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.

Writing in Boston Review yesterday, CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston looks back at the international community’s efforts to provide housing to those displaced by the earthquake, finding that:

By September 2013, nearly four years after the earthquake, only 7,500 new homes had been built and 27,000 repaired—an incredibly small achievement when set against the billions of dollars and grand plans put together by the international community in the wake of the catastrophe.

Adding that:

The number of displaced persons is down to 200,000 from its 1.5 million peak, according to the U.N. But only 25 percent of that decrease has anything to do with official programs to provide housing. Many were given a paltry subsidy and evicted from their camps. The highest profile and most visible camps were closed down, but those tucked in alleys, out of the view of the convoys of aid workers’ vehicles, remain forgotten. Fifty-five thousand Haitians who moved to areas known as Canaan, Jerusalem, and Onaville were recently removed from the “official” list of Internally Displaced Persons camps. Though those who were pushed out of the camps simply returned to their old homes, the international community claims progress….In fact, if another quake happened today, they’d be more likely to die than they were living under tents in clearings.

But how this came to be wasn’t simply “the problems of reconstruction in a poor country,” but rather what happens when political priorities are put before the needs of those on the ground. The Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, led by Bill Clinton, was formed to coordinate all the various aid projects and ensure they were aligned with the Haitian government’s goals, but instead, Johnston writes:

The commission’s formation was handled not by the Haitian government, but by the staff of the Clintons, mainly Cheryl Mills and Laura Graham, as well as a team of U.S.-based private consultants. The commission’s bylaws were drafted by a team from Hogan Lovells, a global law firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. A team from McKinsey and Company, a New York based consultancy firm, handled the “mission, mandate, structure and operations” of the commission. Eric Braverman, part of the McKinsey team, later went on to become the CEO of the Clinton Foundation.

According to Jean-Marie Bourjolly, a Haitian member of the commission, the body’s “original sin” lay in concentrating the decision-making power in the Executive Committee of the Board, made up of Bill Clinton and then–Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.

Six months after its formation, Bourjolly wrote to Clinton and Bellerive, warning that by “vesting all powers and authority of the Board in the Executive Committee, it is clear that what is expected of us [the rest of the Board] is to act as a rubber-stamping body.” Another commission staffer told Johnston that many projects were approved by the commission simply because “they were submitted by USAID and State” and “that as long as USAID is submitting it and USAID is paying for it,” it should be approved.

The commission never lived up to its billing, silently closing its doors when its 18-month mandate ended in October 2011. Further, Johnston writes:

little remained of the grand plans to build thousands of new homes. Instead, those left homeless would be given a small, one-time rental subsidy of about $500. These subsidies, funded by a number of different aid agencies, were meant to give private companies the incentive to invest in building houses. As efforts to rebuild whole neighborhoods faltered, the rental subsidies turned Haitians into consumers, and the housing problem was handed over to the private sector.

Gabriel Verret, the former Executive Director of the commission, told Johnston:

“Now, we have a return to the status quo, the same situation that was there before the earthquake, with no coordination and each project done haphazardly.”

One of these projects, which was initially approved by the Clinton commission, was USAID’s permanent shelter program, which aimed to put a roof over the head of as many of those displaced as possible, as quickly as possible. Its original goal was to build 15,000 houses, with the majority of them built near Port-au-Prince, where the earthquake damage was the greatest. Johnston continues:

This June, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report revealing that only 900 of those 15,000 homes had been built. The overall goal has been reduced to 2,600. At the same time, costs increased from $53 million to over $90 million. The GAO found that the program suffered from a fatal flaw: original estimates had drastically low-balled how much the houses would cost. The calculation of 15,000 planned houses was based on an estimate of each costing around $8,000. With the cost of preparing the land, the total cost per house was over $33,000.

Johnston speaks with members of USAID’s Shelter Team, assembled after the earthquake. The plan was to invest the majority of resources in the most damaged areas and to utilize local construction teams and local materials to keep costs down. But, as Johnston reports, this isn’t what ended up happening:

The contracts ended up going not to small local companies but to large international ones. Thor Construction, based in Minnesota, received $18 million, and CEMEX, a Mexican company, got over $7 million. Another $35 million went to two Haitian-American firms based in Maryland for environmental assessments, construction management, site preparation, and other associated projects.

Outsourcing the construction drove the price up, since international companies had to fly in, rent hotels and cars, and spend USAID allowances for food and cost-of-living expenses. To incentivize working in Haiti, the U.S. government also gave contractors and employees “danger pay” and “hardship pay,” increasing their salaries by over 50 percent. With all these costs included in contracts, it’s not hard to see how prices ballooned. Bill Vastine, a long-time contractor and member of the Shelter Team, said, “if the American people saw the true cost of this, they’d say ‘you’ve got to be out of your mind.'”

But perhaps the biggest change was that instead of investing the majority of their resources into damaged communities, 75 percent of the houses would now be in the Northern Department, on the other side of the country where the Caracol Industrial Park had just been built. The industrial park, built with hundreds of millions of dollars from the international community, had become the face of Haiti’s reconstruction and the State Department was committed to putting its resources there, rather than back in Port-au-Prince. To date, just 750 houses have been built near the park, and “as the four-year mark comes and goes, the first families are just now starting to move in. Meanwhile, back in Haiti’s capital, at least 200,000 quake victims face another year living under tattered tarps.”

You can read the full article here.

Writing in Boston Review yesterday, CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston looks back at the international community’s efforts to provide housing to those displaced by the earthquake, finding that:

By September 2013, nearly four years after the earthquake, only 7,500 new homes had been built and 27,000 repaired—an incredibly small achievement when set against the billions of dollars and grand plans put together by the international community in the wake of the catastrophe.

Adding that:

The number of displaced persons is down to 200,000 from its 1.5 million peak, according to the U.N. But only 25 percent of that decrease has anything to do with official programs to provide housing. Many were given a paltry subsidy and evicted from their camps. The highest profile and most visible camps were closed down, but those tucked in alleys, out of the view of the convoys of aid workers’ vehicles, remain forgotten. Fifty-five thousand Haitians who moved to areas known as Canaan, Jerusalem, and Onaville were recently removed from the “official” list of Internally Displaced Persons camps. Though those who were pushed out of the camps simply returned to their old homes, the international community claims progress….In fact, if another quake happened today, they’d be more likely to die than they were living under tents in clearings.

