Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch is a blog that tracks multinational aid efforts in Haiti with an eye towards ensuring they are oriented towards the needs of the Haitian people, and that aid is not used to undermine Haitians' right to self-determination.

On October 23 Haiti’s cholera victims finally had their first court hearing regarding their suit against the UN.  However, no one from the UN showed up.  Since 2011, representatives of the victims have sought to obtain reparations from the UN given the overwhelming evidence that troops from the United Nations’ Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) were responsible for bringing cholera to the island.  As the UN has refused to receive the victims’ claims, human rights lawyers at the Haiti-based Bureau des Avocats Internationaux and U.S.-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, filed a lawsuit in U.S. courts.  After months of deliberations, the Southern Federal District Court of New York held a hearing on the question of whether the UN could enjoy immunity from prosecution when it had violated its treaty obligations to submit to alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.  While the victims’ legal representatives argued against UN immunity vis-à-vis the cholera claims, no UN representative appeared before the court and, instead, the U.S. Attorney General’s office presented arguments in defense of the UN.  The court’s decision on the immunity question is still pending.

Now, 77 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by senior Democrat John Conyers, have weighed in with a letter urging UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “to create a fair process to adjudicate the claims made by cholera victims that allows for the remediation of the affected communities.”

As the letter points out, thousands of Haitians have died since the cholera epidemic began in October 2010 – at least 8,774 [PDF] according to Haiti’s health ministry – and over 700,000 Haitians have become infected, putting a terrible burden on a country with no clean water infrastructure to speak of and few health professionals to help prevent and abate the epidemic. 

The letter lays out the reasons why the UN should be legally obliged to provide a settlement mechanism for the victims:

The Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations (CPIUN) mandates that the UN “provide for appropriate modes of settlement” of private law claims. The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) the UN signed with the Government of Haiti expands on this obligation by specifying that claims are to be heard and settled by a standing commission. The UN has formally recognized the importance of access to justice in its own Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy for Victims of Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law.

This isn’t the first time that Conyers and other members of Congress have publicly pressed the UN to do much more to address Haiti’s deadly cholera epidemic.  In July of 2012, Conyers and 103 other House representatives signed a letter calling for the UN to “act decisively” to control the epidemic.  This and other international pressure no doubt contributed to Ban Ki-moon eventually launching, with much fanfare, a “new initiative” to help fund a $2.2 billion cholera elimination plan for Haiti, involving the development of extensive drinking water and sanitation systems.  At the time, the Secretary-General proudly announced that $215 million of existing international donations had been earmarked for the plan but also noted that $500 million would be needed over the following two years to keep the plan advancing according to schedule.

After over a year had passed and no further funding for the cholera plan had materialized, Conyers and 64 of his House colleagues sent a letter to U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Power that noted that:

Current efforts by the UN to eradicate the cholera epidemic in Haiti are far from sufficient. In order for the UN to maintain its credibility around the world, it is imperative for it to acknowledge its legal responsibility and act now. This means fully funding the Cholera Elimination Plan and working to improve the water and sanitation infrastructure in Haiti.

Finally, a much-delayed “high-level” donor conference on cholera in Haiti was convened in October of 2014 in Washington, DC.  Presided over by both Ban Ki-moon and World Bank president Jim Kim, all of the major international donors to Haiti were present, but only the World Bank and the government of Japan stepped up to the plate, with the former committing $50 million and the latter $2.5 million.

In July of 2014, the UN Secretary-General visited Haiti and recognized that the UN had a “moral responsibility” to help Haiti and Haitians deal with cholera.  Yet, while the UN manages to find multilateral funding for its controversial Haiti “peacekeeping” mission to the tune of $500 to $700 million per year, the cholera elimination plan remains grossly underfunded and, meanwhile, the UN continues to block reparations for cholera victims’ families. 

Conyers and his colleagues end their latest letter to the UN with an impassioned plea: 

In the interests of securing justice for the victims and impacted communities as well as strengthening the UN’s leadership as a champion for human rights, we urge you to act immediately to establish a settlement mechanism through which victims and their families may seek relief and the country can move forward with the water and sanitation infrastructure it so desperately needs. Unless and until the UN honors the fundamental right to access justice, the issue of UN accountability in Haiti will remain.

On October 23 Haiti’s cholera victims finally had their first court hearing regarding their suit against the UN.  However, no one from the UN showed up.  Since 2011, representatives of the victims have sought to obtain reparations from the UN given the overwhelming evidence that troops from the United Nations’ Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) were responsible for bringing cholera to the island.  As the UN has refused to receive the victims’ claims, human rights lawyers at the Haiti-based Bureau des Avocats Internationaux and U.S.-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, filed a lawsuit in U.S. courts.  After months of deliberations, the Southern Federal District Court of New York held a hearing on the question of whether the UN could enjoy immunity from prosecution when it had violated its treaty obligations to submit to alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.  While the victims’ legal representatives argued against UN immunity vis-à-vis the cholera claims, no UN representative appeared before the court and, instead, the U.S. Attorney General’s office presented arguments in defense of the UN.  The court’s decision on the immunity question is still pending.

Now, 77 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by senior Democrat John Conyers, have weighed in with a letter urging UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “to create a fair process to adjudicate the claims made by cholera victims that allows for the remediation of the affected communities.”

As the letter points out, thousands of Haitians have died since the cholera epidemic began in October 2010 – at least 8,774 [PDF] according to Haiti’s health ministry – and over 700,000 Haitians have become infected, putting a terrible burden on a country with no clean water infrastructure to speak of and few health professionals to help prevent and abate the epidemic. 

The letter lays out the reasons why the UN should be legally obliged to provide a settlement mechanism for the victims:

The Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations (CPIUN) mandates that the UN “provide for appropriate modes of settlement” of private law claims. The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) the UN signed with the Government of Haiti expands on this obligation by specifying that claims are to be heard and settled by a standing commission. The UN has formally recognized the importance of access to justice in its own Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy for Victims of Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law.

This isn’t the first time that Conyers and other members of Congress have publicly pressed the UN to do much more to address Haiti’s deadly cholera epidemic.  In July of 2012, Conyers and 103 other House representatives signed a letter calling for the UN to “act decisively” to control the epidemic.  This and other international pressure no doubt contributed to Ban Ki-moon eventually launching, with much fanfare, a “new initiative” to help fund a $2.2 billion cholera elimination plan for Haiti, involving the development of extensive drinking water and sanitation systems.  At the time, the Secretary-General proudly announced that $215 million of existing international donations had been earmarked for the plan but also noted that $500 million would be needed over the following two years to keep the plan advancing according to schedule.

After over a year had passed and no further funding for the cholera plan had materialized, Conyers and 64 of his House colleagues sent a letter to U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Power that noted that:

Current efforts by the UN to eradicate the cholera epidemic in Haiti are far from sufficient. In order for the UN to maintain its credibility around the world, it is imperative for it to acknowledge its legal responsibility and act now. This means fully funding the Cholera Elimination Plan and working to improve the water and sanitation infrastructure in Haiti.

Finally, a much-delayed “high-level” donor conference on cholera in Haiti was convened in October of 2014 in Washington, DC.  Presided over by both Ban Ki-moon and World Bank president Jim Kim, all of the major international donors to Haiti were present, but only the World Bank and the government of Japan stepped up to the plate, with the former committing $50 million and the latter $2.5 million.

In July of 2014, the UN Secretary-General visited Haiti and recognized that the UN had a “moral responsibility” to help Haiti and Haitians deal with cholera.  Yet, while the UN manages to find multilateral funding for its controversial Haiti “peacekeeping” mission to the tune of $500 to $700 million per year, the cholera elimination plan remains grossly underfunded and, meanwhile, the UN continues to block reparations for cholera victims’ families. 

Conyers and his colleagues end their latest letter to the UN with an impassioned plea: 

In the interests of securing justice for the victims and impacted communities as well as strengthening the UN’s leadership as a champion for human rights, we urge you to act immediately to establish a settlement mechanism through which victims and their families may seek relief and the country can move forward with the water and sanitation infrastructure it so desperately needs. Unless and until the UN honors the fundamental right to access justice, the issue of UN accountability in Haiti will remain.

“The freedom to demonstrate and freedom of expression are rights guaranteed by international conventions, enshrined in the Haitian constitution and supported by the law,” Sandra Honoré, the head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), said last month following a week of protests across the country, which resulted in a number of reported deaths. Honoré added that the Haitian government must ensure that “offenders are prosecuted.” But Honoré may have an opportunity to lead by example after videos from Haitian media surfaced over the weekend showing a U.N. soldier firing a handgun in the direction of protesters. The video shows him discharge his weapon multiple times, then aggressively try to prevent a cameraman from filming him.

In a statement today, Amnesty International condemns this episode as well as injuries suffered the day before by protesters allegedly at the hands of the Haitian National Police. Protests calling for the resignation of both the president and prime minister have been occurring nationwide over the last month in response to the government’s failure to hold elections?—?now more than three years overdue. In an attempt to quell the unrest, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe resigned Saturday night, after President Martelly signaled Friday that he would accept the recommendations of a presidential advisory committee, which had called for Lamothe’s ouster. U.S. State Department officials Thomas Shannon and Tom Adams were in Haiti last week, apparently helping pave the way for the resignation.

“The political climate in Haiti is getting tenser and tenser. It is imperative that the Haitian National Police and the MINUSTAH are able to cope with the situation in a way that ensure protection of human rights. People must be allowed to exercise their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, without fear of being shot at,” said Chiara Liguori, Caribbean researcher at Amnesty International.

MINUSTAH spokesperson Sophie Boutaud de la Combe did not respond to an e-mail request for comment, but in a statement released Friday, the U.N. stated they had “immediately opened an investigation to establish the facts,” and took the “allegation very seriously.” However, in past cases of abuse by MINUSTAH personnel, the body has failed to act swiftly or publicly in administering justice. During a press conference today, Inner City Press’ Matthew Russell Lee asked about the status of the investigation. The spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, responded that they were “continuing to look into it,” and that he did not want to “prejudge what the investigation shows.” He added that they would have to look into if the U.N. troop “felt threatened.” In its previous press statement, MINUSTAH had characterized the demonstrators as “violent.”

