In his mandated report on MINUSTAH, the United Nations Secretary General for the first time outlines the creation of a timetable for withdrawal of MINUSTAH personnel from Haiti. UNSG Ban Ki-moon writes:
The plan foresees a narrowing of the Mission’s activities to a core set of mandated tasks that are achievable within a reasonable time frame (envisioned to be a period of between four and five years for planning purposes) aimed at consolidating stabilization gains to a point beyond which the presence of a large peacekeeping operation will no longer be required. The Mission will work with the Government, civil society, the United Nations country team and international partners to agree on a transition compact that will set out a limited number of stabilization benchmarks that will serve as key indicators of progress in the stabilization process.
Calling for a concrete timetable for progressive withdrawal of the foreign contingents is a small, but important first step. Last year’s authorization of MINUSTAH [PDF] lacked any details on withdrawal and instead mandated that, “future adjustments to its force configuration should be based on the overall security situation on the ground.” Ban Ki-moon is now recommending creating a “transition compact” with the Haitian government that would have specific benchmarks on the road to withdrawal. The main benchmark for reducing the number of MINUSTAH personnel would be sufficient strengthening of the Haitian National Police, while other “benchmarks will evaluate the maturity of key rule of law oversight and accountability mechanisms.”
These benchmarks have yet to be drawn up, however, and so the plan could be overly optimistic in terms of its drawdown timetable. Growth and reform of the police has been a key benchmark for MINUSTAH’s mission completion all along, yet eight years after MINUSTAH began, “the country’s still limited police force cannot guarantee the security needed to protect citizens, enforce the law and underpin political stability,” according to the International Crisis Group. (It is notable that the UNSG’s four-five year timeline is compatible with the five-year extension called for by the International Crisis Group, which it recommends in order to, as it puts it, ensure “a third peaceful handover of democratic power …at the end of the Martelly presidency,” and “the completion of the second five-year police development plan.”)
Last week, four Uruguayan peacekeepers who were repatriated from Haiti nearly one year ago after video evidence emerged showing the assault of an 18-year old Haitian man, apparently inside the Uruguayan’s Port Salut base, were finally charged. The prosecutor, however, is charging the four soldiers with “coercion” as opposed to sexual abuse.
As AFP reported last week:
"The evidence on record does not support findings of sexual assault. The indictment concerns only the crime of coercion," said the prosecutor in the case, Enrique Rodriguez.
The Latin American nation's penal code states that coercion -- a crime punishable by three months to three years in prison -- involves the use of physical or psychological restraint to force someone to take or abstain from an action against their will.
"In this case, force was used to oblige another person to tolerate an action against their will," Rodriguez said, noting that the judge has not yet ruled in the case.
The Uruguayan press, reporting on the charges notes that the judge, even if he finds the accused soldiers guilty, could still forgo giving prison sentences.
The case stands as just the latest example of the problems of holding the UN Peacekeeping mission in Haiti accountable for abuses, from the introduction of cholera to the sexual abuse of Haitians. Under the UN’s Status of Forces Agreement, those accused of abuse are repatriated quickly, where they face judges of their home country as opposed to local Haitian courts where they could face significantly longer and tougher sentences. In March, three Pakistani police were found guilty of rape, yet were sentenced to just one year in prison by a Pakistani military tribunal. Despite evidence implicating MINUSTAH personnel in a cover-up of the abuse, the case in local courts has stalled. In another example of injustice, over 100 Sri Lankan troops were returned to Sri Lanka in 2007 after evidence emerged of their involvement in sexual exploitation and prostitution with Haitian children and women. There is no sign that the troops have faced any form of punishment since.
The latest news from the Associated Press suggests Tropical Storm Isaac may not reach hurricane strength before hitting Haiti:
Tropical Storm Isaac strengthened slightly as it spun toward the Dominican Republic and vulnerable Haiti on Friday, threatening to bring punishing rains but unlikely to gain enough steam to strike as a hurricane.
Forecasters now expect the storm to stay below hurricane force until it's in the Gulf of Mexico, staying to the west of Tampa, Florida, where the Republican National Convention starts on Monday, though there is still an outside chance it could hit there.
In Haiti, the government and international aid groups announced plans to evacuate several thousand people from one of the settlement camps that sprang up in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.
Isaac was expected to dump eight to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters) of rain on the island of Hispaniola that is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
"That kind of rain is going to cause some life-threatening flash floods and mudslides," said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the Hurricane Center in Miami.
AP’s Trenton Daniel goes on to describe the Haitian government’s emergency measures and the reactions that some Haitians had to them:
In flood-prone Haiti, where the storm's eye is likely to blow ashore late Friday, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe urged people to avoid crossing rivers, to tape their windows, and to stay calm, saying "panic creates more problems."
Lamothe and other Haitian officials said the government had set aside about $50,000 in emergency funds and had buses and 32 boats on standby for evacuations.
But among many Haitians, the notion of disaster preparedness in a country where most people get by on about $2 a day was met with a shrug.
"We don't have houses that can bear a hurricane," said Jeanette Lauredan, who lives in a tent camp in the crowded Delmas district of Port-au-Prince.
About 400,000 people remain in settlement camps comprised of shacks and tarps in the wake of Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake.
