A new paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) and the Haiti Advocacy Working Group (HAWG) reviews reports released by the U.S. State Department on contracts for Haiti aid and finds significant omissions and deficiencies, including incomplete data, a failure to link projects and outcomes, and a failure to adequately identify mistakes and lessons learned. The State Department reports are intended to comply with the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act (APHA), which was signed into law in August 2014. CEPR and HAWG incorporated Haitian civil society feedback in their review of these reports.
“The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act represents a significant, bipartisan effort by the U.S. Congress to shed light on how effectively U.S. taxpayer dollars are being used to assist Haiti with its ongoing rebuilding efforts years after its devastating 2010 earthquake,” CEPR analyst and report coauthor Alexander Main said. “Unfortunately, while State is releasing some information, there is still a great need for additional clarity and detail to obtain the transparency and accountability that people in both the U.S. and Haiti deserve.”
“Nearly seven years after the earthquake, much of the Haitian population still struggles to meet basic needs; there has been improvement in some sectors, but key national indicators such as food security and economic growth have actually worsened,” Jasmine Huggins, paper coauthor and Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer for Church World Service, said. “As Haiti addresses future development challenges in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, it is critically important that we all understand how past U.S. aid was spent, who benefitted and what lessons we have learnt from projects implemented.”
Among the shortfalls that CEPR and HAWG identify:
• Incomplete information: There is a significant quantity of missing data at the subprime level, equivalent to 34% of the $300 million awarded to subprime partners.
• No clear links between projects and outcomes: The report fails to provide information about what benchmarks and goals have and have not been met at the project level.
• No clear picture of who the beneficiaries of U.S. assistance are.
• Scant information on U.S. coordination with Haitian and international entities.
• No information on non-governmental capacity building.
• A failure to identify mistakes and lessons learned.
CEPR and HAWG also noted:
Haitian [civil society] groups are largely unaware of the APHA reports, suggesting that USAID and the State Department have done little to familiarize groups with the reports. In addition, no part of the report has been translated into French or Kreyòl, rendering them inaccessible to the vast majority of Haitians.
“As organizations that partner with local Haitian civil society, we continually push the U.S. government to more and better consultation with Haitians to make international aid more accountable to the people it is intended to reach,” noted coauthor Charissa Zehr of the Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office.
The paper’s authors attempted to remedy this by sharing selections of the State Department reports with Haitian civil society organizations, and included their feedback and questions in the CEPR/HAWG review.
The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act’s key actionable component is its reporting requirement instructing the U.S. State Department to produce four annual reports with detailed information on the status of US aid programs in Haiti. CEPR and HAWG reviewed the 2014 and 2015 reports released by the State Department.
The Haiti Advocacy Working Group is comprised of international development, faith-based, human rights, and social justice organizations advocating on issues related to U.S.-Haiti policy.