A panel, including former Haitian Prime Minister Michéle Pierre-Louis, activist and actor Sean Penn and Lieutenant General Ken Keen, engaged in a discussion at a recent John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum to analyze the past and look to the future of Haiti. Three years after the earthquake devastated the country and affected three million people, rebuilding the country has been a struggle. We sat down with Pierre-Louis and learned of four major reasons recovery will take time.
1. Funding conditions
According to Pierre-Louis the first year after the earthquake funding from NGOs and the international community flooded in. However, Haiti must meet various conditions before even the first disbursement of funds can be received. Meeting these conditions takes time.
"Sometimes it takes a long time to prepare the terms of reference... A whole year can go by before we get to the point when we're ready to disburse, and the donor says too much time has gone by, and we will have to renegotiate the contract."
2. Some countries, including the United States, do not give money directly to governments
Some international donor countries do not give money to governments but rather to prequalified NGOs. Therefore, often times the government has absolutely no say in what happens with those funds.
"On one hand, they tell you to have a plan. On the other hand, they kind of do what they want. It's very difficult to reconcile these two sets of events that take place in the reconstruction phase."
3. Too few Haitian firms can carry out reconstruction plans
Haiti is dependent on the international community, and currently there is not enough security to allow many firms to come in and begin reconstruction. Haiti went through three phases; the first was the emergency phase when earthquake victims needed food, water and medical help, the second was building temporary homes for Haitians to live in, and now Haiti is in the reconstruction phase, attempting to rebuild permenant homes, schools and businesses.
"What security do I have if I put so much money into a venture? Often the government doesn't offer the security that is required for this type of investment. There are laws that need to be changed. The process of opening a business in Haiti takes too long."
4. Stopping the "brain drain"
Young educated Haitians do not see a future for themselves in Haiti. When Pierre-Louis was a Resident Fellow at the Institute of Politics in the Spring of 2010, she said she realized there are more Haitian PhD's living in Boston than in all of Haiti. The problem is, how can Haiti get young people to project themselves into the future of the country, so that the "brain drain" turns into a "brain gain" and the knowledge that is currently flooding out of the country remains to aid in its recovery.
Despite all the challenges, Michéle Pierre-Louis says she cannot lose hope. And, the overarching theme of the John F. Kennedy Jr. panel was that the worst is behind and the only way to go is forward. All panelists agree reconstruction will take time but the problems are solvable. Watch the discussion on the JFK Jr. Forum website and read our Storify to see the Twitter conversation happening throughout the event.