Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

End the dithering in Haiti

Miami Herald Editorial

OUR OPINION: More urgency needed to move country forward

After an earthquake of apocalyptic dimensions struck Haiti on Jan. 12, the international community mounted an extraordinary campaign to prevent further loss of life and ease the suffering of millions of survivors.

Thanks to a generous outpouring of international aid and assistance, along with the sweat and perseverance of Haiti’s tireless people, the rescue effort has been a major success.

The same cannot be said for the recovery. Nearly six months after calamity struck, it’s fair to ask: Where is the recovery? Even in the best of times, it’s hard to get anything done in Haiti, but that’s no excuse for the lack of urgency that has stalled efforts to move forward.

President René Préval and the remnants of his shattered government ably participated in the rescue effort, even amid the trauma of losing their own friends, family members and homes. But today Mr. Préval and his associates appear to be stuck in a rut.

More progress is necessary in a number of areas to get the recovery into high gear. That includes relocating Haitians who remain at risk from heavy rains, preparing for a necessary election and developing a vision and a strategy to guide the nation into the future.

None of this has been forthcoming.

`Paralysis in decision making’

A report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week rightly called resettlement the major issue facing the recovery. It said “paralysis in decision making bodes poorly for speedy resolution.” In a recent meeting with the Editorial Board of The Miami Herald, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive conceded that even three days of heavy rains could spell further disaster and loss of life among the 1.5 million Haitians still living in makeshift shelters.

That is all the more reason for Mr. Préval to break the logjam over land policy so that Haitians living in the most vulnerable camps can be moved before a hurricane or rainstorm strikes. The government must establish priorities instead of — as Mr. Bellerive suggested to The Herald — trying to do everything at the same time, which is unrealistic.

Mr. Préval must also break another stalemate over the issue of elections. A dispute over the composition of the election commission has stymied efforts to publish an electoral calendar and get the process underway. That smacks of business — and politics — as usual.

Mr. Préval must end the dithering by forging a compromise so that Haitians and the international community can be assured that the government is committed to a fair and credible election.

Préval must be forthright

Some Haitian leaders say privately that foreign donors have been slow to deliver on promises of aid. If money is a problem, Mr. Préval should not fear to say so, and to make clear how much is needed and for what.

But he must first put accountability and transparency measures in place to reassure donors that waste, fraud and abuse will not be tolerated.

The international community is committed to working hand-in-hand with Haitians on the recovery. Mr. Préval must dispel doubts about his ability to move the country forward. He must lead energetically — or let others do it.

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