The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) held a press conference today in New York regarding the complaint [PDF] they filed Thursday on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims seeking damages from the UN. The complaint states that
The cholera outbreak is directly attributable to the negligence, gross negligence, recklessness and deliberate indifference for the health and lives of Haiti’s citizens by the United Nations (“UN”) and its subsidiary, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (“MINUSTAH”).
IJDH Director Brian Concannon explained on Democracy Now! this morning:
“We’re hoping that this is the case that’s too big to fail. That the evidence against the United Nations is so overwhelming here that the U.N. will have no choice but to finally take responsibility for its malfeasance.” “What we’re asking for, what our clients are asking for, is the U.N. and international community to step up and to give Haiti the sanitation infrastructure it needs to stop the epidemic."
The AP’s Trenton Daniel summed up the goals of the complaint in an article today:
Concannon said he hoped the U.N. mission would set up a tribunal to evaluate the claims filed on behalf of the cholera victims. He also said he hoped the U.N. force would fund and create a lifesaving program that would provide sanitation, potable water and medical treatment. He also said he wants a public apology.
“We’re obviously hoping that the U.N. will step up and do the right thing,” he said by telephone.
If that doesn’t happen, the group plans to file the claims in a Haitian court, he said.
As the complaint [PDF] notes, the UN has failed to provide Haitians with the mechanisms they need to seek redress that are required under the Status of Forces Agreement governing MINUSTAH’s legal status:
In addition to the problems of allocating food aid discussed in the previous post, another significant problem is the lack of local procurement, which can be more effective than importing in emergency situations. The U.S. government, which has begun a local and regional procurement pilot project, found in a 2009 study (PDF) that:
Local and regional purchase is an important tool, enabling food aid agencies to respond quickly to emergency food needs, both during and after food crises and disasters.
Local and regional purchase can be a timely and effective complement to in-kind food aid programs.
The pilot project is also “based on the view that local and regional purchase has potential value for strengthening and expanding commercial markets, stimulating local and regional production, and reducing emergency food aid requirements.” Yet thus far, the pilot project has only limited funds and was undertaken in just 12 countries in 2010 (only seven countries are benefactors of the program in 2011). Together the 12 country programs made up less than one percent of all U.S. food aid in Fiscal Year 2010.
After the earthquake, noting that Haiti has gone from producing nearly 50 percent of their annual rice consumption in 1988 to around 15 percent now, CEPR published a report on food aid that proposed “that international donors seeking to support Haiti’s agricultural sector and provide food to those in need could help Haiti become more self-sufficient by” using local procurement to purchase Haitian rice. According to the World Food Program Food Aid Information System, Haiti received over 110,000 metric tons (MT) of rice as food aid in FY2010, with the U.S. providing 57,000 MT of the total. According to the WFP, only about five percent of this came in the form of local procurement, despite the previously discussed advantages. Upon further review, however, even this low number is drastically overstated.
After the January earthquake, a number of donors and NGOs began large scale food distribution programs. Post earthquake surveys had found a large spike in food insecure households directly after the earthquake. A recent World Bank Policy Research Working Paper from Damien Échevin notes that three weeks after the earthquake “31% of the households were experiencing limited or severe food insecurity (22% and 9% respectively), that is a [sic] nearly double the food insecurity prevalence observed before the earthquake.” In a follow up survey four months later, the number of food insecure households had decreased, but only to 27 percent. Échevin concludes:
So, shortly after the earthquake, assistance programs allocation prove not to have been effective in targeting the most vulnerable people in the directly affected area. Five months after the earthquake, it appears that things had not really changed: although food assistance may have contributed to decrease the prevalence of food insecurity over the period, authorities still seemed unable to provide an efficient allocation of assistance programs…indeed, assistance also appeared to benefit less to families headed by women and less to households with disabled members, which is contradictory with an "optimal" targeting that would make those most vulnerable eligible for assistance in priority.
The World Bank report also has some interesting conclusions about Food-for-Work and Cash-for-Work plans:
When focusing of cash and food-for-work programs, we find that these programs are not specifically targeted at people who are most in need, be it because of their low level of subsistence or because of earthquake-related losses. Pre-earthquake participation to programs appears to be an important determinant of post-earthquake participation. What is more, cash-for-work is very rarely declared as the main source of household income.
