Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

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16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

November 29, 2014 - 12:39
From Peace in the Home to Peace In the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women.

November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This is an international campaign to raise awareness of and to call for an end to all forms of violence against women. This year, the campaign centres on highlighting the links between militarism and gender based violence. IJDH and BAI have joined with grassroots groups in Haiti and international partners to launch the Haiti Rape Accountability and Prevention Project (RAPP) to respond to the epidemic of rapes against poor women and girls in Haiti in the wake of the January 12, 2010 earthquake. RAPP provides individual victims of sexual assault the legal services they need to obtain justice and compensation, while working with allies in Haiti and abroad to transform the social context that underlies the vulnerability of all poor Haitian women to assault. The Project also aims to deter future rapes by punishing the perpetrators and forcing a more effective response by law enforcement and the justice system.


November 26 The 2010 Haitian Earthquake shattered Haiti’s infrastructure and created specific vulnerabilities for women and children sheltering in Haiti’s tent cities. Although the Haitian government does not maintain an up-to-date record on the number of sexual assaults in the country, there is general consensus that the number of sexual assaults against women and juvenile’s in Haiti rose after the earthquake. In 2012, RAPP Network member KOFAVIV reported that it received an average of 5 cases of rape a day.


November 27 Children are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence in Haiti’s tent cities because many were left unaccompanied in the wake of the earthquake, while others are left unsupervised for extended periods of the day. 65% of the assaults reported to KOFAVIV were perpetrated against minors.  


November 28 “When victims of sexual violence can access the justice system and enforce their rights, their confidence in themselves, their government, and the rule of law increases.  Successful prosecutions also send a message to their families and communities that the government will not tolerate sexual violence, nor should they.” -Mario Joseph (Photo credit: IJDH)


November 29 The 2010 earthquake left many women in a position of primary caregiver and earner in their families, but also significantly compromised opportunities to earn a living. This introduces new and specific vulnerabilities, particularly with regards to prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation. BAI’s RAPP networks provides skills trainings and necessary networks to help women find their feet again.  


November 30 These women are participating in the 2013 Carnival de Fleurs in Haiti. Most of their signs have slogans decrying violence against women and also demanding greater representation of women in the public sphere. They also emphasize the need for collaboration between men and women.


December 1 Besides the skills trainings mentioned above, the Rezo Fanm, or “women’s network” at BAI is a place for women to come together for various trainings, such as know-your rights trainings and self defense classes. The Rezo Fanm also regularly holds press conferences at BAI, on women’s rights.


December 2 Improper sanitation creates specific vulnerabilities for Haitian women and children. The UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women says: Women and girls are disproportionately affected by harassment, assault and sexual violence when relying on public toilets or when forced to practice open defecation, largely due to the lack of access to a latrine at home or safe latrine facilities in the public sphere.


December 3 Women and children with disabilities have also suffered particular harm in the shadow of the 2010 earthquake. Their injuries are aggravated by a lack of social and psychological support from the government. The importance of the RAPP project in this context cannot be overstated.


December 4 Elderly women also suffer specific risks during this process of recovery. Many of BAI’s elderly clients have not only been victims of sexual assault, but are also unable to participate in generic economic or social recovery programmes that focus on providing skills to the youth. The need to boost economic and psychological support to this group is desparate, and BAI urges domestic and international partners to develop innovative solutions to address this problem.


December 5 A response to Haiti’s sexual violence crisis must incorporate social, economic and legal aspects. BAI and IJDH’s lawyers remain in constant contact with their clients to ensure they are not only fully cognizant of their rights in the Haitian context, but also in the international context. They employ a holistic approach so the clients are fully supported. This, in turn, sows the seeds for the protection of the human rights of women in subsequent generations.


December 6 Unfortunately, social workers and other intervenors have not been spared the risks associated with sexual violence in Haiti. In recent months, members of BAI’s RAPP network have themselves been subject to violence, sometimes in the course of their work. This has not diminished the passion of Haitian women to protect their sisters and daughters from the violence. During this season of awareness, BAI commends these courage and dedication of the women who make the RAPP project possible.


December 7 As stated again and again in this post, gender-based violence is a problem that can be solved by women knowing their rights and being able to enforce them. Mario Joseph, BAI’s Managing Attorney, delivered a great speech on this fact. Read it here.


December 8 The importance of women-led networks during this period of recovery in Haiti cannot be overstated. BAI’s RAPP project brings together passionate community organisers, lawyers and social networks to demand respect for the human rights of women in Haiti. Meanwhile, the IJDH team helps amplify their message in the US and abroad.

December 9 Efforts to address the scourge of violence in Haiti must incorporate men and boys. A cultural shift that stigmatizes the act of rape rather than the status of being a victim of rape cannot take root without the participation of Haiti’s men and boys. 
(Photo credit: IJDH)


December 10 ”Being able to make our own decisions about our health, body and sexual life is a basic human right. Yet all over the world, many of us are persecuted for making these choices – or prevented from doing so at all.” -Amnesty International
This Human Rights Day, don’t forget that fighting gender-based violence takes a community. Get involved!


All Photo credits to Nanjala Nyabola, unless otherwise noted above.

IIIC Information Sessions on Executive Action

November 26, 2014 - 08:30

Attend an info session on President Obama’s immigration executive action.


The Irish International Immigrant Center’s immigration attorneys will will present an overview of the new immigration programs President Obama announced on November 20, 2014. They’ll be available to answer your questions afterwards.


100 Franklin Street, Lower Level 1
Boston, MA


Wednesday, November 26 at 12:30pm
Tuesday, December 2 at 10am


For more on Obama’s Executive Action, click HERE.

Despite Cholera Resurgence, Donors Are Reluctant

November 25, 2014 - 12:21

As the rainy season begins in Haiti, cases of cholera are climbing again. Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) reports that there aren’t enough treatment centers or supplies to treat the epidemic’s resurgence. Meanwhile, the UN is still struggling to raise money for a cholera elimination plan which has been proposed several times, in multiple iterations, in attempts to capture donors’ interest. Many blame the lack of donor support on the lack of UN accountability for causing the epidemic: The UN still has not apologized to cholera victims or even accepted responsibility.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Cholera on the Uptick in Haiti as Donor Response Falters

Center for Economic and Policy Research
November 25, 2014

From January through August of 2014, 69 Haitians died from cholera and some 8,628 fell ill, a 76 percent drop from the previous year, the United Nations reported. In October, at a high-level donor conference convened to raise money to help fight cholera, World Bank director Jim Kim told the assembled diplomats that the reduction in cases was “an achievement of which Haiti and its development partners can be proud.” The U.N. decreased their projections for the number of new cases in 2014 to 15,000 from 45,000 and proudly stated that the “case fatality rate is below the 1 per cent target rate set by the World Health Organization.”