But how this came to be wasn’t simply “the problems of reconstruction in a poor country,” but rather what happens when political priorities are put before the needs of those on the ground. The Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, led by Bill Clinton, was formed to coordinate all the various aid projects and ensure they were aligned with the Haitian government’s goals, but instead, Johnston writes:

The commission’s formation was handled not by the Haitian government, but by the staff of the Clintons, mainly Cheryl Mills and Laura Graham, as well as a team of U.S.-based private consultants. The commission’s bylaws were drafted by a team from Hogan Lovells, a global law firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. A team from McKinsey and Company, a New York based consultancy firm, handled the “mission, mandate, structure and operations” of the commission. Eric Braverman, part of the McKinsey team, later went on to become the CEO of the Clinton Foundation.

According to Jean-Marie Bourjolly, a Haitian member of the commission, the body’s “original sin” lay in concentrating the decision-making power in the Executive Committee of the Board, made up of Bill Clinton and then–Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.

Six months after its formation, Bourjolly wrote to Clinton and Bellerive, warning that by “vesting all powers and authority of the Board in the Executive Committee, it is clear that what is expected of us [the rest of the Board] is to act as a rubber-stamping body.” Another commission staffer told Johnston that many projects were approved by the commission simply because “they were submitted by USAID and State” and “that as long as USAID is submitting it and USAID is paying for it,” it should be approved.

The commission never lived up to its billing, silently closing its doors when its 18-month mandate ended in October 2011. Further, Johnston writes:

little remained of the grand plans to build thousands of new homes. Instead, those left homeless would be given a small, one-time rental subsidy of about $500. These subsidies, funded by a number of different aid agencies, were meant to give private companies the incentive to invest in building houses. As efforts to rebuild whole neighborhoods faltered, the rental subsidies turned Haitians into consumers, and the housing problem was handed over to the private sector.

Gabriel Verret, the former Executive Director of the commission, told Johnston:

“Now, we have a return to the status quo, the same situation that was there before the earthquake, with no coordination and each project done haphazardly.”

One of these projects, which was initially approved by the Clinton commission, was USAID’s permanent shelter program, which aimed to put a roof over the head of as many of those displaced as possible, as quickly as possible. Its original goal was to build 15,000 houses, with the majority of them built near Port-au-Prince, where the earthquake damage was the greatest. Johnston continues:

This June, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report revealing that only 900 of those 15,000 homes had been built. The overall goal has been reduced to 2,600. At the same time, costs increased from $53 million to over $90 million. The GAO found that the program suffered from a fatal flaw: original estimates had drastically low-balled how much the houses would cost. The calculation of 15,000 planned houses was based on an estimate of each costing around $8,000. With the cost of preparing the land, the total cost per house was over $33,000.

Johnston speaks with members of USAID’s Shelter Team, assembled after the earthquake. The plan was to invest the majority of resources in the most damaged areas and to utilize local construction teams and local materials to keep costs down. But, as Johnston reports, this isn’t what ended up happening:

The contracts ended up going not to small local companies but to large international ones. Thor Construction, based in Minnesota, received $18 million, and CEMEX, a Mexican company, got over $7 million. Another $35 million went to two Haitian-American firms based in Maryland for environmental assessments, construction management, site preparation, and other associated projects.

Outsourcing the construction drove the price up, since international companies had to fly in, rent hotels and cars, and spend USAID allowances for food and cost-of-living expenses. To incentivize working in Haiti, the U.S. government also gave contractors and employees “danger pay” and “hardship pay,” increasing their salaries by over 50 percent. With all these costs included in contracts, it’s not hard to see how prices ballooned. Bill Vastine, a long-time contractor and member of the Shelter Team, said, “if the American people saw the true cost of this, they’d say ‘you’ve got to be out of your mind.'”

But perhaps the biggest change was that instead of investing the majority of their resources into damaged communities, 75 percent of the houses would now be in the Northern Department, on the other side of the country where the Caracol Industrial Park had just been built. The industrial park, built with hundreds of millions of dollars from the international community, had become the face of Haiti’s reconstruction and the State Department was committed to putting its resources there, rather than back in Port-au-Prince. To date, just 750 houses have been built near the park, and “as the four-year mark comes and goes, the first families are just now starting to move in. Meanwhile, back in Haiti’s capital, at least 200,000 quake victims face another year living under tattered tarps.”

You can read the full article here.

(See also “Haiti by the Numbers, Three Years Later.”)

Number of people killed in the earthquake in 2010: over 217,300

Number of people in Haiti killed by the U.N.-caused cholera epidemic: 8,531

Number of people who died from cholera, on average, every day over the past six months: 2

Number of people in Haiti sickened by the U.N.-caused cholera epidemic: over 696,865

Budget for U.N., the U.S. CDC and the Haitian and Dominican governments’ plan to eradicate cholera (launched over a year ago): $2.2 billion

Percent of cholera eradication plan budget committed or pledged so far: 10

Percent of cholera eradication plan budget pledged by the U.N.: 1

Annual budget for the U.N.’s mostly military and police mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH): $577 million

Days since cholera was introduced in Haiti without an apology from the U.N.: 1,179

“Number of international actors engaged in cholera response efforts,” according to the U.N., in 2011: 120

“Number of international actors engaged in cholera response efforts,” according to the U.N., in 2013: 43

U.N. Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) funding appeal for 2014: $169 million

Percent of last year’s OCHA appeal that was actually funded: 42

Budget for Caracol industrial park: $300 million

Amount the Inter-American Development Bank pledged this month for expansion of Caracol: $40.5 million

Number of households who lost farm and grazing lands to make way for the Caracol park three years ago: 366

Number of people estimated to have received jobs at Caracol out of a projected 65,000 jobs, as of July 2013: 2,000

Percent by which on average, workers at Caracol are illegally underpaid, according to the Workers Rights Consortium: 34

Minimum wage in Haiti, under law: $7.00/day

Percent of garment factories in Haiti found to be non-compliant with the minimum wage: 100

Cost of a basic basket of food in Haiti, allowing for 1,979 kilocalories consumed per person per day (August 2013 prices): $10

Percent of Haitian population living on less than $2.00/day: over 80

Percent of Haitian population living on less than $1.00/day: over 50

Percent of Haitian population estimated to be “still suffering from the impact of both chronic and acute needs”: 30

Prevalence of global acute malnutrition amongst  children under 5 years old in 2012: 5.1 percent

Prevalence of global acute malnutrition amongst  children under 5 years old in 2013: 6.5 percent

Number of beds at the new University Hospital in Mirebalais, supported by Partners in Health: 300

Population served by the new, state-of-the-art facility: 185,000

Number of Haitian doctors beginning medical residencies at the new hospital: 14

For each $1 dollar invested in the hospital, amount pushed into the broader Haitian economy: $1.82

