Evaluation of Donor Response to Haiti Earthquake Shows "Building Back Better" Nothing But a Slogan
|Friday, 02 March 2012 11:13|
For the previous five years an independent organization, DARA, has been publishing the Humanitarian Response Index (HRI). The DARA website explains the HRI as “the world’s only independent tool for measuring the individual performance and commitment of government donors to apply the principles of Good Humanitarian Donorship which they agreed to in 2003.” (To learn more about the HRI, see the DARA website).
The international community cannot claim that it has helped Haiti build back better, and missed an opportunity to redress years of neglect and inattention to the issue of building capacity, resilience and strengthening preparedness for future crises.
Coordination and Local Input
“Donors having meetings in a military base in a humanitarian crisis makes no sense and the fact that they still do it one year and a half later is even worse. It hampers participation. Haitians are totally excluded. Many people can’t enter because there are strict controls at the entrance. As Haitians it’s harder for them to get through.”
The report suggests that rather than housing UN operations on a military base, “UN agencies and clusters should have been physically based within government ministries, to expedite their re-building and support their efforts.”
USAID has had a complete bunker mentality. It’s impossible to have any continuity in conversations with them. OFDA had platoons of consultants rotating in and out.
The Haitian government had a short window of opportunity to declare eminent domain and squandered it, in large part because donors did not provide early and strong support for such a controversial and bold action despite similar problems occurring in past natural disasters.
Using the natural migration after the earthquake to support decentralization was another missed opportunity, according to the report. Some 700,000 residents left the capital after the earthquake, yet “the collective aid community sucked hundreds of thousands of people back into the already over-congested capital of Port-au-Prince, an unintended by-product of the many cash-for-work, other employment, and cash distributions that were focused on the area of destruction, not the areas where people had fled to.” The reason is simple. As the report states, “Most donors preferred to support the response in the capital, where their aid was more visible.”
The cholera crisis demonstrated the typical strength of donors to provide funding while the crisis was in the news, but similarly demonstrated the weakness of donors to be transparent or communicative about their proposed solutions for the transitional phases. While cholera was killing an increasing number of Haitians in the second semester of 2011, donors individually and collectively pulled back without advice other than to encourage integrated health care.
The report concludes, while noting the difficult circumstances on the ground, that:
Much more could have been done to coordinate their own efforts, and to be more transparent and less political about their aid allocations and decision-making processes. The fact that many of the billions of aid promised has still not been delivered and is nearly impossible to track is scandalous. While many mistakes have been made, there are still opportunities to set a new course for longer-term recovery and development that will take these concerns into consideration, and focus on living up to the promises made to Haiti that the international community will not abandon them, but work with them to rebuild and renew.
To read the full report, click here.