Security in Post Quake Haiti Depends Upon Resettlement and Development
The International Crisis Group (ICG) recently released a report summarizes the challenges that the Haitian government has faced in rebuilding Port au Prince and facilitating resettlement of the internally displaced. Chief among these challenges has been the lack of a formal land tenure system. While several communities have developed their own local solutions to land ownership, a strategy from the central government is needed. ICG notes that this will require political will, creativity, and consensus. To put off resettlement further is to put off a transition to development.
Overview: A year and a half after the Western Hemisphere’s deadliest earthquake devastated Haiti, 650,000 victims still wait for permanent housing in more than 1,000 unstable emergency camps dotting Port-au-Prince. The first storms of the 2011 hurricane season have flooded 30 camps, forcing tent dwellers to flee and killing 28 persons nationally. Michel Martelly, who replaced René Préval as president on 14 May, faces an immediate crisis in the growing frustrations of the victims in the camps and those with near identical unmet basic needs who remain in the urban slums. Forced evictions, some violent, along with the reappearance of criminal gangs in those camps and slums, add to the volatile mix. Adopting, communicating and setting in motion a comprehensive resettlement strategy, with full input from the victims and local communities, is the first critical reconstruction challenge he must meet in order to restore stability. It will also test the capacity for common international action beyond emergency relief after a year of disturbing divisions within the UN country team and among donors over resettlement strategy. Following a gruelling election, Haiti must turn to the priority of national reconstruction: resettling quake victims, removing rubble and rebuilding neighbourhoods. The 2010 disaster killed over 250,000 and forced an estimated 1.5 million into camps, while the absence of a uniform resettlement policy has stymied promised progress on decentralisation, economic renewal and reducing overcrowded urban communities’ vulnerability. Neighbourhoods victimized by decades of anarchic construction and weak to nonexistent land titles and zoning remain highly vulnerable to natural disaster. Evictions – without due process or tenable housing alternatives – have forced massive unplanned returns, including to Port-au-Prince slums where tents and shacks have been set up on or near old residences and new, spontaneous camps created. Close to half the displaced have remained in the original camps, with no clear understanding of the future and rising unhappiness at increased violence. Responding to those vulnerable tent camps is a core reconstruction challenge, with serious implications for peace, stability and security.
All political actors need to make housing alternatives safer and more sustainable in Port-au-Prince and adjoining quake-hit areas. That requires a decentralised national reconstruction program such as is enshrined in the government’s Action Plan for National Recovery and Development (PARDN) and was endorsed at the March 2010 donors conference. Beyond a planned but not yet built industrial park in Cap Haïtien, however, there are few signs that Haiti is building back better since donors pledged to contribute more than $5.7 billion over eighteen months and $10 billion over ten years to finance recovery. To manage this effort, Haiti and donors negotiated an Interim Haitian Recovery Commission (IHRC) as a hybrid body to speed approval of projects and coordinate efforts. It has enabled donors and government officials to exchange plans, but decisionmaking and donor disbursement have been mostly slow, particularly outside the capital. Many refugees have returned to Port-au-Prince exacerbating problems in the capital’s poor neighbourhoods, where the bulk of those living in tent cities ultimately must resettle. If reconstruction is to right the many imbalances that have made Haiti poor and prone to disasters, violence and conflict, it is paramount that the Martelly government set out a resettlement policy rapidly that engages the victims and is less about closing the camps, more about building stable, less violent communities and not only in the capital. The pilot plan for closing six camps and resettling their residents his administration has put forward is an important first step that deserves support, but the most vulnerable camps should be added to it quickly. To move resettlement forward in a more sustainable fashion, the government and international community must then:
(1) design, develop and implement a comprehensive strategy that includes a moratorium on evictions and timebound agreements with camp site owners; addresses livelihoods; promotes housing reconstruction based on improved practices; and integrates rubble removal with return of the displaced, while providing services in both old and new communities, in parallel with clear decisions and policies on land tenure and access;
(2) propose legislation to establish a national housing authority and in the interim establish immediately, by decree, a one-stop shop for planning, coordinating and implementing the new policy through a strengthened secretariat of the Inter-ministerial Committee for Territorial Development (CIAT) under the prime minister;
(3) enhance security in the neighbourhoods to which the displaced return by providing proximity policing through inclusion of the Haitian National Police (HNP) in resettlement programs, supported by the UN police (UNPOL), while working to deploy community policing as soon as that is feasible;
(4) decentralise resettlement to give it and reconstruction a more grassroots approach by strengthening the human, financial and material resources of the municipalities;
(5) speed up investment plans in the eight major port cities and surrounding agricultural areas, in order to generate employment and stem the flow of rural migrants to Port-au-Prince;
(6) begin immediately planning the IHRC transition, if necessary by extending its mandate for six months beyond the October 2011 sunset date, to avoid gaps and delays in funding and project execution;
(7) bridge the gap between IHRC work and the government’s by putting key ministers on the IHRC board and modifying its procedures to stimulate more rapid project approval and broader communication of decisions, particularly to the displaced population;
(8) provide at once new donor funds or re-program existing funding to support resettlement of the first six camps and add other camps progressively, particularly those mostvulnerable to flooding; and
(9) create mechanisms urgently to make land tenure more secure and improve land registries.
