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Priorities, Alignment & Leadership: Improving United States’ Aid Effectiveness in Haiti

Priorities, alignment and leadership: Improving United States’ Aid Effectiveness in Haiti
Prioridades, alineamiento y liderazgo: Mejorar la efectividad de la ayuda estadounidense en Haití
Robert Maguire
p. 59-78


Cet article analyse la politique d’aide des États-Unis envers Haïti, dans la période de l’après-séisme. Haïti était un pays prioritaire pendant le premier mandat de la présidence de Barack Obama. Une première évaluation avait identifié plusieurs déficiences des politiques d’aide envers Haïti et l’administrateur de l’USAID avait recommandé une nouvelle approche. Lors du changement de gouvernement de Préval à Martelly, plusieurs projets de coopération sont à nouveau évalués. L’une des questions centrales est dans quelle mesure l’État haïtien est-il capable de prendre en charge ces projets ou doit-on continuer à les sous-traiter aux ONG ? L’article s’intéresse particulièrement à la façon dont le gouvernement Martelly traite cette question.

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1Before Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake, when the country’s current president, Michel Martelly was still a popular entertainer known as Sweet Micky, the administration of United States President Barack Obama initiated a series of steps aimed at reforming the way U.S. official development assistance would be envisaged and enacted globally, with a view in mind of improving effectiveness in recipient countries. Haiti quickly emerged in the forefront of the administration’s analysis and strategy for reform.

2Not only did the earthquake lend urgency – and increased resources – to the enactment in Haiti of the Obama administration’s envisaged amelioration of development assistance, it also turned Haiti’s political landscape upside down when the already weak, but now also decimated government of President René Préval stumbled in the earthquake’s aftermath and the efflorescent Martelly proclaimed himself a candidate for Haiti’s late 2010 presidential elections, ran an effective campaign, received an assist from the international community, and ultimately ascended to the presidency following his victory in an early 2011 run-off election.

3Tenets of the Obama administration’s global aid reform agenda include the idea that national governments should be the lead actors in their nations’ development, with U.S. assistance more effectively aligned with their development goals and in greater support of needs and priorities they have identified. Another element is recognition that U.S. support should reinforce the capacities of governments to oversee program implementation and sustainability. As suggested in the U.S. government’s 2011 post-earthquake strategic framework, these ideas for improving aid effectiveness would apply to Haiti.

4This essay traces the evolution of the Obama administration’s aid reform agenda in Haiti.

Initial Steps

  • 1 In 1992, Clinton inherited the crisis emanating from a military coup d’État in Haiti in September 1 (...)

5Within three months of Barack Obama’s January 2009 presidential inauguration Haiti emerged as a forerunner of the administration’s wider interest in improving the way U.S. development assistance is delivered worldwide when the President requested the Department of State to lead an inter-agency review of U.S. bilateral aid to Haiti. This mandate was embraced by Obama’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, whose engagement with the Caribbean country had begun in 1975 when she and her husband, Bill, visited Haiti as newlyweds. The Clinton connection continued when Mr. Clinton became president and Haiti was a major foreign policy concern throughout his 1992-2000 term in office1.

  • 2 In early 2008, Haiti experienced unrest caused by increased food and fuel prices, and in August/Sep (...)

6Mrs. Clinton’s Haiti connection was reinforced when she played a key role at an April 2009 International Donors’ Conference on Haiti in Washington, convened under the auspices of the Inter-American Development Bank. The conference sought to mobilize resources in support of Haiti’s need to bounce back from the economic and environmental crises in 2008 that threatened both the well-being of the country and the stability of the government of President René Préval, elected to office in early 2006 2. At the conference, Bill Clinton was introduced as the United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who, in late 2008, had invited economist Paul Collier to visit Haiti and draft a report on the country’s path toward economic security [Perito, 2009]. Collier’s report, which focused heavily on apparel manufacture, became an influential component for guiding heightened international attention toward Haiti in 2009 [Collier, 2008]. After the April donors’ conference Secretary of State Clinton designated her Chief of Staff, Cheryl Mills, to lead U.S. government’s the inter-agency review of Haiti aid policies and programs.

  • 3 Figures come from as sourced from: (...)

7The review was put on a fast track. The administration’s objective was to identify root causes of the less-than-desired results in sustained poverty alleviation and economic growth in its Caribbean neighbour despite the allocation over the previous 29 years of roughly $ 3.5 billion in U.S. foreign aid dollars 3. Once weaknesses were identified, U.S. officials were to come up with strategies to correct them. Findings reinforced the supposition that enormous sums had been channelled to Haiti with no appreciable social and economic impact. Mills’ staff identified three important explanations for this deficient track record.

  • 4 Comments of a U.S. Department of State official at a meeting on Haiti at the United States Institut (...)

8First, U.S. assistance, as executed through an array of international and U.S.-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and for-profit contractors (FPCs), suffered from a limited holistic strategy, focus and coordination. Specifically, when the Obama administration took office, U.S. bilateral aid in Haiti had been “committed to more than 30 multi-million dollar contracts that largely operate in isolation of each other and other donor programs” [U.S. Department of State, 2009]. One of Mills’ aides succinctly summed up the extant U.S. strategy as “a mile wide, an inch deep, and sprinkled with pixie dust”4.