When fully operational, number of Haitians employed by the hospital: 800

Total U.S. Government post-quake funding earmarked for Haiti: $3.7 billion

Total U.S. Government disbursements of funds for Haiti: $2.9 billion

Percent of USAID contracts that have gone to Beltway-based firms: 67.1 [1]

Percent of USAID contracts that have gone to Haitian companies: 1.3 [2]

Percent by which the U.S. government goal of 15,000 new houses built has been reduced: over 80

Percent spent on shelter out of U.S. government’s first $1.34 billion committed to Haiti: 9.2

Number of people displaced from their homes by the earthquake: 1.5 million

Number of people remaining in internally displaced person (IDP) camps: approximately 200,000

Number of people that the inter-agency Shelter Cluster claims remain in IDP camps: 145,000

Percent of population displaced by the earthquake who have left IDP camps, voluntarily or involuntarily: 89

Number of IDP camps receiving official camp management services, out of 306: 2

Number of houses assessed by Haiti’s Ministry of Public Works, with the support of Miyamoto International: 430,000

Number of houses found to damaged or destroyed: 246,000

Number of masons trained with the support of Miyamoto International: 6,000

Number of engineers trained with the support of Miyamoto International: 600

Number of transitional shelters built by aid agencies since the earthquake: 113,595

Number of new houses constructed since the earthquake: 7,515

Number of houses that have been repaired: 26,547

Amount offered in rental assistance under Martelly administration’s “16/6” plan: $500

Percent of participants in a recent IJDH survey who still live in the home to which they were relocated by the 16/6 program: 51

Percent of 16/6 participants reporting that they are unable to pay rent: 61

Percent reporting that their most pressing need is housing, in 2013: 56

Percent who reported that their most pressing need was housing, in 2012: 9

Percent of survey participants reporting that at least one family member went one or more days without food: 68

Percent of survey participants reporting that their children went without eating: 63

Percent of survey participants reporting that they are eating worse than when living in the camps: 37

Percent of survey participants reporting that they are eating worse than before the earthquake: 63

“In a 2011 study of five Internally Displaced Persons camps in Haiti…percent [of] female participants [who] had been directly involved in or witnessed transactional sex, often performed in order to feed their children”: 100

Percent of reported rape victims who are adolescent girls: over 60

Percent of International Financial Institution (IFI)-funded projects reviewed by Gender Action that “discussed gender inequalities and gender roles in the project rationale and background”: 58

Percent of IFI projects reviewed by Gender Action that “ignored gender dimensions entirely”: 42

Percent of IFI projects reviewed by Gender Action that “do not mention gender roles in consultations”: 83



1) Author’s calculations based on information from USASpending.gov.

2) Ibid.

(See also “Haiti by the Numbers, Three Years Later.”)

Number of people killed in the earthquake in 2010: over 217,300

Number of people in Haiti killed by the U.N.-caused cholera epidemic: 8,531

Number of people who died from cholera, on average, every day over the past six months: 2

Number of people in Haiti sickened by the U.N.-caused cholera epidemic: over 696,865

Budget for U.N., the U.S. CDC and the Haitian and Dominican governments’ plan to eradicate cholera (launched over a year ago): $2.2 billion

Percent of cholera eradication plan budget committed or pledged so far: 10

Percent of cholera eradication plan budget pledged by the U.N.: 1

Annual budget for the U.N.’s mostly military and police mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH): $577 million

Days since cholera was introduced in Haiti without an apology from the U.N.: 1,179

“Number of international actors engaged in cholera response efforts,” according to the U.N., in 2011: 120

“Number of international actors engaged in cholera response efforts,” according to the U.N., in 2013: 43

U.N. Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) funding appeal for 2014: $169 million

Percent of last year’s OCHA appeal that was actually funded: 42

Budget for Caracol industrial park: $300 million

Amount the Inter-American Development Bank pledged this month for expansion of Caracol: $40.5 million

Number of households who lost farm and grazing lands to make way for the Caracol park three years ago: 366

Number of people estimated to have received jobs at Caracol out of a projected 65,000 jobs, as of July 2013: 2,000

Percent by which on average, workers at Caracol are illegally underpaid, according to the Workers Rights Consortium: 34

Minimum wage in Haiti, under law: $7.00/day

Percent of garment factories in Haiti found to be non-compliant with the minimum wage: 100

Cost of a basic basket of food in Haiti, allowing for 1,979 kilocalories consumed per person per day (August 2013 prices): $10

Percent of Haitian population living on less than $2.00/day: over 80

Percent of Haitian population living on less than $1.00/day: over 50

Percent of Haitian population estimated to be “still suffering from the impact of both chronic and acute needs”: 30

Prevalence of global acute malnutrition amongst  children under 5 years old in 2012: 5.1 percent

Prevalence of global acute malnutrition amongst  children under 5 years old in 2013: 6.5 percent

Number of beds at the new University Hospital in Mirebalais, supported by Partners in Health: 300

Population served by the new, state-of-the-art facility: 185,000

Number of Haitian doctors beginning medical residencies at the new hospital: 14

For each $1 dollar invested in the hospital, amount pushed into the broader Haitian economy: $1.82

When fully operational, number of Haitians employed by the hospital: 800

Total U.S. Government post-quake funding earmarked for Haiti: $3.7 billion

Total U.S. Government disbursements of funds for Haiti: $2.9 billion

Percent of USAID contracts that have gone to Beltway-based firms: 67.1 [1]

Percent of USAID contracts that have gone to Haitian companies: 1.3 [2]

Percent by which the U.S. government goal of 15,000 new houses built has been reduced: over 80

Percent spent on shelter out of U.S. government’s first $1.34 billion committed to Haiti: 9.2

Number of people displaced from their homes by the earthquake: 1.5 million

Number of people remaining in internally displaced person (IDP) camps: approximately 200,000

Number of people that the inter-agency Shelter Cluster claims remain in IDP camps: 145,000

Percent of population displaced by the earthquake who have left IDP camps, voluntarily or involuntarily: 89

Number of IDP camps receiving official camp management services, out of 306: 2

Number of houses assessed by Haiti’s Ministry of Public Works, with the support of Miyamoto International: 430,000

Number of houses found to damaged or destroyed: 246,000

Number of masons trained with the support of Miyamoto International: 6,000

Number of engineers trained with the support of Miyamoto International: 600

Number of transitional shelters built by aid agencies since the earthquake: 113,595

Number of new houses constructed since the earthquake: 7,515

Number of houses that have been repaired: 26,547

Amount offered in rental assistance under Martelly administration’s “16/6” plan: $500

Percent of participants in a recent IJDH survey who still live in the home to which they were relocated by the 16/6 program: 51