In October, when the U.N. Security Council extended MINUSTAH’s mandate by one year, the representative from Argentina, which contributes about 8 percent of the mission’s personnel, warned that U.N. troops could again be called out to repress demonstrations. The Argentine representative warned that given the lack of elections, tense political environment and the lack of capability from the Haitian National Police in keeping public order, that it:

could have unintended consequences and could force the international community to have to face an even more difficult and complex situation. In such circumstances Argentine troops could be called upon to perform duties beyond deterrence that are prohibited by law in our country. Therefore, my delegation believes it important to reiterate that the Argentine armed forces do not, and will not, perform repression activities, neither in Argentina nor abroad. They will therefore not carry out functions of that kind in Haiti.

Amnesty points out that over the last two years they have experienced an increasing number of complains of unnecessary or excessive use of force to disperse protests. “In a context in which demonstrations are likely to continue, both Haitian authorities and the MINUSTAH must show that they are committed to hold officers accountable for human rights violations and to prevent future abuses. A failure to do so would be reneging on the human rights obligations of the Haitian authorities and the MINUSTAH”, said Amnesty’s Chiara Liguori.

“The freedom to demonstrate and freedom of expression are rights guaranteed by international conventions, enshrined in the Haitian constitution and supported by the law,” Sandra Honoré, the head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), said last month following a week of protests across the country, which resulted in a number of reported deaths. Honoré added that the Haitian government must ensure that “offenders are prosecuted.” But Honoré may have an opportunity to lead by example after videos from Haitian media surfaced over the weekend showing a U.N. soldier firing a handgun in the direction of protesters. The video shows him discharge his weapon multiple times, then aggressively try to prevent a cameraman from filming him.

In a statement today, Amnesty International condemns this episode as well as injuries suffered the day before by protesters allegedly at the hands of the Haitian National Police. Protests calling for the resignation of both the president and prime minister have been occurring nationwide over the last month in response to the government’s failure to hold elections?—?now more than three years overdue. In an attempt to quell the unrest, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe resigned Saturday night, after President Martelly signaled Friday that he would accept the recommendations of a presidential advisory committee, which had called for Lamothe’s ouster. U.S. State Department officials Thomas Shannon and Tom Adams were in Haiti last week, apparently helping pave the way for the resignation.

“The political climate in Haiti is getting tenser and tenser. It is imperative that the Haitian National Police and the MINUSTAH are able to cope with the situation in a way that ensure protection of human rights. People must be allowed to exercise their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, without fear of being shot at,” said Chiara Liguori, Caribbean researcher at Amnesty International.

MINUSTAH spokesperson Sophie Boutaud de la Combe did not respond to an e-mail request for comment, but in a statement released Friday, the U.N. stated they had “immediately opened an investigation to establish the facts,” and took the “allegation very seriously.” However, in past cases of abuse by MINUSTAH personnel, the body has failed to act swiftly or publicly in administering justice. During a press conference today, Inner City Press’ Matthew Russell Lee asked about the status of the investigation. The spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, responded that they were “continuing to look into it,” and that he did not want to “prejudge what the investigation shows.” He added that they would have to look into if the U.N. troop “felt threatened.” In its previous press statement, MINUSTAH had characterized the demonstrators as “violent.”

In October, when the U.N. Security Council extended MINUSTAH’s mandate by one year, the representative from Argentina, which contributes about 8 percent of the mission’s personnel, warned that U.N. troops could again be called out to repress demonstrations. The Argentine representative warned that given the lack of elections, tense political environment and the lack of capability from the Haitian National Police in keeping public order, that it:

could have unintended consequences and could force the international community to have to face an even more difficult and complex situation. In such circumstances Argentine troops could be called upon to perform duties beyond deterrence that are prohibited by law in our country. Therefore, my delegation believes it important to reiterate that the Argentine armed forces do not, and will not, perform repression activities, neither in Argentina nor abroad. They will therefore not carry out functions of that kind in Haiti.

Amnesty points out that over the last two years they have experienced an increasing number of complains of unnecessary or excessive use of force to disperse protests. “In a context in which demonstrations are likely to continue, both Haitian authorities and the MINUSTAH must show that they are committed to hold officers accountable for human rights violations and to prevent future abuses. A failure to do so would be reneging on the human rights obligations of the Haitian authorities and the MINUSTAH”, said Amnesty’s Chiara Liguori.

At a ceremony yesterday afternoon, an advisory committee handed their report over to Haitian President Michel Martelly, requesting the removal of Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe among other actions aimed at resolving Haiti’s electoral crisis. Jacqueline Charles reports for the Miami Herald:

The 10-page report, penned by an 11-member presidential commission, sets a timetable for Lamothe’s resignation. It also recommends replacing the head of the country’s Supreme Court and members of the body charged with organizing long-delayed elections. Dozens who have been arbitrarily arrested and deemed by human rights groups to be political prisoners should be released, the report said.

The Herald released a copy of the report they had received, which is available here (PDF). The Haitian government and international community, mainly the United States and United Nations, have long blamed the electoral delay on opposition from the so-called “Group of Six” senators. With parliamentary terms set to expire January 12 and no solution to the electoral crisis, it appears as though the positions of both the government and international community are softening; however it might not be enough.

The advisory commission was created by President Martelly following a week of increasingly large demonstrations throughout Haiti, calling on the president and prime minister to resign and for the holding of elections. Martelly is expected to make a decision on the recommendations by the end of the week. The moves come as the U.S. has taken on an even more visible role in trying to break the electoral impasse.  

Just months after the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, had laid the blame squarely on Haiti’s opposition for the delays, current U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Pamela White met with some opposition political parties on December 2 (although reportedly not Famni Lavalas, a party that has consistently won all of the elections that it’s been allowed to participate in).  In a statement after the meeting, the U.S. embassy said that White was “extremely impressed with their analysis of the current political situation, dedication to Haiti’s future and willingness to truly negotiate for the betterment of their country.” An opposition leader, Jean André Victor, told the press after the meeting with White: “We told Mrs White in no uncertain terms that the current crisis is one of Haiti’s making, and it is up to Haiti to find a solution.”

But U.S. diplomatic efforts continue. Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported last night that Thomas Shannon, an advisor to Secretary of State John Kerry, arrived in Haiti yesterday and will be holding meetings with various political players in the country. A visit from Kerry himself has yet to be confirmed but has been widely expected in the coming days.

“They coddled Martelly far too long …though that finally seems to be changing,” Robert Maguire, a Haiti specialist at George Washington University, told Reuters. Yet U.S. Ambassador White has also voiced support for Martelly, telling Le Nouvelliste in an interview earlier this week that, “We believe he was elected for a certain period of time. He has to stay until his term ends.” Responding to questions regarding whether the U.S. had played a roll in trying to remove Lamothe as Prime Minister, White responded that, “it is not at all the United States’ decision if the Prime Minister stays or goes.”

While the commission’s recommendations address a number of opposition concerns, some key issues remain unaddressed. The report does not suggest extending the mandates of members of parliament, which would leave Martelly able to rule by decree come January 12, though the report does say Martelly should limit his decree powers only to laws surrounding the holding of elections. Further, the question of how both parliamentary and presidential elections will be held next year, either in two installments or as part of one large election, as the U.S. and U.N. prefer, remains unaddressed.

“The resolution of the crisis inevitably requires the forced or voluntary resignation of Martelly, the creation of a credible CEP, the release of political prisoners, the establishment of a provisional government and the holding of general elections in 2015. That’s it,” Andre Michel, a Haitian lawyer and opposition figure, told Jacqueline Charles of the Herald.

Though some political parties, including FUSION, the Organization of People in Struggle (OPL) and INITE have welcomed the advisory commission’s report, other parties have vowed to continue with planned street protests beginning this weekend.  The report’s recommendations included calling off planned protests to allow for dialogue.

“This is a rescue operation by the international community aimed at saving the mandate of President Martelly while Martelly is primarily responsible for the crisis,” Michel told the Herald. Nevertheless, the United States, at least publicly, remained optimistic on the prospects for a deal. “We believe Martelly is committed to making a deal, and we think they can make an agreement in time,” an anonymous State Department official told Reuters.

At a ceremony yesterday afternoon, an advisory committee handed their report over to Haitian President Michel Martelly, requesting the removal of Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe among other actions aimed at resolving Haiti’s electoral crisis. Jacqueline Charles reports for the Miami Herald:

The 10-page report, penned by an 11-member presidential commission, sets a timetable for Lamothe’s resignation. It also recommends replacing the head of the country’s Supreme Court and members of the body charged with organizing long-delayed elections. Dozens who have been arbitrarily arrested and deemed by human rights groups to be political prisoners should be released, the report said.

The Herald released a copy of the report they had received, which is available here (PDF). The Haitian government and international community, mainly the United States and United Nations, have long blamed the electoral delay on opposition from the so-called “Group of Six” senators. With parliamentary terms set to expire January 12 and no solution to the electoral crisis, it appears as though the positions of both the government and international community are softening; however it might not be enough.

The advisory commission was created by President Martelly following a week of increasingly large demonstrations throughout Haiti, calling on the president and prime minister to resign and for the holding of elections. Martelly is expected to make a decision on the recommendations by the end of the week. The moves come as the U.S. has taken on an even more visible role in trying to break the electoral impasse.  

Just months after the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, had laid the blame squarely on Haiti’s opposition for the delays, current U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Pamela White met with some opposition political parties on December 2 (although reportedly not Famni Lavalas, a party that has consistently won all of the elections that it’s been allowed to participate in).  In a statement after the meeting, the U.S. embassy said that White was “extremely impressed with their analysis of the current political situation, dedication to Haiti’s future and willingness to truly negotiate for the betterment of their country.” An opposition leader, Jean André Victor, told the press after the meeting with White: “We told Mrs White in no uncertain terms that the current crisis is one of Haiti’s making, and it is up to Haiti to find a solution.”

But U.S. diplomatic efforts continue. Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported last night that Thomas Shannon, an advisor to Secretary of State John Kerry, arrived in Haiti yesterday and will be holding meetings with various political players in the country. A visit from Kerry himself has yet to be confirmed but has been widely expected in the coming days.

“They coddled Martelly far too long …though that finally seems to be changing,” Robert Maguire, a Haiti specialist at George Washington University, told Reuters. Yet U.S. Ambassador White has also voiced support for Martelly, telling Le Nouvelliste in an interview earlier this week that, “We believe he was elected for a certain period of time. He has to stay until his term ends.” Responding to questions regarding whether the U.S. had played a roll in trying to remove Lamothe as Prime Minister, White responded that, “it is not at all the United States’ decision if the Prime Minister stays or goes.”

