Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

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Haiti Act Will Increase Local Procurement, Aid Accountability

July 30, 2014 - 01:25

What happened to the billions donated to Haiti for relief and recovery from the 2010 earthquake? The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, a new bill that recently passed through Congress, hopes to provide more transparency and accountability, at least for US government funds going to Haiti. This is a huge step towards answering that elusive question in the future.

Where has all the Haiti aid money gone? U.S. to keep closer track

Anastasia Moloney, Thomson Reuters Foundation
July 30, 2014

BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – U.S. Congress has passed a bill that will make it easier to track the billions of dollars of American aid money spent in Haiti, a think tank said.

After a massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, killing more than 200,000 people, the U.S., the largest foreign aid donor in Haiti, allocated a total of $1.3 billion for humanitarian relief efforts and $2.3 billion for recovery, reconstruction, and development.

The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act – passed by Congress earlier this month and now awaiting President Obama’s sign-off – aims to improve oversight, transparency and U.S. accountability on how money is spent on the ground, says the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).

“People often ask where did the money go in Haiti? It’s been difficult to fully answer this question. The bill is the first step to know how money is being spent. It provides a measuring stick and a basis to hold the U.S. government accountable on what it does in Haiti,” Jake Johnston, a CEPR expert on U.S aid to Haiti, told Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone.

Most are the funds are largely overseen by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and include money to tackle the cholera epidemic that has killed more than 8,550 people, the construction of a power plant, new housing settlements, and a new port in northern Haiti, which is two years behind schedule, according to a report last year by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

A key reason it is difficult to track how USAID funds are spent on the ground is because the agency relies heavily on contractors, who often hire subcontractors in Haiti, as is the case elsewhere in the world, Johnston said.

The Haiti Act requires the State Department to report to U.S. lawmakers every six months on post-earthquake recovery and development efforts, including details on direct contracts awarded by USAID and other government agencies, and more significantly on subcontracts as well.

“Often the black box appears at the subcontract level. Reporting subcontracts by programme, such as health, will give more clarity on what money is being spent on,” Johnston said.


The legislation calls on the U.S. government to do more to involve Haitians in rebuilding and development, including hiring more Haitians, using local contractors and companies, and publishing more information in Haitian Creole.

“It lays out the groundwork for consultations with the Haitian government and civil societies and gets those voices who have felt outside to be inside the reconstruction process,” Johnston said.

In the past five years, USAID has been pushing to increase the use of local contractors and organisations in countries where it operates as part of a series of reforms, known as USAID Forward.

Yet there is a long way to go to ensure that USAID uses Haitian rather than U.S.-based companies or organisations – an issue the Haiti Act seeks to address.

“Of the $1.4 billion awarded by USAID in contract and grants since the earthquake, less than 1 percent has gone to Haitian companies,” Johnston said.

While USAID data shows that local procurement by the agency increased worldwide from 14.3 percent in 2012 to 17.9 percent in 2013, in Haiti it decreased, according to Johnston.

Recent data on the USAID Forward website reveal that just over $4 million, or 2 percent of all USAID spending, went to Haitian companies or organisations in 2013, down from $11.3 million in 2012.

(Editing by Alisa Tang:


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Pangea Legal Seeks Immigration Attorney

July 29, 2014 - 11:23

Pangea Legal Services (Pangea) is a rapidly growing non-profit organization based in San Francisco, California. We serve the immigrant community, particularly in the area of deportation defense.  In addition to direct services, we advocate on behalf of immigrants through policy advocacy, education, and legal empowerment efforts.  Our vision is to live in a world where the fundamental right to move is respected by all.

We bring positive attitudes, enthusiasm, and humility to our work.  Our team works long, hard hours, and we support and learn from each other.  We are committed and available to manage large caseloads, and help grow the organization.  We produce very high-quality work.

We are recruiting an additional attorney to join our team, and we are looking for a good fit—in terms of attitude, dedication, experience, quality of work, and commitment.  This position may turn into a director-level position within the coming year, and we need someone who is ready and able for the responsibility that directors must undertake.


  • Providing direct legal representation to immigrants in removal proceedings
  • Leading advocacy initiatives, community education, and coalition building in San Francisco and San Mateo counties
  • Helping to establish internal policies as we scale our non-profit
  • Supervising law clerks, interns, and other volunteers


  • Fluency or proficiency in Spanish (other languages a plus);
  • 2+ years legal services or litigation experience (immigration experience a plus)
  • Ability to work independently and in teams alike
  • Strong leadership skills
  • Excellent writing and communication skills
  • Desire to invest in the organization’s growth, and work long hours as needed
  • J.D. degree with membership in good standing with a State Bar (California preferred)


  • Pangea is a non-hierarchical organization striving toward pay-equity
  • Currently, all staff salaries range from $41,000-46,000
  • Benefits include standard medical (Kaiser), a socially responsible retirement investment package (Simple IRA), and a preventative health benefits package (monthly reimbursement for: therapy, athletic or musical classes, acupuncture, etc).


This position will be open until filled, and applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. If you believe you might be a good fit, please submit a cover letter, resume, writing sample, copy of your transcript, and three references to  Please indicate “Immigration Attorney Application” in the subject line of your email.


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Haiti Needs National Dialogue to Solve Chronic Problems

July 28, 2014 - 15:37

The way aid organizations used the billions donated after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake undermined the government by circumventing it, rather than using the opportunity to strengthen and restructure it. The fact that Haiti’s majority, the poor, are often left out of politics also hinders the country from growth. This article proposes using a national dialogue to address these issues, particularly if Haiti’s large youth population is included in this conversation that will affect their future.

Why Haiti Needs a National Dialogue

Clare Lockhart and Johanna Mendelson Forman, Foreign Policy
July 28, 2014

Note: This article is an abridged version of a longer report, “Escaping the Crisis Trap: New Options for Haiti,” produced by the Legatum Institute and the Institute for State Effectiveness.

On the afternoon of January 12, 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. Shoddy construction compounded the scale of the devastation; many buildings collapsed on their occupants. Government figures put the dead at over 300,000, with as many injured, in a city of 2.5 million. Overnight, more than 1.3 million people — nearly a tenth of Haiti’s population — were homeless. The overall damage estimates amounted to $7.9 billion, 120 percent of Haiti’s 2009 GDP. The aftermath brought immediate, extreme challenges: 40 percent unemployment, widespread hunger, and frequent disease outbreaks caused by poor sanitation.

The international response was instantaneous and generous. Donor nations pledged $5 billion in short-term aid and $10 billion over the long term. They also committed to work through government mechanisms to build the country’s capacity for self-sufficiency. Four years on, their efforts have unquestionably yielded progress: 90 percent of the homeless have been resettled, 80 percent of the rubble has been cleared, and joblessness continues to decline. There is even some promise of new foreign investment in Haiti.

Yet the international effort’s results have fallen far short of the expectations of both Haitians and donor nations. Unemployment and food insecurity are still prevalent in Haiti. One hundred thousand people continue to live in squalid camps characterized by poverty, cholera epidemics, and sexual violence toward women. (The photo above features two boys who live in a camp for earthquake survivors in Port-au-Prince.)

Haiti remains the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, with a per capita income of $777.10 — a fraction of what their Dominican neighbors earn.

Haiti remains the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, with a per capita income of $777.10 — a fraction of what their Dominican neighbors earn.

Moreover, progress toward self-sufficiency remains slow. The training of a new national police force is not advancing fast enough to stem the current reliance on U.N. troops for security. This cultivates the sense among ordinary Haitians that they are an occupied nation. The Haitian government still depends on donor assistance and remittances from abroad for nearly all of its revenue.

Instead of working to rebuild the country’s long-dysfunctional government, as they committed to do after the earthquake, donor nations and aid organizations fell into a trap that we refer to as the “sovereignty paradox.” Unable or unwilling to trust government institutions as reliable partners in their aid operations, NGOs and their funders programmed around them, creating parallel administrative structures that effectively undermined Haiti’s government and alienated its people. This disappointment provides an opportunity for Haitians and their partners to pause, regroup, and set the agenda for the future. We accordingly call for the creation of a “national discussion” involving individuals and groups, especially young people, throughout the country. It would aim to take stock of Haiti’s considerable assets and generate grassroots pressure to transform the Haitian political and governmental system.

The tiny island nation’s troubles extend far back into history: Originally claimed for the Spanish crown in 1492, Haiti was subsequently colonized by the French. In 1804, Haiti declared independence from France, constituting the only successful slave revolt mounted in the Americas. An ensuing succession of chaotic governments vied for control of Haiti well into the 20th century. Despite several attempts at participatory elections, democratic rule proved elusive. Corrupt and wealthy elites maintained their power, backed by thuggish security forces. Meanwhile, most Haitians lacked the most basic access to justice, education, or health care.

Haiti seemed poised for fundamental change in 1991, when President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, became its first democratically elected head of state. The military and police structure resisted change, however, and seven months into his presidency, the military overthrew Aristide. He returned to Haiti under the aegis of the United Nations and Bill Clinton’s administration in 1994. Since then, a pattern of successive elections, ouster, deadlock, and intervention have reduced government into more of a revolving door than a platform for meaningful change.

In Haiti, political office has always been the main and often only means of upward mobility. Incumbents resort to any means to secure their inherently precarious political positions — including violence. A narrow, kleptocratic elite has captured key positions in government agencies and civil society organizations. As a result, neither represents nor caters to the interests of the majority of the country: the poor. Few Haitians see elections as having any effect on their lives.

Hindered by weak, dysfunctional public institutions, Haiti has been unable to create the basic conditions for private-sector growth: reliable market regulations, transparent property rights, a secure banking system, etc. Without growth, poor Haitians lack opportunity, and the Haitian government lacks a tax base to use to wean itself off foreign aid.

Donors complain about the Haitian government’s lack of accountability, but they themselves set a poor example of successful finance management and transparency.

Donors complain about the Haitian government’s lack of accountability, but they themselves set a poor example of successful finance management and transparency.The U.N. agencies, NGOs, and contractors have yet to publish accounts of financial expenditure that are readily available to Haitian citizens. They waste time and money on duplicating inefficient projects because they fail to coordinate with one another or with local governments. Meanwhile, they are complicit in the siphoning off of significant foreign-aid dollars for favored NGO and U.N. contractors. Only 10 percent of the $6.04 billion in funding donated between 2010 and 2012 went to the Haitian government, and less than 0.6 percent went to Haitian organizations and businesses. By circumventing Haitian institutions in the effort to deliver aid, the donor community missed an opportunity to use its resources to reform the institutions themselves.

Though the situation in Haiti remains dire, the country could build upon its considerable assets to move away from aid dependency. Thediscovery of gold and nickel deposits holds the promise of new jobs and significant government revenues. A 2010 trade agreement with the United States provides favorable import access for Haitian textiles. The country has barely begun to exploit its potential for tourism, an industry central to the economies of other Caribbean countries. There is also considerable growth potential in the Haitian agricultural, construction, and telecommunications sectors. Taking advantage of these assets requires the donor community to use its resources in ways that promote Haitian self-sufficiency. For example, in the massive post-earthquake rebuilding efforts, NGOs have tended to give construction contracts to Dominican firms rather than taking a chance on less-experienced Haitian firms. Haiti also requires better-functioning government institutions and legislation to advance reform, such as well-framed mining laws to guard against corruption and rent-seeking.

