In the Autumn of 2009, Groupe URD was in Haiti as part of the Cluster II Evaluation. When we tried to send the report by internet on 10 January 2010 (IASC Cluster evaluation), an error message came up: the earthquake had just taken place. Since then we have carried out more than 15 missions in the country covering just about every area to do with disaster preparedness, humanitarian response, reconstruction and food security. The idea of the Observatory, which came into being following the evaluations we carried out one and three months after the earthquake, took shape in connection with the Haiti Evaluation Task Force, the OECD evaluation network, the United Nations Evaluation Group (UNEG) and the ALNAP network. The Observatory has been running ever since, with three golden rules: rigorous collection and analysis of information, total independence, in relation to both actors and donors, and the ability to think “out of the box” and beyond the clichés related to humanitairn and development aid. The Observatory is not indulgent, nor does it indulge in “aid bashing” – it embodies critical empathy and sympathy without concession and aims to provide guidance and support to help the sector to evolve. The many positive messages of support that we have received from humanitarian NGOs, development agencies, donors and Haitian institutions show that we have adopted the right approach. Caroline Broudic, who has been the heart and soul of our Observatory, alongside a magnificent team of Haitian and international researchers, is leaving in September and we owe her a great deal; 7 Newsletters, several training sessions, numerous articles and continuous support for operational research, for which her substantial experience in Haiti served us well. Caroline will be succeeded by Isabelle Fortin, who is also very familiar with the Haitian context. We would like to extend a hearty welcome to Isabelle who will be joining the Observatory in the Autumn.
The Observatory is a place of dialogue, not of ideology. The Observatory needs to continue to be rigorous in relation to facts, rooted in field realities and capable of showing institutional courage in the face of pressure. We have succeeded in doing so to date, and we will continue in this direction.