While the commission’s recommendations address a number of opposition concerns, some key issues remain unaddressed. The report does not suggest extending the mandates of members of parliament, which would leave Martelly able to rule by decree come January 12, though the report does say Martelly should limit his decree powers only to laws surrounding the holding of elections. Further, the question of how both parliamentary and presidential elections will be held next year, either in two installments or as part of one large election, as the U.S. and U.N. prefer, remains unaddressed.

“The resolution of the crisis inevitably requires the forced or voluntary resignation of Martelly, the creation of a credible CEP, the release of political prisoners, the establishment of a provisional government and the holding of general elections in 2015. That’s it,” Andre Michel, a Haitian lawyer and opposition figure, told Jacqueline Charles of the Herald.

Though some political parties, including FUSION, the Organization of People in Struggle (OPL) and INITE have welcomed the advisory commission’s report, other parties have vowed to continue with planned street protests beginning this weekend.  The report’s recommendations included calling off planned protests to allow for dialogue.

“This is a rescue operation by the international community aimed at saving the mandate of President Martelly while Martelly is primarily responsible for the crisis,” Michel told the Herald. Nevertheless, the United States, at least publicly, remained optimistic on the prospects for a deal. “We believe Martelly is committed to making a deal, and we think they can make an agreement in time,” an anonymous State Department official told Reuters.

From January through August of 2014, 69 Haitians died from cholera and some 8,628 fell ill, a 76 percent drop from the previous year, the United Nations reported. In October, at a high-level donor conference convened to raise money to help fight cholera, World Bank director Jim Kim told the assembled diplomats that the reduction in cases was “an achievement of which Haiti and its development partners can be proud.” The U.N. decreased their projections for the number of new cases in 2014 to 15,000 from 45,000 and proudly stated that the “case fatality rate is below the 1 per cent target rate set by the World Health Organization.”

But the last few months have shown the optimism to be premature, at best. As heavy rains have hit Haiti, so too has a resurgence of cholera. With data through November 21, 2014 [PDF], the number of cases in 2014 has already shot past the 15,000 estimate to over 20,000. More worryingly, since the beginning of September, 135 Haitians have died from cholera, nearly twice as many as had died over the first 8 months of the year. Further, the much-watched case fatality rate stands at 1.3 percent over that time period, above the 1 percent target.

Yesterday, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which has treated nearly 30 percent of those sickened by cholera in Haiti, warned that the response capacities inside Haiti were severely limited and unable to cope with the recent increase. “We have tried to refer patients to other cholera treatment centers, but we soon realized there were not enough beds,” explained Olivia Gayraud, MSF medical coordinator in Haiti. “The Martissant center was quickly overwhelmed by the number of patients, as national health structures are poorly prepared to react to cholera outbreaks, despite them being predictable during the rainy season,” she added.

Oliver Schultz, the head of mission for MSF in Haiti, noted that “despite the existence of a National Plan for the Elimination of Cholera” there remains “no system in place to provide urgent care.” Just two weeks ago, Senior U.N. Coordinator for the Cholera Response in Haiti, Pedro Medrano, warned that, “support for Haitian initiatives against cholera and other waterborne diseases has been disappointing.” “The donor community has to do better,” he added, while pointing out that it would take more than 40 years at the current donor disbursement rate to eliminate cholera in Haiti.

“If the response falters and resources are not forthcoming, hard-won gains may be compromised and cholera could persist in localized areas,” Medrano said. Given the recent increases, those “hard-won” gains appear to already be compromised. Further, Haitians are slowly losing their immunity to the disease, reports MSF. The result has been a near doubling of cases handled by MSF over the last few months compared to 2013.

The U.N., whose troops introduced cholera to Haiti, according to scientific studies, have continued to avoid accountability and have failed to mobilize the needed resources. “There are few things, in the last decade of the United Nations, more illegitimate, more reprehensible, more despicable than the United Nations scurrying for cover behind the tattered, discredited banner of immunity when applied to the cholera tragedy in Haiti,” said Stephen Lewis, the former Canadian ambassador to the U.N., in a recent speech. “If I were Secretary-General, I’d have a hard time sleeping at night,” he concluded. Lewis also takes aim at the United States, which he says “doesn’t want even a whisper of compensation to enter the controversy.” The U.S. government has argued on behalf of the U.N. that the multilateral organization should be immune from lawsuits stemming from the introduction of cholera.

From January through August of 2014, 69 Haitians died from cholera and some 8,628 fell ill, a 76 percent drop from the previous year, the United Nations reported. In October, at a high-level donor conference convened to raise money to help fight cholera, World Bank director Jim Kim told the assembled diplomats that the reduction in cases was “an achievement of which Haiti and its development partners can be proud.” The U.N. decreased their projections for the number of new cases in 2014 to 15,000 from 45,000 and proudly stated that the “case fatality rate is below the 1 per cent target rate set by the World Health Organization.”

But the last few months have shown the optimism to be premature, at best. As heavy rains have hit Haiti, so too has a resurgence of cholera. With data through November 21, 2014 [PDF], the number of cases in 2014 has already shot past the 15,000 estimate to over 20,000. More worryingly, since the beginning of September, 135 Haitians have died from cholera, nearly twice as many as had died over the first 8 months of the year. Further, the much-watched case fatality rate stands at 1.3 percent over that time period, above the 1 percent target.

Yesterday, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which has treated nearly 30 percent of those sickened by cholera in Haiti, warned that the response capacities inside Haiti were severely limited and unable to cope with the recent increase. “We have tried to refer patients to other cholera treatment centers, but we soon realized there were not enough beds,” explained Olivia Gayraud, MSF medical coordinator in Haiti. “The Martissant center was quickly overwhelmed by the number of patients, as national health structures are poorly prepared to react to cholera outbreaks, despite them being predictable during the rainy season,” she added.

Oliver Schultz, the head of mission for MSF in Haiti, noted that “despite the existence of a National Plan for the Elimination of Cholera” there remains “no system in place to provide urgent care.” Just two weeks ago, Senior U.N. Coordinator for the Cholera Response in Haiti, Pedro Medrano, warned that, “support for Haitian initiatives against cholera and other waterborne diseases has been disappointing.” “The donor community has to do better,” he added, while pointing out that it would take more than 40 years at the current donor disbursement rate to eliminate cholera in Haiti.

“If the response falters and resources are not forthcoming, hard-won gains may be compromised and cholera could persist in localized areas,” Medrano said. Given the recent increases, those “hard-won” gains appear to already be compromised. Further, Haitians are slowly losing their immunity to the disease, reports MSF. The result has been a near doubling of cases handled by MSF over the last few months compared to 2013.

The U.N., whose troops introduced cholera to Haiti, according to scientific studies, have continued to avoid accountability and have failed to mobilize the needed resources. “There are few things, in the last decade of the United Nations, more illegitimate, more reprehensible, more despicable than the United Nations scurrying for cover behind the tattered, discredited banner of immunity when applied to the cholera tragedy in Haiti,” said Stephen Lewis, the former Canadian ambassador to the U.N., in a recent speech. “If I were Secretary-General, I’d have a hard time sleeping at night,” he concluded. Lewis also takes aim at the United States, which he says “doesn’t want even a whisper of compensation to enter the controversy.” The U.S. government has argued on behalf of the U.N. that the multilateral organization should be immune from lawsuits stemming from the introduction of cholera.

According to documents from USAID, 750 houses built by USAID near the new Caracol industrial park, were found to be of poor quality and will take millions of dollars to repair.  The houses are part of USAID’s “New Settlement Program,” which was the subject of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report in October 2013 as well as a USAID Inspector General (IG) audit in April 2014.

The GAO report found that USAID had initially planned on building 15,000 houses but that the number had been reduced to just 2,600. At the same time costs skyrocketed, from $53 million to over $90 million. At the time of the report, just 900 houses had been built across Haiti. (For more on the housing project, and how these estimates changed, see “Outsourcing Haiti” from earlier this year in Boston Review.)

Speaking before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in October 2013, Beth Hogan, an Assistant Administrator at USAID, explained how those cost increases occurred:

Again, it’s because of the requirements that we put into our solicitation document that it meet international building codes, that it comply with federal building standards, that these materials would be disaster- and hurricane-proof.

Hogan went on to say that she was “very happy with the quality” with which the contractors were building the houses. David Gootnick, the author of the GAO report and the Director of International Affairs and Trade at the agency, echoed Hogan’s remarks, telling Congress that, “they are excellent homes that are built to a very high standard.”

However, last month, USAID quietly awarded a contract worth up to $4.5 million to an American-based firm, Tetra Tech, to provide a remediation plan for the Caracol houses. The seriousness of the deficiencies was great enough for USAID to bypass normal contracting procedures and award the contract without receiving other bids. The justification document, required when normal procedures are not followed, explains that an independent assessment was performed in August 2014, which “revealed numerous deficiencies” including “missing roof fasteners, sub-specification roof materials and concrete reinforcement, and other structural and drainage issues.”

The document explains that given the location’s susceptibility to hurricanes and other extreme weather events, the repairs must be “carried out immediately in order to prevent possible harm to residents.” The contractors responsible for the deficient buildings have already been asked to begin repairs, with Tetra Tech providing construction management services. But the blame for the poor construction doesn’t simply rest with the contractors.

The IG audit from April 2014 found that USAID required quality control plans to be drafted by the contractors themselves and that USAID personnel “did not review the contractor’s quality control procedures.” If USAID had reviewed the plans, it would have been determined that they were “not adequate to ensure that contractors documented, tracked, and corrected deficiencies,” according to the IG. Further, the IG reported that USAID “had not completed annual contractor performance evaluations” for any of the contractors working on the New Settlements Program. The lack of oversight has proven costly.

With the $4.5 million just in construction management costs, the average cost per house will increase another 20 percent, to $39,000, more than four times the original estimate.

The continued lack of decent housing in Haiti as we approach the fifth year anniversary of the 2010 earthquake remains an issue of great concern to many groups monitoring international post-quake assistance efforts.  On November 24th, Mennonite Central Committee and other groups will host a conference on “Housing and Shelter in Haiti” with Haitian civil society leaders and academics who will discuss the flagging and inefficient international response to Haiti’s critical housing crisis.   

According to documents from USAID, 750 houses built by USAID near the new Caracol industrial park, were found to be of poor quality and will take millions of dollars to repair.  The houses are part of USAID’s “New Settlement Program,” which was the subject of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report in October 2013 as well as a USAID Inspector General (IG) audit in April 2014.

