Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

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CEPR Seeking Summer 2014 International Program Intern

April 23, 2014 - 10:42

Job Description: The Center for Economic and Policy Research is currently looking for a full-time International Program Intern for Summer 2014 (June 1st-August 31st).

Responsibilities include assisting staff with research on upcoming papers and opinion pieces; organizing events with Latin American delegations, CEPR staff, and visiting academics; assisting in tracking and logging press mentions; as well as working on outreach to press, advocacy organizations, and Congress.

The responsibilities vary based on their interests and experience, as well as the particular issues that CEPR is working on at the time. Interns will be able to attend relevant events around Washington, DC.

Qualifications: We are looking for applicants with a general understanding of economics, international relations, and democracy issues, and an interest in economic justice. Previous research, data and/or outreach experience is extremely helpful; interns with strong economics or foreign policy experience (including Master’s degrees) will have the opportunity to engage in serious research, and those with strong organizing or outreach experience will have event management opportunities. The intern will need to be fluent in Spanish, including the ability to perform accurate written translations; able to work in a fast-paced environment with limited management; and be a self-starter and independent learner. Should have excellent writing and communications skills.

Stipend: $1,588.41 per month, plus up to $250 for health insurance reimbursement per month.

Closing Date of Position: Open until position is filled.

To Apply: Send cover letter, resume, and a brief (2 page) answer to the question “How can the US improve its foreign policy toward Latin America?” via email to No calls or faxes please.

Organization Description: The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) was established in 1999 to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people’s lives. It is an independent nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, DC. CEPR is committed to presenting issues in an accurate and understandable manner, so that the public is better prepared to choose among the various policy options.

CEPR is an ideal place to learn about current economic and global justice issues in a friendly, relaxed and fun environment.  Work schedules are flexible.

CEPR is an equal opportunity employer that considers applicants for all positions without regard to race, color, religion, creed, gender, national origin, age, disability, marital or veteran status, sexual orientation, or any legally protected status.

Garment Workers Need a Living Wage

April 22, 2014 - 12:37

A recent study found that Haitian garment workers earn less than the minimum wage, which is itself much less than what a family needs to survive. Paying for transportation to work alone takes up most of a worker’s salary. Workers are fighting to raise the minimum wage to more than just scraping a living.

Garment Exports Rise but Haitian Workers Paid Starvation Wages

Solidarity Center
April 17, 2014

Despite a 45 percent increase in apparel exports since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the women and men who sew T-shirts and jeans primarily destined for the U.S. market barely earn enough to pay for their lunch and transportation to work, a new Solidarity Center survey finds.

  Despite rising exports, Haitian garment workers are paid so little they can barely afford food. Photo: Lauren Stewart

The average cost of living for an export apparel worker in Port-au-Prince is 26,150 Haitian gourdes (about $607) per month. Yet workers are paid only between 200 gourdes (about $4.64) and 300 gourdes for an eight-hour day (about $6.96). After insurance and social security deductions, most export apparel workers must spend more than half of their salaries on transportation to and from the factory and a modest lunch, leaving little to sustain a family or keep a roof over their heads.

“Workers interviewed in this study had to forgo basic necessities given the disparity between their earned wages and the cost of living,” according to the report. “When asked what they would purchase if they had sufficient income, workers responded with: more food to feed their families, land to build a home, (and) a car or moped to drive their children to school.”

The Solidarity Center survey finds that a real living wage must be approximately 1,000 gourdes  (about $23) per day to enable workers to meet basic needs. Haitian unions are demanding a minimum wage increase to at least 500 gourdes (about $11.60) per day and assert that anything lower equates to starvation wages. Despite the export industry’s growth, Haitian law mandates a reduced minimum wage for the sector, which is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere.

Housing (rental) costs spiked immediately after the earthquake, but prices have since fallen by nearly 28 percent. Yet workers still live in substandard housing and pay up to four times more than what they did prior to the disaster. Some families are unable to afford their children’s transportation to school, so many students must walk, sometimes long distances and along busy roads.

The High Cost of Low Wages in Haiti” analyzed such expense categories as housing, energy, nutrition, clothing, health care, education and transportation to classify the costs of an export apparel worker. The report also includes charts breaking down each category of expense. It follows a similar informal study the Solidarity Center conducted after the earthquake and used the same locally appropriate basket of goods to calculate the cost of living for a three-member household, comprised of one adult wage earner and two minor dependents (ages 8–14).

The report concludes: “Workers need access to decent jobs that pay a living wage and allow them to lead a dignified life. So long as jobs perpetuate worker exploitation and serve only as a means to fend off starvation, poverty will continue to grip the country and hinder the reconstruction process.”

Read the full report.


Click HERE for the original article.

PIH Recruiting Emergency Medicine Residency Director

April 22, 2014 - 12:20

Partners in Health is now recruiting an Emergency Medicine Residency Director for their new hospital in Mirebalais!


The Hôpital Universitaire Mirebalais Residency will be the first EM training program in Haiti and based at PIH’s new academic teaching hospital thirty miles north of Port-au-Prince. With existing residencies in surgery, pediatrics and medicine, the EM program will add to the postgraduate educational opportunities at Mirebalais, and be an opportunity to assist in establishing EM as a new specialty within the country.

See for more information about the hospital.

PIH is seeking BC/BE Emergency Physicians who are interested in joining the team. This is a full-time salaried position based at Mirebalais. For more information or if interested in applying, please contact Dr. Shada Rouhani ( or Dr. Regan Marsh (

 Please feel free forward this information widely to interested colleagues or networks.


Click HERE for more on the position.

2012 ‘CNN Hero of the Year’ speaking April 22 at NIU

April 22, 2014 - 09:00

At Northern Illinois University, CNN Hero of the Year Malya Villard-Appolon will address combating sexual violence in Haiti.


Regency Room, Holmes Student Center
Northern Illinois University
600 Lucinda Ave
DeKalb, IL 60115


April 22, 2014 at noon


This event is the third in the NIU Anthropology Museum’sReconstructing Haiti: Current Conditions, Lessons Learned and the Future Speaker Series. The Anthropology Museum will host Malya Villard-Appollon, the 2012 CNN Hero of the Year and co-founder of KOFAVIV (Commission of Women Victims for Victims). KOFAVIV is a grassroots organization in Haiti that provides women with physical and legal support in an effort to combat sexual violence.

Malya will speak about her advocacy work and how it has taken her to the courtroom, IDP camps, police officers, the UN base, and around the world to testify before the UN Commission on Human Rights, the U.S. State Department, and the IAHRC.  This event coincides with the museum’s current exhibit, Fragments: Haiti Four Years After the Earthquake.  For more information, please log on to the museum’s website at

 The event will be livestreamed here:


Click HERE for more info on Malya.

United Nations Should Compensate Cholera Victims

April 22, 2014 - 01:05

Briefly telling the story of cholera in Haiti, this editorial focuses on UN responsibility for the cholera epidemic and their subsequent denial of fault. It highlights United States involvement with the UN, saying the US should use their power to push for justice for cholera victims.

UNacceptable United Nations must own up to Haiti cholera epidemic

New York Daily News
April 20, 2014

Just-deceased literary legend Gabriel García Márquez might have called it “Cowardice in the Time of Cholera” — the horror story of how the United Nations is ducking responsibility for introducing the deadly disease to Haiti.

The tale begins in 2010, when soldiers from Nepal, where cholera is endemic, arrived to help the island nation recover from a devastating earthquake. Sewage from the UN camp almost certainly leaked into a waterway used for drinking.

Public health officials spotted symptoms of cholera near the outpost. Before long, Haitians, who had been blessedly cholera-free for a century and a half, were stricken with the disease by the hundreds of thousands.

This vicious infection causes diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration and death. At this point, more than 800,000 Haitians have suffered — and 8,000 have lost their lives.

As families buried sons, daughters, mothers and fathers, the global bureaucrats hemmed and hawed and denied any connection.

That didn’t last long — as a series of reports, including the findings of a 2011 UN-commissioned panel, connected the peacekeepers to the outbreak.

