One year ago, Haiti was shattered by one of the most devastating natural disasters in its modern history. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake destroyed an already fragile country, killing 300,000 people (roughly the size of London, Ontario), leveling towns, villages and cities, including the capital Port-au-Prince, and chipping away further at the spirit of the nation.
In recent Globe and Mail article on the disaster, a few quotations from development experts jumped out at me about how positive change can come about in the country:
“The international community should go back to a minimalist approach to Haiti and let Haitians assume full control of their own affairs. But this starts from Haitians, inside and outside, reinventing the brand.”
Chalmers Larose, political scientist and Haiti expert, University of Quebec in Montreal
“The goal of the donor community should be to put itself out of the Haiti aid business. That’s why we are supporting dynamic organizations like YouthBuild, Iveneo and the International Medical Corps, which are enabling small businesses, bolstering job creation and empowering Haitians with life skills and job training”
Gary Edson, CEO, Clinton Bush Haiti Fund
As some who’s passionate about public involvement, I do see a role for dialogue as Haiti stumbles along the road to recovery:
- The provision of needs through dialogue: The most immediate need is to ensure the basic daily needs of the nearly 1.3 million Haitians left homeless and now living in slums scattered across the country. The nearly 10,000 non-governmental organizations operating in the country need to enter into dialogue amongst themselves and with government authorities (regular coordination meetings, prioritization of aid projects, developing handover timelines, etc…) to avoid duplication of services and gradually hand off service provision to Haitians.
- Economic empowerment: Haitians need to feel a sense of ownership over their lives and wellbeing. With the freedom to pursue their own economic endeavours, through basic training, skills development and microcredit, in tandem with the elimination of red tape, attention can gradually be put toward improving community life and wellbeing. It is from here that more in-depth dialogue and deliberation on Haitian identity and nation-building can take place.
- Civic engagement: With the most recent presidential election results mired in scandal, and the ongoing challenges the government faces in bringing about change, Haitian respect in their democratic institutions is waning (assuming scarce resources of time are already being dedicated to engage in the broader community when access to food, clean water and shelter is a daily struggle). Scarce central government and donor funds need to be dedicated to engaging neighbourhood populations in reconstruction and the provision of care. By engaging recipients of care at the local level, Haitians will feel a greater sense of empowerment and engagement.
As the thirteenth post-disaster month approaches, it is clear that Haiti requires involved, sustainable solutions.
- Stephan Telka -