But the last few months have shown the optimism to be premature, at best. As heavy rains have hit Haiti, so too has a resurgence of cholera. With data through November 21, 2014 [PDF], the number of cases in 2014 has already shot past the 15,000 estimate to over 20,000. More worryingly, since the beginning of September, 135 Haitians have died from cholera, nearly twice as many as had died over the first 8 months of the year. Further, the much-watched case fatality rate stands at 1.3 percent over that time period, above the 1 percent target.


Click HERE for the full text.

Violence Against Internally Displaced Women Must End

November 25, 2014 - 06:07

This press release explains the risks of gender-based violence, discrimination, and sexual violence that women in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps face constantly. Sometimes, these tactics are used to instill fear during wars. Other times, women must choose between sending a male relative out though he might be killed, or going out themselves and risk being raped but at least surviving. Much needs to be done to prevent these forms of violence, and also to support the survivors.

Part of the press release is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Eliminate violence against internally displaced women and girls, say UN Experts For the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
November 25, 2014

GENEVA (25 November 2014) – Stronger, concerted efforts by all national and international actors are essential to prevent and eliminate violence against internally displaced women and girls, and to integrate their security needs in humanitarian responses, four UN human rights experts stressed on Tuesday, as the world marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

“Women and girls account for some half of the world’s estimated 33.3 million people displaced by armed conflict, generalized violence and human rights violations,” said Chaloka Beyani, the UN Special Rapporteur on internally displaced persons.

The risk of gender-based violence generally, and sexual violence in particular, increases dramatically following displacement and must be better recognized and confronted, he added.

“They flee to escape arbitrary killings, rape, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, forced recruitment or starvation, but too often, they encounter the same level of insecurity, violence and threats of violence, reinforced by a climate of impunity, at their destination, including in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs),” Rashida Manjoo, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women said.
“Particular attention should be given to internally displaced older women. States have an obligation to ensure that this particular group be protected from physical and psychological abuse and violence, including neglect,” Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, the UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons added.


Click HERE for the full text.

The Accountability of the United Nations for Haiti’s Cholera Outbreak

November 24, 2014 - 13:00

Join Beatrice Lindstrom in Durham, UK for a talk on UN accountability in Haiti’s cholera epidemic.


The Durham Human Rights Centre warmly invites you to a seminar on The Accountability of the United Nations for Haiti’s Cholera Outbreak. The seminar is open to all and no RSVP is required.

Beatrice works primarily on litigation seeking accountability from the U.N. for its role in causing Haiti’s cholera outbreak. Beatrice has worked on economic and social rights and the human rights obligations of the private sector in a variety of contexts. Her experiences include litigating human rights in U.S. courts and working on access-to-justice issues for the U.N. Special Representative on Business and Human Rights.

Tweeting is encouraged at #HRCHaiti


Anne Galbraith Boardroom (Second Floor, Durham Law School)
Palatine Centre
Stockton Road


Monday November 24, 2014
5pm– 6pm


Click HERE for the original event post.

Haiti Still Struggles to Treat the Cholera Epidemic

November 24, 2014 - 12:41

Four years after cholera was introduced to Haiti by UN peacekeepers, the response to the epidemic remains inadequate. Water and sanitation infrastructure have barely been improved and the Haitian health system has a shortage of medicines to treat cholera. Even cholera treatment centers lack beds, making it difficult for organizations like Doctors without Borders to respond. Improvements need to be made soon to prevent more people from dying.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Haiti: Too Few Beds to Treat Cholera Patients

Doctors Without Borders
November 24, 2014

More than 2,000 people with symptoms of cholera have required emergency hospitalization since mid-October in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Even though the majority of the Haitian population remains exposed to cholera due to a lack of access to clean drinking water and latrines, capacity to treat those affected by the disease is still inadequate. In response, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has rapidly reinforced its cholera response, making close to 320 beds available.

Four years on from cholera’s appearance in the country, the Haitian health system is still facing shortages of funding, human resources, and drugs. This demonstrates the authorities’ lack of preparation for outbreaks that today are known and foreseeable. “Patients come to us in critical condition as there is no system in place to provide urgent care, despite the existence of a National Plan for the Elimination of Cholera,” laments Oliver Schulz, head of mission for MSF in Haiti.


Click HERE for the full text.

Why Care About Human Rights in Haiti?

November 24, 2014 - 02:23

This interview with Fran Quigley explains not just why people should read his book How Human Rights Can Build Haiti, but why Americans should care about human rights in Haiti in the first place.

Part of the post is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Love-Haiti Relations

Dan Carpenter, Sky Blue Window
November 24, 2014

There’s no journalist in Indiana with Fran Quigley‘s global reach and flair for putting a face on social causes. Imagine how he’d shame the rest of us practitioners if this were his day job.

Sky Blue Window: First of all, why should Hoosiers care about a destitute foreign country of 10 million?

Fran Quigley: The fact is, they already do care. There are an amazing number of people in Indiana who are doing direct service with long-term Haiti partners. It’s wonderful. The churches, Catholic and evangelical. It’s been transformative for them. And as for those who are not currently engaged, these are all our brothers and sisters, they happen to be geographically close to us — Port-au-Prince is closer to Indy than to Las Vegas — and they are suffering in ways that if Hoosiers were to know about it, they’d take action. And they are. You can’t go to Haiti without seeing the massive need for systemic change and the U.S. role in it.


Click HERE for the full text.

U of Warwick Hosts Development Summit

November 21, 2014 - 14:00

Join Beatrice Lindstrom and 30+ speakers in the UK for a 3-day summit.


The summit is the largest student-run international development conference in the United Kingdom. Co-president of the summit, Stephanie Ifayemi, stated: “WIDS this year promises to be the most exciting and multidisciplinary summit yet! If you are interested in international development, or finding solutions to the world’s most pressing issues, we have talks from over 30 speakers, with chances to network during the day and at our wine reception (with exceptional canapé selections), attend seminar sessions and speak to our partner organisations.”

She added that over the weekend there will be talks from some of the world’s leading development thinkers and specialists, as well as discussions, panel debates and workshops. She further commented: “This year we want to create an engaging platform, encouraging innovative discussion and ideas. We hope to engage, inspire and inform the next generation of development hopefuls!”

The talks will cater to a variety of interests, whether that is setting up your own business, standing up for child rights, discussing political conflict in the Middle East or trying to expand the impact of healthcare in Africa.