The GAO report found that USAID had initially planned on building 15,000 houses but that the number had been reduced to just 2,600. At the same time costs skyrocketed, from $53 million to over $90 million. At the time of the report, just 900 houses had been built across Haiti. (For more on the housing project, and how these estimates changed, see “Outsourcing Haiti” from earlier this year in Boston Review.)

Speaking before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in October 2013, Beth Hogan, an Assistant Administrator at USAID, explained how those cost increases occurred:

Again, it’s because of the requirements that we put into our solicitation document that it meet international building codes, that it comply with federal building standards, that these materials would be disaster- and hurricane-proof.

Hogan went on to say that she was “very happy with the quality” with which the contractors were building the houses. David Gootnick, the author of the GAO report and the Director of International Affairs and Trade at the agency, echoed Hogan’s remarks, telling Congress that, “they are excellent homes that are built to a very high standard.”

However, last month, USAID quietly awarded a contract worth up to $4.5 million to an American-based firm, Tetra Tech, to provide a remediation plan for the Caracol houses. The seriousness of the deficiencies was great enough for USAID to bypass normal contracting procedures and award the contract without receiving other bids. The justification document, required when normal procedures are not followed, explains that an independent assessment was performed in August 2014, which “revealed numerous deficiencies” including “missing roof fasteners, sub-specification roof materials and concrete reinforcement, and other structural and drainage issues.”

The document explains that given the location’s susceptibility to hurricanes and other extreme weather events, the repairs must be “carried out immediately in order to prevent possible harm to residents.” The contractors responsible for the deficient buildings have already been asked to begin repairs, with Tetra Tech providing construction management services. But the blame for the poor construction doesn’t simply rest with the contractors.

The IG audit from April 2014 found that USAID required quality control plans to be drafted by the contractors themselves and that USAID personnel “did not review the contractor’s quality control procedures.” If USAID had reviewed the plans, it would have been determined that they were “not adequate to ensure that contractors documented, tracked, and corrected deficiencies,” according to the IG. Further, the IG reported that USAID “had not completed annual contractor performance evaluations” for any of the contractors working on the New Settlements Program. The lack of oversight has proven costly.

With the $4.5 million just in construction management costs, the average cost per house will increase another 20 percent, to $39,000, more than four times the original estimate.

The continued lack of decent housing in Haiti as we approach the fifth year anniversary of the 2010 earthquake remains an issue of great concern to many groups monitoring international post-quake assistance efforts.  On November 24th, Mennonite Central Committee and other groups will host a conference on “Housing and Shelter in Haiti” with Haitian civil society leaders and academics who will discuss the flagging and inefficient international response to Haiti’s critical housing crisis.   

“Haitian people are all too familiar with the court expressing sympathy to their plight but closing doors to them,” concluded Muneer Ahmad, Clinical Professor of Law at Yale Law School, at today’s federal District Court hearing concerning the U.N.’s immunity for introducing cholera to Haiti. “That need not be the case here,” said Ahmad.

For one day, at least, the Southern District federal court in New York did open their doors, as Judge Oetken heard oral arguments in the case George et al. V. United Nations et al. The question before the court today was whether or not the U.N. and its officers should have immunity from claims arising from the introduction of cholera into Haiti by U.N. troops in October 2010.  

“It is not seriously disputed that the U.N. is responsible for causing this devastating epidemic,” stated Beatrice Lindstrom, a staff attorney at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and counsel for the thousands of Haitian cholera victims represented in the suit.  The U.N. did not appear in court but rather it was U.S. government attorney Ellen Blain who spoke in defense of U.N. immunity, citing the U.S.’s obligation as host nation to the U.N.

Lindstrom argued that the U.N.’s immunity, as called for in Section 2 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations [doc] (CPIUN) did not need to be expressly waived by the U.N., because it had failed to provide an alternative dispute mechanism, as called for in Section 29 of the CPIUN.  Lindstrom stated that these two sections were “two-sides of the came coin” and that the convention must be interpreted “in whole.”  By failing to live up to its obligations under Section 29, the U.N. would not be able to then claim immunity under Section 2. U.S. attorneys argued that there was no link between the two sections and pointed to previous cases where U.S. courts have upheld immunity.

However, in those previous cases, the plaintiffs argued, the U.N. had provided an alternative dispute mechanism, and the question was over its adequacy. This was the first case before U.S. courts where the U.N. had failed entirely to live up to its obligations under Section 29, according to the plaintiffs as well as international law scholars, who filed amicus curiae with the court.

“This case is without precedent, for two reasons,” said Ahmad, “The catastrophic scope of injury caused by the U.N.; and the failure of the U.N. to provide any forum whatsoever in which victims of the cholera epidemic may bring their claims.”

While the U.S. attorney argued that allowing the case to go forward would open the U.N. to a flood of lawsuits, impacting operations worldwide, Lindstrom countered by requesting a “narrow ruling” based on the specific facts of the case.  As Kertch Conze, appearing on behalf of the Haitian Lawyers Association and the Haitian Women of Miami, noted, if the U.N. had simply complied with its own obligations under Section 29, “we wouldn’t be here today.” Speaking to HRRW after the hearing, Lindstrom explained that all the U.N. would have to do to prevent a flood of lawsuits is simply comply with their own obligations.

Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, who also represents the cholera victims, noted in a press release after the hearing that “the U.N. spends lots of time and money telling our officials and citizens to respect the rule of law. Then it refuses to have the law apply to itself after killing thousands of Haitians. Does the U.N. think Haitians do not notice the double standard?”

U.S. attorney Blain argued that any question regarding the interpretation of the convention should be brought to the International Court of Justice, but that only signatories to the convention could bring such claims, meaning the U.S. or another U.N. member country. Asked by Judge Oetken if the U.S. would bring the case to the international court, Blain responded that she was “not authorized” to speak on that question.

The lawyer for the cholera victims, Lindstrom, explained that the Status of Forces Agreement signed by Haiti and the United Nations explicitly calls for third parties to be able to present claims and further, that Section 29 of the CPIUN deals expressly with injuries to individuals.

The question of whether or not the court’s doors remain open to Haitians will have to wait; Judge Oetken reserved judgment for now, and no decision is expected for months. Another case, filed in Brooklyn earlier this year, is also making its way through the U.S. court system. Dr. Tim Howard, one of the lead attorneys in the case, told HRRW that, “If they lose here, and we lose there [in New York’s Eastern District, where the second case is being heard], we’ll take it somewhere else. We won’t stop until justice is done.”

“Haitian people are all too familiar with the court expressing sympathy to their plight but closing doors to them,” concluded Muneer Ahmad, Clinical Professor of Law at Yale Law School, at today’s federal District Court hearing concerning the U.N.’s immunity for introducing cholera to Haiti. “That need not be the case here,” said Ahmad.

For one day, at least, the Southern District federal court in New York did open their doors, as Judge Oetken heard oral arguments in the case George et al. V. United Nations et al. The question before the court today was whether or not the U.N. and its officers should have immunity from claims arising from the introduction of cholera into Haiti by U.N. troops in October 2010.  

“It is not seriously disputed that the U.N. is responsible for causing this devastating epidemic,” stated Beatrice Lindstrom, a staff attorney at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and counsel for the thousands of Haitian cholera victims represented in the suit.  The U.N. did not appear in court but rather it was U.S. government attorney Ellen Blain who spoke in defense of U.N. immunity, citing the U.S.’s obligation as host nation to the U.N.

Lindstrom argued that the U.N.’s immunity, as called for in Section 2 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations [doc] (CPIUN) did not need to be expressly waived by the U.N., because it had failed to provide an alternative dispute mechanism, as called for in Section 29 of the CPIUN.  Lindstrom stated that these two sections were “two-sides of the came coin” and that the convention must be interpreted “in whole.”  By failing to live up to its obligations under Section 29, the U.N. would not be able to then claim immunity under Section 2. U.S. attorneys argued that there was no link between the two sections and pointed to previous cases where U.S. courts have upheld immunity.

However, in those previous cases, the plaintiffs argued, the U.N. had provided an alternative dispute mechanism, and the question was over its adequacy. This was the first case before U.S. courts where the U.N. had failed entirely to live up to its obligations under Section 29, according to the plaintiffs as well as international law scholars, who filed amicus curiae with the court.

“This case is without precedent, for two reasons,” said Ahmad, “The catastrophic scope of injury caused by the U.N.; and the failure of the U.N. to provide any forum whatsoever in which victims of the cholera epidemic may bring their claims.”

While the U.S. attorney argued that allowing the case to go forward would open the U.N. to a flood of lawsuits, impacting operations worldwide, Lindstrom countered by requesting a “narrow ruling” based on the specific facts of the case.  As Kertch Conze, appearing on behalf of the Haitian Lawyers Association and the Haitian Women of Miami, noted, if the U.N. had simply complied with its own obligations under Section 29, “we wouldn’t be here today.” Speaking to HRRW after the hearing, Lindstrom explained that all the U.N. would have to do to prevent a flood of lawsuits is simply comply with their own obligations.

Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, who also represents the cholera victims, noted in a press release after the hearing that “the U.N. spends lots of time and money telling our officials and citizens to respect the rule of law. Then it refuses to have the law apply to itself after killing thousands of Haitians. Does the U.N. think Haitians do not notice the double standard?”

U.S. attorney Blain argued that any question regarding the interpretation of the convention should be brought to the International Court of Justice, but that only signatories to the convention could bring such claims, meaning the U.S. or another U.N. member country. Asked by Judge Oetken if the U.S. would bring the case to the international court, Blain responded that she was “not authorized” to speak on that question.

The lawyer for the cholera victims, Lindstrom, explained that the Status of Forces Agreement signed by Haiti and the United Nations explicitly calls for third parties to be able to present claims and further, that Section 29 of the CPIUN deals expressly with injuries to individuals.

The question of whether or not the court’s doors remain open to Haitians will have to wait; Judge Oetken reserved judgment for now, and no decision is expected for months. Another case, filed in Brooklyn earlier this year, is also making its way through the U.S. court system. Dr. Tim Howard, one of the lead attorneys in the case, told HRRW that, “If they lose here, and we lose there [in New York’s Eastern District, where the second case is being heard], we’ll take it somewhere else. We won’t stop until justice is done.”

