Interaction Releases Reports on Improving Protection and Preventing GBV in Haiti

By Bryan Schaaf on Wednesday, November 3, 2010.

Most agree that efforts to protect the safety, dignity and rights of the most vulnerable populations (women, children, the disabled, the elderly, etc.) in post earthquake Haiti could and should have been more effective. Women and children are still vulnerable to a range of protection threats including sexual abuse/exploitation and human trafficking.  Interaction, an advocacy group for American non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has released two reports, on improving protection and on preventing and responding to gender-based violence (GBV) respectively.  Both are thorough, well thought out, and are copied below.      

 

Lessons Learned From Haiti:  Prioritizing Protection

InterAction Working Group on Protection

 

Executive Summary: More than nine months after the devastating January 12 earthquake in Haiti that claimed an estimated 230,000 lives, the survivors are still feeling the impact of a disaster that has left many of them susceptible to increased physical insecurity and violations of their fundamental rights. These include more than one million internally displaced persons (IDPs), up to 250,000 newly disabled people, women and children, and other groups with unique protection needs. Protection focuses on the safety, dignity, and rights of people. It involves taking into account people’s vulnerability to the violation of those rights and taking the necessary steps to reduce the risk and respond to violations. It also means looking within communities and identifying who among them is even more at risk and thus in need of special consideration and attention. At the nine-month mark post-earthquake, the member organizations of the InterAction Protection Working Group decided to issue a comprehensive examination of the current state of protection efforts in Haiti. Our findings are troubling: insecurity in many areas of Port-au-Prince is worsening; crowding in camps remains a problem; the discontinuation of mass food distributions has had adverse effects on some vulnerable populations, including women who are driven to engage in survival sex; and the security presence both in and outside camps remains minimal, leaving women and children especially vulnerable to gender-based violence and trafficking.

 

In the following pages this report presents common themes and overarching recommendations, before focusing on groups of people especially at risk in Haiti today: women, children, people with disabilities, the elderly, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. It discusses the specific challenges and recommended response to gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse. Finally, it treats critical systems and sectors in which a more effective protection response is vital: camp coordination and camp management; shelter; migration and internal displacement; access to documentation; and disaster risk reduction. While specific analysis and recommendations are presented within each section, the following summarizes the key recommendations:

 

To enhance protection, participation and inclusion of affected people are essential. Women need to be involved in planning the relief and recovery effort, as well as in managing the emergency camps. Holding meetings in French and Creole will make participation more feasible and meaningful for representative organizations of Haitian civil society.

 

There needs to be a comprehensive plan developed to improve security for women and girls that involves MINUSTAH (the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti), the government and its security forces, women’s groups, and member agencies of the GBV sub-cluster. Investment in community-level jobs and income generation programs is vital, with a special focus on women’s access. Livelihoods programs must focus on earthquake survivors and host communities outside of the capital in addition to those in and around Port-au-Prince. Essential child protection initiatives include reducing the number of children in institutions, with a focus on family reunification; investing in formal and informal education efforts; and taking targeted steps to reduce child labor and trafficking.

 

A greater response is needed to vulnerable Haitians outside the capital and those choosing to migrate to the Dominican Republic. Countries hosting Haitian migrants should be urged to continue to stay deportations on humanitarian grounds. The slow progress towards creating safe transitional shelter results from the inability of the Haitian government to address questions of land and property rights. Without community consultation and the resolution of land tenure is-sues, no large-scale progress on shelter is possible. In leading and coordinating the international protection response, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees should join and support the efforts of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs should appoint a stand-alone Humanitarian Coordinator given the immense challenges posed by the current level of vulnerability in Haiti.

 

Introduction: More than nine months after the devastating January 12 earthquake in Haiti that claimed an estimated 230,000 lives, survivors are still feeling the impact of a disaster that has left many of them susceptible to increased physical insecurity and violations of their fundamental rights and dignity. These include more than one million internally displaced persons (IDPs), up to 250,000 newly disabled people, women and children, and other groups with unique protection needs. Protection focuses on the safety, dignity, and rights of people. It involves taking into account people’s vulnerability to violations of those rights and taking the necessary steps to reduce the risk and respond to violations that have al-ready occurred. It also means looking within communities and identifying who among them is even more at risk and thus in need of special consideration and attention. Before the earthquake, the protection environment in Haiti was fragile and compromised. Many children did not at-tend school and thus were vulnerable to exploitation; women and girls were regularly faced with the threat of sexual violence; the disabled and the elderly had limited access to dedicated and appropriate services. The chaos and destruction unleashed by the earthquake heightened these protection risks and left many early responders with large protection issues to address, if not resolve.

 

An analysis nine months after the earthquake shows that, while protection concerns have been better addressed in some new settlements, insecurity in many areas of Port-au-Prince is worsening; crowding in camps has not been alleviated; the discontinuation of mass food distributions has had adverse effects on some vulnerable populations, including women, who are driven to engage in survival sex; and the security presence both in and outside of camps remains minimal. Insecurity will continue to be a major destabilizing factor if left unaddressed in ongoing reconstruction efforts, particularly with regard to settlements. Safe and dignified shelter solutions continue to prove elusive for the majority of the estimated 1.5 million people left homeless and displaced by the earthquake. Camp relocations, although necessary from sites in imminent danger of flooding and mudslides during the rainy season, have not been conducted with sufficient information or alternatives provided to residents to ensure that they are voluntary. Reports of inadequate prevention or response to gender-based violence (GBV) in the IDP camps and spontaneous settlements persist. Proper care of children separated from or unaccompanied by family members continues to be of critical concern. It is important to note that in the face of the incredible complexity and immense destruction and loss of life caused by this disaster, the response of the international community was swift and saved lives. The initial UN Flash Appeal for $575 million launched on January 15 was fully funded by donors just 35 days after the earthquake. UN agencies, multi-lateral organizations and INGOs have played an important role in providing assistance to survivors of the earthquake. An estimated 3.5 million Haitians received food assistance within the first five months of the disaster, thousands of cubic meters of potable water were distributed, and more than half a million temporary shelters were made available to disaster-affected Haitians. While disasters increase the risk that already vulnerable populations will experience violence, abuse and exploitation, such violations are not inevitable. Taking steps to mainstream protection or support specific protection efforts in relief, recovery and reconstruction can mitigate this. Any effort to “build back better” in Haiti will be inadequate unless the safety, dignity and rights of the Haitian people are prioritized and included in all areas of the response.

 

In the following pages, InterAction member agencies have taken stock of these issues in their respective areas of expertise, and outlined a number of steps that can and should be taken to ensure protection of the civilian population in Haiti. Efforts have been made to include both positive and negative lessons and identify forward-looking recommendations in several areas. Those include protection of IDPs living in camps and with host communities; shelter and settlements; protection for specific populations of concern, such as women, children, persons with disabilities, and the elderly; and prevention and response to GBV and sexual abuse and exploitation (SEA). The following are themes common to all these areas: Meaningful participation of affected populations in relief and reconstruction efforts is essential to the success of those programs and prevention of unanticipated harm. Individuals and communities affected by protection threats are often best-placed to understand those threats and how to address them at the local level. As stated in the Inter-Agency Real-Time Evaluation Final Report from August 2010, “[S]survival strategies of the affected population [should be] systematically included in the response as they are critical to effectively addressing suffering.” The Real-Time Evaluation noted that the failure to recognize and use the capacity of Haitian civil society organizations has hampered the relief efforts. Meaningful participation means two things: all groups, including vulnerable populations, are consulted and engaged as appropriate and they are engaged in all stages of the response, including assessment, design, implementation, and monitoring.

 

The rights of IDPs  must be taken into consideration in such activities as the management of IDP settlements, in reconstruction planning, and in the provision of documents. The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, the newly revised Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Frame-work on Durable Solutions for IDPs, and the Government of Haiti’s Safe Shelter Strategy provide points of reference for how these processes can be carried out in a way to best respect the rights, safety and dignity of internally displaced people. All actors, including the Government of Haiti, should be encouraged and supported in taking on their protection responsibilities. The international community must support the Government of Haiti to build the necessary capacity to protect its own people, including a revamped police force provided with significant training and resources to substantially increase the size and quality of police presence and services in the IDP camps, spontaneous settlements, and local communities throughout Haiti. Additionally, the Government of Haiti must be encouraged to accelerate the process for the provision of documents (such as personal identity and property documents) to Haitians who lost them or did not have them at the time of the earthquake. This will be essential to enable access to voting in the upcoming presidential elections in November; to facilitate access to services such as school enrollment for children; and to clarify land and title issues that are central to new settlement solutions. It is vital that protection be mainstreamed from the outset of the humanitarian response. This principle was not applied in Haiti.

 

In order to accomplish this in future disasters, strong leadership from the protection cluster and the Humanitarian Country Team is needed. In Haiti, the protection cluster has been led by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Partly because of their lack of capacity and operational expertise, and the late arrival of protection experts, protection was not fully mainstreamed across all areas of the humanitarian response, nor were protection needs assessed in the initial Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA). Yet without the inclusion and mainstreaming of protection in the early stages of disaster response, it becomes increasingly difficult to incorporate later on. When this occurs, problems—in child protection, violence against women, and others—can snowball unless all humanitarian and development responses prioritize the safety and rights of the disaster-affected population.