University of Warwick
University Road


Friday November 21: 6pm to 9pm
Saturday November 22 & Sunday November 23: 9am to 5pm


Read more about the summit HERE.

Tweeting in the Time of Cholera: Networking, Social Media and Justice in Haiti

November 21, 2014 - 08:30

Join Brian Concannon at Boston College for a talk on social media and justice.


With Brian Concannon from the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.  Part of the Center’s Works in Progress Colloquium Series this fall, an initial presentation from our speaker will be followed by dialogues with attendees on the subject matter.

In 2011, reckless disposal of human waste at a UN peacekeeping base generated a cholera epidemic in Haiti that has killed over 9,000 people and sickened over 700,000. The UN has repeatedly recognized an obligation to compensate people injured by UN operations, but refuses to even receive claims by Haiti cholera victims. A broad, loosely connected network has been developed to advocate for a just response to the epidemic, centered around legal claims against the UN. The network includes lawyers, students, cholera victims, scientists, doctors, journalists, members of Congress and even UN insiders, and has managed to exert substantial, if not yet adequate, pressure on the UN. This session will discuss the cholera justice network as a model for social justice advocacy in the 21st century.

A light lunch will be served.


Barat House 1st floor
Boston College Newton campus


Friday, November 21, 2014


Click HERE for the original post.

CGRS hiring Development & Communications Director

November 20, 2014 - 06:55

Classification: Level 4 / Class Code 6111 / Full Time / Exempt / Benefited
Hiring Salary Range: (commensurate with qualifications)

Typical duties and responsibilities consist of, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Draft letters of inquiry, grant proposals, and other solicitation materials to foundations; prepare reports to funders; draft acknowledgement letters;
  • Oversee and assist the office manager with the preparation of budgets and financial reports;
  • Identify and research new grant opportunities (prospecting) from a broad range of funding sources, including government agencies;
  • Set appointments for the Director with foundation officers, individual donors and prospects and prepare materials for these meetings;
  • Work with the staff and Board to manage law firm giving campaign;
  • Research individual donor prospects and their capability to give; provide the Director and Board members with necessary background and materials for personal solicitations to prospective supporters;
  • Research prospects for corporate funding and develop a corporate funding/partnership initiative;
  • Serve as Board liaison, prepare Board meeting materials, and manage Board members’ fundraising commitments;
  • Strengthen and maintain existing databases related to development;
  • Manage postal and electronic appeals to donors and prospects;
  • Draft and coordinate monthly newsletter production, advocacy action alerts, electronic campaign solicitations and holiday messages, media advisories, and press releases;
  • Coordinate social media and oversee website maintenance and updates;
  • Manage media relations and media contacts database, serving as press contact for organization;
  • Perform other related duties as assigned.


Applicants who meet the position requirements will be competitively evaluated to identify the individuals whose breadth and depth of experience and education most closely relate to the stated requirements and the needs of the College. Depending on the quality and number of the applications received, only the better qualified applicants may be contacted for an interview. The position is open until filled.


Click HERE for more about CGRS and the position.

Accountability in the Time of Cholera

November 19, 2014 - 14:30

Attend this Evanston, IL talk on the fight for UN accountability for cholera in Haiti.


Since 2010, Haiti has been the site of the modern world’s most serious outbreak of cholera – a deadly waterborne disease never before present in the country. The cholera epidemic has killed thousands and sickened hundreds of thousands of Haitians. Overwhelming scientific evidence points to the origin of this epidemic: grossly unsanitary conditions in the camps of the United Nations’ peace keeping mission in Haiti. This talk discusses attempts by lawyers and activist to hold the United Nations accountable.


John Evans Alumni Center
1800 Sheridan Rd.
Evanston, IL


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How is sanitation tied to violence against women?

November 18, 2014 - 10:47

This press release describes the situation for women and girls all over the world, as it pertains to improper sanitation. A right that may often be overlooked, proper sanitation can help prevent sexual violence and discrimination against women and girls. In preparation for UN World Toilet Day, these 3 UN experts made the statement below, describing the importance of sanitation.

Three UN experts, one common view on equality and dignity when it comes to sanitation

Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Novermber 19, 2014

GENEVA (19 November 2014) – “Equality and dignity have a very concrete meaning in the lives of billions of people when it comes to sanitation,” the United Nations Special Rapporteurs Catarina de Albuquerque, Rashida Manjoo and Maud de Boer-Buquicchio said today on the occasion of UN World Toilet Day.

“Women and girls in particular experience the indignity and risks of a lack of adequate sanitation in multiple ways”, the UN experts on water and sanitation, violence against women, and sale and sexual exploitation of children pointed out. Why? 

Catarina de Albuquerque
UN Special Rapporteur on the right to water and sanitation
“Wherever I go on country mission – and I have been to 15 very diverse countries all over the world – I meet women and girls who face obstacles in exercising their right to sanitation. 

In many countries, social or cultural norms prevent girls and women from using the same sanitation facilities as male relatives, for instance the father-in-law, or prohibit the use of household facilities on the days women and girls menstruate.

More generally, menstrual hygiene management presents an enormous challenge for many adolescent girls and women. I have made it a priority during my mandate to always enquire about menstrual hygiene, and I have found that talking about menstruation is taboo all over the world.

Menstruating women and girls are stigmatized in many cultures, they are perceived as dirty, impure and polluting. Due to the low priority of menstrual hygiene from policy-making to decision on household budgets, many girls and women face very practical difficulties in managing their menstruation. They fear smelling or staining and are not able to attend school or work.”

Rashida Manjoo
UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women
“According to 2014 estimates, more than one billion people still practice open defecation and studies from very diverse countries reflect the risks women and girls face when doing so.

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by harassment, assault and sexual violence when relying on public toilets or when forced to practice open defecation, largely due to the lack of access to a latrine at home or safe latrine facilities in the public sphere. 

Ensuring access to sanitation in the home can address the problem of violence against women and girls in the public sphere. Access to sanitation in itself is a human right but it also forms part of the preventative tools in the elimination of violence against women and girls. 

In numerous countries cases of rape committed while victims are seeking access to sanitation outside their homes have made headlines repeatedly. Women and girls should feel safe in public spaces in those cases where they must leave the home to use a latrine.

Access to safe sanitation facilities is also essential because it brings enormous gains for public health, for bodily integrity, for safety and comfort for all.”

Maud de Boer-Buquicchio
Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children
“In spite of the increased focus on ensuring adequate sanitation, women and girls are frequently prevented from using these facilities in the household due to prevailing social, cultural and behavioral norms. 

