The first 5 months of activity of Groupe URD’s Haiti Observatory
Groupe URD’s Haiti Observatory began its activities in January 2012. It acts as an interface between the evaluation sector and academic circles, ministries, international organisations and civil society. The project has 4 main pillars: training, managing knowledge from evaluations, conducting studies and sharing experiences. Below is a review of the first 5 months of activity.
Two training sessions on evaluating the quality of humanitarian projects were organised in Port-au-Prince (23-27 April and 21-25 May). 20 and 16 participants took part respectively in these events which were held in Haiti State University. These training courses are part of a national capacity building project on evaluation which is aimed specifically at Haitian professionals who work for public institutions, international organizations or NGOs.
Post-training support is offered to participants, which includes methodological support for the preparation and/or conducting of an evaluation. The idea is not to limit the training to theoretical content but to offer personalized support in connection with the professional activities of participants (drawing up of terms of reference, preparation of a budget, choice of data collection tools, etc.).
The next session in Port-au-Prince is due to take place in September.
Two issues of the Observatory Newsletter  have been produced and disseminated. It is a bi-monthly publication which focuses on lessons learned from the response to the earthquake, based notably on the results of evaluations. The next issue is in preparation and should be published during the month of July.
A virtual library is currently being set up which will allow publications on sector-based or cross-sector humanitarian and/or rehabilitation issues to be consulted on the Observatory website (http://www.urd.org/haiti).
Three in-depth studies are currently in their preparation phase:
1) The community approach in urban environments since the earthquake of 12 January 2010 – The “community approach” is a term which is widely used by humanitarian and development actors in Haiti, but the concept is used to refer to very different situations depending on the organisation involved and on the perception of the population themselves. Being able to define what “community approach” means in Haiti and understanding the reality of what the concept of « community » refers to in urban environments will help to deal with the issue of people’s participation in the different phases of the project cycle.
Groupe URD is therefore launching a project involving operational research and the development of tools which will: i) study programmes based on a community approach; ii) analyse the issues involved in these approaches in the Haitian urban context; and iii) propose a contextualized methodology.
2) Reconstruction and the environment in Port-au-Prince since the earthquake – The population of the metropolitan region of Port-au-Prince has grown from around 145 000 people in 1950 to almost 3 million today. There has been extensive demographic expansion and urban development has taken place in an extra-legal and informal manner. This development without a legal framework constitutes a major environmental risk for people who have settled both on the mornes (landslides) and in the plains (risk of flooding). Heavy rainfall regularly testifies to the degradation of the environment in the Metropolitan region and the earthquake only exacerbated an environmental vulnerability which already existed.
This study will be an opportunity to look at the consequences for the environment of a deferred reconstruction strategy – and more generally of the absence in the past of a legal framework for planning in Haiti – and to evaluate the related risks to which the people of the metropolitan region of Port-au-Prince are exposed.
3) Real and perceived insecurity and its implications – Insecurity is a question of both facts and perception and it is important to be able to distinguish between these two aspects. The arrival of a very large number of international organizations in the days after the earthquake contributed to reinforcing the security measures applied to the activities of these organizations. The study that Groupe URD proposes to carry out will focus on the extent to which these security measures were based on the reality of urban Haiti and on the possible implications of all these rules on the quality of humanitarian projects.
Data collection has begun for each of these studies and should continue over the following 2 or 3 months. Additional funding is nevertheless being sought to carry out these specific studies.