 

Key Recommendations for Coordination on Protection Issues

1. Leadership of the Protection Cluster in Haiti would be enhanced if the complementary skills of OHCHR and UNHCR were both utilized, by moving to co-leadership of the protection cluster. The GBV sub-cluster also needs more staff. SEA needs to be its own sub-cluster under the protection cluster, to be activated immediately at the outset of an emergency with full staffing, funding, and resources. If the protection cluster does not establish a SEA sub-cluster, the Humanitarian Coordinator must establish a fully funded, staffed, and resourced coordination cell at the outset of an emergency to oversee the aspects of SEA coordination that require participation by multiple actors.

 

2. The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator should establish a separate full-time Humanitarian Coordinator post. Despite the scale of the humanitarian crisis, the Humanitarian Coordinator post is combined with Resident Coordinator and Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (SRSG) responsibilities. This means that insufficient attention can be provided to the humanitarian response.

 

3. A comprehensive plan should be established to improve security for women and girls, and to appropriately address gender-based violence. The protection cluster—in consultation with the GBV sub-cluster, MINUSTAH, women’s groups and the government of Haiti—must develop and implement a comprehensive protection strategy, including a targeted security plan, to enhance women’s and girl’s safety. In addition, protection issues must be better addressed across sectors, heads of UN agencies and cluster leads. The humanitarian coordinator must make it a priority to uphold accountability to minimum GBV standards. The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) must also commit to ensuring that protection issues are addressed in the projects they review.

 

4. Promote the inclusion of local and national Haitian authorities in camp management processes, the protection cluster, and the Camp Coordination & Camp Management (CCCM) cluster, including through consistent use of French and Creole as official working languages. Many of the cluster meetings still are held in English and at the UN Logistics Base. None of the cluster meetings have Creole translation.

 

Particularly vulnerable populations: Daily life for many Haitian women before the earthquake was extremely difficult and often dangerous. The earth-quake has further devastated lives and increased the risks to women, especially those living in camps and settlements that are overcrowded, unsafe and underserved. Haitian women are central to the health and well-being of their communities and the economic and social development of the country. Their engagement as equal partners in Haiti’s reconstruction is not only the right thing to do; it is the linchpin of sustainable recovery. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, there was a good deal of awareness and “public information” on protecting persons at risk and integrating gender considerations into the humanitarian re-response. But actions have fallen unacceptably short of inter-national principles and standards, even taking into account the magnitude of the disaster. Women continue to have difficulty accessing basic services and gender-based violence and sexual exploitation are constant threats. Main-streaming gender into the response remains an “uphill struggle,” according to the inter-agency real time evaluation. Too often, Haitian women and women’s organizations have been excluded from or had difficulty participating in decision-making processes and program development and implementation. All of this has had a negative impact on the quality and effectiveness of the initial response.

 

To reduce protection risks for women, and ensure they benefit equally from rebuilding efforts, it is essential for the Government of Haiti and its partners to:

1. Develop a comprehensive plan to improve security for women and girls and to appropriately address gender-based violence. (More information and specific recommendations on gender-based violence, and sexual abuse and exploitation, can be found in the sub-sections below.)

 

2. Better integrate gender considerations into all program planning, design and implementation.

 

3. Prioritize the meaningful participation of women in every phase of recovery and reconstruction. This includes much stronger engagement with the vital network of Haitian women’s organizations and a commitment to building the capacity and skills of local organizations.

 

4. Scale up sustainable livelihoods programming that addresses the needs of women, especially single woman headed households. It is particularly important to ensure access to capital and other re-sources for women farmers and small-scale entrepreneurs.

 

5. Understand and respond to household needs and economic coping strategies, including how house-holds respond when their sources of income are disrupted and the increase in roles and responsibilities for women after a crisis.

 

6. Improve women’s access to health care. In light of the high maternal mortality rate and prevalence of gender-based violence, give particular attention to re-productive health care.

 

7. Implement a near-term strategy to ensure women’s safe access to cooking fuel. In the longer term, develop alternative fuels that are healthier and more economically and environmentally sustainable than the current reliance on charcoal.8. Implement national educational campaigns seeking to prevent violence against women and girls, especially rape and other forms of sexual violence.

 

8. Provide improved services to women and girls who are survivors of violence, including medical care, counseling, legal assistance, shelter services, and access to economic opportunities.

 

Children: Before the earthquake, children in Haiti were already facing threats of violence, sexual abuse, trafficking, exploitation and abandonment. As UNICEF noted, in their evaluation of their own response, the earthquake “exacerbated a pre-existing crisis by collapsing an already inadequate and weak system that was failing to protect those most vulnerable. Children in Haiti are now caught in the midst of a child protection emergency of unprecedented magnitude.” Since the earthquake, 500,000 children are deemed extremely vulnerable and in need of child protection assistance, while an unknown number have lost one or both parents. Given that most rapid response mechanisms during the emergency phase did not put children at the center of their response, many in the child protection community recognized that the earliest and possibly the best opportunity to link children with primary caregivers may have been lost. However, subsequent efforts did look to resolve this concern and worked to insulate children from separation from parents or caregivers. Nine months into the response, however, the challenge to meet the needs of the disaster-affected children and their families remains daunting.

 

Family Reunification: While family reunifications are happening every week, more time is needed to successfully trace missing children and missing family members. Finding a child’s relatives, however, does not automatically mean that the child has a new home that is safe and nurturing. Where reunifications have taken place, only limited efforts have been made to follow and examine the conditions to which children are being returned. Consequently, in some situations, placing a child with her/his extended family may be akin to a restavek situation—socially sanctioned domestic servitude.

 

A number of families have been unwilling or unable to take in a child, and many families are currently facing tremendous hardships, which increases the risk of secondary separation from parents and caregivers, especially for children living in poor and displaced households. Such separation can heighten the risk of exposure to abuse and exploitation that can irrevocably damage a child’s development. If Haitian families are not able to recover from the earth-quake, fewer and fewer families will have the capacity to care for their children and see to their needs, placing even more children in precarious situations.

 

Residential Care: Pre-earthquake estimates put nearly 50,000 children in residential care, some of them with a parent, some with both parents and some with no parents, all placed in these institutions for a variety of socio-economic reasons. Most of these care facilities—labeled as orphanages—fail to meet international standards, which call on care providers to consider what is in the “best interest” of the child, and thus leave the children open to abuse, violence, neglect and exploitation.

 

Alternative Care and Adoption: When alternative care, such as placement of children in small-scale, family-type group homes, is not possible, safe, inter-country adoption might be an option. However, since Restavek is a Haitian Creole term that is taken from the French, reste avec, which literally means “stays with.” It is used to describe children who are sent to live with other family members or other families. These children find themselves in situations of unpaid domestic service, with no opportunities for schooling or other basic rights. Haiti is not a part to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention), safe-guards are not in place to prevent illegal, irregular, premature or ill-prepared adoptions abroad.

 

Restaveks and Trafficking: UNICEF estimates that approximately 2,000 children per year were trafficked to the Dominican Republic prior to the earthquake. An estimated 300,000 children were living as restaveks. It is assumed that the effects of the earthquake have only magnified the risk of both, requiring vigilance from the wider protection community and also from the Government of Haiti.

 

Education: When asked, Haitian people say that their children’s education is second only to livelihood recovery in terms of priorities, this despite the fact that only 55 percent of children went to school before the earthquake and even fewer have returned to classes afterwards. A total of 4,992 schools in Haiti were affected by the earthquake, resulting in approximately 2.5 million children experiencing an interruption in their schooling. While a large number of schools have reopened, most of these require schools fees, which many households are unable to afford. Additional challenges include removal of rubble from collapsed school buildings to facilitate rebuilding; humane relocation of people currently living in school yards (according to international standards related to the relocation of disaster-affected people); and the absence of teachers, many of whom are among the displaced and thus lack the means to continue to work.

 

Government Capacity: The Institut du Bien-Etre Social et de Recherches (IBESR) has overall responsibility for addressing the needs of children in Haiti. IBESR has limited staff (a number of whom were lost in the earthquake), budget and capacity and is sensitive to criticisms about its effectiveness. While orphanages, residential care facilities, and children’s centers must be certified by IBESR, once they are certified there is little ongoing oversight or monitoring of the facilities. There also does not seem to be any protocol regarding minimum standards for staff in such facilities; so the centers are of-ten run by staff with limited resources and/or limited knowledge of child development or protection. The leadership of IBESR is opposed to family based care/foster care, as currently promoted by UNICEF and others in the international community, in part because of the added oversight these require, being private, smaller care sites. They have a genuine concern that such arrangements could end up as little more than “officially sanctioned” restavek situations. At the same time, IBESR has not proposed viable alternatives to such an approach. There are no IBESR social workers at the Haiti-Dominican Republic border, resulting in child protection cases being referred to Cap Haitien, 90 minutes away, a troubling circumstance given the dangers of cross-border trafficking of children. When coupled with the fact that very few Brigade for the Protection of Minors (BPM) officers are assigned to this area, the risks for children become critical.

