Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch is a blog that tracks multinational aid efforts in Haiti with an eye towards ensuring they are oriented towards the needs of the Haitian people, and that aid is not used to undermine Haitians' right to self-determination.
After world food prices rose to a record level in February, World Bank President Robert Zoellick commented that food prices have risen to “dangerous levels and threaten tens of millions of poor people”. The FAO warned that, “The low-income food deficit countries are on the front line of the current surge in world prices.” Haiti, which imports nearly 50 percent of its food, according to the WFP, could be especially vulnerable. Already in Haiti, an estimated 2.5-3.3 million people are food insecure. The combination of the earthquake, rising international prices, the cholera epidemic and the upcoming rainy season could push this already too large a number, even higher.
Although the effects of the rise in prices will be felt in the short term, the problem of food sovereignty is a long term one. Haiti was not always a food-deficit country; although it now imports over 80 percent of rice consumed, in 1988 it was closer to 50 percent. After the rice market was opened up, cheap imports from the US flooded the market, devastating local production capabilities and discouraging investment. Just last year, Bill Clinton publicly apologized for the policies saying, “It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake,” adding, “I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else.” Chief humanitarian officer of the UN John Holmes echoed this assessment, noting that, “A combination of food aid, but also cheap imports have ... resulted in a lack of investment in Haitian farming, and that has to be reversed.”
Despite these high profile endorsements for investment in agriculture, little has been done. The 2010 UN humanitarian appeal included nearly $60 million for the agricultural sector, yet despite the overall appeal being 75 percent funded, the agriculture sector was just 54 percent funded, a lower percent than 10 of the 13 sectors. In comparison to the $30 million in funding for agriculture, an astonishing $365 million was given for food aid, which predominantly comes in the form of foreign foodstuffs and has a negative effect on the productivity of local farmers. Proposals for food aid that would simultaneously give Haitian rice production a boost have been passed over so far. The UN launched a new funding drive for 2011 in December 2010 and is asking for an additional $43 million for agriculture. Thus far, only $500,000 has been funded. Despite the urgent need for investment in agriculture, which accounts for nearly 25 percent of Haiti’s GDP, the sector grew just 0.03 percent last year. It is clear that much more needs to be done to secure the investment that is needed for long term food security.
As we – unlike the major U.S. media – have noted in previous posts (here, here and here), an ongoing political scandal has emerged in Haiti following revelations that, contrary to statements by CEP spokesperson Richardson Dumel, only four of eight CEP members appear to have signed the official statement regarding the Council’s determinations regarding a second round. This would mean that, legally, the CEP did not actually reach an official decision, and that preparations for a second round of elections between two candidates are illegitimate.
In the wake of legal challenges against Dumel that would require him to prove the authenticity of the document he cited in making public pronouncements regarding the second round -- and following our February 9 blog post noting that the CEP had not by then posted anything on its website regarding the supposed decision on the runoff -- we noticed with surprise last week when the CEP actually did post a press release on its site affirming its decision regarding the second round. More surprising was that the statement was followed by the names of all eight CEP members, including the four "dissenters": Ginette Chérubin, Jean-Pierre Toussaint Thélève, Jacques Belzin, and Ribel Pierre.
As we have pointed out previously, the English language media has all but ignored the news that – as reported by Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste – four CEP members may never have signed the document affirming the Council’s decision regarding the second round of elections. Given the major media's neglect in covering this story, one could be forgiven for thinking that the second round is a foregone conclusion, however in Haiti the controversy is very much still alive.
Last week, according to L'Agence Haitien de Presse (AHP), two presidential candidates, Jean Henry Ceant and Yves Cristalin filed a legal challenge that would require Richardson Dumel (the CEP spokesperson) to prove the authenticity of the document he read with the final results on February 3. After failing to come to court, on Friday the police were sent to bring him in. According to AHP, however, he has yet to present the evidence that was asked of him.