Then, the world body promised to make investments in better sanitation throughout Haiti. Necessary but insufficient.

The people of Haiti are suing the UN for the true compensation they are owed. It is callous to deny their right to pursue genuine legal accountability — but that is exactly what the UN is now doing, claiming immunity under a policy the United States supports.

The U.S. foots the bill for about a fifth of the UN’s $5.5 billion core budget, and for an even greater chunk of its larger budget for peacekeeping operations.

The U.S. should use all of its influence to ensure that the world body meets its full obligations to the Haitian people.


Click HERE for original.

No End in Sight for Dominicans in Limbo

April 21, 2014 - 08:57

The author tells the story of stateless Dominicans through that of Franklin Jaque José, a Dominican of Haitian descent whose life has been on hold for 12 years because of his ancestry. Although many human rights organizations have called on the Dominican government to rectify the situation caused by the September 2013 immigration ruling, President Medina doesn’t seem to be taking any action.

Life in limbo for Dominicans of Haitian descent

Robin Guittard,  CNN
April 21, 2014

“I don’t feel free,” Franklin Jaque José told me. “You’re in a circle where they get you trapped.”

Franklin is just one of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent who face significant legal barriers that prevent them from going about their day-to-day lives. Over the last decade, Franklin says he has not been able to continue his education, has had to leave school, and is now being denied access to formal jobs.

He is not alone. For years, Dominicans with Haitian parents who were raised in the country had been registered as Dominicans, which gave them the right to bear Dominican identity documents. Indeed, Franklin says that back in 1994, he was registered in the national Civil Registry and given a Dominican birth certificate. But about a decade ago, Franklin and many others of Haitian heritage began having difficulty accessing their official documents, including birth certificates, identity cards and passports.

Franklin says he first went to a civil registry office in Sabana Grande de Boyá, in the eastern part of the Dominican Republic. At that time, he was 18 years-old and finishing his secondary education when school officials asked him to present his ID card. But he didn’t have one. After several visits to different civil registry offices, including in the capital, Santo Domingo, the decision came: “We cannot deliver you an ID because your parents are foreigners.”

Such issues, and the often deep-rooted discrimination against those of Haitian descent that they reflect, were exacerbated last September, when the Dominican Republic’s national Constitutional Court in effect retroactively deprived thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent of their Dominican nationality. In blatant contradiction with the country’s international human rights obligations, and more specifically with a 2005 judgment from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Dominican constitutional court found that “children of undocumented migrants who have been in the Dominican Republic and registered as Dominicans as far back as 1929 cannot have Dominican nationality as their parents are considered to be ‘in transit.’”

Franklin was born in an impoverished “batey” – a village in the sugar cane region – where his parents settled after migrating from Haiti. And while the Haitian constitution states that the children of Haitians are themselves Haitians, there are numerous practical obstacles to people like Franklin securing Haitian citizenship, even if they wanted to simply abandon the country they have grown up in.

For a start, the earthquake in Haiti back in 2010 devastated record keeping. But the Haitian constitution also suggests that those who have held another nationality, as Franklin did despite the difficulty in obtaining documentation, forfeit their right to Haitian citizenship.

“We are extremely concerned [the ruling] may deprive tens of thousands of people of nationality, virtually all of them of Haitian descent, and have a very negative impact on their other rights,” Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said following the court judgment.

During my recent visit to the Dominican Republic with Amnesty International, I interviewed dozens of people who, like Franklin, have been deprived of their nationality and therefore of many other human rights. But Franklin’s story left a particularly bitter taste. Like me, Franklin was born in 1984. But unlike me, he hasn’t been able to get on with his life since his country has denied him access to his identity documents.

“It’s tough what happens to us, to grow up with no future, because someone else denied it to you, in your own country. This hurts, it hurts a lot,” Franklin told me during a visit to the country last month. “From my point of view, [this is] persecution…If we could study, we could overcome obstacles, pass our exams and go to university. This is outrageous, to have a youth who wants to progress, but who is denied. It seems to me inhuman.”

Six months have now passed since the constitutional judgment. Last October, Dominican President Danilo Medina recognized the “human drama” the constitutional judgment caused, and promised to initiate national consultations in hopes of finding a solution.

But hope that anything concrete will come of such consultations is fading. Earlier this month, Medina carried out yet more consultations, yet there still seems no end in sight for the limbo people such as Franklin find themselves in. And while President Medina’s seeming interest in the issue is welcome, any path forward must be consistent with the recent observations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which called on the Dominican Republic to restore Dominican nationality to those denationalized by the constitutional judgment, without requiring them to register as foreigners as a prerequisite for their rights to be recognized.

President Medina has the opportunity to put an end to the 12 long years of despair for Franklin. He has the opportunity to ensure that when Franklin turns 30 this June, he will do it with his Dominican nationality fully returned. It is more than time now to give him back his life.

The path forward for the Dominican Republic must be built on respect for the country’s people. Denying tens of thousands of people basic human rights such as basic recognition is no way to achieve this.


Click HERE for original.

Cholera Epidemic Still Rampant in Haiti

April 19, 2014 - 06:44

As the rainy season approaches, aid workers and United Nations officials struggle to contain Haiti’s cholera epidemic. Some attribute the problem to donor fatigue, to the Haitian government’s statements saying cholera is under control, or to cholera many clinics closing, among other factors.

U.N. Struggles to Stem Haiti Cholera Epidemic

Randal C. Archibold & Somini Sengupta, The New York Times
April 19, 2014

CHAPOTEAU, Haiti — For three years, the United Nations has refused to address whether its peacekeepers brought a deadly strain ofcholera to Haiti, insisting instead that it was more important to help the country stanch the disease once and for all.

But on that score, it is still very far behind. In some ways, Haiti is even less equipped to tackle cholera than it was three years ago.

The United Nations raised barely a fourth of the $38 million it needed last year to provide lifesaving supplies, including the most basic, like water purification tablets. Clinics have run short of oral rehydration salts to treat the debilitating diarrhea that accompanies the disease. Some treatment centers in the countryside have shut down as the aid groups that ran them have moved on to other crises. And a growing share of patients are dying after they finally reach hospitals, according to the United Nations’ own assessments.

Josilia Fils-Aime, 11, who lives in this village on an isolated spit of land near the Artibonite River, where the epidemic first began, knows these shortcomings all too well. Her family had run out of water purification tablets, and she drank water from what must have been a polluted stream nearby.

“I felt dizzy and sick,” the girl said. She was struck by sudden vomiting and diarrhea. Doctors diagnosed cholera.

Her predicament has multiplied across Haiti, which has had the most cholera cases in the world for three years in a row.

The United Nations has yet to raise the $5 million necessary to vaccinate 600,000 vulnerable people right away — as the rainy season approaches and the threat of waterborne illnesses like cholera looms — let alone the $2 billion that it promised to raise from rich countries to build Haiti’s water and sanitation infrastructure, which public health experts say is vital to ridding the country of cholera.

Pedro Medrano Rojas, the United Nations secretary general’s newly appointed envoy for the cholera outbreak, attributed the shortfall to global “donor fatigue” in the face of other humanitarian crises.

“Had we had the resources it would have been different,” Mr. Medrano said. “It’s not expensive. No one should be dying from cholera.”

Since the outbreak began in October 2010, 8,562 people in Haiti have died of cholera. New infections have declined, following the typical trajectory of an epidemic, from a peak of more than 350,000 reported cases in 2011 to a little more than 50,000 cases in 2013.

The United Nations is essential to solving the problem because, like many of the country’s institutions since the January 2010 earthquake, Haiti’s own health care system remains in shambles. Clean drinking water and sanitation remain as scarce as when the epidemic began. And where international nonprofit groups, along with the government, once operated 120 cholera treatment centers across the nation, the number has shrunk to barely 40 as aid groups have pulled out.

