US Senate report says Haiti rebuilding has stalled
By JONATHAN M. KATZ (AP) – 10 hours ago
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haiti has made little progress in rebuilding in the five months since its earthquake, because of an absence of leadership, disagreements among donors and general disorganization, a U.S. Senate report says.
Obtained Monday by The Associated Press, the eight-page report is meant to give Congress a picture of Haiti today as U.S. legislators consider authorizing $2 billion to support the country's reconstruction.
That picture is grim: Millions displaced from their homes, rubble and collapsed buildings still dominating the landscape. Three weeks into hurricane season, with tropical rains lashing the capital daily, construction is being held up by land disputes and customs delays while plans for moving people out of tent-and-tarp settlements remain in "early draft form," it says.
The report was written by staff of Sen. John Kerry, the Massachuetts Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and other Democrats who interviewed U.S., Haitian, United Nations and other officials and visited resettlement camps, hospitals and schools throughout the quake zone.
"While many immediate humanitarian relief priorities appear to have been met, there are troubling signs that the recovery and longer term rebuilding activities are flagging," said the report, which is scheduled to be released Tuesday.
Three times it says the rebuilding process has "stalled" since the Jan. 12 disaster.
The report also criticizes the government of Haitian President Rene Preval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, saying it has "not done an effective job of communicating to Haitians that it is in charge and ready to lead the rebuilding effort." The report calls on Preval to take a "more visible and active role, despite the difficulties."
Bellerive responded to the criticism in a Monday interview with the AP. He said officials are working hard behind the scenes to ensure reconstruction does not simply mean the rebuilding of barely livable slums.
"We understand the impatience and we are the ones more frustrated than anybody," the prime minister said. "It took some time. I believe four months (since a U.N. donors' conference in March) to plan the refoundation from such a disaster is pretty acceptable."
With a chuckle, he also said it is unfair for U.S. officials to take him to task when the Senate still has not approved aid money that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton promised at the donors' conference.
"They ask me to move more projects when the money is still on hold," Bellerive said.
In all, just 2 percent of the $5.3 billion in near-term aid pledges have actually been delivered, up from 1 percent last week.
The report expresses concerns that even once the money is in hand, it will not move quickly enough to help. The funds are managed by a 26-member reconstruction commission led by Bellerive and former U.S. President Bill Clinton that started its operations last week.
While the report calls the commission the "best near-term prospect for driving rebuilding," it also says the panel "has the potential to dramatically slow things down through cumbersome bureaucratic obstacles at a time when Haiti cannot afford to delay."
The report notes disagreements among donors over strategy, approach and priorities, saying the disputes "are undercutting recovery and rebuilding."
The reconstruction panel includes representatives of donors who pledged at least $100 million in cash or $200 million of debt relief, including the United States, Venezuela, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank.
Bellerive said the report's criticism that the panel has been too slow in organizing is already moot. "We had a meeting, we have an office, we have administrative support," he said.
One thing on which all parties agree is the importance of November elections. The legislature has almost entirely dissolved after members' terms expired because the quake forced the cancellation of February legislative elections. Preval's five-year term ends next February; an attempt to prolong his term by several months if elections are not held resulted in protesters clashing with police in front of the ruins of the presidential palace.
Failing to hold the November elections on time, even despite the losses of the electoral commission's headquarters and records, could imperil "Haiti's fragile democracy," the report says. But it expresses limited optimism that a plan for holding the vote is "apparently imminent."
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
Worry, harsh words from U.S. on Haiti recovery
The chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee called on foreign donors to speak with one voice on Haiti and for President René Préval to show greater leadership.
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
PORT-AU-PRINCE -- More than five months after a devastating earthquake, there are worrisome signs that the massive rebuilding efforts have stalled, a strongly worded report by the chairman of the powerful U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee says.
Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., is calling on Haitian President René Préval to show greater leadership in Haiti's post-quake reconstruction and for international donors, including the United States, to improve coordination and speak with one voice.