The first step is to establish conditions for a national dialogue that would cut across traditional class, party, and geographical lines, giving voices outside the usual political elites an opportunity to participate in shaping the national agenda. Individuals who truly represent Haiti’s diversity can collaborate to develop a shared vision for their country’s future. This vision would endure beyond any single elected government or charismatic leader — providing an overarching benchmark by which Haitians can hold their government accountable. National dialogues have already helped to undergird political and economic reforms in many countries, including Chile, GuatemalaPeru, and Mexico.

The process should start with Haiti’s young. Half of Haiti’s 10 million people are under 25, and it is critical that a national dialogue should consider what they want their country to look like in 15 to 20 years; this will determine the dialogue’s power to drive Haiti’s future. Effective education is critical to cultivating a new generation of leaders. Today, more than half of Haiti’s population is illiterate. The country’s overall education statistics are among the worst in the Western Hemisphere. All too often, low-income countries focus solely on primary education — but this is not enough to give the next generation the technical know-how in science, agriculture, education, and commerce that it needs to drive the country forward.

In the short term, the government can draw upon the talents of the 1 million strong Haitian diaspora.

In the short term, the government can draw upon the talents of the 1 million strong Haitian diaspora.Returning Haitians could also help to mentor the next generation of leaders. They can also share their knowledge on how other countries used remittances to drive economic activity and boost employment, such as through home loans, construction loans, or investment in small business and education.

This national dialogue must identify and prioritize programs to promote growth and skills development and address entrenched problems: poverty, unemployment, failing infrastructure, and weak institutions. These problems can be solved, but Haiti’s government must unlock its potential to overcome them.


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New Bill Set to Increase Local Procurement in Haiti

July 28, 2014 - 13:11

The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, a bill that will increase US aid accountability and transparency, has passed through US Congress.  The Act is much-needed, as the percentage of aid money going to Haitian organizations decreased from 2012 to 2013, and US aid to Haiti has some of the worst procurement statistics worldwide. This article outlines the statistics of US government spending in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake, as well as the foreseen difficulties with increasing transparency of this aid money.

US Congress Passes Aid Accountability Legislation as Local Procurement Falls in Haiti

Center for Economic and Policy Research
July 28, 2014

More than four-and-a-half years after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the U.S. Congress passed legislation on Friday demanding greater accountability and transparency in U.S. relief and reconstruction efforts. “[W]e need to provide more accountability of our efforts to rebuild Haiti as we work to produce sustainable local capacity and strengthen democratic institutions,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), in a press release praising the bill’s passage.

In April 2013, CEPR published “Breaking Open the Black Box: Increasing Aid Transparency and Accountability in Haiti.” The report concluded that “the lack of real transparency around U.S. assistance to Haiti makes it much more difficult to identify problems and take corrective measures.” Among the recommendations made in the report, many have been included in the recent legislation, such as: reporting sub-award contract data, prioritizing local procurement and the involvement of local civil society, releasing data at the project level and including benchmarks and goals, and increasing the amount of information published in Haitian Creole.

The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, as the bill is known, will require the Secretary of State to submit to Congress a report every 6 months detailing the U.S. government strategy in Haiti, including program goals and outcomes. Crucially, the bill also requires reporting on “amounts committed, obligated, and expended on programs and activities to implement the Strategy, by sector and by implementing partner at the prime and subprime levels,” making it far easier to track where the money goes and who is the ultimate recipient.

It has been U.S. policy to increase local procurement worldwide as part of an ambitious reform program called USAID Forward. However, the new bill will ensure that the U.S. carries this out in its Haiti policy, something that has taken on extra importance as recent data released by USAID shows the level of local procurement actually decreased in 2013 from 2012.

Local procurement data recently posted (XLS) on the USAID Forward website reveals that just over $4 million, or 2 percent of all USAID spending went to local companies or organizations in Haiti. This is down from $11.3 million (5.4 percent) in 2012. Overall expenditures for Haiti decreased from $209.5 to $198 million, according to the database. Worldwide, the level of local procurement actually increased, from 14.3 to 17.9 percent, showing just how far behind U.S. policy in Haiti is.

The aid accountability bill states that “it is the policy of the United States” to prioritize “the local procurement of goods and services in Haiti,” and repeatedly calls on the U.S. government to outline a strategy that “builds the long term capacity of the Government of Haiti and civil society in Haiti.” While these are core principles that leading donors worldwide have agreed to adopt in line with evolving aid accountability awareness, the U.S. has been slow to implement these changes, especially in Haiti.

Commenting on the bill’s passage, CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot stated, “it is a step in the right direction if U.S. taxpayer dollars are to be used in a way that will benefit the people of Haiti instead of merely lining contractors’ pockets.” He added that, “66.2 percent of USAID contracts has gone to Beltway-based firms, while just 1.5 percent has gone to Haitian companies…There is something terribly wrong with this picture.”

What the Data Shows

The data released by USAID, showing the levels of local procurement, while a step in the right direction, falls far short of what is being required in the Haiti aid bill, and has severe limitations. Unlike in the database, which reports all contracts and grants awarded by USAID, the Forward Database contains no identifying contract numbers, meaning reconciling the two databases is virtually impossible. Further, the USAID Forward database doesn’t specify whether the expenditures are via prime awards or sub-awards, an important distinction. Finally, the information is provided only well after the fact, while the data is updated regularly. For these reasons, to present a more complete picture of USAID procurement in Haiti, an analysis of the database is required.

As of July 14, 2014 USAID has awarded $1.38 billion for Haiti-related work according to the database, including both contracts and grants. As can be seen in Figure 1, overall, just 0.9 percent has gone directly to Haiti organizations, while 56.6 percent has gone to firms located inside the Beltway (Washington D.C., Virginia and Maryland).

Figure 1. Percent of USAID Funds Awarded, by Location of Recipient

There is some evidence to show that local procurement has been increasing in 2014. Though the data confirms the drastic decrease in local procurement in 2013, thus far in 2014 just over 2 percent has gone to local companies, as can be seen in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Percent of USAID Awards Given to Haitian Companies, Annual

In response to inquiries from CEPR, the USAID Haiti Task Team responded that, “the amount of new obligations directly to local organizations will vary from year to year and do not necessarily reflect the level of USAID involvement in building local capacity,” adding that, “any attempt to split up our funding into discrete shorter time periods such as fiscal years is bound to encounter fluctuations.”

In 2014 and beyond, “USAID/Haiti anticipates higher percentages,” of local procurement. To help move in this direction, USAID issued an Annual Program Statement (APS) in March 2014 that programs $5.5 million “to provide direct funding to local Haitian organizations,” in a number of sectors. Further, and in line both with USAID Forward and the recently-passed legislation, USAID “is currently identifying opportunities” for Haitian organizations to provide development capacity building to civil society groups and local companies in order “to expand the number of Haitian organizations able to receive direct funding from USAID or other donors,” according to the Haiti Task Team.

Still, a deeper look at who the recipients are shows a more limited reach of USAID’s local procurement. Since the earthquake in January 2010, of the $1.38 billion awarded by USAID, just $12.36 million has gone to Haitian organizations. And of that, 57 percent went to just one company, Cemex Haiti, which is a subsidiary of a Mexican company that is one of the largest cement manufacturers in the world. A further 8.6 percent went to the local branch of Transparency International. Though both organizations physically operate in Haiti and employ Haitians, it highlights the advantage for local firms of having international connections, without which they are often left behind.

While more funds certainly go to Haitian companies through subcontracts, there is little available information available on this. Despite previous legislation requiring the reporting of subcontracts to the database, in practice very little is ever reported. Only $44.1 million is reported in subawards for work in Haiti, of which 20 percent went to Haitian companies, as can be seen in Table 1. Even at this level, over 44 percent of the funds went to companies inside the Beltway. The newly-passed legislation, in requiring the reporting of data at both the prime and sub levels, will allow for a much more thorough analysis of USAID spending in the future.

Table 1. Subaward Obligations, by Location of Recipient

The U.S. Congress has sent a clear message to the State Department and administration that the U.S.’s Haiti policy has not lived up to its pledge and that is has fallen short in key areas of transparency and accountability. The next step will be holding those actors accountable with this new piece of legislation.


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UN Must Live Up to Cholera Promises

July 28, 2014 - 07:29

This article explains how Ban Ki-moon’s recent visit to Haiti was a step in the right direction but he and the UN need to live up to the sympathetic words Ban uttered during his visit. The UN cholera elimination plan still remains vastly underfunded and the UN still has not apologized or admitted responsibility for cholera. Now that Ban has admitted “moral responsibility” for ending the epidemic, visited Haiti, and told Haitians the UN will stand with them, will the UN do more?

UN Secretary General ramps up Haiti cholera response rhetoric

Tom Murphy, Humanosphere
July 28, 2014

In what has become an all too familiar dance, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Haiti to draw attention to the ongoing cholera outbreak. He again threw his verbal support behind the $2.2 billion plan to eliminate cholera from the island of Hispaniola, shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, in 10 years. He stressed the need for global support to address the challenges of clean water and sanitation in Haiti in order to put to a halt an epidemic that has infected more than 700,000 people and killed 8,500 since October 2010.

“I know that the epidemic has caused much anger and fear. I know that the disease continues to affect an unacceptable number of people,” said Ban while speaking at a church service in the village of Los Palmas, last week. “Whatever I say today will not lessen the despair you have felt over the loss of your loved ones.”

What he did not say was that the outbreak is the UN’s fault. He did not say that it was UN peacekeepers from Nepal who accidentally brought cholera into Haiti and spread it because the UN mission was not properly disposing of its fecal waste. He did not apologize on behalf of the UN for the error that cost thousands of lives.


Ban made what he called a “necessary pilgrimage” to Haiti and got attention from various media sources about the trip. The tenor of such report has changed over time due to the fact that this story has already been told. For example, much was made of remarks by Ban in late 2012 about the $2.2 billion plan for Haiti. As Jonathan Katz and I reported for Foreign Policy, there was not really much news in what was announced. The plan was already established nearly a year before that, by the UN. Even the money supposedly raised at the time was just countries following through on promises more than two years prior.

At the time, only $118 million of the $2.2 billion needed was available. More than 18 months later, the UN is short of the $400 million that is needed to kick start the end of cholera on the island. Yet again, Ban was called upon to take leadership and admit the responsibility of the UN for the outbreak. An editorial by the Miami Herald pushed the issue yet again, when Ban made the visit to Haiti. The editors say that the UN should not only accept guilt, but compensate the victims of the outbreak.

“[T]his should be only the beginning of the U.N.’s effort to make things right with the people of Haiti. “Moral responsibility” requires that the United Nations take concrete steps to back up the secretary general’s admission. Otherwise, it amounts to nothing more than hollow words,” write the editors.

Ban was commended for admitting that the UN has a “moral responsibility” to lead the way. His visit last week was proof positive that he was taking need for UN leadership more seriously. What remains to be done is solving the problem of the lack of access to improved sanitation for nearly three out of every four Haitians. As the US and other countries have shown, universal access to clean water and sanitation all but puts an end to water-borne diseases like cholera.

” I have seen again and again the courage of the Haitian people. Your determination in the face of hardship continues to inspire people across the world. The United Nations will continue to stand with you in your efforts to build a brighter future for you and your children,” said Ban to the church-goers.

Can the Ban and the UN live up to those words?


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Congress Passes Bill for Haiti Aid Accountability

July 25, 2014 - 09:43

After the 2010 earthquake, billions were donated and pledged to Haiti but over 4 years later, much of the money is unaccounted-for or still yet to be disbursed. The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, which recently passed through Congress, seeks to better account for US government money going to Haiti.

Congress passes law promoting transparency in Haiti’s reconstruction Concerned about the slow disbursement of U.S. dollars in Haiti and problems with projects, U.S. lawmakers pass legislation giving them more oversight.