 

Conclusion: Given the levels of international interest among donors and NGOs and the openness of the Haiti government, we have a chance to address larger systemic issues affecting children in Haiti. There is an opportunity to develop a comprehensive child protection strategy which operates from the best interest of the child and works to “ensure that children everywhere in Haiti can realize their rights to survival, education and protection, remain shielded against economic, environmental and social shocks, and grow up with dignity and hope in the future.”

 

Recommendations

1. Strengthen the child protection system across Haiti and at the border with the Dominican Republic: It is essential to continue to train and build staff capacity in IBESR, BPM and the Ministère des Affaires Sociales et du Travail (MAST). Areas of emphasis need to be basic child protection, international standards, including best interest determination, and legal procedures. Empower and train more Haitian social workers to serve as case workers and provide monitoring capacity relative to all of the child care institutions. Provision of salary support would be a critical means to ensure stability to such a program. At the border with the Dominican Republic, build and increase the child protection capacity of the BPM and increase the number of protection officers assigned to patrol the border. Since only 30 percent of children in Haiti are registered at birth and the lack of a birth certificate creates barriers for children to access their basic rights, relevant government ministries must make birth registration, even in hard to reach areas of the country, a critical priority.

 

2. Too many children are in institutions in Haiti. The international and humanitarian community should work with the government of Haiti to support and encourage family-based care options for children, find alternatives to institutions for long-term care and protect children in institutions. Support local organizations, churches, community leaders and child advocates to establish “safe homes” for children. Work with parents of children in residential care facilities and provide the former with psycho-social support (to strengthen coping skills), as well as livelihood opportunities.

 

3. Reunification of children with families should be the priority; international adoption should only be considered when it is in the best interest of the child. Link families who have taken in children from close relatives to livelihood opportunities. Provide training for families about child protection and the importance of keeping a child within the family as being in the best interest of the child. Donor governments should engage the Haitian Senate to pass a viable adoption law in accordance with the Hague Convention on International Adoption.

 

4. Immediate action must be taken to combat child trafficking and indentured labor (restaveks). The international community needs to encourage the government of Haiti to establish a national campaign which would shed light on the plight of restaveks. Material and financial support needs to be provided to families to remove the financial incentive for children to be trafficked, put up for adoption, or sent to live as restaveks.

 

5. Formal and non-formal education systems must be strengthened. Ensure that the Government of Haiti prioritizes site clearance and debris removal, identifies solutions that adhere to international standards for the relocation of displaced families presently occupying school grounds, and speeds up school construction to en-sure adequate space for all children before the next school year. Caution may be needed when plans are made to establish temporary schools near spontaneous settlements, as this could inadvertently en-trench communities in areas unsuitable for long-term habitation and that lack essential services, leading to the creation of new slum areas. The government of Haiti and the Ministry of Education must work to provide longer-term solutions for out-of-school children and address the need to reform the education system to improve quality and affordability (such as through teacher training, salaries for teachers, help for parents with school fees, and improved curricula). Despite the seeming reluctance of the government of Haiti, the international community needs to support the creation of more child-friendly spaces to en-sure prevention of abuse and exploitation and protection of children and to offer them a protective environment. For many of the children in the camps, there are multiple impediments to returning to or beginning formal schooling.

 

The Disabled: The earthquake resulted in up to 4,000 new amputees and 250,000 newly disabled people who have joined the ranks of an estimated 800,000 people previously living with disabilities. People with disabilities in Haiti have historically faced neglect, discrimination, and a near total lack of ser-vices. Perhaps no natural disaster has focused so much attention to disabilities. In spite of this, while there has been a strong response among disability organizations providing assistive devices, many mainstream humanitarian agencies have failed to take into account the specific needs of people with disabilities in their education, health, shelter, WASH, employment, gender-based violence, and food and non-food distribution programs.

 

Recommendations

1. The recovery and reconstruction efforts in Haiti must promote access and inclusion in all services for people with disabilities.

 

2. Humanitarian agencies should link with local disabled people’s organizations that possess the knowledge and experience to appropriately shape and influence service provision in the humanitarian response.

 

The Elderly: There are about 800,000 people over 60 years old in Haiti, representing about 3.4 percent of the country’s population. According to World Vision, of the over 1.2 million people displaced by the January 12 earthquake, about 84,000 were elderly. The elderly in Haiti endure various threats to their safety, dignity and rights, especially due to the failure to address their specific needs during the humanitarian response. Among these various threats are food insecurity (the elderly must receive meals appropriate for them to digest), physical insecurity, and threats to their property. The elderly also face difficulties in accessing basic services like health and water and sanitation. For displaced elderly persons, shelter is a critical need. Even those who remained in the main nursing home—Asile Communale—in Port-au-Prince were affected by the partial collapse of buildings, the lack of personnel and scarcity of available resources.

 

Recommendations

1. As much as possible, integrate older Haitians into activities designed to support livelihood recovery, such as cash for work programs. Given that only government employees have access to pensions, many older Haitians need financial assistance.

 

2. Train community health workers, nurses and other medical professionals to provide health care that meets the needs of older Haitians. This includes sup-port to local organizations that prior to the earthquake provided home care for the elderly.

 

LGBT Issues: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people faced particular protection challenges before the earth-quake, from scapegoating, violence and discrimination to a dearth of economic opportunities and a lack of access to appropriate, sensitive and respectful health services. Of particular concern in the health sector, Haiti’s HIV/AIDS prevalence (2.2 percent) is one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere. Youth, sexual minorities and commercial sex workers (CSW) are among the most at-risk of infection, yet face numerous challenges in accessing services. The earthquake has aggravated this situation for sexual minorities, who have been accused of bringing about the disaster because of their behavior. In the post-disaster context, sexual minorities remain highly marginalized and underserved and continue to experience discrimination.

 

Recommendations

1. Ensure that sexual minorities have access to basic services, including health and education, and are not discriminated against in the provision of such services.

 

2. Support efforts to target and incorporate sexual minorities as a beneficiary population, particularly with regard to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs.

 

Gender Based Violence: For more extensive analysis, please consult the paper prepared by InterAction’s GBV Working Group. Eight months after the earthquake, progress in addressing gender-based violence has been slow and emergency needs are still present. Indeed, living conditions in IDP camps and spontaneous settlements have served to ex-acerbate and seriously increase the incidence of GBV in Haiti. At the same time, not enough has been done to en-sure that women’s protection concerns are sustainably addressed in longer-term construction efforts. As the Haitian government and the humanitarian community seek to “build Haiti back better,” there is a danger that the status quo of discrimination and unequal opportunity will persist for women and girls.

 

Recommendations

1. Address protection concerns before they worsen. The protection cluster—in consultation with the GBV sub-cluster, MINUSTAH, women’s groups and the government of Haiti—must develop and implement a comprehensive protection strategy, including a targeted security plan, to enhance women’s and girls’ safety. In addition, protection issues must be better addressed across sectors, while heads of UN agencies, cluster leads and the humanitarian coordinator must make it a priority to uphold accountability to minimum GBV standards. The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) must also commit to ensuring that protection issues are addressed in the projects they review.

 

2. MINUSTAH’s IDP Unit must be better staffed and equipped. This unit is providing full-time policing presence in a small number of camps and patrolling in other camps. The unit needs translators in order to communicate with the population. In order to extend its reach into other camps and into communities, it needs more staff and equipment, particularly transport.

 

3. The GBV sub-cluster also needs more staff. It currently has one coordinator, and her time is partly taken up with UNFPA duties. Providing resources to UNFPA so that they could employ at least one more coordinator would facilitate outreach by the cluster to Haitian grassroots women’s organizations.

 

4. Scale up efforts to expand services for survivors immediately. Donors, NGOs, and Haitian organizations must commit to expanding GBV prevention and response efforts so that survivors get the assistance that they need. NGOs must strengthen their GBV capacity and prioritize GBV in their response efforts. Donors must develop a proactive strategy for ad-dressing GBV in Haiti and resource it properly. Haitian women’s organizations must be brought together with community-based groups to build upon past work to develop a plan of action to comprehensively address GBV in a way that is fully inclusive of the social and economic diversity of the population.

 

5. Integrate protection and GBV into disaster risk reduction strategies and pre-emergency planning. Experience in Haiti has illustrated that distribution of GBV guidance at the onset of an emergency has little traction if emergency responders are not already familiar with the principles of GBV prevention and response. Skill sets must be built and strategies put in place as a general rule of risk reduction and emergency planning in all sectors to make them a matter of course in the next emergency.

