Thursday, March 11, 2010

Trying to contact Partners in Health (PIH) ... about planning and accountability

Dear Colleagues

Community Analytics (CA) is the perfect methodology to help with planning and oversight accountability as Haiti moves from rescue and immediate relief to longer term relief and rebuilding. But it is very frustrating ... and very difficult to make contact with anyone in the organizations, let alone the key people.

I am sharing this with the blog reading public. Dr. Paul Farmer has a big reputation for his work in Haiti and the organization Partners in Health (PIH) has been identified as very high performing in a socio-economic situation in Haiti that normally is not very positive. Since the earthquake, PIH has done everything it could possibly do ... as far as I know. But today I have been trying to make contact. It started with the following email.
from Peter Burgess
date Thu, Mar 11, 2010 at 4:19 PM
subject About the Haiti emergency ... helping with planning and accountability ... URGENT
hide details 4:19 PM (7 minutes ago)
Dear Colleagues

Dr. Paul Farmer and Partners in Health (PIH) have built a strong brand for success in health in difficult places ... notably in Haiti, and more recently in Rwanda. It is good that the UN has chosen to have Dr. Farmer in the role of UN Special Envoy in this time of emergency together with former President Bill Clinton.

While the rescue and relief response has been substantially improved over other recent disasters ... the South Asia Tsunami, the Pakistan earthquake, Katrina, et al ... there are still some issues that fail to get addressed, notably the matter of accountability. There is some progress on this, but it is small, and relates to only to part of the fund flow. Worse, there is a universal rejection of accountability as a legitimate concern by almost all the organizations involved which makes it very hard to distinguish between those that raise money and do good things, and those that raise money and do nothing.

This is not a new issue. I raised it for the first time in 1978 when I did my first consultancy for the World Bank ... and have raised the matter hundreds of times in the intervening years. I am raising it again now ... and at the same time introducing Community Analytics (CA) as a way to improve the planning framework and to improve the accountability and oversight of the ongoing relief and rebuilding initiatives. As its name implies, CA has a community focus and looks at development from the perspective of the community.

There are also questions about how the official Government of Haiti plan will serve the people of Haiti. While it is clear there are some funding requirements for rebuilding infrastructure, government buildings, etc it is a concern that the planning will be in the interest of well connected contractors and the people of Haiti will not be fully engaged. It has been observed that the socio-economic structure of Haiti in the past has not resulted in much of the gross national product residing with the population of Haiti as a whole but being very much focused on the government and a small elite. Though cotton and rice were profitable for Haiti at some point in history ... the modern economy of Haiti has revolved into a poor and essentially welfare based system with no way out. The CA planning approach would help to put community back into the picture ... and would be a very valuable SUPPLEMENT to the official plan that is soon to be published.

You should know that in my career I have done several national level development plans for the UN (including Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal and Namibia after independence, as well as many area development plans in connection with various disaster recovery situation).

Maybe you could point me in the right direction ... and forward this message to the appropriate parties.

Peter Burgess
Community Analytics (CA)
Our contact coordinates for all mail except donations and for phone, fax and email are:
Partners In Health
888 Commonwealth Avenue, 3rd Floor
Boston, MA 02215
Phone: +1 617-432-5256
Fax: +1 617-432-5300
Peter Burgess
Tr-Ac-Net Inc ... The Transparency and Accountability Network
Community Analytics (CA)
Integrated Malaria Management (IMM)
Microfinance Focus Magazine in New York
tel: 917 432 1191 or 212 772 6918 or 212 744 6469
skype: peterburgessnyc
Books: Search Peter Burgess at
I got an immediate automatic response saying don't send an email, but go to the website. I went to the website ... for the umpteenth time ... and there is no way to connect ... but you can send money.

I called a phone number ... and in the course of an internal telephone tag exercise got message after message telling me to go to the website or press a number ... and then the same recording with the information to go to the website or press a number.

While I respect PIH based on what I learned some time ago ... but honestly, I am not so sure any more. As I mention in the email, Dr. Farmer is now a UN Special Envoy together with President Bill Clinton ... and with this job description getting in touch is no longer a realistic option. I would argue that this is beginning to look a little bit like a rebuild of a dysfunctional society where the elite really do not have to deal with reality. Maybe I am being unfair ... but there should be a better way!

Peter Burgess

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