Writing in the Toronto Star, Catherine Porter reports on revelations from former Haitian President René Préval in Raoul Peck’s documentary film Fatal Assistance that UN head Edmond Mulet tried to remove him from the country on election day in November 2010:
“I got a phone call from Mr. (Edmond) Mulet, who was head of MINUSTAH, saying: ‘Mr. President, this is a political problem. We need to get you on a plane and evacuate you,’” Préval says in the documentary, Fatal Assistance. “I said: ‘Bring your plane, collect me from the palace, handcuff me, everyone will see that it’s a kidnapping.’”
The comments from Préval echo those made at the time by Organization of American States special representative Ricardo Seitenfus, who told BBC Brasil in January 2011 that Mulet and other representatives of the “core group” of donor countries, “suggested that President Rene Préval should leave the country and we should think of an airplane for that. I heard it and was appalled.” The forced departure of Préval wouldn’t have been the first time a Haitian president was spirited out of the country, as former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was flown out of Haiti in 2004 on a U.S. airplane and taken to the Central African Republic in what he described as a “kidnapping” and “coup d’etat.” There is no doubt that it was a coup d’etat – the New York Times, among others, documented the U.S. role in bringing about the coup. And Aristide’s charges that it was a kidnapping are credible and backed up by witnesses.
In response, Edmond Mulet told the Star, “I never said that, he [Préval] never answered that,” adding “I was worried if he didn’t stop the fraud and rioting, a revolution would force him to leave. I didn’t have the capability, the power or the interest of putting him on a plane.”
The first round of voting for president in November 2010 was plagued by irregularities. A CEPR statistical analysis found that some three-quarters of Haitians did not vote, over 12 percent of votes were never even received by the electoral authorities and that more than 8 percent of tally sheets contained irregularities. Perhaps most importantly, Haiti’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas, was excluded from the election. At the time, 45 Democratic members of Congress wrote to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warning that political party “exclusion[s] will undermine both Haitians' right to vote and the resulting government's ability to govern.” These warnings fell on deaf ears, but diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks reveal the international community’s thinking at the time. At an early December 2009 meeting, Haiti’s largest donors concluded that “the international community has too much invested in Haiti’s democracy to walk away from the upcoming elections, despite its imperfections.”
These imperfections proved even greater than anticipated. Based on the pervasiveness of the irregularities and the close results, we concluded at the time that “it is impossible to determine who should advance to a second round” and that if “there is a second round, it will be based on arbitrary assumptions and/or exclusions.”
Lawyers seeking justice on behalf of thousands of cholera victims announced their next steps after the U.N. rebuffed their claim in February, citing immunity. Saying that they were offering the U.N. its “last opportunity to accept its legal responsibility,” attorneys with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) announced in a press conference today (video here) that the U.N.’s response opens doors to trying the case in national courts, and that they will pursue this option if the U.N does not reply with “an appropriate response” in the next 60 days. The BBC’s Mark Doyle reported that “The lawyers say they will file claims for $100,000 (£64,000) for the families of those who have died and $50,000 (£32,000) for every one of the hundreds of thousands who have fallen sick,” which would total billions of dollars.
The attorneys described the U.N.’s rationale for rejecting the claim as being on “flimsy grounds.” They also placed the case in a broader context of impunity for abuse, which has included sexual assaults by U.N. troops and officers, and extrajudicial shootings in Haiti and other countries where U.N. troops have been stationed.
Attorney and IJDH board member Ira Kurzban slammed the U.N.’s justification of dumping of sewage into rivers as a matter of “policy,” even though this would clearly go against U.N. principles. Kurzban also noted that the U.N.’s failure to establish a standing claims commission that would allow Haitians to seek redress for U.N. wrongs goes against its responsibility to the world.
Also speaking at the press conference, Dr. Jean Ford Figaro, MD, MPH, and Health Education Coordinator at Boston Medical Center detailed various recommendations that the U.N.’s own Independent Panel of Experts have made that have yet to be implemented. Among these are the screening of U.N. troops, the distribution of prophylaxis, and on-site treatment of human waste. Figaro cited a new Physicians for Haiti paper that states that all three of these “recommendations could be implemented at either no or minimal cost to the UN.” In its paper, Physicians for Haiti also notes, “Two year later, the UN has not responded publicly to the [Panel’s] report, made public any proceedings from the task force, or made any of the changes in its medical or sanitation protocols recommended by the report.”
On April 25th, Representative Barbara Lee of California introduced H.R. 1749, the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, which would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to produce a detailed and comprehensive report on U.S. aid programs to Haiti since the January 2010 earthquake. The bill, which has 24 original co-sponsors, reflects the growing concern in Congress about the lack of tangible progress in U.S. post-quake relief and reconstruction efforts, and the lack of transparency around how U.S. aid money is being used.
An earlier version of this bill was passed in the House of Representatives in May of 2011 and later was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but never made it to a vote on the Senate floor. The legislation has been significantly revised and, whereas the old bill (which can be viewed here) had general reporting requirements, the new bill (which can be viewed here) has very specific and probing reporting language that should help shed light on how USAID funds are being used on the ground in Haiti. Among other things, the legislation calls for:
· An assessment of the “amounts obligated and expended on United States Government programs and activities since January 2010 (…) including award data [read: financial data] on the use of implementing partners at both prime and subprime levels, and disbursement data from prime and subprime implementing partners.”