 

6. Advance women’s and girls’ economic and social empowerment in reconstruction efforts. Donors, the Haitian government and NGOs must recognize and take action to redress the absence of women and girls in reconstruction and development plans. Raising the status of women and girls and ensuring they have viable educational and economic opportunities are critical to preventing gender-based violence and limiting the push factors to engage in survival sex. Priority areas include: Support women’s groups at all levels of Haitian society and ensure that they have a voice in reconstruction. Adopt the Gender Shadow Report’s recommendation to “facilitate a surge‟ in women’s participation and gender expertise in all relevant reconstruction processes, including the national steering commit-tee and other relevant regional and international processes.” The IHRC, in particular, must better en-gage women’s groups in their work, prioritize projects to promote women’s empowerment, and monitor reconstruction efforts to ensure that they benefit women equally. Develop and implement a plan to economically empower women. Support specific initiatives for girls’ education.

 

7. Build the capacity of the Haitian government to address GBV. Reconstitute and build the capacity of the Concertation Nationale so that it can lead coordinated action across the Haitian government, donors and civil society to address GBV. Ensure that the National Action Plan to Fight Violence Against Women and Girls remains comprehensive enough to meet the scale of need post-quake or update it accordingly. Support the Ministry of Women’s’ Affairs to take a leading role in addressing GBV and ensure that all relevant ministries are fulfilling their responsibilities under the National Action Plan. Reconstitute the special unit within the Haitian National Police dedicated to working with women and girls. Train police officers to appropriately assist GBV survivors, support recruitment of female officers, and strengthen legal systems to end impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence.

 

Sexual Abuse and Exploitation: Sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) of beneficiaries by humanitarian workers is an important consideration in any humanitarian setting. Following the earthquake in Haiti, the ensuing social disruption and the desperation of the people as they sought to meet their basic needs illustrated why effective accountability to beneficiaries is a critical aspect of the humanitarian mandate. Effective accountability also means making prevention of and response to SEA a top priority for all agencies. Due to their prior presence in Haiti, entities such as the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) had already set up SEA response mechanisms, such as the Conduct and Discipline Unit, prior to the earthquake. The Executive Committees on Humanitarian Affairs and Peace and Security (ECHA/ECPS) UN-NGO Task Force for the Protection from SEA quickly developed and distributed materials to raise awareness of key SEA prevention messages. How-ever, uneven responses by different agencies and a lack of coordination among agencies resulted in beneficiaries receiving inconsistent messaging about SEA and not having a clear system for reporting SEA. In April, the InterAction SEA sub-working group issued a series of recommendations about addressing SEA in the Haiti response, which drew on observations of the previous four months. While progress has been made in some of these areas, much still needs to be done, in a more focused manner.

 

Recommendations

1. SEA needs to be its own sub-cluster under the protection cluster, to be activated immediately at the outset of an emergency with full staffing, funding, and resources. The Haiti experience illustrates clearly the lack of action if someone is not specifically tasked with addressing SEA and also what is possible when someone is given such a mandate. Moreover, the experience with the child protection and GBV sub-clusters show that to adequately and quickly address SEA in a humanitarian emergency, it is important to have focused and dedicated staff and resources. To date, coordination of SEA responses have been managed remotely from various headquarters. With a SEA sub-cluster, it will be possible to have better coordination of all humanitarian response actors, thereby guaranteeing consistency in the response and prevention activities.

 

2. If the protection cluster does not establish a SEA sub-cluster, the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) must establish a fully funded, staffed, and re-sourced coordination cell at the outset of an emergency, to oversee the aspects of SEA coordination that require participation by multiple actors. A positive step was taken in this direction when OCHA sent a coordinator to Haiti to oversee SEA activities out of the HC’s office. However, the coordinator was not sent until the fourth month of the emergency response and she was only funded for a 3-month assignment. This assignment has now terminated, leaving no one behind with a mandate to continue the essential coordination work; nor is there anyone to act on the comprehensive strategy put forward by the coordinator prior to her departure. To ensure longer-term coordination and monitoring of SEA activities, donors need to fund such work. The decision to locate the SEA coordinator in the Humanitarian Coordinator’s office guaranteed ongoing attention to the issue, as well providing a mechanism for sustained coordination of SEA efforts, during the emergency response.

 

3. To encourage meaningful progress and action on SEA, the seriousness of this issue needs to be emphasized at the highest levels, particularly by senior management of humanitarian agencies. This message was a major theme coming out of the SEA coordinator’s assignment in Haiti. She found that institutionalization of this issue and accountability must be supported from the headquarters level down. Field-level representatives need clear policies, response mechanisms, and guidelines.

 

Camp Coordination/Management: Camps are a relatively new phenomenon in Haiti, a direct result of the disaster. Hundreds of camps arose spontaneously in Port-au-Prince and surrounding regions after the earthquake as a result of people’s fear of returning to unsafe residential areas and a lack of options for people who never owned property.

 

More than six months after the earthquake, some camps have regular monitoring and assistance while others do not. The sheer number of camps, the plethora of agencies responding with ad-hoc interventions, and the disparate involvement of the Haitian government have made it difficult to ensure that all sites have achieved a basic standard that protects the life, dignity and rights of those displaced. Thievery, violence against women and children, and a general lack of order still characterize many camps. These problems have led international NGOs, multi-lateral organizations and the UN to request the presence of the Haitian National Police in the vicinity of the largest camps, and for UN peacekeepers to patrol through on foot instead of merely passing along the perimeter to observe such areas by vehicle. Even in some of the most widely assisted camps, such as Champs de Mars, located near the National Palace, acute protection problems persist.

 

Because of the danger posed by flooding and landslides, several relocations of camp residents have taken place in Haiti since the onset of the rainy season. The U.S. military conducted a survey of all camps and found that 19 sites were at imminent risk of flooding and landslides. The UN, the U.S., and other major donors then formed the Coordination Support Committee (CSC), which made recommendations to the government of Haiti on next steps. The UN then worked together with the U.S. to prepare new sites for the relocation of residents of these high-risk areas. The area of camp management offers the opportunity to develop concrete solutions to protection challenges. The fact that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) took the lead in the camp coordination and camp management (CCCM) cluster, however, resulted in minimal improvements due to their limited experience in humanitarian settings.

 

Recommendations

1. Support strong leadership of the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) in order to effectively represent humanitarian and protection concerns in decision-making processes. A lack of clear leadership from the HCT or the government of Haiti in the early stages of the response left a leadership vacuum for camp management. “The CCCM and the Protection Clusters were particularly weakened by the fact that key actors, such as UNHCR, were not present in country at the time of the disaster and could not be brought in immediately due to a certain reticence at the HCT level.” Humanitarian leadership and operational and technical expertise were thus not asserted in many crucial camp decision-making bodies, such as the Coordination Support Committee (CSC), while military actors such as the U.S. Army and MINUSTAH took on greater leadership roles.

 

2. As leader of the CCCM cluster, IOM should devote more resources to its protection work, putting into effect recommendations made by the protection cluster, recruiting more senior protection officers, and filling the current gaps in CCCM.

 

3. Promote the inclusion of local and national Haitian authorities in camp management processes and the CCCM cluster, including through consistent use of French and Creole as official working languages. National authorities are largely absent from the CCCM cluster, and from the camps themselves. While the government of Haiti’s own capacity and staff were hard-hit by the earthquake, the fact that cluster meetings were initially held in English and at the difficult-to-access UN Logistic Base limited meaningful Haitian participation. Many of the cluster meetings are still held in English and at the UN Logistics Base. None of the cluster meetings have Creole translation.

 

4. Actively engage camp committees, local leadership bodies, municipal authorities, and the disaster-affected population in camp management and decision-making processes. Interventions that lack an analysis of existing community capacity or any meaningful engagement and consultation with the affected population can result in negative consequences for the disaster-affected population. Speed and effectiveness can, in fact, be improved through consultation with affected persons rather than hindered by it (positive examples are provided in the August 31 Final Re-port of the Inter-Agency Real-Time Evaluation in Haiti). “Camp committees” exist that can help to facilitate communication with the resident population of settlement areas. However, while some committees are based on pre-existing community leadership structures, others were created to facilitate distributions and are not necessarily reflective of local leadership. Thus a number of methods, in addition to consultation with camp committees, should be employed to facilitate meaningful engagement of affected communities in programs that affect them.

 

5. Rethink paradigms of camp management to improve applicability in urban contexts. As emphasized in the Inter-Agency Real-Time Evaluation Final Report, the humanitarian community was not pre-pared to respond to a large-scale urban disaster. Paradigms were applied that had been developed for disaster response in rural areas—including the camp management system—that were not adapted for use in an urban setting. Combined with the general tendency to overlook existing Haitian knowledge, expertise, and organizational structures, “camps were seen as the unit of intervention instead of neighborhoods and administrative areas of the city.” For example, a map drawn up by the U.S. army divided Port-au-Prince into sections without regard for pre-existing municipal districts.

 

6. Ensure that relocations are carried out with the informed consent of the camp population, with respect for family unity and conditions of safety and dignity, as per the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. In April and May, several thousand people were relocated to new camps in land selected by the government of Haiti. In the movement from Valley Bourdon to Tabarre Issa, the international community was unaware of historical relocation efforts of the government of Haiti to remove residents from that location, which created additional tensions and confusion. Relocation was also the only option discussed during the information campaign, without assistance options for other solutions, such as staying with a host family. In the movement from Petionville Golf Club to Corail, it was noted that the site was not suitably prepared to receive arrivals, the initial registration process did not take into account the needs of vulnerable people, and there was a lack of information available for the at-risk population regarding relocation options. These are just some examples of the serious problems with relocations and related protection concerns.