Perhaps that most troubling measure of all is the rising percentage of cholera patients who die in the treatment facilities that remain. As the United Nations mission said in its report to the Security Council in March, “That reflects weaknesses in the capacity of health centers to provide timely and adequate health services to patients affected by cholera and the longer travel time required for treatment as a result of the closure of many cholera treatment centers.”

Josilia Fils-Aime, for instance, most likely survived because Partners in Health, a nonprofit that has worked in Haiti for years, opened a satellite clinic near her home. The next closest cholera treatment center would have required a two-hour trek, including a boat ride.

“In any other country, you would declare it a humanitarian disaster,” said Dr. Louise Ivers, a health policy adviser for Partners in Health. “What’s going to happen when the rainy season starts?”

By Mr. Medrano’s estimates, as many as 40,000 people could become infected once the clouds break and the rivers swell.

Haiti’s cholera outbreak has spread to three countries across the region: the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Mexico. The fatality rates have been much lower in those countries, which have far better public health systems; it is a measure of how easy it can be to treat the disease.

Forensic studies, including one ordered by the United Nations, have concluded that the bacteria found in Haiti is an Asian strain common in Nepal, where hundreds of United Nations peacekeepers in Haiti came from. The forensic studies have also linked the spread of cholera to a flawed sanitation system at the Nepalese peacekeeper base, which contaminated a river tributary that many Haitians used for drinking and bathing water. The wastewater from the peacekeeping base, now occupied by Uruguayans, still flows into that stream, though the United Nations insists it is now treated.

The United Nations has maintained a steely silence about whether it is responsible for importing the disease to Haiti, where cholera had not been previously recorded.

In a stinging report in March, Gustavo Gallon, a special envoy for human rights in Haiti, took the United Nations to task for its failure to explain how the disease had spread to Haiti and who was responsible. He urged the United Nations to establish a commission “to enable damages to be recorded, corresponding benefits or compensation to be paid, the persons responsible to be identified, the epidemic to be stopped and other measures to be implemented.”

Three class-action lawsuits have been filed against the United Nations in American courts, asserting it was responsible for the outbreak. Responding for the United Nations, the United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, said in early March that he believed the United Nations Charterrendered the organization “absolutely immune from legal process and suit absent an express waiver.”

All three cases seek hefty compensation for victims. That is not only a costly proposition, but it also could set a daunting precedent for future peacekeeping missions around the world, Mr. Medrano cautioned.

To assuage the Haitian government, whose officials have sharply urged the United Nations to take “moral responsibility” for the outbreak, Mr. Medrano has agreed to be part of a high-level government committee to discuss how to address the needs of cholera victims, an issue that Mr. Medrano said the government has been “adamant” about.

“We would like to see how we can assist those communities, those persons who are affected by cholera,” he said.

The committee has not yet held its first meeting.

“I’m not so sure we will use the word ‘compensation,’ ” Mr. Medrano added.

Officials have often trumpeted their progress — the Haitian government last year declared the decline in cases as a sign that the epidemic was “under control,” despite disagreement from international doctors — which has sometimes undermined the sense of urgency.

“If they try to sound like there is no cholera, then when they ask for money to treat it, donors get confused,” said Oliver Schulz, the chief of mission for Doctors Without Borders, which runs several clinics.

All the while, Haitian government health workers involved in cholera treatment centers have not been paid in months, some for almost a year, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. A disease surveillance system that enabled workers around the country to send text messages about suspected cholera cases to the ministry of health does not always work, “delaying the response time,” according to a review by the humanitarian affairs office, which also recommended more systematic use of tests to differentiate cholera from other causes of diarrhea.

The ranks of malnourished children, who are most susceptible to cholera because of low immunity, have also grown in the last year. Less than two-thirds of the population has access to clean drinking water. According to the United Nations humanitarian office’s latest country report, published at the end of 2013, “the main cause for the persistence of cholera in Haiti is the lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities and poor hygienic practices.”

That is what brought Jislaine Marc, 15, to the general hospital in Port-au-Prince in early April. Her family said the girl had suddenly been struck by violent vomiting and diarrhea — the telltale, debilitating signs of cholera. Had she reached a hospital on time, she could have been saved, with one of the cheapest, easiest remedies of all: oral rehydration salts. But she did not. She died.

At the hospital, the girl was not tested for cholera. Hospital workers told the family she was dead on arrival. They ordered family members to take the body home. At first, the family refused to believe she was dead.

Soon, another family member showed symptoms and was rushed to a clinic run by Doctors Without Borders, which dispatched health workers to Jislaine’s house, sprayed it with a disinfectant bleach solution and informed the health ministry to remove the girl’s corpse.

“It was so sudden,” the girl’s aunt said, as the health workers adjusted a white tarp over Jislaine. “She was just a normal kid who went to school and church.”

Click HERE for original.

Workers’ Rights Ignored in “Haiti Open for Business”

April 17, 2014 - 13:31

This article describes the current situation for workers who choose to unionize in Haiti. Based on BAI and IJDH’s report on the topic, it details violations of workers’ rights and discusses the “open for business” model’s effect on workers.

New Report Details Persecution of Public and Private Sector Union Activists in Haiti

Center for Economic and Policy Research
April 17, 2014

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and its Haiti-based partner Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) have released a report outlining recent cases of persecution of organized workers in Haiti as well as Haitian government complicity in allowing illegal attacks against, and terminations of labor activists to occur without judicial consequences.  The report, titled “Haitian labor movement struggles as workers face increased anti-union persecution and wage suppression,” documents attacks and firings of union organizers by both public and private sector companies.

In mid-December of 2013, garment workers staged a walkout and demonstrations to protest the low wages and subpar working conditions in Haiti’s garment factories.  As Better Work Haiti revealed in its 2013 Biannual Review of Haitian garment companies’ compliance with labor standards, only 25 percent of workers receive the minimum daily wage of 300 Haitian gourdes (equivalent to $6.81). They also found a 91 percent non-compliance rate with basic worker protection norms.  The BAI/IJDH report explains that on the third day of the December protests, “the Association of Haitian Industries locked out the workers, claiming they had to shut the factories for the security of their employees.”  In late December and January, IJDH/BAI documented “at least 36 terminations in seven factories throughout December and January in retaliation for the two-day protest, mostly of union representatives. The terminations continue.”

The report notes that union leaders at Electricity of Haiti (EDH) – Haiti’s biggest state-run enterprise – have also been illegally terminated and even physically attacked.   As BAI/IJDH describe,

On January 10, 2014, the leaders of SECEdH [Union of Employees of l’EDH] held a press conference at EDH, as they had countless times over the last several years. The purpose of the January 10 press conference was to allege mismanagement and corruption at EDH. At the last minute, EDH management refused to let journalists in the building, although they had given permission for the press conference the day before. SECEdH’s leaders joined journalists on the street outside EDH’s parking lot gate to convene the press conference. EDH security guards pushed down the metal gate onto the crowd, hitting SECEdH’s treasurer in the head and knocking him unconscious. The security guards stood by while the employee lay on the ground bleeding and witnesses urged them to help. Some journalists took the injured employee to the hospital in one of their vehicles. He was released from the hospital but suffers constant pain in his head, shoulders, arms, and back from the heavy gate falling on him.

The following week, SECEdH’s executive committee, including the injured officer, received letters of termination dated January 10, 2014.

The report goes on to describe government complicity with employer infractions of labor laws at the level of the judicial system, where “public and private employers enjoy impunity” and where workers continue to have extremely limited access to the justice system as “court fees and lawyers are too expensive for the poor to afford” and “proceedings are conducted in French, which most Haitians do not speak.”  Moreover, the Ministry of Labor as well as the Tripartite Commission for the Implementation of the HOPE agreement (which mandates garment factory compliance with international labor standards and Haitian labor law) have “backpedalled on the 2009 minimum wage law and issued public statements that support factory owners’ interpretations and non-compliance with the piece rate wage.”  The reports suggests that part of this backpedalling may be caused by President Michel Martelly’s efforts to promote increased international investment in Haitian sweatshops:

Making Haiti “open for business” was a core piece of President Michel Martelly’s election platform that has won him political and economic support from the U.S. government, despite low voter turnout and flawed elections in 2010 and 2011. Part of the Martelly administration’s strategy to attract foreign investment has been to keep wages low so that Haiti can be competitive with the global low-wage market. Haiti has the third lowest monthly wages in the apparel industry, surpassing only Cambodia and Bangladesh. This U.S.-backed “sweat shop” economic model is similar to the model in the 1970s and 1980s under former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.