Although much of the recent press coverage of Haiti has focused on the election, there remain serious humanitarian concerns that have yet to be adequately addressed. A cholera epidemic continues to spread across Haiti, now accounting for some 4,000 deaths. Meanwhile, according to the International Organization of Migration (IOM), some 800,000 people remain in tarpaulin camps. Let Haiti Live reported in January that the 800,000 number was actually overly optimistic, writing:
The decrease in camps or spontaneous settlements of homeless earthquake survivors in reality reflects a very sad fact. Despite humanitarian efforts, an entire year and billions of dollars spent, many Haitians still find camps unsuitable for life. Despite the humanitarian efforts and the international attention, Haitians would rather displace themselves again than stay in camps that are ostensibly receiving services from the humanitarian community. The only way a second displacement can be considered a success is perhaps because it releases the IOM of its responsibility for the livelihoods and living conditions of the estimated 700,000 former camp residents.
Over the weekend, IOM tempered their success, reporting that:
"Hundreds of thousands of Haitians are likely still to be living in displacement camps by the end of 2011," Luca Dall'Oglio, IOM Haiti's Chief of Mission warned.
Numbers of displaced people living in camps had fallen from an estimated high of 1.5 million in July 2010 to 810,000 in January 2011. However, after a year of storms, cholera and political unrest, those remaining in camps are the most vulnerable of Haiti's earthquake victims, with no alternative but to stay where they are.
"Furthermore, many of those who have already left camps may not have found a lasting housing solution, living instead with friends and family, or in tents in their neighbourhoods," Dall'Oglio added.
It seems the IOM is finally acknowledging that a reduction in the IDP population alone is not a true indicator of success. Yet despite the dire situation, IOM points out that:
The warning comes as many partner agencies of IOM working on camp management are phasing out their operations. Facing increasing cost constraints and funding shortfalls, their departure is leading to a growing gap in capacity to provide services for those remaining in camps.
“I am pleased that my colleagues agreed to conduct oversight over the dire economic situation facing the people of Haiti and the efforts of international donors to rebuild the country. Unfortunately, one year after Haiti’s tragic earthquake, the country is still devastated. More than 800,000 displaced people are still living in tent camps, and the conditions in many of these camps are appalling. A cholera epidemic has spread across the country. Mountains of rubble are piled in the streets, and there is a critical need for food, clean water and sanitation facilities. Meanwhile, little if any of the money that was pledged by international donors has reached the people of Haiti,”
The release notes further that
Following last year’s earthquake, an international donors’ conference was convened to raise funds for Haiti’s reconstruction. World governments and international organizations pledged $9 billion to rebuild Haiti. The World Bank pledged $399 million, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) pledged $170 million, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) pledged $2.2 billion. Within the House of Representatives, the Financial Services Committee has oversight responsibilities over the IMF, the World Bank, and the IDB.
“Effective oversight is critical if the billions pledged by the IMF, the World Bank and other international donors are to be disbursed in a timely manner and used effectively to improve the lives of the Haitian people,” said Congresswoman Waters.
Please note the figures listed here on political violence, as there has been a lot of misreporting on this in the press. He writes, in the longer, online version:
In 1915, the US Marines invaded Haiti, occupying the country until 1934. US officials rewrote the Haitian constitution, and when the Haitian national assembly refused to ratify it, they dissolved the assembly. They then held a "referendum" in which about 5% of the electorate voted and approved the new constitution – which conveniently changed Haitian law to allow foreigners to own land – with 99.9% voting for approval.
The situation today is remarkably similar. The country is occupied, and although the occupying troops wear blue helmets, everyone knows that Washington calls the shots. On 28 November an election was held in which the country's most popular political party was excluded; but still the results of the first round of the election were not quite right. The OAS – under direction from Washington – then changed the results to eliminate the government's candidate from the second round. To force the government to accept the OAS rewrite of the results, Haiti was threatened with a cutoff of aid flows – and, according to multiple sources, President Préval was threatened with being forcibly flown out of the country – as happened to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004.
