Conversations With America: Haiti in 2011--The Way Forward
Special Coordinator for Haiti
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
This page contains an item that cannot be displayed on mobile devices.
MR. CROWLEY: Hello, and welcome to the Department of State. I am P.J. Crowley, the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. I’m joined by Tom Adams, the Special Coordinator for Haiti, Sam Worthington, who is the president and CEO of InterAction, and we’re here this morning to talk about Haiti, one year after the awful, terrible, tragic earthquake and what has happened – what happened on that day and what has happened since and what needs to be done over the coming years to -- as many leaders, including the Secretary General, Secretary Clinton, President Obama said -- to build back Haiti better.
But to start off, Tom, thanks for joining us, and Sam. And why don’t the two of you – what did happen a year ago, and what has happened in the year since?
MR. ADAMS: Thanks, P.J. A year ago, the most devastating earthquake that has ever hit a major urban center destroyed Port-au-Prince, killing 230,000 people or more, destroying buildings, infrastructure. And this was in a place that already was very poor, had the lowest statistics in the entire hemisphere. There was a very large international response, which, in hindsight, is probably one of the best of these kinds of rescue operations that’s ever been done, and the United States did its fair share, but a lot of other organizations and countries also participated.
MR. WORTHINGTON: And, we had, unfortunately, massive destruction, and we hear these big numbers of 220,000 people killed or 300,000 injured, but really it comes down to families, families that were torn apart and have to get themselves back on their feet and the first place they went was into camps the international community mounted, which is one of the largest global responses to help individuals at least have a tarp over their head, that went to tents. And now we’re moving to the more difficult phase, which is really helping individuals, their families, and their communities get back on their feet.
The international community responded tremendously, not only governments but the American people. Through our members, the American people gave $1.3 billion. Those resources – as of approximately the end of October, about half of those resources were spent, and this is just in the day-to-day maintenance of camps, food, water, shelter. It’s an enormous global effort.
MR. CROWLEY: So for the average Haitian citizen today, perhaps in a camp, what is the day-to-day reality for them?
MR. ADAMS: Well, life is still very grim there, and your average Haitian is probably understandably concerned that with all this money that’s been pledged, all the NGOs working there, why hasn’t my life gotten better quicker. And the reality there is this is going to be – we have stabilized Haiti after the earthquake, and as I said, I think it was a very good job, by and large. But moving on, as you try to develop Haiti to turn around its economic problems – that’s going to take a decade or more. Now, that’s not to say you’re not going to see progress soon. I think in the next two or three years you are. But it’s not the kind of thing that happens overnight, unfortunately.
MR. WORTHINGTON: I think it sort of depends on what happened to you during the quake. If you were in slums or you lost your apartment building, were a renter, in many ways you’ll still find yourself in a camp. For others, economic activity is starting. There’s full markets around the city. It’s certainly more vibrant than it was seven or eight, nine months ago. So you’re seeing life come back, but it really is family by family. It’s the ability of one driver to take care of 70people, because he has the one job out there. But hundreds of thousands of Haitians are, in many ways, trying to improve their lives, and we think we need to see this response as a partnership with them. It’s slow, it’s difficult, some individuals do better than others, but there’s a clear momentum, even if it is a very slow momentum.
MR. CROWLEY: We must work through some areas. Start with the basic aspect of security. What is the situation on the ground today, from your standpoint, in terms of citizen safety?
MR. WORTHINGTON: If you’re living in camps and you’re a woman, at night, there’s risk. Individuals still monitor and have neighborhood watches to get a sense of what’s going on, lights are slowly be introduced in camps to give some degree of security. At the higher level, there is a sense of a certain degree of political instability, not a clear sense of who’s going to win the election yet, and lots of hopes for the future. And it’s because these hopes are so great, and in many ways justified, that individuals are looking to their government and the international community to help them get out of their current rather difficult circumstances.
MR. CROWLEY: And Tom, Sam just mentioned the political situation. As we sit here, there’s been a first round of voting, and there’s a review of that voting, and then a second round of voting has been delayed. What’s the – how important is the political situation to be being able to enact the plan that Haiti has put forward?
