By Elise Young
The ActionAid/Je Nan Je platform finished their DC tour strong today. (Click here for more photos of the week, courtesy of Shelley Moskowitz and UUSC.) It started with giving interviews to local radio in the morning. Next, they attended Rep. Maxine Water’s briefing on democracy and governance. Waters opened the briefing by saying that “Today is an opportunity for us to hear about what the government is and what it is not…what the needs are and where do we go from here. Only when Haiti can govern itself, will it do what is needed in order to help its people.”
ActionAid partner and Je Nan Je member, Marie Ange Noel, Coordinator of the women’s organization, Fanm Deside, shared important information with the Congresswoman on the lack of female representation in the Haitian parliament and how this affects democratic processes. Previous Haitian Justice Minister Rene Magloire shared key information on a new Martelly appointed commission on justice reform which “will have a task that is both delicate and extremely important” of which Magloire will serve as Vice President.
Grassroots leader Marguerite Salomon of GCFV spoke on the condition and democratic status of women post earthquake. “After the earthquake, many of the women’s groups in Haiti lost their power. They were no longer able to participate in the organizations in the same way, because they had to deal with immediate needs and emergencies on the ground….and they did not have enough of a voice in the reconstruction.”
By Elise Young
We have another packed room in the Gold Room of the Rayburn House building, and just heard from Rep.’s Barbara Lee and Frederica Wilson (featured in photo with Je Nan Je member, Pierre DouDou) present to the group.
Rep. Lee spoke of the need for greater aid accountability, as outlined in the bill that she sponsored and which was passed in the House, called the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act. Rep. Wilson spoke of the need to address atrocities in camp communities, such as gender based violence, and her desire to learn more from the panelists and gain their recommendations on how to guarantee the right to housing for vulnerable populations.
Pierre Festille DouDou also just gave a powerful presentation on how the land rights of Haitians in the north have been violated through lack of land reform and land grabbing for construction of the northern industrial park.
“In order for people to produce, they must first have access to the land. In Haiti, more than 90% of peasants don’t even have access to land…This is an extreme violation of peoples’ human rights.”
He also spoke of the need for a national strategy to guarantee the right to housing for the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who are currently displaced. This is not a question of lack of available land or resources, it is a question of political will.
Today marks the two year commemoration of the tragic Haiti earthquake that took over 300,000 lives and left hundreds of thousands injured, orphaned, homeless and/or without income.
Yesterday, over 10,000 Haitians who are members of the ‘Je nan Je’ platform marched to the Haitian parliament and presented a charter of demands concerning their land and housing rights. They argued that it is inhumane and unconstitutional that over a half million Haitians are still living in deplorable camp conditions and that Haitian grassroots networks must be a partner in the solution-making process. (To learn more about the march, click here.)
The U.S. government approved a considerable $2.8 billion supplemental appropriations package for Haiti back in summer of 2010, including $1.67 billion to reimburse immediate relief and recovery efforts and an additional $1.1 billion for new development initiatives, $60 million of which was for housing. Although U.S. intentions towards Haiti have been well-meaning, we cannot fully progress towards a complete and holistic reconstruction in Haiti until we as a nation embrace the Haitian people for what they truly are: equal partners.
Partnership is a tricky word. It means humbling ourselves as a nation in order to learn and operate Haitian redevelopment planning sessions in Creole, the national Haitian language, and making full aid reports available to ordinary Haitians. It means performing full consultations with grassroots groups and camp members in the design and implementation of the U.S. Housing/Shelter plan, so we can ensure that we repair all promised 14,000 yellow houses and build or finance new homes for an additional 15,000 families. It means listening deeply to the needs of poor and marginalized Haitians…women facing the threat of gender-based violence, peasant movements fighting for food security, grassroots networks asking for a place at the development table, and collaborating with the Haitian government to match our development priorities to those needs. It means helping to build the capacity of the Haitian government to fulfill its own reconstruction design.
As a step towards embracing the word partnership and lifting up a new model for U.S. support in the Haiti reconstruction process, ActionAid is working with the Haiti Advocacy Working Group, the ‘Je nan Je’ land and housing rights platform and five members of Congress to organize a Haiti Advocacy Week Jan. 23-25. We are advocating for policies that will help improve the dire situations in Haiti, and the events are open to the public including:
- Monday, January 23 from 4 pm – 6 pm: a panel on gender-based violence in Haiti, hosted by Representatives Frederica Wilson and Barbara Lee followed by a reception from 6-8pm.
- Tuesday, January 24 from 9 am – 10:30 am: Rep. Yvette Clarke and Partners in Health will host a panel on the state of health and cholera in Haiti.
- Tuesday, January 24 from 12 noon – 2pm: Haiti Advocacy Working Group member, TransAfrica Forum will show their recent documentary, “Where did the money go?” which will be followed by a briefing on accountability and transparency of aid money.
- Tuesday, January 24 from 2 pm – 4 pm: A Land and Housing panel will take place bringing together grassroots partners, NGOs, and government officials.
- Wednesday, January 25 at 9:30 am: Media are invited to a press conference on Capitol Hill with members of Congress from 9:30 am – 10:15 am and a panel on Democracy and Governance from 10:30 am – 12:30 pm.
All events are open to the public and offer an opportunity to voice your opinions on a just rebuilding process in Haiti. We seek your partnership to ensure that all Haitians have a voice in their own reconstruction process.
To read our ActionAid Policy Brief on land and housing rights in Haiti, click here.