Click HERE for original.

March 2014 Update

April 17, 2014 - 08:05


Quick Links:

Other Links:

Report Documents Persecution Against Union Activists, Wage Suppression

April 16, 2014 - 14:34




Mario Joseph, Av., Managing Attorney, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI),, +011 509 2943 2106/07 (in Haiti, speaks French and Creole)

Nicole Phillips, Esq., Staff Attorney, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH),, +1 510 715 2855 (in U.S., speaks English and French)

New report documents persecution against union activists and wage suppression in Haiti

(PORT-AU-PRINCE, April 16, 2014)— A report released today by Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) entitled, Haitian labor movement struggles as workers face increased anti-union persecution and wage suppression describes persecution against union activists, wage suppression and worker exploitation in the public sector and apparel industry four years after the January 12, 2010 earthquake.

The coordinator of a teachers union, Josué Mérielien, was reportedly detained today by police for several hours along with his lawyer, André Michel, as they started a series of meetings in the countryside to mobilize communities in favor of quality public education and higher wages for teachers. Mérielien was summoned by the Port-au-Prince prosecutor on January 29, 2014, after he protested an agreement reached by some teachers unions and government officials that ended a national teachers strike. Police detention, intimidation and harassment in retaliation for lawful union activities are strictly prohibited by the Haitian labor code and international law.

The government’s alleged harassment against Mérielien and his lawyer is just one example of anti-union persecution described in the report. Dozens of union leaders and activists have recently been terminated. At least 36 employees in the apparel industry were terminated in response to their protest in December 2013 asking for higher wages. The entire executive committee of a union was terminated by the state-owned public utility company after they tried to organize a press conference denouncing the company’s corrupt practices. A union officer was severely injured when the company’s security violently broke up the press conference. Mario Joseph, the BAI’s managing lawyer and one of the authors of this report says that “public and private employers must stop harassing and terminating workers in retaliation for lawful union activity.”

According to Joseph, who represents many of these workers in claims for reinstatement and back pay, “rather than protecting workers rights, the Haitian government has been complicit in labor and employment violations. The complicity starts with the exclusionary justice system, which caters to Haiti’s elite and excludes the poor.” Joseph calls on the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, which has jurisdiction over workers’ claims, to “ensure that workers obtain fair and impartial hearings.”

Workers in the apparel industry also experience wage suppression. The apparel industry has recently been revitalized with international support as part of Haiti’s earthquake reconstruction. But according to recent reports, all 24 of Haiti’s apparel factories have not been paying the minimum wage for piece-rate workers. Joseph urges apparel factories to set a production rate to allow workers performing piece work to earn a minimum of 300 Gourdes a day ($6.97 a day/$.87 an hour), in compliance with the 2009 minimum wage law.  According to Joseph, “apparel industry employers in violation of the law should pay workers back pay retroactive to the date the rate took effect under the law.” Joseph also encourages the Haitian government to allow more debate on the minimum wage so that all stakeholders, including workers, can participate and express their views.

The report is available here.



Haitian labor movement struggles as workers face increased anti-union persecution and wage suppression

April 16, 2014 - 11:06

Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
April 16, 2014

This report released by Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) describes persecution against union activists, wage suppression and worker exploitation in Haiti’s public sector and apparel industry four years after the January 12, 2010 earthquake.[i] The report summarizes troubling trends the BAI, a Port-au-Prince-based law office, observes from its clients fighting for the right to organize and a living wage. The report also proposes a series of recommendations for the Haitian government, employers, and foreign investors like the United States government, as well as international partners wanting to support Haiti’s labor movement. 

Dozens of union leaders and activists have recently been terminated from their jobs. At least 36 employees in the apparel industry have been terminated in response to their protest in December 2013 asking for higher wages. Similarly, the entire executive committee of a union was terminated by the state-owned public utility company after they tried to organize a press conference denouncing the company’s corrupt practices. One union officer was severely injured when the company’s security guards violently broke up the press conference. The report calls on public and private employers to stop terminating workers in retaliation for lawful union activity.

The report also describes the Haitian government’s complicity in labor and employment violations. The complicity starts with the exclusionary justice system, which caters to Haiti’s elite and excludes the poor. The report calls on the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, which has jurisdiction over workers’ claims, to ensure that workers obtain fair and impartial hearings.

Workers in the apparel industry also experience wage suppression. The apparel industry has recently been revitalized with international support as part of Haiti’s earthquake reconstruction. But according to recent reports, all 24 of Haiti’s apparel factories have not been paying the minimum wage for piece-rate workers.

The report urges apparel factories to set a production rate to allow workers performing piece work to earn a minimum of 300 Gourdes a day ($6.97 a day/$.87 an hour), in compliance with the 2009 minimum wage law. The report recommends that apparel industry employers in violation of the law pay workers back pay retroactive to the date the rate took effect under the law. The Haitian government is also encouraged to allow more debate on the minimum wage so that all stakeholders, including workers, can participate and express their views.



Three fundamental challenges facing the workers movement in Haiti

Union Persecution. Dozens of union leaders and activists have recently been terminated for their union-related activity. All five members of the leadership of the Union of Employees of l’EDH (Le syndicat des employés conséquents de l’EDH or SECEdH) were terminated after they held a press conference on January 10, 2014, alleging company mismanagement and corruption. EDH (Haiti Electricity) is Haiti’s state-owned electricity company.  One union officer was severely injured when EDH’s security guards violently broke up the press conference. Similarly, at least 36 employees in the apparel industry have been terminated in response to their protest in December 2013 asking for higher wages, and more are being terminated every week. The BAI represents many of these workers before the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (known by the French acronym as “MAST”) in their request for reinstatement and back pay.

Wage Suppression. Employers in the apparel industry have not been paying the minimum wage for piece-rate workers, according to reports from the Washington DC based organization Workers Rights Consortium and Better Work Haiti, an oversight agency operated by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) and funded by the United States and Canadian governments and major brands and retailers. The reports claim that all 24 of Haiti’s apparel factories are underpaying their workers by approximately one-third of the established wage rate. In response, workers are asking for a rise of the minimum wage from 200/300 Gourdes per day to a living wage of 500 Gourdes per day ($1.45 an hour/$11.63 a day). The minimum wage issue has increased tension between workers, factory owners and the government. The BAI is actively involved in the minimum wage debate on workers’ behalf.

Worker Exploitation. Rather than protecting workers rights, the Haitian government has been complicit in labor and employment violations. The complicity starts with the exclusionary justice system, which caters to Haiti’s elite and excludes the poor. Haitian law contains basic employment and labor protections, but the impunity for employers’ unwillingness to obey the law results in endemic worker exploitation. The BAI is working to pressure MAST, which has jurisdiction over labor and employment cases, to ensure that workers are afforded fair hearings and access to judicial remedies.

[i] More information about the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) is available at



Click HERE for the full report.


Yet Another Haitian Human Rights Defender Threatened

April 15, 2014 - 12:27

Tuesday April 15, Amnesty International released an urgent action to protect human rights activist Pierre Esperance. Esperance received a note with a bullet, threatening him and telling him to stop speaking. This is yet another incident demonstrating the risks human rights defenders in Haiti face all the time, especially those who speak out against the government.

Amnesty: Haiti human rights activist threatened

Trenton Daniels, Miami Herald
April 15, 2014

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – A leading human rights activist in Haiti has been threatened for his work, Amnesty International said Tuesday, marking the latest documented case of attacks or threats against watchdog groups in the Caribbean nation.

Pierre Esperance received a menacing letter at his organization’s office in the Haitian capital earlier this month, along with a bullet, according to a statement from Amnesty.

