Sustainable Haiti: Rebuilding for the Long Haul

As Haiti now reels under the onslaught of a cholera epidemic that has already claimed more than1,300 lives and laid another 50,000 low, the rebuilding efforts trudge ahead at a snail’s pace, as obstacles continually arise. There is an opportunity to start anew, and do it right this time. But with as much as 98% of the rubble remaining, Haiti can hardly be called a clean slate. Resources which could be devoted to clean-up have temporarily been diverted to hurricane preparation.

The international Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, headed by Bill Clinton was charged with oversight of the $5.3 billion in relief aid that has been pledged by foreign governments around the world. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-15% of that amount has been delivered but much of that was in debt forgiveness. On the other hand, 23 major charities have collected $1.1 billion from individuals and organizations around the world, but because of red tape, only about 2% of this has been released. Most of this has been used to pay for field hospitals, plastic tarps, bandages, and food, plus salaries, transportation and upkeep of relief workers in support of the more than a million refugees living in 1,300 tent camps around the country. With 30,000 NGO’s currently on the ground, it’s no exaggeration to say that things are more than a bit chaotic.

The Sustainable Haiti Coalition is a platform of collaboration that coordinates resources for a suite of sustainable solutions. I spoke with co-founder Douglas Cohen, on the phone. He told me that, “ethical leadership and triple bottom line values are the criteria for participation.”

They are helping to facilitate the work of Haitian Diaspora members, as well as private companies, non-profits, NGO’s, Universities, government agencies, and UN agencies engaged in providing resources for sustainable ventures.

For example: Tamara Apollon founded Mon Pays Ma Cuisine, a fruit preparation business that employs and empowers Haitian women desperate for work after the disaster.

Other ventures that are currently involved in the collaboration include: Montreal-based Apparel for Life, the Garnet Group and Atlantis Energy, a manufacturer of solar shingles.

The coalition began at Fairleigh Dickinson University in NJ, as a spinoff of their Institute for Sustainable Enterprise. Cohen and co-founder Jonathan Cloud were approached by the Dept. of Homeland Security, who eventually introduced them to the Clinton Foundation

Soon after, they were presenting at the Sustainable Haiti Conference last March in Miami, where they participated in a discussion of a 100 year vision for Haiti.

In June, they participated at the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit where in an official side event they led a session with 60 world business & NGO leaders

The group is currently organizing a study tour for students, where they can gain life experience and study information and complexity management.

This is an incredibly challenging situation. And while overall coordination seems to be major problem, efforts such as these can truly make a difference, at least in the lives of those they are able to reach.

RP Siegel is the c-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails.

Like airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though can we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.

Follow RP Siegel on Twitter

RP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His publications include business and technical articles as well as books. His third, co-authored with Roger Saillant, is Vapor Trails, an adventure novel about sustainability. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 52 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. He is also active in his community of Rochester, NY. A regular contributor to Mechanical Engineering magazine, RP recently returned from Abu Dhabi where he traveled as the winner to the 2015 Sustainability Week blogging competition.. Follow @RPSiegel on Twitter. Contact: