Beyond Relief, Beyond Belief (HB69)

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Beyond Relief, Beyond Belief

As they quaffed champagne in their Port-au-Prince head- quarters on Harry Truman Boulevard, the staff of the secretariat of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC) finally seemed to have something to celebrate: their own demise.

On the afternoon of Friday October 21, the IHRC’s 18-month mandate, part of emergency legislation which saw all control of reconstruction spending removed from parliamentary scrutiny, was up. Despite the joint appeals of both the President, Michel Martelly and his newly-ratified Prime Minister, Garry Conille, for a one-year extension of the IHRC’s mandate, parliament was in no mood to even debate the proposal until it had answers to the most basic questions about the IHRC – its people, its processes and its product.

For once, Haitian MPs and sen- ators seemed to be in sync with pub- lic opinion on the still rubble-strewn streets. The IHRC was widely seen as a foreign-donor dominated body, implementing a foreign-designed agenda, with a foreign staff, using foreign finance, much of which had been pledged but not delivered. “Flawed in design, dysfunctional in execution, dire in results,” con- cluded one former civil servant.

It is a sentiment echoed by many who had worked within it: it’s just that the “all necessary transparency and accountability” clause written into the IHRC’s mandate does not apply when talking about it. Ex- staff are adamant they are not identified.