A prevailing climate of discrimination, insecurity and violence, combined with lack of access to adequate sanitation facilities for girls and women in public spaces, enhances considerably the risk of being subject to acts of sexual violence. 

Unfortunately building toilets in the home alone does neither address the root causes, nor will it be sufficient to eradicate sexual abuse. When girls are victims of sexual violence, it can be the beginning of a downward spiral towards sexual exploitation, as victims are confronted with social tolerance and impunity for sexual crimes, and are rejected by their own family and community.”

A common appeal
“We do need to ensure access to sanitation on the basis of equality, but we also have to work toward building a society that fights abuse and violence against women and girls in all spheres of life, and that values women and girls on the basis of equality.”



What’s next for Haitian Family Reunification?

November 18, 2014 - 10:36

This article explains the recent developments regarding the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program, set to begin in early 2015. As the criteria for the 2015 start date only apply to a fraction of those on waiting lists, advocates will continue fighting for full implementation.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

What is the Haitian Family Reunification Parole?

Dennis Mulligan, Haïti Liberté
November 12-18, 2014

Starting in early 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will begin implementing the Haitian Family Reunification Parole (HFRP) program. The purpose of this program is to expedite family reunification for certain eligible Haitian family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.

HFRP will allow some Haitians living in Haiti to come to the United States before they can actually apply for their green card, if their relatives in the U.S. – either citizens or permanent residents – have petitioned for them to come. If a petition by the relative in the U.S. has been approved but the relative in Haiti has to wait for their visa priority date to become current, they may be eligible to come to the U.S. for up to approximately two years while they wait until they can apply for a green card.


Click HERE for the full text.

University of Warwick International Development Summit

November 17, 2014 - 12:09

Join IJDH Staff Attorney Beatrice Lindstrom and many others working in human rights, development, and advocacy at this 3-day summit. Warwick International Development Society is hosting the summit in the United Kingdom, featuring over 30 speakers. It’s an exciting opportunity!

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Warwick holds Development Summit

Mallika Vaznaik, The Boar
November 17, 2014

The Warwick International Development Society (WIDS) hosted a “MasquerAID” launch party on Friday 14 November at Saint Bar in Leamington Spa. It leads up to their three day on-campus summit the weekend of 21 – 23 November.

The party took place from 9pm to 2am and included free shots, face-painting, shisha and music.

The summit, which is the largest student-run international development conference in the United Kingdom, starts on Friday 21 November from 6pm to 9pm and continues on to the following two days from 9am to 5pm on each day.

Co-president of the summit, Stephanie Ifayemi, stated: “WIDS this year promises to be the most exciting and multidisciplinary summit yet! If you are interested in international development, or finding solutions to the world’s most pressing issues, we have talks from over 30 speakers, with chances to network during the day and at our wine reception (with exceptional canapé selections), attend seminar sessions and speak to our partner organisations.”

Also in attendance will be Beatrice Lindstrom, a human rights lawyer from the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). IJDH accompanies Haiti’s poor majority in the fields of law, medicine and social justice activism.

It gathers information about human rights violations in Haiti and relays it to the international human rights community, and media and grassroots groups. Its lawyers represent political prisoners and persecuted journalists, and document cases of murder, torture and destruction of property.

Tickets for the summit cost £16 for members and £20 for non-members.


Click HERE for the full text.

CounterPunch Recommends How Human Rights Can Build Haiti

November 17, 2014 - 11:45

These authors give a glowing review of Fran Quigley’s latest book, How Human Rights Can Build Haiti. While applauding BAI’s and IJDH’s fight for justice and accountability, they also give an overview of Haiti’s history to put the “fight” in context. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in human rights, not just in Haiti but in any country where those rights are often ignored. Part of the article is below.

Click HERE for the full text.

From the Bottom Up Democracy Works in Haiti

Daniel Raventos and Julie Wark, CounterPunch
November 17, 2014

“Democracy works in Haiti.” Brian Concannon (who made the statement, p. 157), Mario Joseph, Fran Quigley, the author of How Human Rights Can Build Haiti: Activists, Lawyers and the Grassroots Campaign, and other supporters of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) are in no doubt about it: democracy, the kind the mainstream media ignores, belittles or calls “utopian”, works from the bottom up. This extraordinary book is about an extraordinary struggle for justice and dignity in an extraordinarily castigated country, the only one in the world where a slave revolt led to the founding of a state. Haiti’s successful rebellion flew in the face of the order of empires built on slavery, colonisation, subjugation and dispossession. This at least partially explains why Haiti has been so maltreated, in a kind of historical vengeance. Brian Concannon (p. 149) sums it up: “[…] Haiti is a bad example of the gap between what we practice and what we preach. In 1804, the problem was that Haiti was really free… We [the US] weren’t so we could not accept a country that was actually carrying out those ideals.”

A basic income of, say, $5 per day for every inhabitant would be the economic equivalent of Concannon’s legal “jumpstart”, making it possible for Haiti’s resourceful people to build the economy from the base with small businesses, and for those who have jobs to free themselves from the yoke of foreign-owned sweatshops where many workers earn just $1.3 per day. It would cost about $19 billion a year, approximately 0.63% of theestimated $3 trillion spent by the United States on the Iraq War. The “international community” could thus start to make amends for all the wrongs done to the country since 1492. But the obstacles to such a nod to justice are huge and more political than economic. This is why Mario Joseph, Brian Concannon, Fran Quigley and the people of Haiti, who are striving to make legal systems uphold the rights of ordinary people, are so important. For anyone who wants to defend justice, anywhere in the world, this book is a first-class vade mecum.

Click HERE for the full text.

3rd Annual NAHP Conference

November 14, 2014 - 05:00

Join NAHP at Harvard for their 3rd annual Diaspora conference.


Harvard University

Cambridge, MA


November 14-15, 2014


The purpose of this conference is to unpack the issues of Haiti and its Diaspora and all their subparts. Moreover, interrelated issues will be analyzed and focus will be placed on the areas of intersection. While focusing on the areas of intersection behaviors, attitudes, and practices amongst these two groupings will be evaluated in efforts to probe current interactions and challenge the status quo of these interplays. Aim is focused on examining whether interactions can be improved by exploring sustainable models and mechanism that are available and able to simultaneously unite and strengthen the Diaspora and Haiti. These models and mechanism include, but are not limited to, human capital, direct and indirect investments, increased use of technology, aggregate use of natural resources, and development of possible institutions which are Diaspora-centered constituting augmented coordinated and collaborative initiatives in the future that are all encompassing. Principal questions that will be explored at the conference include:

  • How is Haiti interacting with the Diaspora, mutatis mutandis?
  • How can Haiti better interact with its Diaspora?
  • How can the Diaspora better interact with Haiti?