Save for a few brief mentions (New York Times, Associated Press), the major English language media has all but ignored the news that – as reported by Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste – four CEP members may never have signed the document affirming the Council’s decision regarding the second round of elections. This is despite the fact that one of the four, Ginette Chérubin, released a public statement to the media (available here in English and here in French), and that she revealed – with his permission – that CEP Vice President Jean-Pierre Toussaint Thélève did not sign either. Le Nouvelliste reported that the two other CEP members who did not sign were Treasurer Jacques Belzin and member Ribel Pierre.
As we noted on Monday, the implications of this are far from trivial. In the opinions of some legal experts, such as the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, the even split within the CEP would mean that there was in fact no decision taken. As IJDH notes
Article 8 of the CEP’s bylaws requires that the Council’s decisions be made by an “absolute majority of its members.” Therefore, a valid decision regarding the run-off would require five votes.
It appears that the only basis for earlier reports of a CEP “decision” on a second round was the Thursday morning statement by CEP spokesperson Richardson Dumel. It is unclear why the words of a CEP member such as Chérubin should not be given, if not equal weight to Dumel’s, more serious consideration in the media than to be reported as mere hearsay. Since Chérubin identified Toussaint Thélève as another who did not sign, presumably the press could contact him for more information – not to mention Jacques Belzin and Ribel Pierre, to confirm the reports that they are the other non-signers.
Despite the announcement last week by CEP spokesperson Richardson Dumel, numerous media reports, and laudatory statements from by the United States, France and other foreign governments, it now appears that the CEP did not in fact make a decision as to which Haitian presidential candidates should proceed to the runoff election. As the New York Times reported yesterday:
At least one of the eight C.E.P. members, Ginette Chérubin, also sent a letter to Haitian news outlets this week saying she and three of her colleagues did not sign on to the decision adding Mr. Martelly to the runoff, casting further doubt on its legitimacy.
But if what Chérubin says is true, “further doubt on its legitimacy” is an understatement. It would in fact mean that the CEP did not make a decision.
Chérubin’s brief statement is available here in English (unofficial translation), and we are pasting the original in French, below.
Following the tragic death of Wildrick Guerrier on January 22 following his deportation from the U.S. to Haiti, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States is urging the U.S. government to stop deporting people to Haiti who have serious illnesses. A press release from the Center for Constitutional Rights, Alternative Chance/Chans Alternativ, Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, and University of Miami School of Law reads:
Today, in response to an emergency petition filed on January 6, 2011 by six rights groups, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) took a rare step and urged the U.S. government to cease deportations to Haiti immediately for persons with serious illnesses or U.S. family ties. The action follows the first reported death of a person deported by the U.S. since removals resumed on January 20, 2011. In its decision, the IACHR expressed concern that “detention centers in Haiti are overcrowded, and the lack of drinking water and adequate sanitation or toilets could facilitate the transmission of cholera, tuberculosis, and other diseases.”
The deceased, Wildrick Guerrier, 34, exhibited cholera-like symptoms but is believed to have received no medical treatment while in a Haitian police station cell in the midst of a cholera epidemic. A second deported person was reportedly exhibiting cholera-like symptoms and released without medical attention.
Guerrier, AP reported, “had participated in a hunger strike while detained in the U.S. and wrote to immigration attorneys that returning to Haiti amounted to a death sentence.” He may have been healthy when he arrived in Haiti, as AP earlier had reported
Immigration advocates complain that Haiti's notoriously unsanitary jails pose a grave risk for those sent back. They say Guerrier was healthy when he was deported before being crowded into a cell along with 17 other men.
For anyone who missed it, our press release from yesterday, in reaction to the CEP's decision, is below. What has received little attention so far is that not all CEP members signed the statement; in fact, it may be that only four out of eight actually did so. We will post more details and analysis as the information becomes available.
"Big Setback" for Haitian Democracy as U.S. Gets Its Way; Forces Runoff Elections Between Two Right-Wing Candidates, CEPR Co-Director Says
Second Round Will Be Between Candidates Who Received Around 6.4% and 4.5% Percent Support from Registered Voters in First Round, Respectively
Washington, D.C. - Haiti's democracy and national sovereignty were severely undermined today, Mark Weisbrot, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), said today, reacting to news that Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) had given in to external pressure and announced that government-backed candidate Jude Celestin will not proceed to the second round of elections.