 

Shelter: One of the greatest direct impacts of the earthquake for most Haitians has been the loss of their homes. According to official Government of Haiti figures, the disaster destroyed nearly 190,000 homes, displacing 1.5 million people and leading to the creation of 1,300 informal settlements across the country. The international community moved swiftly and effectively in the days and weeks immediately following the disaster, frequently reaching or exceeding demand for tents, tarpaulins, rope, and other emergency shelter materials among IDPs. However, as the humanitarian community moved from the initial disaster response phase to one more focused on recovery and reconstruction, the challenges faced became increasingly difficult. The shelter cluster in Haiti’s Response Plan divided the response effort into two phases. Phase one, mentioned above, was to distribute tents, tarps, and related materials so that Haitians could be provided with rudimentary shelter before the arrival of the rainy season in May. The second phase, beginning in May and anticipated to continue for 12 months, was the construction of “Transitional Shelter.” Transitional Shelters are semi-permanent structures with durable roofs and wooden or steel frames designed to provide solid cover for families for up to 3 years as permanent solutions are developed. In Haiti, most of the transitional shelters constructed by shelter cluster organizations will have the added benefit of being designed as resistant to the hurricanes that often ravage the island. The goal of the shelter cluster is to build 135,000 transitional shelters by the summer of 2011. Additionally, there is an increased focus on repairing disaster affected housing to run in parallel with the transitional shelter strategy.

 

Eight months after the earthquake, only 7,000 transitional shelters had been constructed. Numerous issues stand in the way of transitional shelter construction and housing repairs, which are a major factor in ensuring that Haitians are able to live with basic standards of safety and dignity. Most basically, international NGOs have faced unnecessary Haitian government bureaucratic delays and backlogs in their clearing of essential building materials shipped into Haiti, with Haitian Ministry of Finance and Haitian Customs offices holding shipments in port for weeks or months. Al-so, the debris from the earthquake is still strewn across the landscape, with rubble covering otherwise unsuitable land and clogging drainage channels. The greatest challenge, however, is the nature of Haitian land ownership. Even before the earthquake, Haiti’s records of land ownership were woefully inadequate, and the earthquake’s toll on the Haitian civil service only ex-acerbated the problem. Understandably reluctant to build semi-permanent shelters on land of unknown title, the inability to ascertain ownership of otherwise suitable property has seriously inhibited NGO construction efforts. In addition, owner-occupiers comprise a minority of tenants in Haiti, with renting being by far the most popular form of tenancy, especially in urban areas. This creates further difficulties: Do Haitians owe back rent on their collapsed homes? Where does one build a transitional shelter for a person without any previous land ownership? How does one convince landlords to allow the construction of transitional shelters on their land?

 

A number of principles, considerations and priorities must be assessed and considered in designing and implementing a program for shelter reconstruction that respects the fundamental rights of Haitians and ensures protection from future harm, including as a result of natural disasters. On a micro level, more sites must be designated for disposing rubble removed by cash-for work programs to increase the rate and efficiency of this effort. Haitian customs and the Ministry of Finance must work to expedite the movement of aid supplies through the country’s ports. Most importantly, the government of Haiti and the international community must work together to solve the issues inhibiting the construction of proper shelter in Haiti. A concerted effort must be made to provide secure land for transitional (and permanent) shelter.

 

Recommendations

 

1. All shelter and settlements programs should be designed in consultation with and through meaningful participation of the disaster-affected population and host communities. This includes persons with particular needs and/or vulnerabilities, in order to best identify and address potential protection issues. Shelter and settlement strategies should reflect local preferences and conditions, be compatible with com-munity infrastructure, and build up the capacities of Haitian organizations (government, Community Based Organizations, NGOs, and the private sector).

 

2. Age, gender and diversity should be main-streamed into shelter planning at all stages of development. Shelter and infrastructure plans should take into account the needs of local communities and persons with particular access issues, including persons with disabilities, the elderly, women and children.

 

3. Housing solutions should be part of a broader package to promote Haitians’ access to sustainable livelihoods, basic services and resolve land tenure issues. Link reconstruction plans to poverty alleviation, durable job generation, and economic growth opportunities. Coordinate housing reconstruction with infrastructure development, particularly water and sanitation. Support programs to clarify land rights and ownership and improve security of tenure. Such programs would necessarily include the provision of identity documents to those who have been made homeless or displaced by the earthquake.

 

4. Ensure that shelter reconstruction strategies and building standards take into consideration the likelihood of future earthquakes and other natural hazards. This and broader disaster risk reduction efforts would go a long way to protect Haitians from future harm resulting from those hazards.

 

5. Family unity should be prioritized in shelter and settlement strategies. Long-term shelter solutions should work to ensure complete family units are supported and incorporated into planning, especially during the resettlement process. Families hosting disaster affected individuals or family members should be sup-ported through programs that enable families to remain together.

 

Protection Outside of Port au Prince: In the months following the earthquake, it is estimated that around 600,000 earthquake-affected Haitians streamed out of Port-au-Prince towards less developed and far less populated areas within the country. These include areas to the east near the border with the Dominican Republic, and communities further north and west that were not directly affected by the earthquake but now host those displaced by it. While some of the rural displaced relied on their ex-tended families for support, many families that at first welcomed their relatives were unable to sustain the additional burden of hosting them. Although some NGOs—particularly those present in Haiti prior to the earthquake—have worked to provide assistance to those in rural areas hosting earthquake survivors, the vast majority of humanitarian aid over the past eight months has been centralized in the capital. As a result of a lack of de-centralization of post-earthquake assistance and services, many of those internally displaced people who initially settled in rural areas have been forced by destitution to return to camps in Port-au-Prince. In some families, men have returned to Port-au-Prince to seek out livelihood opportunities, while women and children remain displaced in rural areas. Other IDPs have been left homeless in the streets of border towns, increasingly vulnerable to smugglers and human traffickers who operate in the region. Despite the trend in returns to Port-au-Prince, there are still large numbers of earthquake-affected people in rural areas in Haiti; it is estimated that 100,000 reside in the Central Plateau alone. The Partnership for Local Development, which works with various peasant farmer organizations in Artibonite, has reported that rural communities in the area have had no access to support from UN agencies or assistance programs aimed at host families. UNHCR has been able to access some, but not all, host communities on both sides of the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic and has been a leader in advocating within the UN system for greater attention and assistance to host families. Issues of access, capacity and expertise have impeded the protection cluster, led by OHCHR from Port-au-Prince, to effectively monitor the protection situation in areas outside of the capital. More than six months after the earthquake, NGOs working in communities along the Haitian/Dominican Republic border have reported a spike in incidences of food insecurity, intra-family gender-based violence, smuggling and trafficking of Haitian children over the border.

 

In addition to those internally displaced by the earthquake, those who have migrated beyond Haiti’s borders have faced varying degrees of insecurity and protection issues, especially since persons displaced due to natural disasters are not covered by the international legal protection regime. Despite not being required by international law to do so, a number of countries took positive initial steps to ex-tend protections to earthquake-affected Haitians who mi-grated outside of the country and those Haitians who were already outside of the country and were rendered unable to return home as a result of the earthquake. The Dominican Republic and the Bahamas were rightly lauded by the international community for their gestures of friendship, solidarity, and support in the early days after the earth-quake, including agreements to temporary suspend deportations of Haitians and the issuance of special temporary visas to Haitians who could prove they had entered the countries as a result of the earthquake. The U.S. has halted all deportations of Haitians and granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitians already in the U.S. as of January 12. Yet a number of ongoing protection issues remain for Haitian humanitarian migrants, including those in the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and the U.S. In the Dominican Republic, communities that have received Haitian migrants were often ill-equipped to deal with the traumatized earthquake survivors. Haitians displaced to the Dominican Republic have largely settled in the poorest and most marginalized com-munities, already home to Haitian migrants and per-sons of Haitian descent. They have integrated into a population that already suffers social exclusion, lacks access to health and education services and reports the highest malnutrition rates in the country. Fear of deportation has resulted in increased isolation of the Haitian population in the Dominican Republic, with Haitians wary of approaching the authorities to seek assistance with recovering documents, accessing health or education services, or reporting incidents of sexual or physical violence to the police. After the Dominican Republic’s moratorium on deportations expired in March, several incidences of mass deportations of Haitian migrants have been documented, including a recent expulsion of 50 Haitians on September 1, 2010, from the border town of Jimani in the Dominican Republic. The expulsion reportedly occurred without screening the migrants for individualized protection concerns (for example, to attempt to identify potential cases requiring asylum or trafficking victims); without access to legal services or human rights NGOs; and without offering integration services to the deportees upon arrival in Haiti. In the Bahamas, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on August 16, 2010, that “illegal Haitians” must “voluntarily return” to “their country of origin or be subject to apprehension and deportation.” NGO observers fear that such statements may increase xenophobia, insecurity, and social exclusion of the already vulnerable Haitian population. The United States has been a leader in extending protection and assistance to Haitians affected by the earthquake. In addition to the stay on deportations and granting TPS to Haitians in the U.S. as of January 12, a number of Haitians were allowed to enter the U.S. on temporary visas to receive emergency medical treatment, and/or were granted humanitarian parole status. However, the U.S. continues to employ an interdiction-at-sea policy known as the „shout test‟ that jeopardizes the ability of vulnerable Haitians to access international protection by not requiring the U.S. Coast Guard to proactively screen Haitians to identify persecution that might be grounds for refugee status, or serious human rights violations such as human trafficking. Meanwhile, U.S. migration policy could further expand protections to Haitian earthquake survivors and preserve family unity if a number of follow-up measures were taken.