Click HERE for more info.

UN Envoy Stresses Importance of Cholera Elimination Funds

November 13, 2014 - 07:59

The United Nations and the Haitian government continue to struggle to raise funds for water, sanitation, and other initiatives to end the cholera epidemic in Haiti. Pedro Medrano Rojas, the Senior UN Coordinator for the Cholera Response in Haiti, stresses the importance of a sustained response to the epidemic. Despite many re-launches and re-branding of cholera elimination initiatives, they simply aren’t catching donors’ attention.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

‘Haiti cannot wait 40 years’ to eliminate cholera, warns UN envoy as response lags

UN News Centre
November 13, 2014

13 November 2014 – The top United Nations coordinator for cholera response in Haiti says support for initiatives to combat the disease has been “disappointing,” noting that while it may be possible to eliminate cholera in about a decade, at the current rate of funding, it would take more than 40 years to do the job.

“We are standing at a tipping point, and the European Union – the world’s largest single donor of development aid – could be a leading actor on this: Haiti cannot wait two generations until reaching the same levels of coverage as the rest of the region,” wrote Pedro Medrano Rojas, Senior UN Coordinator for the Cholera Response in Haiti, in the Greek newspaper To Vima.

According to Mr. Medrano, the cholera outbreak in Haiti that started in October 2010 has produced more than 707,000 suspected cases and over 8,600 deaths to date, and “will continue until health, water and sanitation systems are addressed.”

“Like Ebola, cholera feeds on weak public health systems, and requires a sustained response,” he wrote.


Click HERE for the full text.

United Nations Immunity versus Human Rights

November 12, 2014 - 13:30

In Montreal, former UN insider Steven Lewis discusses UN immunity and human rights.


The 2014 Raoul Wallenberg Lecture in Human Rights will be given by Mr. Stephen Lewis. Mr. Lewis’ presentation will touch upon the UN’s role and response to the cholera outbreak in Haiti, and to finding an end to the impunity surrounding UN military and civilian peacekeeping personnel who engage in sexual violence.


Chancellor Day Hall
Maxwell Cohen Moot Court (NCDH 100)
3644 rue Peel
Montreal, QC, H3A 1W9, CA


Wednesday, November 12, 2014
5:30pm to 7pm


Click HERE for more on Stephen Lewis.

Can Human Rights Be an “Affront” to DR’s Sovereignty?

November 12, 2014 - 07:36

In September 2013, a Dominican Republic Constitutional Court issued a ruling that left up to hundreds of thousands of immigrants and immigrant descendents stateless. At the end of October 2014, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) ruled that DR is responsible for these people’s suffering. The DR then rejected the decision, arguing that the IACtHR’s decision jeopardizes DR’s sovereignty. This article explains how that stance is illogical and puts this vulnerable population at risk.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

National Sovereignty Vs Human Rights?

Robin Guittard, The Huffington Post UK
November 12, 2014

Faced with an Inter-American Court of Human Rights decision that recognized the suffering of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants, the only response that the Dominican Republic could muster was to start shouting in defence of its national sovereignty.

What this reaction shows is the government’s total indifference to its most basic responsibilities.

At the end of October, the highest court in the Americas found the Dominican state responsible for denying identity documents to thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent and arbitrarily depriving them of their nationality.

This was not a new concern. For years, Dominican human rights organizations, international organizations like Amnesty International and various UN agencies have highlighted how discrimination is fuelling abuses against Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants in the country.


Click HERE for the full text.

UN Immunity and Its Implications for Cholera (In)Justice

November 12, 2014 - 06:05

In a speech originally planned to focus on UN immunity in cases of sexual violence, former UN insider Stephen Lewis was compelled to look at immunity in light of the cholera epidemic in Haiti. Despite causing the first cholera epidemic in Haiti in over a century, the UN has continually dodged responsibility and remained unaccountable for four years. Meanwhile, deaths from cholera continue. Now that cholera victims had a chance to argue in court (on October 23), Lewis and countless others hope that UN immunity will finally stop being impunity and the victims will have justice.

Click HERE for the pdf.

The 2014 Raoul Wallenberg Lecture in Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, McGill University delivered by Stephen Lewis, Professor of Practice in Global Governance at the Institute for the Study of International Development, McGill University Montreal

November 12, 2014

Allow me to begin in somewhat unorthodox fashion. I fully intended, and still intend to relate this lecture to the use of the principle of immunity in international affairs, and to the inevitable human rights implications. I had originally planned to focus on the end of immunity for sexual violence committed by United Nations Peacekeepers. That’s a theme dear to the heart of AIDS-Free World, and a theme that we explored with a number of Canadian and international experts in a week-long workshop convened here at McGill a month ago, under the auspices of the Institute for the Study of International Development. Indeed, Frédéric Mégret, of this distinguished Law School was one of the expert participants.

But something happened on that designated road to immunity. I read extensively about Haiti and cholera and the UN use of immunity to avoid responsibility, and at the workshop I had been fortunate enough to talk with Beatrice Lindstrom of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, and the more I learned, the more agitated I became. The subject wasn’t unfamiliar to me; I had touched on it publicly in the past. But the details left me reeling. The upshot is that if I don’t disgorge my views this evening on Haiti, cholera, immunity and the UN, I shall have an intellectual melt-down.

There is of course a caveat. This is a Law School. I’m not a lawyer … in fact, I dropped out of two eminent law schools in the course of a hapless academic career. I’m going to try to reconnoiter some legal issues as best I can; I simply ask you to let the milk of human kindness flow through your veins in the event of any excruciating errors or aberrations.

On Thursday morning, October 23rd, 10:00 am, I sat in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York—the magnificent Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary building—along with my co-Director and Deputy Director from AIDS-Free World. We were there to witness a significant moment in legal history: for the first time, the United Nations’ responsibility for the cholera epidemic in Haiti was being debated in a court of law.

The background is both uncontested and appalling in equal measure. In October of 2010, a short nine months after the horrendous earthquake, an epidemic of cholera burst upon Haiti. Within days and weeks, the numbers of deaths and the astronomic numbers of those who fell ill amounted to a staggering compilation of human misery.

If I may provide an unsettling analogy, the extent of the tragedy of cholera exceeded the current tragedy of Ebola. Since the 2010 outbreak, there have been a total of 706,862 cases and 8,584 deaths. Even in 2014, there are a thousand new cases per month.