"What a disgrace this is to the United States government: the richest country in the world has forced one of the poorest to change the results of its presidential election, literally under the threat of starvation," Weisbrot said. "Now two right-wing candidates, who received votes from around 6.4 and 4.5 percent of registered voters, respectively, will compete for the presidency, in another farcical 'election.'
"This is a big setback for democracy in Haiti. Far from fixing the problems with the first elections, this is simply an attempt to impose an illegitimate government on Haiti, and it will backfire," Weisbrot said.
"Washington also continues to try to keep former President Aristide, the country's first democratically elected president, out of the country. This is equally inexcusable and will also fail," Weisbrot also stated.
Read the rest here.
CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot writes in The Guardian (UK) today:
It didn’t get much attention in the media, but U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did something quite surprising on Sunday. After taping interviews on five big Sunday talk shows about Egypt, she then boarded a plane to Haiti. Yes, Haiti. The most impoverished country in the hemisphere, not exactly a “strategic ally” or a global player on the world’s political stage.
Inquiring minds might want to know why the United States’ top foreign policy official would have to go to Haiti in the midst of the worst crisis she has faced. The answer is that there is also a crisis in Haiti. And it is a crisis that – unlike the humanitarian crisis that Haiti has suffered since the earthquake last year – Washington really cares about.
Like the Egyptians, Haitians are calling for free and fair elections. But in this case Washington will not support free and fair elections, even nominally. Quite the opposite, in fact. For weeks now the U.S. government has been threatening the government of Haiti with various punishments if it refuses to reverse the results of the first round of its presidential elections. Washington wants Haiti to eliminate the government’s candidate and leave only two right-wing candidates to compete in the second round.
Just three weeks ago it looked like a done deal. The Organization of American States (OAS) “Expert Verification Mission” did a report on Haiti’s Nov. 28 presidential elections, and on Jan. 10 it was leaked to the press. The report recommended moving the government’s candidate, Jude Celestin, into third place by just 0.3 percent of the vote; leaving right-wing candidates Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady, and Michel Martelly, a popular musician, in first and second place, respectively. This was followed with various statements and threats from U.S. and French officials that Haiti must accept this change of result. U.S. officials strongly implied that aid to Haiti would be cut if the government didn’t do as told. It looked as if desperately poor Haiti would have to give in immediately.
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Task Force on Foreign Policy and International Affairs has called on the US administration and the international community to support new elections in Haiti and states that, "the will of the people of Haiti was not, in good faith, represented. We believe that the recommendation of a new election should be included in the OAS report, and it should not be endorsed, in its entirety, as it currently stands." The full text of the just distributed CBC Task Force statement follows:
On Sunday, Hillary Clinton, speaking with Bob Schieffer of CBS's Face the Nation urged Egypt's authoritarian ruler, Hosni Mubarak, to begin the process for "free, fair, and credible elections." Protestors have taken to the streets for over a week calling for democratic change and for Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt with US support for nearly 30 years, to step down.
Yet on the same day that she made those comments Hillary Clinton also traveled to Haiti to discuss a different election, one that was not free, fair nor credible, but that she never the less supports. Clinton was not in Haiti to call for new elections, nor was she pressuring the government to make the necessary changes (reforming the CEP, allowing all political parties to participate) to ensure an actual free, fair and credible electoral process.
CEPR's paper, "Haiti's Fatally Flawed Election", which received significant media attention upon its release last month, has been updated and re-released with an accompanying data set that contains the totals from each tally sheet posted on the CEP's website. The data is easily sortable and search-able to allow users to analyze the preliminary results in any geographical sub set. Many election observers noted irregularities in specific voting centers or specific areas or the country. The data set would allow the observers to easily access the preliminary results from areas where they witnessed irregularities on election day. Additionally, the numbers in the paper have been updated to reflect the new, more complete, data set. In the graph below, the average number of votes for each of the top three candidates in each tally sheet is presented, broken down by department.