MR. ADAMS: It’s very important that the people in Haiti have confidence in their government, and part of getting that confidence is for them to think that their vote – to be sure that their votes counted in this election. So when the elections were announced, the results on the evening of the election – November 28th – there was a lot of charges of fraud. Even before the elections were over, as you know, the opposition was screaming fraud. And there were certain indicators, parallel vote counts and other things, that indicated that the results might be fraudulent.
In order to sort this out, the Government of Haiti asked for the Organization of American States to send an expert elections verification group down there, and they’ve been working since about Christmas going through a percentage of the votes, tabulating them, and I believe will announce the results later this week of what they think were the real results of the presidential elections.
MR. CROWLEY: And we always think of the victims of the earthquake – the government itself was victimized by the earthquake. You had a government with limited capacity and, in many respects, many of the ministries lost their leaders, lost workers with significant experience and capabilities. What’s the current status of the capacity of the Haitian Government to do what needs to be done?
MR. ADAMS: Well, estimates are that 15 percent of the government workforce was killed in the earthquake, which happened about 5 – 5 o’clock at night, and often the best people who were working what is considered fairly late in Haiti. If you add the people who probably immigrated from the government, a lot of them had visas and could leave the country, probably as much as 40 percent of the government workforce left, so this left a big hole.
In addition, almost all the government buildings were destroyed. I think 28 out of 29 ministries were – buildings were destroyed. We have helped somewhat by turning over the old U.S. embassy and the old USAID mission as government offices. We are currently building a temporary parliament building, and we’ve done a number of other – taken a number of other steps to help strengthen the government.
But this will be a process. It takes time, as almost everything in Haiti will. There are big challenges building a new government, fixing the educational system, fixing the health system.
MR. WORTHINGTON: I think the reality of the shock to the government is as big as the shock that hit the people of Port-au-Prince. I had the opportunity to meet with President Preval earlier in March in the presidential palace, and there’s only one small wing at the back of the palace that is still standing.
And this translates into real challenges for the international non-profit community, we call the NGO community. We had worked very closely with the ministry of planning. That ministry almost entirely collapsed, and most of the individuals with whom we’d worked for the past 20 years were killed. So you end up with a lack of sense of who’s doing what where, a lack of sense of the plans that existed, not because conversations and those discussions hadn’t happened as to what should be going on, but simply because that people were killed. So you really had to pick up the pieces from below zero. And it’s been amazing how far we’ve come, but there clearly is a lack of capacity that translates into a slower process of reconstruction. That’s understandable, but it is also very difficult.
MR. CROWLEY: And what about the current state of public health in Haiti?
MR. WORTHINGTON: If you were in the camps, you’ve been fortunate because there’s been a significant investment in sanitation. The first site I visited – I was in Haiti last week, and the first site I actually visited was the dump, the one and only dump for the city of Port-au-Prince, is where all the human waste goes. That dump, and it’s a very simple visual, unfortunately, when human wastes are dumped from the camps, all the sanitation, when those trucks come back to the camps, they’re sprayed with chlorine, so they’re disinfected. So you are stopping the spread of disease. It’s looking at those points of intervention, it’s the fact that there is clean water in most of the camps that has kept health situation in the camps far better than we expected.
We have experienced a cholera epidemic. It spread from the countryside into the camps. We’re seeing less death rate in the camps. Cholera clinics were stood up. They’re very much – they’re isolation areas so that they don’t spread.
But health over time is not about building clinics; it’s about the ability to have clean water throughout the country. It’s about having access to vaccines. It’s having access to medical care. So we can’t just look at the camps, we need to look at the whole country of Haiti and ultimately a partnership with the Haitian Government and its ability to care for its people through health services.
MR. ADAMS: Yeah, let me just add to that. In the aftermath of the earthquake, we knew that Haiti would be ripe for water-borne diseases, and there were certain surveillance and other measures put into place – warehouses were stocked with things that would be needed to fight it. And people thought it would be diphtheria or some other disease. There were immunizations given out very successfully against diphtheria and other diseases. No one guessed – would have guessed cholera. Cholera hasn’t been in Haiti perhaps in a hundred years, and maybe never. So cholera did take us a bit by surprise.
