PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti -- Four years after the massive earthquake that devastated Haiti, it is time to move from a largely humanitarian approach to a development based drive, a United Nations human rights expert said on Friday, while calling for durable solutions for the internally displaced and the vulnerable segments of the population of the island nation.
Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons Chaloka Beyani. UN Photo/Evan Schneider
“It is high time to focus on a development approach for the achievement of durable solutions for the displaced,” said Chaloka Beyani, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) at the end of his first mission to Haiti.
“Durable solutions are reached only when the needs related to displacement no longer exist, which is medium to long term complex development led process for all IDPs and not just those living in camps or sites,” he said in a press release detailing his recently completed week-long visit, which included visits to IDP camps and sites as well as the Canaan neighbourhood in Port-au-Prince.
Stressing that closing IDP camps by itself does not mean that durable solutions for them have been found, Beyani said that, although the number of those displaced has decreased from 1.5 million after the earthquake to the rough official number of 100,000 today, “much more needs to be done.”
In order to achieve that, he recommended carrying out a needs assessment to know the durable solution requirements of different categories of all IDPs, verify the location of those who live outside of camps, and carry out a survey of their intent to know which durable solutions would work for them on the basis of consultation and participation.
“The achievement of durable solutions requires development opportunities in the country as a whole, rule of law and a comprehensive housing policy that also targets IDPs,” Beyani highlighted.
“The rental subsidy policy which aims to help IDPs leave camps and find a place to rent in the neighbourhoods is a transitional measure to decongest the camps,” he said. “To be sustainable, this policy must be linked to livelihoods and income-generating activities and benefit the entire community where IDPs are settled, including through enhanced access to basic services.”
Beyani welcomed the creation of sectoral platforms and inter-ministerial committees to coordinate development activities, but cautioned that these measures should also be taken to ensure that sectoral policies in all key areas such as water, sanitation, health, education, employment and agriculture extend to IDPs as well.
“Humanitarian support should continue in the remaining camps or sites to address the dire living conditions of some of the IDPs and to respond to their basic needs, particularly water and sanitation, which are critical to public health,” he said, calling for special protection for IDPs to continue into the development phase, especially for women and children.
The government of Haiti, the special rapporteur emphasized, has the primary responsibility to work towards development based approaches to durable solutions for IDPs and the vulnerable population at large, “which will enable the integration of IDPs in urban and rural neighbourhoods where they can resume their normal lives as citizens of Haiti, without discrimination on account of their situation.”
Such primary responsibility includes putting relevant policies, effective coordination of structures and mechanisms for achieving solutions, for instance resolution of issues affecting access to land and property, housing, justice, including for women.
“The current election registration exercise should also include IDPs as equal citizens to ensure they can vote and participate in the public life of the country,” Beyani noted.