January 31, 2010

Paul Farmer testimony at Senate Foreign Relations Committee

A short excerpt from Farmer's testimony:

Let me offer, as one example of the difficult relations between Haiti and the international community (and an echo of the nineteenth-century machinations I discussed in my last testimony before this committee), the donor conference I attended here in Washington last April. It was one of only two donor conferences I have ever attended, the second being in Montreal earlier this week. The results of the first are noteworthy and worrisome: despite $402 million pledged to support the Haitian government’s Economic Recovery Program, when the country was trying to recover from a series of natural disasters resulting in a 15% reduction of GDP, it is estimated that a mere $61 million have been disbursed.5 In the Office of the Special Envoy, we have been tracking the disbursement of pledges, and as of yesterday we estimate that 85% of the pledges made last year remain undisbursed.

Many of us worry that, if what’s past is prologue, Haitians themselves will be blamed for this torpor. But as we have argued before, there are serious problems in the aid machinery, and these have contributed to the “delivery challenges” on the ground.6 The aid machinery currently at work in Haiti keeps too much overhead for its operations and still relies overmuch on NGOs or contractors who do not observe the ground rules we would need to follow to build Haiti back better. The fact that there are more NGOs per capita in Haiti than in any other country in the hemisphere is in part a reflection of need, but also in part a reflection of overreliance on NGOs divorced from the public health and education sectors.

Read the rest here.


Conor said...

I decided to read Farmer's testimony in whole and found it to be very convincing. I also agree that job creation is central to building a solid infrastructure. CFI's primary goal is this as well. Being in Cambodia with an NGO for the past 1/2 a year has helped me understand some of the political components of aid. It is a complex situation to say the least! In the case of Cambodia, as it also seems in Haiti, there is an over-saturation of NGOs. Many do great things, but a similar number sputter and fail to take into account unique histories, contexts, etc in the name of "help".
Anywho, i enjoyed his discussion on "aid machineries" and creating "new ground rules" in order to build a better nation. I think many countries could take cues from his explanation.

Ryan Anderson said...

Ya, there is some good stuff in there, and it talks a lot about the politics of NGOs etc. The sheer number of NGOs in Haiti in unreal.