Like a Matryoshka doll, inside each cholera elimination initiative for Haiti one will find another and inside that, yet another. At the two-year anniversary of the earthquake, in January 2012, organizations launched a “call to action” for the elimination of cholera. Almost a year later, in December 2012, the U.N. launched a “new” initiative designed to “support an existing campaign.” Then in February 2013, the Haitian government and international partners announced a 10-year elimination plan. When funding was slow to come, the U.N. and other partners began raising funds for a two-year emergency response. In March of 2014, another “high-level” committee was formed and then in July, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon traveled to Haiti to launch a “Total Sanitation” campaign within the “context” of the cholera elimination plan. Since that first announcement in 2012, 1,600 Haitians have died from cholera. Today, in a “high-level” donor conference sponsored by the World Bank, the Haitian government presented yet another plan.

“We have a plan, it’s a $310 million plan for three years,” Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told the crowded 13th floor conference room in the World Bank headquarters here in Washington, DC. Lamothe urged those in attendance to “take action” and “fast-track this process” in order to “protect the lives of millions of people” and “ensure the most vulnerable of the society are protected against water-borne diseases.” But the 2.5-hour conference ended up short on pledges and long on pleas, with only the event’s sponsor, the World Bank, contributing substantial funds.

Cholera, which scientific studies have found was introduced to Haiti by United Nations troops in 2010, has so far killed at least 8,614 and sickened over 700,000. While no speakers at the conference mentioned how the disease was imported to Haiti, Lamothe did play a short video, in which the narrator explains that, “based on press reports, it [cholera] originated on a Nepalese camp of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH.” Later in the video, a Haitian explains how he blamed the U.N. for cholera’s introduction. Meanwhile, lawyers and human rights groups continue to press for U.N. responsibility through the courts. A federal court in New York will hear oral arguments on the U.N.’s immunity on October 23.

“The UN has a binding international law obligation to install the water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to control the cholera epidemic, as well as compensate those injured,” said Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, who is representing cholera victims in their case against the U.N. “MINUSTAH has spent far more than $2 billion since cholera broke out on other things. It is a question of priorities.”

While the U.N. has refused to accept responsibility for the disease’s introduction or take direct remedial actions, in December 2012 Ban pledged to “use every opportunity” to raise the necessary funds for cholera elimination and has since cited the U.N.’s “moral obligation” to respond to cholera. Despite the support, actors have thus far failed to raise an adequate amount of funds for the eradication plan. At the conference, Ban stated that “as of today, the $2.2 billion 10-year national plan is just 10 percent funded. While a lot has been done, there is clearly much more to do.”

Major donors had initially balked to providing direct support to the 10-year plan announced in 2013 as it was viewed as more aspirational than operational. In addition, donors were reluctant to contribute to a national fund, jointly run by the Haitian government, which would mean giving up operational control of aid flows. The donor conference that took place today was, in fact, scheduled for October, 2013, but has been delayed since. Responding to the complaints of donors, Haiti’s government, represented by the prime minister, but also representatives from the Ministry of Health, DINEPA, the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Public Works, presented a detailed plan that would involve building up capacity and infrastructure in 16 priority areas that have been particularly hard hit by cholera. A plan to create a national fund to coordinate donor contributions has also been scrapped.

No longer is the focus strictly on cholera, either. Expanding water and sanitation infrastructure in a country where only 24 percent of Haitians have access to improved sanitation and 38 percent do not have access to safe water will have a tremendous impact on other waterborne diseases, which remain a leading cause of infant and maternal mortality. The plan put forward today also goes further in linking public health works to water and sanitation infrastructure. More information about the plan, including presentations from DINEPA are available on the World Bank website.

Both World Bank president Jim Yong Kim and Ban urged donors to support the 3-year plan, but donors seemed more interested in discussing their own work rather than direct support for the plan. USAID director Mark Feierstein told the room that “over the next three years, we plan to invest up to $15 million dollars to reduce diarrheal disease, improve access to potable water and promote water-related hygiene.” However, Feierstein quickly pivoted, stating that, “our team is currently conducting a water and sanitation assessment to determine where the gaps are and what type of future programming can be most effective.”  Another study, while a well-developed plan sits unfunded on the table.

In addition to the $50 million pledged from the World Bank, the only other concrete commitment was from the Japanese government in the amount of $2.5 million. Also announced at the conference, U.N. special representative Paul Farmer will begin tracking donor contributions and disbursements for cholera elimination plans. A report is expected shortly.

Speaking just before the opening session ended, Jim Kim exhorted donors to do more. “I really appreciate the statements of support, but I think we now need to really find a way to raise the $310 million dollars needed,” he said.

[Editor’s Note: This post originally said that USAID would invest up to $50 million dollars over the next three years. The number is actually $15 million.]

Like a Matryoshka doll, inside each cholera elimination initiative for Haiti one will find another and inside that, yet another. At the two-year anniversary of the earthquake, in January 2012, organizations launched a “call to action” for the elimination of cholera. Almost a year later, in December 2012, the U.N. launched a “new” initiative designed to “support an existing campaign.” Then in February 2013, the Haitian government and international partners announced a 10-year elimination plan. When funding was slow to come, the U.N. and other partners began raising funds for a two-year emergency response. In March of 2014, another “high-level” committee was formed and then in July, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon traveled to Haiti to launch a “Total Sanitation” campaign within the “context” of the cholera elimination plan. Since that first announcement in 2012, 1,600 Haitians have died from cholera. Today, in a “high-level” donor conference sponsored by the World Bank, the Haitian government presented yet another plan.

“We have a plan, it’s a $310 million plan for three years,” Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told the crowded 13th floor conference room in the World Bank headquarters here in Washington, DC. Lamothe urged those in attendance to “take action” and “fast-track this process” in order to “protect the lives of millions of people” and “ensure the most vulnerable of the society are protected against water-borne diseases.” But the 2.5-hour conference ended up short on pledges and long on pleas, with only the event’s sponsor, the World Bank, contributing substantial funds.

Cholera, which scientific studies have found was introduced to Haiti by United Nations troops in 2010, has so far killed at least 8,614 and sickened over 700,000. While no speakers at the conference mentioned how the disease was imported to Haiti, Lamothe did play a short video, in which the narrator explains that, “based on press reports, it [cholera] originated on a Nepalese camp of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH.” Later in the video, a Haitian explains how he blamed the U.N. for cholera’s introduction. Meanwhile, lawyers and human rights groups continue to press for U.N. responsibility through the courts. A federal court in New York will hear oral arguments on the U.N.’s immunity on October 23.

“The UN has a binding international law obligation to install the water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to control the cholera epidemic, as well as compensate those injured,” said Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, who is representing cholera victims in their case against the U.N. “MINUSTAH has spent far more than $2 billion since cholera broke out on other things. It is a question of priorities.”

While the U.N. has refused to accept responsibility for the disease’s introduction or take direct remedial actions, in December 2012 Ban pledged to “use every opportunity” to raise the necessary funds for cholera elimination and has since cited the U.N.’s “moral obligation” to respond to cholera. Despite the support, actors have thus far failed to raise an adequate amount of funds for the eradication plan. At the conference, Ban stated that “as of today, the $2.2 billion 10-year national plan is just 10 percent funded. While a lot has been done, there is clearly much more to do.”

Major donors had initially balked to providing direct support to the 10-year plan announced in 2013 as it was viewed as more aspirational than operational. In addition, donors were reluctant to contribute to a national fund, jointly run by the Haitian government, which would mean giving up operational control of aid flows. The donor conference that took place today was, in fact, scheduled for October, 2013, but has been delayed since. Responding to the complaints of donors, Haiti’s government, represented by the prime minister, but also representatives from the Ministry of Health, DINEPA, the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Public Works, presented a detailed plan that would involve building up capacity and infrastructure in 16 priority areas that have been particularly hard hit by cholera. A plan to create a national fund to coordinate donor contributions has also been scrapped.

No longer is the focus strictly on cholera, either. Expanding water and sanitation infrastructure in a country where only 24 percent of Haitians have access to improved sanitation and 38 percent do not have access to safe water will have a tremendous impact on other waterborne diseases, which remain a leading cause of infant and maternal mortality. The plan put forward today also goes further in linking public health works to water and sanitation infrastructure. More information about the plan, including presentations from DINEPA are available on the World Bank website.

Both World Bank president Jim Yong Kim and Ban urged donors to support the 3-year plan, but donors seemed more interested in discussing their own work rather than direct support for the plan. USAID director Mark Feierstein told the room that “over the next three years, we plan to invest up to $15 million dollars to reduce diarrheal disease, improve access to potable water and promote water-related hygiene.” However, Feierstein quickly pivoted, stating that, “our team is currently conducting a water and sanitation assessment to determine where the gaps are and what type of future programming can be most effective.”  Another study, while a well-developed plan sits unfunded on the table.

In addition to the $50 million pledged from the World Bank, the only other concrete commitment was from the Japanese government in the amount of $2.5 million. Also announced at the conference, U.N. special representative Paul Farmer will begin tracking donor contributions and disbursements for cholera elimination plans. A report is expected shortly.

Speaking just before the opening session ended, Jim Kim exhorted donors to do more. “I really appreciate the statements of support, but I think we now need to really find a way to raise the $310 million dollars needed,” he said.

[Editor’s Note: This post originally said that USAID would invest up to $50 million dollars over the next three years. The number is actually $15 million.]

At the United Nations Security Council meeting last week, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power did not mince words regarding who was to blame for Haiti’s electoral impasse. Power, speaking to the assembled members, stated bluntly [PDF]:

But a group of six senators seems intent on holding elections hostage to partisan concerns, even going so far as to prevent a debate on the electoral law.

Legislators in a democracy have a responsibility to defend their constituents’ rights. But when elected officials take advantage of democracy’s checks and balances to cynically block debates and elections altogether, they stand in the way of addressing citizens’ real needs.

It wasn’t just the U.S. referencing the so called “Group of 6.” The head of MINUSTAH, the U.N. mission in Haiti, also blamed a “group of Senators opposed to the El Rancho Accord.” Today, in a separate action, 15 U.S. members of Congress wrote to the Senate president Simon Desras. As the Miami Herald reports, the lawmakers wrote that:

“We are deeply concerned that the Haitian Senate has been unable to pass the requisite legislation to authorize elections this year….We believe that Haitians deserve better than to have this fundamental democratic right continually delayed.”