``Key decisions remain in flux and critical humanitarian issues related to shelter and resettlement are not resolved,'' the report said.
The report, to be released Tuesday, also notes that fragmentation and lack of coordination among donors ``are undercutting recovery and rebuilding.''
Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, who co-chairs the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, defended the government's handling of the crisis, saying that Préval's leadership has allowed for Haitians to remain united despite the challenges.
``We've kept a united nation during this period; that is leadership,'' he said.
And Bellerive said the government has a plan to rebuild the country.
``We know where we are going but no one is going to make us go any faster, or in a direction that doesn't benefit the Haitian people,'' he said.
The , 7.0-magnitude quake on Jan. 12 killed a government-estimated 300,000 Haitians, and 1.5 million people remain underneath tents and tarps in a country where a few days of rain could lead to deaths.
It is the second time this month that an influential member of Congress has issued a report critical of Préval's lack of prioritization and decision-making.
Richard Lugar, R-Ind., ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, earlier this month urged Préval to move faster to schedule presidential and parliamentary elections, or risk losing the confidence of the U.S. Congress.
Kerry and Lugar hold significant sway over U.S. efforts in Haiti, and can hold up funds to the embattled country if they're not satisfied with the pace of reconstruction. The United States is Haiti's biggest ally, and while support for Haiti remains on Capitol Hill, a $2.8 billon aid package the Obama administration is seeking remains stalled in Congress.
Foreign Affairs Committee staffers compiled the report after site visits and extensive interviews with those involved in Haiti's recovery.
It cites the lack of scaffolding on a crumbled presidential palace as emblematic that the rebuilding has stalled.
While the rebuilding must be Haitian-government led, the United States has to take an active role in the process, Kerry wrote.
The report cites 10 critical issues for Haiti's rebuilding that require urgent attention by the Haitian government and Obama administration. They include conflicting messages from donors to Préval, setting an election schedule and the lack of government guidance about its plans.
``The government has not done an effective job of communicating to Haitians that it is in charge and ready to lead the rebuilding effort,'' the report said. ``President Préval should take a more visible and active role, despite the difficulties confronting his government.''
Préval, who has relied on close supporters to lead the recovery and reconstruction, should make the rebuilding more inclusive and empower top lieutenants to make key decisions about land tenure, for instance, to relocate Haitians living in squalor camps, the report says.
U.N. CONCERN The U.S. Senate's reservations are echoed by others in the international community including the U.N. Security Council. Member states have expressed concerns about building materials being delayed and donors -- who pledged more than $5 billion over the next two years -- not fulfilling their pledges. At the same time, the international community appears poised for a showdown with Préval over presidential and parliamentary elections. Préval and the international community want to avoid an interim government after his term ends early next year. But two diplomats say their governments are growing increasingly frustrated and impatient with ``his disengagement.''
Préval has yet to formally set the elections date, and has refused repeated requests to revamp the beleaguered Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), which is responsible for carrying out elections. The credibility of the body is key to avoiding a boycott or another Haitian political crisis, top diplomats warned as late as last Thursday in a close-door meeting with Préval.
``The extraordinary challenges Haiti must face in the coming years demand responsive leadership, unwavering commitment and a clear vision,'' Lugar said in a statement.
``If elections are not held before President Préval's mandate expires, Haiti may be confronted by a vacuum of power at every level of its government. Haiti does not need to add a political crisis to the death and destruction caused by the Jan. 12 earthquake.''
Préval has countered that changing the CEP -- which would require groups to appoint members -- could invite spoilers from opponents who have been demanding his resignation and the move toward an interim government.
``What's important is that the Haitian people have an opportunity to go to the polls and make their choice,'' Préval told The Miami Herald.
But there is growing concern that a Haitian political crisis could derail U.S. efforts to help.
``Republicans and Democrats may disagree on many issues related to U.S. Haiti policy, but the importance of having fair, transparent and free elections is not one of them,'' said a top Republican aide.
Special correspondent Stewart Stogel at the United Nations contributed to this report.
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