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald
July 25, 2014

Nearly five years after a devastating earthquake nearly flatten Haiti’s capital, the U.S. Congress on Friday passed legislation aimed at shedding light on how U.S. funds are used in the country’s reconstruction efforts.

The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act of 2014 requires the U.S. Secretary of State to submit to Congress a report on the status of post-earthquake recovery and development projects in Haiti, using U.S. taxpayers’ dollars, no later than Dec. 31, 2014 and annually thereafter through Dec. 31, 2017.

The measure was sponsored by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, who like many have expressed concerns about the lack of transparency in U.S. government funded projects, and the slow disbursement of aid in Haiti where the quake killed more than 300,000, and left 1.5 million homeless and an equal number injured.

The new legislation is being applauded by several groups including the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), which provides direct financial support to grassroots organizations in Haiti.

“In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, our government laudably committed a significant amount of aid to help Haiti rebuild, but a lack of transparency made it difficult to understand how U.S. government funds were being used and if recovery efforts were making progress and were being measured,” said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS.

Messinger said she believes that the “legislation embodies a new commitment to transparency, accountability, and good governance.”

In the wake of the quake, the U.S. and others in the international community pledged more than $10 billion over 10 years. Pledges, however, been slow to materialize. For example, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has noted that as of June 30, 2013, the U.S. Agency for International Development had disbursed just 31 percent of its reconstruction funds in Haiti. Congress, the GAO said, had not been provided with sufficient information to ensure effective oversight of the projects.

The GAO also has been highly critical of USAID-funded projects in Haiti, from cost overruns and lax oversight with housing construction to the slow pace of the construction of Haiti’s largest public hospital in Port-au-Prince. One report also noted that a new modern seaport to support a new $300 million industrial park in the country’s northern corridor was two years behind schedule and U.S. government funding will be insufficient to cover the costs.

But U.S. lawmakers also noted that donors in general have encountered “significant challenges” in helping Haiti with its recovery even as the government highlights the post-quake progress.

Although more than 90 percent of the displaced has left the camps, there are still an estimated 103,565 people living in 172 camps scattered around metropolitan Port-au-Prince, the International Organization for Migration said. The thousands of new homes that many envisioned after the disaster never materialized, forcing most quake victims to return to existing housing with the help of a Haitian government rental subsidy program financed by international donors.

U.S. lawmakers noted in the legislation that they remain concern about Haiti, and its slow progress.

“Unemployment remains high, corruption is rampant, land rights remain elusive, allegations of wage violations are widespread, the business climate is unfavorable, and government capacity remains weak,” the legislation said. “The legal environment in Haiti remains a challenge to achieving the goals supported by the international community.”


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Half Hour for Haiti: Human Rights is Key

July 25, 2014 - 09:34

Half-Hour for Haiti Action Alert:
Friday July 25, 2014
Help spread the word: Human rights is the way to build Haiti

Be Part of the Solu­tion for Haiti: Make a Dif­fer­ence a Half Hour at a time


Dear Friend,

Thank you so much if you made it to yesterday’s conference call on How Human Rights Can Build Haiti: Activists, Lawyers, and the Grassroots Campaign. The questions were insightful and it was a motivating discussion that we hope will continue on past the call. If you missed it, here‘s a recap.

As mentioned on the call, we’re bringing back the monthly Half Hour for Haiti Action Alerts, in which you can take on one task to help advance human rights in Haiti, for half an hour or less. See this month’s action below.

Take Action!

Fran Quigley’s new book about BAI, IJDH, and human rights, How Human Rights Can Build Haiti, comes out this month. This book will be a great tool to demonstrate how human rights work and systemic change are the best ways to build a better Haiti. Every day, human rights abuses get in the way of progress–whether it is fair and representative elections, evictions of internally displaced persons, or under-paying factory workers. Haiti needs human rights for political, economic, and all other forms of progress. Here’s how you can help us spread the message:

  • Talk about the book. Tell your friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances why this is a must-read. Spread the word via social media and emails.
  • Buy the book. It will be available online and at your local bookstore. If your local library doesn’t have a copy yet, gift one to the attention of the Director of Circulation so it can be placed on display with the other new books.
  • Request the book. If your local library or bookstore doesn’t have it yet, ask everyone you know to request the book so they know it’s in demand and request copies from the publisher.

Don’t forget, the author’s proceeds go directly to BAI and IJDH, to help us continue partnering with Haitians to build the rule of law in Haiti. Check out his site,, for more ways to help.


Mesi anpil!

Kermshlise Picard
Communications Coordinator

Assessing Progress in Haiti Act Passes Congress

July 25, 2014 - 06:01


This new bill is meant to provide transparency and accountability by keeping better track of where USAID and other US government funds for Haiti go. Given that “66.2 percent of USAID contracts has gone to Beltway-based firms, while just 1.5 percent has gone to Haitian companies” after the 2010 earthquake, this is an exciting step towards improving aid to Haiti.

Haiti Aid Reform Bill “Will Be a Step in the Right Direction,” CEPR Co-Director Says

Center for Economic and Policy Research
July 25, 2014

For Immediate Release: July 25, 2014
Contact: Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460

Congress Passes “Assessing Progress in Haiti Act” to Enact Greater Oversight of USAID in Haiti

Washington, D.C.- New legislation passed by Congress to provide increased oversight of USAID activities in Haiti will be “a significant step in the right direction,” Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today. The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), passed the House by unanimous consent today. A first version of the bill was approved by the House in December 2013 and the Senate approved a modified version, introduced by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), that was passed by voice vote on July 10 of this year. The bill will require that USAID and other agencies regularly report to Congress regarding the benchmarks, strategies and contracting for post-earthquake aid activities in Haiti, including efforts aimed at treating and eradicating the cholera epidemic that has killed over 8,550 people and sickened over 700,000.

“This bill could go a long way toward correcting some of the problems with government transparency and effectiveness in the Haiti relief effort that we documented in our report ‘Breaking Open the Black Box,’” Weisbrot said. “It is a step in the right direction if U.S. taxpayer dollars are to be used in a way that will benefit the people of Haiti instead of merely lining contractors’ pockets.

“66.2 percent of USAID contracts has gone to Beltway-based firms, while just 1.5 percent has gone to Haitian companies,” Weisbrot added. “There is something terribly wrong with this picture.”

The bill requires that Congress receive annual progress reports “on the status of post-earthquake recovery and development efforts in Haiti, including efforts to prevent the spread of cholera and treat persons infected with the disease.” The bill mandates that agencies detail how the Haitian government and target constituencies, including internally displaced persons (IDPs) and farmers, are involved in the coordination of the aid process and how they are being impacted.

Importantly, the bill will also require more reporting regarding sub-grants. CEPR’s 2013 report, “Breaking Open the Black Box: Increasing Aid Transparency and Accountability in Haiti” by Jake Johnston and Alexander Main detailed how funds designated for Haiti end up going to sub-contractors who are often not identified, and who are not held accountable for what they do with the money. The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act will require the State Department to provide data on U.S. Haiti assistance funds disbursed at both the prime and subprime levels in line with one of the CEPR report’s main recommendations.

Much of the U.S. government aid earmarked for Haiti following the quake has gone to foreign contractors, providing little benefit to Haitian businesses, organizations or workers. The Haitian government has also largely been bypassed as aid funds have gone to foreign contractors, international agencies and the many groups that populate what is known as the “republic of NGOs.” Of the $6.43 billion disbursed by bilateral and multilateral donors to Haiti from 2010-2012, just 9 percent went through the Haitian government.

Alexander Main, co-author of “Breaking Open the Black Box” said, “For years Haitian citizens, U.S. members of Congress and concerned U.S. citizens have noted the lack of progress in international relief and reconstruction efforts in Haiti and asked ‘where has the money gone?’ This legislation should help provide us with a much more detailed picture of how U.S. taxpayer money is being used in Haiti by USAID and the big private contractors that implement assistance programs.”


Click HERE for the original.

HHRCBH Conference Call Recap

July 25, 2014 - 05:40

On July 24, 2014 we had a great conference call on Fran Quigley’s new book, How Human Rights Can Build Haiti: Activists, Lawyers, and the Grassroots Campaign. If you missed it, here’s a recap. The key takeaways are in bold.

  • Nicole Phillips (moderator) thanks staff who helped organize the call and introduces the book, Fran Quigley, and Mario Joseph. She explains that Brian Concannon is also on the call but will be translating for Mario and thus, not giving an intro.
  • Fran says “We are living in a moment of real historic opportunity for Haiti.” Then he describes the incredible number of Americans who donated to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and how he’s impressed with how many people are interested in Haiti. He goes on to say that “Charity, however well-intentioned, is not enough” because Haiti needs social change and activists fighting for that. Just like in the anti-Apartheid and Civil Rights movements, activism led to social change. Fortunately, Haiti already has many activists fighting on the ground but more remains to be done. The cholera campaign has the potential to establish that Haitians have human rights that should be respected by the global community. It’s a groundbreaking case.
  • Then Mario gives an intro to BAI’s work, explaining how Brian began the partnership between the two men and the two organizations, BAI and IJDH. He explains how he, Brian, and others worked closely with victims of the Raboteau Massacre and activists for justice for the victims. They ate with them and really spent time getting to know them and ended up winning the first such case in Haiti’s history. Mario also thanks everyone who joined the call and thanks IJDH for putting the call together to help him spread the word about human rights in Haiti.
  • Nicole asks Fran to tell his favorite story about Mario before opening up for questions. Fran says that he can’t think of one story because Mario’s life story is so impressive. He says “The movement makes the leader more than the leader makes the movement.” Then he explains how Mario’s life embodies the movement for justice in Haiti, from his humble beginnings and struggle for education, to today.
  • Paul Miller asks what our plan is for promoting the book and using it to spread the word about why human rights approach is the best way to build Haiti:
  • Brian explains that we will spread the word through social media, emails, and word of mouth as usual. Fran will also have speaking engagements all over the country. If anyone is interested, please contact us for more information. We will also post the currently scheduled events on the site. After the call, we will also send out an action alert, listing some easy things everyone can do to get involved. This is part of reviving our old “Half Hour for Haiti” action alert emails.
  • Nicole asks Mario what the most important human rights issue in Haiti is right now and Mario says elections. He explains that most of the local representatives have been chosen by the Martelly government and only 2/3 of Senate seats are currently filled. This will get worse in January as another 1/3 of the Senators’ terms will expire. All the House of Deputies seats will also expire by January if there is no clear and reliable date set for elections.
  • Mario makes some closing remarks: The problems we’re dealing with are in Haiti but Haiti isn’t isolated. I would like to invite everyone to be engaged—there are people who provide financing but Americans can also participate as citizens: Contact Congressmen, etc. We don’t need to make a distinction between Democrats and Republicans—there have been issues on both sides (e.g. Clinton’s policies that undermined rice production in Haiti). Find ways to engage with organizations that are effecting change in Haiti. We need to be absolutely clear that the charity approach doesn’t work—there needs to be collaboration between organizations and Haitian people. People need to stay engaged because there’s a big problem with propaganda about Haiti. People need to stay engaged to fight that propaganda.
  • Again, Mario thanks Paul Miller, IJDH, Fran Quigley, and everyone who’s helped so far.
  • Nicole thanks everyone for participating and reminds them to keep an eye out for the action alert and other emails from IJDH, as well as Fran Quigley’s site,, which will also have updates about the book tour and actionable steps.

Click HERE for more info on the book.