· A description of “goals and quantitative and qualitative indicators to evaluate the progress, or lack of achievement of such goals…”
· An “assessment of the manner in which the Department of State and USAID are working with Haitian ministries and local authorities, including the extent to which the Government of Haiti has been consulted on the establishment of goals and timeframes and on the design and implementation of new programs…”
· An “assessment of how consideration for vulnerable populations, including IDPs (Internally Displaced Populations), women, children, orphans, and persons with disabilities, have been incorporated in the design and implementation of new programs and infrastructure”
· An “assessment of how agriculture and infrastructure programs are impacting food security and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Haiti”
Last month CEPR published a report titled “Breaking Open the Black Box” describing the lack of transparency of U.S. aid programs in Haiti, particularly at the contracting level, and recommended USAID reporting requirements similar to those found in H.R.1749. The report noted that the effectiveness of U.S. aid to Haiti has been questioned by the GAO, the USAID Inspector General and other government watchdogs.
Over the last decade the fight for accountability in Latin America for crimes committed by past dictatorships has seen a tremendous number of successes. In Peru, Alberto Fujimori is in jail. In Argentina dozens of defendants have been convicted in just the last year. But two ongoing cases continue to drag on, Efraín Ríos Montt in Guatemala and Jean-Claude Duvalier in Haiti. Both Ríos Montt and Duvalier enjoyed support of all kinds from the U.S. government, but the U.S.’s response to the cases illustrates the ongoing hypocrisy of the U.S. in the region.
In Guatemala, as numerous media outlets have described it, Ríos Montt is “the first former head of state in the Americas to stand trial for genocide in a national court.” While the case was recently suspended, after a week of legal maneuvers, it appears that it may be set to resume this week. After the trial was suspended on April 18, investigative journalist Allan Nairn reported that “Guatemalan army associates had threatened the lives of case judges and prosecutors and that the case had been annulled after intervention by Guatemala’s president, General Otto Pérez Molina.” Nairn, who investigated atrocities in Guatemala in the ‘80s – including Pérez Molina’s involvement in them -- was supposed to testify at the trial.
But less than a week later, the U.S. sent Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen J. Rapp to Guatemala to “meet with U.S. Government and Embassy officials, local victims groups, and other international officials.” Last Friday, as the trial continued to be suspended, State Department Acting Deputy Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell stated:
So we urge the Government of Guatemala to ensure that this legal case is conducted in accordance with Guatemala’s domestic and international legal obligations, and we expect the process and outcome will advance the rule of law.
The statement from the State Department came the same day that Rapp concluded his trip to Guatemala. Over the weekend, president Pérez Molina also seemed to partially walk back his previous statements criticizing the trial, calling the trial “historic” and pledging to not personally intervene.
In Haiti, on the other hand, the U.S. has been entirely absent.
In February, the United Nations confirmed that a Canadian serving with the United Nations Police contingent of MINUSTAH had been accused of sexually and physically assaulting a Haitian woman. Yesterday, Marie Rosy Kesner Auguste Ducena, a lawyer with the Haitian National Human Rights Defense Network, told CBC news that, though the victim reported the assault to police, “nothing will happen... Women who will go to complain, you will see that maybe somebody will take the complaint and will say to her you will be called after. But in fact, the case will just be closed.” CBC notes that the “day after the incident, the man boarded a flight back to Canada, where he remains.”
This is but the latest in a series of sexual abuse allegations leveled against MINUSTAH personnel in Haiti. According to U.N. data, since 2007 there have been 70 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation against MINUSTAH members, but as CBC news points out, “not one has ended up in a Haitian court.”
The lack of accountability of U.N. military and police personnel in Haiti has “undermined” the organizations reputation and its ability to carry out its mandate, according to Mark Schneider of the International Crisis Group (ICG). "The UN should ensure that in the agreement with the troop-contributing countries, that there is an understanding of what will happen if an abuse occurs — that there will be a full investigation, and that there will be appropriate action taken," Schneider added.
According to the CBC, the current case is complicated by the fact that the Canadian was serving as a UN Police agent. The CBC reports:
Soldiers can be tried in a military court, but under UN rules, civilian staff — including police officers — are immune from criminal prosecution in the country where the alleged offence occurred. Once back in Canada, they cannot be charged for a crime committed abroad.
The IOM reported this week that over the last three months, some 27,000 people have left IDP camps, bringing the total amount remaining to around 320,000. The IOM credits the vast majority of this reduction, some 74 percent, on relocation programs – most often a one-year rental subsidy. The report’s “highlights” section says that “Evictions accounted for a 6% decrease in IDP household population.” Yet the data in the report directly contradicts this. Of a reported reduction of 6,401 households, the IOM says 977 were forced to leave due to evictions, representing over 15 percent of the total reduction.
But even this is most likely an underestimate. Over previous months, there has been “a dramatic new wave of forced evictions,” according to the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). One camp which has been under the threat of eviction, and from which some families have already been evicted, is Camp Gaston Margon. On March 22, Amnesty International released a statement, warning that:
Approximately 650 families living in Gaston Margon displacement camp in the Port-au-Prince municipality of Carrefour are currently under the threat of forced eviction. Already, on 15 February, 150 families were forcibly evicted from the camp by police officers and a group of men carrying machetes and knives who were accompanied by a local justice of the peace. The armed men began destroying the families’ shelters, while some people were still inside, and attacked individuals that attempted to stop them. The police also shot their firearms into the air to intimidate the families. One infant was reported to have suffered injuries when armed men and police damaged a shelter with the child still inside. The men reportedly threatened to burn down the entire camp and to kill the children of families who did not move.