And also, I think the common wisdom was it would start in this dense damaged urban center; in fact, started out in the countryside. That said, the response was – of the international community was quick. We have – the United States has provided over $40 million worth of supplies. We also have a big CDC contingent down there, and they’re doing other things. The NGO community has also sprung into action, as have the international agencies, the UN and others.
But the truth of the matter is because there are no immunities in Haiti to cholera, it spiked rapidly. Also, their sanitation systems are the worst in the hemisphere, and that contributes to it. So I think you attack it in two ways. One is prevention, and we’re distributing Aquatabs, trying to make sure people have clean water, follow sanitation procedures. And also prompt treatment. It’s a very curable disease – cholera – if you get to a treatment center with a serious case. And the messaging there has been very good by the government. This whole effort has been led by their ministry of health, which is performing really above expectations, given how they too were damaged.
And the real key here will be to drive mortality rates down. Right now they are down a little above 2 percent. They started out at 10 percent. They’re down --
MR. CROWLEY: Two percent of those who contract –
MR. ADAMS: Who go to hospitals, yeah, who get serious cases. And three out of four people who get cholera are asymptomatic, by the way. So you can have it and not know it, basically. But we’re hoping to get it down even further. And again, this is going to be a large and continuing effort over the next few years.
Now, at another level, as Sam mentioned, they need sanitation systems, permanent ones. And that is part of the reconstruction plan. The Inter-American Development Bank, about a month ago, let out contracts, $48 million to put in water systems in most of the major towns in the country. And so that – at that higher level it’s being addressed as well, besides the immediate things, giving out clean water.
MR. CROWLEY: I want to get back to that plan in the future, but what about the economy? What was the state of the economy at the time of the earthquake and what has happened in the year since?
MR. ADAMS: Well, the economy was actually improving before the earthquake. They had had some pretty good economic growth, but it was eaten up by their growth in population, so their per capita GDP was actually declining. That was one problem. Although their population growth was also slowing too, so I think there were good trends in both those areas.
Since then, there is economic activity due to the assistance, and I think economists predict that for the next two or three years there will be a bounce from the cash-for-work projects, all the construction. NGOs are hiring. In fact, businessmen complain that NGOs are driving up costs to hire? people down there. So I think that will help prod the economy into some life. After that, we’re going to have to have sustainable jobs, and we’re working on that, too. The United States in particular is working to set up two industrial zones that will do largely textiles, but also furniture manufacturers and others have shown interest. And these could produce a significant number of sustainable jobs when they open. The first one would open about a year from March, the second one six months later.
There are other things we are doing to improve economic life. Agriculture is very inefficient there, and we can easily double or triple farmer income by showing them sort of more modern, efficient farming techniques.
MR. WORTHINGTON: And it comes – I mean, you have this investment of resources in the earthquake zone, and on Friday I saw – it was actually Thursday – a program by Concern Worldwide. They were paying about $1.6 million of Haitian salaries. And they were building temporary shelters – wooden frames, tin roofs – for about 6,000 families, cranking them out at an incredible pace because they’re paid by each house that was built, Haitian contractors laying the concrete, putting in the bars in place so that if the hurricane hits, the roofs are not torn off. So you have this investment because of the relief effort around the hurricane.
At the same time, most Haitians live in small farms. They live far from cities in little villages. And it’s the importance of getting those small holder farmers up to market. And when we looked and mapped our community and their work throughout Haiti, we found that most of their effort is actually not in Port-au-Prince in terms of economic activity; it’s throughout the country, as a recognition that you don’t want to draw everyone into the city simply because that’s where the earthquake and where jobs are now, but you really do need to build on the ability of the small holder farmer to have access to some form of market to increase her productivity and to have better roads to bring things to market. You see Port-au-Prince today; there’s lots of people carrying vegetables and goods on their heads as they walk to market into the city to sell. That’s not the most efficient way to transport goods, and that’s where we need to see some investment in the future.