How Human Rights Can Build Haiti Conference Call

July 24, 2014 - 11:00

Join our live conference call on the new BAI/IJDH book, How Human Rights Can Build Haiti: Activists, Lawyers, and the Grassroots Campaign.


The new book about BAI and IJDH, How Human Rights Can Build Haiti: Activists, Lawyers, and the Grassroots Campaign comes out this month! To introduce it, we’ve invited the author and the two human rights attorneys he profiles to tell you all about it. Fran Quigley, BAI Managing Attorney Mario Joseph (expected), and IJDH Director Brian Concannon will give a brief intro to the book, BAI and IJDH’s unique partnership, and how you can help. Afterwards, we look forward to answering your questions!


To join, dial (712) 432-1212 and enter the meeting ID, 416-399-999. Some countries have free conference numbers available, HERE. Just make sure to use the meeting ID to get on our call. Long-distance charges may apply for international callers not listed but a calling card will work as ours is a US phone number.


Thursday, July 24, 2014 @ 2-3pm


Click HERE for more info about the book.

Haitian Prime Minister Aims for Presidency

July 24, 2014 - 07:27

Analyzing Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe’s recent public activity, many think that he is making plays for the presidency. Without Senate certification that he hasn’t misused government funds, Lamothe can’t run for President but with elections still delayed, Lamothe has a chance: If elections don’t happen by January 2015, President Martelly will rule by decree and thus, have the final say regarding Lamothe. Follow this link to find out why elections have been so long delayed.

Borrowing from Hillary Clinton, Haiti Prime Minister raises profile As an ongoing political stalemate in Haiti fuels an electoral crisis, many are focusing attention on Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamonthe’s constant campaign-style stops.

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald
July 24, 2014

PORT-AU-PRINCE – For a man who says he’s not a presidential candidate, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe is campaigning like one.

From visiting a remote central Haiti village with United Nations head Ban Ki-moon to stumping at a Haitian diaspora town hall in North Miami, Lamothe last week was everywhere a candidate needs to be — although the start of the 2015 Haitian presidential race is more than a year away.

“That is how prime ministers run,” said Robert Fatton, a University of Virginia politics professor and Haiti expert. “That is not a Haitian thing. This is politics.”

Lamothe, 41, the tech savvy businessman-turned-politician, insists that he’s not a candidate.

“This is part of my job; what I am doing as prime minister, it is to govern; it is to manage,” Lamothe said before joining more than a dozen flown-in members of his cabinet in front an overflow crowd for his televised town hall in North Miami. “I am prime minister today, and I am focusing on that.”

But Lamothe’s schedule reflects a Hillary Clinton-like method of raising a future candidate’s profile without officially announcing for office. And that is prompting concern and panic in Haiti where observers say the presidential posturing is intensifying a crisis prompted by legislative and local elections that are three years behind schedule.

In order to run, Lamothe would need certification that he has not misused government funds. But the opposition-controlled Senate is unlikely to support giving him the décharge, leaving opponents and some supporters of President Michel Martelly to see delaying the Oct. 26 elections until next year as key. Martelly will rule by decree, practically guaranteeing that Lamothe will get the needed clearance. Opponents believe the delay would lead to Martelly’s downfall.

If the elections are not held, Haiti risks being thrust into chaos a decade after a U.N. Peacekeeping mission arrived to strengthen democracy, observers warn.

“I am particularly concerned that the political transition in Haiti will undergo regression,” Ban, the U.N. secretary general, warned last week at the end of an overnight visit. “Holding inclusive elections in October is essential for the continuity of parliament in 2015, and for the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law.”

With President Michel Martelly and the opposition still at logger heads over the delayed elections, analysts say the future doesn’t look bright for Haiti. Increasingly, October elections look impossible. And while a first-round in December remains do-able, there is growing fear the elections won’t take place until next fall alongside the presidential balloting.

That would leave Haiti with no lower chamber and just 10 out of 30 senators come the second Monday in January.

“That would be catastrophic for the country even if there are sectors who think it would work in their favor; a devastating political tsunami,” said Sauveur Pierre Etienne, national coordinator for the opposition Organization of People in Struggle (OPL), which has ended its boycott of the elections. “It feels as if the focus is no longer on the delayed local and legislative elections, but on the presidential elections.”

Fueling the political friction, say analysts, is Lamothe’s constant campaign-style stops that are generating suspicion and intrigue even among foreign diplomats about his presidential ambitions. One former prime minister, Jacques-Édouard Alexis, has even publicly called for “a common front” to stop Lamothe’s rise to the presidency, prompting push-back from Lamothe’s supporters.

“The prime minister is in an electoral campaign,” Etienne said, “and the political parties are panicking, other candidates are panicking.”

The major hurdle that elections supporters face is the lack of a law governing the election. Six senators have refused to support an amended law, saying they lack confidence in the nine-member provisional electoral council (CEP) that will have to oversee the balloting. Also, four of the largest opposition parties are boycotting the elections, saying they also have no confidence in the CEP.

“We changed the CEP four times in order to organize this election; we went 28 steps already,” Lamothe said. “Unfortunately, not all the cards are with us.”

“Everybody knows we will not have elections this year,” opposition Senator Steven Benoit said, accusing Martelly and Lamothe of “pretending they want to have elections but of course they know very well, they are not going to have it.” Benoit is not among the senators refusing to amend the election law.

For his part, Martelly has yet to officially anoint his successor.

Still, the singer-turned-president who overshadowed Lamothe at the North Miami meeting by singing and swinging his waist on stage, has made several veiled references that lead watchers to believe Lamothe will get his blessing — although nothing is guaranteed.

“The way Martelly was talking, he clearly said at one point, ‘I will put my hand on the anointed candidate,’” Fatton said about the North Miami gathering. “Clearly that was an indication that he’s going to put his hand on Lamothe.”

Fatton believes reports of conflict between the two friends have been grossly exaggerated.

“I think there is an agreement there. He is the logical candidate,” Fatton said of Lamothe. “The guy has a wonderful PR machine. You go to all of the social media, he’s there. He’s all over the country traveling, inaugurating things without saying he’s running and obviously, without also saying anything bad about Martelly, and pushing Martelly as ‘The Man,’ and then he’s just in the background.”

Lamothe’s schedule provides a textbook case in running for president:

Monday: Lamothe shook hands and distributed free government food to the poor as he hosted Ban amid a gaggle of TV cameras.

Tuesday: Lamothe played table tennis with Ban and other diplomats as he helped to inaugurate an Olympics-financed sports complex.

Friday: In Miami, he glad-handed with Haitian Americans, pitched post-earthquake progress and attended a reception in his honor, where he took no questions.

Saturday: Lamothe was center stage at a televised town hall in North Miami.

Sunday: He threw out the first pitch at a Miami Marlins game, much like any major U.S. candidate for office or cultural figure.

“There is no one else in the cabinet who is a serious candidate. If he says he’s a candidate now, they can attack him more. It’s very much like Hillary,” Fatton said. “He’s looking at the scenery; he’s using the position of prime minister to be prime minister but obviously also to be a candidate.”

Click HERE for the original article.

Click HERE to learn more about elections in Haiti.

UN Independent Expert Calls for Cholera Claims Commission

July 24, 2014 - 06:28

July 22, 2014

UN Independent Expert on human rights in Haiti, Gustavo Gallón, recently made strong statements on cholera, renewing his request for a commission for reparations for cholera victims to hear damages, identify those responsible, and stop the epidemic. He also talked about abolishing illiteracy, pre-trial detention, elections, impunity in the justice system (including Duvalier), and the need for durable housing for Internally Displaced Persons. The statement is in French but here’s a translation of the part about cholera (bottom of page 4):

As for cholera, the independent expert noted that the Secretary General of the United Nations visited the country and traveled on 14 July to the Central Plateau, where cholera first appeared. He launched a sanitation campaign there. I hope that this visit will contribute to the implementation of the recommendation I made in my report of March 2014 on the necessity of creating a reparations commission for the victims of cholera, in order to allow the evaluation of damages, corresponding compensation or indemnification, the identification of those responsible, the stopping of the epidemic and other measures. As Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, I take this opportunity to reiterate this recommendation.

Click HERE to read the statement.

Advocates Demand Transparency from UN Cholera Team

July 23, 2014 - 12:44

The United Nations has revealed that it appointed a Task Force to address the recommendations of the 2011 Independent Panel of Scientific Experts who originally looked into the cholera epidemic. That original panel established that the UN likely caused the epidemic and made 7 recommendations on how to stop it. Most of those recommendations have not been completed, despite the appointment of this new Task Force. Cholera advocates are now wondering what exactly the purpose of the Task Force is, and why the recommendations are being ignored.

Secretary General in Haiti for Cholera “Photo-op” as Transparency Questions Continue to Dog the UN

Center for Economic and Policy Research
July 23, 2014

Last week, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon travelled to Haiti to raise awareness of the ongoing cholera epidemic that scientific studies have continually shown the U.N. troops in Haiti to be responsible for introducing. In an interview before his trip, Ban told Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald that the U.N. and international community had a “moral responsibility” to help Haiti eradicate the disease, already the world’s worst cholera epidemic having killed over 8,500 and sickened more than 700,000. Also last week, the U.N. quietly posted a document online (PDF) which provides information on its follow up to the Independent Panel of Expert’s recommendations, made in May 2011. The U.N. convened the panel in the aftermath of cholera’s introduction to study how it was introduced, how it can be stopped and efforts to prevent future epidemics.

In Haiti, during remarks at a church service in Las Palmas, the Secretary General told those present that, “I know that the epidemic has caused much anger and fear. I know that the disease continues to affect an unacceptable number of people.” Ban later ensured the Haitian people that, “You can count on me and the United Nations to do our part.”

But the visit by the Secretary General also put the spotlight on the U.N.’s own efforts to evade responsibility for cholera’s introduction, the subject of multiple lawsuits. “It is an insult to all Haitians for the Secretary-General to come to Haiti for a photo-op when he refuses to take responsibility for the thousands of Haitians killed and the hundreds of thousands sickened by the UN cholera epidemic,” said Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and one of the leading lawyers working to hold the U.N. accountable for cholera’s introduction to Haiti.

In December 2012, Ban pledged to “use every opportunity” to raise funds for an ambitious $2.2 billion ten-year cholera eradication plan. Yet over a year-and-a-half later, the plan remains woefully underfunded. According to the U.N. Office of the Secretary General’s Coordinator for Cholera Response in Haiti, at the current rate of disbursement, it “would take more than 40 years to fund the water, sanitation and hygiene” sectors of the elimination plan. Even the $485 million needed for the critical first two years of the plan, now nearing its end, is only 40 percent funded.

As part of the Secretary General’s trip, Ban launched a “Total Sanitation Campaign.” While it was presented as another new effort, according to the Office of the Secretary General’s Coordinator for Cholera Response in Haiti, it “is part of the sanitation component of the overall elimination plan.” Further, the U.N. itself has committed just 1 percent of the funds needed for the eradication plan. Meanwhile, since the earthquake, the U.N. troops that introduced cholera have cost the international community well over the $2.2 billion needed to fully fund the plan.

The Independent Panel’s Recommendations

In October 2010, the U.N. appointed an independent panel of scientific experts to study the introduction of cholera to Haiti. The panel concluded that it occurred as “a result of human activity,” and likely began in a river near a U.N. troop base, but that the “outbreak was caused by the confluence of circumstances” and that no single party should be blamed. Two years later, after additional scientific research was published, the authors followed up with a report that determined the U.N. was the “most likely” source.