In his remarkable, recently-published book, How Human Rights Can Build Haiti, Fran Quigley provides this description:

“In both its origins and its effects, cholera is a decidedly foul disease. The process starts when feces-contaminated water carries the bacterium Vibrio cholera. The resulting infection causes acute watery diarrhea in the afflicted, thereby spreading its pathogen with ruthless, disgusting proficiency. Left untreated, the diarrhea caused by cholera quickly drains the body and can cause death within hours. Extremely virulent, and with a short incubation period of two hours to five days, cholera moves quickly. In scholarly articles and white papers describing the course of cholera in Haiti, academic and scientific terminology invariably gives way to the adjective ‘explosive’. The term is used to describe both the disease outbreak and the debilitating diarrhea suffered by its victims.”

The court proceedings were straightforward, dealing with a class action filed in October, 2013. To use the words of the presiding judge at the outset: “Plaintiffs allege that the United Nations and entities affiliated with the United Nations caused a cholera epidemic, beginning in October of 2010, in Haiti, and they bring claims for negligence and related claims against the United Nations and associated entities and individuals of the United Nations. They have sought to serve those entities, the defendants.” (The entities the judge refers to are the UN Peacekeepers).

He continued: “The United Nations defendants have resisted service, and we are here for oral argument really on just the issue of whether this Court should deem service to have been made and the related issue of whether the action should be dismissed … on the ground of United Nations immunity; that is, under the applicable legal governing authorities, whether the United Nations and the other defendants are immune both from service and from the lawsuit itself.”

I shall not torture you extensively with endless quotes reflecting my legal naïveté. But please bear with me as I attempt to convey the issues and the arguments.

The counsel for the plaintiffs was Beatrice Lindstrom of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. She was supported by Brian Concannon, who actually heads the Institute. Beatrice Lindstrom proved an impressive and formidable lawyer.

Allow me to digress for a moment. The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, and its Haitian-based partner called BAI, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, headed by Mario Joseph, have been the two leading advocacy organizations attempting to extract justice from the United Nations. They’ve been at it, never daunted, for years. To read about them and their work is to read about organizations of uncompromising principle with an unswerving commitment to human rights. They draw upon the support of tremendous numbers of Haitian citizens. That support is built on a bedrock of trust.

Digression complete.

To this novice observer, the case hinged on two arguments. There is a UN Convention on Privileges and Immunities that dates back to 1946. Article 2, Section 2 reads: “The United Nations, its property and assets wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall enjoy immunity from every form of legal process except insofar as in any particular case it has expressly waived its immunity.”

It clearly had not waived its immunity in this case.

Juxtaposed with Article 2 is Article 8, entitled “Settlement of Disputes.” Section 29 under this article, reads: “The United Nations shall make provisions for appropriate modes of settlement of: a) Disputes arising out of contracts or other disputes of a private law character to which the United Nations is a party; b) Disputes involving any official of the United Nations who by reason of his official position enjoys immunity, if immunity has not been waived by the Secretary-General.”

In simplest terms—and terms which, on the face of it, seemed to engage the attention of the judge—Beatrice Lindstrom argued that since the United Nations was completely unresponsive to Section 29—modes of settlement had never been offered—it had so completely breached the contractual understanding of the Convention that immunity was forfeit.

Apart from the fact that Section 29 uses the verb “shall,” there is also the supportive application of what is called the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the country where the Peacekeepers are to be stationed, or the Host Country as it is formally known. Thus you have the “Agreement between the United Nations and the Government of Haiti concerning the status of the United Nations Operation in Haiti.”

In 2004, lasting to the present day, and just extended to October, 2015, the United Nations established the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known by the acronym ‘MINUSTAH.’

Paragraph 54 of the SOFA reads: “Third-party claims for property loss or damage and for personal injury, illness or death arising from or directly attributable to MINUSTAH … which cannot be settled through the internal procedures of the United Nations, shall be settled by the United Nations in the manner provided for in paragraph 55 of the present Agreement.”

And what does paragraph 55 say? Quote: “ … any dispute or claim of a private law character, not resulting from the operational necessity of MINUSTAH, to which MINUSTAH or any member thereof is a party and over which the courts of Haiti do not have jurisdiction … shall be settled by a standing claims commission to be established for that purpose.”

In a nutshell, Beatrice Lindstrom argued that the combination of Section 29 of the Convention and Paragraph 55 of the SOFA acted as a condition precedent to Section 2 of the Convention before immunity could prevail. Both Beatrice and the judge seemed to like framing the Convention as a contract that had been conclusively breached. If, as the claimants contended, the United Nations was responsible for the cholera, and neither section 29 nor paragraph 55 was ever employed, then the claimants had a right to launch their suit. In principle, the immunity provision of the Convention would be over-ridden. It simply would not trigger.

The lawyer, nominally for the defendants, strenuously disagreed. Ellen Blain, Assistant United States Attorney, also an obviously accomplished lawyer, put the case. She was categorical. Section 2, the immunity clause of the Convention was in no way subject to Section 29. They were entirely separate. There was no condition precedent; there was no relationship whatsoever. Therefore paragraph 55 of the SOFA also did not apply; there was no point to a standing claims commission.

She insisted that the immunity provision was all-encompassing and absolute in every instance, the only exception being a waiving of immunity, and immunity had not been waived. Case closed. Immunity was not eviscerated (Ms. Blain kept on using the verb eviscerate … I always thought that meant the removal of organs, as in disemboweling. That definition actually appeals to me. I’d like to eviscerate immunity in the case of Haiti. Mind you, let me urgently add at this point that there are of course other worthy reasons for diplomatic immunity to obtain: it’s just that it’s obscene in the present instance).

I don’t want anyone to think that I’ve done justice to the legal arguments as they were rolled out in court. There were many authorities quoted, many arcane judicial precedents invoked. What I’ve tried to do is to provide a sense of the heart of the dispute. I should add that the judge is still deliberating; the judgement is not yet rendered.

There were two additional and fascinating aspects of Ms. Blain’s presentation. The first is that she’s a United States Attorney. As a States Party to the Convention on Privileges and Immunities, the United States has every right to be present, to intervene, to act for the defendants (the defendants described as the United Nations et al). But there is an important nuance here. The United States on several occasions refused to take a position on whether or not the UN was responsible for the cholera or whether or not the UN had an obligation to initiate a standing claims commission. The United States was effectively speaking in its ‘personal capacity’, not wanting to be seen to defend the behavior of the United Nations, but very much wanting to defend the principle of immunity as enshrined in the Convention.