During the previous IOM reporting period, Camp Margon had a population of 3,376. During the most recent reporting period, the population had decreased to 2,327. Given the reports of threats of eviction, and at least a partial eviction, it is clear that this reduction is not simply a case of “spontaneous return,” as the IOM report implicitly states.
In a press release yesterday, DynCorp International announced that the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) had awarded the company with a $48.6 million contract. The purpose of the contract is to “recruit and support up to 100 UNPOL and 10 U.N. Corrections Advisors. DI will also provide logistics support to the Haitian National Police (HNP) Academy and each academy class. In addition, DI will supply five high-level French and Haitian Creole speaking subject matter experts to advise senior HNP officials.”
While the press release went out yesterday, the contract was actually awarded to DynCorp a year ago, and the first funding through the award was given to DynCorp in November 2012 in the amount of $12.9 million. DynCorp is one of the largest government contractors, receiving well over $3 billion in 2012.
As the company points out, its previous work in Haiti began in 2008 and involved the training of over 400 police officers. That work, part of the Haiti Stabilization Initiative, also entailed increasing the size of the U.N. military base in Cite Soleil. DynCorp, which continues to receive funds through that task order, has received over $23 million since 2008 for its work in Haiti.
One of the primary tasks of the U.N. military mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is to recruit and train members for the Haitian National Police, so that they could eventually take over for the foreign troops. With this latest contract, DynCorp has gone from training police to take over for MINUSTAH, to simply supplying troops directly to MINUSTAH.
But the awarding of the contract to DynCorp is also problematic given the company’s terrible track record in the same exact program areas where they will now operate in Haiti.
In Bosnia in the late ‘90s, DynCorp was contracted by the State Department to provide “peacekeepers” for the U.N. police there, just as in Haiti now. One employee, Kathryn Bolkovac, was eventually fired after blowing the whistle to her superiors at DynCorp on the participation of her colleagues in sex trafficking, among other abuses. The case was the basis for the 2011 Hollywood movie, The Whistleblower.
Unfortunately, these types of abuses have been all too common in Haiti since the arrival of U.N. troops in 2004. And similar to the situation in Bosnia, there have been only sporadic and piecemeal efforts to hold those responsible, accountable.
The New York Times reported yesterday that the Obama administration plans to change the way U.S. food assistance to other countries is conducted. The reforms, according to the Times’ Ron Nixon, would notably focus on local procurement of food rather than shipping U.S.-grown crops overseas. This is something we and other groups have proposed be done to both assist Haitian farmers and food insecure people in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Despite some interest from some congressional offices, the proposal never went anywhere.
Nixon notes that current U.S. food aid practices are unique: “The United States spends about $1.4 billion a year on food aid and is the only major donor country that continues to send food to humanitarian crisis spots, rather than buying food produced locally.” A recent op-ed by the Center for Global Development’s Charles Kenny in Bloomberg Businessweek noted additionally that “The U.S. food aid program… spends roughly an additional $1 billion transporting the crops overseas, in most cases using U.S.-flagged ships.”
U.S. food aid to Haiti is emblematic of the program as a whole. As we have previously noted, in roughly the first year after the 2010 earthquake, 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, at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of over $18 million dollars.
The Associated Press’ Mary Clare Jalonick reports on other controversial aspects of the U.S. food aid regime:
Particularly controversial is the process of what is called "monetization," or selling the food once it arrives overseas to finance development projects. A 2011 report by the Government Accountability Office found monetization cost the U.S. an extra $219 million over a three years, money that could have been used for other development projects.
Aid groups are split on the point, since some finance their activities through monetization. But major aid groups like Oxfam and CARE say the process can destroy local agriculture by dumping cheap crops on the market at a price too low for local farmers to compete.
Today, CEPR released a new report authored by Jake Johnston and Alex Main on USAID in Haiti. The paper looks at the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance, what we know about how it is being administered, to what extent it is adhering to the USAID Forward reform agenda and what steps can be taken to ensure more effective and transparent delivery of aid to Haiti. While one can see who the primary awardees are, the lack of more detailed data creates the impression that U.S. foreign assistance goes into a “black box” where it becomes nearly impossible to tell what happens afterwards.
The report notes that the few audits and evaluations of USAID’s programs in Haiti since the earthquake present a “troubling picture of the manner in which U.S. relief and reconstruction efforts have been conducted so far.” Contractors have hired far fewer Haitians than promised, Haitian businesses were largely excluded, goals were not met, there was inadequate supervision of grantees, and USAID had not conducted internal financial reviews of contractors.
The paper makes several recommendations for how to improve transparency and accountability around the $1 billion in outstanding obligated U.S. aid funds for Haiti, as well as around any additional aid funding in the future. These include making data available on subcontractors; ensuring awardee compliance with federal regulations and contract requirements; reducing reliance on large, multi-year contracts that favor traditional partners while increasing direct contracting to Haitian entities; strengthening USAID’s capacity to carry out effective monitoring and evaluation of assistance programs; making all evaluations publically available; ensuring the involvement of local populations; and making all available information on assistance programs accessible to Haitians – including via translations to Haitian Creole.
“Without transparency, not only is it impossible for U.S. taxpayers to know what is being done with their money, but the Haitian government and the Haitian people have little opportunity to ensure that U.S.-funded projects actually assist Haiti in rebuilding and dealing with ongoing urgent humanitarian needs,” paper co-author Alex Main said.
Below are a series of graphs from the report, illustrating what we do know and the limitations of the data available.
