After reflecting on this research, we have reached several conclusions about how Haiti can move forward in reintegrating internally displaced persons (IDPs). While the Martelly regime has engaged in some promising reforms – such as taxing long-distance phone calls to subsidize public education – there is still much that needs to be done to improve post-earthquake Haiti, starting with IDP reintegration.
First of all, we propose a complete moratorium on forced evictions. The basic human right to have adequate housing is present in both the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of Haiti and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), an international agreement to which Haiti is a party. Moreover, the violence and threats of violence that characterize these forced evictions violate the UDHR, among other international agreements. While President Martelly’s original campaign promises and the fast approaching 3-year mark when squatters’ rights will take effect are pressuring the government to disperse IDP camps, we hope that these pressures will encourage the Haitian government to speed the construction of new homes for the displaced. The cycle of repeated displacement cannot end until IDPs have access to permanent household structures; giving them small sums of money inadequate for constructing permanent shelters will not solve this problem.
Considering that a major problem with IDP reintegration is the lack of land on which to build new homes, we propose that a rehousing plan should include provisions for distribution of land, perhaps requiring the government to make use of its legal authority to claim eminent domain to take control of private properties and distribute portions for the purpose of IDP housing. However, special care would need to be taken not to violate human rights and/or cause further displacement during this process. Evicting one family to move in another does not solve the IDP problem. The Haitian government should address current barriers to its ability to invoke its right to claim eminent domain, such as the limited documentation of property titles. Inadequate documentation has led to confusion about what land the government currently owns and what properties are worth, making it difficult to pay property owners fair prices for their land.
In terms of the current IDP camps themselves, several issues need to be addressed. First, the Haitian government must demonstrate a greater commitment to women’s safety and include women’s rights issues in its housing plan. The temporary structures of IDP camps have no locks, which has led to sexual violence. Moreover, young girls in these camps, desperate for food, have begun selling themselves for plates of food. To improve the safety of women and girls in these camps, the Haitian government must bolster its police force to provide a greater police presence within these sites. The need for a robust police serves as a powerful reason to avoid the reinstatement of the Haitian military, which President Martelly has vocally supported. Such reinstatement would likely lead the the emaciation of an effective police force.
In addition, the Haitian government must provide more oversight of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to make sure that resources are consistent across camp sites and that NGOs are cooperating with one another to better aid IDPs. These NGOs are currently in charge of providing many of the basic services that the state would normally be expected to provide, yet they are not held accountable to any national or international governing force. This lack of oversight has led to inconsistency from one site to another.
Another problem with NGOs is their ability to pay much higher rents than many of Haiti’s smaller, local aid organizations. Haiti’s high demand for housing, and property owners’ knowledge that NGOs can afford to pay much higher rates, have driven up rent prices for everyone, dislocating Haitian-led initiatives. Some orphanages, for example, have been driven out of buildings to makeshift structures in IDP camps because landlords suddenly increased their rents to exorbitant prices. The Haitian government needs to address this issue, especially in light of its relation to Haitian law, which imposes limits on the ability of foreigners to purchase property.
Finally, we recognize that the will of the Haitian people is best pronounced through their own mouths, and for that reason we defer to the Final Resolution of the International Forum on the Crisis of Housing in Haiti. From May 19 to May 31 2011, survivors of the quake living in IDP camps together with social and grassroots organizations assembled to reflect on the housing crisis in Haiti. This resolution represents a significant step by Haiti to determine its own housing future. It recognizes that the idealized right to housing in Article 22 of the 1987 Constitution needs laws that guarantee its realization on the ground, a truth evinced by legislatures around the world. While NGOs may be very beneficial to bolstering Haiti’s economy, in the end Haiti must take control of its own future. Survivors who know their country well and have experienced IDP camps firsthand are the best suited to determine the solutions best suited to Haiti’s unique circumstances. The following are among the pronouncements of the forum. Click here for the full text of the International Forum on the Crisis of Housing in Haiti’s Final Resolution.
- We want houses that respects our local architectural style and that use as much local materials as possible such as clay, marble, bamboo, etc. We want beautiful houses that represent our culture, houses that give the community life and that help us maintain dialogue between ourselves, houses that have yards and gardens where we can grow vegetables and medicinal plants, houses that respect the dignity of our bodies with the little bit of privacy that everyone needs. We want houses that provide space for us to live as families with neighbors in the lakou [traditional communal courtyard] where we can share food and daily activities. We must defend our local architectural heritage.
- We resolve to create village communities where each family has its own space, and where the community has space to engage in collective activities. We believe that cooperative housing is a viable alternative that can protect the right to housing for those who do not have great economic means.
- The population must participate in decision-making regarding where new houses and neighborhoods are being constructed. We have to say what Port-au-Prince we want to build. Those that come from other countries, with plans already drawn up, cannot say this for us.