There has been much discussion in the media over the past day regarding whether Tropical Storm Isaac might rain on the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, and possibly cause delays or a cancellation. Receiving less attention is that 400,000 some people in Haiti are still living in tents, under tarps and various forms of makeshift housing – people who became internally displaced persons (IDP’s) after the 2010 earthquake, and they are also in the storm’s projected path.
Aside from the more obvious threats that flooding and strong winds could mean for IDP camps and other vulnerable communities, Isaac could also bring a spike in cholera infections. As we have pointed out before, along with countless news articles, medical reports, and NGO press releases, Haiti’s cholera infections surge with rainy weather, and tropical storms and hurricanes pose an especially ominous threat. The lack of adequate sanitation and safe drinking water in IDP camps means that drinking water sources are likely to be contaminated by waste water when flooding occurs – along with the tents, tarps, and much bedding and other possessions. And it is not just the IDPs who face increased dangers with heavy rain. As the cholera response has been scaled back, access to cholera treatment centers in rural Haiti has decreased. While flooding and mudslides pose extreme danger on their own, they can also prevent those in need from traveling to secure the care that is needed.
We wrote two weeks ago that the Haitian health ministry reported a slower rate of infection this summer, which it attributed to unusually dry weather, but that they predicted an increase in the coming months as the hurricane season begins. The Pan American Health Organization estimates that Haiti could see up to 170,000 new cases this year, which would mean an average of about 20,000 cases per month over the next five months – 5,000 more cases per month than in the previous three months. We further noted that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was reporting a “very weak” “capacity to respond to potential outbreaks,” such as could occur with a drenching tropical storm.
The United Nations, meanwhile, whose troops caused the epidemic in October 2010, has yet to take responsibility by taking steps to contain and control cholera.
Last week Deborah Sontag of the New York Times reported in depth on the lack of sustainable housing solutions in Haiti since the earthquake:
Two and a half years after the earthquake, despite billions of dollars in reconstruction aid, the most obvious, pressing need — safe, stable housing for all displaced people — remains unmet.
In what international officials term a protracted humanitarian crisis, hundreds of thousands remain in increasingly wretched tent camps. Tens of thousands inhabit dangerously damaged buildings. And countless others, evicted from camps and yards, have simply disappeared with their raggedy tarps and rusty sheet metal into the hills.”
Sontag notes that $500 million was spent on transitional shelters that were “not built to last”, meaning “All the money spent on T-shelters will be melted away,” as H. Kit Miyamoto, an engineer working in Haiti, told Sontag. Meanwhile, although some 200,000 houses were damaged or destroyed:
international aid has led to an estimated 15,000 repairs and 5,700 new, permanent homes so far. Most of the new houses are outside greater Port-au-Prince, where it was easier to obtain land, and some have yet to be occupied.
Though many are quick to tout the decrease in camp population as a sign the housing and displacement crisis is being met, it is clear the number of new housing solutions can only explain a fraction of the camp population reduction. The lack of adequate housing has led 33 international organizations to sponsor the Under Tents campaign. Working with Haitian grassroots groups, the campaign seeks to win housing rights for the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who remain displaced or living in unsustainable housing.
The latest data from the MSPP (Ministry of Health) shows that the number of cholera cases and resulting deaths continues to rise. As of August 2, there have been a total of 583,871 cases and 7,497 deaths reported since October 2010 and this almost certainly is an underestimate. While the number of cases this summer has not spiked as high as it did last year, there have still been 377 deaths and nearly 45,000 cases reported in just the last three months.
The MSPP attributes the slower rate of infection this summer to unusually dry weather; however they predict an increase in the coming months as the hurricane season begins. The Pan American Health Organization estimates that Haiti could see up to 170,000 new cases this year, which would mean an average of about 20,000 cases per month over the next five months. Over the previous three months, the average number of cases has been over 15,000. Despite this, funding for the cholera response, as well as for the infrastructure needed to stem the spread of the disease, has been inadequate. At the end of July, the Comite de Coordination des ONGs Internationales en Haiti (CCO Haiti), which is made up of many international NGOs operating in Haiti, released a statement on the situation:
The cholera outbreak that has already claimed thousands of lives all over the country remains a major threat to public health. Cholera prevention and response should be a key priority for the Haitian Government.In their latest humanitarian bulletin, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that, “national capacity to respond to potential outbreaks, especially during the rainy season, remains very weak. The country has only 468 beds for cholera admissions, with 233 of these already occupied. At the height of the epidemic in June 2011, 2500 beds were available.” Despite this, OCHA notes that “significant progress has been made especially in the surveillance and reporting of the epidemic as well as in the integration of cholera care in the national healthcare system.”
Furthermore, many public health workers in the Cholera Treatment Center (CTCs) have not received salaries for several months and there are reports of strikes by front line medical staff to redress this situation. This is a serious issue negatively affecting the effectiveness of the cholera response and it needs to be urgently addressed. In addition, there is evidence that the MSPP struggles to carry out its work efficiently due to poor logistics and inefficient fleet maintenance. This seriously hinders the material distribution within the CTCs, Cholera Treatment Units (CTUs) and Acute Diarrhea Treatment Centers (ADTCs), and affects the appropriate collection of cadavers. Necessary arrangement should be made to correct the situation. Overall, the MSPP must once again reinforce its leadership and coordination roles at both central and departmental levels.