The report provides some statistical backing to the first-hand accounts of the problems with food distribution in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and with the problematic Cash-for-Work programs from USAID/OTI.
Between January 14 and February 26 2011, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) signed nine contracts with three shipping companies to send 73,000 Metric Tons of rice and other commodities in Title II emergency food aid to Haiti, public records from the Federal Procurement Database System show. The contracts in total cost taxpayers over $18 million dollars, as shown in the table below.
According to the World Food Program Food Aid Information System, Haiti received over 110,000 Metric Tons of rice as food aid in 2010, yet only five percent came in the form of local procurement. Although we have previously discussed the benefits of local procurement of food aid and efforts to increase it, the role of the shipping industry has often been neglected from these discussions. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found in a 2009 report that:
Certain legal requirements to procure U.S.-grown agricultural commodities for food aid and to transport those commodities on U.S.-flag vessels may constrain agencies’ use of LRP [local and regional procurement].
The role of the shipping industry in preventing food aid reforms in the U.S. was the subject of a 2010 paper entitled “Food Aid and Agricultural Cargo Preference” (PDF) from researchers at Cornell University. The paper explains why the barriers to reforming the delivery of food aid are so much greater in the U.S. than elsewhere:
The sheer size and history of US food aid programs obviously create inertia that differentiates it from most donors. But in political economy terms, arguably the most distinctive feature of US food aid programs is the intimate involvement of ocean carriers, who benefit from little‐known agricultural cargo preference (ACP) requirements absent in other donor countries. While food aid policy reforms have had to overcome resistance from agribusiness and some nongovernmental organization (NGO) interests in every donor nation, the “iron triangle” of interests formed by agribusiness, some NGOs and ocean carriers has been a uniquely effective lobby for the status quo in US food aid policy.
In addition to the problems associated with the actual delivery of food aid, the report finds that the cost of the agricultural cargo preference to U.S. taxpayers is significant:
We find that meeting ACP requirements for USDA and USAID programs cost US taxpayers roughly $140 million per year in FY2006 and that roughly half of those costs were borne by food aid agencies rather than by the Maritime Administration. ACP costs USAID a significant portion of its food aid programming resources under Title II of Public Law 480, nearly equivalent to the value of USAID’s entire Title II non‐emergency food aid to Africa.
As the AP reported last week, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission’s (IHRC) mandate expired on Friday, October 21. The mandate had called for a transition to a Haitian government development authority to take the place of the commission. The date passed with little fanfare and no official statements from the IHRC itself. Reports in the Haitian press indicate that newly designated Prime Minister Gary Conille intends to submit a bill asking for the panel’s extension to Parliament, where some members have already expressed their reluctance to vote for it. Conille is a former advisor to Bill Clinton; Clinton co-chairs the IHRC.
Throughout the relief and reconstruction process, many have pointed out that the Haitian government has largely been bypassed and that Haitians themselves have been left out of the decision making process. In response, donors often point to the IHRC. The United States, for instance, said in January 2011 that “[t]o ensure that the reconstruction is Haitian-led, the U.S. Government coordinates all its recovery assistance through the IHRC.”
For its part the United State seems convinced the panel will be renewed. Although the U.S. government has made no official statement, USAID extended the contract of an undisclosed foreign contractor on September 30. The award description states, “The purpose of this modification is to extend the POP from September 30, 2011 to October 21, 2012 to serve as the disbursing agent of the IHRC; and increment funds in $45,387.00.” Then on October 20, the day before the mandate expired, the same contractor received an additional $20,000. Overall USAID has given more than $500,000 to this contractor to act as a steward of IHRC funds. It is unclear why the US would extend the contract until October 2012 without knowing if the IHRC would even continue to operate.
Last Thursday, Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald reported on Haitian President Michel Martelly’s plan, announced some time ago, to return inhabitants of six IDP camps back to 16 neighborhoods, known as the 16-6 plan. Charles writes:
For weeks, families like Simin’s have quietly moved out of the camp and into permanent homes as part of a housing initiative launched by Haitian President Michel Martelly. With help from the International Organization for Migration, families are getting $500 in rental subsidies. It’s part of a larger program Martelly launched recently to target the town square and five other Port-au-Prince tent cities hoping to find a permanent solution to reconstruction’s most vexing problem: housing.