The Political Context: The Martelly inauguration ended a long wait for Haitians, who first went to the polls in November 2010 with expectations that a new leader could open the way to accelerated resettlement and recovery, greater economic stability, increased social and political cohesion and less violence. Crisis Group noted at the time that the elections would be only a first step toward putting the country on a firm path to stability and national reconstruction. After an electoral process rife with discord and ongoing grievances,the next step should be to build national political consensus on a program to overcome decades of political, social, economic and geographic divisions. Even the president’s close associates agree that the new administration will have only a very brief honeymoon. His campaign raised high expectations with promises of free primary education for all, jobs for youth, housing for the displaced and agricultural development for farmers. The daunting task is to pursue reconstruction in a country where 75 per cent of the population lives in poverty; over 50 per cent of its food is imported, and food insecurity is increasing in several departments; 55 per cent of the workforce is inactive; and some 650,000 are housed in unstable tent camps. To tackle these challenges, however, he must first get over serious political hurdles. Cohabitating with parliament is the first difficulty, attaining consensus on reconstruction an even greater one. Although he won the 20 March run-off handily with the support of voters tired of the traditional political class, turnout was low. The electoral process was characterized by controversy, widespread technical and operational errors, fear of violence, a boycott by a number of traditional parties and the exclusion from parliamentary or presidential elections or both of fourteen parties, including Fanmi Lavalas, ex-President Aristide’s vehicle. The opposition Inité platform of former President René Préval has over half the seats in the Senate and at least a third of those in the National Assembly. Most other opposition parties within the parliament also need persuading; many are still unhappy with the apparent fraud surrounding the elections.Achieving legislative consensus has been made even more difficult by confusion, frustration and anger over the outcome of proposed constitutional amendments. Instead of enjoying general support as expected, these now are another source of division, because there is disagreement over what version of those amendments was actually approved late at night by the parliament and published in the official gazette.
Dispute over the final results of nineteen parliamentarian seats is hindering formation of the opposition bloc in the legislature. The selection of a prime minister and cabinet that balances both political and regional representation would be an asset. However, a confirmation hearing for the prime minister nominee, Daniel-Gérard Rouzier, was delayed for weeks by prolonged behind-the-scenes dealings over cabinet positions, and on 21 June, the lower house voted down Rouzier’s candidacy by 42 votes to 19, with three abstentions. His rejection confirms that the cohabitation between the executive and legislative will be difficult and raises fears that a political impasse will further hamper reconstruction. A second challenge to consensus building is dealing effectively with political grievances so as not to provide opportunities for spoilers to divert attention from the core objective of national reconstruction. A number of political leaders boycotted the elections, due to lack of confidence in the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), while others, who lost in the first round, continue to call for annulment of the results due to widespread irregularities. The exclusion from the parliamentary elections and consequent absence from parliament of Fanmi Lavalas is another serious complication. So too would be any decision by the government to undermine prosecution of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. If Martelly is to build consensus rapidly, as he desires, he must not become distracted by divisive pursuits, such as the proposal to recreate an army, which is a sore subject due to the old force’s repressive history and could also lead to sharp conflicts with unsympathetic donors. These political pitfalls could well undermine Martelly’s announced intention to pump energy into the sluggish reconstruction process in the first 100 days of his presidency. Mounting social frustration, including deepening misery in camps and slums, could be manipulated easily by spoilers, whose political, economic or criminal interests thrive on instability. In light of the slow recovery response, several analysts have already expressed surprise that Haiti has escaped a social explosion. Broad consultation with civil society, including grassroots organisations on the left and the business elite on the right, and continuing his campaign’s effective communication strategy would mark a significant shift from his predecessor and gain support for his legislative proposals. To move his ambitious social program forward, Martelly will also have to work at ending chronic inertia in state institutions and strengthening a fledgling economy. Long before the earthquake killed close to 30 per cent of public servants and destroyed most ministry and other government buildings, institutional weaknesses characterised a barely functioning state. In order to maintain stability, the new administration must increase its legitimacy and recover public authority. Government needs to build more efficient, inclusive and transparent relationships with civil society, including community-based and grassroots organisations, as well as work with donors to strengthen the civil service and state institutions.
The Housing and Resettlement Challenge: As the hurricane season begins, Haiti is experiencing a profound humanitarian crisis involving the plight of the tent camp population. The president’s most pressing challenge is to ensure stability by strengthening resettlement efforts. He confirmed the priority by establishing only days into his presidency a task force to spur action on a comprehensive plan, with international support. Failure to make housing alternatives safer and more sustainable in Port-au-Prince and adjoining quake-hit areas would prolong hardships for the homeless while protracting the capital’s overcrowding and susceptibility to major disasters and ultimately putting at risk hope for a transformative reconstruction process. There has been little evidence of a holistic plan to build Haiti back better since donors pledged over $10 billion more than a year ago to help chart a new future based on recovery, stability and development. The unstable situation in tent camps and the haphazard departure from them of hundreds of thousands are among the most visible manifestation of continued crisis and an uncertain future. Since the earthquake killed approximately 250,000 and forced an estimated 1.5 million into camps, government policies on resettlement and housing have been mostly lacking. In their absence, rampant evictions – without due process and tenable housing alternatives – are forcing unplanned returns.