Donors must provide sustained and adequate funding to support a comprehensive and integrated approach to cholera prevention and care.
Although less severe than the cholera outbreak last year, the current situation on the ground is much worse than statistics portray. And yet, a shortage of funding has translated into fewer health partners and created serious gaps in coverage. From August, 2011 to May, 2012, the number of Cholera Treatment Centers (CTCs) has declined from 38 to 20, and the number of Cholera Treatment Units from 205 to 74.
The killing of four adults, and – according to some reports – disappearance of four children in a violent forced eviction on July 23rd has gone all but unnoticed by the major English language media, but some details have emerged through Haitian and some independent English language press. Haïti Liberté has a detailed report in English of the incident at Parc La Visite in Seguin, Marigot, on the southern coast. Haïti Liberté and other outlets’ reports are based in large part on the work of Haitian journalist Claudy Belizaire of the Reference Institute for Journalism and Communication (RIJC), who also took graphic photos of the killing’s aftermath.
Haïti Liberté reported that the four were killed when 36 “Haitian police [officers] …destroyed seven homes in an attempt to clear peasants from a remote mountain-top park where they have lived and farmed for the past 70 years,” noting that “The bloody confrontation …occurred exactly 25 years to the day after an infamous 1987 peasant massacre near the northwestern town of Jean-Rabel…”
The RIJC reported the four confirmed dead to be “Desire Enoz - 32 years; Nicolas David - 28 years, Robinson Volcin - 22 years and Desire Aleis - 18 years.”
Belizaire, as translated by Haïti Liberté, wrote that three days later, “since this serious incident, no state official has come to Seguin, where barricades have been erected by the people, in protest. The only item known about this negotiation was an envelope of 50,000 gourdes [about $ 1,250] promised to each family (50% before departure, 50% after).”
The $600 before, $600 after moving payments are reminiscent of Martelly's much-criticized cash incentive plan to get people to relocate. Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) attorney Mario Joseph describes the government’s strategy in a new letter [PDF] of complaint to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR):
A review of publicly available reports and recently released documents obtained via an Associated Press (AP) Freedom of Information Act request reveal that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has spent over $200 million on Title II food aid in Haiti since the earthquake. Title II food aid, administered by USAID and implemented by NGOs and intergovernmental organizations (primarily the World Food Program - WFP), is “the main avenue for U.S. food assistance.” As can be seen in Figure 1, in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, USAID obligated over $200 million and distributed over 174,000 metric tons of food aid in Haiti. Although most of this came in the form of emergency food aid following the earthquake, food distributions have continued in 2011 as well.
Source: USAID, Author’s Calculations
According to a report prepared for USAID’s Office of Food for Peace, in fiscal year 2010, USAID Title II food aid totaled 153,000 metric tons (MT), of which over 115,000 came in the form of emergency food aid. In 2011, these totals decreased drastically to 21,430 MT, of which 5,950 MT was emergency aid. According to the report, emergency food aid was distributed through two avenues: Single-Year Assistance Programs and the World Food Program. Based on documents obtained by the AP, USAID obligated over $21 million to World Vision, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Agricultural Cooperative Development International and Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (ACDI/VOCA) for program costs associated with these emergency distributions. Additionally, USAID, which covers the cost of commodities and shipping, valued these services at over $100 million.
Non-emergency food aid takes the form of food distribution, but also often incorporates agricultural productivity, natural resource management as well as other issues related to food security. The majority of non-emergency food aid, which totaled over 50,000 MT in FY 2010 and 2011, came through Multi-Year Assistance Programs implemented by the same partners as the above-mentioned emergency, single-year programs: ACDI/VOCA, World Vision and CRS. These three programs all began prior to the earthquake and are ongoing until at least September 2012. A recent audit conducted by the USAID Inspector General (IG) reveals that, since the programs began in 2008, these partners have spent $46 million dollars in program costs. According to the AP documents most of this came after the earthquake. Together, the three organizations distributed nearly $70 million in commodities.
The Inspector General, in its audit of these multi-year programs, noted that “assistance generally has improved conditions for targeted beneficiaries…However, we could not determine whether the effects will last well into the future.” Nevertheless, the IG found a number of problems in the management of these programs, including overlapping with other USAID projects; lack of data management; the use of duplicative, excessive and uncoordinated indicators; uneven and poorly tracked integration of key activities; and other problems.
Overall, the documents obtained by the Associated Press show that World Vision, ACDI/VOCA and CRS have received $57 million since the earthquake from USAID for program costs related to Title II food aid, as can be seen in Figure 2. As will be discussed in more detail later, while this data shows program costs, the provision of the actual commodities for distribution and the shipping of those commodities are paid for directly by USAID, and so do not show up in Figure 2.