The letter accused Esperance, executive director of the National Human Rights Defense Network, of publishing false reports aimed at destabilizing President Michel Martelly’s government.

It also mentioned an earlier attack on Esperance when he survived bullet wounds to the shoulder and knee while driving his car.

“In 99 we missed you, this time you won’t escape it, stop speaking,” the letter said, according to Amnesty.

A complaint was lodged with the public prosecutor, and judicial police are believed to have opened an investigation, Amnesty said.

Esperance and his group have been actively publishing reports that range from the government’s alleged ties to drug traffickers to the sluggish case involving Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the former dictator who faces charges on human rights abuses and embezzlement.

The alleged threat against Esperance is the latest aimed at Haiti’s human rights advocates over recent months.

“Those who denounce corruption and impunity can be victims at any time,” Esperance said by telephone.

Some attorneys have reported being followed or receiving menacing phone messages. One lawyer working on a corruption case was locked up overnight by police who said he was detained on unrelated charges.

In February, an activist and his wife were gunned down in Port-au-Prince, and his colleagues said the slaying was for his work. The case is still under investigation.

Martelly’s administration has repeatedly said it won’t tolerate corruption.

Frustration with the government boiled over into the streets Tuesday when about a thousand people demonstrated in the capital to call for the departure of Martelly for alleged corruption and waste. Young men burned tires and debris along the route.

The demonstration culminated near the grounds of the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, when police fired tear gas canisters and rifles in the air to disperse the crowd. Protesters retaliated by throwing rocks.


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Urgent Action for Human Rights Defender Pierre Espérance

April 15, 2014 - 09:41

Human rights defender and executive director of the National Human Rights Defence Network, Pierre Espérance, has received death threats at his office. Amnesty International has issued an urgent action to protect Pierre and urges everyone to share it with their networks.

Haiti: Fear for safety of human rights defender: Pierre Espérance

Amnesty International
April 15, 2014

On 2 April Pierre Espérance, a prominent Haitian human rights defender, received a letter containing a bullet and death threats related to his work. Amnesty International fears for his safety and that of other human rights defenders in the country.

On 2 April, Pierre Espérance, executive director of the National Human Rights Defence Network (Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains, RNDDH), one of Haiti’s leading human rights organizations, received a threatening letter at the organization’s office. The letter contained a gun bullet and accused Pierre Espérance and the RNDDH of putting up false reports aiming to destabilise the government. It also mentioned the attack on Pierre Espérance in 1999 when he escaped a shooting by gunmen in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. The letter concluded that “in 99 we missed you, this time you won’t escape it, stop speaking bullshit”.

A complaint was lodged on 9 April with the office of the public prosecutor and the judicial police is believed to have opened an investigation.

In recent months, the RNDDH has presented various reports on issues such as a touristic project affecting residents in Île-à-Vache Island, the judicial process against former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. The organization has also criticized the current government for alleged corruption, manipulation of the justice system and impunity.

Amnesty International is concerned for the vulnerability of human rights defenders in Haiti, many of whom have suffered attacks in the last few months, and urges the authorities to immediately take steps to provide adequate protection to the defenders and their families.

Please write immediately in French or your own language:

Expressing concern for the safety of Pierre Espérance and calling on the authorities to provide effective protection to him according to his wishes;

Calling on the authorities to immediately and independently investigate the accusation of threats and intimidation against Pierre Espérance and prosecute those found responsible; Reminding the authorities of their duty to guarantee that human rights defenders can carry out their work without fear of reprisals, as established in the 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.


Minister of Justice and Public Security
(Ministre de la Justice et de la Securité Publique)
Jean Renel Sanon
18 avenue Charles Summer
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Salutation: Monsieur le Ministre / Dear Minister

General Director of the Haitian Police
(Directeur Général de la PNH)
Godson Orélus Police Nationale d’Haiti
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Salutation: Monsieur le directeur / Dear Director

And copies to:

9, rue Rivière
Port-au-Prince, Haïti
Fax: + (509) 2244.4146�Email:

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please insert local diplomatic addresses below: Name Address 1 Address 2 Address 3 Fax Fax number Email Email address Salutation Salutation

Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.


fear for safety of human rights defender


For more information about the attack on Pierre Espérance in 1999 please see Urgent Action 45/99 (AMR 36/001/1999):

Several human rights defenders have reported to be victims of threats and attacks in recent times in Haiti. The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights issued precautionary measures in favour of human rights lawyers Mario Joseph and Patrick Florvilus respectively in October 2012 and November 2013 requesting the Haitian state to adopt any necessary measures to guarantee the life and personal integrity of the lawyers. In repeated occasions during 2013, Kouraj, a LGBTI rights group, has been the victim of threats and intimidations during public demonstrations held in Port-au-Prince (see Urgent Action AMR 36/014/2013, and of a direct attack against the premises of the organization in November (see Urgent Action AMR 36/021/2013

On 8 February 2014, human rights defender Daniel Dorsinvil, and his wife were killed by a gunman in the residential neighbourhood of Canapé Vert of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. The circumstances and the motives of the killings remain unclear. An investigation was opened and various people are currently held in pre-trial detention. However, the Port-au-Prince prosecutor has still to formulate formal charges. In February Amnesty International called for a thorough investigation into the killing (see

In accordance with the 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, authorities in Haiti must fulfil their obligation to protect human rights defenders and to fully investigate attacks against them and bring those responsible to justice. They also have the duty to guarantee that human rights defenders can carry out their work without fear of reprisals. Name: Pierre Espérance

Gender m/f: m

UA: 87/14 Index: AMR 36/009/2014 Issue Date: 15 April 2014


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US Government Haiti Housing Project Falls Short

April 15, 2014 - 08:21

A USAID audit of a US housing project for Haiti found that the project has fallen far short of its goals after the 2010 earthquake. USAID increased funding in order to compensate for its shortcomings but delays have been blamed on many things, such as protests and land tenure disputes. USAID is now considering using mortgages to build homes.

Report finds faults in US housing effort in Haiti

Trenton Daniel, Associated Press
April 15, 2014

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – An effort by Washington to build housing for Haitians in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake has fallen short and exceeded costs, a U.S. government report said Tuesday.

The audit by the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Agency for International Development said the project to build 4,000 houses outside Haiti’s capital resulted in the construction of only 816.

The U.S. plan also sought to provide “home sites” on which others would pay for the construction of houses. This, too, fell short, with USAID completing engineering and design services for only 2,300 home sites out of a projected 11,000.

The project was part of a broader effort to develop infrastructure and build homes on four settlements outside Port-au-Prince to alleviate overcrowding in the capital, a metropolitan area of 3 million people.

The audit is the latest by the U.S. government that has criticized efforts to provide housing or shelter for Haitians since the quake, which killed tens of thousands of people and destroyed about 105,000 homes.

At one time, as many as 1.5 million people lived in impromptu settlements in an around the capital following the disaster. But that number has since fallen to 137,500, the decline largely attributed to rental subsidies.

To compensate for the shortfall in the U.S. project, USAID increased funding from $55 million to $90 million and extended the completion date to October 2014, the audit said. But as of July 2013 the mission had approved construction contracts for only 906 houses and issued no contracts for providing basic services and infrastructure to the home sites. Current contracts provide only engineering services at 6,220 home sites.

Delays in construction were blamed on land tenure disputes, design changes, protests and an emphasis on using local labor and products.

USAID’s mission director in Haiti, John Groarke, said the agency’s efforts to house Haitians were “succeeding despite the many challenges of working in Haiti.” More than 328,000 people have benefited from USAID housing support since the quake, he said.

The agency will now try to build homes through the use of mortgages, Groarke said.

Two USAID audits published last year documented similar shortcomings.

USAID said such audits are a “welcome standard practice” for its programs worldwide and they help improve performance.


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World Bank Head Urges Support for Cholera Elimination

April 12, 2014 - 07:07

World Bank head Jim Yong Kim recognizes progress in eliminating cholera from Haiti but also stresses that more needs to be done. The cholera elimination plan formed by the Haitian government and the UN is still mostly unfunded and donors aren’t assisting the aid efforts enough.

