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Helping Puerto Rico Rebound and Rebuild

Michael Berkowitz — Former Managing Director, The Rockefeller Foundation
Photo credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Over the course of just a few hours, Hurricane Maria exposed how fragile Puerto Rico is. Years of underinvestment in infrastructure and the recent financial crisis let the island languish. The storm caused the island’s entire electric grid to fail, its network of roads and highways to be disrupted, and clean drinking water delivery system to collapse.

Almost two months later, too few have power and water and daily life continues to be severely disrupted. For years, leaders on the island have known that Puerto Rico would not pass the stress test of a major hurricane. Unfortunately, Maria proved them right.

While Puerto Rico still requires help with immediate relief, commitment to long-term recovery is just as important and we cannot ignore its responsibility to ensure it happens.

Together with the Ford Foundation and Open Society FoundationsThe Rockefeller Foundation is supporting a Puerto Rican-led effort to build back an island that is physically, socially and economically resilient for the future.

Puerto Rico has a tremendous opportunity to become less reliant on imports and fossil fuels; to become an island that can produce its own energy, grow its own food, and have an economy that supports its workforce. To help achieve this, our foundations are today announcing an unprecedented partnership to work with the people of Puerto Rico to move closer to that vision.

The partnership is built on three main actions and priorities:

  • The formation of a commission, modeled after similar successful efforts in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, and in New York, after Superstorm Sandy. The Resilient Puerto Rico Commission will be led by four distinguished Puerto Ricans from various sectors in Puerto Rican society. It will be independently run and will present its report to government, business and civil society.
  • Gathering data to assess the exact extent of the damage and the money required to address it.
  • Helping strengthen the island’s civil society by partnering with Red de Fundaciones de Puerto Rico to aid the recovery of a network of local NGOs so they can quickly resume serving their communities.

For too long, the United States has neglected our obligations to Puerto Rico and our responsibility to invest in the island’s long-term resilience. Hurricane Maria has shown the tragic consequences. However, we now have a chance to redress past inaction with this partnership and work that we believe will ensure a more resilient future for Puerto Rico.

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