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“The Role of the Diaspora During and After Crisis Situations”. Side Event to the ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment June 25 th 2014, 8:15 to 9:30am, Conference room 7 (NLB), UN Headquarters, New York Speaker: Katleen Felix, President

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the role of the diaspora during and after crisis situations

“The Role of the Diaspora During and After Crisis Situations”

Side Event to the ECOSOC

Humanitarian Affairs Segment

June 25th 2014, 8:15 to 9:30am,

Conference room 7 (NLB), UN Headquarters, New York

Speaker: Katleen Felix, President

Haitian Hometown Associations Resource Group (HHTARG)


Q1) To what extent can or should diaspora communities be engaged in humanitarian response during natural disasters and conflict?

Q2) During natural disasters and conflict, how can diaspora communities be sure that humanitarian actions are meeting needs and upholding humanitarian principles?

humanitarian principles
Humanitarian Principles

Humanity: Human suffering must be addressed whenever it is found. The purpose of humanitarian action is to protect life and health and ensure respect for human beings.

Neutrality: Humanitarian actors must not take sides in hostilities or engage in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.

Impartiality: Humanitarian action must be carried out on the basis of need alone, giving priority to the most urgent cases of distress and making no distinctions on the basis of nationality, race, gender, religious belief, class or political opinions.

Operational Independence: Humanitarian action must be independent of the political, economic, military or other objectives that any actors may hold with regard to areas where humanitarian action is being implemented.

Source: OCHA on Message: Humanitarian Principles, November 2011

hhtas and support groups mapping
HHTAs and Support Groups Mapping
  • There are about 350 active HHTAs and support groups in the US, Canada and France

***New Mega-Federations (post-earthquake):

    • Haitian Diaspora Federation USA (May 2010) and EUROPE (October 2010)
    • GRANH (CANADA May 2010) & GRANH Monde (multiple chapters around the world)
    • Haitian Studies Association – Education committee

Existing Federations:

    • AFHED (Boston)
    • CENTRECH (Montreal)
    • FHARE (NY)
    • ROCAHD (Montreal)
  • Existing Departmental Associations:
    • FEDASE (South HTAs NY)
    • Nord’ OuestReuni (NY)
    • Tourinord (NY)
    • L’Artibonite Federation (NJ)
  • Facilitator and HHTAs support group
    • Haitian Hometown Association Resource group (NY, Miami and Boston) started after Fonkoze –IDB HHTAs workshop in 2007)
hhtas strength
HHTAs Strength
  • Personal link
  • Cultural affinity
  • Knowledge of their hometown and community leaders
  • Experience with humanitarian effort
  • Various experts across sectors are available for short or long term engagement (young professionals, mid-career and retired)
hhtas challenges
HHTAs Challenges
  • Unknown or ignored by the international community or the Haitian government (often undermined: examples of the earthquake relief effort).
  • Volunteer organizations under a lot of financial stress: Disasters more frequent than diaspora can bear.
  • Absence of disaster preparedness and recovery plan.
  • No communication or information about:
    • Existing programs: Who does what? Where? Who is hiring?
    • What are the Haitian Success Stories that could be replicable?
    • What to avoid?
example missed opportunity 1
Example (missed opportunity #1)
  • Natural decentralization: After the earthquake, 300,000 + people moved out of Port-au-Prince (see OCHA Map – natural decentralization).
  • From day 1 of the disaster, the diaspora was sending remittances to support family and friends in their hometown.
  • For weeks after the earthquake, Fonkoze was the only remittance payer and faced a liquidity crisis: $2M was brought by plane from USA account with the collaboration of USA Federal Reserve, US Army and UN.
  • For months HHTAs maintained camps, hosted families, distributed sanitary kits, etc. Little or no effort was made by the international community to include the diaspora in the disaster relief and recovery plan.
example missed opportunity 2
Example (missed opportunity #2)
  • Requests were made by the HHTARG to make the international communities part of the relief and recovery efforts.
  • Some HHTAs and diaspora groups participated in cluster meetings.
  • Since HHTARG and the HHTAs were not accredited or recognized by the UN, the requests were never considered.
  • Results:
    • 6 months after, the HHTAs were not able to maintain relief efforts.
    • The displaced people went back to Port-au-Prince to take part in the cash for work program (we have more people in P au P now than before the earthquake).
how to optimize
How to Optimize


Start the dialogue now and take concrete action to involve all stakeholders (including diaspora and local communities)

  • Don’t wait for the next crisis – build trust and habit to work together
  • Engage local players
    • By Haitian with Haitian if possible (staff and high management. Too often only staff are hired and no leadership level)
    • Seek local buy-in 
    • Our presence on the ground is NOT always necessary 
how to optimize1
How to Optimize

