effort required to be a model of this new approach to fighting poverty.

“The international community continues to support the relief and rebuilding efforts in Haiti, but success will ultimately be determined by Haitians themselves, and particularly the Haitian government’s capacity to address long-term challenges,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. “President Obama’s global development strategy sets clear goals and priorities, but putting them into practice for Haiti remains a challenge. Nonetheless, a sustainable recovery for Haiti will require new approaches that empower local Haitian communities to fight corruption and hold their leaders accountable.”  

Following featured remarks by Rep. Sires and Cokie Roberts, political commentator for ABC News, senior news analyst for National Public Radio, and member of the Board of Trustees for Save the Children, a discussion was moderated by Angela Bruce Raeburn, Oxfam’s senior policy advisor for humanitarian response. Panelists included Robert Maguire, Haiti working group chair at the US Institute of Peace and associate professor of international affairs at Trinity Washington University; Dr. Florence Duperval Guillaume, chief of party and technical director SDSH for Management Sciences for Health; Thomas C. Adams, special coordinator to Haiti for the State Department; and Russell Porter, director for the USAID Haiti Task Team. The panelists discussed the challenging situation in Haiti, examined lessons learned from the past year, and explored how to improve assistance as we move forward toward a stable and productive Haiti.

“The humanitarian response in Haiti to date has been extremely successful in saving lives and providing the basic necessities. This aid is still needed, but we must urgently turn to reconstruction and long-term development in Haiti,” said Offenheiser.  “Humanitarian aid is not sustainable and does not address the underlying problems that leave Haiti desperately poor and vulnerable to disasters.”