But, the Herald continues, “[i]n addition to the senators, several large political parties in Haiti are also opposed to the agreement and were not part of the negotiations [the El Rancho Accord]. In addition to raising constitutional issues, Martelly opponents have also raised questions about the formation of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) tasked with organizing the vote. Many feel that it is currently being controlled by the executive.”

Opposition leader Mirlande Manigat, a conservative who lost to Martelly in a run-off election in 2011 and is a constitutional scholar, responded to the comments from the U.S. and the U.N., saying it was unreasonable to overlook the role that Martelly has played in the delay:

“For three years, he refused to call elections. A large part of this is his fault…It is unfair to accuse the six senators for the crisis.”

As we have noted previously, there are legal and constitutional reasons behind the oppositions’ electoral stance. According to Mario Joseph, managing lawyer for the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, “Prompt elections are much needed, but elections will only remedy Haiti’s political crisis if they are run fairly by a constitutionally-mandated electoral council. President Michel Martelly has delayed elections for three years because he does not want to lose the political control he has enjoyed without full parliamentary oversight.”

Given the outrage coming from the U.S. and other foreign powers about the delayed elections and the focus on this group of senators, it could be easy to forget that indeed, as Joseph and Manigat point out, this issue has been developing for years, a fact of which the international community is well aware. For starters, much of the current political stalemate arises from the deeply flawed presidential elections in 2010, through which Martelly was elected only after the arbitrary intervention of the Organization of American States. Since that election, every year, without fail, the Martelly government has pledged to hold elections and then subsequently failed to live up to its promises. By overlooking this background and simply blaming a group of six senators, the international community and the U.S. are once again prioritizing the holding of any election, without regard to the quality of said election.

To illustrate just how long this has been an issue, and the changing viewpoints and criticisms from the international community one need only look back over the last few years of U.N. Security Council meetings.

In September 2011 Martelly had been in office for less than 6 months. With partial legislative elections on the horizon, then head of MINUSTAH Mariano Fernandez Amunategui spoke to the council [PDF]:

“It will also be important to support the electoral process in Haiti, which is preparing for partial legislative and local Government elections in November. In that respect, I stress that electoral reform, including the establishment of a credible permanent electoral council, is indispensable if Haiti hopes gradually to reduce its dependence on international electoral assistance.”

One year later, after those scheduled elections had not taken place, Fernandez once again addressed the Security Council [PDF]:

An exceptional situation in Haitian political life is currently being played out in that the Senate, which is theoretically made up of 30 members, today has only 20 members… That continues to distort political life, with negative consequences for the democratic stabilization process in Haiti In addition, there is at present a serious impasse in the formation of the Permanent Electoral Council.

Fernandez continued:

The formation of an electoral body of nine members in accordance with the stipulations of the Constitution is an unavoidable prerequisite for any elections; its establishment will determine how soon the pending elections can be held to renew a third of the Senate as well as to elect all municipal mayors and councillors. That is why MINUSTAH is currently working in coordination with the international community to promote dialogue and prepare the way for the soonest possible establishment of a Permanent Electoral Council that is legitimate and legal and that enjoys the broadest possible support.

That year (another with no elections held), the terms of some 130 mayors expired. Rather than let them continue until elections were held, they were replaced by appointees of Martelly. Fast forward another year, and MINUSTAH has a new head, Sandra Honoré. In her address to the Security Council, she states [PDF]:

Turning to the political situation, the continued delay in the holding of long-overdue partial senatorial, municipal and local elections is of increasing concern and poses a series of risks to the stabilization process. Yesterday’s long-awaited submission to Parliament by President Martelly of the draft electoral law that is required to launch the electoral process is a most welcome development. However, there have been protracted delays caused, in part, by the eight months that it took the three branches of Government to designate the nine members of the Electoral Council…

But most importantly, last year Honoré explicitly stated what has caused this grouping of senators to come together:

Despite the executive branch’s repeated public statements in favour of holding the elections as soon as possible, those delays have led a number of political and civil society actors to express skepticism concerning the likelihood that elections will be held in 2013.

Delays in the submission of the draft electoral law by the executive to Parliament fuelled speculation among legislators that the executive had intentionally delayed the process to ensure that Parliament would become non-functional. That perception united a grouping of main opposition parties that repeatedly and publicly called on President Martelly to uphold the constitutional requirement of timely elections, or else to resign, thus popularizing the chant calling for “elections or resignation”.

Again, another year passed without elections. For years now, the international community has called for elections which respect the constitution and reflect a broad consensus. Now, however, with the terms of another third of the Senate and the entire lower house set to expire in January, the calls for elections have become deafening. Unfortunately, it appears as though the U.S. and other countries involved in Haiti, after doing little more than make speeches each year calling for elections, are now willing to accept any sort of election, even if it doesn’t follow the constitutional provisions that they themselves have been citing over the last three years. It is true that Haiti needs to hold elections, but after the debacle in 2010 (largely shoved on Haitians by the international community), it would be wrong to discard the objections of a large section of Haitian society and push forward with another deeply flawed election.

At the United Nations Security Council meeting last week, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power did not mince words regarding who was to blame for Haiti’s electoral impasse. Power, speaking to the assembled members, stated bluntly [PDF]:

But a group of six senators seems intent on holding elections hostage to partisan concerns, even going so far as to prevent a debate on the electoral law.

Legislators in a democracy have a responsibility to defend their constituents’ rights. But when elected officials take advantage of democracy’s checks and balances to cynically block debates and elections altogether, they stand in the way of addressing citizens’ real needs.

It wasn’t just the U.S. referencing the so called “Group of 6.” The head of MINUSTAH, the U.N. mission in Haiti, also blamed a “group of Senators opposed to the El Rancho Accord.” Today, in a separate action, 15 U.S. members of Congress wrote to the Senate president Simon Desras. As the Miami Herald reports, the lawmakers wrote that:

“We are deeply concerned that the Haitian Senate has been unable to pass the requisite legislation to authorize elections this year….We believe that Haitians deserve better than to have this fundamental democratic right continually delayed.”

But, the Herald continues, “[i]n addition to the senators, several large political parties in Haiti are also opposed to the agreement and were not part of the negotiations [the El Rancho Accord]. In addition to raising constitutional issues, Martelly opponents have also raised questions about the formation of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) tasked with organizing the vote. Many feel that it is currently being controlled by the executive.”

Opposition leader Mirlande Manigat, a conservative who lost to Martelly in a run-off election in 2011 and is a constitutional scholar, responded to the comments from the U.S. and the U.N., saying it was unreasonable to overlook the role that Martelly has played in the delay:

“For three years, he refused to call elections. A large part of this is his fault…It is unfair to accuse the six senators for the crisis.”

As we have noted previously, there are legal and constitutional reasons behind the oppositions’ electoral stance. According to Mario Joseph, managing lawyer for the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, “Prompt elections are much needed, but elections will only remedy Haiti’s political crisis if they are run fairly by a constitutionally-mandated electoral council. President Michel Martelly has delayed elections for three years because he does not want to lose the political control he has enjoyed without full parliamentary oversight.”

Given the outrage coming from the U.S. and other foreign powers about the delayed elections and the focus on this group of senators, it could be easy to forget that indeed, as Joseph and Manigat point out, this issue has been developing for years, a fact of which the international community is well aware. For starters, much of the current political stalemate arises from the deeply flawed presidential elections in 2010, through which Martelly was elected only after the arbitrary intervention of the Organization of American States. Since that election, every year, without fail, the Martelly government has pledged to hold elections and then subsequently failed to live up to its promises. By overlooking this background and simply blaming a group of six senators, the international community and the U.S. are once again prioritizing the holding of any election, without regard to the quality of said election.

To illustrate just how long this has been an issue, and the changing viewpoints and criticisms from the international community one need only look back over the last few years of U.N. Security Council meetings.

In September 2011 Martelly had been in office for less than 6 months. With partial legislative elections on the horizon, then head of MINUSTAH Mariano Fernandez Amunategui spoke to the council [PDF]:

“It will also be important to support the electoral process in Haiti, which is preparing for partial legislative and local Government elections in November. In that respect, I stress that electoral reform, including the establishment of a credible permanent electoral council, is indispensable if Haiti hopes gradually to reduce its dependence on international electoral assistance.”

One year later, after those scheduled elections had not taken place, Fernandez once again addressed the Security Council [PDF]:

An exceptional situation in Haitian political life is currently being played out in that the Senate, which is theoretically made up of 30 members, today has only 20 members… That continues to distort political life, with negative consequences for the democratic stabilization process in Haiti In addition, there is at present a serious impasse in the formation of the Permanent Electoral Council.

Fernandez continued:

The formation of an electoral body of nine members in accordance with the stipulations of the Constitution is an unavoidable prerequisite for any elections; its establishment will determine how soon the pending elections can be held to renew a third of the Senate as well as to elect all municipal mayors and councillors. That is why MINUSTAH is currently working in coordination with the international community to promote dialogue and prepare the way for the soonest possible establishment of a Permanent Electoral Council that is legitimate and legal and that enjoys the broadest possible support.

That year (another with no elections held), the terms of some 130 mayors expired. Rather than let them continue until elections were held, they were replaced by appointees of Martelly. Fast forward another year, and MINUSTAH has a new head, Sandra Honoré. In her address to the Security Council, she states [PDF]:

Turning to the political situation, the continued delay in the holding of long-overdue partial senatorial, municipal and local elections is of increasing concern and poses a series of risks to the stabilization process. Yesterday’s long-awaited submission to Parliament by President Martelly of the draft electoral law that is required to launch the electoral process is a most welcome development. However, there have been protracted delays caused, in part, by the eight months that it took the three branches of Government to designate the nine members of the Electoral Council…

But most importantly, last year Honoré explicitly stated what has caused this grouping of senators to come together:

Despite the executive branch’s repeated public statements in favour of holding the elections as soon as possible, those delays have led a number of political and civil society actors to express skepticism concerning the likelihood that elections will be held in 2013.

Delays in the submission of the draft electoral law by the executive to Parliament fuelled speculation among legislators that the executive had intentionally delayed the process to ensure that Parliament would become non-functional. That perception united a grouping of main opposition parties that repeatedly and publicly called on President Martelly to uphold the constitutional requirement of timely elections, or else to resign, thus popularizing the chant calling for “elections or resignation”.