 

Recommendations

1. Support IDPs and host communities in rural areas outside of Port-au-Prince. Humanitarian assistance as well as development initiatives must target earth-quake survivors and host communities in areas out-side of the capital, especially through job creation and micro-credit programs. Otherwise, congestion in camps in Port-au-Prince (and associated protection issues) will continue, as will destitute IDPs‟ vulnerability to protection concerns that are exacerbated by extreme economic deprivation in rural and border regions (such as prostitution and human trafficking).

 

2. Increase presence of staff (including UN agencies such as UNHCR and UNICEF) in border regions between Haiti and the Dominican Republic to monitor and respond to protection issues such as human trafficking. Staff should take special efforts to monitor alleged trafficking of children, women and other vulnerable persons across the border; promote prosecutions of alleged traffickers; and provide assistance to trafficking victims. Also, given legal requirements to liaise with the Haitian National Police (HNP) in order to resolve certain issues pertaining to child abductions and trafficking, more properly trained HNP child protection officers should be deployed to the border regions.

 

3. The newly-reactivated Bilateral Commission (of the Dominican and Haitian governments) should revise and monitor the implementation of the 1999 bilateral agreement on repatriations. The current bilateral agreement requires that deportations be conducted during daytime hours and at official border posts. A revised agreement should comply with all international human rights standards. Also, the Dominican Republic should reactivate the CONARE, the commission that meets to determine asylum applications.

 

4. Countries hosting Haitian migrants should be urged to continue to stay deportations on humanitarian grounds. Safe and dignified returns would re-quire time and resources invested by the Haitian authorities and international actors to ensure adequate integration mechanisms and access to services for deported Haitians upon arrival in Haiti, both of which would divert time and attention from resolving more pressing issues related to earthquake relief and recovery.

 

5. Assisted voluntary return programs for Haitians, including those currently being carried out by IOM, should include transportation to communities of origin and sustainable income-generation components, so as not to place further strain on border communities in Haiti already hosting large numbers of the displaced.

 

6. Haitian migrants intercepted at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard and all other agencies should be made aware of their rights and given the opportunity to express persecution claims or protection concerns, in Creole and in a place of safety. In this way, Haitians in need of international protection should be identified, in accordance with refugee law and human rights law and standards.

 

7. The U.S. should extend humanitarian parole and temporary legal status to close Haitian family members of U.S. citizens, U.S. legal permanent residents, and TPS beneficiaries. This would better preserve family unity for those families currently divided as a result of the earthquake.

 

Documentation:  Following the catastrophic destruction of homes and offices in and around Port-au-Prince, there remains a major problem of lack of documentation for individuals and a loss of government records. National identity cards, college diplomas, and population data have all gone missing. Lack of documentation leaves many Haitians unable to enjoy their basic rights and constitutes a protection challenge. Without identity cards, for example, people may be unable to vote in the upcoming presidential elections, currently scheduled for November. The government of Haiti is well aware of this challenge. Efforts to build up a comprehensive civil registry in Haiti are in place and the government has begun the difficult task of providing identity cards to 5 million people in two months in order to be prepared for the November 28, 2010, elections. The OAS has committed to providing 850,000 cards16 but this falls short of meeting the need.

 

Recommendations

1. Support the registry and documentation process as an emergency need in order to prepare for coming elections. Meanwhile, ongoing efforts must focus on improving government records and individual documentation, including by registering children and newborns.

 

2. Support the government of Haiti to carry out birth registration of newborns, including in camps in and around Port-au-Prince but also in peri-urban and rural settlements, in order to facilitate access to government services and prevent potential statelessness.

 

Disaster Risk Reduction: At its core, protection is about rights, the most fundamental of which is the right to life. Events that violate a person’s right to life, especially when they are due to actions or omissions of responsible authorities, are at the core of what a protection approach should seek to stop, respond to, and/or prevent. Both natural and man-made hazards threaten the well-being and survival of Haitians and loss of life due to both is preventable. Disaster risk reduction (DRR) has emphasized this concept, wherein the number of deaths that result from a natural hazard (such as an earthquake or tsunami) can be lessened if the vulnerability of affected populations is reduced. If governments are to take their civilian protection obligations seriously, then disaster risk reduction activities are part of the panorama of activities that fall under a broad rubric of protection. This is not to say that all DRR activities are protection, or that protection in all contexts should include DRR; but in Haiti, where natural hazards are one of the greatest threats to life, DRR should be part of a comprehensive approach to protection, and should be carried out in a way that main-streams core protection tenets, including participatory processes and respect for the rights of individuals and communities. Seismic and hydro-meteorological events—including heavy rainfall, tropical storms, and hurricanes—regularly result in small and large disasters in Haiti, particularly flooding and landslides. Yet it is the vulnerability of the population that compounds the situation and results in a risk of extreme harm as a result of these events. Vulnerability derives from many of the areas regularly highlighted by DRR experts, including poor building standards, settlements in areas prone to flooding or landslides, and the near total deforestation of Haiti and its mountainous landscape. Proven disaster risk reduction strategies include developing disaster early warning and evacuation systems, promoting locally-appropriate hazard-resistant housing, enforcing stronger building codes, and supporting sustainable reforestation projects. Yet there are many components of vulnerability that can only be understood through meaningful consultation with the affected population: one case in point is the fact that many of the earthquake-related deaths that occurred in Haiti were the result of people bleeding out from wounds that were otherwise not life-threatening, which could have been addressed through basic first aid.

 

Recommendations

1. Ensure adequate financial resources are available to invest in disaster risk reduction activities that mainstream protection and are incorporated across sectors, including health, livelihoods, water and sanitation, food security, and shelter/housing pro-grams. In order to best address the safety, dignity and rights of populations affected by natural disasters, protection should be mainstreamed into DRR efforts, including through the application of core principles such as participatory processes and a rights-based approach. It will be critical for donors (and donor countries), the Haitian government, international organizations and the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission to incorporate meaningful DRR into recovery efforts. The disaster risk reduction community advocates that a minimum of 15 to 20 percent of program budgets target disaster risk reduction. All of these components can be coordinated through a recognized national platform that was established as one of the major pillars of the Hyogo Framework for Action.

 

2. Ensure that the affected population is consulted about what makes them vulnerable to harm from disasters, and that their meaningful participation is part of DRR planning and implementation. In order to be effective, DRR approaches should acknowledge and address the extreme vulnerability of the population as a major factor in their risk of harm. Un-fortunately, many internationally funded post-disaster recovery and reconstruction programs to date have not adequately increased the capacity of Haiti to re-duce disaster losses even against well-known hazards. Also, the Haitian Red Cross should greatly in-crease the amount of first aid training provided in schools, camps and to committees in Haiti.

 

3. Incorporate a rights-based approach in all DRR programs. Resettlement efforts, which may be necessary to reduce risk of extreme harm from natural hazards, should be carried out with the informed con-sent of the affected population.

 

Lessons Learned From Haiti:  Preventing and Responding to GBV

InterAction Working Group on GBV

 

The earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12 was devastating. As with most crises, women and girls were among both the most vulnerable and the most overlooked. Within the first week, reports of sexual violence emerged, as did stories of women and girls struggling to access assistance and living in crowded and unsafe camps. The location of the disaster in a major urban capital in a country with a recent history of social and political upheaval, as well as poorly functioning institutions, presented the humanitarian community with the challenge of responding to a multi-layered emergency of almost unprecedented scale and complexity. Yet while many aspects of this disaster were unique, much of the failure to appropriately respond to the protection concerns of women and girls resulted from known, chronic weaknesses in the system of emergency response.

 

Though gains have been made in raising the profile of gender issues in recent years, humanitarian actors still struggle to change the way that they coordinate, design, deliver and monitor assistance to ensure that women and girls are not rendered more vulnerable in the process. The humanitarian community continues to see women’s protection as a second-tier concern in crises, particularly natural disasters, and is slow to address gender-based violence (GBV) at the onset of an emergency. This paper examines some of the successes and failures of the response to the protection concerns of women and girls following the Haiti earthquake and offers recommendations for action. While natural disasters increase risks for women and girls, violence, abuse and exploitation are not inevitable in such crises. By investing in early and robust action, women and girls can be made safer, violence prevented, and a solid foundation built for women’s and girls’ empowerment post-crisis.