Deconstructing the Camps: Already prior to the earthquake, well over 50 percent of Haiti’s population was inadequately housed. Many dwellings were anarchic constructions in spontaneous settlements on steep slopes or in city centre gullies characterised by what Haitians call urbanisation sauvage (wild urbanisation) – rapid and unchecked growth of urban centres that increased vulnerability to major disasters. Port-au-Prince was the most egregious example. The 2010 earthquake destroyed 105,369 houses and damaged 208,164, many of which had been subdivided into cramped, one-room apartments without water, light or sanitary facilities. Damage and losses in housing infrastructure totalled $1.7 billion, which neither the mostly poor affected population nor the state could afford to rebuild, so strategic donor financial input is essential to the success of any resettlement plan. In addition to helping those in camps, a housing loan program for middle-income families who lost their homes in the quake is also required to speed up rebuilding and energise the economy. In the immediate aftermath, over 1,000 spontaneous camps sprang up in Port-au-Prince and other affected areas. Shelter consisted of tents, tarps, wood, metal sheets, plastic or fabric coverings. Camps varied in size, the majority hosting between 100 and 1,000 households (between 500 and 5,000 individuals) in blocked-off streets, parks and squares, playing fields and some gully areas prone to flooding. Several, such as Jean Marie Vincent, near Cité Soleil; Champs de Mars, facing the presidential palace; and the Pétion-Ville Golf Club, hosted approximately 50,000 persons. Some 2.3 million people moved into camps, including some 1.5 million in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, 200,000 in towns like Léogane, the quake’s epicentre, and 600,000 who fled to not directly affected departments. The latter group’s return to areas where their families originated raised hopes that the capital’s congestion could be relieved by providing them incentives to stay. The government did not define who should receive assistance or be considered an internally displaced person (IDP). But given the level of pre-quake poverty, the extent of the devastation and the loss of livelihoods, many observers believed a clear-cut IDP definition was not necessary. Anyone in a camp was considered an IDP, though some surveys showed that some were previously homeless or had fled houses in slums with inflated rent, unhealthy conditions and insecurity for the free water and sanitation and possible land and/or housing benefits in the new camps.
Lack of precision on camps and IDP populations, however, could easily lead to inaccurate analysis and distortions in the assessment of needs and plans for distribution of assistance. A true census of the camp population would have facilitated the response of the government and international partners. Despite the importance of registration, determining the number of sites and their populations was a lengthy process that left planners and responders without any precision on the most vulnerable groups for eight months, resulting in some gaps in relief efforts. Numbers generally fluctuated between 1.2 and 1.7 million. The registration, which ran from February to October 2010, revealed 1,269 camp sites in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area and households (1.3 million individuals). 83 per cent of IDPs were in the capital, where the quality and availability of housing prior to the earthquake was already precarious. The registration disclosed that the majority of those in camps had remained in their communal sections or wards, close to prior residences. It further showed that most camp households were previously tenants; only 30 per cent were homeowners and 11 per cent of these said they could not afford to repair their homes. Nearly half the camp population, particularly tenants, expressed preference to move to a planned camp site; only 36 per cent, largely homeowners, wanted to return to pre-quake residences; 4 per cent wished to stay in their current camp site. The vast majority of camps were built on makeshift sites that fail to meet international humanitarian standards. Living conditions are harsh due to overcrowding and inadequate sanitation. Escaped prisoners and armed gangs have infiltrated several camps, adding insecurity to the challenges, particularly for women and girls, who are increasingly victims of sexual violence. The HNP and UNPOL have increased patrols, but these have become too predictable to be effective; IDPs want them to enter the camps more systematically, not remain on the perimeter. HNP proximity policing,54 supported by UNPOL, with greater presence and patrolling by both, should address much more the gender-based and sexual violence, including rape, as well as other crimes that followed the displaced from the pre-quake communities to the camps. As soon as possible, more effective community policing and enhanced integrated police and social service response are also needed to ensure that a new wave of sexual violence does not follow camp residents as communities are rebuilt. Part of this process will have to be a concerted effort to target the gangs that have taken residence in the largest camps, so as to prevent them from re-establishing the reign of terror that they imposed three or four years ago.