The program has won the support of the international community, with U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis recently telling the UN Security Council, that “[t]he use of the neighborhood returns approach, instead of mere camp evictions, is the type of humane approach the United States fully supports.” Yet the plan has already come under serious criticism and rather than limiting evictions, multiple camps in the plan have already been forcibly evicted. Journalist Justin Podur wrote last week that even if the program works, its effectiveness will be limited:
In total, if the program succeeds, it will touch 5000 families, or 4% of the camp population. I spoke to the director of 16-6, Clement Belizaire. So far, 190 families have been resettled from the first camp, Place St. Pierre, in Petionville. Belizaire expects the 1500 families who live in the first two camps, Place St. Pierre and Place Boyer, to be in their neighbourhoods by the end of November. He expects the process to speed up as it progresses. If Belizaire's estimates are extrapolated for all six camps, 4% of Haiti's current camp population will be in housing by March 2012.
Also last week, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the University of San Francisco School of Law released a report criticizing the lack of progress in Martelly’s housing plan. The report points out that, among other faults, two of the six camps in Martelly’s plan have already been forcibly evicted:
In the meantime, one camp was closed in July (Stade Sylvio Cator) and one camp partially closed (Place St. Pierre), both without the protections or benefits promised in the Martelly plan. The families living at Stade Sylvio Cator were unlawfully evicted by the Mayor of Port-au-Prince and Haitian National Police without a court order, as required under Haitian law. The police destroyed residents’ tents and belongings, prompting condemnation from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Although cholera cases decreased by nearly half from July to August following the predictable spike during the rainy season, on average, cholera infected more than 500 people and killed three people each day in September. Although these numbers are still well below previous peaks, they should not provide false confidence, as a decreased caseload in March and April did previously. Cases could increase quickly at almost any time, as cholera is a highly cyclical disease. Indeed, Haiti Libre reported just this week that Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has seen a significant increase in their case load in Port-au-Prince. Romaine Gitenet, MSF head of mission, told Haiti Libre that “"In one month we went from less than 300 admissions per week to over 850, which suggests a worsening situation in the coming weeks.” Also worrisome is the continued lack of support to the United Nation’s cholera appeal as humanitarian relief efforts continue to dwindle as funds run out.
The United Nations Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti (OSE) released updated figures on the status of donor countries’ aid pledges earlier this week. The analysis reveals that just 43 percent of the $4.6 billion in pledges has been disbursed, up from 37.8 percent in June. This increase of $230 million is much larger than the observed increase in aid disbursement from March to June, when total disbursements increased by only $30 million. Also, an additional $475 million of aid money has been committed, meaning more money is now in the pipeline for Haiti. This increase is certainly a positive development, yet the overall levels of disbursement remain extremely low. The $4.6 billion in pledges was for the years 2010 and 2011, which means that donors have only a few months to fulfill their pledges.
While $1.52 billion was disbursed in 2010, this year, less than 30 percent of that—$455 million—has been disbursed. The United States, which pledged over $900 million for recovery efforts in 2010 and 2011, has disbursed just 18.8 percent of this (PDF). Of countries that pledged over $100 million dollars, only Japan has achieved 100 percent disbursement.
But it is important to go beyond the level of disbursements to see how much of this money has actually been spent on the ground and how it has supported both the Haitian public and private sectors. The following analysis shows that much of the money donors have disbursed has not actually been spent on the ground yet, that the Haitian government has not received the support it needs, and that Haitian firms have largely been bypassed in the contracting process.
Just 10 percent of funds disbursed by the Haiti Reconstruction Fund, which received nearly 20 percent of all donor pledges, have actually been spent on the ground. The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission has approved over $3 billion in projects, yet most have not even begun. Budget support for the Haitian government is set to be lower in 2011 than it was before the earthquake in 2009. Finally, only 2.4 percent of U.S. government contracts went directly to Haitian firms, while USAID relied on beltway contractors (Maryland, Virginia and DC) for over 90 percent of their contracts.
Disbursed By Donor Doesn’t Mean Spent on the Ground
The international community has set up a number of institutions that aim to centralize aid flows and projects, in particular the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) and the Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF). The HRF has received roughly 20 percent of donor funds.
