Groups Seek Transparency for Aid to Haiti

1 April 2010

As a major conference on aid to Haiti began in New York March 31, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations made a series of pro-transparency recommendations.

The recommendations “highlight the need to change the way donor states provide aid, by empowering the Haitian people; strengthening the Haitian government’s capacity to guarantee human rights; and making assistance transparent and accountable to the Haitian people,” according to a press release.

The transparency proposals are among many others made by the groups:  the Bureau des Avocats

Internationaux (BAI), the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at NYU School of Law, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), Partners In Health (PIH)/Zanmi Lasante (ZL), and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights (RFK Center).

Among the recommendations, the groups called on donors to:

  • Coordinate all assistance through a Multi-Donor Fund that incorporates the Government of Haiti and representatives of Haitian civil society and community-based organizations as voting members of the fund’s governing structure;
  • Establish a web-based database in conjunction with the Government of Haiti and the Multi-Donor Fund to report and track donor pledges, disbursed funds, recipients, sector areas, expected outcomes, and project status;
  • Prioritize the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable groups, including women, children, the disabled, the elderly, and internally displaced persons; and,
  • Fund a mechanism, established together with the Government of Haiti, to deliver information about assistance projects to the Haitian people; measure, monitor, and make public the outcomes of assistance projects at the community level; and provide a mechanism for Haitians to register complaints about problems with project implementation, to be administered by the Government of Haiti in partnership with civil society and community-based groups.

Ex-World Bank Official Also Urges Transparency

Also advocating strong transparency about Haitian aid recently was Daniel Kaufman, Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development, The Brookings Foundation.

Writing in his blog March 30, Kaufman, a former senior official at the World Bank, noted, “It has been widely acknowledged by all parties that transparency and public accountability is essential for the successful rebuilding of Haiti; and full public disclosure of documents relevant to the proposed reconstruction plan and assistance delivery framework will ensure that the Haitian government and donor community’s efforts get off on the right foot.”

He commented further, “Yet transparency cannot be one-sided. While improved disclosure of funding priorities, financial flows, and outcomes is needed by all donors, similar efforts by the Haitian government are equally crucial.”  His posting discusses the difficulties of institutional capacity building with a government in which powerful elite interests exercise undue influence or outright control.

“While efforts to address petty corruption and bribery are laudable, unless the broader issue of state capture is adequately addressed by the Haitian government and international donor community, the reconstruction strategy and aid delivery framework will remain flawed,” Kaufman wrote.

His recommendations include requiring that all senior public officials declare their and their dependents’ income and assets; and have them available on the Internet. Also, the government should implement strict conflict-of-interest legislation, he said.

Strong leadership of a potential reconstruction commission is essential, and he cautions that granting veto power to the government over programs and projects awarded by a commission may undermine power-sharing.

Kaufman further said, “Modern transparency standards ought to be an integral part of this new agency from its inception, including full financial and other disclosure of projects considered and implemented by the agency.”  He suggested a fully transparent procurement system.

The commitment to the principle of transparency by official donors and NGOs should be put into practice; and the formation of the Multi-Donor Fund through which a portion of donor assistance would be transparently coordinated is a good start. Whether through the Multi-Donor Fund or not, all official and private/NGO donors ought to also engage in on-time and full online reporting of all commitments and disbursement to the country, including financial statements of detailed expenditures and public procurement contracts. Spot audits should be undertaken and funding should be publicly disclosed. Further, donors should also disclose irregularities in the context of project procurement and implementation, including disclosure of irregularities regarding bribe demands, diversion of funds, and political interference.”

Kaufman also advocated empowerment of local communities and civil society and transparency in policymaking.


By Toby McIntosh

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In this column, Washington, D.C.-based journalist Toby J. McIntosh reports on the latest developments in information disclosure in International Financial and Trade Institutions (IFTI).
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