Press release of the Haiti Support Group
Submitted to AlterPresse on 29 March 2007
The British solidarity organisation, the Haiti Support Group, is very concerned about the slow disbursement of international assistance for the government of Haiti’s programme to urgently address social and economic needs in the most impoverished and conflict-prone areas.
The Haitian government unveiled its Social Appeasement Programme (in French : Programme d’Apaisement Social, PAS) in June 2006, and it received strong support from participants at international donor conferences on Haiti in July and November of that year. During the latter part of 2006, a number of countries pledged to disburse assistance to support the PAS. However, government ministers have subsequently complained that much of the funding has not been disbursed.
As recently as mid-February, Haiti’s Prime Minister, Jacques Edouard Alexis, told a heads of government CARICOM meeting that the expected results of the PAS had been delayed by the slow disbursement of pledged financial support. Following that meeting, CARICOM called on the donor community to be responsive to the concerns of the Haitian Government on this critical question. The same concerns were voiced by the UN secretary-general in his report on Haiti published in December. That report concluded that “the implementation of the proposal by the Prime Minister for a Programme d’Apaisement Social has not advanced significantly” even though the “tangible improvements envisaged in the programme…are crucial in order to promote stability and encourage further political progress”.
In the same vein, but more recently, the Rio Group of Latin American and Caribbean nations meeting at the beginning of March 2007 noted that it was “important for the donor community to honour its obligations in co-operation projects geared towards the eradication of poverty, the improvement of basic health care, and the promotion of strengthening Haitian institutions”.
Following a meeting between bilateral and multilateral donors and representatives of the Haitian government in Washington DC last weekend, the Haiti Support Group (HSG) understands follow-up missions will soon be sent to Port-au-Prince. In this context, the HSG calls on those donors that have already pledged funds for the PAS to urgently prioritise the release of this assistance. If, for whatever reason, these bilateral donors are unable to keep to their pledges, the HSG believes that, as a matter of the utmost urgency, the multilateral donors must fill the breach.
The HSG’s Charles Arthur said, “We have heard a lot from the international community about how it wants to help Haiti. There is a democratic government in place with an approved programme to address some of the fundamental causes of division and instability in the country. There is really no excuse for the donors to withhold promised funding.”
Arthur continued, “Most of the funding to support the government’s PAS is supposed to come in the form of bilateral assistance, and we understand that some projects funded by Belgium, Brazil, Canada, and the USA are underway. However, eight months since the government appealed for - and was promised - financial support for the programme, large amounts have still not been released. Unless there is immediate action to remedy this situation, there is a real danger that the Haitian authorities will miss out on a rare opportunity to intervene and break the cycle of poverty, hopelessness and violence, and to show the excluded and marginalized sections of society that there is some point in having an elected government.”
The Programme d’Apaisement Social (PAS) is one of the main priorities of the new government that came to power in June 2006. The PAS, as well as allocating funds for public-sector salary arrears, for training and job opportunities for recently dismissed public-sector employees, and for payments to former soldiers, will fund a host of small projects at the level of the country’s administrative communes. These small projects, that will cost a total US$50m over five years but which the government hopes to implement as soon as possible, are intended to address the immediate needs of the poorest members of the population. Spending will be focused on three main objectives :
Increasing basic services provision in general, including projects to provide drinking water, sanitation, electricity supply, health care and education.
Increasing access of the most disadvantaged sectors of society to services, including the establishment of community canteens, initiatives to reintegrate street children, management of public places for leisure activities for youth, humanitarian aid, and initiatives to boost economic renewal.
Initiatives to stimulate national production. This will include encouraging the use of local resources to produce goods and provide services, the provision of inputs and credit for agricultural producers and artisans, and job creation for unskilled workers.