Source: USAID, Associated Press
Martha Mendoza and Trenton Daniel of the Associated Press reported over the weekend on the state of U.S. reconstruction efforts in Haiti. The report is based largely on documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. Mendoza and Daniel write:
Until now, comprehensive details about who is receiving U.S. funds and how they are spending them have not been released. Contracts, budgets and a 300-item spreadsheet obtained by The Associated Press under a Freedom of Information Act request show:
- Of the $988 million spent so far, a quarter went toward debt relief to unburden the hemisphere's poorest nation of repayments. But after Haiti's loans were paid off, the government began borrowing again: $657 million so far, largely for oil imports rather than development projects.
- Less than 12 percent of the reconstruction money sent to Haiti after the earthquake has gone toward energy, shelter, ports or other infrastructure. At least a third, $329 million, went to projects that were awarded before the 2010 catastrophe and had little to do with the recovery - such as HIV/AIDS programs.
- Half of the $1.8 billion the U.S. promised for rebuilding is still in the Treasury, its disbursement stymied by an understaffed U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince in the months after the quake and by a Haitian government that was barely functional for more than a year.
- Despite State Department promises to keep spending public, some members of Congress and watchdogs say they aren't getting detailed information about how the millions are being spent, as dozens of contractors working for the U.S. government in Haiti leave a complex money trail.
Searching for evidence of success after more than two years and two billion dollars, the AP found lasting results hard to come by as “projects fundamental to Haiti's transformation out of poverty, such as permanent housing and electric plants in the heavily hit capital of Port-au-Prince have not taken off.” Attempting to preempt the AP article, Mark Feierstein, Assistant Administrator for Latin America and Thomas C. Adams, Haiti Special Coordinator at the U.S. Department of State wrote an article, “Progress in Haiti” to combat what they believe to be an unfair portrayal of U.S. reconstruction efforts.
Mendoza and Daniel note that the reconstruction plan laid out a number of benchmarks, 40 of which were due to be reached this month. But while some benchmarks have been achieved, many have not. One area of particular concern is the provision of shelter. While Adams and Feierstein point to the decrease in the camp population as the first sign of success, AP reports:
Meanwhile, 390,000 people are still homeless. The U.S. promised to rebuild or replace thousands of destroyed homes, but so far has not built even one new permanent house. Auditors say land disputes, lack of USAID oversight and no clear plan have hampered the housing effort. USAID contested that critique.As we have previously pointed out, the provision of new shelter options cannot explain the majority of the decrease in the camp population, and many of those that have left the camps have found themselves in even more precarious living conditions, this time out of sight of the humanitarian community.
The State Department says 29,100 transitional shelters have been built, to which residents are adding floors, walls or roofs to make permanent homes, although homes once again vulnerable to natural disasters. U.S. funds also supported 27,000 households as they moved in with friends or families, and repaired 5,800 of the 35,000 damaged homes they had planned to complete with partners by July 2012. Also by this month the U.S. had planned to help resolve 40,000 to 80,000 land disputes, but at latest count had helped 10,400.
Haiti’s cholera infection and death rates show an alarming recent increase, with official statistics reporting 290 deaths and nearly 40,000 cases in May and June alone, as the rainy season returned. Pressure continues to build for the United Nations to take responsibility for causing the cholera outbreak, which has now killed over 7,418 people and infected over 579,014. Last week, Hollywood took notice of the issue, with some 90 celebrities attending a screening of the Olivia Wilde-produced documentary film, “Baseball in the Time of Cholera” directed by David Darg and Bryn Mooser, and many urged action on the issue via Twitter, leading to the hashtag #undeny becoming a top trend for much of the day last Thursday.
Today, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which features prominently in the film, took “Baseball” to Congress with a screening. The move is well-timed, as 104 members of Congress just released a letter addressed to U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice calling on her to “to strongly encourage the United Nations to take a leadership role in addressing this catastrophic public health crisis,” specifically by urging “UN authorities to support efficient treatment and prevention of the epidemic and to help Haiti acquire adequate water and sanitation infrastructure.”
The letter, which was circulated by Rep. John Conyers (D – MI) states:
As cholera was brought to Haiti due to the actions of the UN, we believe that it is imperative for the UN to now act decisively to control the cholera epidemic. UN authorities should work with Haiti’s government and the international community to confront and, ultimately, eliminate this deadly disease from Haiti and the rest of the island of Hispaniola. A failure to act will not only lead to countless more deaths: it will undermine the crucial effort to reconstruct Haiti and will pose a permanent public health threat to the populations of neighboring nations.
In March, three Pakistani MINUSTAH troops were found guilty, sentenced to one year in prison and repatriated for the rape of a 14-year old Haitian boy. Although the trial was held on Haitian soil, it was a “military justice procedure…undertaken in accordance with the national laws of Pakistan,” according to the UN. Additionally, Reuters reported at the time that “Haitian government authorities were given no advance notice of the military tribunal.” Had the troops faced a Haitian court, their sentences would likely have been much longer. Had the troops had to face Haitian justice they may also have had to respond to further allegations that the Pakistani UN Mission tried to cover-up the crime, going so far as to kidnap the victim.
While some Haitian media and blogs picked up the story at the time, little has been written about the attempted cover-up. Independent journalist Kathie Klarreich, who recently traveled to Gonaïves where the crime took place, mentioned the cover-up in a larger piece about MINUSTAH scandals for the Christian Science Monitor. Klarreich has now provided new details to HRRW on what happened, raising even more questions about the level of impunity for UN troops in Haiti and just how widespread these abuses are. While the Haitian police have witnesses and evidence tying MINUSTAH to the cover-up of rape, the UN has apparently not been cooperative and has failed to adequately investigate and hold accountable those responsible.
