Advocating Reconstruction from the Bottom Up. On Saturday 9 July the Haiti Support Group held its Annual General Meeting in London.
The meeting discussed the challenges to reconstruction and explored ways to help Haitian civil society organisations (CSOs) to advocate for a complete change of direction in relation to the current policies on reconstruction and development by the international players in Haiti and by the Government of Haiti.
The meeting heard from two keynote speakers. Firstly from Anne McConnell, HSG Co-ordinator, just returned from Haiti with the latest news and views from all our partners in CSOs, followed by Else Boonstra, Policy Advisor with Dutch agency BBO, who has just completed a study for the HSG into EU policy and decision-making on Haiti.
During her visit, Anne McConnell found that CSOs are extremely concerned about the lack of political stability and respect for due process. Following victory in extremely flawed elections, President Martelly, lacking a popular power base, is gathering right-wing advisers around him and initial policy pronouncements and action appear to suggest a neo-Duvalierist approach, e.g. his aim to restore the Haitian army and corrupt police officers being re-instated.
The humanitarian context remains dire, with cholera still rife and over 650,000 IDPs still in camps. Those that have left the camps (mostly upon threats or force being deployed) have moved back into unfit houses (c. 800,000).
In the light of these overwhelming challenges, Haitian grassroots organizations are struggling to motivate a weakened population to mobilise for political, social and economic change.
Nonetheless there are some encouraging signs.
In April the Platform for an Alternative Development (PAPDA) held a conference on “What money for what reconstruction?” which demanded fundamental changes to the current reconstruction effort which has been controlled in incompetent and non-transparent fashion by the Interim Haitian Reconstruction Commission with extremely little input from any Haitian bodies (and that includes the government).
The promising new CSO FRAKKA (Force for Relflection and Action on Housing) organized an International Forum on Housing in late May, which demanded a mass housing programme. It remains to be seen whether Martelly, with no power base in parliament and himself having to be aware of those who funded his expensive election campaign, is able or willing to take on the vested interests that prevent the necessary land being made available.
In this situation it is imperative that foreign funders play a constructive role to assure that the tax payers funds are deployed to ensure that aid is contributing to an agenda which empowers the poorest.
Hence HSG commissioned Else Boonstra of Dutch EU advisory agency BBO to produce a detailed report on how HSG and its European partners can influence EU policy on Haiti more effectively.
Ms Boonstra explained in some detail the operation of EU aid policy in Haiti through the European Development Fund (EDF) and the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI). Over the next year important advocacy opportunities are presenting themselves as the EU gets ready to review the Country Strategy Paper upon which EDF spending is based. Equally there are opportunities to lobby under the DCI, for example in relation to the Food Security Thematic Programme.
HSG will work with Haitian CSOs and the European NGO platform Coordination Europe-Haiti (CoEH) in their advocacy work towards the EU.
This will include further cooperation with the US-based Haiti Advocacy Working Group and the Haiti Resource Coalition, where our input is provided mainly through our Washington-based Senior Consultant Phillip Wearne.
In this respect a major resource will be an in-depth HSG study into how the Interim Haitian Reconstruction Commission (IHRC) has approved major reconstruction projects with lack of proper due diligence and with a focus on projects which once more do not provide relief and perspective those in greatest need. Much greater involvement of Haitian civil society is needed in the IHRC. This report out soon, so watch this space!
The AGM also reviewed other HSG activities and its finances over the last 12 months and elected a new Executive Committee.
Elected were the following:
Chair: Christian Wisskirchen
Secretary: Andy Leak
Treasurer: John McCay
Executive Members at large: Andy Taylor, Graham Campbell, Eve Hayes de Kalaf