The lack of information and participation of IDPs in discussions about their future is stimulating frustration within the camp population. The construction of sturdier shelters and the repair and construction of permanent houses are far outpaced by increasing evictions, fear of violence and harsh living conditions – factors that have largely driven camp numbers down nearly by half from 1.2 million in July 2010 and have forced families to resettle themselves, often in untenable alternatives. Roughly a quarter of the 1,050 camps still in operation as of March 2011 held some 80 per cent of the remaining approximately 650,000 residents. The remainder were in camps with a commune-based management structure whose adequacy was dependent primarily on the will and capacity of local mayors. The lack of IDP policy and clear communication with the population over resettlement plans has also greatly contributed to random evictions from private as well as public property. Most camps are on private property, and the rights of the displaced to a place to live and of owners to personal and economic use of their property have conflicted almost from the beginning. An April 2010 presidential decree to extend the state of emergency required property owners to allow the displaced to live on their land through the eighteen-month emergency period, which ends in October 2011. While the decree was widely debated for its potential political impact, this aspect neither was highlighted by the government nor established the basis for negotiating the competing rights of IDPs and owners. The displaced do not always have the right to establish a camp in a given location, but their right not to be forcibly moved hinges in part on the state’s obligation to provide alternative shelter and ultimately adequate housing. IDPs acquire rights to greater protection against forcible removal when no suitable alternative is offered to them. Many in the camps were not displaced by the earthquake but moved to escape poverty and slum conditions, so evoke limited empathy from some citizens who perceive them as more akin to squatters. But all camp residents must be protected from the beatings and destruction of shelters and other property witnessed during forced camp closures. While some owners have agreed to comply with the decree, others have continued to force IDPs off their land without any process or sound alternative and sometimes with violence. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has reported that between mid-June 2010 and early March 2011, some 234,000 individuals were evicted from 247 sites and a further 166,000 were under threat of eviction. The highest incidence of evictions was in Delmas commune, where the mayor was involved in the violent closure of a camp on 25 May 2011. Several hundred IDPs were forced out after police and city hall security guards slashed tents and shelters with knives and machetes. The mayor justified the action by saying criminals had infiltrated the camp, but none were reportedly arrested. The introduction of state violence into the complex resettlement situation can only increase the instability produced by post-quake displacement. Camps will more than likely exist well beyond 2011, with consequent increase in hardships and risks for their populations. However, many NGOs that have managed camps are phasing out operations due to lack of funding, which is affecting the availability of basic services. Humanitarian interventions largely helped control the spread of disease in camps, but cholera has killed more than 5,000 and sickened some 300,000 since October 2010, and the Water and Sanitation cluster now lacks money to cover 94 per cent of basic needs. With the departure of some NGO camp management teams and the onset of the rainy season, humanitarian agencies have already reported some evidence of a worrisome new spike in cholera. Transitional shelter is gradually replacing emergency shelter, but failure to house the earthquake-affected population adequately remains a major impediment to successful, sustainable reconstruction. Long-term and immediate needs must be balanced. The situation in camps as well as the adequacy of plans to return camp dwellers to their neighbourhoods inevitably will be used as a measure of the success or failure not only of the humanitarian response but also of the reconstruction process at large.
The IDP Policy Gap: When the earthquake hit, Haiti had no ministerial authority on housing and urban development. For 45 years, the state had provided a minimal number of social housing units but lacked the capacity to manage even these due to financial, political and security constraints. The housing office (Entreprise Publique de Promotion des Logements Sociaux, EPPLS) still is without a comprehensive policy and effective authority to consolidate peace and order by improving urban housing. Nor does it have ministerial status or the capacity to bring together the core resources to respond to more than one million displaced. In the aftermath of the earthquake, President Préval initially charged the tourism minister, Patrick Delatour, an architect, with coordinating a response on housing and shelter. He led a three-part commission on rubble removal, camps and physical rebuilding. After the emergency relief operations, Préval created the Presidential Commission on Camp elocation, whose daily meetings he chaired and which included senior international humanitarian actors from the UN and prominent NGOs. But it had few resources, and while there was some donor support, the absence of an executive arm for managing the issues surrounding urban resettlement undercut government leadership. There were too many structures for dialogue and coordination but none to develop policy and implement agreements. The IHRC was given an external housing adviser but no true Haitian counterpart to approve and implement policies. Although efforts to develop a shelter and resettlement policy began in May 2010, it is still being debated, because there is no government interlocutor at technical or policy level who can sign off on an option.
The Inter-ministerial Committee for Territorial Development (Comité Interministeriel Pour l’Aménagement du Territoire, CIAT), with ministerial representatives, was created but, like the social affairs ministry responsible for housing, lacks expertise. The government’s unwillingness to adopt specific options has been a major cause of delay. Policies based on early arguments by the international humanitarian community and some government experts were opposed by Préval, whose main concern was that more slums not be created. He wanted better housing, and returns to neighbourhoods in their pre-quake state did not allow significant improvement This divergence of opinion triggered differences in focus. While Préval concentrated on a project to return a large percentage of IDPs in the Champs de Mars camp to Fort National in order to use it as a model, internationals sought to firm up agreement on prioritising transitional shelters so IDPs could return to their original neighbourhoods. Worse, Préval was unwilling to commit the land needed for donors to fund sites and services until he was convinced money was on hand for the more elaborate planned community he envisioned. Corail Cesselesse, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, one of three official camp sites, is a frequently cited example of policy gaps and inadequate government planning and decision-making. After weeks of indecision, and as the hurricane season approached, it was created rapidly in response to flood risks at the Pétion-Ville Golf Club camp with the assistance of IOM, World Vision and Oxfam (GB), among others, in April 2010. It now hosts some 7,500 IDPs from Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas, who are extremely vulnerable to such threats as eviction and natural disaster, and efforts are ongoing to transform it into a viable community However, while Corail is seen as one of the better-off camps, with water and other services, including a 24-hour presence of UN troops (MINUSTAH) and police (UNPOL and HNP), rumours of land awards and prospects of jobs at a reportedly planned industrial site have so far not materialized but have lured close to 50,000 persons to the area. They continue the old pattern of unplanned development and informal settlements – Canaan, Jérusalem and Ona-Ville – on the perimeters of the official camp. These settlements are not recognised by the state or provided services and are not included in the Corail community that now officially is part of Croix-des-Bouquets. Forced closure, however, would pose a clear potential for conflict and put at risk the initiatives to bring some measure of stability to the Corail community.