For long term sustainability:

  • Capacity building of the MHAVE (Ministère des HaitiensVivants à l’étranger), local communities and diaspora groups.
    • Database of diaspora resources and projects.
    • Reverse Migration: Structured program recruitment and accompaniment (short and long term assignments) – Initiative since ’95, program relaunched in 2010.
      • Mentoring and follow up of diaspora interventions.
      • Facilitation or reintegration like housing, transportation, etc.
    • Co-Development Program - Matching grants for diaspora projects that truly originate from -and are supported by- the local community.
      • 3x1 likeMexicancooperation.
    • Support projects that could also be revenue-generating for the diaspora while also helping local development (Korean Model ref Tatyana Wah).
    • Develop Livelihood program with the HHTAs.
pay attention
Pay Attention
  • Many NGOs and businesses are not ready to build capacity of migrant organizations. We have cases where:
    • Simply used the HHTAs to get access to grant or data and didn’t involve the diaspora for the execution.
    • NGO or business hired the diaspora resources as staff to get expertise and build their own organization to secure their funding while groups were already working in the field.

“In reality we often don’t have a true partnership that involves the diaspora organizations and treats them as equal partners.

Policy makers and people who design engagement programs need to protect the migrant organizations from those free rider behaviors”

  • Recognize the capacity of volunteer Diaspora organizations and provide resources for the interventions; (Haiti and Philippines cases to study)
  • Diaspora are 1stresponders in time of crisis. Partnerships with Diaspora organizations are possible with training to understand humanitarian principals , to define the roles of each stakeholders and plan (structure) interventions;
  • Open procurement process to the Diaspora for hiring opportunities (Management and Staff) and for contracting opportunities.
  • Include Diaspora in communication channels, events and clusters activities;
  • Develop long term economic development / livelihood programs with the Diaspora and the local population; The Diaspora are there for the long run (last to leave if they ever leave).

Thank you!

Let’s stay in touch

Twitter @katleenfelix

  • “Haiti’s Development, Expatriate Reconnection, Conditions and Challenge” de Dr. Tatiana Wah, New School University, New York. Educa Vision 2003
  • “Haitians in New York City: Transnationalism and Hometown Associations” FRANCOIS PIERRE-LOUIS, March 30, 2006
  • “Remittancesin crises: A Haiti case study ” Researched, written and published by the Humanitarian Policy Group at ODI, author: Patricia Fagen April 2006
  • Contribution des Haïtiens à l’édification du Québec moderne : Ces Québécois venus d'Haïti,sous la direction de Samuel Pierre, PhD, de l’Association des ingénieurs et scientifiques haïtiano-canadiens(AIHC), Presses internationales Polytechnique
  • “HAITIAN DIASPORA ASSOCIATIONS AND THEIR INVESTMENTS IN BASICSOCIAL SERVICES IN HAITI” by Patricia Weiss FagenWith: Carlo Dade, Robert Maguire, Katleen Felix, David Nicolas, NoriacDathis and Katelin Maher, Georgetown University Prepared for the Inter-American Development Bank, January 2009
  • “Construction d’une Haïti Nouvelle. Vision et contribution du GRAHN (Groupe de réflexion et d’action pour une Haïti nouvelle) ” Samuel PIERRE, éditeur scientifique Montréal, Presses internationales Polytechnique 2010 or
references 2
References (2)
  • “PME et Entreprises Sociale en Haiti: quel est le role de la Microfiance et les ONG en regionsrurales ? “By Katleen Felix and Julien Verona, Inca Production, 15 Juin 2012 page 52-57
  • Hillary Clinton’s Remarks at the Second Annual Global Diaspora Forum 2012 :
  • “Diaspora Invests in Haiti with Business Loans” By Katleen Felix IDEA Blog September 2012
  • “Engaging the Haitian Diaspora: Emigrant Skills and Resources are needed for Serious Growth and development, not Just Charity” By Tatiana Wah, CAIRO REVIEW 9/2013
  • “Receiving Haitian Migrants in the Context of the 2010 Earthquake“ by Patricia Weiss Fagen, Georgetown University, 3 December 2013
can the diaspora have a positive and active impact
Can the Diaspora have a positive and active impact?

Yes! various cases from the Haitian Diaspora confirmed this assumption

  • Haitian Hometown Associations (HHTAs) work in Education, Heath, and productive activities (small scale projects and investments)
  • Fonkoze was founded by Father Joseph who has studied, worked and leaved in the USA and Canada
    • 1st loan capital was from ROCAHD
    • We do have Diaspora Staff members at Fonkoze in Haiti
    • But Fonkoze couldn’t get to this level only with the support of the Diaspora.
  • Zafèn www.zafen.og (crowdfunding)