The UN first disclosed the case in January, announcing that an investigative team would be heading to Haiti. In February, as the circumstances around the case became clearer, Senator Youri Latortue took to the airwaves to call for the lifting of immunity for MINUSTAH and to denounce the apparent cover-up that was executed by the Pakistani contingent. After witnesses of the abuse went to local police, the 14-year-old boy was kidnapped and taken to a MINUSTAH base in Cap- Haïtien with the “objective to prevent the continuation of the investigation” according to Latortue. On January 26, 2012, police arrested Vladimir Alexandre, a local Haitian, for being an accomplice to the kidnapping. Another alleged accomplice is still at large. While the “military tribunal” was conducted behind closed doors and the guilty members of MINUSTAH whisked out of the country, the local case in the city of Gonaïves has gone nowhere.
Alexandre, speaking with Klarreich, defended himself, telling her, “All I did was show them where he [the victim] lived. I don’t know anything about taking him anywhere,” adding that he didn’t receive anything from the soldiers in return. But Klarreich said that what he told her directly contradicts what he had told police when they arrested him. According to a copy of his testimony which Klarreich read, Alexandre admitted that he knew the boy, that he’d been in contact with the Pakistani MINUSTAH troops, and that he and the other accomplice had agreed to remove the boy from the area. He also admits that the Pakistanis came to his home bearing gifts for his mother – $100 Haitian Gourdes ($12 US) and a sack of rice.
Alexandre remains in the police station jail, held in a room with 111 other prisoners. The Gonaïves police chief told Klarreich that according to Haitian law, Alexandre could be held for up to two months but if no charges were brought then legally he should be allowed to go free. “I am not here to judge,” the police chief said, “but rather to make sure that the justice system works. Let’s remove the obstacles and finish this case.” The local officials in charge of the case continue to seek answers, while the lawyers for the victim continue to seek compensation from the United Nations.
Vijaya Ramachandran and Julie Walz of the Center for Global Development recently reported on their trip to Haiti, where they further examined aid accountability and the ongoing reconstruction effort, the themes of their recent policy paper which we have previously described.
Among the problems that Ramachandran and Walz noted were:
International NGOs have frequent staff turnover and very high costs. In the aftermath of the quake, we learned that senior staff came and went, some staying as little as a few weeks. A new arrival meant starting all over again, often with an individual who had little knowledge of Haiti and no knowledge of Creole (or even French). The cost of maintaining expatriate staff in Haiti is very high. According to the Miami Herald, it can cost upwards of $200,000 annually in housing and other benefits to keep a senior-level manager in Haiti. Some of our interviewees explained how NGOs and foreign workers are exempt from Haitian taxes and often do not follow Haitian registration requirements. Donors have spent billions of dollars trying to repair Haiti’s broken infrastructure, largely with their own goods and labor. In the meantime, most Haitians in Port-au-Prince spend their day trying to sell a few vegetables or fruit or other goods on the sidewalk, which in most cases, does not generate enough money to feed themselves or their families.
We repeatedly heard stories about the unintended economic and social consequences of the influx of foreign workers. Housing costs in certain areas have skyrocketed – rentals easily go for over $30,000 per year, with some houses being rented for a lot more. Restaurants and supermarkets in certain areas of Petion-ville cater exclusively to foreign tastes, and prices of basic goods have been driven up to a level that even middle-class Haitians cannot afford.
This is the second installment looking at the New York Times in depth investigation into the Caracol industrial park. For part one, click here.
Jobs at What Cost?
Sontag reports that while concerns over Sae-A’s labor practices were consistently brought to the attention of officials, the project continued to go forward without a comprehensive review:
Before the Haiti deal was sealed, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. urged American and international officials to reconsider, given what it described in a detailed memo as Sae-A’s egregious antiunion repression, including “acts of violence and intimidation” in Guatemala, where Homero Fuentes, who monitors factories for American retailers, calls Sae-A “one of the major labor violators.”
The five-page memo “accused Sae-A of using bribes, death threats and imprisonment to prevent and break up unions.” Sontag describes the allegations against Sae-A in some detail, and notes that while “Gail W. Strickler… the assistant United States trade representative for textiles, says she considered Sae-A ‘an exemplary corporate citizen,’” meanwhile “Scott Nova, executive director of the Workers Rights Consortium, calls the company ‘a big player in a dirty industry with a track record that suggests a degree of ruthlessness even worse than the norm.’”
Of course, labor rights violations in the garment sector in Haiti are nothing new. In fact, on the same day that U.S., Haitian and development bank officials inaugurated the Caracol park, an investigation by Better Work Haiti found "evidence of violations of freedom of association" at other Haitian textile factories. The most recent Better Work Haiti report, which “uncovered a higher number of violations in the areas of core labour standards than what [was] observed in the previous assessments”, is available here. 11 of 20 factories were found to be non-compliant in at least one of the core labor standards.