As part of the Independent Panel’s original report, the author’s offered seven recommendations for the U.N.: using prophylactic antibiotics or screening U.N. personnel deployed from cholera endemic regions, use of antibiotics or the cholera vaccine when deploying personnel to locations with concurrent epidemics, improving on-site treatment of fecal waste at U.N. installations, taking the lead in improving case management, prioritizing programs to provide piped drinking water and sanitation, investigating the potential of cholera vaccines and increasing the use of advanced microbial techniques to improve surveillance and detection of cholera.

Upon the report’s release in May 2011, Ban announced that he would convene another task force to review the report and “ensure prompt and appropriate follow-up.” The Task Force was made up of senior U.N. officials from various agencies, including personnel from the UN Haiti team. However there has been little information as to what has been implemented in the intervening three-years, at least until a nine-page fact sheet was posted online last week by the U.N.

The U.N. has adopted some of the recommendations, but did not accept others. The U.N. has supported vaccination campaigns as well as increased use of advanced microbial techniques, as per the panel’s recommendations. The U.N. has also changed policies on the treatment of waste water at their bases around the world, noting that “All [U.N.] missions have provided action plans to ensure that all their wastewater facilities meet the minimum required standards set by the Organization’s Environmental Policy,” and that actions include “improvements to and better monitoring of existing facilities, installation of independent wastewater treatment plants, and inspection and closer supervision of contractors involved in wastewater disposal.”

The U.N. cites its work supporting the national elimination plan in response to the recommendations that it invest in water and sanitation infrastructure. But as described above, the lack of financial resources and the U.N.’s own role in the disease’s introduction have prevented a more robust response on this front.

A Second, Secretive Panel of Experts

“Overall, it does seem like progress is being made,” says Dr. Rishi Rattan, Chair of the Advocacy Committee for Physicians for Haiti. In a report he authored last year, Dr. Rattan evaluated the U.N.’s response to the independent panel’s recommendations, concluding that of the seven recommendations “the UN has not implemented three and only partially implemented two others.” The recently released fact sheet provides a glimpse into the rationale behind the lack of implementation and the role of a secretive second task force that was convened after the panel of experts presented its report.

While the formation of the Task Force was announced publicly at the time, little has been revealed about its actions. Though the Task Force was meant to implement the independent panel’s recommendations, in reality it had little contact with the panel members. In their follow up report (PDF) last year, the original panel members wrote that:

The Task Force did submit one request for additional information from the Independent Panel, which was answered. To date, no further contact has been initiated, and no results from the Task Force released.

Despite this, the U.N. decided against following recommendations one and two, which concerned the use of antibiotics, screening and vaccinations of U.N. personnel deployed from cholera endemic regions or into areas with cholera outbreaks. The U.N. cited the work of the Task Force, determining that there is a lack of scientific evidence to support the panel’s recommendations. While the Task Force’s original stated goal was to ensure “appropriate follow up,” the fact sheet provides an alternative explanation, describing the Task Force as being formed to “review the recommendations,” of the Independent Panel.

According to Dr. Rattan, while the U.N. may be “technically correct,” he added that there “is a lack of evidence to support either position.” For Dr. Rattan the bigger issue is the lack of transparency around this Task Force and how it has reached their decisions. Given that the U.N. itself selected the panel members because of their unique expertise on cholera-related issues, any decision in the opposite direction should be well documented.

“When a topic is controversial, complete transparency is ideal and when disagreements arise, each party goes back to the lab, conducts more tests, and presents all data. This is not what is happening here,” says Dr. Rattan. Even if the most likely outcome would be to agree with the U.N. interpretation, “the fact they are not doing it leaves a very bad taste in the mouth,” he adds.

While the fact that the U.N. has, after three years, publicly released a status update is welcome, says Beatrice Lindstrom of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, “it doesn’t provide nearly enough information to explain why their internal experts’ views should trump the findings of the panel of independent experts they appointed in 2011.”

A request for further information on the makeup of the U.N. Task Force, and any documentation of its work was not answered by the U.N. cholera team. Members of the Independent Panel, contacted by e-mail, declined to comment.


Click HERE for the original.

How Injustice Aggravates Disasters

July 22, 2014 - 02:51

This op-ed proposes a similar approach to disaster preparedness and relief as we did after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The reason the earthquake had such a devastating effect is an unjust system in Haiti: Too many people were living in Port-au-Prince, seeking opportunities to make a better living; buildings that weren’t built according to the codes collapsed on people; those who couldn’t afford to move to a new home faced forced eviction from tent camps; etc. When it was time for reconstruction, Haitians were rarely included in the process, although they know more about Haiti than outsiders do, leading to very little improvement. As Nicholson states, “at-risk groups” need to be treated as “active agents within the disaster risk reduction process.” The only way to change the system is to make sure everyone is included in the decision-making process.

Op-Ed: Disasters and Inequality in the Caribbean Region

George Nicholson, Caribbean Journal
July 22, 2014

WE ARE all familiar with the proverb “Give a man a fish, and you will feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

While the origin of the saying is largely unknown, it is generally attributed to Moshe ben Maimon, otherwise known as Maimonides, one of the most prolific scholars of the Middle Ages.

The context in which we examine this statement is in respect to the issue of equality and by extension self determination, as it applies to vulnerability or its obverse, resilience, to the effects of natural hazards within the Latin American and Caribbean region.

Research has shown that disaster related experiences are shaped in important ways by the same issues of stratification and inequality that influence person’s lives during non-disaster periods.

Disasters are recognised as arising from the confluence of disaster agents, vulnerable built environments and vulnerable population. Vulnerability as a concept itself has gone through several different evolutions within formal disaster discourse leading the recognition of its social aspects.

More importantly, with the shift from the purely physical to the social and political realms, it is widely held that vulnerability is in part socially produced, or influenced, reflecting the fact that failures in development processes, lead to increased risk among certain groups. The social causation framework for assessment of impact presents the perspective that repeated and cumulative shocks from events erode attempts made by persons to accumulate resources and become more resilient. Some groups may return to their pre-disaster status, albeit with some difficulty, while some groups may never recover

The multidisciplinary approach towards hazards seeks to explore disaster vulnerability as a function of both the physical place as well as the social conditions that expose some social groups to the potential for greater harm when a disaster strikes and also limit their ability to cope.

Important therefore, is identifying and analysing the factors that help make differing social units more resilient, that is, able to avoid or withstand the impact of a hazard and further rapidly recovering from that which they have experienced.

It is against this backdrop that we seek to examine inequality. Generally speaking, inequality is defined as a situation in which some people have more rights or better opportunities than others.

We go further in making reference to the power relationships within the community that seek to include or exclude certain actors.

We examine here the context of the Latin American and Caribbean experience, which is one of significant income disparity between differing groups, poor social structures with respect to family life and high rural urban migration and its attendant ill effects on the foregoing.

Income disparity
Much has been said about the issues of inequality in the Latin American and Caribbean region. In fact while inequality in income distribution is a pervasive phenomenon across the world, our region has the unenviable title of being the most inequitable. Some statistics are used here to illustrate the point. Roughly one out of every three inhabitants of the region is poor, that is, not having sufficient income to satisfy basic needs, while one in eight, even if they spend all their income earned, are not able to meet their basic nutritional requirements.

Within the context of these disturbing figures, we must recognise that there is also disparity in income level inequality when we look at the sub-regions. Poverty rates in the Central American countries are exceeded only by Haiti; 70% of persons in the region’s two poorest countries, Haiti and Honduras, live in poverty, while in two of the richest, Barbados and Chile, only 12% live in poverty.

Large upper middle income countries like Brazil and Mexico have poverty rates which are slightly below the region’s average, no doubt a factor of their large populations; half of the region’s poor live between these two countries.

While vulnerability has often been associated with poverty, it also stands apart. In recognising that poverty is a dynamic state, more so in the aftermath of a natural hazard, we must also accept the intertwining of vulnerability and poverty in our assessments.

Family structure and Gender
Gender is a significant dimension of vulnerability as it is intrinsically linked to other factors associated with socio-economic well-being. Women are largely marginalised within the region, being more likely than men to be unemployed.

No reference to gender can be made without mentioning the increase in “female-headed” households in the region and by extension its association with poverty.

Matri-focal families, that is, a single parent family consisting of a mother and her children are disproportionately represented in the region. On average, 35% of all households in the Caribbean are headed by women with the proportion of female-headed households being as high as 44% in Barbados and 42% in Antigua and Barbuda.

In these households the number of children depending on the mother averages between three and five.

Startlingly, the proportion of these families is rising as the highest rates of non-marital childbearing occur in Latin America (55–74%). This has an unmistakable impact on issues concerning vulnerability as these types of households comprise the largest percentage within the poorest cohort.

Many of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have undergone a fast process of urbanization and internal rural to urban migration with very little regulation and a paucity of social services to support the increased population.

Migration of poor households to urban areas has caused the acquisition of housing in areas characterised by non-existent public infrastructure- physical and social, unsafe dwellings and overcrowding.

These factors create fertile ground for a disaster, as the impact of a natural hazard brings disproportionate impacts on these informal settlements.

The unfortunate case within the region is that it is increasingly difficult to regularise unplanned communities, because of the attendant political and power relationships within them and those that support them externally.

The context in which inequality and the vulnerability of marginalised people or communities is apparent suggests that a multipronged approach to disaster risk reduction and poverty reduction is required if we are to reduce the overall impact of an event.

Attention must be given to improving the economic and social wellbeing of communities if we are to reduce sensitivity of poor households to disasters.

Economic development strategy and physical planning, as well as risk management strategies must be sensitive to the needs of the poor living in hazardous areas.

The political change needed in the approach to disaster management requires that improving a person’s ability to respond to and cope with a disaster event must be placed on equal footing with the process to encourage economic development.

In the shift in approach from disaster response to disaster risk reduction, one position should remain foremost, that is, all disasters are local. In recognition of the need for effective management, the failure of the traditional top-down management approach becomes more evident. Historically, this approach has been unsuccessful in addressing the needs of communities considered vulnerable.

It must be recognised that in the face of recurrence of many small events vis-à-vis the large national tragedy, communities are the best judges of their own vulnerabilities and are best able to make decisions regarding their own wellbeing.

This necessarily involves a new strategy, one which directly involves the so-called marginalised people in the planning and implementation of mitigation measures.

Social stratification constitutes the means by which power privilege and access to resources are distributed within societies.

Understanding social inequality and its effects is therefore important to understanding the impact of disaster on societies and by extension the mechanism for the development of community-based resilience. Research on the effects of disasters worldwide shows that communities resent the traditional approach by agents of the government: one which views them as problem areas rather than allies in the attempt to develop resilience and to respond and recover from disasters.

Risk reduction strategies should be focused on reducing economic vulnerability while simultaneously seeking to capitalize the social capacities of marginal communities.

Although vulnerable, we must not make the mistake of ignoring the reality that marginal communities can also be resilient.

The onus then lies on those of us within the disaster risk reduction arena to encourage nations to provide appropriate forms of support that can transform at-risk groups from being potential victims to active agents within the disaster risk reduction process.


Click HERE for the original.

Port-au-Prince Reconstruction Causes New Wave of Homelessness

July 21, 2014 - 20:05

The Haitian government has begun demolishing homes in Port-au-Prince to make way for modern reconstruction of the capital and its government buildings. Some families were only given minutes to vacate their homes before the demolition began and many have lost their belongings in the rubble. Many of these families had only just moved into subsidized housing from their post-quake tents and are now back in tent camps or living with relatives. Haiti needs respect for housing rights in order for reconstruction to truly be successful.

