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Public Statements

Assessing Progess in Haiti Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 1016, a bill introduced by my
friend Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California which requires a report to Congress regarding the status of post-earthquake humanitarian reconstruction and development efforts in Haiti.

This bill supplements my efforts under the Haiti Act, which I introduced last Congress, to exercise greater oversight over the disbursement of U.S. assistance to Haiti to ensure that it is meeting the intended recipients and purposes, that it is advancing U.S. priorities, that it is promoting Haiti's recovery, and that it is not being derailed by waste, duplication or corruption.

This past January, Mr. Speaker, I traveled to Haiti with Secretary Clinton's Chief of Staff and point person on Haiti to observe some of the tremendous work the United States is doing and to learn about U.S. plans for the future as well.

Much progress has been seen in Haiti over the past 16 months. More than 2 million cubic meters of rubble have been cleared, there is now a better medical system and increased access to more clean water than before the earthquake, and the interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission has approved 86 reconstruction projects, accounting for about one-third of the total pledges made by international donors last year.

However, Mr. Speaker, with each stated achievement, we are reminded of how much further Haiti has to go. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians are reportedly still without safe and secure sustainable shelter. A recent U.N. report found that peacekeepers in Haiti may have contributed to the environmental contamination which could have led to the cholera outbreak, crime is reportedly on the upswing, rising food and gasoline prices will make day-to-day survival even more difficult for many of the people of Haiti, and Haiti is still dealing with lingering questions regarding the recently announced parliamentary election results.

In order for progress in Haiti to continue, it is important that allegations of election corruption are resolved quickly, that the concerns of the Haitian people are put to rest, and that the duly-elected parliamentarians are seated as soon as possible.

This weekend, President-elect Martelly is scheduled to be inaugurated; and as the new government takes office, it has its work cut out for it. The new leadership must make a commitment to root out corruption at all levels in order to build trust within Haiti and with all of Haiti's partners.

The President-elect's recent statements regarding his intent to pursue allegations of electoral fraud in the parliamentary election results are a step in the right direction. The government must also make certain that the Haitian people are fully consulted on the direction in which their country is heading and that they will have opportunities to create a better future for themselves and their families. Civil society and local governments must increasingly become a partner at the table of Haiti's future.

With the security situation reportedly deteriorating, it will be important for Haiti's new leaders to commit to the necessary resources to support the expansion of the Haitian National Police as well as implement updates to the criminal code and other reforms to strengthen its judicial system. I understand the United States intends to work with the new Haitian government to help Haiti become a more business-friendly environment.

As a proud representative of Florida's 18th Congressional District, I can tell you firsthand the interest of U.S. businesses, organizations, and private citizens, including the Haitian diaspora, to participate in the recovery and the development efforts in Haiti--and that only continues to grow stronger. More importantly, it is imperative that the United States take every appropriate measure to ensure that our funding and our efforts in Haiti and around the world are not squandered. This includes accountability for U.N. contractors who owe a duty of care for the civilians whom they are there to protect.

The report called for in this bill, H.R. 1016, will provide Members of Congress and the public an opportunity to see what is working and, yes, to see what is not working. I would also note that the funding that will be needed to develop this report is directed to be pulled from already appropriated funding. Further, CBO found that the cost of this report in this bill is so minimal that it did not meet the threshold of an estimate.

I would like to thank Ranking Member Berman and his staff for working with us on this measure. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in support of our oversight efforts, and I'm so pleased to join Congresswoman Wilson's efforts in making sure that we can provide our great partner, Haiti, with the resources it needs to build itself up.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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