LWF Round Table Reviews Lessons Learned and Future Strategies

By LWI correspondent Anli Serfontein

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti/GENEVA, 7 June 2011 (LWI) – A round table organized in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince to review strategies for international aid underlined the need for better coordination of relief assistance, particularly after the January 2010 earthquake.

“The biggest problem facing continuing aid to Haiti is the lack of coordination between the estimated 10,000 aid agencies working in the country after the earthquake,” said Mr Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, program coordinator for The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Department for World Service (DWS), which organized the round table in mid-May.

In addition to humanitarian assistance, DWS program work in the Caribbean region and Haiti since 1983 has focused on reduction of disaster risks; supporting local communities to secure sustainable livelihoods; environmental protection; and development of civil society organizations.

De Faria pointed out that while every organization wants autonomy, better coordination would also mean that “it becomes clear who is responsible for what.” The round table was attended by LWF’s related partners from Europe and North America, and international and local members of ACT Alliance, the global network of church and church-related organizations engaged in humanitarian assistance and development.

Mr Jouni Hemberg, director of International Cooperation at FinnChurchAid, the aid agency for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (ELCF), said the Haiti disaster relief was testing ground for the ACT Alliance forums. “We still have a job to do. We have succeeded in many issues but we still need to learn. There are already some very good signs on the ground when we combine our efforts,” he noted.

ACT Alliance, of which the LWF is a founding member, was formed in January 2010, bringing together the efforts, resources, people and organizations of over 100 churches and church-related organizations. It works through national forums of local implementing partners.

Addressing the round table, the president of the Haitian Senate Senator Bastien Kely spoke about the lack of coordination between the humanitarian aid organizations and a weak Haiti government in 2010. With a newly-elected president inaugurated in mid-May, he urged the church-related organizations to register with the government agencies in order to coordinate a more effective distribution of humanitarian assistance.

Dr Louis Dorvilier, the LWF representative in Haiti, said, “The international community and the NGOs [non-governmental organizations] are animated with good intentions. But we all need to admit; Haiti is not a problem that you can simply ‘fix’. Haiti is a country founded on [a] dream, hope and the potential of many men and women that want to live free and walk tall. Haiti needs friends that would understand these paradigms and accompany the country on the road of Emmaus where we can all hear, listen, see and be transformed.”

Dorvilier, who is of Haitian origin, said the fundamental issue was to define the intervention of NGOs. “If it seems complicated to answer this question, however, an essential balance is needed to find a link between public intervention and civic organizations, in partnership with a society which was destroyed. The task for [the] Lutheran World Federation and its officers is to get people to listen so they can establish a partnership based on complementing each other, with accountability and with mutual respect,” he noted.

Stressing that the country would need major investments in key sectors, he invited the international guests to see, discover, experience and be open to the new realities “as we seek to embark as guests and invitees in the transformation of this nation. The opportunities for this country are greater than the misses, the lacks and deficiencies that we often see. No matter what we decide at the end of this round table, Haitians will reach down and draw from an endless well of determination and find a way to move forward.” (641 words)

By LWI correspondent Anli Serfontein