Earlier this week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures in favor of the 567 families that have been under constant threat of eviction in the Grace Village camp. Given the “imminent” threat to those in the camp, the IACHR urged the Government of Haiti:
1. To adopt the necessary measures to avoid the excessive use of force and of violence in any eviction. In particular, to guarantee that the public authorities' actions as well as those of private parties pose no risk to the life and personal integrity of the camp residents;
2. To implement effective security measures, in particular, to ensure that there is an adequate patrol around and inside the camp and to install police stations close to the camp. To this effect, the IACHR asks the Government to provide special protection to women and children;
3. To ensure that the residents have access to the potable water required for basic needs;
4. To consult with the beneficiaries and their representatives regarding the measures that need to be taken. In particular, ensure that the camp residents' committee as well as grassroots women's groups can fully participate in the planning and execution of the measures implemented for the benefit of residents, including measures focused on the prevention of sexual violence and other forms of violence in the camp; and
5. To inform [the public] regarding the adopted measures so as to investigate the events that justifies the adoption of precautionary measures
As we have written previously, the residents of Grace Village have faced significant and on-going harassment, which has included government complicity at both the local and national level. The alleged owner of the land is Pastor Joel Jeune, the founder of a Florida based 501(c)(3) organization, Grace International Inc. As the request for precautionary measures points out, the pastor’s close “ties to the mayor’s office and the local police force him to enlist the help of Haitian police to carry out illegal evictions. With his private security forces and the Haitian police, Pastor Joel Jeune has orchestrated and participated in violent, forced evictions of displaced families living inside Grace Village.”
The Haitian government’s Société Nationale des Parcs Industriels (SONAPI) hired a U.S. lobbying firm in February to draft documents and arrange meetings “with Congressional Members and staff and Administration officials to seek change to trade legislation” and to help “implement” worker rights provisions, according to Foreign Agent registration documents. SONAPI is the government entity which owns the newly-opened Caracol industrial park, and is the institution responsible for locating, organizing and managing industrial parks throughout Haiti. Yesterday, a presidential decree named business owner Bernard Schettini as the new head of SONAPI, replacing George Sassine, the ex-president of the Association of Industries of Haiti and the former Executive Director of CTMO-HOPE, the commission in charge of implementing U.S. preferential trade legislation.
Lobbying disclosures show that Sorini, Samet & Associates has been hired at the rate of $5,000 a month to help SONAPI lobby congress. Andrew Samet, the co-founder and principal of the firm, was the Deputy Undersecretary of Labor under President Clinton and later worked for law firm Sandler Travis and Rosenberg which counted the industry group the American Apparel and Footwear Association as a major client (the Association in turn has supported “free trade” deals such as CAFTA and HELP legislation for Haiti). Samet was hired as a lobbyist by Colombia in 2008 when it was pushing for passage of a “free trade” agreement with the U.S. Samet was hired to provide “a strategy on labor issues directed to support favourable consideration” of the FTA with the U.S. and to assist "the government of Colombia in presenting information on labor issues with relevant U.S. stakeholders, including U.S. Congress, the administration, labor advocacy groups, trade unions and the media." The FTA with Colombia was eventually passed despite the ongoing killing of unionists in the country, which continues to this day. In June 2012 the AFL-CIO issued a report documenting how the Labor Action plan attached to the FTA was failing to prevent labor and human rights violations. For six months of work in 2008, Sorini, Samet & Associates received over $100,000, according to lobbying disclosuredocuments.
The firm has also done previous work for Sassine and the Haitian government during Sassine’s tenure at CTMO-HOPE, earning nearly $400,000 from 2008-2010 lobbying Congress for the passage of new trade legislation and the implementation of “worker rights provisions.” Industrial parks and garment manufacturing are seen as vital development tools by the Haitian government and many of its international backers. The industry is reliant on trade preferences offered by the United States which started in 2006 with the HOPE act and culminated in the “HELP” act, which was passed soon after the earthquake. According to stakeholders, the HELP legislation, which extended the length of the preferences and increased the amount of textiles that would be subject to benefits, was a key part of bringing in Sae-A Trading, the global manufacturer that recently opened a factory at the Caracol industrial park.
While Sorini, Samet & Associates was previously hired to help implement “worker rights provisions” associated with the HOPE legislation, factories in Haiti are still in violation of a significant number of provisions under the preferential trade legislation. The most recent Better Work Haiti report found that 21 of 22 factories covered in their analysis (Caracol is not covered yet) were non-compliant with minimum wage laws, for example. This past summer, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, in their annual compliance report, found that “there was sufficient credible evidence to conclude that three specific producers were non-compliant with one or more of the core labor standards.” This was the first time in four years that the report named specific factories. The violations included non-compliance in: sexual harassment, freedom of association and forced labor.
According to reports on Twitter yesterday, the United Nations independent expert on the human rights situation in Haiti, Michel Forst has resigned for “personal reasons,” even though his mandate was supposed to continue for another year. In one of his last acts, Forst’s report for the U.N. Human Rights Council was presented yesterday, recommending to Haiti and the international community that they “throw light” on the cause of the cholera outbreak and “respond to any compensation requests”. The cholera outbreak has killed at least 8,050 and sickened over 650,000 more.
In his report Forst notes that the “question of what caused the outbreak of the epidemic in Haiti remains a burning issue that has attracted significant public controversy.” Over the last few years, a number of scientific reports have identified U.N. troops as the source of cholera’s introduction. Forst’s report, which was issued before the U.N.’s denial of victims’ compensation claims, notes “that silence is the worst response.”
