Next Wednesday, the UN will host in New York an international donor conference on the future of Haiti. Ahead of this event, the press is full of figures on how much money a better future will cost. The Haitian government suggests a sum of US$11.5 bn. Some economists put the needs higher, at US$ 14bn. It is difficult to know what the exact figure is going to be, but it is clear that for many years to come Haiti is going to need a huge financial support.
But money on its own is not what matters – it is the good it will do. Together with Bill Clinton as the UN Special Envoy for Haiti, we had the opportunity to hear the aspirations of Haitian, American and European NGOs in a conference in New York. The participants there were not talking about money – they were talking about houses that can withstand earthquakes and hurricanes, roads, jobs, seeds and shovels, schools for the children, hospitals for the sick, and public institutions that work and are accountable to the people. In other words, those who work on Haiti’s development don’t get excited by big numbers from the press. They are much more interested in what this money is going to be spent for and who is going to keep track of it.
This is precisely what our citizens in Europe want as well. When it comes to opening the purse in support for development, the EU is way ahead of the rest of the world. We provide 60% of development assistance worldwide, more than twice our share in the world’s economy. For Haiti, next week the EU is planning to commit € 1.3 bn just for the next three years – the first phase in at least a decade-long project. I personally think it will take much longer than 10 years to deal with the devastation of decades of bad development and an earthquake that wiped out the equivalent of 120 percent of Haiti’s GDP.
The European taxpayer is very generous, but wants good value for money. This is why I think Europe should not only be the world champion of generosity, but also of effectiveness. When we, Europeans, stand up to be counted, we want the count to be in results.
Related speech: Building Back Better in Haiti