MR. CROWLEY: Both of you have mentioned a plan. Now, I think there was a long-term plan that Haiti had developed before the earthquake. How much change did that have to undertake after the earthquake, and where does that planning process with the support of the UN, and I think led by the prime minister and former President Clinton – where does that stand now?
MR. ADAMS: Well, the Government of Haiti put forth a very good plan on how to reconstruct the country. It had a number of elements, political elements, economic elements. And it’s to that plan that donors have pledged their money, including the United States. And the mechanism to coordinate that assistance is, as you mentioned, through the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, the IHRC as it’s known, which is co-chaired by President Clinton and Jean-Max Bellerive. Donors belong to that and submit their projects through it. NGOs are not required to do that but are encouraged to do it, and a number of them do it.
And the benefit of doing that is when they do do it, the permits that come through the IHRC process are government permits as well because the government ministries are represented on the IHRC. So this has been a very effective mechanism, we think, for getting input from the NGO sector, from Haitian civic organizations, from the Government of Haiti, as well as from various donors and NGOs.
MR. CROWLEY: And a lot more synergy and coordination both in the public sector and the private sector (inaudible)?
MR. WORTHINGTON: I mean, if you compare this disaster to the tsunami, the level of coordination is simply at a different level among the NGO community, between the NGO community and governments, other donors, and so forth. And this plan provides a frame and a general direction. It means that you have a general sense of where you’re going. Our challenge is to translate the plan into operational direction, and that’s the big hurdle that we’re working on. How do you take a general concept of moving people out of the city, enabling individuals to have livelihoods? You’re building, perhaps – in this case, World Vision – 1,167 temporary shelters out in the Corail area. That’s part of the plan. And yet it’s at that operational level: How do you bring in the schools? Can you bring in livelihoods in that area? The challenge of the influx of more refugees around the Corail area. That’s the translation. And this is where some of the dilemmas come out and result in a movement forward, but sometimes very slow movement forward.
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, on shelter, there’s tension between developing temporary shelters, where someone could live there for an extended period of time, and being able to remove the rubble and begin to build permanent shelters. But I know there are land issues, deed issues. How do you resolve that tension, making lives better now versus being able to, a year from now or two from now, really start to rebuild communities in a vastly different way?
MR. ADAMS: I spent time walking through a neighborhood in Delmas in a project that was being managed by Catholic Relief Services, and they had an interesting effort. They had supported the local business woman. She – they provided her with a machine that crushed rubble. There was a group of young men working very hard around that machine while others were bringing in wheelbarrows of rubble to it. The machine crushed rubble, turned it into sand and fine rubble, which is then bagged and sold, sold to the individuals who are then building the concrete slabs for the new houses. So all the salaries of the entire effort were paid for by the sales of the crushed rubble. This project, which is being replicated throughout different places in Port-au-Prince, illustrates the type of effort – you can’t get into these side streets in any truck or anything. There’s only a wheelbarrow will go there. We saw individuals rebuilding their own houses, patching up their own houses (inaudible) construction. Others you’ve got a plot that’s clean and a temporary shelter goes up.
The challenge of long-term housing is it really does take years to put in place. And even right now, when approximately 31,000 temporary shelters have been built – I talked with three major NGOs, they were cranking out about 500 a week. It’s a tremendous effort to build something of this scale. And we found that even those temporary shelters that were built, individuals were starting to put their own concrete around them to reinforce them over time. It really is one of the lessons we’ve learned from disasters and shelter, that a transition to temporary shelters is the best step and best way to go because you could help more people faster. And ultimately, they used the resources of that temporary shelter to build a new home for themselves.
MR. CROWLEY: And the challenge for – how do you, in the process of developing temporary shelters, bring any shelter up to a particular level of code so that should an earthquake or some other disaster happen to Haiti in the future, or maybe when a disaster happens in Haiti in the future, since it’s just as vulnerable to hurricanes as well – that we’re not going to see the same kind of devastation sometime in the future.