 

Review of the first three months: The first weeks of an emergency provide a critical window in which to ensure that women’s protection is prioritized from the outset and early preventive action is taken to address women’s vulnerability. If women’s protection is ignored during this period, it becomes much more difficult to integrate such concerns later on when funding levels and priorities have been established, assessments carried out, coordination structures solidified, and consultation mechanisms created. In Haiti, while there were some stories of success, too often such instances were patchwork and lacked sufficient follow-through. In general, the first weeks and months of the crisis were a period of missed opportunity.

 

What went right: High level of awareness about GBV: Thanks to numerous advocacy efforts, information about violence against women and girls and the need to ad-dress protection issues was disseminated early on in the response. The GBV Area of Responsibility working group sent action sheets to all clusters on how to meet minimum GBV standards across sectors, and many situation reports mentioned risks to women and girls and reports of violence. This is good practice that should be built upon by ensuring that GBV standards are not only known but monitored, and that protection risks noted in reports are swiftly acted upon. Some efforts made to target women and girls: While minimum standards were frequently unmet, in many instances organizations recognized the need to reach out to women and girls and target them directly in their assistance efforts. For example, reproductive health and sanitary kits were made available and incorporated in some NGOs distributions, a number of camp committees were asked to include women and girls, and food distributions were targeted directly to women. Such efforts could be strengthened in future emergencies by ensuring that attention to women’s and girls’ specific needs is uniform across the humanitarian response. Additionally, it is important to develop measures that guarantee women’s protection beyond points of distribution to ensure that women feel safe to participate and to hold onto assistance they receive.

 

What went wrong: Inconsistent leadership of and resources for GBV coordination: While the GBV sub-cluster was activated immediately following the earthquake, effective prevention and response efforts were hindered by rotating sub-cluster leadership, insufficient staffing and resourcing of GBV coordination, and leader-ship/capacity problems within the protection cluster. In the first two months, the sub-cluster had three different GBV coordinators and little to no support staff or re-sources. While coordination funding was requested in the Flash Appeal, this left the GBV sub-cluster without sufficient resources in the first weeks of the emergency. This made it difficult to meet immediate needs of women and girls for basic services, to establish a strategy for the group, and to harness the diverse expertise of NGOs into coherent action.

 

In particular, the sub-cluster wasn’t able to draw in local women’s groups and bridge the gap between emergency responders and development agencies with a pre-existing presence in Haiti. Furthermore, as assessments and funding appeals were developed, the absence of consistent leadership meant that there was no forceful advocate to ensure that GBV issues were prioritized in the initial response. Finally, GBV is a core protection concern and responsibility for ensuring it is swiftly addressed is the responsibility of the protection cluster, which in Haiti is led by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). OHCHR’s  lack of operational protection experience in natural disasters affected the quality of the response. Insufficient action across clusters to integrate protection and GBV concerns: Weaknesses in integrating protection concerns became evident as the first wave of assistance projects failed to consistently meet minimum GBV standards. Latrines often lacked locks and were not properly separated, shelter materials were inadequate and/or not reaching women and girls, lighting was insufficient, and food distributions did not adequately address protection concerns for women recipients. Most importantly, basic health and psychosocial support for GBV survivors were critically scarce. While GBV action sheets had been distributed across clusters, cluster leads were unable to operationalize this information and uphold basic standards in their respective sectors. Lack of involvement of Haitian groups: International-al actors failed to take advantage of the presence of Haitian groups and build upon and strengthen existing local capacity. Women’s groups were marginalized from relief efforts and planning and repeatedly voiced concerns about their exclusion. As community-based organizations increasingly mobilized to assist survivors locally, international agencies did not provide them with material and technical support, missing an opportunity to fill a critical gap in GBV services and support sustainable programming. Insecurity in displacement sites increased women’s and girls’ vulnerability to violence: Women and girls were insecure in many of the overcrowded displacement camps and in certain areas of Port-au-Prince. They faced daily harassment, threats and a lack of privacy that made them acutely vulnerable to violence. Reports of sexual and physical violence arose within days, pointing to an urgent need for a scaled up security response. While some patrols were eventually organized, they were far from sufficient to meet the vast need. The weak coordination between MINUSTAH, the Haitian National Police, and local organizations, including camp committees, and the absence of a comprehensive security plan, led to insufficient action to improve women’s and girls’ safety. NGOs prioritized sectoral responses (such as shelter, food, water and sanitation and non-food item distribution) over protection, and many did not have the capacity to integrate protection concerns into their existing work. Few NGOs had dedicated GBV or protection staff and many didn’t include GBV prevention and response initiatives as part of their initial disaster response.  Despite the uniqueness of the scale and impact of the earthquake, many important lessons can be gathered from the mistakes made, the good initiatives started but not sufficiently supported, and the outcome of attempts to make mid-course corrections.

 

Coordination: GBV coordination requires expertise, resources and dedicated staff: Without a full-time, experienced GBV coordinator and accompanying support staff, a GBV sub-cluster will not be able to meet its minimum obligations for response. Too often, GBV coordination in Haiti was hindered as staff had both programmatic and agency responsibilities and were not able to fully focus on coordination. In Haiti, the working groups and clusters that performed well were those with experienced dedicated staff. The health cluster, for in-stance, was staffed early on with a multi-lingual team, including an information officer, to implement coordination functions. Even within the GBV sub-cluster, it was only with the arrival of a full-time coordinator (three months in) that the sub-cluster was able to accomplish key tasks such as establishing viable referral mechanisms, organizing smaller working groups, engaging the security sector, and distributing community awareness messages. Messages aren’t enough: Better training on GBV and protection issues for cluster leads before an emergency will strengthen prevention and response efforts across sectors when a crisis arises. Though GBV action sheets can be a useful resource during a disaster, if cluster leads have no prior exposure to the issue and there are no staff with GBV expertise, there will be little operationalization of messages provided. Food distributions are a case in point. With more training and guidance from GBV technical experts, the good work done in targeting women could have been followed through better with pre- and post-distribution consultations and monitoring to ensure that women were able to safely participate in distributions and hold onto the materials they were given. Commitment to addressing GBV must come from the top: When the leadership of the UN country team prioritizes GBV and protection, there is enhanced accountability to minimum standards across the humanitarian response. A GBV coordinator is critical to pro-viding expertise and support across sectors, but a sub-cluster coordinator cannot enforce standards. Similarly, the critical issue of prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse by humanitarian personnel was not embraced at the highest levels and thus was entirely uncoordinated in the early months of response. Unless cluster leads and heads of agency are held ac-countable to addressing GBV by the UN country team and the humanitarian coordinator, they are unlikely to prioritize it.

 

Training: Training is an important but often overlooked responsibility of the GBV sub-cluster: It is not un-usual for the location of a humanitarian crisis to be one where GBV prevention and response systems are al-ready weak. The onset of a disaster only weakens existing systems and makes women and girls more vulnerable. These factors point to the need for the coordination of training on GBV, especially for host country workers to ensure sustainability of GBV response, but also for emergency responders from other sectors to better integrate GBV concerns into their own work.

 

Security/Protection: A lack of women’s visible insecurity should not mask their vulnerability to violence in less public places: Concerns over looting, riots and widespread panic were the focus of initial security efforts in Haiti. Overlooked was the fact that women and girls were at extreme risk of physical and sexual violence in their tents, inside displacement camps, and in less public places. Security efforts failed to address this insecurity and women and girls were left exposed. Security on the perimeter of a settlement will do little to address insecurity inside the settlement: While police or UN forces were sometimes deployed to the outskirts of displacement sites, it took many weeks before patrols inside camps were organized or security plans developed to enhance security in the places where women and girls were most vulnerable. Even as the security response increased, women were not sufficiently consulted to ensure initiatives were tailored to their specific concerns, particularly addressing their distrust of police and security commit-tees. Women’s exposure to violence can be reduced if preventive protection measures are taken across sectors: Much can be done to enhance women’s and girls’ ‘safety in the absence of a formal security presence. In Haiti, women and girls were put at risk be-cause of overcrowding in camps, ill-lit, unlocked latrines, a lack of lighting in strategic places, and an inability to access basic goods, which increased the threat of exploitation. These are known vulnerabilities that have been documented in multiple disasters and can be mitigated through integrating basic protection measures in response efforts. Without camp management structures, it is more difficult to resolve protection issues: In Haiti, many of the failures to sufficiently integrate protection were exacerbated by the absence of camp management in many sites. Camp management provides a critical focal point to resolve protection issues. Due to its limited experience in humanitarian practice beyond refugee movement and resettlement and return programming, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was not able to use its leadership position to resolve these problems. Additionally, NGOs were reluctant to take responsibility for camp management be-cause of the sheer number of sites as well as concerns over their capacity to effectively take on this role. Strong collaboration with communities is essential to improving women’s and girls’ safety when security structures have been weakened: Informal committees can play an important role in enhancing security, but only if such structures are effective and accountable and women and girls are represented and their specific safety concerns addressed.