Again, another year passed without elections. For years now, the international community has called for elections which respect the constitution and reflect a broad consensus. Now, however, with the terms of another third of the Senate and the entire lower house set to expire in January, the calls for elections have become deafening. Unfortunately, it appears as though the U.S. and other countries involved in Haiti, after doing little more than make speeches each year calling for elections, are now willing to accept any sort of election, even if it doesn’t follow the constitutional provisions that they themselves have been citing over the last three years. It is true that Haiti needs to hold elections, but after the debacle in 2010 (largely shoved on Haitians by the international community), it would be wrong to discard the objections of a large section of Haitian society and push forward with another deeply flawed election.

Fanmi Lavalas leaders report that the police that have guarded former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s residence since he returned to Haiti in 2011 were removed around 1:00 a.m. this morning. It is unclear who ordered the removal of the state security agents, but Agence Haitienne de Presse is reporting that Haitian National Police deny giving the order, and that a “pro-government source” says the orders came from the National Palace. This news conflicts with reports yesterday that Aristide is being placed under house arrest. While Judge Lamarre Belizaire reportedly issued an order for “agents of the prison administration, known as APENA” to be placed around Aristide’s house in Tabarre (according to the Caribbean Media Corporation) and “agents of the Central Department of the Judicial Police” to guard the perimeter of his residence, witnesses on the ground say it appears that law enforcement agencies have ignored Belizaire’s order. Under Haitian law, house arrest has no legal basis.

Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, whose sister organization the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux’s Managing Attorney Mario Joseph represents Aristide, sees the withdrawal of security as retaliation against Aristide for exercising his civil rights. Specifically, Aristide’s lawyers’ are seeking the recusal and dismissal of Judge Belizaire, who is already barred from practicing law for 10 years after he leaves his position as judge.

Concannon says that the message is that “If you assert your civil rights, we’re going to expose you and your family to being killed.” He sees it as a clear signal from the Haitian government that “the police will not come to Aristide’s aid if something happens.” The secretive way in which the security was pulled, in the dead of night, is worrying, he notes.

Aristide continues to have many enemies in Haiti. He was twice ousted in violent coups, in 1991 and 2004. Some of the people involved in the coups and in the killing of Fanmi Lavalas members and other Aristide supporters continue to walk free in Haiti. Haiti’s former dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier – who was ousted in a popular uprising by the grassroots movement that later provided the base for Aristide’s party – also lives freely in Haiti despite the various human rights atrocities committed during his rule and the diverting of hundreds of millions of dollars from the government for his family’s personal use.

There have been numerous recent attacks and threats against human rights defenders and political activists. Haïti Liberté reports:

On Wed., Aug. 20 in Cité Soleil, Clifford Charles, a member of the Fanmi Lavalas Political Organization was killed following a demonstration by residents demanding the release of their imprisoned comrade Louima Louis Juste in the National Penitentiary for the past six months for his political opinions.

Human rights defender Daniel Dorsinvil and his wife Girldy Larêche were murdered earlier this year. Well-known Fanmi Lavalas leader and human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine remains missing after being forcibly disappeared in 2007, to name a few other examples.

In this context, the danger to Aristide is real, and it is clear that the Martelly government is putting his life and safety at risk.

Aristide continues to be widely popular, as was seen when thousands of people accompanied his caravan from the airport to his residence in 2011. Over the past weeks, crowds of supporters have repeatedly gathered outside Aristide’s residence following rumors and news of his pending arrest. The AP reported on demonstrations in support of Aristide yesterday on the 26th anniversary of the most infamous assassination attempt against him, when death squads killed at least 13 people and injured 80 more at the St. Jean Bosco church where Aristide was saying mass. The AP’s Evens Sanon writes:

Supporters promised major protests would erupt if what they see as a politically motivated arrest is carried out.

“There is only one person who represents the people of Haiti and his name is President Aristide,” 37-year-old Lionel Patrick said in the yard of the church, which was destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake. “If anything happens to him, Haiti is going to be shut down.”

Any attack on Aristide’s residence is likely to result in many additional casualties.

As we have pointed out previously, the supposedly impending charges and arrest of Aristide – and now the new threat to his security – may be intended to distract from the postponement, yet again, of legislative and local elections that were supposed to be held on October 26. With another third of senate seats expiring next year, as well as the entire House of Deputies, the Martelly administration will be unencumbered by the check-and-balance of the legislature on his authority if elections are not held soon. He also could be in a position to replace local mayors with more appointed “municipal agents,” as he’s already done with 130 of them.

This real exercise of anti-democratic behavior by the current administration is getting far less attention than the rehashed allegations of corruption targeting a past president, even though 10 years of investigations in Haiti and a grand jury in the U.S. have failed to produce evidence of actual corruption by Aristide that could support criminal charges.

The security team’s unusual withdrawal is not just dangerous for Aristide, his wife and daughter. It puts the reputation of the Martelly administration, and its chief international supporter, the Obama administration on the line.  If anything does happen to the Aristide residence, fingers will be pointed at President Martelly and the U.S. Embassy. Many of those fingers will come from the hands of irate Lavalas supporters, who will likely take to the streets in numbers that will cause significant disruption in Haiti.  

Fanmi Lavalas leaders report that the police that have guarded former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s residence since he returned to Haiti in 2011 were removed around 1:00 a.m. this morning. It is unclear who ordered the removal of the state security agents, but Agence Haitienne de Presse is reporting that Haitian National Police deny giving the order, and that a “pro-government source” says the orders came from the National Palace. This news conflicts with reports yesterday that Aristide is being placed under house arrest. While Judge Lamarre Belizaire reportedly issued an order for “agents of the prison administration, known as APENA” to be placed around Aristide’s house in Tabarre (according to the Caribbean Media Corporation) and “agents of the Central Department of the Judicial Police” to guard the perimeter of his residence, witnesses on the ground say it appears that law enforcement agencies have ignored Belizaire’s order. Under Haitian law, house arrest has no legal basis.

Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, whose sister organization the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux’s Managing Attorney Mario Joseph represents Aristide, sees the withdrawal of security as retaliation against Aristide for exercising his civil rights. Specifically, Aristide’s lawyers’ are seeking the recusal and dismissal of Judge Belizaire, who is already barred from practicing law for 10 years after he leaves his position as judge.

Concannon says that the message is that “If you assert your civil rights, we’re going to expose you and your family to being killed.” He sees it as a clear signal from the Haitian government that “the police will not come to Aristide’s aid if something happens.” The secretive way in which the security was pulled, in the dead of night, is worrying, he notes.

Aristide continues to have many enemies in Haiti. He was twice ousted in violent coups, in 1991 and 2004. Some of the people involved in the coups and in the killing of Fanmi Lavalas members and other Aristide supporters continue to walk free in Haiti. Haiti’s former dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier – who was ousted in a popular uprising by the grassroots movement that later provided the base for Aristide’s party – also lives freely in Haiti despite the various human rights atrocities committed during his rule and the diverting of hundreds of millions of dollars from the government for his family’s personal use.

There have been numerous recent attacks and threats against human rights defenders and political activists. Haïti Liberté reports:

On Wed., Aug. 20 in Cité Soleil, Clifford Charles, a member of the Fanmi Lavalas Political Organization was killed following a demonstration by residents demanding the release of their imprisoned comrade Louima Louis Juste in the National Penitentiary for the past six months for his political opinions.

Human rights defender Daniel Dorsinvil and his wife Girldy Larêche were murdered earlier this year. Well-known Fanmi Lavalas leader and human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine remains missing after being forcibly disappeared in 2007, to name a few other examples.

In this context, the danger to Aristide is real, and it is clear that the Martelly government is putting his life and safety at risk.

Aristide continues to be widely popular, as was seen when thousands of people accompanied his caravan from the airport to his residence in 2011. Over the past weeks, crowds of supporters have repeatedly gathered outside Aristide’s residence following rumors and news of his pending arrest. The AP reported on demonstrations in support of Aristide yesterday on the 26th anniversary of the most infamous assassination attempt against him, when death squads killed at least 13 people and injured 80 more at the St. Jean Bosco church where Aristide was saying mass. The AP’s Evens Sanon writes:

Supporters promised major protests would erupt if what they see as a politically motivated arrest is carried out.

“There is only one person who represents the people of Haiti and his name is President Aristide,” 37-year-old Lionel Patrick said in the yard of the church, which was destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake. “If anything happens to him, Haiti is going to be shut down.”

Any attack on Aristide’s residence is likely to result in many additional casualties.

As we have pointed out previously, the supposedly impending charges and arrest of Aristide – and now the new threat to his security – may be intended to distract from the postponement, yet again, of legislative and local elections that were supposed to be held on October 26. With another third of senate seats expiring next year, as well as the entire House of Deputies, the Martelly administration will be unencumbered by the check-and-balance of the legislature on his authority if elections are not held soon. He also could be in a position to replace local mayors with more appointed “municipal agents,” as he’s already done with 130 of them.

This real exercise of anti-democratic behavior by the current administration is getting far less attention than the rehashed allegations of corruption targeting a past president, even though 10 years of investigations in Haiti and a grand jury in the U.S. have failed to produce evidence of actual corruption by Aristide that could support criminal charges.

The security team’s unusual withdrawal is not just dangerous for Aristide, his wife and daughter. It puts the reputation of the Martelly administration, and its chief international supporter, the Obama administration on the line.  If anything does happen to the Aristide residence, fingers will be pointed at President Martelly and the U.S. Embassy. Many of those fingers will come from the hands of irate Lavalas supporters, who will likely take to the streets in numbers that will cause significant disruption in Haiti.  

Education remains one of Haiti’s lasting challenges. Illiteracy remains high (more than half of the total population), but since the great majority of schools are private, families usually pay for school expenses such as uniforms, meals, books and fees. This means that many children cannot afford school, while many other families struggle to come up with the money. The AP’s Danica Coto reported this week:

Haiti’s education system has suffered for decades due to poverty, political instability and the devastating 2010 earthquake. An estimated 30 percent of young people are illiterate, and only about half of all children can afford to attend primary school, according to UNICEF, the U.N.’s children’s agency. Fewer than a quarter go to secondary school.

The education ministry recently announced that it has invested some $13 million in books and school supplies for this year — though many students still must pay for all or part of their textbooks — and also launched a school meal system that will help 800,000 children.