The statement does not state that Celestin is withdrawing. Nor does it say, as has been reported, that INITE “ is no longer supporting its presidential candidate,” rather, it is vague, suggesting that Celestin is welcome to withdraw -- but there is nothing in the communiqué itself that conveys that the party is requiring, or even pressuring him to do so.
Some reports have left out any mention of the communique’s explicit references to international pressure and “intimidation”, complaints against which form the central theme of the communiqué. The communiqué makes it quite clear that the decision to “agree to see [Celestin] withdraw his candidacy for president” is a reluctant one, which the party says it makes “because INITE does not want the people’s suffering to increase even more” – a credible response to implied threats of aid cutoffs. It is perhaps notable that the U.S. is widely rumored to have revoked the visas of one of the signers, Jean Joseph Moliere, as part of a pressure campaign on the Préval government and INITE.
Here is the full text of the communiqué, in English, followed by kreyol:
Today in the Huffington Post, Laura Flynn, writer, activist, and board member of the Aristide Foundation for Democracy, writes movingly about the "constant terror" of life under Jean-Claude Duvalier and the hope of many Haitians that Aristide will be allowed to return. Flynn writes:
To read the entire article, click here.
In the 1980s, when the armed forces of Jean-Claude Duvalier's regime set about exterminating "Haiti's Creole pigs", they would come to Haiti's rural villages, seize all of the "pigs", pile them up, one on top of the other, in large pits and set fire to them, burning them alive.
A Haitian friend recounted this story to me this week. It was an image that she could not get out of her head since Jean-Claude Duvalier returned to Haiti. Because that's what it was like for her, to watch Duvalier be greeted like a dignitary at the Port-au-Prince airport, and then escorted to his hotel by UN military forces -- like being burned alive.
In 1968, when my friend was 3 years old, members of Duvalier's Ton Ton Macoutes came to her home at 3 o'clock in the afternoon as her extended family shared a meal in the courtyard of their house in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Martissant. The Macoutes dragged her father and two of her uncles away. They then went to two other houses on her block, and took away all the men from those families as well. Her father and the other men in the neighborhood were members of MOP, the mass political party of Haitian populist leader Daniel Fignolé, which Duvalier wiped out, along with all other forces of opposition in the country.
A new report "Met Ko Veye Ko: Foreign Responsibility in the Failure to Protect against Cholera and Other Man-Made Disasters" by Mark Schuller, Ph.D, City University of New York and Faculte d'Ethnologie, takes an in depth look at camp conditions throughout Haiti. In their previous report, "Unstable Foundations" it was found after studying a random sample of 108 camps that "most of Haiti’s estimated 1.5 million IDPs lived in substandard conditions."
The new report, which uses the same 108 camp sample, aims to see how things have progressed in the two and half months since the outbreak of cholera. The problems remain severe:
To read the full report, click here.
Still using the random sample of 108 IDP camps from this summer, a team of three State University of Haiti stu-dents investigated 45 camps that lacked either water or toilets from the summer. The results show a minimum of progress: 37.6 percent instead of 40.5 percent still do not have water, and 25.8 instead of 30.3 percent of camps still do not have a toilet.
The cholera outbreak – combined with the continued lack of services – is a key factor in the rap-id depopulation of the IDP camps. According to the IOM only 810,000 remain as of January 7. One in four camps researchers visited disappeared since the last visit, eight because of IDPs’ fear of cholera, and three because of landowner pressure.
The previous study highlighted several gaps within the services. Given little progress since the outbreak, most of the patterns hold true. Camps with NGO management agencies are still far more likely to have needed services; this is increasingly evident. Municipality is still a factor in services, however there is some progress in Cité Soleil IDP camps because of a concerted effort led by the Haitian government. There is a slight difference in camps on private and public land.
All of this is to say that much more progress needs to be made, not only in the aid delivery but the coordination. NGOs need to be more transparent and accountable, and the ongoing political crisis stoked anew by the entrance of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier should not be an excuse for aid being delivered or life-saving water contracts renewed. As long as people are liv-ing under tents, especially during the outbreak of cholera, water and sanitation services are ab-solutely essential.
