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Friday, January 15, 2010

Haitian recovery demands immediate advocacy, long term planning

From AFJ's Nonprofit & Foundation Advocacy Blog:

Up to 3 million people are likely to be affected by the 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti this Tuesday. The communities in this area have seen their infrastructure devastated. Roads are impassable; phone lines are down; electricity is available only erratically. Governments and corporate and nonprofit organizations are already responding to provide emergency aid. Immediately following a disaster, this sort of aid is desperately needed. But as we move forward from this disaster, it is crucial to heed the lessons learned along the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. Governments, corporate and nonprofit organizations, and foundations must remember the need for long-term recovery, and ensure that disenfranchised, vulnerable populations are heard by decision makers early on in the recovery process.

Governments, corporate and nonprofit organizations and foundations need to think long-term and support positive, systemic changes in community infrastructure. Though the tendency is to rebuild previous institutions, disasters provide an opportunity to transform systems that have historically failed. Philanthropic organizations are well-poised to provide support for lasting improvements in water, sanitation, education, housing, and healthcare access.

As Haitians and allies from around the globe work to rebuild, future disaster preparedness must be considered. This includes communications, disaster resistant construction, and emergency response planning. Remember the Katrina mantra, “Build it Better;” build for the long term. Leave behind a stronger infrastructure, one that is better able to withstand disaster when it occurs, and better able to recover from its devastating effects.

In addition to effective, strategic financial support, foundations and organizations must ensure that poor, at risk populations are able to voice their concerns, needs, and priorities to decision makers. Organizations must work with government to craft the policies that govern—in the immediate aftermath and long after, and they must be able to communicate developing plans and decisions with the public, particularly the hard-to-reach and the displaced. For effective long-term recovery, it is crucial that advocates develop grassroots leadership and community organizing. Small groups who build collective voices for community interests and rights can continue effective advocacy long after disaster strikes. Organizations should identify and support local, emerging leadership, leaving behind strong leaders who can advocate for the disenfranchised long after disaster and the attention it brings have subsided.

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