During a week of events in London and Brussels on the earthquake and its aftermath the HSG gave Haitian civil society a platform to voice their views on (re)building their country.
The earthquake of 12 January 2010 left up to 315,000 dead, 5,800 amputations, 1.7 million homeless. One year on from the most deadly natural disaster for 80 years, The Haiti Support Group invited Georges Werleigh of ITECA, a founder of a small farmers’ development group and a Professor of Rural Economics to London and Brussels for a series of campaign and lobby events in England and Belgium (chiefly vis-a-vis the EU, the largest donor to Haiti).
An audience at a public meeting in the House of Commons (10 January), a commemorative event of Belgian solidarity groups (11 January) as well as MEPs and EU civil servants, heard Georges’ analysis of what needs to be done to move Haiti from short-term relief to long-term development.
On a visit to the European Parliament on 12 January, Georges handed over a petition from ITECA to MEPs, urging the EU to back a Haitian led reconstruction strategy, which promotes decentralization and puts a strong emphasis on local agricultural production and food security. The petition is formally supported by the HSG and Coordination Europe-Haiti, made up of some 40 development and solidarity organisations.
George gave his perspective on reconstruction, not just the rebuilding of physical infrastructure but of Haitian civil society itself. Those attending our events heard what Haitian organisations are doing for themselves and what Haitians want the international community to do to support them in that effort. Read the full report of the Brussels events here.
Georges Werleigh still lives outside the dangerous ruin that was his Port-au-Prince house but continues to work with colleagues at ITECA, the Haitian rural development agency he helped found.
He gave details of the construction of 1,700 seismic-resistant homes for the farmers they have worked with for more than 30-years. ITECA is based in and around Gressier — near the epicentre of the earthquake. Now it is at the epicentre of the response, with NGOs, officials and engineers beating a path to their door to see four prototype houses built on their grounds. The success of this project was acknowledged by the leader of the Social & Democrats in the European Parliament, Martin Schulz in welcoming Georges to the conference of his Parliamentary Grouping on 12 January.
Georges is a Haitian academic and seasoned activist specialising in rural economics. He is one of the founders of ITECA, a 32-year old grassroots development group helping poor Haitian farmers develop basic technology and advocate for their rights. ITECA works to make rural life sustainable, to prevent the mass migration to Port-au-Prince that was such a factor in the massive death toll in the earthquake. On the impact of the earthquake itself, Georges says:
“Everything you require for a revolution happened here in a few seconds – the destruction of every state symbol, the impoverishment and death of hundreds of thousands. The question now is: What will follow?”