New bill supports Haitian-led rebuilding effort

By Oxfam

Washington, DC – In reaction to today’s introduction of the Haiti Empowerment, Assistance, and Rebuilding Act of 2010 by Senators John F. Kerry (D-MA) and Bob Corker (R-TN), Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of international humanitarian organization Oxfam America, made the following statement:
“Over the past few months, Oxfam has worked with the people of Haiti to begin to recover from one of the most devastating natural disasters in the country’s history. A resilient community of people has emerged to rebuild a stronger Haiti, and the Haitian government is counting on international support to overcome the devastation and address the gripping poverty that has plagued the country for decades, leaving people more vulnerable to disasters like this one. Oxfam commends the Senators for introducing a bill that supports a Haitian-led approach to reconstruction.
“Three months after the earthquake, conditions have vastly improved with support from aid agencies and the international community, but more than one million people remain homeless in temporary shelter. With the rainy season underway and the hurricane season beginning next month, the delivery of water, shelter materials, sanitation services is still an urgent priority.
“Haitians want to get back on their feet and start working for the future of their country. As the bill states, a US policy that supports a leading role for affected people and the Haitian government in planning and rebuilding has a better chance of resulting in long-lasting, positive change. In a recent Oxfam survey, Haitians listed jobs, schools, and shelter as their top concerns for reconstruction. The language of this bill reinforces that Haitians’ reconstruction priorities must drive our aid priorities.
“The Haitian people have raised concerns about their government’s capacity to lead the reconstruction effort. We have seen these capacity challenges during the recovery process – most recently with poorly planned camp resettlements. The bill promotes a democratic, transparent government in Haiti with the capacity to lead development and reconstruction initiatives. With US support, the government will be able to provide services to its people, stimulate local entrepreneurship, promote food security, and reduce and mitigate the effects of future disasters, including climate-related events – all crucial elements of long-term success. 
“We know the challenge in Haiti is sustainable development. We are concerned about the bill’s plan to establish a Senior Haiti Coordinator position within the State Department. The US approach to supporting Haiti is more likely to be effective when led by development professionals. The core of this expertise within the US government lies in the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Experience has shown that when development experts are not leading our US government response, we do not get the best development outcomes. President Obama acknowledged this early in this crisis when he named USAID as the lead agency for US response in Haiti. This will be even more important over the longer term as the focus shifts from relief to reconstruction.
“As we continue recovery work with our partners in Haiti, Oxfam looks forward to a coordinated effort to support Haitians as they rebuild their lives and livelihoods equitably and accountably. We are encouraged by the US plan to help Haiti carry out a transparent, sustainable rebuilding and development process with comprehensive monitoring and evaluation along the way. Finally, we ask the United States and other donors to follow through on their funding commitments to help Haiti recover from this disaster and finally break the cycle of poverty.”

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