MR. ADAMS: Right, it’s actually pretty easy to bring these houses up to an earthquake and hurricane-proof code. I visited several neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince where we are repairing houses, and about half the housing in Port-au-Prince was not damaged. It’s green housing. Another, say, 30 percent is repairable housing, and only really when you get down to it, about 15 or 20 percent is – needs to be knocked down. So there’s a big effort to repair these houses.
And the way you do it when there’s a damaged wall is – in the old standard, these are cinderblock buildings, and the cement between the cinderblocks in the old Haitian model was this thick. Well, I had a guy show me there – he got two big Haitian workmen, and the night before he’d done two blocks – one with a very thick concrete between it and the other one a fingernail. And then he had these two Haitians – he kind of put these bricks together, had the two Haitians sit on a tee, and the one that had this much broke right away. The one that was this thick didn’t break with the two guys rocking. Put two more large Haitian men on their laps, they rocked; didn’t break. Only when they put a third large guy on there did it break. And then when you put a little rebar in there, you have a very strong structure. And the workmen who saw this demonstration were converted. They went around preaching it, putting this done.*
So there are these kinds of standards that are being interpreted for local construction, repair. But as you pointed out, when you go in these neighborhoods and remove rubble by hand, you can’t do it mechanized because that erases property lines, so that’s a slow process. But in most of these disasters, the rebuilding didn’t hit its peak until about 18 months after, and you see this. I know rubble removal was slow at first. It’s picked up in recent months. T-shelter building has picked up as well as these NGOs figure out the system, figure out how to work through Customs and all the challenges that are down there.
Now on the t-shelters, they (are) in theory much quicker. You take a plot of land; you don’t have to clear off the rubble and do it. And there again, we have been slow. The United States has built about 13,000 t-shelters, about half of the total, and we did not meet our targets because the NGOs have just had some problems. Some NGOs figure it out; others haven’t. But again, they’re all picking up their pace. So we will do – I think in the next six to eight months, you’ll see a lot more building of temporary shelters and repair of the old homes.
MR. WORTHINGTON: When you talk about the types of problems you have, you have a piece of land, there are two owners of the land, you have a building on the land, there are three people claiming ownership for the building, there’s no set one title system, it’s a discussion then with the neighborhood as to really who does own the land. And you end up with a slow, complicated process of establishing a plot so that when you do build something, the person on that plot can really have some rightful claim.
We’re recognizing that this is a country that did not have a title system, nor a legal system around titles, so it really comes down to a community-level conversation. And to rush those conversations could be making mistakes, even if it means putting up housing quicker.
MR. CROWLEY: I want to draw some questions in from our viewing audience, but just one last one before we do. You were talking about how do you scale this up? And perhaps, given other experiences – the Somalian is one example – broadly speaking, are we on an appropriate track here, and – or are we a bit behind schedule, in your view?
MR. WORTHINGTON: You look at the level of suffering and it’s hard to say we’re on an appropriate track. If you compare it to other disasters, we’re operating at a pace that’s faster in many ways. You’ve got 90 percent of the children that were in school before the earthquake are now back in school. Those schools are tents. As of – Save the Children, they’re in the process of trying to build about 54 schools over the next year. These efforts will take time. But the reality that 90 percent of the children are back in school sounds good except that half the children were not in school before the earthquake. So we have to recognize that building Haiti is in many ways building Haiti for the first time. It is not rebuilding Haiti. It is enabling a country, a people, to build a society that – the society they want. And that will take a lot of time because we started in a very different place than, for example, in Chile or other places. We started from a very poor country with little infrastructure, and it’s that commitment long-term, that’s the crucial bit at this point in time.
MR. ADAMS: That’s a very good point. Yeah, I think before the earthquake, I think you should realize, six out of seven people in Port-au-Prince lived in miserable slums without access to clean water, or 40 percent of the people in Haiti had no access to healthcare. We could go on and on with these statistics, but they’re pretty grim.
MR. CROWLEY: But the time factor is – are we talking a decade? Or we talking two, of sustained effort internationally to get Haiti where it needs to be?