Another challenge that Haitian school children face is that much of the teaching has been done in French, the country’s traditional language, but one which is spoken by only a (mostly higher-income) minority. In recent years, reformers have sought to expand Creole education, as the AP has also reported:

In a sign of growing interest in Creole’s educational potential, the U.S. Agency for International Development last fall awarded a $12.9 million contract to the North Carolina nonprofit group, RTI International, to create a basic reading curriculum that includes the language.

Last month, USAID’s Office of Inspector General released an audit of the 2-year, 4-month Research Triangle Institute (RTI) contract, which was also intended “to help the Haitian Ministry of Education develop and test an instructional model to improve the reading skills of children in first through third grades in Haiti’s development corridors,” including by “provid[ing] curricula that meet international standards for best practice and respond to Haiti’s culture and students’ educational needs.”

The audit’s conclusions can, unfortunately, be interpreted as a failing grade for RTI’s performance. It found that:

the project did not achieve all of its expected results—particularly with respect to developing and testing an instructional model for children in the second and third grades—and the project is significantly behind schedule to achieve its overall goals within the planned time frames. For example, RTI did not distribute the first-grade curriculum and materials until late March 2013—2 months past the deadline; second- and third-grade materials also were late[.]

In addition, RTI did not implement community literacy strategies fully, and its monitoring of teachers was weak. Implementation delays reduce USAID/Haiti‘s ability to assess and evaluate the cost-effectiveness of various instructional approaches.

More specifically

Despite the contract’s requirements, RTI completed only 13 of the 31 deliverables that were due through March 31, 2014. Eleven were late, and seven have yet to be delivered.

In addition to the late delivery of first-grade curriculum and materials, among the “key deliverables…not implemented as planned”:

Second- and Third-Grade Curriculum and Materials Were Not Developed. As of March 31, 2014, RTI had not developed and distributed second-grade curriculum and materials by the project’s original June 2013 deadline (subsequently amended to March 31, 2014). RTI officials said they would not meet the deadline of developing third-grade materials by June 2014.

Late and Weak Implementation of Community-based Activities for Treatment 2 Schools. During the first year of the project, RTI was to implement community-based activities in 75 of the 200 schools. However, it did not implement many of the activities fully. For example, RTI did not (1) develop report cards for teachers and parents that showed whether students’ reading skills were improving, (2) hold literacy fairs at schools, (3) facilitate parent meetings, and (4) hold weekly reading clubs as required. Other planned activities were dropped, including (1) Big-Brother/Sister Reading Partners, (2) bookmaking workshops, and (3) initiating a radio listening club.

Part of the poor performance was due to a subcontractor. The audit notes that the subcontractor only completed one-third of the mandated visits to schools during the 2012-2013 school year, and “continued to underperform for the 2013-2014 school year.”

Another finding of the audit calls into question whether RTI staff were qualified for the contract in the first place:

Mission officials said RTI’s staff lacked experience in developing the training materials, and some team members had no experience in Haiti or did not speak French or Creole. This resulted, they said, in poor-quality materials that required substantial revisions. RTI officials said the revisions were needed because of a fundamental difference in expectations between USAID/Haiti and RTI.

The audit finds deeper problems, however:

Mission officials said they did not ask for substantial revisions, but they did expect RTI to provide deliverables that met basic standards. They pointed out examples such as (1) a comprehensive training plan that was neither comprehensive nor a plan, (2) a capacity mapping report with no mapping, (3) an annual report with no reporting on performance indicators, and (4) instructional material based on repetition/memorization, lacking cultural appropriateness, and not meeting international standards. USAID/Haiti officials said the expectations were defined clearly in the contract…

USAID/Haiti, RTI, and the subcontractor trade blame for the project’s failures to (literally) deliver:

USAID/Haiti and RTI officials agreed that the subcontractor did not deliver many of the community-based activities and did not provide ongoing mentoring of teachers. But they disagreed on the root cause; RTI officials said they assigned the subcontractor to the project at USAID/Haiti’s insistence, but mission officials said this was not true. The subcontractor simply noted that it had a difficult working relationship with RTI.

The subcontractor is not named in the audit. The lack of accountability in USAID subcontracting is a problem we identified in our report “Breaking Open the Black Box: Increasing Aid Transparency and Accountability in Haiti” and is one that the new Assessing Progress in Haiti law will attempt to tackle. But it is clear from the audit that RTI shares blame for the subcontractor’s failures, as the contractor ultimately must be held to account for meeting the terms of the contract.

Among the reasons that the OIG suggested could explain RTI’s poor performance is a lack of incentive when benchmarks are not linked to a pay schedule:

Because RTI is reimbursed by USAID/Haiti only when it has satisfactorily completed a milestone per the payment schedule, not clearly linking requirements, standards, and deliverables to the schedule does not give for RTI the financial incentive to focus its efforts on completing those activities.

Considering RTI’s failures to adequately deliver suitable Creole and French materials that are “cultural appropriate,” this may be another case where contracting with Haitian organizations might well have produced better results.

Education remains one of Haiti’s lasting challenges. Illiteracy remains high (more than half of the total population), but since the great majority of schools are private, families usually pay for school expenses such as uniforms, meals, books and fees. This means that many children cannot afford school, while many other families struggle to come up with the money. The AP’s Danica Coto reported this week:

Haiti’s education system has suffered for decades due to poverty, political instability and the devastating 2010 earthquake. An estimated 30 percent of young people are illiterate, and only about half of all children can afford to attend primary school, according to UNICEF, the U.N.’s children’s agency. Fewer than a quarter go to secondary school.

The education ministry recently announced that it has invested some $13 million in books and school supplies for this year — though many students still must pay for all or part of their textbooks — and also launched a school meal system that will help 800,000 children.

Another challenge that Haitian school children face is that much of the teaching has been done in French, the country’s traditional language, but one which is spoken by only a (mostly higher-income) minority. In recent years, reformers have sought to expand Creole education, as the AP has also reported:

In a sign of growing interest in Creole’s educational potential, the U.S. Agency for International Development last fall awarded a $12.9 million contract to the North Carolina nonprofit group, RTI International, to create a basic reading curriculum that includes the language.

Last month, USAID’s Office of Inspector General released an audit of the 2-year, 4-month Research Triangle Institute (RTI) contract, which was also intended “to help the Haitian Ministry of Education develop and test an instructional model to improve the reading skills of children in first through third grades in Haiti’s development corridors,” including by “provid[ing] curricula that meet international standards for best practice and respond to Haiti’s culture and students’ educational needs.”

The audit’s conclusions can, unfortunately, be interpreted as a failing grade for RTI’s performance. It found that:

the project did not achieve all of its expected results—particularly with respect to developing and testing an instructional model for children in the second and third grades—and the project is significantly behind schedule to achieve its overall goals within the planned time frames. For example, RTI did not distribute the first-grade curriculum and materials until late March 2013—2 months past the deadline; second- and third-grade materials also were late[.]

In addition, RTI did not implement community literacy strategies fully, and its monitoring of teachers was weak. Implementation delays reduce USAID/Haiti‘s ability to assess and evaluate the cost-effectiveness of various instructional approaches.

More specifically

Despite the contract’s requirements, RTI completed only 13 of the 31 deliverables that were due through March 31, 2014. Eleven were late, and seven have yet to be delivered.

In addition to the late delivery of first-grade curriculum and materials, among the “key deliverables…not implemented as planned”:

Second- and Third-Grade Curriculum and Materials Were Not Developed. As of March 31, 2014, RTI had not developed and distributed second-grade curriculum and materials by the project’s original June 2013 deadline (subsequently amended to March 31, 2014). RTI officials said they would not meet the deadline of developing third-grade materials by June 2014.

Late and Weak Implementation of Community-based Activities for Treatment 2 Schools. During the first year of the project, RTI was to implement community-based activities in 75 of the 200 schools. However, it did not implement many of the activities fully. For example, RTI did not (1) develop report cards for teachers and parents that showed whether students’ reading skills were improving, (2) hold literacy fairs at schools, (3) facilitate parent meetings, and (4) hold weekly reading clubs as required. Other planned activities were dropped, including (1) Big-Brother/Sister Reading Partners, (2) bookmaking workshops, and (3) initiating a radio listening club.

Part of the poor performance was due to a subcontractor. The audit notes that the subcontractor only completed one-third of the mandated visits to schools during the 2012-2013 school year, and “continued to underperform for the 2013-2014 school year.”

Another finding of the audit calls into question whether RTI staff were qualified for the contract in the first place:

Mission officials said RTI’s staff lacked experience in developing the training materials, and some team members had no experience in Haiti or did not speak French or Creole. This resulted, they said, in poor-quality materials that required substantial revisions. RTI officials said the revisions were needed because of a fundamental difference in expectations between USAID/Haiti and RTI.

The audit finds deeper problems, however:

Mission officials said they did not ask for substantial revisions, but they did expect RTI to provide deliverables that met basic standards. They pointed out examples such as (1) a comprehensive training plan that was neither comprehensive nor a plan, (2) a capacity mapping report with no mapping, (3) an annual report with no reporting on performance indicators, and (4) instructional material based on repetition/memorization, lacking cultural appropriateness, and not meeting international standards. USAID/Haiti officials said the expectations were defined clearly in the contract…

USAID/Haiti, RTI, and the subcontractor trade blame for the project’s failures to (literally) deliver:

USAID/Haiti and RTI officials agreed that the subcontractor did not deliver many of the community-based activities and did not provide ongoing mentoring of teachers. But they disagreed on the root cause; RTI officials said they assigned the subcontractor to the project at USAID/Haiti’s insistence, but mission officials said this was not true. The subcontractor simply noted that it had a difficult working relationship with RTI.

The subcontractor is not named in the audit. The lack of accountability in USAID subcontracting is a problem we identified in our report “Breaking Open the Black Box: Increasing Aid Transparency and Accountability in Haiti” and is one that the new Assessing Progress in Haiti law will attempt to tackle. But it is clear from the audit that RTI shares blame for the subcontractor’s failures, as the contractor ultimately must be held to account for meeting the terms of the contract.

Among the reasons that the OIG suggested could explain RTI’s poor performance is a lack of incentive when benchmarks are not linked to a pay schedule:

Because RTI is reimbursed by USAID/Haiti only when it has satisfactorily completed a milestone per the payment schedule, not clearly linking requirements, standards, and deliverables to the schedule does not give for RTI the financial incentive to focus its efforts on completing those activities.

Considering RTI’s failures to adequately deliver suitable Creole and French materials that are “cultural appropriate,” this may be another case where contracting with Haitian organizations might well have produced better results.

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