France proposes strategies for building Haiti's future
Bernard Kouchner, France's Minister of Foreign and European and Co-founder of Medecins Sans Frontieres has written a piece in the Washington Post that acknowledges the mobilization of humanitarian and disaster relief for Haiti by the United States and France to help Haitians recover from the earthquake catastrophe. More importantly, Kouchner calls for a world movement of solidarity to help Haiti. Kouchner
To help them recover from this catastrophe -- the worst of the many disasters Haiti has experienced -- France and its partners must do everything in their power to rebuild this island nation and help restore its strength and energy.
Today, all our efforts must aimed at saving those who can be saved and at bringing emergency relief to the population, so many of whom are now homeless or hungry. But it is not too soon to think about reconstruction: lasting, practical and political reconstruction that will ward off the demons of the past. The international community must be resolved, as France is, to help the Haitians for as long as is needed to rebuild their country and to convince them -- through actions, not just words -- that their future is in their hands.
France proposes to hold an international conference on Haitian reconstruction and development co-hosted by France, the United States, Canada, Brazil, the European Union, and others, addressing the extraordinary challenges Haiti faces.
We will base our actions on the damage assessments provided by Haitian authorities, the United Nations and other international institutions. Such an assessment must be carried out in the next few weeks and should be based on an analysis of Haiti's long-term requirements, if we are to put forward an ambitious reconstruction plan, not just for housing and infrastructure but also with regard to public institutions. Regional cooperation is critical. I believe that we must involve nongovernmental organizations and the Haitian diaspora; reconstruction will require all of us to work together. Our work must amount to more than a pledging conference: We aim to put Haiti on the path of enduring economic growth and social development.
The suffering of the Haitian people has generated an extraordinary surge of generosity from individuals and governments the world over. But our attention and efforts must go beyond immediate humanitarian relief. We must engage the Haitian people and help them on their path toward a new future.
I am very pleased to see France take this step to advance the Haitian post disaster relief effort and focus on the longer term development issues confronting Haiti. It is especially significant that France has undertaken to do this in light of the unfortunate history between the two countries, not to mention Haiti's own internal problems. It is a major step in the two countries coming together. Here is hoping that the US diplomats at the State Department can allow France to take the lead in this noble effort and share the stage, rather than suffer the usual "not invented here" syndrome that often characterizes the bureaucracy in Washington DC..
President Obama was right to commit $100 million and appoint ex-Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to lead the U.S. humanitarian response. Yet in all our largess, the US should be careful not to become the center of attention. Otherwise, the US risks minimizing international and homegrown efforts, which are the path to self-sufficiency and lasting stability. France should be commended for stepping up here.