MR. ADAMS: I think Haiti’s going to need at least a decade of sustained effort, and I think we are certainly committed to that in the U.S. Government. I think our partners are. I know the NGO community is also committed to the long term there.
MR. WORTHINGTON: Many of our organizations have been there 20 years. We don’t want to be there for another 20 years. But it’s also important to recognize that to build a better Haiti that as much effort has to happen outside Port-au-Prince, that we need to tap into economic quarters, that we need to help individuals reach up to markets. Basic issues of literacy, hoping and investing in education so that there’s less brain drain and more individuals who graduate from high school stay in the country. And creating an environment where U.S. business, but more importantly the diaspora and other businesses can invest in this country. And only then will you see Haiti move. It will take 10 years before we see Port-au-Prince back to where it could be. But it needs – we’re talking about a generational investment. And the American people, I would hope, see Haiti as a partner for the long term.
MR. CROWLEY: Speaking of that relief effort, Joanna H (ph) in California wrote us and said it appears we’ve been wasting valuable resources in Haiti doing things the wrong way. Most Haitians do not feel the U.S.-approved elections were truly democratic. Reconstruction plans only benefit a small group of people, maybe only favored by 17 percent of Haitians, according to an Oxfam poll. And the UN stabilization mission – the UN’s played an important role here – is building roads, dams, instead of holding guns. Who’s benefiting from the foreign policy in Haiti?
MR. ADAMS: Well, I think most Haitians benefit in some way from the reconstruction assistance. And when I go to the tent camps and start talking to people, they say, “Oh, I haven’t seen that check that I should be getting here.” And I said, “Well, who gave you the tent you’re living in? Who gives you your water? Who built a clinic there? Who educates your kids? Who does the feeding program?” So, I mean, I think there are benefits flowing to Haitians. There’s cash-for-work programs that employ a lot of people. So there are benefits flowing to, I think, the most needy. Indications are that Haitians who were malnourished before the earthquake are better nourished. There’s still some malnutrition there, and we have targeted – we still feed about 1.7 million Haitians a day for that reason.
The elections were problematic. Elections in Haiti are always problematic, always associated with violence. And I think the key here is we are getting it sorted out with the help of the OAS and will do so. So I don't think our money has been wasted there. A lot of the money that we spent in the past has saved lives, has built some infrastructure, and built capacity.
MR. WORTHINGTON: I’ve seen real concrete results, and non-profits, NGOs – I mean, we’re not part of U.S. foreign policy. Our focus is on the poorest, weakest individuals in the camp, and yet we’re part of the system that is responding. And in focusing on the weakest individuals – I’ll give an example I gave earlier of Corail – the individuals in that camp were indentified through a survey process that the USAID had funded as individuals most at risk as being washed away during hurricane season. They voluntarily asked to leave. They were resettled in a new area and provided with shelter. There’s then someone right next door who says, why didn’t – did they get the shelter and not me. And it’s understandable with so much need that those who get something more than others, it raises questions.
But the real effort has been to provide broader services. And the service – provision of services creates a tension for a non-profit. You can provide services in a camp –fresh water, access to medical services, shelter of some degree – that are actually, unfortunately, better than where individuals were outside that camp. So the camps become a magnet. Do you, over time, actually lessen your investment in services in that camp as you increase services in a neighborhood, enabling individuals to start up their houses in a more sustainable way?
It’s that transition of services that we are beginning to see in different parts of Haiti. It leads to tremendous tensions, perhaps of who has and who doesn’t have; if you were feeding someone you’re not anymore because you don’t want the camps to be non-sustainable over time; you’re a clinic that was in a cam, has moved out into a community. And at that point you have this transition. That is difficult. It requires a lot of community outreach, and it’s understandable that people want us to do more.
MR. CROWLEY: You were talking earlier about the difference between what’s happening in Port-au-Prince and also helping all of Haiti. Randy (ph) in California writes about decentralization. What steps are being taken to diffuse both workplaces, offices, and populations away from the capital, and how much success has there been in this, or a timeline for not only rebuilding Port-au-Prince but also building more significantly the outlying areas?
