Saturday, January 16, 2010

Reconstucting Haiti - the choice is between Green and neo-liberal

Haiti needs help right now. That is obvious to every human in the world, with the solitary exception of Rush Limbaugh.

The delay of 4 days before aid started moving in is bad, because the first hours and days are vital, certainly from the medical viewpoint.

This delay was partly inevitable, physical, because the seaport was destroyed, also the airport control tower.

However, good emergency planning would have speeded up the response. We need to be prepared for the airport storage areas becoming saturated, and prepared to bring in fuel in order to get the aircraft out again. So we need the UN to set up relief squads of experts to lay up emergency plans for each at risk country, and to move in early, with authority to get things moving. That is for the future though.

Right now, Haiti needs: water, food, medicines, shelter, sanitation.

I have given through Aavaz, because they are talking of aid at community level.
I believe this is the right way to go about, both immediately and in the reconstruction period.

Some shocked aid victims cannot do anything, but there are other survivors for whom activity will aid healing.

Then there is the reconstruction to come:
First housing. Earthquake and hurricane proof housing. For everyone.
Then hospitals, clinics, water and electricity infrastructure.

So far as is possible, the work should be done with the collaboration of local communities. There already exist networks of relationships, family, friends, and old neighbourhoods. These must be protected and facilitated in the aid and reconstruction process. Working physically and organisationally on reconstruction is important for self esteem. There are probably communities with good experience of this in New Orleans who could advise on this.

We are reconstructing an economy here, so let's make it one that works equitably, for the benefit of all. The vultures of the Heritage Foundation are circling, wanting to co-opt the process as they did after Katrina.

We have a choice: shall we let them create the new economy of Haiti in their own image, IMF-style? The IMF have released a $100 million loan to the non-functioning Haiti Government, but with the usual restrictions under the
IMF's extended credit facility, to which Haiti already has $165 million in debt. These loans came with conditions, including raising prices for electricity, refusing pay increases to all public employees except those making minimum wage and keeping inflation low.

The decent alternative is that we make sure that Haiti's renascence brings about an equitable and ecological economy, a new model for the whole world.

Let's start with a blank canvas.

First, wipe out all the international debt owed by Haiti. Consider wiping out all Haiti internal debt too, jubilee style. Here's a link to petition politicians to drop the debt.

Compared to the moral and financial debt owed to that nation by France (because of the monstruous debt it imposed on Haiti in compensation for lost slaves) and the rest of the western world, Haiti's financial debt is a mere pinprick.

Next, feed in the money as far as possible, say 75%, at local community level.

There must be zero tolerance of corruption in the distribution of money.
The UN has a campaign on this.

Communities can use the money to start farming again, conserving and rebuilding the eroded soil using safe recycled waste, using bio-digesters that produce usable gas.

Use the money to re-forest the land, to prevent the landslips that come with heavy rain, and for the many other benefits that forests bring.

Rainwater collection on every roof will provide washing water and plant irrigation, and will also reduce the impact of heavy rains.

Let the new Haiti become self-sufficient in electricity, using wind, sun, wave, and tidal currents. Let cooking charcoal be produced in up to date technology that gets gas from the process.

All of this is possible. The money is not a problem. The problem is the political will.

The battle-lines are drawn between the neo-liberals who wish to use the situation for their advantage, and the new ecological insight into economics, which would create an economy that exists for the benefit of the people, not for the benefit of multi-national corporations. The neo-liberal model we see in Iraq, with the likes of Halliburton creaming off millions of aid money for its own purposes.

The green model exists in many many places, as small pockets in the grey landscape of the economy. What we could do in Haiti is to put green at the heart of the new economy.

There are many people of goodwill already working at this level. See the links below. The Parmaculture link has an email list that is very active.

ONe of the first acts should be to invite Jean-Bertrand Aristide back.

Maybe we need a manifesto, a one page, say 500 word statement of aims, which can be passed around to collect signatures, a rolling snowball of a manifesto, one that we can put again and again under the noses of Presidents and Prime Ministers until they understand what it is we want.

The journey of 10,000 miles begins with a single step.


Petition to call for the international community to drop Haiti's $1billion debt.

Community action

Permaculture Haiti

Toxic wastes and Haiti

Montreal summit on Haiti ends with reconstruction principles

Protestors want reconstruction to benefit people, not corporations

Making buildings earthquake resistant

Sustainable Haiti Conference

Useful Haiti Portal

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