The controversy over the return of the infamous dictator, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, to Haiti, is in many ways a distraction. Certainly, it is important he stand trial for crimes against humanity, including the murder and torture of opponents.
But there is another crime being committed against Haiti right now: Foreign powers are trying to rob Haitians once again of their democratic rights. More than 200 years after Haiti liberated itself from slavery and from France, the rich countries still seem to have a great fear of Haitians governing themselves.
It was obvious from the beginning of the disaster one year ago, when the United States took control of the air traffic into Haiti and immediately filled up most of the available landing slots with planes carrying soldiers and military equipment.
Their great fear of looting and crime in the aftermath of the earthquake never materialized, but in the first week after the earthquake, many people lost lives and limbs that could have been saved, if doctors and medical equipment had been the priority.
Read the rest here.
The UN joined the chorus of international actors that are pressuring Haiti to accept their choice for presidential candidates. At a UN Security Council meeting today, Under-Secretary-General Alain Le Roy, told the room:
“Having officially received the report of the OAS technical mission, the CEP must now honour its commitment to fully take into account the report’s recommendations with a view to ensuring that the results of the elections truly reflect the will of the Haitian people,”
“Should the CEP decide otherwise, Haiti may well be faced with a constitutional crisis, with the possibility of considerable unrest and insecurity.”
At the same meeting, Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, went even further. AFP reports:
The United States told President Rene Preval on Thursday to pull his favored candidate out of Haiti's disputed presidential election race or risk losing US and international support.
"Sustained support from the international community, including the United States, will require a credible process that represents the will of the Haitian people," Rice told a UN Security Council debate on Haiti.
"We urge the Provisional Electoral Council to implement the OAS recommendations," Rice said, also calling for a "timely" timetable for the second round.
CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot wrote in The Guardian (UK) earlier this week on the pressure the international community is putting on Haiti to accept their choices for presidential candidates. Today, he wrote the following, distributed by McClatchy:
Haiti’s infamous dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier, returned to his country this week, while the country’s first elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is kept out. These two facts really say everything about Washington’s policy toward Haiti and our government’s respect for democracy in that country and in the region.Asked about the return of Duvalier, who had thousands tortured and murdered under his dictatorship, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, “this is a matter for the Government of Haiti and the people of Haiti.”
But when asked about Aristide returning, he said, “Haiti does not need, at this point, any more burdens.”
Wikileaks cables released in the last week show that Washington put pressure on Brazil, which is heading up the United Nations forces that are occupying Haiti, not only to keep Aristide out of the country but to keep him from having any political influence from exile.
Various journalists who have covered Haiti over the past year have published essays today with their thoughts, reflections, sentiments, and recollections. Notable among them is this one from the AP’s Jonathan Katz, who writes:
What is most distinct about this Jan. 12 — from the last and from all Haiti's 206 previous Jan. 12s — is that this one was supposed to be different.
If you live in basically any of the world's major economies, and a lot of minor ones, chances are that your government made a promise of money, commitment, speed, coordination and intent — not just to rebuild what was here before, but to help make it better.
But most of the money promised was not delivered, and most of the money delivered was not spent.
The underlying issues, the core problems that keep Haiti like this — poor governance, lack of institutions, lack of national leadership unimpeded by interference from abroad, a lack of even the most basic governing systems like tax collection, land registries or a census — were barely addressed, if at all.
On this Jan. 12, the aid groups and NGOs are flying in their bosses to tout very limited successes and ask for money to do it over again.
On the tragedy's one-year anniversary, it’s become clear that perhaps the only positive aspect of the past 12 months has been the exposure of the failures of the NGO aid system, and the international community's long-standing use of the country as a laboratory for cashing in on disaster – both of which have been wrecking havoc on this country since long before the earthquake.
Despite being home to the world’s highest density of NGOs per capita, Haiti is presently being ravaged by a cholera epidemic with an official death toll of some 3,500, with experts estimating the number of dead at twice as high.
More than a million people are still living in overcrowded camps under the same now-frayed tarps they received last January. A third of these camps still don’t have toilets, and most Haitians have no access to potable water.