MR. WORTHINGTON: I mean, you’re going to ultimately have to end up with solid economic zones outside Port-au-Prince. Port-au-Prince will remain a magnet for individuals to move in. We have mapped where the NGO community is working and found that most of the activity of our community – and this is at InterAction\Haiti – it’s our map of – well, it’s roughly half of the NGOs operating there. It provides details on some 500 projects. Those projects are primarily in rural areas, and the challenge is is that there isn’t enough economic activity in rural areas or other viable ways to get to market without going to Port-au-Prince. And that’s where we need these economic zones, different economic zones in the future.
MR. ADAMS: Let me add to that, if I may, P.J. The current Haiti constitution allows for decentralization, stronger local government, but it’s never been implemented or funded. The government, in its development plan, committed itself to greater decentralization. And just as the services that are most important to us are local here – our garbage collection, our police, you name it – the same is true – is going to be true in Haiti and should be true. Decentralized services are much more efficient because the providers are closer to the people.
So there is a plan to do that. And one of that is, as Sam said, to build these economic zones. We have three economic development zones outside of Port-au-Prince to develop. One is up in Cap-Haitien, one is kind of in the middle of country, and one is on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Other countries are working in the south and the west and other countries to develop these economic zones. And part of that is building housing for government workers, sort of middle-class housing, and putting in other infrastructure so that we do really decentralize and have prosperity throughout the country and decongest Port-au-Prince.
MR. CROWLEY: What was the population of Port-au-Prince at the time of the earthquake, and what do we – what does the Haitian Government see as a more appropriate, sustainable level? So in other words, how much movement for the population will it not only envision, but incentivize to try to get them to do that?
MR. ADAMS: Yeah, I think before the earthquake it was something like 4 million people, but it’s the only place where there were jobs. And after the earthquake, with all of the rubble removal, the reconstruction, everybody flocked in from the countryside looking for those jobs. Since then, there has been some return to the countryside, but we need to move the jobs elsewhere.
MR. WORTHINGTON: And the challenge is, as in most countries, developing countries in the world, that it is the capital city that is the draw. And it has been very difficult to create other areas. It’s entirely possible that Port-au-Prince remains its same size for years to come, but that as population increases in Haiti that that population spreads in different areas. That’s what I would hope for over time. It is clearly an – overpopulated, as the city was built for 300,000 people with over 3 million living there. There’s no land available to do much of anything. The big difference between this earthquake and the response to the tsunami in Indonesia is, in the tsunami, NGOs had large spaces to build villages and large construction efforts. Here there’s no land to do that. It is densely packed neighborhoods, and it’s rebuilding one house at a time.
MR. CROWLEY: We do have a global audience for Conversations with America, and we’re fascinated by Edras (ph) from Sudan writing in: Why is there no political stability in Haiti when there are so many people suffering from illness and the lack of food? And this comes at a time where Sudan is going through a very important referendum for its future. But we’ve talked – we touched about the importance of the ongoing election, but how much time will it take to kind of build the institutions, whether it’s in the capital, at the national level, or outside at the local level, that provides Haiti with that kind of stability that it badly needs?
MR. WORTHINGTON: I think for the NGO community our job is not to build governments, but we can build local government. We can help a local mayor, we can second staff into a local CODEP that is engaged in planning in a region. And it is that partnership with government. It’s a recognition that you’re there as a guest, that your resources can and should work with the local government.
But we’re talking about a time of decades. It’s –one individual who’s run one of the CODEP areas, which is one of the local communes that sort of manage a small area of about 140,000 people he mentioned. He talked that most of the individuals running this have between eight or nine years of education. You need to have a sustained process of investing in the capacity of the Haitian people and also in the capacity of this government. And we look at it from the bottom up, and then it’s the broader international community that helps in the other direction.
MR. ADAMS: Yeah, I mean, Haiti needs more policemen. They have about 7,000 policemen who are fairly well respected due to a lot of training that was done before the earthquake. They need more like 12,000, at least. And so to help them out until they get there, MINUSTAH – the United Nations – has police and military there. The military often comes from Brazil or Chile or a country in the region, and that’s – they do a lot of good things for the country.