  • 5 The Cité Soleil initiative was funded through the U.S. Department of Defense 1207 Program. For more (...)

9The second explanation for poor results was that success and sustainability were hindered by the apparent incongruity between U.S. plans that emphasized humanitarian relief and short-term stability operations, and the Préval government’s longer-term economic development strategies that emphasized poverty alleviation and economic growth [Government of Haiti, 2007]. U.S. supported short term stability operations encompassed a variety of costly “quick impact projects” in urban areas aimed at short-term job creation principally through infrastructure improvement in order to stabilize an environment fraught with gang violence fuelled by drugs and politics. A particular target of these operations was the country’s largest shantytown, Cité Soleil, where a $ 20 million stabilization initiative was undertaken5. These investments, however, did little to address root causes of poverty or to induce sustained employment or economic growth.

  • 6 For example, in October 2008 at the ceremonial signing of a $ 22 million USAID-funded NGO-implement (...)

10A third contributing factor of deficient performance was the fact that the U.S. government relied heavily on international FPCs and NGOs – mostly with headquarters inside Washington D.C.’s Beltway – to execute its foreign assistance program. Typically, projects for Haiti were devised by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) which then sought contractors to implement them. Engagement in the preparation and execution of these projects by representatives of the Haitian state was minimal at best, and few, if any, financial resources were budgeted toward building the implementation and administrative capacity of the Government of Haiti (GOH) 6. A typical outcome of this approach, the reviewers found, was contract-after-contract to the same non-Haitian NGOs and FPCs, sustaining their presence in Haiti – often for decades, but doing little to promote sustained progress in addressing social and economic obstacles to development. This approach, State Department officials overseeing the review pointed out, had resulted in programs “not designed to be transitioned to the GOH and… therefore not sustainable” [Department of State, 2009].

11Addressing these weaknesses became the focus of a re-worked U.S. aid strategy in Haiti that was scheduled for release in mid-January, 2010, around the first anniversary of President Obama’s inauguration. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that destroyed much of Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas on January 12th, however, quashed those plans, sending Mills and colleagues back to the drawing board to re-work their ideas in a suddenly altered context. Addressing the aforementioned three fundamental explanations for prior poor performance, however, would remain key objectives of the post-earthquake strategy.

Post-Earthquake Strategies in a Global Reform Context

12In January 2011, a newly established Haiti Coordinator’s Office within the State Department unveiled a five-year post-earthquake framework for U.S. assistance to Haiti. As Mills and colleagues worked toward this end, their strategies evolved concurrent with and in support of Obama administration ideas for improving U.S. government development assistance worldwide and better harmonizing U.S. development thinking with evolving global thinking for improved aid effectiveness. Strategies developed for Haiti helped to inform the administration’s broader aid amelioration efforts.

13Those efforts received a boost when, in September 2010, President Obama issued a Presidential Policy Directive, or PPD, on development. This PPD underscored that his administration placed development alongside diplomacy and defence as core pillars of American power [White House, 2010]. An additional boost came when the State Department’s inaugural Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) yielded a report that provided a blueprint for elevating development to an equal setting with diplomacy and defence in U.S. foreign policy [USAID, 2010].

14The influence of the 2009 inter-agency Haiti review on the administration’s aid effectiveness thinking became apparent when Rajiv Shah, sworn in as Obama’s choice to head USAID on December 31, 2009 – and two weeks later thrust into intense engagement with post-earthquake Haiti – set forth his agency’s priorities at a major policy address a week after the release of the Haiti strategic framework. Shah identified the need for sweeping changes in the way USAID goes about pursuing development goals, citing Haiti as a case in point. He proceeded to criticize the “modern development enterprise” brimming with “high-priced consultants” who are adept in finding “another flight to another conference or training.” The top U.S. government aid official added that his agency would be “no longer satisfied with writing big checks to big contractors and calling it development.” He concluded by stressing that USAID has “no interest in our own growth and our own perpetuity. We must seek to do our work in a way that allows us to be replaced over time by efficient local governments, by thriving civil societies and by a vibrant private sector” [Shah, 2011; Pincus, 2011]. Shah’s declaration indicated that development would no longer be business as usual [Beam, 2011].

15The 88-page treatise designed to guide development policies and programs in post-earthquake Haiti through 2015 reflects an aspiration to change business as usual. The framework was presented as “a living document” that “while setting strategic parameters, must be agile in responding to the continually changing landscape in which it operates.” [U.S. Dept. of State, 2011]. Notably, that continually changing landscape included both Washington – where NGOs and for-profit organizations were now seeking to heighten their engagement in Haiti given the spectre of U.S. post-quake resource allocations exceeding $ 1 billion in the near term – and Haiti, where a new government was soon to assume power.

16The strategic framework is built around five, core principles:

17– Assistance will be country-led and build country capacity;

18– It will underpin a comprehensive, integrated plan;

19– It will leverage and coordinate resources with other partners;

20– It will use multilateral mechanisms wherever possible;

21– U.S. government commitment will be sustained and accountable.