Plans to rebuild Haiti capital displace families

David McFadden, My San Antonio
July 21, 2014

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The broad avenues in the Haitian government’s promotional material are clean and unbroken, dotted with palm trees, parks and manicured expanses of grass. The new ministry buildings are sleek and modern but retain some of the neo-classical architecture of the former structures lost to natural disaster.

This is the grand, dreamlike vision of central Port-au-Prince that President Michel Martelly says will replace what was toppled when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake left much of Haiti’s capital in ruins on Jan. 12, 2010. Sketched plans look more like a wealthy Miami suburb than the gritty downtown of old that housed both state institutions and shabby tenements.

“These plans will take a long time to finish, perhaps another 10 years,” says Harry Adam, executive director of the government agency that is responsible for the construction of public buildings and housing. “But I think it’s realistic. We can do it.”

Demolitions began in June for construction of an “administrative city” covering 30 hectares (75 acres) downtown.

But the plan hailed as a sign of post-quake rebirth by some residents has also set off a firestorm of criticism for creating a new wave of homelessness after many poor renters were given just minutes to vacate their dwellings before bulldozers arrived.

While there are no available figures on the number of people left homeless by the demolitions, the city center has become dotted with new encampments of tarp shacks in recent weeks. Hills of rubble left by bulldozers have grown so large it almost looks like a fresh quake just hit.

Bitter quake survivors, some who only recently were moved by aid groups from squalid tent camps to downtown apartments, are back to living beneath tarps or staying with friends.

One of them is Jean-Louis Wilner, a 32-year-old father of a two-year-old boy. After a couple of years living in a tent camp, he thought he had finally made it. He had a subsidized rental apartment for a year and a small business selling cold drinks. Now Wilner wonders if he’ll make it through the hurricane season. Like others, he claims his possessions were either lost beneath rubble or stolen by thieves when he rushed items out into the street.

“This country doesn’t respect human beings. I’m worse off than after the earthquake. It’s humiliating,” Wilner says.

Opposition politicians say they plan to mobilize the newly displaced families in street protests against Martelly’s government.

“They only give them a warning of a few minutes and then they start bulldozing? I consider that a crime. These families have nowhere to go and are now homeless again,” said Sen. Moise Jean-Charles, a staunch opponent of Martelly.

Government officials say communication about the demolitions could have been better and contend that some building owners who were notified did not tell their tenants of the coming bulldozers.

Public notary Jean-Henry Ceant, who is helping people with their claims, says owners of buildings with proof of their investments are being quickly compensated. But that’s a tall order in Haiti, where the land registry is in shambles and it’s not always clear who owns what.

Renters are also being compensated, but only the few who can prove they lived in their now-demolished homes for about a decade and paid their utility bills, the head of the agency overseeing the project said.

“If you can bring proof with receipts that you paid the electricity, you paid the water — if you bring that and you have them for like 15, 10 years — then we’ll consider that we’re going to pay you,” Adam said in English.

For now, it’s hard to see the promised shiny, orderly city center arising amid the cracked streets, where steel reinforcing bars twist out of the rubble and are a prized commodity for scavengers. The hope is to consolidate all the government ministries on elegant boulevards and revive a business district that was already dying before the quake.

Evidence of the reconstruction is evident in the skeleton frames of a few new ministry buildings. Most of the work has been funded so far through debt relief money and Venezuela’s Petrocaribe fuel program. Authorities declined to provide a total estimate, but the first phase of construction is expected to cost $150 million.

Richard Morse, manager of the storied Hotel Oloffson, which Graham Greene immortalized in his novel “The Comedians,” asserts the government’s vision of a new capital city is dishonest. The hotelier is a first cousin to Martelly and worked as his special envoy to Washington before quitting early last year over what he says is “outright corruption” in the government.

“They’re just trying to pour as much cement as possible in order to get as many kickbacks as possible. They’re not really fixing anything,” Morse said at the three-story gingerbread hotel not far from the razed blocks.

Adam, the government official, insists the ambitious rebuilding program will transform downtown Port-au-Prince if the country has success drumming up the money year after year.

“We have to rebuild better,” he said. “But it will cost a lot.”

For some Port-au-Prince residents, the message of renewal is powerful.

“I would love for my city to have a different image. I want a Port-au-Prince like New York, Miami, Canada,” off-duty policeman Evens Simon said as he gazed up at construction workers on scaffolding.


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Does a Better Haiti Start with Justice or Tourism?

July 18, 2014 - 11:50

This is a great story that sheds light on the incredible work (and life story) of BAI Managing Attorney Mario Joseph and makes clear why there is no way around justice for cholera victims. It not only portrays Mario’s struggle to bring justice Haitians but also contrasts it with the current Tourism Minister’s opposing view that attracting tourists will create a better future for Haiti.

A Damned Paradise: Does Haiti Need Tourism? Or Does It Need Justice?

Samiha Shafy, Der Spiegel
July 18, 2014

Human rights attorney Mario Joseph and Tourism Minister Stéphanie Villedrouin are both trying to improve Haiti, but they are following radically different paths. The one wants justice, the other wants tourism.

The attorney stares at a hut next to the grave. It’s made of wood and mud, and is covered with a plastic tarp. “I used to live like that,” Mario Joseph says quietly, more to himself than to the three women crouching behind him in the shade of a tree.

The women are keeping watch over a rectangle of freshly dug up earth, surrounded by loose stones. One of them, Itavia Souffrant, says it is the grave of her mother. Two weeks ago, the mother had diarrhea and was vomiting, but because of heavy rains the family was unable to take her to the doctor. The mother died of cholera, the same fate suffered previously by Souffrant’s three-year-old daughter and by so many others in the vicinity of Mirebalais, north of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince.

The three women at the gravesite have also had cholera, but they survived. They knew that they shouldn’t have been drinking from the river, they say, but it was the only water available. The tablets to disinfect it are unaffordable, and they don’t have enough charcoal to boil it.

Attorney Joseph believes that he has found a way to help them and all other victims of the cholera epidemic in Haiti. About 750,000 people have been infected with the disease and the death toll now stands at 8,500. Officials expect there to be about 45,000 new cases in 2014.

The culprit is the international community. A few months after the earthquake that rocked Haiti on January 12, 2010, United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal emptied their latrines into the Artibonite River, and thus introduced the pathogen to Haiti. Until then, cholera was one of the few plagues that this poor country had been spared.

This explains why the attorney is now standing in front of a mud hut on a humid green hill, from which vapor rises in the heat. He has returned to the world from which he came in the hopes of changing it.

Joseph, 51, is a burly man with a moustache. Wearing a long-sleeved shirt, jeans, a straw hat and sunglasses, he takes large gulps from his Diet Coke. He is asking the women questions in the search for information could help him realize his plan. It is as obvious as it is ludicrous: He wants to take the United Nations to court.

Justice for Haiti’s Victims

It isn’t actually possible to sue the UN; the organization invokes the principle of immunity, which seems cynical in this case. Nevertheless, Joseph, a well-known human rights attorney in Haiti, has filed a class action lawsuit in a federal court in New York, where the UN has its headquarters. “The peacekeepers knew that Haiti is a poor country without a waste water system,” says Joseph. “They should have been extra careful, instead of dumping their fecal matter into the river!”

Joseph wants justice for Haiti’s victims. In addition to his fight against the UN, he wants to see former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier brought to trial in Port-au-Prince. He also represents women who were raped in tent cities in the capital after the earthquake.

Joseph believes that for wounds to heal, they need to be examined and cleaned — so that his wounded country can eventually recuperate. He wants to prevent the world from forgetting Haiti’s suffering.

Joseph’s adversary is sitting in her office in a yellow government building in Port-au-Prince. Stéphanie Villedrouin, Haiti’s tourism minister, doesn’t want the world to constantly hear any more tales of suffering coming from her country. She wants a Haiti that looks to the future and markets itself more effectively.

Four PR consultants are gathered around a table in Villedrouin’s office. They have flown in from France, Great Britain, the United States and the Dominican Republic to hear about Villedrouin’s vision of Haiti as the next vacation paradise in the Caribbean. The minister wants the marketing specialists to campaign for this vision in their respective countries.

“Which language should we speak?” asks the minister, smiling at her guests. She is fluent in English, Spanish, Creole and French. At 32, Villedrouin is the youngest and undoubtedly most attractive minister Haiti has ever had.

On this afternoon, she is wearing a pink silk blouse, black trousers, pumps, a diamond ring and diamond earrings. She has slightly wavy, caramel-colored hair, a smooth face and light skin. In Haiti, skin color is still a sign of social status. The poor are mostly black while the country’s few white citizens usually have money and influence. Villedrouin is from the upper class.

Changing the Image

“The first thing people always tell me is that Haiti is a devastated country,” she says. “We have to change that image.”

The earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince in January, 2010, was the worst in a series of natural disasters that have ravaged vulnerable Haiti, a country torn by regime changes and civil wars. More than 220,000 people died.

Still, something bordering on hope emerged for a short time after the tremor. Might it this time be possible to build a better country out of the ruins? When, if not now — now that Haiti was in the global spotlight and governments and private donors alike were promising billions of dollars for reconstruction? Aid organizations had muddled along in Haiti for decades. This time, though, they pledged to do everything differently — and everything right.

More than four years later, most Haitians have given up hope. The tent camps in Port-au-Prince have all but disappeared, but they have been replaced by new slums on the surrounding hillsides. They look as if the next heavy rain could flush them into oblivion. The government had some of the shacks painted in bright colors so that the view from new hotels in Pétionville wouldn’t be quite so depressing.

And yet, despite everything, does hope still exist in Haiti?

Villedrouin embodies the way she would like to see Haiti: dynamic, modern and elegant. She grew up in Venezuela, where her father served as the Haitian ambassador under the Duvalier regime. When the dictator was ousted in 1986, the family returned home, where it owned restaurants and hotels. Villedrouin attended a tourism school in the Dominican Republic, returned to Haiti and began convincing important people to support her vision. The fact that she became a cabinet minister at 29 is partly due to her connections, but also a result of her talent to fill people with enthusiasm for ideas that sound almost as audacious as Mario Joseph’s plan to take the UN to court.

“We have to start with France,” says Villedrouin. France, she notes, has a large community of Haitian immigrants who could easily be won over as tourists. She also points out that the French have a historic connection to their former colony and might be interested in visiting the country.

The next stops in the marketing campaign are Germany, Great Britain, Spain and Russia.

Saving Haiti

Villedrouin believes that her plan could help Haiti pull itself out of poverty. Tourist attractions and hotels create jobs. Hotel owners can support Haitian farmers by buying local meat and produce. And the general population also benefits from the roads and airports built primarily for tourists, such as the Hugo Chávez International Airport in Cap Haïtien, modernized with Venezuelan aid. Once the tourists arrive, says Villedrouin, things will begin looking up for Haiti.

From listening to Villedrouin and Joseph, it becomes apparent that although they represent contradictory approaches, they sometimes have the same goal: to save Haiti. Many have failed at the task. Indeed, everyone who has tried has failed, and some have even spent their entire lives in the process. Haiti was once the richest colony in the world. Today, countless tragedies later, it is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.

The current list of the “25 most interesting people in the Caribbean,” published by the magazine Carib Journal, lists names such as Usain Bolt and Rihanna, but it also includes two Haitians: Mario Joseph and Stéphanie Villedrouin. After being made aware of that fact, Joseph is so amused that he almost chokes on his Diet Coke. “The government would be overjoyed if the minister were the only Haitian on that list,” he says.