The U.N. broke their “silence” on the issue by rejecting the victims’ claims, yet they have continued to stonewall on the issue of responsibility. While Forst “deplores” the exploitation of the issue by “certain organizations…for political ends,” he recognizes the “need that victims or their families have expressed to know the truth and perhaps even to be given compensation.”
In addition to recommending shedding light on the cause of the outbreak, Forst also calls on the international community and Haitian government to, “Secure international assistance to combat the spread of the cholera epidemic.” The claim against the U.N., in addition to seeking damages, also asks for the U.N. to fund the needed infrastructure to eradicate cholera from Haiti. A 10 year, $2.2 billion eradication plan has been announced, but thus far the funding for it remains in doubt. The plan for the first two years notes that “The total cost for implementation of the Action Plan for 2013–2015 is estimated to be US$443,723,100.” So far, little more than half of that - $238 million - has been secured, most of it from existing funds.
On Sunday, the New York Times editorial board added their voice to those critical of the U.N.’s immunity claim, noting that the U.N.’s “handling of cholera is looking like a fiasco.” The Times adds:
While it insists that it has no legal liability for cholera victims, it must not duck its moral obligations. That means mobilizing doctors and money to save lives now, and making sure the eradication plan gets all the money and support it needs.
Its record so far is dubious. A U.N. appeal last year for $24 million for cholera programs ended the year only 32 percent financed, and in December, the U.N. said it would contribute $23.5 million to the new 10-year plan — about 1 percent of what is needed.
An op-ed in Bloomberg Businessweek yesterday lays out the case for USAID reform, highlighting the case of contractors in Haiti (and citing this blog) as an example. The piece, by Charles Kenny of the Center for Global Development, also examines the politicized nature of USAID practices. Kenny writes:
When it comes to buying friends at the United Nations, or buying crops in the Midwest, or creating jobs around the Capital Beltway, the U.S. foreign aid system is a paragon of effectiveness. Take the goal of buying friends. Eric Werker, a Harvard Business School associate professor, and Ilyana Kuziemko, now a Columbia Business School associate professor and Harvard Ph.D., estimated in a 2006 Harvard paper that countries rotating onto the UN Security Council were likely to see their U.S. aid increase by 59 percent. The aid then fell as the countries finished their terms. In a 1999 study, Illinois State University’s T.Y. Wang found that U.S. aid successfully affects UN voting patterns on issues vital to America’s national interests.
It is notable that the fifth largest USAID vendor is the government of Pakistan, currently a U.N. Security Council member. (The top four vendors – as September 30, 2012 – were the World Bank, the U.N. World Food Program, Chemonics (whose work in Haiti we have examined on this blog), and John Snow, Inc.)
Kenny also describes problems with USAID’s food assistance to developing nations:
The U.S. food aid program, for instance, purchases about $1 billion worth of American crops a year. It spends roughly an additional $1 billion transporting the crops overseas, in most cases using U.S.-flagged ships.
Economics professors Nathan Nunn of Harvard and Nancy Qian of Yale demonstrated in a 2010 paper that what determines the size of U.S. food aid shipments isn’t recipient need, but the size of the U.S. crop. And about half the funding is used on shipping. That same money could buy supplies in local markets and help farmers in developing countries.
The U.N. Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued a press statement at the end of last week “express[ing] the grave concern of the humanitarian community in country regarding the recent incidents of forced evictions of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from camps in Port-au-Prince.”
The OCHA release follows a visit to the Acra 2 IDP camp in Port-au-Prince which “followed evictions of about 1,000 displaced families in camps Acra 1 and 2 (Petionville) and Gaston Margron (Carrefour) in metropolitan Port-au-Prince on 17 February 2013.”
The OCHA press statement notes:
Today, a little less than 350,000 displaced people live in 450 camps, most of them unable to find a return solution and without access to appropriate services. The humanitarian community estimates that more than 66,000 internally displaced persons (in 150 camps) have been victims of forced evictions since July 2010. More than 73,000 people living in 87 camps (20 per cent of the total displaced population) are facing threats of eviction in 2013. A forced eviction is the permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families or communities from the homes or land they occupy, without the provision of access to appropriate forms of legal or other protection.
The statement was an improvement over past OCHA mischaracterizations of some forced eviction cases as “voluntary returns.”
According to the release, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Ross Mountain “met with the Minister of Human Rights and the Fight against Extreme Poverty, Mrs. Rose Anne Auguste to discuss the issue of forced evictions in IDP camps.” Ms. Auguste
stated that a judicial inquiry was ongoing and security presence was being strengthened around camps at risk. She pointed out that President Martelly had on several occasions condemned forced evictions and that the Government-designed 16/6 programme for camp closure remains the way forward. The 16/6 project supports the return and resettlement of displaced persons living in camps, as well as the rehabilitation of the neighborhoods affected by displacement.
But as we have previously noted, the Martelly administration’s “16/6” program has failed to assist the majority of Haiti’s IDP’s. We noted in October that after one year, only some 44,000 people had been resettled through the program, significantly less than had been forcibly evicted, and just 60 of the remaining IDP sites were planned to benefit from return programs similar to 16/6. As we have also noted, there has been no systematic tracking of what has happened to people leaving the camps, and there is a need to examine what will happen to former camp residents once the rental subsidies they receive under the 16/6 program end.
