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Reinforcing the capacity of communities to manage the environment in the neighbourhoods of Bristout-Bobin : the issue of the legal status of communities in urban territorial management
Richener NOEL, September 2012

The initial recommendations of the research project, The Environment and Reconstruction in the Metropolitan Region of Port-au-Prince: the case of Bristout-Bobin (neighbourhoods in Pétion-Ville) underline the importance of communities in managing the environment. In a context where there is a weak state and weak regional authorities, communities could be the means by which citizens contribute to improving the environment in poor neighbourhoods. As part of the Reconstruction programme, UN-Habitat and the Haitian government have decided to reinforce communities by creating Community Resource Centres (CRCs) to support the reconstruction of neighbourhoods. This attempt to organise communities is mainly the result of a crisis caused by fundamental problems which currently exist in cities and particularly the deterioration of urban space. However, the limits of these community structures very quickly become apparent in terms of their legal status with regard to neighbourhood management. The role of communities in managing neighbourhood environments raises a number of issues, such as whether or not their decisions are binding, how the boundaries of urban neighbourhoods should be established and the type of relations that should be developed with existing collective bodies. For the time being, the only source of legitimacy for communities is the establishment of a participatory framework between citizens.

1. The general situation of the neighbourhood in the post-earthquake context As in the majority of informal neighbourhoods in Metropolitan Port-au-Prince, the people of Bristout-Bobin live in insalubrious conditions. This affects not only the camps but the neighbourhoods as a whole with their mixture of long-term residents, displaced people and returnees. This mixture, principally caused by the creation of several camps, heightened the risks and vulnerability of the population. The main environmental issues in Bristout-Bobin are the management of solid and liquid domestic waste and faeces, pollution, the occupation of riverbanks and ravines and uncontrolled construction. A study by Emergency Architects and Solidarités International Fondation Architectes de l’Urgence et Solidarités International (2011) [1] shows that the most common illnesses in neighbourhoods/camps are related to these insalubrious conditions (cholera, malaria, typhoid, diarrhea, vaginal infections, etc.).

[1] Profil quartier de Bristout et Bobin. Sans nom d’auteur.