Thursday, October 24, 2013

URSP Student Christina Mathews Researches if the Efforts of Humanitarian NGO's in the Dominican Republic are Wasted

     For the past three summers I have had the opportunity to go on ten day service trips to the Dominican Republic near the border of Haiti. During these trips, I interacted with several humanitarian NGOs who were working to eliminate human rights violations. Their main strategy for achieving this goal was to work on improving negative attitudes and removing ethnic hatred of Dominicans towards Haitian immigrants. I remember one NGO trying to persuade a school to allow the children of Haitian immigrants to enroll by promoting the idea of racial equality to its teachers. Yet, as the NGO quickly realized, at the core of this issue was not racial discrimination, but rather the fact that these children of Haitian decent did not have Dominican citizenship, and thus could not officially be enrolled in the school. 

      This experience influenced me to question NGOs’ lack of attention to and monitoring of the Dominican government. While I believe it is important for NGOs to foster better relationships between Dominicans and Haitians, I am researching whether or not they would be more effective at eliminating discrimination and bringing humanitarian aid if they put a much higher priority and focus upon interacting with the government. This research project resonates with my future goal to work with humanitarian NGOs in Latin America to improve human rights conditions and empower marginalized groups. Seeking an answer to a research question is similar to building a jigsaw puzzle. This semester I have spent countless hours reading through books, articles, and NGO reports as I work to collect the “pieces” to my puzzle. 

      Recently, I found an article with potential- perhaps even a central piece to my puzzle! The article accuses American NGOs of perpetuating rights violations in the Dominican Republic by failing to monitor the allocation of money and other resources they have given to the government. While I have yet to find and assemble the rest of the pieces, I am hopeful that the finished product will contribute to the peace building capacity of the local NGOs.