The Government of Haiti's water governance reform agenda

 Flooding in Cap-Haitien, Haiti.  Photo: United Nations.  

Flooding in Cap-Haitien, Haiti.  Photo: United Nations.  

It's been about two years since I completed a series of field studies of water governance in Haiti.  Our project in northern Haiti finished up about a year later.  It's gratifying to work on development projects on-the-ground, but it's also rewarding to take those experiences and share them with the broader international and academic communities.  Two articles I wrote about water governance in Haiti have been published recently.  The first is a broad look at Haiti's water laws and policies, and the institutions that develop and enforce those laws.  The article has been published by the Tulane Environmental Law Journal and is available online here.  

The second article is a more focused study on local institutions in the Trou-du-Nord watershed in northern Haiti.  The region has water resources, but many water users competing for a modest supply.  At present local institutions are insufficient to manage these resources and users adequately.  My article explores some institutional reforms local stakeholders, the Government of Haiti, and international donors may be interested in pursuing.  This second article has been published by AQUA-LAC, the journal of UNESCO's International Hydrological Program, as part of a special issue composed of articles written by myself and other colleagues who worked on the Trou-du-Nord watershed project.  The special issue includes a forward from Jovenel Moise, the President of Haiti.  President Moise's forward is included below:

This special issue of AQUA-LAC is a magnificent example of the solidarity expressed by the International Hydrological Program for Latin America and the Caribbean (IHP-LAC) in promoting the integrated management of the water resources of the Republic of Haiti. Indeed, in its report in 1972 on integrated technical assistance in Haiti, the OAS stated, “The development of Haiti’s natural resources is to a large extent linked to maximizing the rational utilization of its water resources. Failing these factors, the country’s agricultural and industrial development, as well as the life of its inhabitants, will be confronted by severe limitations” (OAS, 1972).

This issue has 9 articles written by authors from three countries: Haiti, the United States and Mexico. They cover very diverse fields, ranging from the reconstitution of extreme rainfall events in Haiti – currently a highly pertinent topic with climate change and extreme hydrological phenomena – to an analysis of water governance reform in Haiti, which emphasizes the numerous challenges that have to be overcome to achieve integrated and rational water management.

Furthermore, four articles refer to the water resources of the Trou du Nord watershed, which supplies the industrial zone of Caracol. They provide analytical elements on research issues that not only have to be taken further with respect to this watershed, but which can also be transposed to other watersheds in Haiti in view to carrying out comparative studies.

Regarding water intended for human consumption, the results of an evaluation of microbiological risks highlight the danger of Crytosporidium oocysts for the health of the population. The issue of water in emerging non-secured districts is also studied and presented in an article on water supply to Canaan.

The analysis of epidemiological transition linked to hydrometeorological disasters provides methodological tools and calls for specialists in water and health sciences to carry out multidisciplinary actions to establish, and experiment with, protocols aimed at facilitating the development of new tools for preventing and controlling certain water-borne diseases.

This special issue addresses the urgent need for the Haitian authorities to establish a national water policy. By relying on the basic principles of integrated water resource management, I strongly believe that this reform will lead the country in the short, medium and long terms to: (i) reduce the environmental risks linked to water, (ii) better satisfy the population’s needs for water, and (iii) solve conflicts between the different actors in this sector.

My administration is committed to this process by proposing legislative and administrative changes, and by making new choices for investment in the water sector by waging on stronger scientific and technical cooperation between and IHP-LAC. This is the context in which I have made the management and control of surface water a major goal of my governmental program.

Jovenel Moïse President of the Republic of Haiti

COP 21: "Loss and Damage" provisions have become the sticking point

 Protesters at COP 21 target developed countries in demanding reform.  Photo: Ryan Stoa.

Protesters at COP 21 target developed countries in demanding reform.  Photo: Ryan Stoa.

Ever since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was created in 1992, there has been a division between rich industrialized countries and poorer industrializing countries.  The rich countries have typically been the strongest proponents of climate action, arguing that with all this new climate science it's everyone's responsibility to cut back on emissions.  In response the poor countries point out that rich countries got to reap the rewards of fossil-fuel driven industrial growth, and that growth is largely responsible for the GHGs trapped in the atmosphere. 

The COP 21 negotiations are showing that both groups have succeeded in making their point, to some extent.  That each country has shown up and pledged to reduce their emissions, including developing country giants like China, India, and Brazil, means the developed countries have succeeded in making emissions reductions a near obligation.  On the other hand, the developing countries have hinged the success of the Paris Agreement on the strength of the text's "loss and damages" provisions.  Essentially, in exchange for reducing emissions, developing countries want financial assistance from developed countries to help them cope with climate impacts. 

It's a reasonable request, and one the developed countries have essentially already agreed to in a broad sense, but it raises a number of thorny particulars that negotiators are having trouble resolving.  Resolving questions like Who has to pay, and how often?  and Who gets to receive, and for what purpose? are one challenge, but a potentially bigger hurdle will be the conceptualization of "loss and damage" provisions.  Developed countries are categorically against any language in the text suggesting they have legal liability for climate damages like loss of land, building damage, etc.  They are willing to make voluntary financial payments, but won't accept legal responsibility for climate impacts:

Industrialised countries acknowledge that they are obligated to provide climate finance, but with an eye on the changing global realities, would like developing countries "in a position to do so" to contribute to the money pot. This attempt to increase the donor base has been strongly contested by the developing countries.

The other contentious issue is who is eligible to receive the funds. All developing countries are eligible but increasingly there is talk of funding for "vulnerable" countries. There is however no clarity on what defines vulnerability. Many in the negotiations see this talk of vulnerable countries as a bid to divide up the developing countries bloc. The G-77 and China comprising a diverse developing countries have presented a resolutely unified front on the question of finance.

Ultimately the developing countries may realize that no country is going to accept the legal implications of a robust "loss and damages" provision.  Instead, they might end up angling for a strong financial commitment.  Rich countries, for their part, can make those commitments without implicating any legal obligations.  Instead of providing compensation for damages incurred from climate hazards like hurricanes, they can subsidize hazard insurance for countries in particularly vulnerable areas.  Many are saying the "loss and damage" provisions will come down to the wire.  Stay tuned.

3 Thoughts on 'How Change Happens'

3 Thoughts on 'How Change Happens'

Duncan Green (of Oxfam, Cardiff University, and the excellent From Poverty to Power blog) released a public draft of his latest book today, entitled "How Change Happens."  He's eager to read as many reviews of the book as possible before it's published next year, and I'm happy to oblige.  Here's a blurb from the book proposal:

Human society is full of would-be ‘change agents’, a restless mix of campaigners, organizers and development workers, both individuals and organizations, set on transforming the world. They want to improve public services, reform laws and regulations, guarantee human rights, achieve greater recognition for any number of issues or simply be treated with respect.  Striking then, that universities have no Department of Change Studies, to which social activists can turn for advice and inspiration. Instead, scholarly discussions of change are fragmented with few conversations crossing disciplinary boundaries, or making it onto the radars of those actively seeking change.  This book brings together the latest research from a range of academic disciplines and the evolving practical understanding of activists [...] it tests ideas on How Change Happens and sets out the latest thinking on what works to achieve progressive change.’

The book is a worthy read, especially for those working in international development, Green's field of expertise and the focus of this book.  In fact, this book might have been called "How International Development Happens."  While the book is broad enough to encompass change broadly defined, in practice this book is most helpful for those in development working on designing, implementing, or evaluating development work.  With that in mind, here are three thoughts on this impressive early draft:

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