It has been two years today since the devastating earthquake in Haiti claimed the lives of approximately 300,000 people. This anniversary should inspire us to take a moment of reflection to remember those whose lives were lost and, even more importantly, to renew our commitment to supporting the Haitian people’s goal for a new Haiti. But there has been an unfortunate disconnect between the international community’s response to this disaster and what Haitian civil society leaders on the ground want for their country.
As I think back to the many conversations that I had with AJWS’s partners in Haiti right after the earthquake, they weren’t just talking about putting back together the pieces that were broken, as many who came to Haiti to help have tried to do. They wanted to use this disaster as the impetus to construct a new Haiti—a Haiti where those who were rendered voiceless for so long would finally be listened to and included in the determination of their country’s future.
These grassroots leaders have acted on these ideas, working hard since the earthquake to shape their country from the ground up. They’re working for greater inclusion of small-scale farmers in the government’s agricultural agenda, pushing for housing rights for the more than 500,000 people that remain in camps, fighting for more just laws that protect against sexual and gender-based violence and so much more.
But despite their progress, these local voices haven’t been consulted sufficiently over these past two years, as international organizations have descended on Haiti to implement their own agendas. In a recent article published by the Nation of Change it is estimated that only 1 percent of international aid went to the Haitian government and extremely little went to Haitian companies or non-governmental organizations. Instead, the funds have gone to support international organizations, plans presented by international governments and foreign private companies—all implementing their own agendas for how Haiti should develop.
In many cases, these projects have failed to succeed because they didn’t take into account the local context. For example, this past summer the “Building Back Better Communities” housing expo, held in Port-au-Prince, featured 59 housing units presented as possible alternatives for the more than 1 million people Read More