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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

 

 Assisting municipal authorities to improve their decision-making capacity based on local needs and resources rather than being dependent on the national level.

Haitian local authorities, mainly communes [6], are systematically considered to be administrations which are unproductive and which use up resources, without any appropriate technical or administrative capacity, and completely dependent on government resources via a Ministry which was weakened after 12 January 2010, the Ministry of the Interior and Local Authorities (MICT). These views from representatives of Haitian and international institutions not only reflect the actual situation of communes before and especially after the earthquake, but also the weak role that the Haitian public administration attributes to municipal authorities, despite the fact that they are the basis of local governance and development.

In order to overcome this situation, the main objective of the PARLOQ support programme, and the articulation between these different components, was to give priority to municipal capacity building. The different components of the programmes produced products and tools to meet needs identified at the national level (mainly the lack of data, drawing up an inventory, mapping, the lack of urban planning, etc.) and these turned out to be very useful to allow municipal authorities to make decisions as closely as possible to the needs of their populations.

With their constitutional competencies, communes are part of the state apparatus. They share state responsibilities at the local level with central government institutions, as the bodies which are responsible for governance at the local level, and are therefore in close proximity to the population, with a major role to play in local development and even the general development of the country.

 Pertinence of different forms of support to municipal authorities as competent and responsible actors working in close proximity to the population.

The capacities of local authorities were reinforced through the development and implementation of decision-making mechanisms and tools (Municipal and Community Support Centres) in order to increase their autonomy and control over their local territory. This programme has already allowed communes to generate products, such as documented assessments which make up the basis of knowledge about a municipal territory, and Communal Development Plans (CDPs), which are still being drawn up in early 2015, and will make it possible to generate urban strategy plans and territorial management plans. An initial test of fiscal mobilization is also currently being carried out by municipal authorities through this programme, with support from government institutions [7]. The engagement of these mechanisms and dynamics within municipal authorities shows how pertinent it is to reinforce communes by giving them the means to implement policies, provide basic services to the population and manage public affairs.

It was regularly observed that the construction of different types of community infrastructure, based on national or international investment, without reinforcing the local bodies responsible for managing public affairs on a daily basis, is not followed up by investment, thus compromising their sustainability. In these situations, infrastructure, even if it is based on major investment, will suffer from the usual cycle of a lack of local ownership: construction-destruction-rehabilitation-reconstruction, the pernicious closed circle of endless renewed intervention and investment.

Large-scale investment at the local level from funding agencies in collaboration with institutions at the global state level also requires the reinforcement of the capacity of local bodies in charge of managing all investments on a daily basis.


[6] The notion of the municipality is not really used in Haiti – the commune, with its urban part and its rural “sections communales” is one type of Haitian local authority, another being the “arrondissement”. In this article, municipal authorities are used to refer to communes.

[7] Currently underway in Pétion ville and in Miragoane