“American officials said Sae-A would be closely monitored in Haiti because of trade legislation requiring stringent scrutiny through an American-financed inspection program.” As part of the legislation providing duty free access to the U.S. market, the U.S., together with the Better Work Haiti program, provides oversight as well as training to employers, employees and Haitian government officials on labor rights issues. But as Yannick Etienne of the Haitian workers’ rights group Batay Ouvriye tells Sontag, ‘“it remains to be seen” whether the inspection program will have “any teeth.”’
Every two years, the U.S. must identify which producers are in compliance with core labor standards and Haitian labor law. The most recent report, which was published in the last month, notes that, “While this is USTR’s fourth report, this is the first reporting period that [non-compliant] producers have been identified.” Yet, giving credence to Etienne’s concerns, this does not mean that the three producers identified as non-compliant on core labor standards will miss out on duty-free access to the U.S. market. As long as the producer shows an effort to improve and work with the U.S. to correct the problems, they will face no sanctions.
One resident of Caracol, who went to Nicaragua to participate in a Sae-A apprenticeship came back so disillusioned he told the New York Times that as soon as he found other work, he would quit his job with Sae-A:
“The way the Koreans treat the Nicaraguan workers is awful,” Mr. Joseph said. “They just treat them like nothing. Just: ‘Do your job. If you don’t do it, I’ll call somebody else to do it.’ ”
The first of two installments looking at the New York Times in depth investigation into the Caracol industrial park. Part two will be posted shortly.
Deborah Sontag, writing in today’s New York Times, takes a detailed look at the new Caracol industrial park being built in northeastern Haiti, finding that in their rush to show reconstruction progress the plan’s backers have overlooked labor and environmental concerns. Sontag writes:
Two and a half years after the earthquake, Haiti remains mired in a humanitarian crisis, with 390,000 people languishing in tents. Yet the showcase project of the reconstruction effort is this: an industrial park that will create jobs and housing in an area undamaged by the temblor, a venture that risks benefiting foreign companies more than Haiti itself.
The park, whose main tenant Sae-A expects to generate some 20,000 jobs over the next six years, has been made possible by generous subsidies from the U.S. and Haitian governments and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Sae-A officials were invited to the U.S. embassy in Seoul to meet with Secretary of State Clinton in 2010. One concern the company had at the time was “uncertainty about whether Haiti’s minimum wage for textile workers, scheduled to increase to $5 from $3.75 a day this October, would continue to rise.” Wikileaks cables later revealed that the U.S. embassy in Haiti, along with some multinational companies had “aggressively moved to block a minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers,” according to The Nation. While the minimum wage has increased, 18 out of 20 factories monitored by the Better Work Haiti program were found to be non-compliant on the minimum wage in their most recent assessment published in April.
Despite the “obstacles,” and convinced by legislation providing tariff-free access to the U.S. market, Sae-A officials were soon heading to sign an agreement -- but not in Haiti, in Washington:
By late summer, they were flying with their investment plan to Washington for a meeting with Mrs. Clinton and other international officials in a historic treaty-signing room on the State Department’s seventh floor.
While Sae-A originally estimated the project would create 3,000-4,000 jobs, American and international officials wanted more:
“We would say, ‘We could probably do a factory with about 3,000 to 4,000 people.’ They’re like, ‘Wow. What would you need to make it bigger?’ I [Lon Garwood, senior advisor to Sae-A] said, ‘If we could get a loan for the machines, we could probably double that.’ They said, ‘What about 10,000?’ We said, ‘If we didn’t have to worry about purchasing the land, if we didn’t have to build the factory shells, then we could double it again.’ That’s where the 20,000 jobs figure came from.”
In the end, the land was provided free of charge by the Haitian government (evicting some 350 farmers in the process), the IDB agreed to provide $100 million to finance the building, while the U.S. would contribute $124 million for a power plant, housing and a port. Sae-A, which reported $1.1 billion in export business last year, only needs to invest $39.2 million. The $124 million provided by the U.S. is over a quarter of the money the U.S. earmarked for reconstruction.
Last week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced a drop in Haiti’s internally displaced persons (IDP) population to below 400,000. AP reports:
The reduction in the camp population is attributed to a combination of forced removals, rental subsidies and voluntary departures, but it is not clear where the bulk of the people have gone or if their living arrangements are better than the camp conditions.
While previous reports of IDP population decreases were held up uncritically as signs of progress, this time IOM spokesperson Leonard Doyle provided a more nuanced response. While the government-backed relocation efforts have only reached a small portion of the IDP population, Doyle notes that “As for the rest we don't know [where they ended up],” adding, “[a] lot of these people we know have pitched tents on the side of the mountains.” Indeed, a simple look at the available numbers suggests that many of those that have left the IDP camps monitored by the IOM have not found adequate shelter.
The IOM touts a 75 percent reduction in the camp population since July 2010, amounting to a decrease of over 1.1 million people. Yet as of April 2012, only 12,000 rental subsidies were given out, 13,000 houses were repaired and just fewer than 5,000 new homes were constructed. In total, these three solutions account for only about 12 percent of the reduction in IDP population. Additionally, about 108,000 transitional shelters have been built, which would account for an additional 42 percent. However this likely overstates the effects of the transitional shelter, as it is estimated that only about 40 percent of transitional shelters actually went to IDPs.
