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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Rebuilding Haiti with justice

Published: December 3, 2010
Section: News

Brian Concannon Jr., Founder of Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), emphasized the need to restore legal order and empower the Haitian people as the nation rebuilds from the earthquake that struck in January, during a lecture at the Heller School Thursday evening.

In his talk Concannon explained how a rights-based approach will ensure the nation has a sustainable future grounded in human rights protections and a just legal system.

Transparency from the government and a willingness to work with native Haitians are crucial, Concannon said.

Concannon explained how Haiti’s poor often denied employment rights—most Haitians don’t even receive the minimum wage—child support and the right to education.

If people can learn to recognize their rights, they will be more likely to challenge the system that says they don’t have them, according to Cancannon.

IJDH believes in a “rights-based approach” that includes building the Haitian government capacity to ensure human rights, ensuring transparency of assistance, empowering Haitians and ensuring assistance creates results.

Having lived and worked in Haiti for nine years, Concannon was able to observe Haiti’s poor economical and social standing on a day-to-day basis.

IJDH works to address such problems as the country’s lack of formal education and health care, and though they made progress, in the aftermath of January’s earthquake, much of their work faced new obstacles.

He went on to discuss how much poverty contributed to the severity of the earthquake. Concannon compared the Chilean earthquake to the one in Haiti, stating that although Chile’s earthquake was 500 times stronger, Haiti suffered a mortality rate 230 times greater.

Because populations in hillside slums are very dense, tens of thousands died in these areas.

Unfortunately, most of these housing structures were deadly because they were not built sturdily, Concanno said.

Still, many Haitians do not face the option of lived in well-structured home.

They would rather live in an unsafe home than be homeless, Concannon said.

Concannon discussed the problem of aid going to Haiti, saying that many Haitians are not receiving the funds that have been donated.

Further, he explained that many Haitians are going hungry.

Though statistics claim that billions of dollars have been given to Haiti relief efforts, 70 percent of adults said that they had gone a day without eating in a week, Concannon said. For families with children, 50 percent said their children had also gone a day without eating.

Concannon told the audience to stay informed and engaged, volunteer and donate.