But where, then, was the United Nations itself?

Clearly a careful strategy is in play. The United Nations refuses to be associated with any challenge to its immunity, the challenge based on cholera in Haiti being by far the most ominous. Under no circumstances, therefore, will United Nations’ lawyers find themselves in a court of law adjudicating immunity. Finally, we now know what the UN Office of Legal Affairs does with its time: it hones the art of evasion.

But the true revelation in the argument of Ms. Blain came right at the end of her brief rebuttal. She said—allow me to quote directly—“… finally, this case and the repercussions stemming from the Court’s ruling today is not narrowly limited. It would create and open up a huge set of claims to the United Nations. Private parties around the world would be able to sue the United Nations for … perceived violations and breaches of the treaty.”

There you have it: the money reason behind the defense of immunity. Alas, these days the United Nations doesn’t need any encouragement to do something fundamentally dishonourable, but if its ardour ever flagged at the level of the Secretary-General, the United States is there to dictate terms. Both the UN and the US are running scared at the possibility of incurring costs; it should be remembered that as the wealthiest country in the world, the United States is the largest contributor to the UN, and any costs that are levied against the UN would necessarily be applied most significantly to the United States. The fact that this self-protective impulse is pursued over the bodies of 8,584 Haitians is apparently of no account. The fact that billions of dollars are available at a moment’s notice to bomb ISIL targets, does not mean that a fraction of that cost is ever available to compensate the victims of UN negligence.

Those are, admittedly, harsh words. I offer them advisedly. I’m a multilateralist. I’ve spent the majority of my working life directly or indirectly involved with the United Nations. When legitimate, I’ll defend it to the teeth. When illegitimate, I shall not hold back.

There are few things, in the last decade of the United Nations, more illegitimate, more reprehensible, more despicable than the United Nations scurrying for cover behind the tattered, discredited banner of immunity when applied to the cholera tragedy in Haiti.

As I understand it, from my own reading and conversation, this is a summary of the facts: a summary that’s not meant to be exhaustive in any sense:

Between October 8 and October 14, 2010, a Nepalese contingent of peacekeeping troops arrived in Haiti. Despite the fact that Nepal had experienced a cholera episode in the months prior to their departure, the testing of the troops left out all who were asymptomatic, missing many who were carrying the disease. Upon their arrival in Haiti, they set up camp in rural Mirebalais, near a tributary that feeds into the Artibonite River, Haiti’s primary source for the drinking and washing proclivities of the nation. The sanitation arrangements were appalling, and human waste found its way into the river; in fact, human waste was actually seen being trucked into the river. Within days of the arrival of the troops, cholera was identified at several area hospitals. The scourge had begun. There had been no previous evidence of cholera in Haiti for well more than a hundred years.

As the country descended into cholera chaos, the search for the source began. It became immediately clear to the leading activists how the cholera had originated, and they submitted a petition of over five thousand names, seeking compensation, to the UN in November of 2011. Fifteen months later, in February of 2013, the UN deigned to reply with a response so putrid, so arrogant, so absurd that you wonder how in God’s name they could get away with it.

They simply said it was “not receivable” under Section 29 of the Convention because a review of the claims would require a review of “political and policy matters.”

What the devil does that mean? It’s sheer, nonsensical bafflegab. It’s a linguistic construction designed to convey absolutely nothing. It’s the smart-alecky language of bureaucratic omniscience. As I stand here delivering this lecture, I’m imagining to myself people whose mouths are warped into a perpetual sneering contempt.

There is no longer the slightest doubt about the Nepalese Peacekeepers as the origin of the cholera. Not a scintilla of doubt. There have been at least ten expert academic and scientific studies proving that Nepal brought cholera to Haiti.

For a while, the United Nations rested its resistance on a report in 2011 from a committee of four experts, appointed by the Secretary-General to investigate the source, who identified and acknowledged all the obvious, irrefutable links in the chain of infection, but couldn’t bring themselves to tell the truth. So they fudged the findings and concluded that a number of factors must have caused the cholera, the Nepalese soldiers being only one of those factors.

However, just one year later, the co-author of the report reversed herself, saying “We now know that the strain of cholera in Haiti is an exact match for the strain of cholera in Nepal.” New evidence had emerged, indicating that “the most likely source of the introduction of cholera into Haiti was someone infected with the Nepal strain of cholera and associated with the United Nations Mirebalais camp.”

Gone was the last mask in the UN’s masquerade.

Of course, many prominent people knew that the UN’s defense was both phony and untenable. Quite simply—why am I gilding the lily?—the defense was a lie, and the defenders continue to lie. They were called out by The Economist, The New York Times, the Washington Post: Fran Quigley in his book quotes the Pakistani representative on the Security Council demanding a UN apology, and calling for the UN “to do whatever is necessary to making this situation right.” According to Quigley, the French representative on the Security Council said of the cholera crisis “We can regret it, but we cannot ignore it.” The former head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno said that the UN “must come clean on cholera.” Even Bill Clinton, the UN Special Envoy for Haiti said that MINUSTAH was—and I quote—the “proximate cause of the cholera epidemic.”

The Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, appointed by the Human Rights Council, denounced the UN’s response … that was in 2012; his successor, writing in February of this year, said “… the diplomatic difficulties surrounding this issue must be overcome in order to assure the Haitian people that the epidemic will be halted as soon as possible and that full reparation for damages will be provided.”

“Full reparation for damages”: that must have induced traumatic apoplexy on the 38th floor (the celestial confines of the Secretary-General). But the Independent expert went further: “If necessary,” he said, “those responsible for the tragedy should be punished in accordance with … International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law” … at the sound of those words the traumatic apoplexy probably morphed into cardiac arrest.

In fact there’s an interesting sidebar here. The nominal boss of the Independent Experts was the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, at the time Navi Pillay of South Africa. At the height of controversy, she was quoted as saying that she “stands by the call that … those who suffered as a result of that cholera be provided with compensation.”

Ironically, at that very moment, I was about to do a CBC interview on cholera, so I immediately put in a call to Navi Pillay (whom I knew; not long before we were on a Panel together in Geneva). She was allegedly unavailable. Finally, we reached her personal assistant. On December 4th, 2013, at 10:02am, my Executive Assistant, who conveys messages with impeccable perfection, wrote me an e-mail as follows: “I just received a call from the personal Assistant to the High Commissioner. She conveyed the following message: The High Commissioner sends her greetings. However, she will not be able to speak with you on the subject of Haiti. She’s happy to speak to you about issues of human rights, but a conversation about Haiti needs to be dealt with by the Executive Office of the Secretary-General.”

