HSG Advocacy on EU aid: Looking for Light at the End of the Chunnel

HSG Advocacy on EU aid: Looking for Light at the End of the Chunnel
January 12, 2012 Christian Wisskirchen

HSG Advocacy on EU aid: Looking for Light at the End of the Chunnel

HSG from Brussels, 09-01-2012

To Brussels, to initate our 18-month effort to try and shift the EU aid/development supertanker.  The EU (including Member States’ bilateral funding) is Haiti’s biggest international donor and, as such, our biggest target to ensure donors do what Haitians want them to do: give them the tools and resources to set their own course after decades of failed, externally-devised policies.  Under its current TOR (laid out in a “Country Strategy Plan”) the key objectives agreed by the EU with the GoH for 2008-13 are improving infrastructure and governance. We have brought Mario Joseph, Haiti’s leading human rights lawyer and an expert on the latter to find out what is never easy here reference Haiti: exactly what the EU is up to.

January 10, 2012: Arming the EEAS for Action

First stop, the Haiti Desk Officer of the newly created EU Foreign Office, the External Action Service (EEAS). An affable Italian, as new to the job as the service he represents, he tells us that his service aims “to intensify” the political dialogue, now President Martelly finally has a government to talk to. Mario points out that the lack of proper governance is only all too apparent to ordinary Haitians in such daily experience as policing. The rich are able to “buy” police enforcement/protection anytime, whereas poor women and girls in the IDP camps wait in vain for Haitian police to even log their reports of rape let alone protect them from the perpetrators in the first place. We are pleased to detect, through the fog of diplomatic caution, a clear concern about Martelly’s plans to re-create a Haitian army in the absence of any “external enemy” or indeed spare cash. Nothing could be a more glaring perversion of current priorities in Haiti, and we are determined to make the EEAS say so. If not, what meaning does improving governance have?

Full Court Press Conference

… and so we are on to the mid-day press conference at the Berlaymont, where a well polished Briefing on Haiti is delivered by an immaculately presented Press Officer. With perfect timing the EU announces the launch of a Housing Project to take 50,000 camp dwellers back into permanent solid housing. Sounds really great, given how little has happened apart from tarps and T-shelters in the 24 months since the earthquake. We make a mental note to find out more details when we meet the Desk Officer in DG Development tomorrow.

Polish Support for a Haitian Revolution

After lunch we meet with Polish MEP Fillip Kaczmarek, a member of the Development Committee of the European Parliament and one of a handful of MEPs that have – thanks to the efforts of the Coordination Europe-Haiti, (CoEH) a coalition of around 30 European NGOs and CSOs of which we are a member – taken a particular interest in Haiti. We hit if off with Mr Kaczmarek straight away.  “I was delighted when I finally discovered a link between Poland and Haiti” he chuckled. “I was sure there wasn’t any. But then I found out that Napoleon had sent a Polish batallion to Haiti when he tried to put down the slave revolution in 1802. But when the Polish soldiers arrived and realised the injustice of Napoleon’s cause they refused to fight and in recognition they were given land and citizenship.” Mario knew what he Kaczmarek was talking about: “You must come and visit the village of Kasal where you will find the descendents of these soldiers,” he said. We found a great deal of agreement on the key aims of our EU advocacy campaign: a better defined and targeted governance programme and greater emphasis on food security. At this point in the EU budget cycle we are still looking at the broad definitions of budget lines. Kaczmarek has no sympathy for any plans to re-instate the Haitian army. Mario points out the need to strengthen the Haitian parliament’s capacity to hold the GoH to account – a key governance issue. Kaczmarek gives us a useful hint: under the Polish Presidency the EU has established a new “Endowment for Democracy” budget line which he believes could be used to assist Haitian parliamentarians to do a better job. However, the detailed TOR and the budget are still to be agreed between the Council, Parliament and Commission. Another EU budget line to follow up…

January 11, 2012: Way In, Way Out: EU Development Aid Maze

To the Oxfam International Office in Brussels and Tidhar Wald, Oxfam’s EU Humanitarian Officer gives us crucial guidance at the start of what will be a marathon HSG-CoEH EU lobbying effort in 2012. The External Action Service, the EU’s new Foreign Service, which is has been charged with  the European Commission’s Development and Co-operation Directorate (DevCo) what to do, is an inverse pyramid with too many chiefs we learn. That, and understanding better the byzantine nature of EU aid budget lines are the first hurdles to overcome if we want to ensure that the next EU Country Strategy Plan for Haiti sets the right priorities in tackling poverty and governance issues. A key element of the EU’s commitment to be accountable and transparent is consultation with Haitian CSOs. Committed CSOs will need to work together in a multi-pronged advocacy strategy, influencing the Haitian government and parliament as well as the EU Delegation in P-au-P. We, and they, need a thorough understanding of the EU aid apparatus, its mechanisms, procedures and projects, to do so. Our quest has begun.

Information Access: A Need to Know

First stop, is the DevCo Haiti Desk Officer, Caroline Adriaensen, where we appeal for much wider dissemination of information about EU Development work in Haiti. We want what the EU ostensibly wants: all relevant organisations of state and civil society engaged in formulating what will be one of Brussels’ largest aid budgets over the next five years.  Within minutes of starting to talk, it becomes clear how woefully inadequate the information on the EU Port-au-Prince Delegation’s website is and hence why, as Mario explains, few Haitian legislators, let alone civil society activists, have any real understanding of how EU money is being spent in Haiti. Notionally publicly available documents only seem to make it into the public domain on request. However, we are hugely encouraged by Ms. Adriaensen’s willingness to lean over her keyboard, press a few keys and forward us several papers referred to in our discussions. Now for a regular flow, and some real scrutiny – which we will particularly encourage Haitian CSOs and legislators to undertake.

Budget Bulldogs? We’ll Be Watching You

As in P-au-P, so in Brussels it seems.  Members of the EU Budget Control Committee are off to Haiti in February to assess the efficacy of EU aid and when briefed by Mario, HSG and CoEH, soon decide they don’t know enough. Prompted by our points, Jan Mulder, the Dutch MEP who chairs the committee, says he will request a full accounting of all EU Projects in Haiti, including all monies provided to NGOs.  Watching the watchdog has produced a bark – now it’s all about follow up and follow through — and by the MEPs themselves, as much as ourselves. Overall, it is good to sense real interest in strengthening government capacity and prioritising decentralisation in Haiti from the MEPs.  The key question now is: does that mean the same to them and their civil servants as it does to us, or, more urgently, to Haitians? We shall see. So will Haitians.

JOIN HSG NOW…

SIGN ME UP!