Percent of 16/6 participants reporting that they are unable to pay rent: 61

Percent reporting that their most pressing need is housing, in 2013: 56

Percent who reported that their most pressing need was housing, in 2012: 9

Percent of survey participants reporting that at least one family member went one or more days without food: 68

Percent of survey participants reporting that their children went without eating: 63

Percent of survey participants reporting that they are eating worse than when living in the camps: 37

Percent of survey participants reporting that they are eating worse than before the earthquake: 63

“In a 2011 study of five Internally Displaced Persons camps in Haiti…percent [of] female participants [who] had been directly involved in or witnessed transactional sex, often performed in order to feed their children”: 100

Percent of reported rape victims who are adolescent girls: over 60

Percent of International Financial Institution (IFI)-funded projects reviewed by Gender Action that “discussed gender inequalities and gender roles in the project rationale and background”: 58

Percent of IFI projects reviewed by Gender Action that “ignored gender dimensions entirely”: 42

Percent of IFI projects reviewed by Gender Action that “do not mention gender roles in consultations”: 83



1) Author’s calculations based on information from USASpending.gov.

2) Ibid.

In a positive step towards greater transparency of U.S. aid programs in Haiti and worldwide USAID has released new data on its use of local country systems. However, the content of the data itself also raises questions about USAID’s commitment to greater local procurement in Haiti and the speed at which the agency is achieving its goals.

In 2010, USAID launched USAID Forward, an ambitious reform agenda which called for increasing the use of “partner country systems” in order to strengthen local capacity and to raise the “percentage of total dollars through direct contracts with local private businesses.” In Haiti, however, previous CEPR research has shown that an extremely low percentage of funds have gone to local institutions since the earthquake: less than 1 percent out of the $1.3 billion obligated. Despite this, in September 2012, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah told the Miami Herald that the goal is to have 30 percent of USAID funds going to local Haitian organizations by 2015.

The newly released data from USAID, though only covering the 2012 fiscal year, reveals just how far the agency still has to go to reach its goal. In 2012, USAID obligated nearly $210 million for programs in Haiti, but according to its own data, just 5.4 percent of this went directly through local country systems. This compares unfavorably with the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as with the rest of the world. Overall, USAID obligated just over 14 percent of its funds through local systems while the figure for Latin America and the Caribbean was 11.3 percent.

In his interview with the Miami Herald, Shah also stated that prior to the earthquake, less than 9 percent of USAID funds were going through local systems, but that “we’re over the pre-earthquake level now.” The data released by USAID seems to directly contradict this.

USAID has since lowered their goals for local procurement in Haiti. In October Beth Hogan of USAID testified during a Congressional hearing concerning U.S. foreign assistance to Haiti. In response to questions from Rep. Barbara Lee about why so little of USAID’s funds go to Haitian organizations, Hogan acknowledged that “It’s much too low” but that USAID has “a target of getting to 15 percent. And even getting to 15 percent is going to be difficult because of the low capacity.” Hogan added that while “very little of our money goes directly… to Haitian institutions” USAID has “spent 50 million (dollars) through grants and subgrants and subcontracts to Haitian institutions.” Yet, there has been no systematic reporting of subcontracts and subgrants on the part of USAID. That may soon change.

On December 12, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act of 2013, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee and cosponsored by 34 other legislators, including the leadership of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The bill, as passed by the House, calls for the Secretary of State to report to Congress on “the amounts committed, obligated, and expended on programs and activities…by sector and by implementing partner at the prime and subprime levels.”

After the passage of the bill, Rep. Barbara Lee stated, “The Haitian people have continued to demonstrate resiliency, strength, and bravery despite the tragic events that have occurred. It is beyond time that in turn, Congress supports Haiti to ensure that relief and reconstruction funds in Haiti are effectively spent to maximize their long term impact.” The congresswoman added, “Almost four years after one of the most catastrophic earthquakes in history, we have very little accountability and oversight in the recovery efforts, and we need to change that.”

In a positive step towards greater transparency of U.S. aid programs in Haiti and worldwide USAID has released new data on its use of local country systems. However, the content of the data itself also raises questions about USAID’s commitment to greater local procurement in Haiti and the speed at which the agency is achieving its goals.

In 2010, USAID launched USAID Forward, an ambitious reform agenda which called for increasing the use of “partner country systems” in order to strengthen local capacity and to raise the “percentage of total dollars through direct contracts with local private businesses.” In Haiti, however, previous CEPR research has shown that an extremely low percentage of funds have gone to local institutions since the earthquake: less than 1 percent out of the $1.3 billion obligated. Despite this, in September 2012, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah told the Miami Herald that the goal is to have 30 percent of USAID funds going to local Haitian organizations by 2015.

The newly released data from USAID, though only covering the 2012 fiscal year, reveals just how far the agency still has to go to reach its goal. In 2012, USAID obligated nearly $210 million for programs in Haiti, but according to its own data, just 5.4 percent of this went directly through local country systems. This compares unfavorably with the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as with the rest of the world. Overall, USAID obligated just over 14 percent of its funds through local systems while the figure for Latin America and the Caribbean was 11.3 percent.

In his interview with the Miami Herald, Shah also stated that prior to the earthquake, less than 9 percent of USAID funds were going through local systems, but that “we’re over the pre-earthquake level now.” The data released by USAID seems to directly contradict this.

USAID has since lowered their goals for local procurement in Haiti. In October Beth Hogan of USAID testified during a Congressional hearing concerning U.S. foreign assistance to Haiti. In response to questions from Rep. Barbara Lee about why so little of USAID’s funds go to Haitian organizations, Hogan acknowledged that “It’s much too low” but that USAID has “a target of getting to 15 percent. And even getting to 15 percent is going to be difficult because of the low capacity.” Hogan added that while “very little of our money goes directly… to Haitian institutions” USAID has “spent 50 million (dollars) through grants and subgrants and subcontracts to Haitian institutions.” Yet, there has been no systematic reporting of subcontracts and subgrants on the part of USAID. That may soon change.

On December 12, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act of 2013, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee and cosponsored by 34 other legislators, including the leadership of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The bill, as passed by the House, calls for the Secretary of State to report to Congress on “the amounts committed, obligated, and expended on programs and activities…by sector and by implementing partner at the prime and subprime levels.”

After the passage of the bill, Rep. Barbara Lee stated, “The Haitian people have continued to demonstrate resiliency, strength, and bravery despite the tragic events that have occurred. It is beyond time that in turn, Congress supports Haiti to ensure that relief and reconstruction funds in Haiti are effectively spent to maximize their long term impact.” The congresswoman added, “Almost four years after one of the most catastrophic earthquakes in history, we have very little accountability and oversight in the recovery efforts, and we need to change that.”