World Bank head Jim Yong Kim calls for renewed urgency in Haiti’s cholera fight

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald
April 12, 2014

The head of the World Bank is calling for a renewed sense of urgency and more coordination from the international community to help Haiti eliminate cholera, which has killed thousands of Haitians since its outbreak in October 2010.

“Cholera can be eliminated in Haiti. We need to do much more to strengthen Haitian institutions and support the government’s cholera elimination plan,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “This will require an integrated multi-sector approach that prioritizes improvements in water and health programs for the most vulnerable people.”

Kim’s appeal comes ahead of an April 22 meeting in Port-au-Prince to review the progress in Haiti’s cholera fight, and an upcoming delivery of anti-cholera medication this week. On Wednesday, JetBlue Airways will lead a humanitarian mission to Haiti, transporting among other supplies, water purification powder for 4 million liters of fresh water to help prevent the disease’s transmission.

Earlier this month, the European Commission gave $2 million to UNICEF to strengthen prevention and rapid response to cholera in Haiti ahead of hurricane season, which begins in June.

“This contribution will allow UNICEF and its partners to intensify actions on the ground, especially in the high-risk areas,” said Edouard Beigbeder, the UNICEF representative in Haiti.

But much more is needed said Kim, whose own donor organization has contributed more than $35 million in cholera prevention and treatment, and this year plans to invest $30 million in a water project.

Meanwhile, a $2.27 billion, 10-year cholera elimination plan launched by Haiti and the United Nations is struggling to attract donors’ support. The plan outlines needed investments in water and sanitation as well as prevention, surveillance and management of cases.

Human-rights activists and lawyers who have filed several lawsuits in U.S. courts on behalf of victims and their families against the United Nations, accuse the global body of introducing the disease in Haiti. The U.N. has refused to address the accusations directly, instead assigning a senior coordinator to help coordinate the cholera response plan.

Pedro Medrano, the U.N.’s cholera envoy, has also accused donors of not doing enough to assist in the elimination efforts. If donors don’t step up, Medrano said, cholera could not only spike in Haiti but further spread to other countries in the hemisphere.

Kim voiced similar concerns Friday during a meeting of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund.

Since the waterborne disease’s outbreak in Haiti, 10 months after the country’s devastating earthquake, cholera has killed more than 8,500 Haitians and sickened more than 700,000, according to Haiti’s health ministry.

And while the country is seeing some of the lowest numbers of suspected cholera cases since the outbreak — they have dropped from a monthly average of more than 35,000 in the first year of the epidemic to around 4,900 in 2013 — experts warn Haiti still has the highest number of reported cholera cases in the world.

“Much progress has been made, but there is a clear shortfall of resources. We need to come up with a solution that is equal to the challenge,” Kim said.

During the meeting, World Bank Group specialists discussed with Haitian government officials and others how Bangladesh, Peru, and other countries’ success in eliminating cholera could help Haiti in its efforts.

It was also noted that despite ongoing efforts to improve water and sanitation in Haiti, the country still has the lowest coverage in the hemisphere; only 69 percent of Haitians have access to safe drinking water, and 27 percent to improved sanitation.


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Thousands of Haitians Still Lack Housing Post-Quake

April 11, 2014 - 12:03

While the Haitian government has had a few housing successes post-quake, such as Village Lumane Casimir and emptying many IDP camps in Port-au-Prince, thousands of Haitians still remain in camps. After money from the government’s 16/6 Plan ran out, those without jobs ended up right back in dilapidated shelters. Everyone still questions what happened to the billions in aid money post-quake, and all the jobs that were supposed to be created by new construction around the capital.

Despite an outpouring of aid after the devastation of Port-au-Prince, it’s the same old story for many of the city’s poor.

Lisa Armstrong, TakePart
April 11, 2014

Richard François felt relief and a sliver of hope the day he moved his family into the house a few minutes from the homeless camp in the Champs de Mars, one of Port-au-Prince’s main public squares, where they’d been living. It was just a single room, but safer and more solid than the tarp-and-wood structure they’d called home for two years, after their house collapsed in the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake that devastated the city. François’ wife, Johanne, had given birth to their daughter on the street two days after the earthquake; he’d cut the umbilical cord himself, using a razor blade. The family had endured days with no food, and nights of terror as bandits and rapists roamed the camp, and storms that ripped their tarp roof away, leaving them soaked.

Then, in early 2012, the International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental organization that responds to mass displacement, offered an irresistible deal to François and the 4,600 others who had been living in the makeshift camp on the Champs de Mars: If they found homes, IOM would pay their rent for a year, up to about $500. The $500 wouldn’t allow for much; at the time, an IOM official said, “We’re not talking about a house. We’re talking about renting a room, space on the floor, with a roof, access to water, a communal kitchen, maybe a toilet.” Still, a solid room was better than a tent in a camp.

“IOM moved us to a place where we had water, a clinic, security,” says François, 26. “We were in peace.”

But François’ happiness soon began to fade. He couldn’t find a job, and there were still days when his family did not eat. Apart from the hunger, François knew that once the IOM stipend was exhausted, he would not have the means to continue paying rent.

Today François is back in Fort National, the ramshackle neighborhood he lived in before the earthquake, in a home made with zinc sheet walls and a tarp roof. He lives alone; his wife has had enough of living as a squatter and has taken their daughter to live with family.

In February 2012, the Haitian government, in conjunction with IOM and other NGOs, set about relocating the 420,000 people who were still living in camps for internally displaced persons (IDP), the international community’s term for people who lose or are forced from their homes but don’t cross an international border. The 16/6 plan, so named because the goal was to repair earthquake-damaged housing in 16 neighborhoods and relocate residents of six camps, plus the one in the Champs de Mars, has been heralded as a success. Government figures proudly proclaim that 90 percent of the people who were living in camps have been relocated. Yet François is not alone: It’s become clear now that the IOM stipends are running out and there is little in the way of programs for the 70 percent of Haitians who lack steady employment; many of them are, like François, back on the streets.

After the earthquake there was an unprecedented outpouring of support from Americans and aid organizations for an overseas aid mission—more than half a billion dollars was donated in the first two weeks. The Red Cross collected $28 million by text message alone in that time period. Just a few days after the quake, amassive relief effort began, crunched into the devastated airport. Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush launched a nonprofit to help Haiti “rebuild its future through economic opportunities,” and Hollywood did its telethon thing.

Four years later, on the surface you can see progress in Port-au-Prince. The Champs de Mars, which was once a sea of tents, tarps, and filth, has been restored to a beautiful park—a success, thanks to the 16/6 plan—but officials from IOM and the government say they really don’t know whether the camp’s former residents are still in homes or are back on the streets. “Current government housing initiatives seem to focus more on preventing people from living in public squares than providing them with safe homes,” said Javier Zúñiga, special advisor at Amnesty International, in a 2013 report. Many thousands of Haitians are no better off than they were the day before the earthquake, and the tens of millions of dollars invested in projects intended to help create jobs and lift the economy isn’t helping those who need it most. If crisis is an opportunity, it seems the earthquake was an opportunity wasted.

According to the U.N. Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti, just over $9 billion has been disbursed toward relief and reconstruction efforts in Haiti; 59 percent went to U.N. agencies, international NGOs, and private contractors, 40 percent went to the donor countries’ civil/military entities, and 1 percent went to the Haitian government. The problem, writes Vijaya Ramachandran, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, a Washington, D.C., think tank, is, “Despite commitments made by rich country governments and non-governmental organizations towards greater aid transparency…it is impossible to trace how the money was spent, how many Haitians were served, and what kinds of projects succeeded or failed.”

Before the earthquake, 27-year-old John Jeannot had a small business selling water, soda, and juice. Like François, he was relocated in 2012 from the Champs de Mars camp to a house but is now living in Fort National, in a zinc-and-tarp structure with a bright yellow door, faded yellow curtains, and two chickens tied up in the back. He suspects that IOM and the government have money that could have been used to create jobs but that they’re instead keeping for themselves: “The government and the NGOs are big eaters,” he says. “When they are walking, you can see how big are their pockets, and our pockets are flat.”