 

GBV prevention and response: If services for survivors are not available, violence against women and girls will not be reported and therefore may go unacknowledged: Too often, humanitarian actors wait for reports of GBV before acting. Yet, women and girls will not seek assistance if no assistance is available. Health, psychosocial and safety services and community-level support for survivors must be a part of the initial emergency response. GBV prevention and response require targeted efforts: While mainstreaming is critical, mainstreaming alone is insufficient to respond to GBV. Without dedicated expertise and stand-alone programs, GBV is likely to be addressed in a scattershot approach in-stead of comprehensively. Stand-alone GBV pro-grams and dedicated staff can ensure that a multi-sectoral plan to holistically address survivors‟ needs is in place, contributing to knowledge transfer across sectors, thereby enhancing mainstreaming efforts.

 

Donors: Donors must take a more proactive role in ensuring that GBV is addressed in natural disasters. With competing priorities, GBV frequently falls to the bottom of the list. This creates a vicious cycle where NGOs don’t invest in GBV expertise because they cannot obtain funding for it and donors don’t fund NGOs for GBV programs because so few have the necessary technical expertise. While humanitarian agencies are responsible for addressing GBV, donors can be an important voice for accountability by rein-forcing those responsibilities and providing the re-sources necessary to fulfill them.

 

Continuing Challenges: Ten months after the earthquake, progress has been slow and emergency needs are still present. At the same time, not enough has been done to ensure that women’s protection concerns are sustainably addressed in longer-term construction efforts. As the Haitian government and the humanitarian community seek to “build Haiti back better,” there is a danger that the status quo of discrimination and unequal opportunity will persist for women and girls. Services for survivors of GBV remain insufficient, particularly at the community level and outside Port-au-Prince. Mental health services are extremely limited, women’s organizations are overwhelmed, and the police and judicial systems are not viable re-courses for most survivors. At the community level, some groups have mobilized to work with survivors but they are too few and receive too little support. In general, the existing network of support is stretched thin, unable to effectively cover the large geographic area that was affected by the disaster. Services out-side of the capital remain insufficient and are also further strained by those who fled the earthquake-affected areas. Protection concerns have been better addressed in some of the new settlements, but insecurity in many areas of Port–au-Prince is worsening, crowding in camps has not been alleviated, and the security presence remains minimal. As people are encouraged to move back to their communities, insecurity in their home neighborhoods will prove to be a disincentive. There are not enough NGOs and agencies working on GBV to meet the scale of need. Few organizations prioritize GBV in their emergency response or invest in developing internal GBV capacity, so when emergencies arise there is not enough surge capacity to meet crisis needs. Unlike long-established sectors where technical capacity is widespread, such as health or shelter, in general there is a shortage of GBV expertise across the humanitarian community, making it all the more difficult to ensure protection issues are addressed in large-scale disasters. The border areas have been largely neglected, despite the movement of displaced populations to the Dominican Republic and the risk to women of trafficking and violence. At the outset of the crisis, coordination of this region was led from Santo Domingo, but soon coordination responsibilities were transferred to Port-au-Prince causing much confusion for NGOs on where to seek guidance and support. There is little preparation to anticipate protection needs in future disasters. Natural disasters are re-current features of Haitian life, yet little is being done now to address women’s and girls’‟ vulnerability so they are not so at risk when the next crisis hits. Nor is there adequate preparation to ensure that future emergency responses are better able to address GBV from the outset. Long-term reconstruction plans fail to include women’s and girls’ needs, missing a critical chance to invest in their futures, and in turn the development of Haiti in general. In the Government of Haiti’s Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) and subsequent Action Plan, gender is treated peripherally, rather than as an area of need that warrants specific attention and investment. Although in places, the PDNA highlights the importance of women’s involvement in reconstruction – the role of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and the health, education and economic needs of women – few resources or actions have actually been commit-ted to meet those areas. To the extent that GBV and protection have been mainstreamed, little follow-up monitoring has occurred to ensure that these components have been implemented and are having an impact.

 

The Protection Cluster – in consultation with the GBV sub-cluster, MINUSTAH, women’s groups and the government of Haiti – must develop and implement a comprehensive protection strategy, including a targeted security plan, to enhance women’s and girls’‟ safety. In addition, protection issues must be better addressed across sectors, while heads of UN agencies, cluster leads and the humanitarian coordinator must make it a priority to uphold accountability to minimum GBV standards. The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) must also commit to ensuring that protection issues are addressed in the projects they review. Scale up efforts to expand services for survivors immediately. Donors, NGOs, and Haitian organizations must commit to expanding GBV prevention and response efforts so that survivors get the assistance that they need.

 

NGOs must strengthen their GBV capacity and prioritize GBV in their response efforts. Donors must develop a proactive strategy for addressing GBV in Haiti and resource it properly. Haitian women’s organizations must be brought together with community-based groups to build upon past work to develop a plan of action to comprehensively address GBV that is fully inclusive of the social and economic diversity of the population. Integrate protection and GBV into disaster risk reduction strategies and pre-emergency planning. Experience in Haiti has illustrated that distribution of GBV guidance at the onset of an emergency has little traction if emergency responders are not already familiar with the principles of GBV prevention and response. Skill sets must be built and strategies put in place as a general rule of risk reduction and emergency planning in all sectors to make them a matter of course in the next emergency. Advance women’s and girls’ economic and social empowerment in reconstruction efforts. Donors, the Haitian government and NGOs must recognize and take action to redress the absence of women and girls in reconstruction and development plans. Raising the status of women and girls and ensuring they have viable educational and economic opportunities are critical to preventing gender-based violence. Priority areas include:

 

1) Support women’s groups at all levels of Haitian society and ensure that they have a voice in re-construction.

 

2) Adopt the Gender Shadow Report’s recommendation to “facilitate a surge‟ in women’s participation and gender expertise in all relevant reconstruction processes, including the national steering committee and other relevant regional and international processes.” The IHRC, in particular, must better engage women’s groups in their work, prioritize projects to promote women’s empowerment and monitor reconstruction efforts to ensure that they benefit women equally.

 

3) Develop and implement a plan to economically empower women.

 

4) Support specific initiatives for girls‟ education. Build the capacity of the Haitian government to address GBV.

 

5)  Reconstitute and build the capacity of the Concertation Nationale so that it can lead coordinated action across the Haitian government, donors and civil society to address GBV.

 

6) Ensure that the National Action Plan to Fight Violence Against Women and Girls remains comprehensive enough to meet the scale of need post-quake or update it accordingly.

 

7) Support the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to take a leading role in addressing GBV and ensure that all relevant ministries are fulfilling their responsibilities under the National Action Plan.

 

8) Reconstitute the special unit within the Haitian National Police dedicated to working with women and girls. Train police officers to appropriately assist GBV survivors, support recruitment of female officers and strengthen legal systems to end impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence.

 

GBV must be recognized as an urgent, lifesaving concern in natural disasters and addressed as a core element of emergency and disaster response with human, technical, material and financial resources dedicated to it in the first days of an emergency.

 

UN agencies must: Develop a roster of GBV experts who can be deployed within 48 hours of an emergency to lead GBV coordination. Ensure that GBV coordinators are dedicated full-time to coordination responsibilities and have the necessary support staff and resources. Do not wait for a Flash Appeal to provide coordination funding. Ensure funding is available immediately. Develop strategies for GBV prevention and response that reflect IASC Guidelines. Develop internal capacity by increasing the number of GBV staff (in headquarters, regionally and in-country), developing and conducting trainings, and investing in resources for GBV programs and coordination. Ensure that there are GBV staff in senior-level positions and that responsibility for addressing GBV is taken on at the highest levels within agencies and within the UN country team. Include GBV prevention and response in disaster preparedness planning and training.

 

The U.S. government must: Increase the number of GBV technical staff within OFDA. Ensure that at least one GBV specialist is deployed as part of Disaster Assistance Response Teams. Provide more funding for both standalone and main-streamed GBV programs and track the funding that is going specifically to GBV. Ensure GBV programs are included in the first round of funding following an emergency. Ensure that all grantees adhere to minimum standards on GBV prevention and response and monitor compliance. Develop a comprehensive GBV prevention and response strategy for U.S. assistance programs.

 

The NGO community must: Commit to dedicating internal resources to filling the gap in GBV expertise within the humanitarian com-munity. Special attention should be given to increasing the number of aid and relief workers with GBV expertise. Recognize GBV as a first-tier concern in emergencies, dedicate staff to addressing it, and develop programs for prevention and response at the outset of a crisis. Train staff on the IASC GBV Guidelines and ensure that all sectoral projects adhere to them. Ensure that specific efforts are made to fully engage women and girls in the design, implementation and monitoring of programs. Ensure equal participation of women on community committees and that women benefit equally from assistance projects.

 

For more information, please contact:

Elizabeth Bellardo

Senior Manager for Humanitarian Policy and Practice

InterAction

ebellardo@interaction.org

www.InterAction.org

1400 16th Street, NW Suite 210

Washington, DC 20036

202.667.8227

 

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