College Green Dialogues: Challenges Facing Post-Crisis Reconstruction & Rehabilitation Efforts in Haiti
Amidst ongoing efforts by the international community to come to the aid of the victims of the January 12 tragedy that struck Haiti, students at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) spearheaded a campaign to raise funds and spread awareness of the challenges facing the people of Haiti among the student community and Singapore society at-large. The campaign was a collaborative effort among students from the various programs at the school.
The campaign started with a donation drive in aid of Partners in Health, a grassroots organization that had been working with poor communities in Haiti to combat disease and poverty for twenty years and has been heavily involved in relief efforts on the ground.
On January 26, a student-led College Green Dialogue, titled, “Haiti – What Next?”, was organized at the school aimed at discussing the wider policy implications of the earthquake.
South Korean student Yina Song (MPP 2009/2011) opened the event with a brief history of Haiti and the immense human development challenges facing the country. Haiti is among the poorest countries in the world today, ranking 153rd of 177 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index, where half the population lacks access to potable water. She further highlighted that poverty and political instability were among the country’s most pressing concerns. Yina underscored the importance of looking at the socioeconomic and political context of the country in order to better understand the impact of the earthquake on its population.
Assistant Professor Caroline Brassard provided a comparative analysis of the immense challenges that lay ahead in situations where countries were faced with destruction of such massive scale, just like Aceh after the 2004 Asian Tsunami where an estimated 230,000 people died. According to her, “the priority right now should be to assess the needs on the ground before implementing any form of rehabilitation and reconstruction. The relief effort should primarily be aimed at ensuring that there are no more deaths by providing medical assistance, shelter, potable water, and sanitation for Haitians. The Aceh relief effort was successful in terms of ensuring that there were no further deaths after the tsunami struck.”
Prof. Brassard also said that one of the important lessons learned from the Aceh reconstruction efforts was the need to ensure that aid was disbursed in a transparent and accountable manner. She cited mechanisms of mutual accountability as a means to enforce standardization across various agencies delivering aid on the ground.
In the Q&A session moderated by Chinie Canivel (MPP 2009/2011), among the questions raised included the need for clarification between the different stages of disaster management (from crisis to reconstruction) and the importance of establishing a clear-cut exit strategy at the onset of relief efforts. There was also a consensus that emerged among the participants that institution-building initiatives must run concurrent with reconstruction efforts. Visiting Professor Raul Lejano also added that, in as much as there might be conditionalities attached to aid disbursed to Haiti, it was also important to ensure accountability among large multilateral agencies involved in the reconstruction efforts.
On the question of how individuals could help, Prof. Brassard said that when a calamity strikes, it is important for the global community to respond by raising awareness, funds and capacity. She added that among the goals of the school was to encourage students to become active and engaged global citizens. “Through this campaign, we are at least addressing two of these,” she said.
Hence, in addition to the forum, a group of LKYSPP students have organized a series of follow-up events throughout the year in partnership with various organizations in Singapore. According to campaign spokesperson Juvy Danofrata (MPP 2009/2011), “the Asian Tsunami has shown us that the task of rebuilding and restoring the lives and livelihoods of the victims of a disaster takes not one or two, but five to ten years. It is important that we build on existing knowledge and develop new tools, skills and ideas in the critical policy area of post-disaster response and risk management.”
To find out more on how you can be involved in the campaign, please visit the campaign’s Facebook Page.
– by Juvy Danofrata (MPP 2009-11)