Exploiting Inequalities: Conflict and Power Relations in Bel Air

In the first trimester of 2014, Norwegian Church Aid published the study “Exploiting inequalities: Conflict and Power Relations in Bel Air”. The conflict analysis examines the driving factors of conflict, key actors, “connectors and dividers” and gender dimensions of conflict.

Background and purpose

The overall purpose of the study is to improve the effectiveness of future peacebuilding programs in Greater Bel Air, by ensuring that they are addressing key driving factors of conflict. A specific objective for Norwegian Church Aid was to systematize and make explicit the information and insights gathered from a wide range of informants and organizations working on conflict resolution and violence reduction in Greater Bel Air, and to create a baseline upon which further programming can be developed.

Factors provoking violence

The study posits that multiple structural and proximate factors converge to provoke the violence in Greater Bel Air today.

  • Poverty is the underlying factor explaining the violence perpetrated in Bel Air, yet the convergence of inequality and exclusion was found to be more significant causal factors of violence.
  • Weak state institutions and political leadership are an important root cause of poverty, which contributes as a driving factor of violence.
  • The breakdown of vertical and horizontal social bonds predisposes individuals and groups to take part in violent political mobilizations.
  • Negative stereotypes of “Haiti’s gangs” often do not correspond to how these groups construe themselves and are viewed by the local population.
  • A “generational gap” exists between the old and new guards, with the latter described as “opportunists” aligned to whichever political and economic elite best serve their interests.
  • Political, economic and social changes at the national level in Haiti have historically had an important impact on the nature and operations of armed groups in neighbourhoods such as Bel Air.
  • Violence in Haiti is often linked to high-level political and economic actors with connections to globalized systems of trade or illegal transnational networks such as the drug trade.

Key recommendations

A set of 15 key recommendations have been formulated to improve the effectiveness of future peacebuilding programs in Greater Bel Air.

  1. Regularly carry out market assessment to determine what skills are needed and tailor vocational training programmes accordingly. Develop linkages with good-willed members of the private sector to create personal relations and training opportunities. Create incentives to demonstrate to business that peace is in their interest.
  2. Integrate life skills and psycho-social elements related to identity-needs into violence reduction initiatives. Target specifically at risk children and youth. Strengthen alternative sources of belonging (religious youth groups, community groups).
  3. Increase opportunities for youth to engage in positive civic participation activities with the increased involvement of local level leaders including mayors and city delegates as a way of developing bonds of accountability and transparency.
  4. Regularly carry out stakeholders’ analyses to identify key individuals who can make linkages between grassroots and national level peacebuilding – and those who will resist change.
  5. Reinforce the role of leaders who can serve as models for leadership; not elevate former armed group leaders unless they have displayed positive leadership qualities through actions in favor of community interests
  6. Create and support multi-track dialogue processes at local, middle and top levels, and bring the tracks together, using tools such as “Transformative Scenaria Planning” to promote an inclusive, action-oriented dialogue process
  7. Identify key individuals who are able to influence specifically the younger generation of baz leaders and members, and bring them into peacebuilding activities including community development projects and cultural events
  8. For NGOs working in Great Bel Air, regularly undertake “Do No Harm” analyses in relation to hiring practices, community partners and community leaders with whom they engage. For donors supporting NGOs, request that such analyses are underpinning the NGOs’ work.
  9. Render mediation work between different neighborhoods and baz more effective through collaboration between different NGOs, which may wield different levels of influence with different baz.
  10. Increase responsibility and ownership for conflict resolution and violence reduction efforts amongst the local population: activities should be done by and with the local population, not for them
  11. Engage in coordinated advocacy amongst NGOs and international donors engaged in Bel Air targeted at specific political and economic actors to create greater political will for peace in Bel Air. Advocate for formal spaces for mediation and liaison with the government
  12. Carry out a gender barrier analysis to identify barriers to greater participation of women in associative life, and a gender analysis on roles, responsibilities and workloads of women and girls to inform gender sensitive programming. Use spatial mapping to identify urban configurations that make women more vulnerable to violence.
  13. Strengthen the community policing programme and build linkages with HNP and MINUSTAH’s civilian policing division to bring concerns and priorities of the inhabitants of Bel Air to the police reform agenda.
  14. Engage in specific coordination of violence prevention efforts amongst international donors, I/NGOs, local associations before “trigger” events such as elections.
  15. Adopt a “whole of society” approach to peacebuilding: a multi-sectoral approach linking different sectors of peacebuilding and including stake- holders from multiple levels of society.

The implementation of these recommendations require the commitment and collaboration of various organizations and actors at multiple levels.

NCA relied on the collaboration of many different stakeholders who contributed to the analysis, and we hope to be able to continue working with many of them in the framework of peacebuilding programmes in Haiti.