Joseph walks down the path leading from the shack and the old woman’s grave to the road, where his car is parked. One of the three women, whose name is Lizette Paul, walks behind him so that he can give her a lift. Joseph drives past a gray shell of a building without windowpanes. Inside, small children are sitting on wooden benches, singing at the top of their lungs.

Looking grim under his straw hat, the attorney says that missionaries built the school. Only a 10th of all schools in Haiti are government-run, he explains, while foreign aid workers operate the rest — a shameful state of affairs, Joseph says. Lizette Paul concurs. In fact, she says, she voted for singer Michel Martelly in the presidential election because he had promised free schools for the poor. But now, three years into Martelly’s term, she still cannot send her three children to school.

Paul, 43, first met Joseph in a church. He had come to Mirebalais to speak with victims of the cholera epidemic and tell them about his plan to file a class action suit on their behalf. Paul’s one-and-a-half-year-old daughter died in the epidemic, as did her father and her brother, who had supported her and the children financially.

“At least there is someone like him in the government, someone who does his job,” says Paul, pointing at the attorney. She says that she very much hopes to receive her compensation from the UN soon. Joseph shakes his head. He looks tired. “I’m not part of the government, Lizette, you know that,” he says. “I’m an opponent of the government.” The woman looks at him uncomprehendingly and says nothing.

‘This Is About Emotions’

Joseph’s Haiti, the land of the wounded, is everywhere. One would have to be blind to ignore it. Villedrouin’s promising Haiti also exists, but it isn’t immediately apparent.

The minister has sent her PR advisers on a tour. “This is about emotions — either you love Haiti or you hate it,” she told them as they left. “To find out, you have to see it, sense it, taste it and feel it.”

The four men are now sitting in a white, air-conditioned minibus as it rattles along hellish roads throughout the country. They say nothing as the bus passes piles of debris, mountains of garbage and slums. Finally, they arrive in gated oases of calm: hotels with private beaches that charge between $15 and 20 (€11-15) for their use.

Most Haitians live on less than $1 a day. Most of the people basking in the sun on the hotel beaches are aid workers, UN employees and groups of American missionaries. They are no tourists yet.

Two of the tourism experts, the Frenchman and the Dominican, visit a place that is normally off-limits to anyone arriving by land: the Labadie Peninsula. It lies 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Port-au-Prince, and is hidden behind a tall, black, barbed-wire fence patrolled by security guards.

About two dozen men are loitering outside the fence. They watch silently as a gate into the restricted zone opens for the visitors. Royal Caribbean, the American cruise line, has leased the peninsula and developed it into a sort of high-security playground for cruise-ship passengers. Those who go on land here remain behind the fence, where they can swim, snorkel and go jet-skiing.

The two men are taken along the coast in a boat. Wild, green and untouched mountains rise from the blue waters of the Caribbean. Citadelle Laferrière, a 19th-century fortress on the UNESCO World Heritage list, sits atop a 970-meter (3,180-foot) mountain in the distance.

He sees potential, says the Frenchman. What a gorgeous landscape, and what a pretty little spot of sand, that tiny island back there, he exclaims.

One-Eyed Among the Blind

That’s Amiga Island, says the skipper. Christopher Columbus supposedly landed on that spot of sand in 1492 during his voyage of discovery to the New World, and gave it its name. The Frenchman looks at the captain with amazement.

Tourism? In Haiti? Attorney Joseph shakes his head. “You’d have to sprinkle sand in the tourists’ eyes so that they’d see a different reality,” he says. But his next words are surprising: The minister’s ideas aren’t all that preposterous. Perhaps she can achieve something positive, he says, even if she is part of an incompetent government. “She’s a one-eyed person among the blind.”

On his way back to Port-au-Prince, Joseph travels along dirt roads filled with potholes, past scrawny horses carrying heavy loads and garishly painted vehicles to which too many people are clinging. Joseph drives an air-conditioned SUV with bulletproof windows, which he had installed because of the death threats that come with his work.

The road passes through the village of his childhood. Frail goats wobble around, and there are mud huts, but there are also small concrete houses and a small school. Joseph slows down to look out the window. “My life here wouldn’t be any different that Lizette’s,” he says, “if I hadn’t been lucky enough to go to school.”

Raised by their mother, Joseph and his three siblings grew up in a mud hut. Their father left the family when they were small. His mother took in washing for a living and sometimes sold rice. “The primary school cost nine Gourdes a year, and my mother could hardly scrape together the tuition for us,” he says.

As one of the most gifted pupils, Joseph was permitted to attend secondary school and a group of missionaries paid his tuition. Beginning in the 10th grade, he started working as a teacher, which enabled him to continue going to school, graduate and study law.

“Baby Doc” ruled Haiti at the time. Nineteen-year-old Jean-Claude Duvalier came into power in 1971 after the death of his father and he ruled the country the way he had learned from “Papa Doc” François. Joseph remembers how the Tontons Macoute, Duvalier’s paramilitary force, would beat farmers in his village. His aunt’s husband was arrested one day and then disappeared, he says, and the family never found out what had happened to him.

Indifference and Friendliness

Joseph began campaigning for human rights. In 1996, he joined the Bureau Des Avocats Internationaux in Haiti, which had been founded a year earlier with the support of American attorneys, and Joseph now runs the institute’s office in Port-au-Prince. “I was really excited when Duvalier returned,” he says. “His return could be an opportunity to show the world that abuse of power will no longer remain unpunished in Haiti.”

“Baby Doc” accumulated an estimated $800 million before he was forced to flee in 1986. Some 25 years after his ouster, he returned unexpectedly from French exile, where he had squandered much of his fortune. Since then, he has been seen dining with politically influential friends in the better restaurants of Port-au-Prince.

The political elite received the former dictator with reactions ranging from indifference to friendliness. Joseph, however, announced on the radio that he was searching for witnesses to Duvalier’s crimes. More than 50 people contacted him, he says, and told him about people who had been arrested for no reason, spent years in prison without trial and were tortured.

Since then, Joseph has been spending a lot of time in court. The trial was already suspended once and now it is proceeding very slowly. Still, the dictator was at least summoned once to appear in court, where Joseph and other lawyers were allowed to question him. It was a historic victory, says Joseph, but not enough. “We cannot build a country without principles.”

Joseph has a wife and three children. Ten years ago, they fled to Miami because life had become too dangerous in Haiti and he visits his family once a month. “My wife understands me, sometimes,” Joseph says with a smile.

Stéphanie Villedrouin hasn’t seen her husband and three children very often in recent years, either. She travels around the world, searching for partners to convince of Haiti’s potential as a vacation destination. She has been traveling in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Dominican Republic in recent days. In the spring, she spent a day at the International Tourism Exchange in Berlin. A travel agency in the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg now wants to attempt to “bring Haiti closer” to its customers, as an employee puts it.

Keep Investing

When the minister is in Haiti, she frequently attends the openings of new luxury hotels, like the Royal Oasis and the El Rancho. There are plans to build a luxury resort on an island in the south. A Marriott is under construction in Port-au-Prince, signs are being made for the city’s chaotic streets so that tourists can find their way around and a tourist police force of 110 officers patrols the areas around hotels and sights. Villedrouin is developing a strategy document for the next 15 years although she has less than two years remaining before a new government is elected, provided the current administration can remain in power until then.

Villedrouin is sitting in a suite in one of the new hotels in Pétionville, enjoying a quiet moment between appointments. The El Rancho, part of a Spanish chain, has pleasantly bland rooms and a pool, and it’s easy to forget where you are if you don’t leave the premises. Villedrouin says that she hopes to attract private investors. “I always say to them: You guys have to keep investing in tourism in this country.”

And what about her? She smiles. “Well, three years ago I had no idea that I would assume such an important position for my country.” She says that she is grateful for the opportunity to promote her vision. Then she abandons the attempt at modesty, which doesn’t suit her. “In any case, I also want to be in a leadership position in the future. That’s just the way I am,” she says.

Villedrouin seems to be winning her personal battle. But can she change Haiti? She says that she respects Mario Joseph for the fact that he wants to help his country, in his way. “The Carib Journal honored him because he is apparently a capable attorney,” she says. “He is doing something that he believes is helping his sisters and brothers.”

The minister has no budget to build roads and she has no power to make poverty and disease disappear. The question is how far optimism goes in making things happen in Haiti’s reality.

The Perfect Photo

On the tour of Haiti, Villedrouin’s PR advisers visit a former sugar plantation on the Côte des Arcadins that is now a hotel. With them are two French travel writers, guests of the ministry who have been invited to write a promotional article.


A museum in the garden commemorates a bloody colonial history. Haiti is the only country in the world where slaves were able to depose their tormentors and establish their own country. The PR agents learn how brutally the country was victimized, exploited and occupied by foreign powers. To this day, Haiti has never had a chance to become a healthy country.

To lighten the mood, the hotel owner takes the group out to a reef in a speedboat, and they splash around in the water and drink chilled fruit punch. And then, just once during their tour, the two Haitis collide, that of the minister and that of the attorney.

A fisherman in a dilapidated little boat paddles up to the group. He looks like the old man in Hemingway novel: toothless and with leathery skin, calloused hands and cracked fingernails. He says nothing. He merely gazes in astonishment at the scene and waits. The group on the speedboat looks down at the fisherman, equally astonished. The foreigners ask the old man to hand them a fish, and then they take pictures and hand it back to him. It’s the perfect photo, they say.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan


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Haitians Tired of UN Cholera Promises without Action

July 18, 2014 - 07:46

Nearly four years after UN peacekeepers began a cholera epidemic in Haiti, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited to convey his and his wife’s sympathies. He also re-launched a sanitation initiative, which is suspiciously similar to the previous UN cholera initiative which has gotten very little funding. Haitians protested Ban Ki-moon’s visit, citing the UN’s continued promises and lack of action.


Kim Ives, Haiti Liberte
July 16-22, 2014
For the first time since cholera began racing across Haiti in late
2010, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Haiti on
Jul. 14-15 in an effort to resuscitate a stalled $2.2 billion UN plan
to eliminate the deadly disease from the country over the next decade.

Launched in December 2012, the UN “initiative” was really nothing more
than the repackaging of the “Initiative for the Elimination of Cholera
in the Island of Hispaniola” launched by the Haitian and Dominican
governments in January 2012, as Jonathon Katz and Tom Murphy pointed
out in a scathing “Foreign Policy” article.

“Shifting around aid money — making the same promises over and over
without fulfilling them — is an old game in the development world,”
the authors wrote. “But in this case it’s especially bold.”

Since the UN rebranded the plan, it has been unable in over 18 months
to raise even the $400 million needed to fund the project for its
first two years. Meanwhile, the UN spent some $609 million to deploy
about 7,000 UN soldiers in Haiti during FY 2013/2014 as part of the
thoroughly despised and almost weekly protested decade-old UN Mission
to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH).

It was, in fact, MINUSTAH soldiers from Nepal who imported cholera
into Haiti by allowing sewage from their outhouses to flow into the
headwaters of Haiti’s largest river in October 2010, at least ten
scientific studies, including one commissioned by the UN itself,

However, the UN has refused to accept legal responsibility for causing
what is now the world’s worst cholera epidemic, which has killed over
8,500 and sickened over 704,000 Haitians. Three lawsuits have been
filed in New York courts demanding reparations and an apology from the
UN for its negligence in Haiti. The UN has claimed it has immunity,
and UN officials have been hiding from court officers trying to serve
them with papers, although one server caught up with Ban Ki-moon at
The Asia Society in late June.