Navi Pillay told the truth. She was the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. She was muzzled by the bureaucratic hierarchy. The paranoia and prevarication of the UN had silenced even the most senior official in the UN Human Rights establishment.

The appalling truth about the behaviour (I should really use the word malfeasance) of the UN was, and continues to be its refusal at every step of the way to institute the standing claims commission mandated in paragraph 55 of the Status of Forces Agreement, flowing logically from section 29 of the Convention.

There have been a total of 32 of these agreements, that is to say, Status of Forces Agreements, where a standing claims commission could have been launched. Not once did that happen. In the shady rumour mills of the UN it is said that perhaps those claims were resolved internally, but because there’s virtually no transparency whatsoever, we’ll never know. Freedom of information is not a concept embraced by the UN Secretariat. Secrecy is the biblical watchword.

The entire sordid saga of Haiti and cholera is a dreadful commentary on the United Nations. It’s almost too painful for words. Here you have the world’s most exalted organization, whose mantra is human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Every element of the mantra has been betrayed. The human rights of the dead and afflicted were dismembered from the outset; democracy in the quest for justice does not exist; and the rule of law, as enshrined in Conventions and agreements is flouted at every turn.

Does the United Nations leadership not understand the massive loss of confidence and loss of reputation that flow from these betrayals? I used to be Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations. I was such an apologist for multilateralism that people made fun of me: they would say is he Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations or the United Nations’ Ambassador to Canada? No longer. The stance on Haiti is so ugly that the UN should feel no relief from an incessant drumroll of criticism.

I would want to plead with the senior leadership of the UN to reverse their policy on cholera … apologize, abandon the insistence on immunity, settle the claims. But I know that no one is listening or will listen. The strategy is naked: drag things out as long as possible, shift the focus to long-term water and sanitation reform, hope against desperate hope that the issue will disappear into the ether of public indifference. So a truly powerful response, running alongside the route through the courts, is to name and shame those responsible, and to keep the pressure on in unrelenting fashion.

The most awkward component of that pressure, of that naming and shaming is the Secretary-General himself. He runs the risk of bringing significant disrepute upon his office and his personal reputation. He runs the risk of a legacy permanently scarred by the record on Haiti and cholera.

The Secretary-General of the UN visited Haiti in July of this year. During his visit, he said that the United Nations bears a “moral duty” to help to end cholera in Haiti. To be sure, Ban Ki-moon didn’t say that the UN was responsible for bringing cholera to Haiti, but the use of the phrase “moral duty” was highly evocative and inevitably implied in the minds of his audience that the UN was responsible. The phrase appeared in news stories around the world.

And if there was any doubt about the meaning, it was eschewed in what came thereafter.

In a church on Haiti’s central Plateau, the Secretary-General, accompanied by his wife, is quoted as saying “This is a necessary pilgrimage for me. I have come here to grieve with you. As a father and grandfather, and as a mother and grandmother, we feel tremendous anguish at the pain you have had to endure.”

Does Ban Ki-moon not understand the import of those words? Does he not understand what his Haitian listeners would legitimately draw from those words? Has this become a carefully constructed use of language parsed by lawyers dancing on the head of the proverbial pin?

Am I aggravated and angry? Yes, I am. The UN is responsible for this mess, this desperate human predicament. You don’t use the wiles of diplomacy to share anguish while pretending no responsibility. The advice being given to the Secretary-General is morally bankrupt.

Prior to his departure, he’s quoted in a Miami Herald story: “Regardless what the legal implication may be, as the Secretary-General of the UN and as a person I feel very sad.” Regardless of what the legal implication may be? Every word the SG utters on cholera has a legal implication, and I have to say that if this case ever fully gets before the courts, those words will strangle the UN’s argument.

Let me return to July. In the presence of the media, Ban Ki-moon told the Haitian people: “I know this epidemic has caused much anger and fear. I know that an unacceptable number of people are still affected by the disease. I am here today with my wife to tell you that I share your pain.” Would that the pain turns into testimony.

As recently as last month, October 9th to be precise, there was a kind of multilateral fund-raiser for Haiti at the World Bank. The Bank, which is part of the United Nations, pledged $50 million towards the latest plan to construct and reconstruct a clean water and sewage system for all of Haiti (it’s impossible to keep track of the number of plans that have been recycled). This plan requires $2.2 billion over ten years. Despite an energetic effort to round up funding, the proceeds so far amount to 10% of the total. You would think, under the circumstances, that the UN would make this a cause célèbre.

At the meeting on October 9th, the Secretary-General repeated his old refrain, ad nauseam: “We are here to express our strong solidarity and our support, our continuing support, for the Haitian people and government in their fight against cholera … I had an emotional visit to Haiti in July, when I heard first-hand how cholera has affected families … my heart ached at the losses that so many thousands of people have had to suffer and die … I had been meeting many people in many different places, but meeting the families of victims was one of my most moving.”

Everything, all those words, all those heartfelt expressions of empathy and agony, but never the admission of responsibility. The Secretary-General is allowing an extraordinary manipulation of his integrity.

Let me speak very personally. For four years, as the Deputy Executive-Director at UNICEF, one of my responsibilities was damage control. I learned that the best damage control was the truth. When, for example, we found out that UNICEF was substantially responsible for the drilling of wells in Bangladesh that turned out to have arsenic in the water, causing severe illness, I went to Bangladesh and in a public meeting took responsibility. After that, when we entered into a program of helping children in the afflicted families, then marking the wells that were dangerous and drilling new ones, we were taken much more seriously. People trusted us.

You don’t need the brains of a global strategist to tell you exactly what’s going on in the corridors of the 38th floor of the UN Secretariat. Everyone, without exception, in the Secretary-General’s coterie knows the UN is responsible for the cholera catastrophe in Haiti. They admit it to each other without so much as a qualm.

They’re trapped by the United States that doesn’t want even a whisper of compensation to enter the controversy (one wonders where President Obama is in this picture). They’re frantically trying to figure out what they can get away with … and they’re terribly worried about the public perception. They know that at some point they’ll be forced to capitulate. The question is can they take the risk of some court at some stage opening the floodgates, or can they find a compromise in advance? Should they, for example, strike a standing claims commission and swallow the decision?

The one thing we can collectively not permit is to allow the issue to go away. Every conceivable opportunity should be used to drive home the reality that in the case of Haiti and cholera, the United Nations has abandoned human rights, has spurned the rule of law, and has rendered democratic principles a travesty.

If I were Secretary-General, I’d have a hard time sleeping at night.


Click HERE for the pdf.