Last week, after the passing of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, Haiti declared three days of national mourning. President Martelly stated that Chávez was a “great friend of Haiti who never missed an opportunity to express his solidarity with the Haitian people in their most difficult times.” It’s not the first time Martelly had such kind words for the Venezuelan president. Last year, Martelly told the press that it was Venezuelan aid that was “the most important in Haiti right now in terms of impact, direct impact." In February, Martelly attended the 11th summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our Americas, a regional political organization spearheaded by Venezuela, and announced that Haiti was debating joining the group as a full member. While most of the coverage around Chávez’s legacy in Haiti and the greater Caribbean has focused on the Petrocaribe initiative, which provides subsidized fuel to the region, Chávez developed close ties to the Haitian people well before Petrocaribe. Following the earthquake of 2010, Chávez, in cancelling Haiti’s debt to Venezuela, declared, “Haiti has no debt with Venezuela -- on the contrary, it is Venezuela that has a historic debt with Haiti." As Chávez was quick to point out, it was Haiti that provided a vital safe-haven for Latin American independence hero Símon Bolívar before he went on to liberate much of South America from Spanish rule.
Opposition to 2004 Coup
In 2004, following the U.S.-backed coup against Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Chávez was one of only a few voices in the region condemning what had taken place and refusing to recognize the coup government. Chávez told the Organization of American States that, “The President of Haiti is called Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and he was elected by the people." He formally extended an offer of asylum to Aristide in March of 2004. Perhaps the solidarity was in part due to the fact that just two years previously Chávez had been temporarily ousted in a coup, and similar actors were involved in both the Venezuelan and Haitian coups. As detailed in a 2004 investigation by Mother Jones, the International Republican Institute was active in both organizing and training those involved in the 2004 coup in Haiti as well as opposition factions before the 2002 coup in Venezuela, and its point man in Haiti at the time – Stanley Lucas, now an advisor to Martelly – had been in Venezuela some seven times prior to the coup. Senior Bush administration officials Roger Noriega and Otto Reich also actively supported both the Venezuelan and Haitian coups.
One with the People
In 2007, President Chávez traveled to Haiti; Brian Concannon and Mario Joseph described the scene at the time:
Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez found a hero’s welcome when he visited Haiti on March 12. People from Port-au-Prince’s poor neighborhoods lined the streets of the capitol to cheer, to chant, to dance and sing, with the infectious enthusiasm of Haitian celebrations. President Chávez returned the affection. He jumped from his motorcade and joined the party, marching, even running with the crowd. At the National Palace, Mr. Chávez climbed up on the perimeter fence to shake and slap hands, like he had just scored a World Cup goal. He publicly thanked the Haitian people for their hospitality and enthusiasm, and for their historic support for liberty in the world.
President Chávez and the Haitian people hit it off so well for reasons of principle and of practice. Haitians consider Chávez a leader in the global fight against the global power inequalities that keep people in Haiti, Venezuela and the rest of Latin America poor, hungry and uneducated. They see him standing up to the most powerful leader in today’s world- President Bush (whose name was frequently invoked that day, not charitably) – and to the World Bank and other powerbrokers. Even better, unlike their President Aristide (whose name was frequently, and charitably, invoked), Chávez keeps getting away with standing up to the powerful.
Of course, while the solidarity between Chávez and the Haitian people has long existed, the more recent direct impact of this solidarity has been through the Petrocaribe initiative. The agreement, which was nearly blocked by the U.S. government and major oil companies, has provided Haiti with 23.6 million barrels of oil since 2008. Through the agreement Venezuela finances part of Haiti’s fuel import bill, allowing for a portion to be paid up front and the remainder to be used as a loan with a long maturity and low rates. Since the program’s inception, Venezuela has provided oil worth nearly $2.5 billion. Haiti has paid back over $1 billion of that and although Venezuela cancelled nearly $400 million in debt after the earthquake, Haiti retains a debt of roughly $950 million to Venezuela. Most of this will be paid back over a period of 25 years at a 1 percent interest rate. In the meantime, there is a two-year grace period. The IMF estimated fiscal year 2012/2013 external debt payments to be 0.1 percent of GDP, or less than 0.5 percent of government expenditure.
As of March 4, 2013, cholera has killed 8,057 Haitians and infected nearly 650,000 more. Despite some claims of progress, the epidemic, which was introduced by United Nations troops, has been significantly worse in 2013 than during the same period the year before. From January 1, 145 cholera victims have officially been reported dead, compared to just 22 last year. Worse, this occurred during the dry season, when cases generally taper off. The latest bulletin from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that compared to February 2012, this year “the Centre department has seen an increase of 67 per cent during this period, while the Artibonite and Ouest departments have seen increases of 38 per cent and 35 per cent respectively.”
Three weeks ago the U.N., after 15 months of dodging and evading, formally rejected a claim brought on behalf of over 6,000 cholera victims for damages. The claimants had also demanded the U.N. provide funding for the new infrastructure needed for the clean water and sanitation that would eradicate the epidemic. A new, 10-year, cholera eradication plan was announced less than a week later. The ambitious plan, if carried out, would provide lifesaving infrastructure, which previously had been blocked due to political pressure from the United States. Yet, while the plan was welcomed as a positive step forward, there is little funding available for its implementation. The U.N., for its part, committed just $23 million, a far cry from the $2.2 billion needed.
While the infrastructure which is needed may be a long way off, some groups are already looking at new solutions to combatting the cholera epidemic and creating a more sustainable country in the process. Isabeau Doucet reports for The Guardian:
"If we can take all the poop that's making people sick right now," said Dr Sasha Kramer as she stuck a thermometer into a large mound of faecal waste in the middle of Troutier, Port-au-Prince's city dump, "and turn it into this really valuable resource that could be used for reforestation or for increased agricultural production, then you really take a problem and turn it into a solution."