Our analysis of the Haiti Reconstruction Fund’s annual report revealed that despite public announcements touting a 71 percent disbursal rate at the Fund, in reality, closer to 10 percent had actually been spent on the ground, much of which was on consultant fees.
The HRF report notes that “The Trustee has transferred funds totaling US$197 million in respect of those approved projects and associated fees to the Partner Entities,” and an additional $40 million is set to be transferred. Together the $237 million is equal to 71 percent of the total funds raised. However, as the HRF notes, this money has not actually been spent on the ground, but simply transferred to their Partner Entities (the World Bank, UN and the Inter-American Development Bank - IDB). The disbursement of funds from those organizations is just $35 million, or about 10 percent of the total contributions received. The IDB, which has received $37 million in HRF funds, has yet to actually disburse any of this total.
We have noted the many scandals that have dogged MINUSTAH’s presence in Haiti since the beginning to the most recent, which involve the video-taped rape of an 18-year-old man, and MINUSTAH troops having sex – and fathering children – with Haitian minors and women. Protests have erupted following these new scandals, and signals from the Haitian government and prominent political figures in Haiti have signaled an impatience with the open-ended Mission.
The Haitian government’s stated support for MINUSTAH’s presence has always been key to its ability to remain in Haiti. A classified Embassy cable by then-Ambassador Janet Sanderson, written in October 2008, and recently made available by Wikileaks, describes how the Haitian government questioned the Mission’s purpose years ago. Then-President René Préval appears to have sought to have MINUSTAH’s mandate changed from a Chapter 7 to a Chapter 6 designation:
2. (C) UNSRSG Hedi Annabi tells me that Haitian President Rene Preval intends to seek a change in the MINUSTAH mandate from Chapter 7 to Chapter 6 status. Arguing that bringing MINUSTAH here under Chapter 7 sends the signal to investors that Haiti is a "war zone," and ups insurance rates, Preval told Annabi on October 1 that he is writing the UNSC President to request that the Council revisit this issue prior to vote on the extension of the MINUSTAH mandate. Annabi added that Preval briefly raised this issue with UNSYG Ban Ki Moon during his courtesy call at the UNGA last month; the SYG tried to dissuade Preval but noted that this matter was more in the purview of the UNSC rather than the SYG's office.
In July, one Haitian fell ill with cholera every minute. In August, after the "second peak" from the May/June rains receded, that rate has slowed and yet still one Haitian falls ill every two minutes. In our report, "Not Doing Enough: Unnecessary Sickness and Death from Cholera in Haiti", we noted that funding was withdrawn from the cholera response right as the rainy season was about to begin, despite the predictable spike in cases from the increased rains. Thankfully, the case load has receded some, as Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald pointed out yesterday:
Health experts anticipate that Haiti might experience one more deadly peak before the end of this hurricane season. After that, there are chances that the disease might become endemic in Haiti with frequent peaks over the years.
Recently, health organizations and the Haitian government have sounded the alarm over the lack of funding to combat cholera in Haiti. Al Jazeera's Craig Mauro spoke with Romain Gitenet of the health organization Doctors Without Borders, who explained:
"We just noticed that the funding for cholera is decreasing, and some actor, well some funder, who was giving money, stopped giving money which is something we don't understand."
As NGOs have retreated from the field, Haiti's Ministry of Health has taken over many of their operations and has become stretched thin. As Charles writes:
“Funding is not enough to fight against cholera in the upcoming months,’’ said Dr Gabriel Thimothé, executive director of Haiti’s Health Ministry, which lacks money to provide even basics, such as water at treatment centers.
ABC News released an explosive report today which appears to confirm one of many allegations that Haitians have been making for weeks regarding gross sexual misconduct by Uruguayan peacekeeping forces who participate in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Journalist Ansel Herz, reporting from Port Salut, uncovered a disturbing scene recorded on a cell phone video, showing the Spanish-speaking troops in sky-blue hats and military fatigues laughing as they pin an 18-year-old Haitian youth down on a mattress on the floor, and--as a photograph captured from the video seems to suggest--sexually assault him.