Resettlement Policy Debate: To respond to the massive earthquake, the international humanitarian community used a cluster structure to manage preparation of relief operations for more than a million IDPs. IOM was given responsibility to lead the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) cluster. NGOs accepted shares of responsibility, even as the numbers of managed camps were far out-stripped by those that appeared overnight on public or private land. Agreement on how to provide relief services was relatively seamless, with impressive efforts by Haitian and international bodies, both public and private. The challenge of transiting from the relief phase and tents to sturdier, safer, more secure housing in Port-au-Prince was harder, particularly with a weakened economy. The CCCM cluster comprises some 150 organisations, including UN agencies, such as UNICEF, the UN Population Fund and UN-Habitat, as well as NGOs such as World Vision, Oxfam and Concern Worldwide. It carries out a wide variety of functions, including coordination, advocacy, reporting, policy formulation, contingency planning and training for agencies involved in camp management. The shelter cluster, also initially headed by IOM, is now generally co-chaired by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC). Its focus is to shelter IDPs, including by repairing houses and building transitional or incremental but not permanent housing. While individual efforts by donors and humanitarian bodies have supported the out-of-camp re-housing of some 200,000 IDPs, no comprehensive resettlement strategy has been formally approved to facilitate their access to durable outside housing options or rebuild their livelihoods and communities. In the absence of a comprehensive concept, uncertainty undermines confidence, slows aid and results in piecemeal reconstruction. Actions to support policy definition are underway with international help, but movement from design to implementation has been grindingly slow. Two strategy documents have been drafted but not formally adopted by the authorities, though government approval of projects implemented by agencies and organisations has been guided by their general principles. It has never been made clear which of the various ad hoc government or state-led committees put in place after the quake has authority to lead on or approve policy decisions. The “Return and Relocation Strategy” was first drafted in May 2010 by the Inter Cluster Coordination (ICC) to define general guidelines for durable IDP solutions. It triggered a major policy dispute, largely within the UN, between those who emphasized a humanitarian perspective and those who argued that development considerations should control. The humanitarian view, embedded in the experience of IDPs coming out of conflict situations and prescribed in international norms, was that victims deserve a temporary sanctuary as secure as possible with at least basic services. It was strongly held by those who implemented relief efforts in the camps. Development colleagues argued that fundamental differences apply to resettlement following a natural disaster in a major urban area. In particular, the location of camps is more sensitive, because the differences between camp residents and those who opt to stay in generally just as fragile communities are minimal. The more services given IDPs in the camps, development advocates argued, the more likely that the camps would attract more poor people in a country with a 70 per cent poverty rate and the less likely that these would return to their vulnerable pre-quake communities. The “Return and Relocation Strategy” was finally approved, after one year and thirteen drafts, by the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), which includes the clusters. It was discussed several times but never approved by the IHRC or by the government, though the IHRC has drawn from it to prepare a framework for housing reconstruction and neighbourhood returns. It also continues to inform individual projects and continuing discussion about what might be done to mount a return and resettlement program for IDPs. The catalyst for the second major policy effort was a project funded by USAID and implemented by The Communities Group International (TCGI) to provide the IHRC technical expertise and advice. TCGI drafted the “Neighbourhood Return and Housing Reconstruction Framework” in fall 2010 after wide consultation. The third draft is now being revised to reflect the new government’s priorities. The framework seeks to promote IDP return and a reconstruction process that will enhance building standards, reduce risk in housing and neighbourhoods, improve land-use and offer financing options to households. Aid would be tailored to the needs of affected groups: owners and renters, IDPs and non-displaced, urban and rural. Both documents prioritise return to previous dwellings that are sound or can be repaired and propose temporary relocation to another camp as a last resort.
Towards a Comprehensive Strategy: Reconstructing Haiti after such an extensive urban disaster is impossible without careful planning and effective decision-making. The lack of these elements was a weakness for which both national and international stakeholders widely criticised the Préval administration, although international organisations and donors bear at least as great a responsibility for their inability to adopt a single strategy and speak with one voice in presenting it to the Haitian government. The new government will be expected to improve decision-making and adhere to efficient policies on crucial issues, such as forced evictions, land and rubble removal, as well as to clear criteria on benefits. It will need to better communicate its policies to the population. To resettle IDPs sustainably, it is necessary to declare the process a national priority, link camp closure and community rebuilding to social and economic development and factor all this into the national strategy to prevent instability and violence. There is an increased risk of renewed insecurity in the current context of rampant evictions, inadequate respect of the rights of both the displaced and property owners and the increased suffering of those in camps and slums brought about by the new hurricane season. President Martelly’s inaugural address and follow-up statements identified resettlement as an immediate priority. Other encouraging signals have been his efforts to talk with the affected population about their needs, as well as with the humanitarian and development actors about partnership. The harder task will be to approve and implement a strategy that requires money, land, complex legal arrangements and broad consensus on a common vision. Maintaining the camps is not a sustainable solution. They present high health and disaster risks, hamper reconstruction and absorb precious financial resources needed for sturdier housing and community rebuilding. The new president’s decisive move to close six camps in his first 100 days rightly reflects the urgency that resettlement requires, but policy should be based on the needs of the displaced and the government’s responsibility to protect their rights, not only its political agenda. Martelly has created a task force to collaborate closely with the IHRC housing expert and a UN team representing six agencies, programs and affiliates. It began on 29 April to draft an action plan for closing the six camps. Key donor representatives are a part of the process. The camp closure strategy the task force presented to the humanitarian community on 26 May should either fit into a comprehensive approved plan for global resettlement or serve as a model from which such a plan can spring. Sustainable resettlement requires that the plan be communitydriven, address livelihoods as well as house reconstruction, integrate rubble removal, which is blocking reconstruction in some neighbourhoods, and delineate a clear land tenure and access policy, as well as improved construction practices. To the extent possible, this should be based on a neighbourhood approach that moves the focus from camps to communities and encourages a more equitable humanitarian response by addressing the entire affected community. Ideally, much of the work done on the “Return and Relocation Strategy” approved in January 2011 by the HCT and the current IHRC framework will be synthesised and finally, after long delay, approved by the government. The UN team is not confident that six camps can be closed in 100 days, given the process to be followed, which begins with clarifying the preference of IDPs, determining their communities of origin and ensuring that the solutions proposed are sustainable and conducive to generating income for community members. However, there can be at least sufficient signs that action is underway to meet the population’s expectations. The government aims to return 5,239 families from the six camps to sixteen communities, at an estimated cost of $93 million, $10 million of which is needed immediately to resettle four camps in the first phase. The cost includes compensation for persons in camps as well as in communities and improvements in basic community services, as well as the launch of better urbanisation practices, since congestion leaves little room for development in most communities. Compensation will be based on the status of families (owner or renter) and the habitability of the houses: sound (green); needing repairs (yellow); severely damaged or destroyed (red). Weaknesses in IDP registration cause donors to worry that as grants are made to those leaving camps, others will enter hoping for a pay-off. Therefore, the process will require clear guidance on beneficiaries and eligibility. When all IDPs cannot be settled in a community because it is unsafe or land is environmentally protected or required for different urban purposes, other options, including resettlement nearby or in new communities surrounding the city, should be proposed. But the plan must seek, to the degree possible, to ensure that pre-quake homeowners, particularly victims, remain owners. It also must identify and obtain the necessary land through eminent domain or other means when new construction is required. The six targeted camps – at Place Boyer, Place St. Pierre, Place Canapé Vert, Sylvio Cator Stadium, Maïs Gaté and the prime minister’s office – occupy public cultural, entertainment or administration venues and are viewed as eyesores in a country seeking to present a better image and lure foreign investors. Successful closure and return could send a positive message to the remaining camps, reducing tension over the lack of visible reconstruction progress and giving the Martelly administration a breather during its first months. However, the process may stimulate further evictions if it is not part of a clearly communicated, time-bound plan that reassures camp site owners. A bad first effort would receive substantial negative media and public attention. While it is important to regain a sense of normality, the camps selected are less than 1 per cent of more than 1,000, not the most vulnerable or volatile or in the most underserved communities, and are above all in Port-au-Prince. Reduction of IDPs’ vulnerability should be a priority for the urgent closing of camps and the sustainable resettlement of their occupants. The recent deaths in the season’s first major storms – not even hurricane strength – indicate the vulnerability of camp and slum dwellers. For Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Walter Kalin, stated that the humanitarian crisis needed a “development solution” to satisfy the economic and social rights of the population and reduce dependency on humanitarian aid. A sustainable approach must balance vision with immediate needs. The initial task of IDP resettlement must tie in with longer-term goals, such as capital decongestion, disaster preparedness and decentralisation, and address the needs of the entire affected population in both camps and communities.
The Martelly team will not be able to move swiftly without national and international support. A persistent criticism on reconstruction is the lack of national consensus around the process. The absence of a single government entity to coordinate and oversee all resettlement efforts could also hamper implementation. In a similar fashion to his predecessor’s attempts to return a section of the Champ de Mars camp to a rebuilt Fort National neighbourhood as a model, the initial Martelly effort is to use IDP resettlement from the six camps as a catalyst for sustainable rebuilding of communities. In addition, he would seek to develop and agree on a formally approved resettlement plan. Success requires effective communication to build a basic consensus and community buy-in; mobilisation of full donor and IHRC support; and establishment of a one-stop shop for resettlement to strengthen coordination. However, after eighteen months, frustration has grown in the camps.
