The International Crisis Group (ICG) recently released a report summarizes the challenges that the Haitian government has faced in rebuilding Port au Prince and facilitating resettlement of the internally displaced. Chief among these challenges has been the lack of a formal land tenure system. While several communities have developed their own local solutions to land ownership, a strategy from the central government is needed. ICG notes that this will require political will, creativity, and consensus. To put off resettlement further is to put off a transition to development.
The Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALNAP) has recently launched a Haiti Portal. The portal will include evaluations of the Haiti response and other online resources. In addition, it will provide participants an opportunity to discuss what is going well and what needs to be improved. Haiti is still teetering between emergency response and reconstruction. There are many issues that require further attention and action, first so we can improve efforts underway in Haiti and second to do a better job the next time a major urban disaster occurs. Below is a summary of just a few of these issues.
As we get closer to May, the rains will become more frequent and intense. Even brief rainfall to date gives an indication of how vulnerable the displaced in Port au Prince are to flooding and mud-slides. Some, such as the displaced at the Petionville Golf Club are being relocated to the hastily prepared Corail-Cesselesse site 15 km north of Port au Prince. Six other sites require urgent evacuation before the rainy season. Other sites can be made safer with engineering interventions. Disturbingly, hundreds sheltering at the National Stadium were reported to have been forcibly removed. Close coordination and rapid action are urgently needed to protect the displaced from the upcoming rains.
The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) has been working with the Haitian Government to reform its sorely outdated criminal laws, more suited to the needs of 19th Century France than Haiti at present. For this reason, Haiti's justice system has not been able to address moden crimes which include trafficking in persons, drug trafficking, and violations of human rights. President Preval has initiated a comprehensive reform process with the participation of civil society, the United Nations, and think tanks such as USIP. This process could help bring about a new chapter in Haitian history where criminal laws protect rights instead of violating them, and serve all the people of Haiti, including the poor and vulnerable.