Submitted by Paul Weisenfeld, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator/LAC

Today, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion on Haiti’s path to reconstruction at the 40th Annual Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference, in Washington D.C.   The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) was one of the champions that helped to push the Supplemental Request, which unlocked essential funding for Haiti’s reconstruction, into law, and I’m grateful for their continuing support.

I’m also pleased that African Americans and other minority groups, including the Haitian-American community, are part of Haiti’s recovery, not just in Washington but also in Haiti.  As I mentioned during a panel discussion at the 2010 Minority Enterprise Development Week Conference, the energy and creativity of the private sector — both U.S. and Haitian – will play a key role in the reconstruction effort.  In fact, we’re already tapping the talent of minority groups.  One of the first contracts that USAID awarded after the earthquake was to PHS Group, a minority-owned firm, to manage a debris dump site in Port-au-Prince.

This past Sunday marked eight months since a 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti just a few days into the new year.  Since then, the Government and people of Haiti, along with the U.S. Government and international community, have worked around the clock to respond to the basic needs of displaced people, remove rubble from the streets, and begin the process of reconstruction.  While we have made progress in these eight months, there are still tremendous challenges ahead.

Life in Haiti was difficult even before January 12 – and the earthquake was a huge blow to Haiti’s people and economy.  Reconstruction must address long-standing issues while laying the foundation for Haiti’s future. At the core of our efforts, we know that rebuilding must be Haitian-led if it is to be sustainable, build local capacity and stimulate the economy. The U.S. Government is helping to increase the capacity of the Government of Haiti to lead rebuilding efforts, and as we move forward, we are guided by the principle that harnessing the energy, creativity, and resources of the private sector – both U.S. and Haitian – is crucial to the sustainability of our development efforts.

USAID is finalizing the programs that will help get displaced Haitians back into homes, help children return to school, ensure that children and adults have access to medical care, and support local organizations to engage with both Haitian communities and the Haitian government. These programs will be guided by several key principles: transparency, innovation, accountability, and collaboration.  We have a responsibility to both the people of Haiti and Americans, who have been so generous in response to the January 12 earthquake.

Despite the challenges that lie ahead, we are optimistic that together we can help the Government and people of Haiti to build back better and stronger.