Integrating the efforts of the Côte Sud Initiative and the Port-à-Piment Millennium Villages Project within the Government of Haiti’s broader agenda is important at all levels of intervention, as it supports the prime minister’s agenda for coordination in the country’s sustainable development effort. During the December event, Conille identified a critical first step in empowering government leaders: building their capacity to govern and coordinate aid through accurate information and new technology. Tools such as mobile cellphone-based monitoring for health, agriculture, and critical infrastructure have been used successfully by the Earth Institute around the world, and are already being implemented or planned for use in the Côte Sud region of Haiti. Powerful planning tools to help local and national governments and non-governmental organizations alike coordinate aid effectively have been piloted by Earth Institute researchers in the South Department, such as organizational and project mapping to determine which organization is doing what and where, and to identify gaps in coverage.
Collaborating on Policy and Practice with Garry Conille, Prime Minister of Haiti
On Dec. 2, 2011, the Earth Institute welcomed Prime Minister Garry Conille of Haiti for a day of policy discussions and a seminar with the students of the Master’s in Public Affairs Development Practice program at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. The event was co-hosted by the development practice program, the Center for International Earth Science Information Network and the Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development.
The Earth Institute—its scientists and students—has been working in Haiti on various projects at the local, regional, and national level since 2009. The institute’s research and technical project support in Haiti have been concentrated in the South Department through the Côte Sud Initiative and the recently launched Port-à-Piment Millennium Village Project, the first in the Western Hemisphere. Both initiatives, regional and local in scale, adopt an integrated, collaborative approach to development that spans sectors like health, agriculture, reforestation and education. The scientific expertise provided by the Earth Institute informs the wide variety of projects undertaken through partnerships with community-based organizations, international non-governmental organizations and local residents.
Through these initiatives and other national-level advising, the Earth Institute is supporting the vision of the Haitian government for community-led development. During the Dec. 2 policy discussion at Columbia, Prime Minister Conille consulted with leading researchers as to the Earth Institute’s approach thus far in the country and learned more about the ongoing successes of the scale-up of the Millennium Villages model throughout Africa. The Earth Institute’s experiences in other countries have great potential in Haiti, including new approaches to agriculture in degraded environments, achieving universal access to quality primary education, and empowering local residents through community-led development.
Conille expressed his eagerness to continue to build the Government of Haiti’s relationship with the Earth Institute, both in continued work on the ground through collaborative partnerships such as the Port-à-Piment Millennium Villages Project, as well as in the development of strong national-scale policy support.
Conille commented that he was enthusiastic about the potential for his government to collaborate with experts at the Earth Institute and with Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who has “spent so much time thinking on these problems and has worked with leaders all over the world.” Working with the Earth Institute, continued the prime minister, “offers Haiti the opportunity to tap into a wealth of experience and lessons learned.”
As the relationship between the Earth Institute and the Government of Haiti continues to grow, Columbia University’s assets—world class researchers, talented and motivated students, and a wealth of data and experience pertinent to sustainable development—will be the foundation for the Earth Institute’s engagement going forward.
More information on the Côte Sud Initiative and the Port-à-Piment Millennium Villages Project can be found on the website of the Haiti Regeneration Initiative.