The biblical narrative is rich with texts that describe God's desire for people and nations to be in right relationship with the Creator, with creation, and with each other. The prophet Micah expounds on this vision when he foresees a day when nations will abolish war and injustice, and every person will live a life of dignity without fear (Micah 4:1-5). God's desire for people, communities, and nations is to enjoy a life that is free from poverty, injustice, and any other form of oppression. This is a basic principle that must guide and shape all human interaction.
In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010 Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) outlined some principles for operating both in terms of its response in Haiti and advocacy efforts in Washington, DC. These principles were based on Micah's vision for holistic peace and dignity for all people. One of the principles states the following:
"All disaster response efforts, at both local and national levels, must be guided by Haitians themselves. Millions of dollars and thousands of volunteers are arriving in Haiti to help the country. Plans are being drawn up by many well-meaning people. But if Haitians do not have a hand in formulating the plans and do not own the construction efforts, they will ultimately be unsuccessful in their attempts to build up the country." (Read the complete Guiding Principles for a Just Response in Haiti here <http://washingtonmemo.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/2010-0212-haiti-advocacy-guiding-principles1.pdf>)
Almost two and a half years after the earthquake, Haiti is still struggling to recover. A recent report from the Center for Global Development (CGD) states that "Haitians are disillusioned with the overall lack of progress, and with the lack of transparency and accountability." Almost $6 billion in aid has been spent in Haiti according to CGD, and many Haitians are left wondering where the money has gone.
While at least 390,000 people displaced from their homes are still living in tents, large sums of money have been spent on projects that will mostly benefit outside interests. An example is an industrial park on the northern coast of Haiti, which will be managed by a Korean garment manufacturer. Projects such as these have been supported by U.S. aid dollars and have been carried out with little accountability or transparency to the Haitian people. Haitians are not at the center of the process and efforts are failing to build a state where people can live a life of dignity without fear.
The hope that we hold on to is the vision that is outlined in the book of Micah. Powerful political and financial interests have played a role in shaping Haiti and its current state of affairs, but we can work to change these unjust systems. This will eventually bear fruit as long as we hold our lawmakers accountable to this vision and to a principle that holds the life and dignity of all Haitians central to any aid effort.
For more information on Haiti go to <http://washington.mcc.org/issues/latinamerica/haiti>.