Haitians need greater role in earthquake recovery, says report

By agency reporter
December 15, 2010

Ordinary Haitians are calling for a greater role in the rebuilding of their country in order achieve a successful and sustainable recovery from January 2010’s devastating earthquake, says a Progressio report released this week.

Since the earthquake, which killed some 230,000 people and left much of the country in ruins, civil society organisations, ranging from human rights and environmental to faith-based and humanitarian groups, have expressed deep frustration at the marginalisation of ordinary Haitians from the recovery and reconstruction process so far.

In around 30 in-depth interviews with both local Haitian and Dominican organisations and individuals, Progressio uncovered a sense of alienation and exclusion from the global reconstruction effort focused on Haiti.

Colette Lespinasse, Director of the Haitian Support Group for Refugees and Migrants in Port au Prince, is among those who felt many Haitians were not included in the relief effort.

“If the reconstruction process is carried out…. without consensus and respect, we will not be eliminating poverty in Haiti. On the contrary, we will be building more fragmentation and divisions in a process that requires building consensus,” she said.

Civil society groups cited how in the first few months following the disaster, UN meetings were conducted in English and Spanish, but not French or Creole, and this contributed to Haitians feeling like passive observers of the relief operation rather than active participants.

Haitian grassroots networks were not properly used, which led to wasting valuable time in creating new structures instead of actual delivery.

The report, Haiti after the Earthquake, identifies flaws highlighted by civil society and other groups that acted as barriers to effective progress towards reconstruction.

In particular:

* The way the international community operated – for example, delays and bureaucracy over funding left many local organisations feeling marginalised.

* Trust between local groups and the Haitian government was harmed by the government’s weak leadership and lack of consultation over the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) and the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA).

* Aid management was seen as being too centralised in Port-au-Prince. Haitian civil society organisations argued that a decentralised approach could have better provided for the 1.5 million people internally displaced elsewhere, and could have increased opportunities for employment.

* Frustration at the lack of visible plans for land reform and land allocation, without which, civil society groups say, reconstruction will suffer greatly.

While the report highlights reconstruction issues, it did find that the earthquake created a great deal of solidarity between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and this bi-lateral engagement provided hope for a collaborative future.

Haiti after the Earthquake also indicates that there were huge efforts made by Haitian and Dominican civil society organistions and international organisations to respond to the earthquake which demonstrated their potential for taking on a stronger role in the future.

The report additionally highlights that there are clear tensions in delivering aid in a humanitarian context while at the same time thinking about long-term development goals.

Progressio’s report is now being circulated to policy makers and international NGOs in an effort to encourage support for the work of Haitian civil society organisations in the lead up to the one-year anniversary of the 12 January earthquake.

Lizzette Robleto, Progressio policy officer and report author said: “The extraordinary efforts made by Haitian civil society in the aftermath of this devastating earthquake are a sign of the potential that exists for the sector to take on a much larger role in the future."

Robleto adds: “If collectively, we wish to see a lasting, sustainable recovery that is owned and managed by Haitians, then the clear sense of exclusion felt by local groups must be tackled.”

The report, Haiti after the Earthquake, can be downloaded at: www.progressio.org.uk


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