Oct 03
October 3, 2012

Haiti: Lessons for the Future


CEO of NRG Energy David Crane discusses project updates in Haiti during the 2012 CGI Annual Meeting Haiti breakout session.

This year, as part of the CGI Annual Meeting, the Haiti Action Network hosted a breakout session to discuss commitments made to strengthen the country, their various stages of success, and lessons learned from working in a challenging and complex setting.

The CGI Haiti Action Network was formed at the 2008 Annual Meeting in response to the hurricanes that struck that summer. Since then, the network has met regularly in New York and Port au Prince, with a growing and active membership addressing issues such as housing, business development, education, and access to clean water. Over the last four years, the CGI Haiti Action Network has made 80 commitments with an aggregate value of over $350 million when fully implemented. So far in 2012, five new commitments have been made that focus exclusively on Haiti and a further five commitments have been made that include Haiti in their scope. This session showcased the incredible energy and dedication of the CGI Haiti Action Network, highlighting the projects that have already been completed but also taking a critical look at the work that is ongoing, and the commitments that still require funding.

Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe began the session by declaring that his home nation is “at a crossroads.” While Haiti has faced numerous challenges over the past few years, including the devastating earthquake in 2010, the Prime Minister assured the crowd that his country is now “rising from the ashes.”  The Prime Minister also discussed his plans to bring growth to Haiti, allowing the country to make use of the resources they have available while also attracting foreign investments. He discussed the strides his government has taken to provide education to all of Haiti’s youth, and laid out plans to build roads and bridges, and bring electricity to all Haitians. Cheryl Mills, Counselor and Chief of Staff for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, also gave remarks and affirmed a commitment by the US government to help create jobs and build safe and sustainable housing for the Haitian people.

Throughout the session, various leaders across the CGI network, from both the public and private sectors, emphasized the importance of continuing to invest in Haiti, citing the success of past projects that have helped rebuild and diversify the Haitian economy. David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy, announced that his company has installed solar panels on 20 schools, a solar market garden and a fish farm in the region of Boucan-Carré. Crane also called attention to the work of Dr. Valentine Abe, a Haitian citizen, who has developed these fish farms, creating jobs in the region, increasing income and improving access to protein for families and students in the area. Mark Summer, Chief Innovation Officer of Inveneo, shared his organization’s success bringing technology into schools working with other CGI members such as Microsoft and HP to deploy computer labs throughout Haiti and teaching the students important technological skills.

Those present in the session revealed not only success, but also demonstrated how projects across the CGI network can be improved in the future. Anne Hastings, CEO of Fonkoze Financial Services, engaged in a discussion with Denis O’Brien, Chairman of Digicel Group and the Haiti Action Networks determined leader. They looked at their own accomplishments and failures, and discussed their visions for the future of Haiti. To highlight examples of active members work in Haiti, Sasha Kramer of SOIL discussed her work with composting toilets and Duquesne Fednard shared lessons learned with his company’s clean cookstove technologies. In conversation with the audience, members stressed the importance of working through local institutions and building capacity.

President Clinton also visited the session, thanking the members for their important work and echoing the calls for new investment and a focus on long-term impact. President Clinton also reinforced the positive outlook for Haiti, stating that “I feel better about the long-term prospects of Haiti than I have in a long time, and if we can all just keep working together, we will soon… work ourselves out of a job.” 

Watch the full breakout session.