Amnesty International reports:

On the morning of 7 December, a justice of peace (juge de paix) from the municipality of Croix-des-Bouquets accompanied by 17 police officers and a group of men armed with machetes and sticks forcibly evicted around 60 families from an informal settlement in Titanyen on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. The residents stated that the justice of the peace did not present an eviction order and that they had no prior notice of the eviction and therefore had no opportunity to appeal against it. The armed men began to tear down their dwellings without allowing the residents time to collect their belongings. These belongings were then stolen as police fired their weapons in the air in order to intimidate the residents. According to the residents over a dozen people were assaulted, including a woman who is four months pregnant. They were told that the remaining families living on the site (approximately 100) would also be forced off the land.

The aftermath of the eviction was caught on tape by documentary film-maker Jon Bougher. Bougher previously released a short film about the camp, its prior eviction from the Delmas neighborhood and the move to Canaan.

Amnesty describes the area where the residents were located:

Titanyen where they now live is part of an area commonly known as Canaan, a large tract of land which the then government declared for “public use” (utilité publique) two months after the earthquake in March 2010. Tens of thousands of people who lost their homes in the earthquake have subsequently relocated there, but many face eviction from people claiming ownership of the land.

The threat of forced evictions in Canaan is occurring at a time when residents on the land have lost their status as “official” internally displaced persons (IDPs). In October, the International Organization for Migration, at the request of the Government of Haiti, removed 54,000 individuals from their official IDP registration because it was deemed that the area showed “characteristics” of “new neighborhoods needing urban planning” and “not of IDP sites.”

As HRRW reported in October, the Haitian government had requested millions of dollars from the international community to build infrastructure and conduct urban planning, yet thus far the money has not materialized.

This latest eviction and other, prior evictions indicate that the residents of Canaan and the surrounding areas are very much still in need of the protections afforded to them as IDPs. According to the U.N.’s Refugee Agency, IDPs “legally remain under the protection of their own government,” however the presence of government officials and police during the eviction of Camp Mozayik highlight the urgent need for the international community to protect those who remain in tent camps and other informal settlements, nearly four years after the earthquake. Since the IOM no longer considers these families to be part of a displaced community, will the organization turn a blind eye to their violent eviction?

Amnesty International reports:

On the morning of 7 December, a justice of peace (juge de paix) from the municipality of Croix-des-Bouquets accompanied by 17 police officers and a group of men armed with machetes and sticks forcibly evicted around 60 families from an informal settlement in Titanyen on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. The residents stated that the justice of the peace did not present an eviction order and that they had no prior notice of the eviction and therefore had no opportunity to appeal against it. The armed men began to tear down their dwellings without allowing the residents time to collect their belongings. These belongings were then stolen as police fired their weapons in the air in order to intimidate the residents. According to the residents over a dozen people were assaulted, including a woman who is four months pregnant. They were told that the remaining families living on the site (approximately 100) would also be forced off the land.

The aftermath of the eviction was caught on tape by documentary film-maker Jon Bougher. Bougher previously released a short film about the camp, its prior eviction from the Delmas neighborhood and the move to Canaan.

Amnesty describes the area where the residents were located:

Titanyen where they now live is part of an area commonly known as Canaan, a large tract of land which the then government declared for “public use” (utilité publique) two months after the earthquake in March 2010. Tens of thousands of people who lost their homes in the earthquake have subsequently relocated there, but many face eviction from people claiming ownership of the land.

The threat of forced evictions in Canaan is occurring at a time when residents on the land have lost their status as “official” internally displaced persons (IDPs). In October, the International Organization for Migration, at the request of the Government of Haiti, removed 54,000 individuals from their official IDP registration because it was deemed that the area showed “characteristics” of “new neighborhoods needing urban planning” and “not of IDP sites.”

As HRRW reported in October, the Haitian government had requested millions of dollars from the international community to build infrastructure and conduct urban planning, yet thus far the money has not materialized.

This latest eviction and other, prior evictions indicate that the residents of Canaan and the surrounding areas are very much still in need of the protections afforded to them as IDPs. According to the U.N.’s Refugee Agency, IDPs “legally remain under the protection of their own government,” however the presence of government officials and police during the eviction of Camp Mozayik highlight the urgent need for the international community to protect those who remain in tent camps and other informal settlements, nearly four years after the earthquake. Since the IOM no longer considers these families to be part of a displaced community, will the organization turn a blind eye to their violent eviction?

In late October, Uruguayan president José Mujica announced that he planned to withdraw his country’s troops from Haiti, where they make up 11 percent of the U.N. peacekeeping mission. Citing the long delayed legislative elections, Mujica told the press:

One thing is to try to help the Haitian people build a police force that is in charge of security. That’s fine… Another thing is being there indefinitely with a regime that we think is at least dubious in terms of a continuity of democratic renewal.

MINUSTAH, as the U.N. mission is known, has been in Haiti since 2004 following the coup that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In October the mission’s mandate was extended by the U.N. Security Council for another year, though a gradual drawdown of troops was also agreed. After his initial statements, Mujica traveled to Brazil where he met with President Dilma Rousseff. Brazil leads MINUSTAH and is the largest troop-contributing country, accounting for 16 percent of the personnel.

After the meeting, Mujica stated that he and Rousseff agreed that the mission should not become a “Praetorian Guard” to protect a government that was not moving forward democratically. On November 20, the U.N. spokesperson for the Secretary General acknowledged that “preliminary and informal discussions have taken place with the Uruguayan representatives in New York regarding the planned withdrawal of a part of their troops,” but that “no formal notification has as yet been exchanged.”

On November 25, before travelling to Haiti for a meeting with President Martelly, Uruguayan Foreign Minister Luis Almagro met in New York with Brazilian and U.N. officials to discuss MINUSTAH’s presence in Haiti. Almagro stated that while Uruguay would only gradually withdraw its troops in line with the Security Council resolution, if “autocratic” tendencies in the Haitian government continued, they would immediately withdraw. Specifically, Almagro conditioned continued Uruguayan support to MINUSTAH on the holding of the overdue legislative elections.

Regional Implications

In June 2012, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) met to discuss MINUSTAH and agreed to form a working group “for the purposes of elaborating a scheme on the strategy, form, conditions, stages, and timeline of a Plan of Reduction of Contingents of the Military Component of the Mission.” Though there has been little movement since then, the recent actions by Uruguay may change that.

