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Report Unstable Foundations: Impact of NGOs on Human Rights for Port-au-Prince's Internally Displaced People

Report Unstable Foundations: Impact of NGOs on Human Rights for Port-au-Prince's Internally Displaced People

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UNSTABLE FOUNDATIONS:
 
Impact of NGOs on Human Rights for Port-au-Prince
s Internally Displaced People
October 4, 2010Prof. Mark Schuller
York College (CUNY) / Faculté d
Ethnologie (UEH)
 
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 
This report follows six weeks of research during the summer of 2010. With a team of eight stu-dents and a colleague at the Faculté d
Ethnologie, Université d
État d
Haïti, this study coversover 100 camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), a random sample of one in eight of the861 in the metropolitan area. Students conducted quantitative and qualitative surveys in threeinter-related areas: conditions and services within the camps, residents
level of understandingand involvement in the camp committees, and interviews with committee representatives. Theauthor followed up with a visit to 31 camps.The results show that despite the billions in aid pledged to Haiti, most of the estimated 1.5 mil-lion IDPs are living in substandard conditions. For example, seven months following the earth-quake, 40 percent of IDP camps do not have access to water, and 30 percent do not have toiletsof any kind. An estimated 10 percent of families have a tent; the rest sleep under tarps or evenbed sheets. In the midst of the hurricane season with torrential rains and heavy winds a regularoccurrence, many tents are ripped beyond repair. Only a fifth of camps have education, healthcare, or psycho-social facilities on site.The services provided in the camps vary quite significantly according to a range of factors.Camps in Cité Soleil have almost no services, while those in Pétion-Ville are better managed.Camps that are not on major roads or far from the city center in Croix-des-Bouquets or Carre-four have little to no services. Smaller camps, with 100 or fewer families, have demonstrablyfewer services. Camps situated on private land
 
71 percent of the sample
 
are significantlyworse off than those on public land.Despite the fact that many NGOs empower camp committees to select recipients and distributeaid
 
most notably food, until the government stopped general distribution in April
 
most offi-cial committees do not involve the population. Less than a third of people living in camps areaware of the strategy or even the name of the committees. Two-thirds of members are men,despite well-documented concerns about gender based violence. While to most NGOs managingcamps or offering services these camps represent their
local participation,
it is clear that thepresent structure leaves much to be desired.While many committees sprang up organically immediately following the earthquake as an ex-pression of solidarity and unity in an effort for survival, NGOs
relationships with them have sev-eral negative intended or unintended consequences. First of all, most NGOs did not inquireabout local participation, leadership, needs deliberation, or legitimacy. As a result, in severalcases, the NGOs and self-named committees excluded pre-existing grassroots organizations.Some NGOs, the government, and even the land owners themselves created these committees.This is a root of several conflicts. In the majority of cases, the camp committees
 
who were ac-tive in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake
 
report not doing anything because of lackof funds, testifying to an increasing dependency on foreign aid.Security
 
including theft, gender-based violence, and forced evictions from private landowners
 
remains urgent. The issue of forced eviction is greater than generally acknowledged; of the ini-tial sample, 19 of 106
 
or 17 percent of camps
 
had been closed. Research assistants found anadditional fourteen camps that were either closed or under threat of closure. This is a violationof residents
rights as granted by international conventions (the U.N. Guidelines for IDPs). This
 
 issue is likely only to heat up given the election season and the government-imposed deadline of December to close the camps.These failures are not isolated incidents but symptoms of larger structural problems that requireimmediate, sustained, profound reflection and attention. Solutions include involving IDP popula-tions in large community meetings, assessing levels democracy and participation within commit-tees, greater NGO accountability, coordination, and submission to a fully-funded local and na-tional government. Housing needs to be recognized as a human right (guaranteed by Article 22of Haiti
s constitution), with concrete, immediate steps to empower people to return to a safehome and basic services (e.g. water, sanitation, health care, and education) made available toall, regardless of residency status. All of these require the immediate release of pledged aid, thevast majority of which has failed to materialize.Specific policy recommendations include:
1.
 
Donors such as the U.S. and U.N. should focus more funds and rebuilding efforts at rebuilding the capacity of the elected Haitian government, and not simply NGOs.
 
2.
 
 All 
NGOs working in Haiti need to work with the Haitian government and respect the local authorities.3.
 
 All 
NGOs working in Haiti need to have an active and robust participation of im-

in the camps and other impacted communities.4.
 
NGOs should specifically encourage under-represented populations, particularlywomen, and pre-existing grassroots groups.5.
 
NGOs should assess the official committees and support those who are doing wellin transitioning toward greater autonomy, offer training to mid-range groups, andengage lower-functioning groups in dialogue with the general population.6.
 
Provide support for education at all levels, including popular education about IDPrights.7.
 
Provide more security, particularly for women, including an indefinite end toforced evictions until a sufficient amount of permanent housing is available.8.
 
Provide services in the neighborhoods as well as the camps.9.
 
 All parties: the Haitian government, NGOs, and donors, need to make the expe-dient construction of high-quality permanent housing its first priority.10.
 
Fully fund Haitian relief efforts.
For correspondence regarding this report, please contact:
Mark Schuller, Assistant ProfessorAfrican American Studies and AnthropologyDepartment of Social SciencesYork College, the City University of New York94-20 Guy R. Brewer BoulevardJamaica, NY 11451(718) 262-2611mschuller@york.cuny.edu

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