Every week, Soil (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods) collects the human waste from 56 dry toilets built in camps for displaced earthquake victims, and mixes it with chips of sugar cane bagasse, a byproduct of local rum production.
And it’s not just NGOs which are taking part:
The Haitian government recently built several sewage treatment plants that process traditional pit latrine waste in open-air stabilisation ponds. It and sewage treatment companies such as Jedco are experimenting with the alchemy of transforming a potentially deadly substance into a rich and much-needed fertiliser.
In order to treat human waste safely and kill pathogens, the waste must sit for at least seven days at 50C, according to the World Health Organisation. After six to nine months, the potentially toxic waste is transformed, with low carbon emissions, into fertile soil, simultaneously helping to fight cholera and deforestation, and revive food production.
The government has opened two sewage treatment plants on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince and there are a number planned for other major cities in the coming years. The plants are the first ever in Haiti’s history. SOIL is exploring ways to transform their composting process to be able to handle waste from pit latrines, which are currently emptied at the government sewage plants, and not just the dry toilets that they distribute.
In addition to composting, the sewage treatment plants hope to be able to use the water they are treating for irrigation. Together, the reuse of waste could have a large impact on sustainability. Doucet continues:
In Haiti's northern region of Cap Haïtien, where Soil built its first toilets in 2006, there is now a farm and the compost is used to grow peanuts and fight malnutrition. Collaborating with farmers and Scouts, Soil aims to fight Haiti's extreme deforestation – it has only 2% forest cover – by planting 10,000 mango, cashew, orange, lemon and other indigenous fruit trees.
Please see below for a series of pictures from the SOIL composting site in Port-au-Prince and from the Haitian government’s two new sewage treatment plants.
The U.S. Agency for International Development Inspector General (IG) last week released an audit of a program to provide loans to businesses in Haiti (available here). The audit is just the latest report from the IG to find significant problems with USAID’s programs in Haiti, following previous findings regarding cash-for-work programs, shelter provision, food aid and USAID’s largest contractor, Chemonics. The Associated Press’ Trenton Daniel reports that:
An audit of a U.S. Agency for International Department program that aimed to boost Haiti's economy by providing loans to businesses has found that the program failed to award loans to intended targets, train workers and keep accurate records.
The aim of the audit released in late February by USAID's Office of the Inspector General was to see whether a USAID loan program was indeed introducing lending practices to overlooked areas and borrowers, particularly in the areas of agriculture, construction, tourism, handicrafts and waste management. Most of the loans were supposed to go toward women, first-time borrowers and small- and medium-sized enterprises.
The loan program provided some $37.5 million in guarantees, of which just over $19 million in guarantees have been extended. According to publicly available data, only about a quarter went to woman-owned businesses, less than 30 percent went to first-time borrowers, and 75 percent were concentrated in the West department, though these numbers likely overstate the reality on the ground. In addition to many other problems, the audit found that “the key monitoring data was outdated, incomplete, or inaccurate,” for example, information on whether the recipient was a first-time borrower was “recorded incorrectly 41 percent of the time.”
The focus of the audit, Daniel reports, was the four largest of the seven guarantees, “worth $31.5 million,” of the $37.5 million total. Of these Daniel notes that two were made after the 2010 earthquake:
They were a Haitian bank named Sogebank, a Haitian development finance institution named Sofihdes that USAID helped create in 1983 and an agriculture-focused outfit named Le Levier Federation.
The audit found that few women and first-time borrowers received loans and lenders didn't make much effort to work with them.
And while the loans were intended to target “development corridors,” Daniel notes,
Instead they stayed in the Port-au-Prince area.
Ninety percent of Sogebank's loans were confined to the capital and the bank didn't give loans to other parts of the country. Some 81 percent of the Sofihdes loans were in Haiti's capital.
An op-ed in the Caribbean Journal by HRRW's Jake Johnston reads:
Less than a week after cholera began its violent spread throughout Haiti, a UN military base in the central plateau became the prime suspect for having introduced the bacteria.
The UN was quick to shoot down this theory, claiming the base met international standards. Days later, journalists found sewage tanks and latrines overflowing, with the resulting black liquid flowing into a tributary of Haiti’s largest river.
Still, the UN didn’t hesitate to defend itself; the head of the UN troops (known as MINUSTAH), said that it was “really unfair to accuse the UN for bringing cholera into Haiti.”
Even the UN’s own investigation into the outbreak found that the UN base was the likely source, though the results were obfuscated by blaming the spread on a “confluence of factors.”
In the meantime, Haitians continued to die. By the end of January 2011, just over three months after cholera’s introduction, the official death toll was over 4,300. All the while the U.N. maintained its innocence.
Read the rest here.
865 days after Haiti’s cholera epidemic first began, with over 8,000 dead and some 650,000 sickened, the government of Haiti, with international support, officially launched a ten-year cholera eradication plan today after months of delays. The plan calls for an investment of $2.2 billion in clean water and sanitation infrastructure, with some $485.9 million needed for the next two years. Currently 31 percent of the population does not have access to potable water, while 83 percent lack access to adequate sanitation. By 2022, the plan aims to deliver potable water and improved sanitation services to 85 and 90 percent of the population, respectively.