Foreign ministers from Argentina and Brazil met November 21, announcing that they shared a common view on MINUSTAH and that while “it should not be perpetuated” neither could it depart immediately. According to news reports, the ministers believed the withdrawal would require a “regional vision” and should again be brought up by UNASUR in early 2014.

Together, the nine South American troop contributing countries make up about 50 percent of MINUSTAH personnel and nearly 70 percent of the military contingent, meaning any movement for withdrawal from the region will have huge implications. As can be seen in the Figure below, while MINUSTAH has diminished in size over the last two years, most of this has just been the phasing out of the post-earthquake surge in personnel. The current size of MINUSTAH is only 4 percent smaller than pre-earthquake. But while overall levels have been reduced, Latin America’s share of military personnel has steadily grown. MINUSTAH is now more reliant on Latin America than ever.

MINUSTAH Troop level

In late October, Uruguayan president José Mujica announced that he planned to withdraw his country’s troops from Haiti, where they make up 11 percent of the U.N. peacekeeping mission. Citing the long delayed legislative elections, Mujica told the press:

One thing is to try to help the Haitian people build a police force that is in charge of security. That’s fine… Another thing is being there indefinitely with a regime that we think is at least dubious in terms of a continuity of democratic renewal.

MINUSTAH, as the U.N. mission is known, has been in Haiti since 2004 following the coup that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In October the mission’s mandate was extended by the U.N. Security Council for another year, though a gradual drawdown of troops was also agreed. After his initial statements, Mujica traveled to Brazil where he met with President Dilma Rousseff. Brazil leads MINUSTAH and is the largest troop-contributing country, accounting for 16 percent of the personnel.

After the meeting, Mujica stated that he and Rousseff agreed that the mission should not become a “Praetorian Guard” to protect a government that was not moving forward democratically. On November 20, the U.N. spokesperson for the Secretary General acknowledged that “preliminary and informal discussions have taken place with the Uruguayan representatives in New York regarding the planned withdrawal of a part of their troops,” but that “no formal notification has as yet been exchanged.”

On November 25, before travelling to Haiti for a meeting with President Martelly, Uruguayan Foreign Minister Luis Almagro met in New York with Brazilian and U.N. officials to discuss MINUSTAH’s presence in Haiti. Almagro stated that while Uruguay would only gradually withdraw its troops in line with the Security Council resolution, if “autocratic” tendencies in the Haitian government continued, they would immediately withdraw. Specifically, Almagro conditioned continued Uruguayan support to MINUSTAH on the holding of the overdue legislative elections.

Regional Implications

In June 2012, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) met to discuss MINUSTAH and agreed to form a working group “for the purposes of elaborating a scheme on the strategy, form, conditions, stages, and timeline of a Plan of Reduction of Contingents of the Military Component of the Mission.” Though there has been little movement since then, the recent actions by Uruguay may change that.

Foreign ministers from Argentina and Brazil met November 21, announcing that they shared a common view on MINUSTAH and that while “it should not be perpetuated” neither could it depart immediately. According to news reports, the ministers believed the withdrawal would require a “regional vision” and should again be brought up by UNASUR in early 2014.

Together, the nine South American troop contributing countries make up about 50 percent of MINUSTAH personnel and nearly 70 percent of the military contingent, meaning any movement for withdrawal from the region will have huge implications. As can be seen in the Figure below, while MINUSTAH has diminished in size over the last two years, most of this has just been the phasing out of the post-earthquake surge in personnel. The current size of MINUSTAH is only 4 percent smaller than pre-earthquake. But while overall levels have been reduced, Latin America’s share of military personnel has steadily grown. MINUSTAH is now more reliant on Latin America than ever.

MINUSTAH Troop level

Rick Westhead of the Toronto Star reports:

One of Canada’s largest garment companies [Gildan Activewear] has promised to ensure that thousands of workers who make its clothing in Haitian factories are paid at least $7.22 per day, the country’s minimum wage.

The move followed revelations that some labourers making apparel for Gildan Activewear were paid so little they had no money for food.

In addition to Gildan, Fruit of the Loom also agreed to ensure their contractor’s compliance with the minimum wage, according to Scott Nova, an official with the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC). The statements from the two companies comes after a report (PDF), authored by the WRC found that “the majority of Haitian garment workers are being denied nearly a third of the wages they are legally due as a result of the factories’ theft of their income.” The WRC found that “over three quarters of the workers who were interviewed reported that they were unable to pay for three meals per day for themselves and their immediate family.”

As we previously described, the WRC noted that “tacitly complicit” in this wage theft were large North American brands such as “Gap, Gildan, Hanes, Kohl’s, Levi’s, Russell, Target, VF, and Walmart,” which all source clothing from Haiti. The WRC report called for these brands to ensure their third-party contractors comply with the minimum wage as well as compensate employees for their previous underpayment.

In a public statement, Gildan also called for “an industry-wide meeting and other combined efforts, involving brands, retailers and worker representatives similarly committed to ensuring compliance, in order to bring a common resolution to this issue in a manner which will appropriately address the working conditions in the apparel industry.” Gildan added that “we understand that one issue that will be on the table for discussion will be remedies for past non-compliance.”

Better Work Haiti, an international monitoring organization run by the International Labor Organization and funded by the World Bank and U.S. Department of Labor, has consistently reported massive non-compliance with Haiti’s minimum wage law. In their latest report, released in October, Better Work reported 100 percent non-compliance in the 23 factories covered in the report, but Better Work added that:

In the Minimum Wage Law there are two applicable wage requirements in exporting apparel factories in Haiti: the minimum wage of reference, currently set at 200 Gourdes per day (article 1 of the law), and the production wage (Minimum Wages: Piece Rate), currently set at 300 Gourdes per day (article 2.2 of the law). The production wage refers to a legal requirement for the employer to set piece rates in a manner such that a worker can earn 300 Gourdes during eight regular hours of work per day.

The Haitian government and Haitian manufacturers have advocated for an interpretation of the law which mandates only the lower of the two wages be paid, but Fruit of the Loom, in a public statement, acknowledges that, “It is our view that the clear intent of Haiti’s minimum wage law is for production rates to be set in such a manner as to allow workers to earn at least 300 gourdes for 8 hours of work in a day. Based on our independent investigation, we concur with the WRC that the garment industry in Haiti generally falls short of that standard.”

“The commitments from Gildan and Fruit of the Loom will put substantial pressure on other buyers,” Nova told the Toronto Star.

Rick Westhead of the Toronto Star reports:

One of Canada’s largest garment companies [Gildan Activewear] has promised to ensure that thousands of workers who make its clothing in Haitian factories are paid at least $7.22 per day, the country’s minimum wage.

