Helping Haiti Not Just Survive But Thrive
By Gary Edson | MARCH 2, 2011
The stakes are high as Haitians struggle to resolve disputes over the accuracy of preliminary vote tallies from the November 28 national election. Haiti's next president and its parliament must be able to lead the nation from catastrophe to prosperity. But it is equally important that the international community helps Haiti's new leadership establish an environment in which the nation can thrive.
Amid this latest crisis and the persisting pains for millions of earthquake victims, the approaching one-year anniversary of the January 12 disaster is a reminder of all that must still be done. The world must redouble the efforts of the past year to tend to the many remaining urgent needs. At the same time, we must not lose sight of a need just as critical: creating the building blocks for long-term, vigorous economic expansion and job growth — the only real path to a stronger and better Haiti.
Indeed, the goal of the donor community should be to put itself out of the Haiti aid business. To do that, we need to be laser-focused on helping Haitians create and build their own livelihoods. There are no straight lines from pain to promise in this equation, but Haiti has one important thing on its side: despite the devastation, the Haitian people are ready to write a positive new chapter in their country's troubled history. We must help them do so by promoting job growth and economic opportunity— and then by getting out of the way.
As Paul Farmer, Partners In Health's founder and United Nations Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti said in a recent Foreign Policy column: "Haiti has 9.8 million people, and at least half were unemployed even before the earthquake. If we focused our efforts on the singular task of getting them jobs -- even if we did nothing else -- Haiti's reconstruction could be a success."
This is the focus that former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have given the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. Since we began independent operations in May 2010, we have dedicated ourselves to making targeted, thoughtful grants and investments in four areas that are at the foundation of viable economic growth:
Restarting, expanding and creating new small businesses, in which women play a large role;
Supporting a transition from an underground economy to a formal one;
Bolstering job creation, particularly jobs providing direct social benefits; and
Empowering people, especially women and youth, with life skills and job training to embrace economic opportunity.
For example, in July the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund announced a $245,000 grant to INDEPCO, Haiti's largest network of garment micro-entrepreneurs, which provided an injection of capital that will enable 1,000 workers to complete 40,000 school uniforms.
In late November, the Fund, announced a $5.68 million partnership with MasterCard Foundation, YouthBuild International, and the Haitian NGO IDEJEN to support construction job training for at-risk young people. We've also just announced a grant to Architecture for Humanity in support of the Haitian Rebuilding Center in Port-au-Prince, which will provide design support and technical expertise to Haitian construction firms.
To date, the Fund has raised $52 million, of which nearly $20 million has been committed to organizations that support our mission of economic growth and empowerment. We seek to empower and catalyze — letting Haitians lead the way and promoting projects with ripple-effect potential.
We also have addressed selected humanitarian needs, playing a "gap-filling" role. For instance, the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund responded to the recent cholera outbreak by redirecting a portion of a recently announced $1 million grant to GHESKIO, a 28-year-old Haitian healthcare organization, to its cholera treatment centers in Port-au-Prince.
Cholera is a disease of poverty and, like so many of the challenges Haitians face, the symptom of a much larger problem. It threatens lives, but also the island's ability to prosper. That's why we are remaining focused on the difficult but critical work of growing economic opportunity. In the coming weeks we will announce additional grants and investments, including financing for Haitian artisan exports and support for emergency medical training.
In the months since January 12, and for so many years before, the story of Haiti has been one of aid. The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund supports initiatives that will write very different stories — of Haitian mangoes sweetening Coca Cola beverages; of Haitian artisans producing crafts for Macy's; and of Haitian youth emerging from the shadows to obtain skills and jobs. These will be stories of the new Haiti: Haitians producing and exporting to thrive, rather than depending on aid to survive; stories not just of help, but of hope.
Gary Edson is CEO of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund and former senior advisor on security and economic affairs to President George W. Bush. He co-led the development of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and also led the effort that established the Millennium Challenge Corporation to combat global poverty.