This article, reprinted from Counterpunch, ends with this:
“the lesson of the 2010 earthquake is that aid and reconstruction must be directed by Haitians and for Haitians. Otherwise, this latest disaster will only aggravate the long disaster of big-power intervention into the country. That, not inevitable storms and seismic events, is the largest obstacle facing Haiti in its struggle for development and sovereignty.”
Putting survivors of a disaster event in the drivers seat of the recovery effort is not really a very radical idea. Any of us would expect to be allowed that courtesy by others when experiencing the vulnerability of recovering from such devastation. But it seems to be far from the current practice when opportunists use tragic events as open doors for advancing particular agendas.
On page 246 of this 1994 article by Erica Burman there is a discussion of the concept of Disaster Pornography which is “the gruesome fascination with depicting, and commercially benefiting from people’s suffering and degradation.” The ‘pornography’ parallel is as follows: “bodies are represented as parts, devoid of subjectivity, and rendered available for use and consumption, with no regard for consent or participation.” In trying to understand fundamental principles that are important for an appropriate, just and dignifying approach in disaster response efforts, we keep coming back to the importance of putting survivors first and allowing space for survivors to lead in the recovery effort. This concept of disaster pornography points in a vivid way to the absolute necessity for survivor-driven recovery, which includes allowing survivors to make decisions around how the disaster itself is depicted in media and in aid organizations’ calls for funding of relief efforts.
Burman, Erica, (1994) “Innocents abroad: Western fantasies of childhood and the iconography of emergencies” from Disasters 18 (3) pp.238-253