The plan notes that in the short term, “actions will focus on preventing the transmission of cholera from one person to another through the use of drinking water disinfected with chlorine, and the promotion of hand washing, good sanitary practices, and food hygiene.” Resources will also go to capacity building and training for the relevant government agencies, in particular the health ministry (MSPP) and the water agency (DINEPA). Over the long-term, some $650 million will go to DINEPA to build water supply systems in the 21 largest cities in the country, though most of this would start after the next two years. A breakdown of funding needs by sector, program and time-frame can be seen below. Overall, about 70 percent of the needed funds are to go to water and sanitation provision, though just over 10 percent of that is planned to be spent in the first two years.
The objectives, in terms of cholera specifically, are to reduce the incidence rate to below 0.5 percent by 2014, below 0.1 percent in 2017 and below 0.01 percent by 2022. This compares to an incidence rate of over 1.1 percent in 2012, which translates to about 110,000 cases for that year.
The plan also envisions a strengthening of the public health sector and of the coordination between NGOs and the government. To this end, the government plans to “integrate their support into the national health system.” Through investments in training, capacity building and by channeling funds through the domestic institutions in charge of each sector, the plan aims to create a stronger public sector overall. This could be especially significant given that aid for the cholera response (and for the overall relief and reconstruction effort) has largely bypassed the Haitian government. According to data from the U.N. Special Envoy, only 2.5 percent of humanitarian spending for cholera went through the Haitian government. As noted in the plan, the “lack of investment coming directly from the country’s fiscal budget represents a threat to the stability of the” water and sanitation sector.
There are to be three evaluations of implementation done in 2014, 2017 and 2022 and an audit will be conducted at the half-way point and at the conclusion of the plan. Additionally, a technical committee made up of high-level representatives from relevant government agencies will meet quarterly to assess progress and propose remedies.
Plan Remains Woefully Underfunded
Responding to the plans’ launch today, implementing partner PAHO’s Director Carissa F. Etienne noted that, “For the plan to be implemented, Haiti’s friends in the international community must align their efforts and harmonize around this plan and provide the necessary financial resources.” Yet thus far, meaningful support has been hard to find.
The U.N.’s claim of immunity in response to the legal complaint filed against it on behalf of over 6,000 cholera victims has provoked outrage. Author Kathie Klarreich called it “unconscionable and immoral” in a Miami Herald op-ed yesterday, saying the U.N.’s statement “appears more like an apology for a snake bite than an effective response to what is currently the worst cholera outbreak in the world.” Klarreich underscores the urgency of cholera in contrast to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s expressed sympathy:
The World Health Organization expects 100,000 new cases this year alone, and some think that’s conservative, given the data. Many, if not most, of the non-governmental organizations that were involved in educating Haitians about the bacteria have scaled back their programs or closed shop, taking with them the chlorine they had been providing to make drinking water safe, and the soap to wash hands, fruits and vegetables.
Writing for the Atlantic, Armin Rosen suggests that “If a multinational corporation behaved the way the U.N. did in Haiti, it would be sued for stratospheric amounts of money.” As well “They would have to contend with Interpol red notices, along with the occasional cream pie attack.”
Former AP correspondent Jonathan Katz, whose important work in documenting the source of the outbreak is detailed in his book The Big Truck That Went By notes that the U.N. immunity claim is just the latest in a series of efforts to stall and obstruct the efforts of cholera victims to receive justice – and for the U.N. to take appropriate action to stop cholera. Katz writes in Slate:
A more recent tactic has been for the U.N. to shut down talk about the epidemic’s cause by discussing its new effort to eradicate the disease—despite the fact that the primary program it is touting is not actually a U.N. effort, lacks clear goals, and remains almost totally unfunded.
Katz notes that “Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon added a generic statement expressing sympathy for the thousands killed and hundreds of thousands sickened or left unable to work by the disease. His spokesman dodged all further questions.”
There were two significant and possibly historic legal developments in Haiti today.
After Jean-Claude Duvalier refused yet again to appear in court today, Judge Jean Joseph Lebrun issued an order for him to appear at the next hearing, meaning Duvalier will be escorted there by the authorities. Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch commented that the “ruling is a victory for Duvalier 's victims who have never given up hope of seeing him in a court of law,” adding that the “decision means even Duvalier is not above the law.”
In his stead, Duvalier’s lawyer, Reynold Georges, appeared in the appeals court today, 90 minutes late, according to AP – after apparently initially saying he wouldn’t – and continued to display the Duvalier legal team’s contempt for the human rights plaintiffs, the media, and the court itself. According to Twitter updates from journalists, members of the Institute for Justice in Democracy in Haiti team, and observers from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, during the proceedings this morning, Georges held his own press conference of sorts in the court room, during which he is said to have told an Aljazeera reporter “your international law, keep it for yourself,” and to have said to the press that "I don't lose. I'm Haiti's Johnnie Cochran." He also reportedly claimed that Amnesty had at some point given his client a good grade on human rights, which led to laughter and the expected denials from Amnesty International’s representative in the court room.
According to the AP, “Georges, a brash former senator, said he was confident that the Supreme Court would not only overturn the order to compel Duvalier's presence in court but also block the effort by victims of the Duvalier regime from getting the court to reinstate the charges.”
The BAI’s Mario Joseph told the BBC that “Duvalier is trying to control the justice system like when he was a dictator.”
No less outrageous, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon finally issued a statement today in response to the complaint filed by over 6,000 cholera victims calling for U.N. responsibility in causing the epidemic. Apparently no more interested in facing the music than Duvalier is, the statement reads: