Lessons learned from Past Experience for International Agencies in Haiti

from CDA Collaborative Learning Projects
Published on 03 Feb 2010 View Original
External aid can facilitate or hinder long-term peace and development. In light of the massive on-going relief effort in Haiti, it is critical to minimize harmful impacts and maximize positive impacts. Aid can worsen polarization and violence, often inadvertently, or can have positive effects on conflict and social cohesion. Although Haiti has not experienced a civil war or a war with neighbors, nevertheless, it must be considered as an active conflict zone, in which the level of violence has been high for decades. We highlight here a number of lessons drawn from several initiatives led by CDA Collaborative Learning Projects over the last 20 years, in partnership with thousands of colleagues in humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding organizations. As we continue to learn more about the current context in Haiti, this document will be continually updated-please see www.cdainc.com for the most recent version.

How can the disaster response contribute to long-term development? Key Lessons from Rising from the Ashes: Development Strategies at Times of Disaster

1. Even the most devastated communities retain capacities. Even if the physical/material infrastructure is destroyed, the communities still have strong relationships, personal skills, organizational abilities, important norms and values, effective leaders and the ability to make decisions.

2. Hold relief work to development standards. Every disaster response should appreciate and draw upon local capacities-and should be designed to support and increase them.

3. Relief efforts can be designed to address long-term vulnerabilities and to further the long-term development agenda. Short-term labor intensive projects can address ecological and environmental issues by undertaking needed mitigation measures. Similarly, housing reconstruction can adopt disaster reduction standards for earthquake-resistant homes and buildings.

4. Relief and reconstruction programming should not be preoccupied solely with meeting physical/material needs. It must also integrate measures that support and enhance social and organizational elements (relationships, leadership, decision making, group capacities) and motivational factors (sense of hope, ability to affect their world, feeling that efforts will lead to change, sense of community and social cohesion).

For more information, see Rising from the Ashes: Development Strategies in Times of Disaster (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1998).