22Viewed beyond Haiti, these guideposts reflect enhanced U.S. alignment with the five core principles for aid effectiveness set forth in the 2005 Paris Declaration: ownership, alignment, harmonisation, results, and mutual accountability – principles that have been reaffirmed and further developed at successive international aid effectiveness meetings in Acra (2008) and Busan (2011). In addition, the principles guiding U.S. aid reflect findings and recommendations included in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 2006 Development Assistance Committee peer review of the development cooperation policies and programs of the United States. That review faulted the U.S. for not applying the OECD’s Principles for Good International Engagement in Fragile States that call upon donors to move beyond short-term humanitarian and other projects, align their aid with national development plans and priorities, and strengthen the state as opposed to channelling official development assistance through NGOs and for-profit contractors [OECD, 2006]. Strikingly, the OECD recommendations parallel the three key findings of the State Department’s inter-agency review process that point to causes of the poor performance of U.S. development assistance in Haiti.

23In support of its core principles, the U.S. framework for Haiti presents four development pillars, or sectors, that set programmatic parameters for development assistance in the Caribbean country. They are: infrastructure and energy; food and economic security; health and other basic services; governance and rule of law.

  • 7 As of May 2013, of $ 1.28 billion either spent on or allocated to support Health and Education in t (...)

24Notably absent from the pillars was education, a sector that had received significant sums of U.S. support in prior years, leading to protests by U.S. contractors. Subsequently, the “health and other basic services” pillar was recast as the “health and education” pillar by State Department officials who pointed out that there was continued, albeit diminished, U.S. support of educational initiatives in Haiti7. This episode gave an early indication that aid contractors accustomed to vying successfully for U.S. bilateral aid funds would push back on reform measures they viewed as contrary to their interests.

25U.S. officials viewed the four pillars as providing not only both a tighter focus of U.S. aid efforts and enhanced donor coordination, but also as a means for improving strategic alignment with GOH longer-term priorities. Those priorities were based on four “action areas” – territorial, economic, social, and institutional – set forth in the Préval government’s post-earthquake plan for national recovery and reconstruction presented in March 2010 [Government of Haiti, 2010]. This alignment as viewed by the Department of State is portrayed in Figure One.

Figure 1. GOH-USG Strategic Alignment

Figure 1. GOH-USG Strategic Alignment

Source: Office of the Coordinator for Haiti, U.S. Department of State.

26Another element aimed at improving aid effectiveness in Haiti is the inclusion in the framework of specific geographic locations for U.S. engagement. As illustrated in Figure Two, U.S. assistance efforts concentrate in three “development corridors” located in and around the cities of Port-au-Prince, St. Marc and Cap Haitian.

Figure 2. Three Development Corridors

Figure 2. Three Development Corridors

Source: Office of the Coordinator for Haiti, U.S. Department of State.

27The Préval government stressed a priority for decentralizing development beyond quake-stricken Port-au-Prince and surroundings through the support of regional growth poles. The need to decentralize investment, development assistance, social and public services, job opportunities, and infrastructure development away from Haiti’s primate city, evident prior to the earthquake, had become even more compelling following the natural disaster [Maguire, 2010].

28Although Saint-Marc and Cap Haitian corridors represent decentralized locations, the focus on already heavily centralized Port-au-Prince does not. U.S. officials, however, counter that investment in areas adjacent to the capital city, particularly to rehabilitate vulnerable watersheds, not only safeguards the security of the capital region and its close to 3 million inhabitants, but also supports decentralization by improving agricultural productivity in rural areas within the corridor and therefore within reach of Haiti’s major market for farm goods.

  • 8 The Haitian diaspora, estimated to number at least one million in the U.S., constitutes one of seve (...)
  • 9 $ 84.4 million has been spent countrywide in Haiti on HIV commodities between June 2006 and March 2 (...)

29As the omission of education incited concern among some, the geographic corridor foci alarmed others, including those within the U.S.-based Haitian Diaspora whose area of origin and interest was not included within the designated corridors 8. In response, State Department officials pointed out that while geographic focus is an important component for more effective engagement, this does not mean that U.S. assistance will not touch other parts of the country. In particular, officials pointed out that health-related initiatives – including those linked to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment and to cholera prevention and response, representing an important allocation of resources – are not confined exclusively to the corridors9. They also stressed that, as the case with education, other donors would assume responsibility in other parts of the country, including other GOH growth pole areas, citing this as an improvement in coordination among donors. Again, however, concern expressed by U.S. interest groups indicates that strategies to improve aid effectiveness will be contested when they are perceived as undermining interests of certain constituencies.

Feed the Future: Evolving Project Management and Control

30Resistance to reform experienced in the case of a proposed USAID-funded agricultural development project in Haiti’s north provides insights into challenges in overcoming the reliance on U.S. and international NGOs and FPCs to execute USAID-funded projects. This particular project is a test case for the success in applying an approach insisted upon by USAID to push the transition from externally-controlled project management to Haitian management.