While largely focusing on one particular case of purported sexual assault, ABC News does seem to independently corroborate these complaints raised in the Uruguayan news media: "Sinal Bertrand, a Haitian parliamentary deputy from the Port Salut area, said he began talks with U.N. officials last week about other allegations against the soldiers by residents of Port Salut, ranging from sexually exploiting young women to environmentally polluting the area." ABC also interviewed a local mechanic in Port Salut who denies that the troops provide more security: "They aren't useful to us at all...They just go back and forth to the beach, nothing more here in Port Salut. They just check out the young girls."
A January 2006 cable recently made available by Wikileaks describes Haitian business leaders’ efforts to pressure MINUSTAH to crack down on slums, in particular Cite Soleil (site of the July 5, 2005 operation that resulted in dozens of unarmed civilian deaths and injuries, including of children). In the cable, then-Charge d’Affairs to the post-coup interim regime (and now Executive Vice President for the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund), Timothy Carney, describes how the business leaders also “pleaded” with him for more ammunition for the police:
Â¶2. (SBU) SUMMARY: Leaders of the Haitian business community told Charge that they would call a general strike for Monday, January 9 to protest MINUSTAH,s ineffectiveness in countering the recent upswing of violence and kidnappings. Representatives will also meet with UNSRSG [Special Representative to the UN Secretary General] Juan Gabriel Valdez to pressure him to take action against the criminal gangs. They also pleaded with the Charge for more ammunition for the police. Charge told the group to be ready to assist Cite Soleil immediately after a MINUSTAH operation, if it were to take place, and countered that the problem of the police was not a a lack of ammunition, but a lack of skills and training. Clearly, the private sector is worried about the recent upsurge in violence. END SUMMARY.
The cable describes how the business leaders (Reginald Boulos, President of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Rene-Max Auguste, President of the American Chamber of Commerce; Gladys Coupet, President of the bankers’ association, and Carl Auguste Boisson, President of the petroleum distributors’ association) wanted MINUSTAH to systematically sweep through Cite Soleil, one of Haiti’s poorest slums:
Â¶5. (SBU) Representatives of the private sector will also meet one-on-one with UNSRSG Juan Gabriel Valdez to pressure him personally to take action against the criminal gangs in Cite Soleil. Boulos argued that MINUSTAH could take back the slum if it were to work systematically, section by section, in securing the area. Immediately after MINUSTAH secured
Cite Soleil, Boulos said that he and other groups were prepared to go in immediately with social programs and social spending. NOTE: Boulos has been active in providing social programs in Cite Soleil for many years. END NOTE.
Carney warned them that this would “inevitably cause unintended civilian casualties”. But rather than a warning that such an operation should be out of the question, considering the “inevitable” civilian deaths it would entail, Carney merely cautioned that the business leaders should follow up the raid with “social programs and social spending”, presumably to calm the expected outrage among Cite Soleil residents:
Â¶6. (SBU) The Charge cautioned that such an operation would inevitably cause unintended civilian casualties given the crowded conditions and flimsy construction of tightly packed housing in Cite Soleil. Therefore, the private sector associations must be willing to quickly assist in the aftermath of such an operation, including providing financial support to families of potential victims. Boulos agreed.
As a new child sex abuse scandal involving Uruguayan MINUSTAH troops unfolds (without coverage in the English language media), and new scientific studies emerge linking MINUSTAH to the origin of the current cholera epidemic, recently Wikileaked cables from the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince spell out MINUSTAH’s importance to the U.S. government in a more direct fashion than probably any previously released documents. A confidential October 2008 cable from then-Ambassador Janet Sanderson begins:
The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti is an indispensable tool in realizing core USG policy interests in Haiti. Security vulnerabilities and fundamental institutional weaknesses mean that Haiti will require a continuing - albeit eventually shrinking - MINUSTAH presence for at least three and more likely five years. Haiti needs the UN presence to fill the security gap caused by Haiti's fledgling police force's lack of numbers and capabilities. It needs MINUSTAH to partner with the USG and other donors in institution-building.
It goes on to state:
MINUSTAH is a remarkable product and symbol of hemispheric cooperation in a country with little going for it. There is no feasible substitute for this UN presence. It is a financial and regional security bargain for the USG. USG civilian and military assistance under current domestic and international conditions, alone or in combination with our closest partners, could never fill the gap left by a premature MINUSTAH pullout.