The move followed revelations that some labourers making apparel for Gildan Activewear were paid so little they had no money for food.

In addition to Gildan, Fruit of the Loom also agreed to ensure their contractor’s compliance with the minimum wage, according to Scott Nova, an official with the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC). The statements from the two companies comes after a report (PDF), authored by the WRC found that “the majority of Haitian garment workers are being denied nearly a third of the wages they are legally due as a result of the factories’ theft of their income.” The WRC found that “over three quarters of the workers who were interviewed reported that they were unable to pay for three meals per day for themselves and their immediate family.”

As we previously described, the WRC noted that “tacitly complicit” in this wage theft were large North American brands such as “Gap, Gildan, Hanes, Kohl’s, Levi’s, Russell, Target, VF, and Walmart,” which all source clothing from Haiti. The WRC report called for these brands to ensure their third-party contractors comply with the minimum wage as well as compensate employees for their previous underpayment.

In a public statement, Gildan also called for “an industry-wide meeting and other combined efforts, involving brands, retailers and worker representatives similarly committed to ensuring compliance, in order to bring a common resolution to this issue in a manner which will appropriately address the working conditions in the apparel industry.” Gildan added that “we understand that one issue that will be on the table for discussion will be remedies for past non-compliance.”

Better Work Haiti, an international monitoring organization run by the International Labor Organization and funded by the World Bank and U.S. Department of Labor, has consistently reported massive non-compliance with Haiti’s minimum wage law. In their latest report, released in October, Better Work reported 100 percent non-compliance in the 23 factories covered in the report, but Better Work added that:

In the Minimum Wage Law there are two applicable wage requirements in exporting apparel factories in Haiti: the minimum wage of reference, currently set at 200 Gourdes per day (article 1 of the law), and the production wage (Minimum Wages: Piece Rate), currently set at 300 Gourdes per day (article 2.2 of the law). The production wage refers to a legal requirement for the employer to set piece rates in a manner such that a worker can earn 300 Gourdes during eight regular hours of work per day.

The Haitian government and Haitian manufacturers have advocated for an interpretation of the law which mandates only the lower of the two wages be paid, but Fruit of the Loom, in a public statement, acknowledges that, “It is our view that the clear intent of Haiti’s minimum wage law is for production rates to be set in such a manner as to allow workers to earn at least 300 gourdes for 8 hours of work in a day. Based on our independent investigation, we concur with the WRC that the garment industry in Haiti generally falls short of that standard.”

“The commitments from Gildan and Fruit of the Loom will put substantial pressure on other buyers,” Nova told the Toronto Star.

The AP reported yesterday that, “the number of Haitians still displaced by the 2010 earthquake has dropped below 200,000… That marks an 89 percent decline since the camp population peaked in July 2010 at 1.5 million people.” According to official figures, the camp population currently stands at 171,974, compared to over 278,000 in June of 2013 at the time of the last report. The drop is the largest over a single reporting period in nearly three years.

Yet, looking closer, over 50 percent of this reduction since June is the result of a decision by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the entity which monitors the camp population, to remove three areas, Canaan, Jerusalem and Onaville from the official camp list. Together, these three areas are home to an estimated 54,045 individuals. The IOM report states:

On July 11th 2013, the Government of Haiti represented by UCLBP (Unité de Construction de Logements et Bâtiments Publics), submitted a formal request to IOM to remove the three settlements from the DTM (i.e. from the list of IDP sites that exist in the country).

The UCLBP request is motivated by the observation that the characteristics of these settlements are those of “… new neighborhoods needing urban planning with a long term view …”, not of IDP sites.

But the situation facing those who reside in the three areas is far from secure. This week Amnesty International reported that:

Residents of the Lanmè Frape area of Canaan, an informal settlement in the municipality of Cabaret, on the northern outskirts of the capital, Port-au-Prince, have had their simple dwellings repeatedly destroyed by police officers accompanied by armed men. The residents told Amnesty International that they have been the victims of attacks on more than 10 occasions over the last 18 months and several of them have also been arrested on unfounded charges for periods of up to a month. Two hundred families currently remain in the Lanmè Frape area, although as many as 600 lived there before the forced evictions began.

Amnesty continues, describing how the area came to be occupied:

The Lanmè Frape area of Canaan is part of a large tract of land which the then government declared for “public use” (utilité publique) two months after the earthquake in March 2010. Tens of thousands of people who lost their homes in the earthquake have subsequently relocated there, but many face eviction from people claiming ownership of the land.

Beyond the previously “official” camp communities of Canaan, Jerusalem and Onaville, it is believed that tens of thousands more families have moved to the surrounding area since the earthquake. Over the last year, the UCLBP has lobbied the international community for funding to make investments in urban planning for the area. According to minutes from the February 2013 Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF) meeting (PDF), the head of the UCLBP, Odnell David, made a presentation requesting $15 million as part of a $50 million project to address the situation in Canaan-Jerusalem. The government “has a moral obligation to take care of these people and undertake investment,” David said. Yet, although donor countries all supported the use of HRF funds for investments in the Canaan area, when funding decisions were made this September, no resources were allocated for the project.

There were also other motives for addressing the displacement crisis in Canaan. According to the official minutes, the David explained that, “this area poses a threat to neighboring industrial and touristic development.” Two weeks later, at the next HRF meeting (PDF), he described how this “project is the starting point for the larger project of developing the entire northern area of the city of Port-au-Prince.”

Haiti IEZ
Image from World Bank study on prospects for “Integrated Economic Zones” in Haiti (Via Haiti Grassroots Watch)

The area in question has long been the planned site for the development of an “integrated economic zone,” which would include an industrial park. Yet the influx of those displaced after the earthquake has slowed these plans. The developer who owns the land, Gérard-Emile “Aby” Brun acknowledged in an interview with Haiti Grassroots Watch in July of last year that the “project has essentially ‘fallen apart’ because of the invasion of some 60,000 squatters into the region after the René Préval government declared the land ‘public utility.’”

The need for investments in urban infrastructure for the area is clear, but the lack of financial resources dedicated to this effort and the involvement of police in the forcible eviction of those living there, raises concerns about the government’s intentions. Without their official status as IDPs, those living in the areas of Canaan, Jerusalem and Onaville may not be afforded the oversight and protection needed to abate future violent evictions.

The AP reported yesterday that, “the number of Haitians still displaced by the 2010 earthquake has dropped below 200,000… That marks an 89 percent decline since the camp population peaked in July 2010 at 1.5 million people.” According to official figures, the camp population currently stands at 171,974, compared to over 278,000 in June of 2013 at the time of the last report. The drop is the largest over a single reporting period in nearly three years.