The World Bank Group contributed $26.5 million to a new Marriott in Port-au-Prince; construction workers at the site said they’re being paid significantly less than what the hotel company and a contractor claim.

About 10 miles up the hill from Fort National, three luxury hotels have recently opened in Pétionville, Port-au-Prince’s poshest neighborhood, and a fourth, a Marriott, is under construction. The hotels, with their ornate fountains, orchid- and palm-filled courtyards, and modish restaurants, where lunchtime salads and sandwiches fetch business-class prices of $13 to $18, are manifestations of an explicit strategy for economic growth announced by Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.

At the January 2013 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an annual meeting of corporate and government leaders from around the world that’s like Burning Man for the 1 percent, Lamothe said that one key to rebuilding the country was tourism and that the government was investing in the industry to stimulate economic growth, with the belief that economic benefits would trickle down to the poor. “Our strategy is very simple,” Lamothe said at this year’s forum. “In order to fight poverty, we need to create wealth.”

Wealth for whom? one might ask. The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund invested $2 million in Pétionville’s Royal Oasis, where rooms go for $250 a night and up. Its website stated that its $2 million equity stake in the venture would generate income that it would later plow into other projects and programs over the long term. The International Financial Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, contributed $26.5 million to the Marriott project.

Mari Snyder, vice president of social responsibility & community engagement at Marriott International, says the project currently has 201 full-time employees.

“The quake took away 50 percent of Haiti’s hotel capacity,” Snyder says. “Travel and tourism is a primary economic driver in developing societies, and that’s where we come in. Hotels are part of that equation.”

Robenson is a mason working on the Marriott. (His last name will not be published to protect against potential reprisals for speaking to the media.) He got the job last September but says it was not easy: “I spent many days going back and forth, three weeks, four weeks, coming here every single day,” says Robenson, 28. “I think at the end they were tired of seeing me and just gave me a job.”

Though Marriott says that masons like Robenson are employed full-time and paid $20 a day, Robenson says he only makes $7 a day and works two or three days a week, earning a maximum of $84 a month. “After my wife, two children, and I eat, there is nothing left!” he says.

It is impossible to trace how the money was spent, how many Haitians were served, and what kinds of projects succeeded or failed.

— Vijaya Ramachandran, Center for Global Development

Several other construction workers said they were earning $7 an hour and working a similar schedule as Robenson. (Asked about the discrepancy, spokesperson for Marriott and Digicel, another major investor in the project, said their numbers had come from a subcontractor.)

Robenson’s success at finding work rebuilding Haiti is the kind of minor victory Haiti needed to replicate many thousands of times over. Fabien Sambussy, an operations manager at IOM, says the original goal of the relocation program was to allow people to find jobs. It was never meant to be a long-term solution: “It was just to buy time, get people out of the camp and give them an opportunity to move ahead.”

But Nicole Phillips, a staff attorney at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a Boston-based human rights advocacy group, says that this is not what the government said of the 16/6 plan when it was launched. “It was supposed to be a sustainable housing solution to earthquake displacement,” says Phillips.

Sambussy says that among the dozens of relief groups and other donor organizations that descended on Port-au-Prince after the quake, IOM was tasked only with dealing with the emergency response to the earthquake and that the main issue, socioeconomic development, is something that will take time and should be tackled by the Haitian government.

Many Haitians try to earn money through informal jobs such as street vendors but lost all their goods during the earthquake and lacked the funds or access to capital to restart their businesses afterward. In its report, “Nowhere to Go: Forced Evictions in Haiti’s Displacement Camps,” Amnesty International wrote last year that the solution is job creation: “Many families now benefiting from the rent subsidy fear they will not be able to cover the expense the following year if the government, with the assistance of its international partners, does not put in place a programme to assist them [in rebuilding] their livelihoods.”

Sambussy echoed the Amnesty report. “The time scale of clearing the [IDP] camp in a school yard so children can go back to school, or getting a woman out of the camp where gangs and rapists are operating, it’s something that we can do from today to tomorrow,” he said. “But the improvement of the social economy of Port-au-Prince, we’re talking about how long? Five years, 10 years? Are we in the position to pay the rent for five or 10 years?”

Zette and her six grandchildren live in a wood-and-tarp makeshift house in Christ Roi, the same neighborhood where Zette once owned a three-room house, which collapsed during the earthquake.

Like Richard François, Zette, 56, moved to the Champs de Mars camp after the earthquake. Through IOM’s partnership with the Commission of Women Victims for Victims (KOFAVIV), an organization that supports rape victims, Zette and several other women were relocated from IDP camps. Zette’s eight-year-old granddaughter, whom she cares for, was raped in the Champs de Mars camp in 2011.

John Jeannot’s rent subsidy ran out before he could find steady work or accumulate the capital necessary to restart the business he lost in the earthquake. Now he lives in this hut in Fort National.

Port-au-Prince had a housing shortage even before the earthquake, a situation that was dramatically worsened as 105,000 houses were destroyed and more than 200,000 were badly damaged by the quake. With the diminished housing stock, landlords were able to raise prices, and according to interviews with several landlords and many others, most now require that tenants pay an entire year’s rent before moving in—something that many in Port-au-Prince (or in Miami, Manila, or Helsinki, for that matter) simply cannot afford. The practice suggests one measure the government might have taken— enforcing a ban on rent-in-advance—though that might have proved difficult given its limited resources.

In addition to relocating people to surviving structures, IOM built 11,447 T-shelters—one-room homes made of plywood, with zinc roofs, for people in IDP camps.

My dream is to rebuild my business and with the money, I can leave this area. There’s no water, no electricity; it’s a dangerous area.

— Myrline, 56, earthquake victim

Zette and her granddaughter were moved to a T-shelter in Croix-des-Bouquets, a suburb eight miles outside Port-au-Prince. She and another quake victim, Myrline, 56, who was raped four months after the earthquake and moved by KOFAVIV to a T-shelter nearby, said that the T-shelters’ plywood walls would swell when it rained, and the roofs leaked. (Due to the stigma attached to victims of rape, Zette and Myrline requested that their last names not be published.)

Though IOM had built the shelters, it had leased the land where they stood, and only for a year. At the end of the year, the landowner told Zette and Myrline that they had to pay rent. The women both had small businesses after the earthquake—Myrline sold coffee by the roadside, and Zette sold milk, candy, flour, and other food items—Myrline’s son became sick, and she says she spent all of her money on medical tests and doctors’ bills. Zette said she could not sustain her business, because it cost her too much to travel back and forth between her home and where she plied her wares, and she had no one to watch her grandchildren. She tried to sell the goods in the neighborhood near her T-shelter, but she says the people in the community chose to support their own, and did not buy from her.

The women could not pay the landlord, and one day last November, while Zette was out, he demolished her T-shelter and placed her belongings under a mango tree. The landlord told Myrline if she didn’t move, he would destroy her house next.

Myrline was provided with shelter after months of living in a makeshift camp of people who’d lost their homes in the quake, but she now lives in this tent.

Myrline now lives in a tent in the Village Grâce de Dieu camp, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.

“My dream is if [the government] can help me to rebuild my business and with the money, I can leave this area,” says Myrline. “There’s no water, no electricity; if I want to charge my phone, I have to come to Port-au-Prince. It’s a dangerous area. I have already been raped; I do not want to be a victim again.”

The government has been building houses for former camp residents not far from Village Grâce de Dieu.

“It’s the first time in the whole life of Haiti that there is a government for which the housing problem is considered a real problem,” says Harry Adam, executive director of the Unit for Housing and Public Buildings Construction (UCLBP), a government agency.