The cable expands on these points later on, noting in detail how the U.S. government benefits from Latin American and other nations’ contributions to the Mission in funds and troops:
CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot has filed his latest Guardian column from Port-au-Prince. It highlights ongoing forced evictions following a tense stand-off over the weekend between residents of Camp Barbancourt 17 and actor Danny Glover and other activists, on the one side, and the camp’s landlord, on the other.
Port-au-Prince, Haiti -- At this sprawling IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp of battered tents and tarps here in the neighborhood of Barbancourt in Port-au-Prince, a confrontation was underway. A landlord who claimed ownership of the land on which some 75 families had been living since the earthquake was very angry. A crowd of hundreds had gathered and a man in his thirties said that the landlord had beaten him and destroyed his tent.
“These people have been here for 19 months and I want them out of here!” the landlord shouted. He was yelling in English now because a group of activists had arrived, including the actor and human rights campaigner Danny Glover. They were defending the camp residents, but the landlord wasn’t having it.
Meanwhile a group of heavily armed troops from MINUSTAH – the UN military force that has occupied the country for the past seven years – arrived on the scene. They were tense and sweating in the morning heat, and as the standoff continued and the crowd spilled into the street, another contingent of troops arrived, bringing the total to about fifteen.
A new paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research argues that cholera treatment and prevention efforts in Haiti have fallen woefully behind, leading to thousands of preventable deaths, even though the dramatic rise in new cases this spring and summer was entirely predictable. The paper, “Not Doing Enough: Unnecessary Sickness and Death from Cholera in Haiti”, by researchers Jake Johnston and Keane Bhatt, argues that it is not too late to bring the 10-month old cholera epidemic under control and save thousands of lives by ramping up treatment and prevention efforts. Below is the Executive Summary of the paper, to read it in its entirety, click here.
A 11,849-word article by journalist Janet Reitman in the new issue of Rolling Stone provides a sometimes fascinating and always disheartening overview of relief and reconstruction in Haiti since the earthquake. Reitman, who has recently been in the news herself over her new book, Inside Scientology, spent months researching the report, both in the U.S. and in Haiti, and so she is able to cover a good deal of ground. Much of her focus falls on the failings of various initiatives by often prominent individuals and organizations, which often contrast with their public images and their stated goals and intentions. Addressing the role of big NGO’s, for example, Reitman writes
On top of the earthquake, aid workers in Haiti are contending with a cholera crisis, a disease of poverty spread through poor sanitation and contaminated drinking water. These are all things that NGOs like the Red Cross have expertise in fighting, but larger structural issues often trump their best intentions. Because international NGOs get most of their money from large government agencies, they are beholden to the broader policy imperatives of their funders. "The big problem is that most NGOs are only really accountable to their donors, when we should really be accountable to the people we're trying to serve," says Dr. Louise Ivers, senior health and policy adviser for Partners in Health, a Boston-based NGO that has worked in Haiti for 25 years. Some organizations, she notes, "exist only to write grant proposals that respond to specific donor requests. If your mandate is just to follow the money, then the money determines what happens."
CHF International is one NGO that comes in for scrutiny further on:
[American field-office director for CHF International, Ann] Lee admits that [CHF], a vast NGO with relief operations in 25 countries around the world, has never done "micro-urban planning," as she calls it — nor have the half dozen or so other NGOs planning similar projects in Port-au-Prince. "It's a complete learning experience for all of us," she says. All that's needed to make the project a reality, she adds, are more funds.
As was reported in the Brazilian and other Latin American press, but generally ignored by English language media (save for brief mentions by Americas Quarterly and Haiti Libre), new Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim made public remarks the other day regarding a possible draw down of Brazilian troops from MINUSTAH.
As Haiti Libre and other outlets have noted, Amorim’s remarks are significant in part because Amorim was “the 'artisan' of the participation of Brazil in the Minustah [UN Mission for Stabilization in Haiti]” during his previous tenure as Foreign Minister.
Haiti Libre goes on to report that
Already in 2010, as Foreign Minister under the government Lula, Amorim expressed the necessity of replacing the military presence in Haiti by engineers and social workers to collaborate in the development and the economy of Haiti.