Figure I compares the number of households exiting the camps with the number of new housing solutions completed. As can be seen, the majority of the IDP population decrease occurred when shelter implementation was far too low to absorb all the people exiting the camps. This backs up previous studies which have shown that forced evictions and declining services were the primary drivers of the reduction in IDP population.
Graph: CEPR, Author's Calculation Source: E-Shelter and CCCM Cluster
On June 5, Ministers of Defense and Foreign Relations from South American countries met in Asunción, Paraguay to discuss the future of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti – or MINUSTAH. Ten of the twelve countries in the regional group known as UNASUR – the Union of South American Nations - contribute troops to MINUSTAH and make up nearly 50 percent of the entire force. As we have described in other posts, there has been quite a bit of debate regarding MINUSTAH in troop-contributing countries, especially Brazil, the largest contributor.
Since last summer, there has also been a wave of civil society opposition to the ongoing presence of foreign military troops in Haiti, as attested by separate letters addressed to Latin American presidents and the UN Secretary General and signed by prominent intellectuals and human rights defenders from throughout Latin America. This opposition has been bolstered by a string of recent sexual abuse cases, including more than one involving troops from UNASUR member country Uruguay, as well as the overwhelming evidence suggesting that MINUSTAH bears responsibility for introducing cholera into Haiti.
As the Telesur correspondent in Paraguay, Amanda Huerta explained, there were two competing positions among UNASUR countries: those that favored a rapid reduction of troops and a shift in focus to reconstruction and humanitarian activities and those who favored maintaining current troop levels until 2014. The final declaration on MINUSTAH noted the need to develop a policy of sustained cooperation which “respects the sovereignty and the self-determination of the Haitian people”. Further, ministers agreed to form a working group “for the purposes of elaborating a scheme on the strategy, form, conditions, stages, and timeline of a Plan of Reduction of Contingents of the Military Component of the Mission.” Given the large role South American countries play in MINUSTAH (an importance clearly recognized by the United States), any decision made on reducing troops would have a tremendous impact on MINUSTAH’s future in Haiti.
A piece yesterday on the Christian Science Monitor's website, written by investigative journalist Kathie Klarreich, discusses the increasing unpopularity of UN troops in Haiti in the wake of multiple sexual abuse incidents and the introduction of cholera in late 2010. As the article explains, the negative feelings that these scandals have stirred up among Haitians are compounded by the general lack of accountability of foreign soldiers and police personnel that are part of the UN Stabilization Mission for Haiti, or MINUSTAH.
The Monitor highlights two recent sexual abuse cases involving MINUSTAH personnel, both of which we’ve documented on the Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch blog: the rape of an 18 year-old boy by Uruguayan soldiers in Port Salud last year and the rape of a fourteen year-old boy by Pakistani police officers. In both these cases, after the scandals became public, the alleged rapists have faced judicial pursuits in their countries of origin, though the Pakistani officers only received a one-year sentence, and the trial of the Uruguayan soldiers has moved forward at a snail’s pace.
But there’s no indication that other abuse incidents involving MINUSTAH have resulted in judicial pursuits of any kind. The Monitor mentions the case of “more than 100 Sri Lankan troops expelled in 2007 on suspicion of sexual exploitation of Haitian women and girls.” But, writes Klarreich:
“no information about what happened to those Sri Lankan peacekeepers was ever made public by either the UN or Sri Lanka. Member states are not required to divulge the outcome of their internal inquiries.”
In a report that focuses on the case of the Port Salut rape case, Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network, lists a number of other cases of human rights abuses allegedly committed by MINUSTAH agents since 2005 that – as far as we know – haven’t been properly investigated or prosecuted.
The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles reports on the planned Caracol Industrial Park in Haiti today, noting that while the project’s funders tout it as “the most visible symbol of post-quake progress”, it remains a source of controversy. Charles writes:
Desperate for any good news after the devastating January 2010 earthquake, the Haitian government signed off on the 600-acre industrial park in this remote rural village without preparing for how the region should eventually look — or absorb the promised jobs. Only now is a zoning plan being developed, but residents and Haiti watchers wonder if it’s coming too late.
Their anxiety is fueled by Haiti’s historically weak institutions and the rush by the international community and Haiti’s leaders to show progress. It is also a reflection of the challenges of working in Haiti where there is continuous friction between need-to-spend foreign aid agencies, which are often perceived as arrogant, and a weak central government.
As a result, Haiti analysts say, projects are often haphazardly started with too little preliminary planning, lopsided consultation and inadequate environmental impact studies.
“The international community has been under immense pressure to show movement and this is the closest they’ve come to have something significantly positive to say about Haiti, investments and jobs,” said Carlo Dade, a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa’s School of International Development and Global Studies. “But on the other hand, this is really one case where there is no excuse for not getting it done right.”
A major issue is what the effect will be of an estimated influx of 300,000 people into the area, where town populations range from 1,500 to 25,000. Charles reports:
“When you look at the social problems that Cité Soleil poses today, you have to ask, did it have to be that way?” said Michèle Oriol, executive secretary of Haiti’s Inter-ministerial Commission on Territorial Planning, which has objected to the park’s location, and that of a U.S.-financed housing development just off the main commercial corridor.