31The northern Haiti project is part of a global Obama development initiative entitled Feed the Future (FTF), which emerged in 2010 in response to the 2008 global economic crisis which resulted in rising food prices in developing economies dependent on imported food [The Economist, 2008]. Currently active in 19 countries worldwide, FTF aims to improve domestic food security and incomes through interventions in agricultural production, marketing, and research, while also improving nutrition [USAID, 2012]. In Haiti, watershed rehabilitation is an integral component of FTF projects. By mid-2013, there were two FTF projects in Haiti: one active in the Port-au-Prince and St. Marc corridors; one in the Cap Haitien corridor. The former, called Feed the Future West (FTFW), evolved from a $ 126 million grant whose RFP preceded the Haiti portfolio review and was awarded in June 2009 to Chemonics International, a U.S.-based for-profit contractor, to fund the implementation of a five year project called the Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources (WINNER). After 2011, WINNER was re-cast as Feed the Future West (FTFW) in alignment with the administration’s FTF focus.

32The second project, Feed the Future North (FTFN), is an $ 88 million, five year grant awarded in April 2013 to Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI), another U.S.-based FPC. Unlike WINNER/FTFW, which was developed and awarded prior to the emergence of the administration’s Feed the Future initiative, the completion of the 2009 Haiti aid review, and the unveiling of the post-earthquake strategic framework, FTFN was developed squarely within the parameters of the administration’s global – and Haiti – aid effectiveness reform aspirations. Within the Haiti strategic framework’s food and economic security pillar, an expected outcome is improved income through the creation of up to 700,000 jobs in agriculture and animal husbandry in Haiti by 2016 [U.S. Department of State, 2011].

  • 10 Sub-contractors can be both non-Haitian and Haitian organizations, including NGOs, community-based (...)

33The process of awarding the contract for FTFN proved to be a long one, extending more than two years. The duration stemmed largely from the inclusion of requirements in the RFP specifying that contractors had to initiate a transition toward local (Haitian) management of the program from the outset of the project. That specification was reinforced by the identification of successive transitional benchmarks that, if not met, would trigger contractor financial penalties. As such, the FTF West project design included a path for the contractor to work itself out of a job by incrementally strengthening local actors as a means of building Haitian capacity and improving prospects for post-project sustainability. Those local actors are not envisaged as government ministries, although local officials and technicians, especially in the agriculture ministry, are seen as potential collaborative partners. Rather, Haitians who will incrementally exert leadership will be non-governmental and private sector actors. Project funding would not go through the Haitian government and strengthen its institutional capacities directly. Rather, USAID funds would be disbursed directly to its contractor which then channels them to its in-country project apparatus that executes project activities, manages disbursements to sub-contractors, and engages in collaborative relations with local organizations and public officials10.

34This approach reflects a continuing belief that the GOH lacks capacity to effectively ‘absorb’ and soundly manage this scale of funding. The practice of bypassing the GOH in favour of non-governmental actors took hold decades earlier when the U.S. and other bilateral donors sought to avoid funding the Duvalier regime, viewed as a “kleptocracy”. Further, the U.S. Congress, which allocates funds to USAID, frowned on the idea that American funds would go to or through such a government. The pattern of channelling aid funds through externally-based contractors grew to the extent that by the 1990’s Haitian politicians began referring to their country as a “Republic of NGOs”. The bypass practice became so entrenched over time that even during periods when democratically-elected governments pressed for direct support of their reform initiatives they found little success [Maguire, 2009]. Bypassing the state had the circular effect of weakening public sector capacities and keeping them weak, while instilling and reinforcing donor dependence on external actors [Kristoff et al., 2010].

35Building in transitional benchmarking with financial penalties as a means of weakening dependence on external actors presented new challenges to aspiring contractors, compelling them to search for solutions to address these unusual USAID mandates. Concurrently, NGOs and FPCs not accustomed to working themselves out of a job challenged both the language and intent of the FTFN RFP directly and through such influential, inside-the-beltway associations as Inter-Action, an umbrella organization for NGOs, and the Coalition for International Development Companies (CIDC), a lobbying group that represents for-profit firms. As USAID addressed these challenges and clarified its intent, the timeframe for completing the RFP process and announcing the award extended.

36The FTFN contract was finally awarded in April 2013, with the local capacity building and organizational sustainability measures remaining in force. When USAID awarded the contract, it announced that FTFN would “adhere to and mainstream a number of core principles” guiding both the Haiti strategy and the administration’s more global aid effectiveness reforms. Among them, FTFN “will be country-led, build capacity of Haitian institutions, coordinate with and leverage the work of other donors and stakeholders, (and) be results-oriented” [USAID, 2013].

37As a gauge of progress in achieving these elements of the aid amelioration agenda, FTFN will be closely watched not only by U.S. officials, but also by organizations advocating improved aid effectiveness. These organizations will have their eyes on whether the FTFN design of diminishing the role of external actors while strengthening local actors becomes more ‘talk’ than ‘action’ as the project moves forward [Cohen, 2013]. The need for this scrutiny is not unfounded. As one aid watchdog organization pointed out, the Obama administration’s stated intentions of increasing local capacity have come up woefully short in post-quake Haiti, with 99.3 % of the U.S. government’s appropriations having bypassed local organizations and gone directly to U.S. or international entities in the three years after the earthquake. Further, 56.3 % of those entities are firms located within the aforementioned Washington DC Beltway [Johnston et al., 2013].

38The allocation of $ 88 million to DAI – as the allocation of $ 126 million to Chemonics International before it – reflects this trend and, as such, replicates the heavy reliance on external organizations identified in 2009 as an obstacle to effective aid. Although an $ 88 million grant to an inside-the-beltway firm seems to contradict the statement of USAID’s Shah that his agency would no longer write big checks to big contractors and call it development, the enforced transitional approach toward local leadership/ownership appears to support his assertion that USAID – and its contractors – would be replaced “over time (emphasis added) by efficient local governments, thriving civil societies, and by a vibrant private sector.” Shah put a number to his expectations in September 2012, expressing a determination to have 30 % of U.S. aid allocated to programs managed by local Haitian groups by 2015, up from less than 9 % prior to the earthquake [Whitefield, 2012]. A successful transition strategy enacted by DAI for FTFN will certainly help him achieve that measure.

  • 11 Off-the-record interview in Washington D.C., August 2013.

39Just how DAI will manage Shah’s envisaged incremental change in project management will be watched closely also by the firm’s competitors, particularly if and when presentation of strategies for being replaced over time becomes a new norm for winning a USAID contract. Even as FTFN is in its very early stages of implementation, however, scepticism is arising about a key element of DAI’s strategy, and apparent important factor in its successful proposal: hiring former agriculture ministry officials as second tier, in-country project staff. This arrangement elicited a cynical reaction from an official of a beltway NGO who explained it simply as “this is how the ‘game’ of country-led development is now being played,” suggesting that DAI’s response was little more than a ploy creating a façade of change11.

Country Leadership and the Political Landscape

40Haiti’s political landscape changed dramatically in May 2011 when Michel Martelly assumed office and brought to important government posts a new retinue that includes individuals with familial or personal ties with the Duvalier dictatorship and successor military governments [Daniel, 2011]. As the new president took over, questions arose regarding continuity in the direction established under the previous Haitian administration. Would Martelly maintain his predecessor’s development priorities or would he change course? Would U.S. pillars and GOH plans remain aligned? To what extent would U.S. support of the national government as the lead actor in Haiti’s development be forthcoming?

  • 12 “Get stuff done” is a favorite expression of Bill Clinton, see Farmer [2011, p. 46].

41Arguably, Haiti’s new president received a nod from the U.S. even before he assumed office. Preceding his election, the energetic and outspoken candidate presented himself as a man of action who would use the presidency as a springboard for moving Haiti quickly towards achieving post-earthquake reconstruction and development. His platform, summed up by the “Four E’s” of education, environment, employment, and état de droit (rule of law), and after his election broadened with a fifth ‘E’ of energy, more or less aligned within the U.S. four pillar framework. From Washington’s perspective, the political neophyte would be open to suggestions, responsive to international discourse, and willing to use the presidency to “get stuff done.” 12 Martelly’s election bid benefitted enormously from an important assist by the U.S. when its pressure on Préval and Haitian electoral authorities related to how votes were tabulated in the presidential election’s first round ultimately resulted in his leap from third to second place, putting him in the run-off election which he won to become president [Clark et al., 2011].

  • 13 Despite this pressure, President Martelly appears determined to re-create some type of Haitian arme (...)

42During a pre-inaugural visit to Washington the president-elect did not disappoint as he assured officials that he would work closely with the U.S. and Washington-based multilateral banks to pick up the pace of post-earthquake recovery and development. Haiti, he told them in no uncertain words, would be “open for business” . The president-in-waiting did go off message with his insistence that he would re-create Haiti’s discredited army, a position from which he subsequently would appear to retreat under heavy U.S. and international pressure 13 [Charles, 2011].

43As the new government transitioned into office, U.S. officials provided detailed briefings on their strategic framework to the new president who endorsed the U.S. approach, placing his nascent government in alignment with it. The continued alignment of the U.S. pillars and Martelly’s action areas is evident in Figure One, sourced from U.S. Department of State information updated early June, 2013, a year following the release of the Martelly government’s Strategic Plan for the Development of Haiti (PSDH).

  • 14 The U.S. contribution to the construction of the Caracol industrial park was $ 124 million, its lar (...)

44Over the first year of Martelly’s five year term, development goal alignment between the U.S. and his government was manifest principally by a variety of ribbon cuttings for activities begun under Préval. It also translated into the continuation of U.S.-funded initiatives launched under his predecessor, including a high profile, $ 300 million light industry park at Caracol in the Cap Haitian corridor, which promises up to 65,000 new jobs and was formally opened by Martelly at an October 2012 ceremony that drew both Bill and Hillary Clinton to Haiti 14 [Daniel, 2012].

45As the government proceeded through its first two years, it settled on a number of programmatic priorities, some linked with the aforementioned “5 E’s” program. Salient among them are: increasing school enrolment and augmenting education revenue through the imposition of new fees on international telephone calls and money transfers; creating a national network of community action and neighbourhood watch programs through an initiative called “Katye Pa’m Poze” (My Neighbourhood at Ease); promoting up-scale tourism, especially on Isle-a-Vache off the southwest coast of Haiti; launching a variety of ‘social programs’ aimed at alleviating poverty largely through the provision of food and other goods to poor people; and creating a new foreign aid coordination mechanism.

46The aforementioned Strategic Development Plan for Haiti (PSDH) of July 2012 presented a development strategy extending to 2030 that is largely an extension of the action plan created in March 2010. Additionally, the PSDH’s underlying guideposts are presented as the same guiding principles of the Paris Declaration. The PSDH’s four principal priorities for long term action encompass the development of the national territory and its economic, social and institutional foundations and, as indicated in Figure One, align well with the U.S. pillars [GOH, 2012 (a)].

  • 15 In French: “Cadre de coordination de l’aide externe au développement d’Haïti” (CAED) and “Commissio (...)

47Complementing the PSRD is the creation by Martelly of the aforementioned aid coordinating mechanism, the Framework of Coordination of External Aid for the Development of Haiti (CAED). The CAED is viewed by the GOH as a successor to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), established in April 2010 as a mixed Haitian-international body that would coordinate and oversee post-quake recovery efforts 15. The IHRC functioned alongside a Multi-Donor Trust Fund established to receive disbursement of pledges made at the March 2010 post-earthquake donors’ conference and managed by the World Bank. Its co-chairs were the Special U.N. Envoy to Haiti, Bill Clinton, and the Prime Minister of Haiti. At the end of its mandate – initially set for 18 months – responsibility for the coordination and oversight for Haiti’s longer-term development efforts was to be transferred to a newly-created, entirely Haitian public organization, the Haitian Development Agency [GOH, 2010].

48That transferral never materialized. Although the IHRC was evenly divided between Haitian and non-Haitian members, and Haiti’s president had veto power over its decisions, functionally, the IHRC was dominated by its international members and staff. It was also widely criticized for not living up to expectations. Not surprisingly, the commission was allowed to lapse in late 2011 when the Haitian Parliament declined to renew its mandate.

  • 16 As cited in “Haiti – Reconstruction: Haiti regains its sovereignty in the management of aid”, poste (...)

49The CAED emanates from the same mould as the previously envisaged Haitian Development Agency. Launched in November 2012, it is a Haitian public entity, headed by President Martelly and his Prime Minister, and situated under the auspices of the Ministry of Planning and External Cooperation. It is envisaged as a mechanism of “permanent and regular dialogue between the Haitian Government and its partners” that will “giv[e] back to Haiti its sovereignty in the management of aid and especially of priorities...” and allow “the Government of Haiti [to take] the unique leadership in the matter of international aid” 16. As such, it is the means by which international resources can be channelled through the government in support of the PSDH [GOH, 2012 (b)].

  • 17 U.S. Vice President discussed U.S. concerns during a telephone call to President Martelly on June 1 (...)

50Whether donors will support CAED is yet to be seen. U.S. officials have attended several meetings of the organization convened by the Martelly government in Port-au-Prince to listen to the government’s presentations and engage in dialogue. To date, the U.S. appears non-committal about placing resources at the disposal of the GOH. This may be due to the reluctance of the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration to place U.S. resources directly at the disposal of governments, including Haiti, particularly in view of issues that have cast a shadow over the Martelly administration. These issues include growing concerns over “severe corruption in all branches of government” [Department of State, 2012], the Martelly government’s dilatory approach toward forthrightly organizing parliamentary elections due since late 2011 17, and a growing track record of problematic (mis)management of bilateral resources.

51The latter concern has clear implications of what happens when Martelly’s government takes the lead in establishing priorities and managing resources. In this instance it is related to a bilateral agreement between the Venezuelan and Haitian governments that is part of a broader regional oil trade program called Petrocaribe. Through the program, the GOH immediately remits 60 % of the value of oil imports delivered by the Venezuelan government, with the remaining 40 % retained for investment. That amount, valued at around $ 400 million annually in Haiti, is to be repaid at one percent interest over 25 years following a three years grace period. Because Petrocaribe funds are not accounted for in the national budget, how they are used is not always clear [Charles, 2013].

52Among their use in Haiti has been allocation to a marquee social welfare program of Martelly’s government called Ede Pep (Help the People). The program consists of a variety of initiatives to provide resources to the poor – mostly through the distribution of food and other commodities, but with some direct cash transfers included [Associated Press, 2012]. The government argues that these programs, with such names as Aba grangou (Down with Hunger) and Ti Maman Cheri (Dear Little Mother), are key to its efforts to alleviate poverty. Government opponents believe differently, labelling them as “slogan programs of the president” [Haïti en marche, 2012]. Regardless of one’s perspective, it is difficult to understand how Petrocaribe funds allocated to social welfare distributions will be paid back. Those concerns are heightened by the fact that Haiti’s Petrocaribe debt to Venezuela grows every month and in September 2013 stood at $ 1.522 billion [Belt, 2013]. This trend of growing indebtedness to Venezuela, particularly in the wake of actions by multilateral banks and bilateral funders to erase Haiti’s debt following the 2010 earthquake, does not bode well toward inculcating donor trust of management by the Martelly government of their resources.

  • 18 As of June 2013, the Martelly government claimed that it has distributed 500 000 hot meals through (...)

53The GOH priority of social welfare (or slogan) programs does not appear well-aligned with U.S. development assistance goals. Ironically, by way of these programs, the emphasis of humanitarian relief and short-term stability operations, rejected by the U.S. in 2009 following its Haiti program review in favour of longer-term economic development strategies, appears to have been embraced by the Martelly government to the detriment of longer-term economic development. GOH programs have concentrated thus far largely on government distribution of ‘solidarity food baskets,’ food kits and hot meals, efforts that have little, if any, sustainable impact or potential for job creation and economic growth 18. A planned multi-year USAID program that will provide monthly $ 50 vouchers to poor families to spend on locally produced food, on the other hand, is geared toward improving nutrition and supporting the country’s small farmers [The Economist, 2013]. If true to form, that U.S.-funded program will be managed by an externally-based NGO or FPC that will collaborate with local officials while concurrently strengthening local non-governmental and private sector actors as a means of transitioning them toward management of the program.


54In 2009, Haiti emerged in the forefront of the Obama administration’s goal of improving the way U.S. development assistance is envisaged and enacted worldwide. Obama’s initiative to improve U.S. foreign assistance effectiveness in Haiti – long overdue and full of promise – is a manifestation of the administration’s willingness to consider reform measures that are consistent with accepted international principles and norms.

55Applying those principles and norms in Haiti, however, is laden with challenges. As the United States seeks to overcome the poor track record of its aid in Haiti, it has to confront challenges presented not just by the inefficiencies of the past, but also by institutional weakness and vulnerability to natural disasters, resistance to change among key actors, and a complex political landscape. Transition from external to local management of development projects and supporting the national government as the lead actor in Haiti’s development are especially challenging.

  • 19 Interview, State Department official, February 2013.

56What is clear is that change will be incremental. Improvements come over time, and ameliorated aid effectiveness is no exception to that rule. The shift from project management by non-Haitian NGOs and FPCs toward Haitian actors is one whose transition seems to be occurring. The idea of working with the national government as the lead development actor, as reflected in comments of a State Department official, is manifest more in priority setting and alignment than in direct resource support. To paraphrase: ”we want to support the Government of Haiti as the lead actor but it is not easy. But now, we are discussing with them what we are thinking of doing before we do it” 19. Perhaps in the world of improving how development assistance is envisaged and enacted, this is what enacting change looks like. If so, it reflects a well-known Haitian proverb: piti, piti n’ap rive – little by little we will get there.

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Associated Press, “Haiti begins cash transfer program”, May 29, 2012.

Beam Christopher, “Contract Killer: Why did USAID suspend one of its biggest contractors without any explanation?”, Slate, March 31, 2011.

Belt Rachel, “Petrocaribe helps fight poverty, build roads, social housing in Haiti”, HCNN, September 9, 2013.

Charles Jacqueline, “Venezuelan oil program uncertainty fuels Caribbean concern”, The Miami Herald, April 4, 2013.

Charles Jacqueline, “Haitian President Michel Martelly delays controversial army plan”, The Miami Herald, November 18, 2011.

Clark Lesley, Charles Jacqueline, “U.S. pushes Haiti over election chaos”, The Miami Herald, January 20, 2011.

Cohen Marc J., “Diri Nasyonal ou Diri Miami? Food, agriculture and U.S.-Haiti relations”, Food Security, vol. 5 (4), July 9, 2013.

Colas Joe, “Haiti deploys first military contingent in effort to establish new force”, HCCN, September 6, 2013.

Collier Paul, “Haiti: From Natural Catastrophe to Economic Security, A Report for the United Nations”, December 31, 2008.

Daniel Trenton, “Clintons land in Haiti to showcase industrial park”, Associated Press, October 22, 2012.

Daniel Trenton, “Haiti gov’t links to old regime prompt scrutiny,” The Miami Herald, October 13, 2011.

Delva Joseph Guyler, “Ecuador, Brazil to help set up Haiti new military”, Reuters, July 30, 2012.

Farmer Paul, Haiti After the Earthquake, New York, Public Affairs, 2011.

Government of the Republic of Haiti, Cadre de coordination de l’aide externe au développement d’Haïti (CAED), 2012 (a).

Government of the Republic of Haiti, Plan stratégique de développement d’Haïti: Pays émergent en 2030, 2012 (b).

Government of the Republic of Haiti, Action Plan for National Recovery and Development of Haiti, 2010.

Government of the Republic of Haiti, Pour réussir le saut qualitatif : document de stratégie nationale pour la croissance et la réduction de la pauvreté, Port-au-Prince, November 2007.

Haïti en Marche, “Politique : Premières convocations de Lamothe...” Haïti en Marche, vol. XXVI, n° 22, 20 Juin 2012.

Johnston Jake, Main Alexander, “Breaking Open the Black Box: Increasing Aid Transparency and Accountability in Haiti”, Center for Economic and Policy Research, April 2013.

Kristoff Madeline, Panarelli Liz, “Haiti: A Republic of NGOs?”, in Peace Brief # 23, United States Institute of Peace, April 2010.

Mackrael Kim, “With post-quake aid under review, minister presses Haiti on rule of law”, The Globe and Mail, September 5, 2013.

Maguire Robert, “U.S. Policy towards Haiti under the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama”, in Jorge Heine, Andrew S. Thompson (editors), Fixing Haiti: Minustah and Beyond, Tokyo, United Nations University Press, 2011, p. 229-246.

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1 In 1992, Clinton inherited the crisis emanating from a military coup d’État in Haiti in September 1991. In September 1994, the U.S. – under a U.N. resolution – intervened in Haiti and restored the democratically-elected government. From 1994-2000, Haiti remained a major foreign policy concern of Bill Clinton’s administration.

2 In early 2008, Haiti experienced unrest caused by increased food and fuel prices, and in August/September suffered the onslaught of four tropical storms within 30 days.

3 Figures come from as sourced from: (consulté le 2 juin 2014).

4 Comments of a U.S. Department of State official at a meeting on Haiti at the United States Institute of Peace, April 8, 2010.

5 The Cité Soleil initiative was funded through the U.S. Department of Defense 1207 Program. For more on the 1207 Program, see Perito [July 2008].

6 For example, in October 2008 at the ceremonial signing of a $ 22 million USAID-funded NGO-implemented early education and teacher training project called PHARE, the Haitian Minister of Education thanked the U.S. Ambassador but reminded her that the government had a national education plan, and assistance to improve education in Haiti should be applied directly in support of it, which was apparently not the case in this instance (Haïti en Marche, Vol XXII (37), 8 October 2008).

7 As of May 2013, of $ 1.28 billion either spent on or allocated to support Health and Education in the post-quake Haiti, only $ 68 million was spent on or allocated to education [U.S. Dept of State, 2013].

8 The Haitian diaspora, estimated to number at least one million in the U.S., constitutes one of several key groups in the U.S. who work to keep Haiti on the political agenda [see Maguire in Heine et al., 2011].

9 $ 84.4 million has been spent countrywide in Haiti on HIV commodities between June 2006 and March 2013. An additional $ 74.3 million has been allocated for expenditures up to Sept. 2015. $ 95 million has been provided for cholera prevention and response [U.S. Department of State, 2013].

10 Sub-contractors can be both non-Haitian and Haitian organizations, including NGOs, community-based organizations and private sector entities.

11 Off-the-record interview in Washington D.C., August 2013.

12 “Get stuff done” is a favorite expression of Bill Clinton, see Farmer [2011, p. 46].

13 Despite this pressure, President Martelly appears determined to re-create some type of Haitian armed force, see, for example Delva [2012] and Colas [2013].

14 The U.S. contribution to the construction of the Caracol industrial park was $ 124 million, its largest single expenditure in the post-quake period. The Inter-American Development Bank earmarked $ 100 million and Sae-A Trading, a South Korean textile manufacturer, pledged $ 78 million to cover its equipment and operations [Watkins, 2013].

15 In French: “Cadre de coordination de l’aide externe au développement d’Haïti” (CAED) and “Commission intérimaire pour la reconstruction d’Haïti’” (CIRH).

16 As cited in “Haiti – Reconstruction: Haiti regains its sovereignty in the management of aid”, posted on the website on November 27, 2012: [accessed June 3, 2014].

17 U.S. Vice President discussed U.S. concerns during a telephone call to President Martelly on June 19, 2013 [White House, 2013]. The Government of Canada has been more forthright in its concern [Mackrael, 2013] as has been the head of the U.N. Mission in Haiti [U.N. News Centre, 2013].

18 As of June 2013, the Martelly government claimed that it has distributed 500 000 hot meals through two motorized kitchens, 818 000 solidarity food baskets, and 500 000 food kits, and had allocated $ 76 million to these and other ‘social program’ initiatives, with at least $ 45 million of this funding from Petrocaribe funds (date compiled from GOH press releases and various print sources).

19 Interview, State Department official, February 2013.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. GOH-USG Strategic Alignment
Crédits Source: Office of the Coordinator for Haiti, U.S. Department of State.
Fichier image/png, 25k
Titre Figure 2. Three Development Corridors
Crédits Source: Office of the Coordinator for Haiti, U.S. Department of State.
Fichier image/png, 455k
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Robert Maguire, « Priorities, Alignment & Leadership: Improving United States’ Aid Effectiveness in Haiti », Cahiers des Amériques latines, 75 | 2014, 59-78.

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Robert Maguire, « Priorities, Alignment & Leadership: Improving United States’ Aid Effectiveness in Haiti », Cahiers des Amériques latines [En ligne], 75 | 2014, mis en ligne le 03 septembre 2014, consulté le 23 octobre 2016. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/cal.3117

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Robert Maguire

Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University, Washington DC. Robert Maguire est professeur en relation international à l’Elliott School of International Affairs de l’Université George Washington et directeur du programme d’études pour l’Amérique Latine. Il est également président du groupe de travail « Haïti » à l’Institut de la paix des États-Unis et directeur du séminaire des hautes études d’aires culturelles à l’Institut des affaires étrangères du département de l’État des États-Unis.

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