Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Leaving Communities Behind in Recovery

We have all the tools we could possible want, we have the deepest wells from which to pull lessons learned and best practices from to avoid repeating mistakes previously made, we are united in our desire to help communities get back on track following disasters, and we are a relatively close knit community of why is it so hard to get it together when we turn on the response machine?

As the kinks get worked out of supply chains and aid streams into areas that continue to have great need, I sense a groundhogs day scenario emerging in communities in the Philippines.

After speaking with colleagues on the ground in Tacloban, the situation that's been described sounds strikingly similar to what many Haitians felt disenfranchised by or disconnected to following the earthquake in 2010. The correlation between Haiti, the Philippines, and the aid mechanism setup is that instead of communities being viewed as active participants in the process, by providing a needed voice in determining how best to distribute aid dollars, they are viewed as victims in need of saving, as recipients of aid only. With the understanding that taking a community of tens of thousands and synthesizing their wants and needs down is the role of the political structure, this article in Foreign Policy about corruption in the Filipino political system is reason to look for an alternative way to give voice to the network of community-based nonprofits and informal community leaders during the recovery process.

Remember that sweet graphic of the cluster wheel of excellence, the one that highlights the clusters at work? Well I went back and did a little reading, and while it wasn't even close to thorough (so please correct me if I'm off base), I didn't read anything that suggested that integration of a local voice in the coordination structure was a priority. There was mention of working through regional and country offices to aid in the warning of an eminent disaster, or on select mitigation projects, but in a post-disaster setting, there is little that indicates any efforts should be made to be inclusive of local populations in how aid should be allocated to reshape and rebuild their communities.

This disconnect is a problem.

And while the premise that the very constituents the coordination mechanism is setup to advocate for are the one's being excluded feels Shakespearean it's so tragic...shades of this disconnect can also be found in the communities working to recover from disasters in the US. While community-based entities are a much stronger force within domestic disaster response and recovery...there are still challenges with integrating the voices of those recovering into post-disaster activities while setting and managing their expectations.

I'm sure there are a great number of examples of community-led initiatives that address this challenge, the one that seems to have had great success in the face of significant destruction is Joplin's Citizen Advisory Recovery Team (CART). The damage caused by the Joplin Tornado provided a unique opportunity to re-imagine what their community could be, and CART provided a conduit for community voices to be heard within the planning and development process. While community-based entities are the backbone of connecting unmet homeowner needs with available resources throughout long term recovery, the ability to capture and articulate a communities collective wants and desires and have them be accounted for in land use planning, zoning considerations, and development ideas is unique.

As the aid machine starts churning out grants to organizations playing needed roles in the provision of immediate aid to communities in the Philippines, let's not forget the people for which that aid was donated on behalf of and the role they should have in how it's used. What I'm suggesting isn't easy, and the responsibility of inclusion shouldn't rest solely on responding organizations, but a concerted effort should be made to ensure that starting now the representation in attendance at cluster meetings reflect the communities being served.

No comments :

Post a Comment