According to Germanwatch’s annual report (published as a side event of the COP21 in Paris), over the past 20 years, Haiti has been one of the three countries most affected by extreme weather events, which are likely to increase given the current rate of global warming.
An analysis by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that from 1990 to 2016, Haiti was the Caribbean country most adversely affected by natural disasters (three droughts, one epidemic, 22 floods, and 23 storms and hurricanes), with an increasing trend due to climate change.
More than 96% of the Haitian population is exposed to natural hazards, mainly in the form of hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes, according to World Bank calculations that also state that production representing 56% of the country’s GDP is situated in disaster-prone areas, and recurring floods could therefore result in an economic impact worth about 2% of GDP.
Hurricane Matthew, which hit the country in 2016, caused losses and damages estimated at 32% of the 2015 GDP, while the 2010 earthquake that killed approximately 250,000 people wiped out 120% of the national GDP.
With climate change likely to cause an increase in the frequency, intensity, and impact of extreme weather events, the country still lacks adequate preparation and adaptation mechanisms.
In an attempt to resolve this situation, Haiti launched a National Adaptation Plan (NAP) development process in August 2019 to finally acquire this important tool for increasing the resilience of the country’s strategic economic sectors. Indeed, the NAP process aims to facilitate the planning, evaluation, funding, and implementation of national-level adaptation measures and constitutes a necessity for developing countries, especially small island developing states (SIDS) such as Haiti, within the framework of their strategy for tackling climate change.
Also, if Haiti is to effectively counter the wide variety of threats that it currently faces (such as hurricanes, drought, etc.), it will need to implement a special plan of action focusing on communications and awareness raising in the area of adaptation. The NAP process communication strategy aims, for example, to guide the Haitian government, over the short and medium terms, in conducting its communications with its partners and with all sectors affected by its priorities for adaptation and mitigation.
For this reason, in July 2020, a number of stakeholders were consulted in the specific context of NAP strategy development regarding their perception of the Haitian government’s priorities for climate change adaptation. The responses given by the private sector and by civil society representatives, among others, therefore provide benchmarks that indicate how these stakeholders can become more fully involved in implementing this communication strategy.
One of the many challenges facing the NAP process in Haiti is eliciting the involvement of the Haitian private sector despite the lack of interest it has shown for adaptation issues to date. The communication strategy therefore aims to raise the awareness of these key players regarding the vital role that they play in the success of the NAP process.
During the validation workshop for this strategy, one private sector representative rightly pointed out that to involve these stakeholders in the NAP process, the Haitian government will need to set up profitable projects with local entrepreneurs; otherwise, it will be useless to try to convince them that adaptation contributes to competitiveness and sustainability.
It is clear that the Haitian government must cooperate with the private sector to provide means of identifying the sources of funding for adaptation actions to ensure the sustainability of private projects and investments. In doing so, the Haitian government will ensure that private sector participation in the NAP process secures the protection of its own investments against the threats of increasingly frequent natural disasters.
As for the members of civil society, their dispersal and the lack of coordinated actions may at first appear to be insurmountable obstacles.
This strategy proposes a path forward that would consist in mobilizing journalists’ associations, specifically the existing network of environmental journalists, as an important link for disseminating information and providing outreach regarding activities related to the NAP process.
In his speech delivered at the opening of the dissemination workshop, James Cadet, Haiti’s Minister of the Environment, recognized the crucial role of journalists. For example, they play an important role in reducing disaster risks related to climate change by raising decision-makers’ awareness of the need to put adaptation measures in place to mitigate the damage. At the same time, journalists contribute by effectively reporting on these measures and strategies to the wider public, fostering ownership and appropriation amongst them. .
Relying on this trustworthy, competent network to promote adaptation as a topical issue in Haiti’s media landscape will serve as a rallying cry that could spur a vital synergy for civil society initiatives dealing with adaptation. This will be a preliminary step prior to the establishment of a round table for sharing of experience and knowledge regarding implementing adaptation measures at the local level.
In short, for a successful NAP process in Haiti, this strategy recommends that powerful alliances are built to unite the government and civil society, along with universities, development partners, and the private sector.