Norwegian Church Aid in the Dominican Republic
- Been here since: 1979 (Also supported in 1970)
- Money spent in 2015: 1.9 million NOK
While NCA has supported Dominican partners since the 1980, our current work in the Dominican Republic is dominated by a binational perspective. In the current strategic period, the focus is on issues related to migration and human rights for migrants and their descendants.
The programme is managed from the Haiti office, and parts of the binational programme enters both programme portfolios.
The Dominican Republic occupies two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean and is bordered by Haiti in the west. The country is a popular tourist destination and, although the Dominican Republic has experienced the fastest economic growth in Latin America in recent years, the differences between rich and poor – urban and rural – are considerable. The Dominican Republic is a middle income country, six times richer than its neighbor Haiti, and many Haitians cross the border in search of better socio-economic conditions.
The estimated population of people with Haitian heritage in the Dominican Republic is 700.000, of which approximately 450.000 are migrants, and about 250.000 are descendants of former migrants. In the last group, many come from mixed marriages. The relationship between the two countries is historically difficult and at times tense, amongst other because of the high degree of illegal work migration from Haiti. Dominican citizens of Haitian descent are often among the poorest of the poor in the Dominican Republic. They are the descendants of economic migrants and of migrant workers contracted by the Dominican government to help harvest sugarcane and other crops. Whereas they have contributed to the development of the Dominican economy and society for generations, evidence of their economic and social marginalization goes back several decades. During the last ten years there are many signs of increasing marginalization.
In September 2013, the Dominican Constitutional Court ruling 168-13 retroactively stripped approximately 133,770 Dominicans of their citizenship. Norwegian Church Aid's partners OBMICA and SSID have condemned the ruling, as have the Action by Churches Together-Alliance that NCA is a part of. Access to government services such as schooling and medical attention requires possession of a valid identity card, leaving those affected in a vulnerable situation, often characterized by abuse and exploitation and with little or no access to basic services such as health, education, and social security. Parents are unable to register their children. An identity card is also required to open a bank account and often to sign employment contracts, leaving those whose identity cards at the mercy of informal, often exploitative day labor. Due to the high levels of migration between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, both in the past and now, Dominicans of Haitian descent were disproportionately affected by the ruling.
Norwegian Church Aid works with civil society organizations including Church-based and research-oriented actors to reinforce the rights of migrants and their descendants, in particular those at risk of statelessness.Due to their vulnerability to exploitation and low economic independence, women are a particular target group.
Norwegian Church Aid’s binational programme takes a holistic approach, focusing on three elements: advocacy to improve the accessibility and effectiveness of the legal processes; direct assistance and protection of migrants and Dominicans at risk of statelessness in the Dominican Republic, as well as assistance and protection of returnees and deportees in the border areas.
While some avenues exist for reclaiming papers for those who were born in the Domincan republic, the process is challenging, and often too costly for those concerned. NCA supports migrants and Domincans at risk of statelessness through the legal process to recover identity documents.
Through local partners, NCA also supports research and data collection on situation of migrants and descendants of migrants, including particular groups such as women, merchants and construction workers. The data is used both to target intervention but also for advocacy. NCA also challenges duty bearers, primarily through the Comisión de Concertación Haitiano-Dominicana (CCHD), through UN coordination mechanisms, and through other platforms such as “Dominicanos por Derechos”. The CCHD is a civil society advocacy platform aiming at influencing unilateral or bilateral decisions in Haiti and the DR, related to migration. The platform was created in 2014 following training on advocacy organized by Christian Aid, in which NCA and several of our partners took part. As the interest in the CCHD has increased also by other INGOs, NCA and Christian Aid has followed up closely to ensure that the leadership of the platform remains with local partners (such as OBMICA, GARR and MUDHA). With support from NCA, a contingency plan is developed from a binational perspective, to be activated in the case of mass deportations.
NCA also promotes dialogue between opposite sides, including activist organizations, defending the rights of the migrants and their descendants, and more conservative forces in the Dominican society, remain a priority for NCA.
Norwegian Church Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance’s international network. NCA and one of our partners in the Dominican Republic are members of the local ACT Forum. In addition, we coordinate our activities with other ACT members in the country and on the island, among other around the development of joint emergency preparedness response plans and disaster risk reduction. Support from the Dominican partners was crucial after the Haiti earthquake in 2010, and Haiti and the Dominican Republic were both affected by Tropical Storm Sandy in 2012. Promoting cooperation between Dominican and Haitian partners and members of ACT on issues of mutual interest is an integral part of NCA’s strategy as it can serve to improve relations between the two countries.