Amorim’s remarks are the latest sign that an end to the UN Mission, so widely unpopular in Haiti, may soon be on the horizon. As we’ve noted in various earlier posts, MINUSTAH has been controversial from its start, when it often appeared to aid police in their post-coup crackdown on Fanmi Lavalas members, social movement activists, and others in the wake of the 2004 U.S.-backed coup. The Blue Helmets have since killed innocent civilians in violent raids on slums, attacked journalists, and seen over 100 troops expelled from Haiti over child prostitution and related charges. These are just the documented crimes, which are supplemented by other suspicious incidents. But the Mission’s popularity undoubtedly hit a new low following the cholera outbreak last October, which quickly was traced back to a MINUSTAH camp in Mirebalais.
Haiti may thankfully be spared the heavy impact of Tropical Storm Emily, as the storm seems to have weakened as it hit Hispaniola’s mountains. Health workers and others have been tracking the storm’s progress with trepidation, as it was heavy rains in June that led to a resurgence in cholera cases. Unfortunately, even a weakened storm may still bring strong rains, and more cholera. The PBS Newshour's Talea Miller reported yesterday:
A tropical storm bearing down on Haiti threatens to make daily life more miserable for tens of thousands homeless still living in tent camps and could deepen the cholera epidemic that has already killed more than 5,800.
Tropical Storm Emily was on a path toward the Dominican Republic and Haiti Wednesday, and forecasts predicted heavy rains and possible flooding -- perfect conditions for the spread of water-borne diseases like cholera.
"[The weather service] is talking about possibly 10 inches in Haiti. That's a huge amount of water," said Julie Sell, spokesperson for the Haiti mission at the American Red Cross. "In a country where people are frequently using the same water sources to bathe, [such as] as a toilet, and to drink, the last thing you want is standing water."
But missing from the report was any mention of the role the U.S. government played in undermining Haiti’s provision of potable water. As described in great detail elsewhere, the U.S. government, under the Bush administration, directed the Inter-American Development Bank, in a highly unusual move, to withhold loans to the Aristide government that would have provided hundreds of millions of dollars for a potable water project, among other purposes. The Aristide administration was even forced to pay interest on the loans, despite their non-disbursal (in other words, the “loans” actually took money from Haiti while offering nothing in return).
On July 21, President Martelly declared “my government is against forced evictions,” but as of yet has done little to stop this systematic violation of rights. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA ) reports that over 125,000 people face the imminent threat of eviction every day. Yesterday, the residents of Camp Django in Delmas protested (click for photos) for their right to adequate shelter and for Martelly to live up to his promises after having faced the constant threat of eviction for months (follow developments on Twitter under #noevictions). In June, Bill Quigley and Jocelyn Brooks of the Center for Constitutional Rights, reported:
Last Saturday, a group of five men, some armed with guns, stormed into the camp and threatened the residents. Four of the men were wearing green t-shirts that read “Mairie de Delmas” (The Office of the Mayor of Delmas).Last Thursday, Jeena Shah gave an update on Camp Django:
The Mayor’s men told the people that they would soon destroy their tents. They bragged they would mistreat people in a manner worse than “what happened at Carrefour Aero port,” referring to the violent unlawful eviction of a displacement camp at that location by the same mayor and police less than a month ago.
The Mayor’s men pushed their way through the camp, collecting the names and identification numbers of heads of household and marking tents with red spray painted numbers.
When the men pounded on the wooden door of the tarp covered shelter where 25-year-old pregnant Marie lived with her husband, she tried to stop them from entering. Marie tried to explain that her husband was not home. But the leader of the group, JL, violently slammed open the wooden door of her tent into her stomach, causing her to fall hard against the floor on her back.
Three days later, Marie remained in severe pain and bed ridden, worried sick about her baby.
Jeena Shah, a BAI attorney, arrived at Camp Django while government agents were still there. Jeena asked JL [the leader of the group] who had sent his group to Camp Django and why they had marked the tents with numbers. JL was evasive, repeating over and over that “the government” had sent him. Finally he stated that “the National Palace,” a reference to current President Michel Martelly, had sent him.