The Way Forward: The task of rebuilding Haiti should be primarily led and owned by its government and people, taking into consideration that the fragile quality of its economy and institutions, as well as the extent of the damage (an estimated $10 billion), requires strong and strategic support from donors. Martelly has an initial plan – as yet basically a pilot effort – but the state does not have the funds to implement it. If resettlement is to be launched immediately and completed in the shortest time, the new government must not only mobilize donor support but also ensure that the money can be rapidly disbursed. The principal donors have been working with the Martelly team on preparation of the plan and seem to have endorsed it. That should include agreement on a budget and a funding schedule that matches operational demands. Coordination with two structures is likewise essential: the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) and the Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF). The IHRC, established by presidential decree in April 2010, now serves as a donor coordination mechanism for strengthening government capacity to provide a more rapid and transparent recovery and reconstruction response. Its main function is to approve all reconstruction projects by a board comprising international representatives of donors who have pledged over $30 million to reconstruction and national representatives of various Haitian sectors, including government, local NGOs and civil society. However, its substantive goals are disturbingly behind schedule. The HRF accompanies it as a rapid disbursement mechanism that mobilises, coordinates and allocates bilateral and other funding for high-priority projects, programs and budget support, but it does not manage all the financial resources pledged for reconstruction. Neither the IHRC nor the HRF has reduced to a meaningful degree the practice of individual donors to manage and allocate most funds and channel them through entities other than the Haitian government. This poses serious coordination difficulties and reduces the opportunity to strengthen government capacity. Martelly intends to assess the IHRC, whose term ends in October, and consider ways to improve it. He further indicated willingness for the World Bank to manage the HRF. It is also important to determine how best to align donor priorities within the resettlement plan, so as to reduce the fragmentation and proliferation of approaches. Some 60 per cent of the original eighteen-month, near $5.6 billion pledge has yet to be disbursed to recovery projects, and too little funding is being pooled in the HRF. As of 31 March, seventeen donors had signed agreements with the HRF totalling $345 million, of which $312 million has been received. Two housing and resettlement projects valued at $87.8 million are currently HRF-funded. A high priority needs to be financing implementation of an equity-based national housing resettlement plan that emphasises relocation of those still in IDP camps and not only in Port-au-Prince. Since the IHRC first convened in June 2010, housing and shelter projects totalling $270 million have been approved, but only $211 million has been committed and $141 million has been available. Increased resources are needed for these activities. While the quake’s destruction hugely impacted housing, producing an estimated $2.3 billion of direct losses and additional costs for these reasons, it is essential to undertake initiatives to immediately extend the plan beyond these six camps and approve a comprehensive resettlement strategy. It is also intended to launch reconstruction, but the focus is on the capital, with no parallel project beyond it, which could again send a message of rural exclusion and attract more migrants to overcrowded, unsafe slums. The development of strategic urban and land use plans through the planning and cooperation ministry was accelerated under Préval. Among them are an urban development concept for Port-au-Prince and economic development poles in Cap Haïtien, North; Les Cayes, South; Gonaives, Artibonite; and Hinche, Centre. The Martelly team has already met with the ministry’s project management, and late June forums are being organised to begin discussion of urbanization plans for the capital. Participation of women’s groups and civil society, including grassroots and community-based organisations, is expected. Quick follow-up on plans for rural provinces would be even more encouraging and send a clear message that reconstruction applies countrywide. Resettlement and community rebuilding efforts will only have a sustainable impact if the pressure on cities, particularly Port-au-Prince, is eased.
Giving Resettlement a Home, Building National Consensus: The overall reconstruction process, including resettlement and housing, has been frequently criticised for insufficient national participation and support. This criticism began with the processes in February and March 2010 to prepare the Post Disaster Needs Assessment and the PARDN, two key documents that included significant private sector input but insufficient participation of civil society and grassroots and community-based organisations. This oversight led to too little contribution from key groups, such as women, whose vulnerability increased in the camps and whose special needs were inadequately addressed. Though the IHRC has equal numbers of Haitian and international representatives, it has not reached out sufficiently to the population, which largely perceives it as an international body. Most Haitians do not know what reconstruction entails, nor are they systematically informed about decisions and actions. Poor communication has meant a lack of transparency, but the launching of the resettlement plan gives the Martelly administration an opportunity to draw the broader community into the process. The government needs to begin by taking the lead on resettlement and housing. In the absence of a functioning housing authority, it is vital to create a one-stop shop resettlement and housing office for planning and to coordinate national and international actors involved in implementing the new policy. This would not only increase domestic ownership of the process and encourage buy-in but also avoid aid overlaps and inequities and improve public outreach. It could be set up as a strengthened secretariat of the Inter-ministerial Committee for Territorial Development (CIAT) to fill the housing authority gap but would require a clear mandate and resources. Whether it continues under the planning and cooperation ministry, is transferred to the prime minister’s office or is made a new coordinating office, it must be given adequate means. Once a resettlement strategy is approved, donors should quickly partner with the government in funding these measures. Decentralising the process to increase local government’s role would make resettling 650,000 persons and closing more than 1,000 camps less overwhelming. Several humanitarian organisations have found reliable counterparts in mayors and municipal councils, with whom they work to prevent evictions, identify and make available alternate camp sites and resolve land issues. To play their proper role, city halls need more human, financial and material resources, which could be achieved by attaching municipal one-stop shops to them. This would give resettlement a more bottom-up approach, increase participation of affected communities in decision-making and relieve some of the strain of coordination at the centre. It is essential that government embrace civil society and grassroots and community-based organisations, local NGOs and the private sector generally as it resettles IDPs and rebuilds. Municipal authorities are well placed to build a partnership, since they are closer to the communities. Finally, as they should be increasingly engaged also in project implementation, their input should be sought ahead of time on camp closure, community building proposals and other decisions.
