I know that I’ve done my share of ranting, especially since the Haiti earthquake, about mass media, journalists, celebrities, self-appointed watchdogs, and those ordinary citizens who – it seems obvious to me – just don’t get it.
But now, I think it’s time to turn the table a bit. I’d like to hear from you. Thanks to the tools available in WordPress and Twitter, I know you’re reading. I would specifically like to hear your thoughts on:
How much should be spent for the response to a large disaster by the six-month mark? At the one year mark? Beyond? From inside the aid industry, I can tell you that as a rule of thumb, we try to spend down within the first year somewhere between 50-70 percent of funds raised in the first year. In other words, if in the first twelve months after “Cyclone X” we raise US $10 million for that disaster response, we should be spending down in the neighborhood of $5-7 million during that same period. Some organizations have a policy about it. Others just follow a general principle.
How does that sound? There’s been plenty of criticism of large INGOs in Haiti for supposedly spending too slowly at the six-month mark. What number or percentage of spend-down sign would be adequate? What proportion of an organization’s income for Haiti would need to be spent down by six months in order for this issue to not be raised? On the other side, what would be too high a proportion? I’d especially like to hear from, say, Sharyl Attkisson on this one.
How long should it take to get back to “normal”? And what is “normal”? I’ve written before that there’s plenty of precedent for recovery following a large disaster to take years. And yet, after every earthquake, typhoon or tsunami, there are accusations and insinuations that the aid is slow in coming and that things are taking too long to get better. Personally, I think that Haiti will, for all practical purposes, be an emergency response for a full 12 months. As was Aceh and eastern Sri Lanka. As was the Aerawaddy River Delta. No, not emergency in the sense of people being pulled alive from rubble. But emergency in the sense that many of the basic life-sustaining and life-preserving measures being taken are and for some time will be emergency ones: food and water distribution, emergency sanitation (as opposed to permanent sanitation), and emergency shelter. Land is a key element in determining the rate of transition to “recovery” in this case, and land remains a difficult issue to resolve.
Anderson Cooper and Eric Klein seem pretty certain that good progress isn’t being made. What about you? All things considered, what should Port-au-Prince look like right now? Or, for that matter, Louisiana? What would a realistic set of expectations around things like the proportion of people living in something sturdier than tents, or the proportion of people still reliant on food distributions? (Mind you, “realistic”, not “wishful thinking.”) What do you think is a reasonable timeframe within which to return things to “normal”? And what does that “normal” look like?
Transparency, Honesty and Accountability. I’ve shared my thoughts on these before. The Disaster Accountability Project is pretty sure that aid agencies in Haiti have not been sufficiently transparent and, by extension, not accountable.
I’ll keep this one short: What about you? What would you see as the minimums around transparency and accountability for aid agencies responding to disaster with public and private funding? What kinds of information should they be required to voluntarily share with the public? What kinds of information should they be required to share upon request? And what kinds of information, in your opinion, if any, should they be allowed to withold? Under what circumstances?
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I’m most interested in hearing from journalists/media types, disaster survivors and aid critics. Aid workers and ordinary citizens, you’re welcome to share your thoughts as well.
I may springboard some responses or comments into full posts on this blog in the future.
Add your thoughts in the comments thread below this post, DM me at @talesfromthhood, email at talesfromethehood(at)gmail(dot)com (be sure to spell correctly).
RT and forward this post.
Let me know what you think.