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The challenge of providing local authorities, on whom reconstruction and development in Haiti depends, with support as early as the relief phase
Béatrice Boyer & Ben Oduwa


 Lack of implication of the local authorities due to the use of the cluster system limiting national coordination by the Haitian state.

Aware that there was a need for coordination of the very numerous and diverse programmes carried out, the representative of the United Nations Secretary General and Resident Coordinator rolled out the Cluster coordination system in order to channel resources and achieve effective results, by genuinely delivering aid to victims and affected people.

However, as is the case in all humanitarian operations, the cluster system was set up at the national and global level, with the government system, without really taking into account the intermediary municipal and community level, so that the role of the local authorities was not very significant. Municipal authorities found themselves with multiple operations taking place on their territories, without any control over these, and often without any knowledge of them, which was taken as a lack of respect. This created distrust even though, in effect, these municipal authorities did not have the means on their own to provide their own populations with assistance.

This situation proved to be very worrying in international aid mechanisms. According to international humanitarian conventions during the extreme emergency period of an acute crisis, the management of the Shelter cluster was the responsibility of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCS), whereas the Haitian situation had become one where there was need for more structural support. The IFRCS carried out operations during the initial emergency phase to meet the needs of displaced persons. They successfully mobilized an impressive logistical capacity to assess needs and coordinate the distribution of emergency shelters. However, around ten months later, due to a decision by the Representative of the United Nations Secretary General, UN Habitat began to coordinate re-housing assistance via the Shelter cluster, with the objective of helping the transition to recovery. This raised the question amongst aid organizations of how to move from supplying Emergency Shelters (E-Shelters) to the construction of Temporary Shelters (T-Shelters) in order to provide a longer-lasting response to local risks (earthquakes and cyclones) though there were still emergency needs two years after the earthquake, due to the scale of the disaster and the impact of the other crises which followed (cholera, change of government and the destabilisation of the country due to repeatedly postponed elections).

UN-Habitat therefore were responsible for coordinating the activities of the Shelter sector during a period when there were still emergency needs to cover [2] but it was also becoming urgent to change to more structural support for the reconstruction. UN-Habitat therefore tried to coordinate re-housing activities (the installation of shelters, repairs, etc.) by integrating them into their initial context, which led to the creation of the Housing/Neighbourhood sub working group of international partners alongside the Shelter cluster. The strategy of this new coordination system was to get closer to the municipal level by implicating the communal authorities. Emergency organizations had difficulty understanding this as they are used to and are mandated to conduct operations in an autonomous manner in relation to local authorities.

It became apparent that there was a need to rapidly begin a transition and allow local authorities to take over responsibility. Eight months later, coordination of the Shelter cluster was transferred to the IOM [3] who merged it with the CCCM Cluster, as these are complementary areas in terms of responding to the needs of displaced persons, and a structural support programme was launched, notably by UN-Habitat, who took on a major role as Technical Secretariat. This programme involved governmental, technical and local institutions, the Prime Minister’s office, the Ministry of Planning and External Commerce, the Ministry of the Interior and Local Authorities, the technical institutions of the Haitian Institute of Statistics and Information, the Centre National d’Informations Géo-spatiales, and ten affected towns. Joint coordination partnerships were created between Haitian institutions and UN agencies (UNFPA, UNDP, IOM and UN-Habitat) to run the Support Programme for the Reconstruction of Housing and Neighbourhoods (PARLOQ), which was signed by the Prime Minister and the UN in July 2011.

[2] Such as managing the distribution system for Non-Food Items (NFIs), and contingency needs in the face of new risks to temporary and makeshift installations

[3] International Organisation for Migration