Alex Dupuy, Haiti-born sociology professor at Wesleyan University, comments:
“It’s about tapping a source of cheap labor…They did the same thing in Port-au-Prince, which had people leaving the countryside because of the free-trade policies that have devastated the Haitian agriculture sector. So the fear that the region will be flooded is very real.”
Dupuy adds that the push to support the garment manufacturing industry “has absolutely nothing to do with creating a sustainable growth economy in Haiti.”
As previously mentioned, a release from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) this week makes an important call for renewed efforts to combat cholera as infections rise with the rainy season. But further on, the release states that “[OCHA’s Director of Operations John] Ging also visited the Champs de Mars camp for internally displaced people (IDPs), where the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is supporting voluntary return of IDPs.”
But the movement of IDPs out of such camps is often not “voluntary.” This has been the case in Champs de Mars as in many other IDP camps. Stuart Neatby wrote in an article for Canada’s Embassy magazine last month:
Port-au-Prince's Champ de Mars camp, the most visible of the hundreds of remaining camps of Haitians rendered homeless by the 2010 earthquake, saw its first set of forced evictions on April 4.
The tent camp in Haiti's capital city fills the central plaza across the street from the collapsed National Palace, a key government building that used to house the office of Haiti's president.
About 21 camp residents, including [Narcysse] Lud, woke up on March 29 to find their names on a notice warning that their makeshift shelters would be torn down. They were told they had three days to pick up all of their belongings and clear out of the camp.
The International Organization for Migration, which had maintained a census of camp residents, claimed that those to be evicted had not been within the camp during the last head count. As a result, the IOM said, the residents had no claim to stay in Champ de Mars, and the eviction was legal.
Days later, residents could only watch as local municipal workers dismantled and carted away the bits of tarp, plywood, and corrugated sheet metal that had served as their homes. Haitian National Police members, UN soldiers, and UN police officials oversaw the evictions.
While most major U.S. media attention focuses elsewhere, NGO’s and UN agencies are sounding alarm bells about rising rates of cholera infection. A release today from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) states
Grave concerns were expressed by aid workers that this year’s epidemic, which has already affected 13,000 people, 132 of whom have died, may escalate. Detection and response capacity are significantly reduced this year due to cuts in aid budgets. The OCHA Director stressed the urgency for new and more sustainable approaches by aid agencies and local authorities, and more commitment by donors. “It is unacceptable that lives are being lost to cholera because last year’s capacity building in the areas of prevention and response were lost due to a lack of funding,” [OCHA’s Director of Operations John] Ging said.
An Inter Press Service article last week, titled “Funding Dries Up Even as Rains Worsen Cholera Deaths” begins
As predicted, the beginning of the rainy season in Haiti brought exponential increases in the numbers of people sickened and killed by cholera.
While the number of new cases in December was about 300 per day nationwide, this week one centre in the capital alone reported receiving 95 cases per day. And the numbers are expected to increase.
"Between the first week of April and the last week of April, the number of new patients increased by three-fold" in the capital, Gaëtan Drossart, head of mission for Doctors Without Borders or Medecins san frontières (MSF), told IPS on May 16. "In April alone, we saw over 1,600 patients at the four cholera centres MSF supports in Port-au- Prince."
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned on Wednesday that not enough has been done to prepare for the rainy season and the corresponding surge in cholera that is expected. The international humanitarian organization stated:
While Haiti’s Ministry of Health and Populations claims to be in control of the situation, health facilities in many regions of the country remain incapable of responding to the seasonal fluctuations of the cholera epidemic. The surveillance system, which is supposed to monitor the situation and raise the alarm, is still dysfunctional, MSF said. The number of people treated by MSF alone in the capital, Port-au-Prince, has quadrupled in less than a month, reaching 1,600 cases in April.
Data from the Ministry of Health (MSPP) backs up this increase noted by MSF. While the average daily case load reported by the MSPP was around 50 throughout March and early April, in the last two weeks of reporting (April 10-23) the average number of daily cases has increased to over 150. MSPP reports that 25 people have died due to cholera through in the first 23 days of April. While these numbers are still lower than last year, they point to an increasing caseload as the rainy season begins. Last year, just as cases were spiking, many NGOs were winding down their operations as donors pulled funding. MSF notes that the same phenomenon may be occurring this year as well:
“Too little has been done in terms of prevention to think that cholera would not surge again in 2012,” said Gaëtan Drossart, MSF head of mission in Haiti. “It is concerning that the health authorities are not better prepared and that they cling to reassuring messages that bear no resemblance to reality. There are many meetings going on between the government, the United Nations and their humanitarian partners, but there are few concrete solutions,” he said.
An MSF study in the Artibonite region, where approximately 20 percent of cholera cases have been reported, has revealed a clear reduction of cholera prevention measures since 2011. More than half of the organizations working in the region last year are now gone. Additionally, health centers are short of drugs and some staff have not been paid since January.
“Rain is just one of the risk factors for contamination. But as soon as the rains end, cholera subsides, and funding stops until the next rainy season, instead of money being channeled towards cholera prevention activities. As a consequence, people are still highly vulnerable when cholera comes back,” said Maya Allan, MSF epidemiologist.