Village Lumane Casimir, a development of 1,500 small houses, is one of the government’s successes. As the sun sets here, young men—several of them amputees on crutches—play soccer in a dead-end street, and a woman sings as she washes clothes. Seide Jean, 29, and his friends move furniture from the back of a minivan into his new house while his two young daughters play outside. Jean and his family have been living in a camp since the earthquake. His wife is a policewoman, earning about $300 a month, so they have enough money to qualify for a home in Village Lumane Casimir: They had to pay $55 to get water and electricity connections, and though the rent is government subsidized, they still have to pay $270 every six months.

The 1,500 new homes at Village Lumane Casimir are viewed as one of the government’s successful housing programs implemented since the quake. It’s affordable for those with jobs, but about 70 percent of Haitians lack steady employment.

UCLBP also spent millions of dollars restoring homes in Jalousie, a shantytown built into the steep sides of a hill overlooking Pétionville. The view of Jalousie from the Pétionville hotels is breathtaking, with its previously stark, gray, concrete houses now painted pink, green, blue, yellow—an homage to Haitian artist Préfète Duffaut.

To those who say building houses rather than painting Jalousie should have been the priority, Adam says: “In the past three years, you know how many hotels were built in Pétionville? If you have people coming, spending money, investing, building hotels, would you leave that area [looking] like [it did]? It’s a choice. The choices are difficult, and you will never have everyone agreeing with your choices.”

He also acknowledges that UCLBP’s other showcase project, Village Lumane Casimir, does not meet the needs of all Haitians: “This project is not for the very, very, very poor. The government has subsidized programs for them, like welfare.” He said that Haiti was poor before the earthquake, so the problem of poverty cannot be solved overnight. When asked why the government hadn’t put in place a plan to create more jobs, Adams referred me to the prime minister; his press officer and others did not respond to several emails.

François and Jeannot say they do not want charity from the government. All they want is jobs, but they know that while they may exist in Pétionville, those jobs are not for people like them.

“Pétionville is not for us. Pétionville is for the mulattoes, and we are from the masses,” says Jeannot.

François, who is a mason by trade and would therefore qualify for a job building the new hotels, nods and crosses his arms over the words written on his shirt: “Get Rich or Die.”

“The money stays up; the money doesn’t come down,” he says, pointing to Pétionville. “They share the money among them. Here we live in misery.”


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Dominican Children Denied Education Due to Haitian Ancestry

April 11, 2014 - 11:52

Due to misinterpretations of Dominican Republic law, many children with Haitian ancestry are being denied an education in DR. This is yet another consequence of the September 2013 immigration ruling that strips citizenship from countless Dominicans of Haitian ancestry.

Report: Education limited for Dominican-Haitians

Danica Coto, My San Antonio
April 11, 2014

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Children of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic are increasingly being barred from attending school following a court ruling that could lead to tens of thousands of people being stripped of their citizenship, according to a report released Friday.

Dozens of families with school-age children say they are being turned away or harassed due to arbitrary interpretations of the court ruling and Dominican laws, according to researchers at theHuman Rights Institute at Georgetown University Law Center who compiled the report.

As a result, some children drop out of school or lose scholarships while others are forced into underage labor, said Kimberly Fetsick, one of the report’s authors.

“Children are being harmed, and their human rights are being violated,” she said. “Action must be taken to protect these children.”

The report analyzed one of the impacts of a September 2013 court ruling that could let the government retroactively strip citizenship mostly from people of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic. Human rights groups have said roughly 200,000 people could be affected, while the government put the number at 13,000 people.

Those of Haitian ancestry are increasingly being denied basic identification documents or have had those documents seized by government officials despite having been born in the Dominican Republic, leading to limited access to education, the report found. The Dominican constitution grants everyone a right to education, including children without documentation, but many school officials are requiring proof of Dominican citizenship upon enrollment or prior to national exams.

“Much of a child’s fate may depend on the kindness of individual teachers and school administrators who are willing to overlook missing documents or actively help children obtain them,” the report stated.

An estimated 48,000 children who lack identification documents are enrolled in primary school, according to 2011-2012 statistics from the Ministry of Education. Similar statistics for middle school, high school and college were not immediately available.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education could not be immediately reached for comment.

Fetsick and other researchers made several recommendations, including the creation of an independent panel that would allow people to file complaints and appeal decisions in citizenship-related matters.

The court ruling has raised tensions between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which share the island of Hispaniola. Both governments began meeting privately this year to talk about the ruling and other differences, with representatives from the United Nations, Caribbean Community,European Union and Venezuela serving as observers.

The U.N. Refugee Agency said in a statement this week that it hopes the Dominican government finds a solution to the problem soon.

“The consequences of statelessness are dramatically real for individuals affected by the ruling. They are denied access to identification cards, employment and other basic services. They cannot travel, get married legally or register the birth of a child,” said Shelly Pitterman, the agency’s regional representative in Washington, D.C. “These individuals are in desperate need of a solution.”


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Pas des mesures prises pour Dominicains d’origine Haïtienne

April 10, 2014 - 07:17

Cet article s’interroge sur l’absence de réponse à la décision du tribunal constitutionnel de la république dominicaine, par le gouvernement haïtien. L’auteur demande également si la communauté internationale a oublié.

L’arrêt TC 168-13 est-il jeté aux oubliettes ?

Lemoine Bonneau, Radio Television Caraibes
10 avril 2014

Aucun pas n’a été franchi  par le gouvernement de Danilo Medina pour laver la souillure du tribunal constitutionnel  quant à la  dénationalisation des Dominicains d’origine haïtienne causée par  l’arrêt 168-13 le 23 septembre de l’année dernière. Le dépôt du projet de loi sur la nationalité promis par le gouvernement dominicain depuis le mois de février  dans le cadre des engagements pris dans les rencontres binationales  se fait toujours attendre. Entre-temps, les organisations internationales et régionales qui avaient condamné l’arrêt réagissent de moins en moins. L’inaction de la diplomatie haïtienne depuis le report des assises de mars et d’avril qui devaient se tenir à Jacmel a permis à Santo Domingo de jouer sur le temps. L’absence de pressions des organisations des droits de l’homme  a donné toute la latitude au président de la république voisine d’engager des consultations pendant trois semaines, avec les forces politiques et sociales de son pays, en vue d’adopter  la solution appropriée sur ce dossier qui avait plongé le gouvernement,  en décembre dernier, dans un profond désarroi.

Constatant de jour en jour  le peu d’intérêt soulevé par le dossier de l’arrêt tant  au niveau des organisations internationales qu’au niveau  de la presse, les Dominicains,  victimes de cette discrimination, ont manifesté mardi devant le palais présidentiel afin de sensibiliser le gouvernement et l’opinion publique à la nécessité de résoudre les problèmes posés par cette décision.

Mis à part la note de la chancellerie haïtienne le 6 mars dénonçant le gouvernement dominicain pour non-respect des engagements, aucune autre action n’a été entreprise par le gouvernement haïtien depuis un mois.  Le report  à deux reprises de la réunion binationale à Jacmel n’a produit aucun effet sur le gouvernement de Medina. Au contraire,  le silence du gouvernement haïtien sur le dossier et l’absence d’interventions dans la presse à ce sujet ont permis aux autorités dominicaines de se préparer pour d’éventuels rebondissements.

Selon toute vraisemblance, les intérêts des multinationales américaines et européennes en hôtellerie et autres types d’entreprises en République dominicaine sont de nature à empêcher les agences mondiales d’information de parler de l’arrêt aussi longtemps que le dossier retiendra  l’attention des organisations des droits de l’homme.

Que doit-on attendre du nouveau chancelier  dans le cadre de ce dossier  dont la Cour interaméricaine des droits de l’homme a été saisie ? Duly Brutus va-t-il  pouvoir sensibiliser à nouveau les pays de la Caricom et ceux de l’Amérique latine à travers les fora et réunions internationales avec le même dynamisme que  son prédécesseur ?

L’administration Martelly-Lamothe conserve-t-elle le même dévouement dans le cadre de ce dossier  à l’approche des prochaines joutes électorales ?  Les forces vives du pays se sentent-elles concernées  par la sentence du tribunal constitutionnel  qui a rabaissé l’âme nationale à la face du monde ?


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