At around 9 am this morning, two truckloads of police officers along with one of the mayor’s agents returned to the camp. By this time, Camp Django residents had begun protesting just outside of their camp. The police officers proceeded to beat camp residents with their batons and boots and arrest them. Several victims required medical attention. One family’s tent – that of the camp leadership’s spokesperson, who had spoken out against the Mayor’s past threats against the camp – was ransacked by police officers as they searched for her to arrest her. The mayor’s agent and police officers were unaccompanied by a judicial officer, and neither did they present any judicial order to evict the residents, as required under Haitian law.What happened to Camp Django was not an isolated incident. In mid-July some 500 families were forcibly evicted, illegally, from the area around Sylvio Cator Stadium in Port-au-Prince. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights characterized the eviction as not respecting the right to adequate housing and added that “the former camp residents will be much more vulnerable than they were in the camp.” Amnesty International added that:
“Port-au-Prince's Mayor must stop these illegal forced evictions of earthquake victims until adequate alternative housing can be found for all the displaced families,” said Javier Zuñiga, Special Advisor at Amnesty International.
“By pushing families out in the street for a third time since last year’s earthquake, Haitian authorities have failed to protect their rights to an adequate standard of living and basic shelter.”
Last Friday, as the board of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) was meeting, the Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF) released their first annual report. (Note: we obtained a copy by asking one of the report’s media contacts for one; the report itself unfortunately has still not been made publicly available.) The report, which received cursory but positive media coverage, touted the high level of aid disbursement and the flexibility with which the HRF can operate, while rightly noting that the wider international community was failing to keep up. As AFP reported:
At an international donors conference held in New York in March 2010, 55 donors pledged $4.58 billion in grants in 2010 and 2011 for rebuilding the country. But as of June, donors had disbursed $1.74 billion, just 38 percent of the pledges, the World Bank said.In releasing the report, the HRF also pointed to major reconstruction projects, such as the Neighborhood Housing Reconstruction Project as “highlights of the work done so far”.
Dr. Paul Farmer, UN Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti and Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, released a new book last week to coincide with the 18-month anniversary of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake. In addition to containing a dozen short essays by various contributors, Haiti After the Earthquake provides Farmer's firsthand account of his relief and reconstruction efforts as a diplomat and co-founder of the NGO Partners in Health, which has over a quarter-century of experience in Haiti.
Farmer is perhaps unique in his successful straddling of distinct, and at times, conflicting spheres of international development. While having authored numerous indictments of U.S. policy toward Haiti, in early 2009 he contemplated accepting a position in the Obama State Department to coordinate overseas health initiatives or to run the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Shortly thereafter, former President Bill Clinton, who was appointed UN Special Envoy to Haiti in April 2009, asked him to be his deputy at the United Nations. He was apparently undeterred by Farmer's prior denunciations of the "cynical realpolitik of Bill Clinton's presidency" of the 1990s. In particular, Farmer had characterized as an "abomination and a crime" Clinton's continuation of "his predecessor's policies" of indefinite detention of Haitian asylum seekers in a Guantánamo Bay naval base, which "resembled a dungeon." Farmer and Clinton have since forged a camaraderie as the Clinton Foundation assisted Partners in Health in its AIDS initiatives in Haiti in 2003, and, in "an honorable gesture," the foundation "declined to work in Haiti under the regime installed after the coup" in 2004 against Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the democratically elected president (28). Clinton then spurred Farmer to launch a major rural health initiative in Rwanda, where Farmer currently resides, and in the book, Farmer refers to Clinton as a "mentor and colleague" (27).
While delving into some history and politics, Haiti After the Earthquake's aim is narrower than Farmer's previous works like The Uses of Haiti. Farmer's overriding concern, as related in the book, is how to "build back better," considering that "the quake offered a chance to do reconstruction right" (38, 100). The book often highlights Farmer's endeavors to promote a principled, Haitian-driven agenda within elite spheres of policymaking. He explains how he accepted Clinton's honorary post at the UN, despite its "huge, largely military, presence in Haiti" (38). Farmer had strongly condemned the UN-bolstered de facto government after the coup d'etat, and in the book, he continues to express his "doubts about the peacekeeping mission in Haiti, stemming from the events of 2004 and after" (41). Although he delimited his own agenda within the UN to health, education and food security, his ambitions and influence are much broader. Upon entering the UN, he "insisted on bringing Haitians onto the team—none had been proposed," while hoping to "move the [UN's] focus from military assistance to development assistance, from security to human security, towards freedom from want" (37-38).