In Haiti, Ban Ki-moon and his wife, joined by Prime Minister Laurent
Lamothe, engaged in an extended photo-op to deflect criticism and say
that the UN had a “moral duty” to help stop the spread of cholera in

“This is a necessary pilgrimage for me,” Ban told villagers in a
church in Los Palmas on Haiti’s Central Plateau near where the
epidemic started. “My wife and 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.”

Along with Lamothe, Ban also helped launch the Haitian government’s
“Total Sanitation Campaign,” a five-year plan, already funded with $14
million from Canada and Japan, which aims to improve sanitation for
3.8 million Haitians in 20 cholera-plagued rural communes.

The Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH)
and the Port-au-Prince-based Office of International Lawyers (BAI)
were the first lawyers to bring a lawsuit in the New York courts on
behalf of 5,000 cholera victims in October 2013. The lawsuit came
after the UN claimed immunity after the IJDH/BAI lawyers attempted to
seek redress through the UN’s own grievance system in November 2011.

On Jul. 7, the U.S. Justice Department wrote to the Judge J. Paul
Oetken in the New York case to say that the “United States has
consistently asserted the absolute immunity of the UN to lawsuits
filed against it in U.S. courts” and “urges the Court to dismiss this

The IJDH/BAI lawyers are trying to have the case litigated as a
class-action lawsuit.

“Secretary-General Ban’s visit demonstrates why Haiti needs justice,
not charity,” IJDH lawyer Brian Concannon, Jr. told Haïti Liberté.
“His talk of ‘moral duty’ and new programs on this visit just add to
his other empty gestures, such as the 2012 launch of the Cholera Free
Hispaniola Initiative that has not started almost two years later.
Haitians are dying of the UN cholera epidemic, the UN has a legal
responsibility to stop that killing, and has the resources to do so.
It is time for all of us to join with Haitian grassroots activists and
make sure that the UN obeys the law.”

Ban also met with President Michel Martelly as well as the presidents
of Haiti’s House of Deputies and Senate to discuss the political
impasse over Haiti’s unconstitutional electoral council, which
Martelly has sought to unilaterally impose.

On Jul. 15, about 50 protestors gathered outside a stadium being
constructed on Route Neuf outside Cité Soleil, in which Ban, Martelly,
and Lamothe took pictures with International Olympic Committee
president Thomas Bach. The protestors sang chants and held signs which
said: “MINUSTAH = Cholera”, “Ban Ki-Moon Go Home”, and “Down with the
UN Occupation of Haiti.”

“We are outraged that Ban Ki-Moon comes here to hypocritically say he
cares about our plight while at the same time he refuses to take
responsibility for unleashing cholera in Haiti,” said Oxygène David of
the party Dessalines Coordination (KOD), whose militants made up more
than half of the demonstrators at Route Neuf. “We demand that UN
troops to leave Haiti, and Ban is deaf. We ask for cholera
reparations, and Ban is deaf. Through massacres carried out by their
soldiers and the importation of cholera, the UN is responsible for
thousands upon thousands of Haitian deaths. So don’t try to tell us
that you’re the solution to the problems you’ve created.”

After Haiti, Ban Ki-moon travels to the Dominican Republic, where he
will meet with President Danilo Medina.

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Ban Ki-Moon Isn’t Living Up to His Responsibilities

July 17, 2014 - 13:31

This piece outlines the responsibility of leaders like the Secretary General of the United Nations, and how Ban Ki-moon is shirking those responsibilities. Haiti’s cholera victims have sought justice for four years and the UN is still failing to protect their human rights. Instead, Ban Ki-moon dodges questions and makes statements of sympathy without effective actions to eliminate cholera from Haiti. The UN does have a moral responsibility, and also a legal and financial responsibility, to give justice to cholera victims and their families.

Ban Ki-moon heads to Haiti, offers an apple for an orchard

Wesley Laine, Let Haiti Live
July 17, 2014

A few days ago, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Haiti. It was his first visit to Haiti since the cholera outbreak. During his trip, the Secretary General toured the “Sports for Hope Centre”, a project of the International Olympic Committee. Additionally, in the same sports complex, Mr. Ban inaugurated the newest class of Haitian recruits poised to take their first step toward joining the National Haitian Police (HPN).

During his remarks, the Secretary General emphasized that the Haitian State will have to show the people that it can enforce the law and demonstrate that in a democratic nation, no one – including political authorities and the police themselves – is above the law. The Secretary General’s remarks echo one of the core guiding principles of the United Nations establishment—the rule of law. Or perhaps what it once proudly stood for, prior to the egregious mishandling of the Haitian cholera disaster.

The numbers continue to increase with each passing day, more than 700,000 have gotten sick and over 8,500 Haitians have lost their lives since October of 2010. And despite indisputable evidence that negligence by the United Nations leadership and its peacekeepers are responsible for introducing the vibrio cholera bacterium in Haiti’s largest and most important river, Mr. Ban has refused to own up to his responsibilities as the head of one of the most important international institutions of our age.

The Secretary General, in a very real sense, is entrusted with the power and responsibility to make meaningful the moral force of the world community. For four long years, the people of Haiti have patiently waited for Mr. Ban to acknowledge them as dignified human beings deserving of an apology and compensation for their suffering. So far, Mr. Ban has lacked the courage to recognize the humanity of the Haitian victims and their inalienable right to justice—outlined in the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Perhaps it is well to ask whether Mr. Ban understands how much the Haitian people have suffered. It appears that the Secretary General is unable to come to terms with his own natural human empathy. On different occasions, he has offered half-hearted words of regret, deferred questions to UN lawyers, and offered to mobilize donor countries to fulfill their pledges for the dysfunctional cholera response plan. On this particular trip to Haiti, the Secretary General spent time playing Ping-Pong inside the new sports complex with the country’s prime minister, avoiding protestors braving the scorching heat to demand accountability and justice.

To deal with the tragic cholera crisis, the UN needs a Secretary General who is willing to look unblinkingly at the circumstances, confront the realities, face the tears of the wounded, and harness all stakeholders to a great collective effort toward justice. Unfortunately, Mr. Ban has shown that he is unfit to be that leader. It is easy to forget now, but this is essentially what happened in past failures, especially at the leadership level, of the United Nations to take bold actions to stop genocides or other wrongful acts. In all these failures, the passage of time should not obscure the facts, lessen responsibility, or turn victims into villains.

The task of strengthening justice lies with all of us, and especially with those who are entrusted with leadership positions. The Secretary General’s failure to lead has damaged the credibility and mandate of the United Nations. Moreover, it has set a terrible precedent for future peacekeeping efforts.

Most of the cholera victims in Haiti are people living in settings of chronic poverty, which are, by definition settings of structural violence. They have suffered enough. Suffering does not ennoble, it embitters. The cholera crisis has destroyed homes, left orphans, and deepened refractory poverty in countless communities. Consequently, the majority of Haitians have called for the departure of the UN troops.

Without an apology and a plan for compensation, it is clear that Mr. Ban’s trip to Haiti, which he called ‘a necessary pilgrimage’, was a photo-op and an attempt to save face. Furthermore, it shows that the Secretary General is out of touch with the plight of the poor and the daily struggle of Haitians to have access to clean water. The empty promises of the Secretary General are not going to stop the lawsuit filed in New York on behalf of the victims.

In Haiti, many may live in poverty, but they are not poor people. They are proud and hard working people. The Secretary General went to Haiti, hoping to trade an apple for an orchard. Mr. Ban, we do not do that in this country. We want justice.


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Cholera and Women’s Rights on Chicago NPR

July 16, 2014 - 10:59

IJDH Staff Attorney Beatrice Lindstrom and KOFAVIV Associate Director Malya Villard-Appolon speak about cholera accountability and gender-based violence in an hour-long NPR show about Haiti. Joining them are Dr. Ludovic Comeau of GRAHN-World, and Dr. Evan Lyon of Partners in Health. Bringing perspectives from the legal, medical and economic development fields, they answered questions like “What might happen now that Ban Ki-moon said the UN bears a “moral responsibility” to eliminate cholera,” and “What impact are grassroots organizations having on rapes in Haiti?”

Cholera lawsuit against U.N. in Haiti, and death threats for Haitian advocate for women’s safety

WBEZ Worldview
July 16, 2014


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UN ‘Moral Responsibility’ Should Lead to Action

July 15, 2014 - 15:11

Although it took courage for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to admit that the UN bears a “moral responsibility” to eradicate cholera from Haiti, more still needs to be done. The UN needs to be accountable for the negligence that caused the epidemic by apologizing to the victims and their families, building water and sanitation infrastructure, and compensating the victims. A claims commission would establish a fair method of compensation.

Justice for Haiti OUR OPINION: U.N. needs to do more than take ‘moral responsibility’ for cholera epidemic

Editorial, Miami Herald
July 15, 2014

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon greets residents of Hinche, Haiti, upon the launch of a program to fight cholera.

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It’s been a long time coming, but finally this week U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged that the world body bears “moral responsibility” for introducing cholera into Haiti. Now the United Nations needs to be held accountable for the consequences of its actions.

Although he was only admitting the obvious, it took courage for the secretary general to go as far as he did in an interview with the Herald’s Jacqueline Charles, considering that the United Nations has been in denial for four years regarding its role in the cholera epidemic. No doubt, U.N. lawyers warned him against taking any kind of responsibility for the tragedy that killed some 8,500 Haitians and infected roughly 700,000.

But this should be only the beginning of the U.N.’s effort to make things right with the people of Haiti. “Moral responsibility” requires that the United Nations take concrete steps to back up the secretary general’s admission. Otherwise, it amounts to nothing more than hollow words.

The first thing the secretary general needs to do is apologize to the victims and their survivors on behalf of the United Nations. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, yet it would mean a lot to those who have been wronged. The U.N.’s failure to apologize, even though its own panel of experts pointed the finger at peacekeeping troops from Nepal for inadvertently introducing cholera into the country because of the lack of sanitary waste removal, has added insult to injury and created an enormous reservoir of resentment by Haitians.

Second, the United Nations needs to embark on a campaign to bring clean water and sanitation to Haiti. On this score, Mr. Ban is moving in the right direction. He is in Haiti this week on what he called a “necessary pilgrimage” to promote efforts to alleviate the epidemic, seeking support for a $2.2 billion, 10-year cholera-elimination campaign.

The program is commendable, but what’s needed is a U.N. commitment to ensure that there is no repetition of the epidemic and other infectious diseases endemic in the Haitian countryside. That means creating pilot projects around the country promoting clean sanitation, similar to the one Mr. Ban launched this week in the community of Los Palmas. U.N. donor countries need to step up here. Without clean sanitation, Haitians are condemned to perpetual misery and disease.

Finally, there is the troubling issue of compensation. The cholera outbreak is the subject of three lawsuits in U.S. courts, which the United Nations and Mr. Ban have rejected by citing the U.N’s claim of diplomatic immunity.

The law may be on the U.N.’s side, but diplomatic immunity (also called “sovereign immunity”) seems a flimsy response when 700,000 people have been victimized by the possible negligence of U.N. peacekeepers. And surely, it makes a mockery of Mr. Ban’s admission of “moral responsibility.” Accepting responsibility while refusing compensation rubs salt in the wound.

Last fall, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for an investigation of the cholera epidemic and supported compensation for victims. Mr. Ban cannot in good conscience ignore this statement from one of the U.N’s own top officials.

The best way to establish a fair system of compensation would be to create a claims commission, not unlike the one that followed the BP oil spill on the Gulf Coast. A claims commission has its own complexities and aggravations, but it beats years of lawsuits and endless wrangling. It’s the right way to hold the United Nations accountable for its moral responsibility.


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