Dispatch 12 February 23, 2010
Unified Diaspora Response – “Mission Possible”
On February 13, just 10 days ago, the Haitian Resource Development Foundation (HRDF) published a dispatch to the international community explaining why the voices of Haitians living abroad should be heard above the rumble of the earthquake. The dispatch is attached as background. In it, HRDF asserts that Haitians living abroad:
- A. have a collective desire and growing commitment to have a role in Haiti’s future
- B. have demonstrated increasing professionalism and achievements in all fields urgently needed by earthquakes survivors
- C. have reasoned priorities and guidelines for making a transition to a modern democratic state
- D. are, in our view, the most logical as well as qualified candidates for formulating, receiving, implementing and evaluating foreign aid to Haiti
At this point, these are the valuable assets Haitians living abroad bring to the table as individuals, groups, organizations, coalitions or what have you. Donors and decision-makers about Haiti’s fate would be well advised to recognize and take full advantage of these assets.
However, we must put ourselves in the minds of those donors and decision-makers who have funds to allocate and authority to delegate. But for what? As so often discussed and published, international donors, world leaders and advisory groups are constantly searching for projects and programs that meet their perceived needs, criteria and performance standards.
At this date, HRDF thinks that simple community development projects – more trees, more water wells, more solar panels, etc – are necessary but not sufficient. Million of people are in distress and in motion, their destinations are uncertain and their survival is in doubt. These are now the utmost concerns of donors and decision-makers. They would likely fund and delegate projects that address these concerns, not business as usual.
We know that Diaspora organizations have many sweeping projects to help Haiti, even before the earthquake. We know that they have been advocating and waiting for recognition, funding and authority. Given that, donors and decision-makers, because of the earthquake, are feeling compelled to release long-held pledged funds now. Therefore, this is the time when Diaspora proposals should be adjusted to account for the earthquake’s impact and then laid on the table for immediate action.
In this light, HRDF sees three categories of proposals, a) by subjects, for example environmental refugees and their resettlement, intensified agriculture and forestry, civil defense, land planning, b) by geography or jurisdiction, for example coastal zones, the Central Plateau, communal sections, and c) by scale, for example local (neighborhood, watershed), regional (metropolitan areas, countryside) and national (policy and enforcement for public education, building codes, taxation, civil service). This gives a straightforward three-dimensional structure for considering and meeting most if not all needs. HRDF believes that existing and contemplated proposals can be neatly assembled in this fashion during the Diaspora conferences being planned.
Remember, Haitians living abroad have met repeatedly in the past few years to review Haitian problems and the needs for response. Dozens of resolutions for actions were made and agreed upon, such as those of the Florida Governor’s Haiti Advisory Group and the Congress of Haitian Diaspora Unity. Therefore, our efforts should be on working out a unified aid package. This means that participants will arrive with proposals in hand, ready for combining and polishing. To these must be added an overall budget, a timetable for completion and a trustworthy and efficient administrative structure. The package should be tested to win approval by the donors, decision-makers and the Haitian government.
There is only one month until the planned Diaspora conference and less than another month to the United Nations conference, HRDF is available to consult with organizations in preparing proposals and supporting materials.
Again, responders, victims and Haitians living abroad all share the same basic questions that must be answered – Who will be saved? Where will they live? What will they do for work? And, will they be better off than before the earthquake?