The first steps to rebuilding Haiti

Robert Fox

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Kai Ryssdal: About that aid Sabri mentioned just now, the billion or so pledged so far and the billions more surely to come. Secretary of State Clinton and representatives of other likely donor countries are meeting in Montreal today trying to decide what to do from here. Robert Fox is the executive director of Oxfam Canada. We reached him on the sidelines of that conference up north. Mr Fox, good to have you with us.

ROBERT FOX: It's a pleasure to be here.

Ryssdal: This conference today isn't really a donor's conference proper, it's more a planning conference to figure out how much and what kinds of aid are going to be raised. Is that right?

FOX: That's right. The critical thing today is to establish two general areas of principle. One is that Haitians will be providing the leadership and ownership of this process, and that the United Nations will be coordinating the international response to increase Haiti's capacity and support them in that process. And secondly, to sort of scope out the magnitude of the challenge, sort of in a broad sweep, the level of funding that is required and the duration of that funding. That everyone is very clear that this isn't about a quick fix, and limited dollars, this is a major commitment over a number of years.

Ryssdal: The prime minister of Haiti said today he expects the international aid community to be involved in Haiti for at least the next 10 years. Do you think that's realistic?

FOX: I think that's certainly realistic. I think it may take longer than that. You know when you consider the magnitude of this disaster, it isn't just that so many people were killed and such economic devastation was wrought upon Haiti, it is that it was such a large portion of such a small pie. And so the state infrastructure, the social infrastructure, and the economic infrastructure of the city, of the country, has been decimated.

Ryssdal: Will the international aid community address the very fundamental issue of whether you rebuild Haiti as it was, or if you redesign that country to make it more than it is and has been?

FOX: Well, certainly what we've been pressing is that we need to be really clear about the fact that basically we need to re-imagine Haiti. If at the end of this process, we rebuild the Haiti that existed two weeks ago, that will have been a failure. A country that had huge problems, huge inequity, huge levels of poverty, and obscene levels of child mortality.

Ryssdal: The billions of dollars that will be raised, Mr. Fox, who is going to decide how they get spent?

FOX: Well, at the end of the day, it's really important that it be the Haitian government, and Haitian civil society with the support of the Haitian diaspora that make those decisions. This is not a plan that can be made in Montreal, this is not a plan that can made in Washington, this is a plan that needs to be made by Haitians if they're going to have the ownership of the process.

Ryssdal: But the choices that the Haitian government has made in the past and that Western aid groups and countries have made in the past on behalf of Haitians have worked out not so well.

FOX: That's true. And we don't want to replicate our mistakes in the past, we need to move forward with confidence but with some humility into the future.

Ryssdal: Robert Fox. He's the executive director of Oxfam Canada. We reached him in Montreal today at an aid conference for Haiti. Mr. Fox, thank you for your time.

FOX: Thank you. Take care.

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