Addressing the Land Conundrum: The absence of rapid government decisions on critical policies, programs and projects has been one of the most serious resettlement failures. As discussed above, President Préval mostly refused to make land available, though he had emergency powers and eminent domain authority. Donors contributed to delays by not agreeing on a single set of options. Lack of policy on land and camps also hampered sanitation services, notably latrine construction. Equally important are the complex land tenure issues, particularly in Port-au-Prince. Within the IDP population are many slum-dwellers, renters and squatters, which has complicated and slowed efforts to rebuild. Clarification on tenure is important for return, so transitional shelters or permanent houses can be built in former neighbourhoods even before the earthquake, titles were tenuous or nonexistent; land tenure and occupancy arrangements were often informal and poorly documented. As a result, much property lacked clearly identified ownership or legal occupancy. The earthquake highlighted and worsened this, as many deaths were not formally registered. Returning Haitians to homes without secure tenure creates the potential for further risks, such as eviction and inflated rent. Resettlement, however, cannot wait for revision of the land registry system. Effective interim policies are needed. A cadastre is important but would not provide immediate answers to the tenure constraints that are slowing reconstruction. In addition, most IDPs do not own land, so risk being excluded if efforts are guided by a cadastre. Before the earthquake, security of tenure was not considered an immediate problem: the system functioned in communities despite deficits. Most residents were not owners, but agreements between occupants and owners were backed by community understandings. Donors, however, require assurance that when transitional, incremental or permanent houses are built, tenure is secure. Given the land registry’s deficiencies, it is not uncommon that projects are interrupted due to disputed ownership. The prospect of reconstruction has raised high expectations, and in the absence of clear communication about plans, rumours of free land or shelters are rampant. Persons who do not own the land, particularly in the Corail camp area, are reportedly taking advantage, purporting to sell plots and issue title deeds, further confusing an already complex situation.
Project implementers have already begun improvising ways to strengthen tenure security by working with local authorities and the communities. The Spanish Red Cross in Léogane, at the quake’s epicentre, designed a program with city hall to verify land ownership and strengthen security before construction of incremental shelters. In community meetings, the mayor gave the Red Cross and the beneficiary a signed document confirming the right to build a shelter and live on the property. In Jacmel and Léogane, the Canadian Red Cross developed an extensive household survey and verification process before starting to build. The aim was to enhance land security of beneficiaries by making tenure flexible but as close to permanent as possible. Such undertakings are time-consuming and slow resettlement but, while mainly local until now, give security to the occupant and lay the foundation for a more orderly land management system. On a wider scale, IOM has been supporting the government by leading a community enumeration exercise, “Overcoming Land Tenure Barriers” (OLTB), intended to acquire information on residents and their status in neighbourhoods where rebuilding is happening. It aims to identify a household or household head by mapping the community and taking an inventory of buildings and land, as well as registering the occupants of each structure.141 Since January 2011, it has assessed the status of 2,300 of 4,000 targeted households in Delmas 32, a residential area in Port-au Prince. An additional 5,000 households are to be assessed in Carrefour Feuilles, a congested hillside neighbourhood in the capital known to be violent. The mapping exercise ends in July, to be followed by analysis, and the project will continue if funding is available. The government, supported by donors, must make concerted efforts to empower local authorities, communities and citizens to devise similar measures to strengthen security of tenure through a better management system. This is a task that can be assigned to city halls, where local mechanisms are in place. The IFRC and IOM, as well as some other implementing humanitarian agencies, have been able to reach agreements that skirt the constraints and produce safer housing with more secure tenure.
Conclusion: The Haitian authorities and people deserve credit for a degree of success in their response to the massive earthquake. However, the Préval administration did not take certain steps needed to put reconstruction on a promising path. Foremost was its failure to adopt a national resettlement strategy. What is now essential is a rapid sequence that starts with central government decisions, followed by clear resolve to implement actions at the local level in order to generate massive increases in access to socio-economic opportunities. A comprehensive, time-bound sustainable resettlement plan – adopted by government and supported by donors – is needed at once. The primary goal must not be to close camps but to open the way for their residents to return to pre-quake communities, in parallel to new efforts to remedy the high-risk conditions in those communities that exacerbated the quake’s destruction. To do otherwise would be to perpetuate the problem and undermine the notion of building back better. Eighteen months after the earthquake, Haiti’s future and their own remain uncertain to most citizens, in part because they have not been sufficiently included in decisions. Forced evictions from camps have caused further disruption in the lives of the displaced. The new administration should consult widely with civil society, continuing the effective communication strategy that distinguished Martelly’s campaign from his predecessor’s style and building support for the legislative agenda. Much of society has been left out of decision-making for decades, with no stake in planning the country’s future. If the new government is to develop the consensus needed to accelerate reconstruction and ease hardships, particularly for those in camps and slums, national dialogue must extend beyond the political parties and the mostly Port-au-Prince based civil society groups. Additional parts of civil society, particularly peasant groups and others representing the rural and urban poor, need to be encouraged to participate and given the means to do so. The rebuilding process must be Haitian-owned, but the financial and technical help of international partners is essential to more sustainable reconstruction. Supporting investment in housing, infrastructure and economic opportunity across the country is critical to preventing further unmanageable growth in Port-au-Prince. However, donors continue to face difficulties in determining how best to support the rebuilding process. The IHRC has not resolved donor fragmentation and needs to switch focus now to building the ministerial capacity that can enable a successful transition to full national responsibility. Agreeing on a single coherent vision based on government-defined priorities and starting with resettlement would give Haitians greater confidence in their future. Speedy, efficient resettlement requires political will, creativity and a basic consensus on options. Failure would prolong the high susceptibility to major urban disasters that the earthquake tragically compounded.
Add new comment