Their judicial system needs retuning. It’s largely broken. Their prisons are in very, very poor shape, and so there needs to be prison building. So I think getting that whole judicial system up and running is a challenge, and we’re already engaged in that with help from the UN and a lot of other organizations.
MR. CROWLEY: We’re coming to the conclusion of our program, but maybe one last question is: If we’re sitting here a year from now, how would you hope that the picture in Haiti is different one year from now than it is today?
MR. ADAMS: Yeah, I’ll just say, when I took this job, I asked people, I said, “How come Haiti stagnated while the Dominican Republic soared economically.” Because about 40 years ago they were both at the same place. In fact, Haiti was slightly above there. And I asked every development economist I met what was the difference? And the best answer I got was basically the Dominican Republic had slightly better dictators than Haiti did back in the old days, and they were able to get the economic pendulum swinging upward.
I don’t think – and I say that for a couple of reasons. One is you don’t have to have a perfect government to make economic progress. And so people who insist that we fix everything in Haiti before there’s progress, you don’t need to. You just need to make certain good macroeconomic decisions. And I think we’re – we know how to do that and we are doing that.
So a year from now, I think the picture on the ground will be much better because, as I said, we’re picking up momentum as we go along. And I think in two or three years, you’ll see significant numbers of sustain – sustainable jobs being created in Haiti, and that’s really the key to success there.
MR. CROWLEY: And how important is the – resolving the election in a way that helps to continue to promote that momentum?
MR. ADAMS: It’s important in two ways. One, the people of Haiti have to have confidence in their government. They have historically not had much confidence in their government. And then we need to help the government to perform better, and there’s a lot of assistance going to building up the government. But also, investors need to have confidence in Haiti. As Robert Rubin used to say, “Capital is a coward.” And they’ll go elsewhere if Haiti is viewed as unstable. So again, the leaders in Haiti, the political leaders, have to figure out a way to bring political stability there.
MR. CROWLEY: What would you like to see over the next 12 months?
MR. WORTHINGTON: It’s going to be a long, hard slog . The first thing I’d like to see from outside Haiti is that the international community is still paying attention, that we’re still there, that we recognize that this is not a quick fix. It depends, to some extent, how the elections come out and, hopefully if there is – and this would be the best we could see – some clear vision from the Haitian Government of where to bring the Haitian people, a vision that resonates with people in the camps we’re rebuilding, then taking the hard steps of taking these broad plans that have been established and making them operational and sticking with the framework that has been put in place. And part of that effort requires an outreach to Haitian civil society, because ultimately this is about the Haitian people and their organization.
And my wish is a year from now is that there is a good dialogue between the Haitian Government, Haitian civil society, that the effort – the momentum that many NGOs are saying they have today – is seeing the point where groups are starting to pull out, that camps are closed not because people have been forced out, but because there is clearly a place to go. It is likely that there’ll still be some camps a year from now. But I would like to see a Haiti a year from now with the vast majority of the people who are affected by this earthquake have some form of livelihood to pull themselves together.
MR. CROWLEY: And finally, in terms of being able to draw that capital into Haiti and be able to sustain the momentum and the attention from the international community, how important is the role of the diaspora, say, within the United States in terms of keeping the pressure on governments and the international community to continue to sustain this effort?
MR. WORTHINGTON: That is crucial. Yes, we’ll push our Congress, push other actors here in the United States that this is not something that we give up, that is in the national interest, in the interest of families, it’s a humanitarian venture. But ultimately, something that this is really a true test of the international community. We are trying to help a nation stand itself up after an incredible devastation in one of the world’s largest humanitarian efforts.
If we succeed at doing this, we will be able to show in partnership with the Haitian people and the Haitian Government that we know how to handle these things. And I think our challenge is to look at that goal over time and to recognize, even though we may have setbacks one year or the next, that ultimately we have no choice but to achieve it.
MR. CROWLEY: Gentlemen, Tom Adams, Sam Worthington, thank you very much for joining us and thank you for joining us for another Conversation With America.