Yet, looking closer, over 50 percent of this reduction since June is the result of a decision by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the entity which monitors the camp population, to remove three areas, Canaan, Jerusalem and Onaville from the official camp list. Together, these three areas are home to an estimated 54,045 individuals. The IOM report states:

On July 11th 2013, the Government of Haiti represented by UCLBP (Unité de Construction de Logements et Bâtiments Publics), submitted a formal request to IOM to remove the three settlements from the DTM (i.e. from the list of IDP sites that exist in the country).

The UCLBP request is motivated by the observation that the characteristics of these settlements are those of “… new neighborhoods needing urban planning with a long term view …”, not of IDP sites.

But the situation facing those who reside in the three areas is far from secure. This week Amnesty International reported that:

Residents of the Lanmè Frape area of Canaan, an informal settlement in the municipality of Cabaret, on the northern outskirts of the capital, Port-au-Prince, have had their simple dwellings repeatedly destroyed by police officers accompanied by armed men. The residents told Amnesty International that they have been the victims of attacks on more than 10 occasions over the last 18 months and several of them have also been arrested on unfounded charges for periods of up to a month. Two hundred families currently remain in the Lanmè Frape area, although as many as 600 lived there before the forced evictions began.

Amnesty continues, describing how the area came to be occupied:

The Lanmè Frape area of Canaan is part of a large tract of land which the then government declared for “public use” (utilité publique) two months after the earthquake in March 2010. Tens of thousands of people who lost their homes in the earthquake have subsequently relocated there, but many face eviction from people claiming ownership of the land.

Beyond the previously “official” camp communities of Canaan, Jerusalem and Onaville, it is believed that tens of thousands more families have moved to the surrounding area since the earthquake. Over the last year, the UCLBP has lobbied the international community for funding to make investments in urban planning for the area. According to minutes from the February 2013 Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF) meeting (PDF), the head of the UCLBP, Odnell David, made a presentation requesting $15 million as part of a $50 million project to address the situation in Canaan-Jerusalem. The government “has a moral obligation to take care of these people and undertake investment,” David said. Yet, although donor countries all supported the use of HRF funds for investments in the Canaan area, when funding decisions were made this September, no resources were allocated for the project.

There were also other motives for addressing the displacement crisis in Canaan. According to the official minutes, the David explained that, “this area poses a threat to neighboring industrial and touristic development.” Two weeks later, at the next HRF meeting (PDF), he described how this “project is the starting point for the larger project of developing the entire northern area of the city of Port-au-Prince.”

Haiti IEZ
Image from World Bank study on prospects for “Integrated Economic Zones” in Haiti (Via Haiti Grassroots Watch)

The area in question has long been the planned site for the development of an “integrated economic zone,” which would include an industrial park. Yet the influx of those displaced after the earthquake has slowed these plans. The developer who owns the land, Gérard-Emile “Aby” Brun acknowledged in an interview with Haiti Grassroots Watch in July of last year that the “project has essentially ‘fallen apart’ because of the invasion of some 60,000 squatters into the region after the René Préval government declared the land ‘public utility.’”

The need for investments in urban infrastructure for the area is clear, but the lack of financial resources dedicated to this effort and the involvement of police in the forcible eviction of those living there, raises concerns about the government’s intentions. Without their official status as IDPs, those living in the areas of Canaan, Jerusalem and Onaville may not be afforded the oversight and protection needed to abate future violent evictions.

Several new reports released in the past two weeks by the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), Gender Action, and Better Work Haiti examine working conditions in Haiti’s garment factories and find that most workers are not being paid the wages they are legally owed, even as they are subject to unsafe and unsanitary working conditions, sexual harassment, and other abusive treatment.

A new report [PDF] released this week by the WRC, an organization that monitors working conditions in apparel factories producing products sold in the U.S. market, finds that most Haitian garment workers are subject to wage theft. The New York Times’ Randal Archibold and Steven Greenhouse reported this week that

[t]he report …focused on 5 of Haiti’s 24 garment factories and found that “the majority of Haitian garment workers are being denied nearly a third of the wages they are legally due as a result of the factories’ theft of their income.”

The group said that the factories deprive workers of higher wages they are entitled to under law by setting difficult-to-meet production quotas and neglecting to pay overtime.

The WRC report states:

Tacitly complicit in this theft of wages are the major North American apparel brands and retailers, like Gap, Gildan, Hanes, Kohl’s, Levi’s, Russell, Target, VF, and Walmart, that are buyers of garments from Haiti. Although most, if not all, of these firms are well-aware of this law-breaking, they continue with business as usual, profiting from the lower prices that they can obtain from factories that cheat their workers of legally owed wages.

As the Associated Press noted in their coverage of the WRC report:

Under a law that took effect in 2009, garment workers who meet production quotas earn 300 gourdes for an eight-hour day, or $6.81. Workers elsewhere earn 200 gourdes, or $4.54.

The report accuses employers of cheating workers in three ways: Production quotas are set so high that workers can’t meet the goals in a regular work day. Wages paid for overtime are based on an hourly rate below the minimum wage for production workers instead of at a premium rate above this wage as required by law. Some factory workers aren’t paid for work performed before and after their recorded working hours or during lunch breaks.

The report was released the same day that Better Work Haiti, “a partnership of the [International Labor Organization] and the International Finance Corporation” released its biannual review [PDF] of Haitian factories’ compliance with “core labour standards and national labour law in the factories that are eligible for tariff advantages under HOPE II” legislation with the United States. Better Work Haiti examined many more factories – 23 altogether – and also found that most were failing to meet their legal commitments to workers. Only 25 percent of workers were being paid 300 gourds for an eight-hour day, while “The average percentage of piece rate workers earning between 201 and 249 gourdes after eight hours of regular work is 43%, and 32% for those earning between 250 and 299 gourdes…”

This level of pay makes it very difficult for workers to get by. Gender Action noted in a report titled “Building Back by Half?” [PDF] released last week:

According to one study, Haitian women workers were spending half of their daily wages on transport to and from work and a mid-day meal, leaving little funds to provide for their families, including paying school fees for children (Haiti Grassroots Watch 2012b). Unwilling to respect even these very basic pay rates, it is doubtful that garment manufacturers will generate significant economic gains for their Haitian women employees.

WRC noted that “Workers report that as a result of their low wages, they cannot obtain needed medical attention for themselves or their children.”

Factories in the Caracol industrial park – a showcase project of post-quake reconstruction and “U.S. State Department and Clinton Foundation pet project” that has been highly controversial – are among those engaging in wage theft, according to the WRC:

The WRC’s research indicates that a similarly egregious level of wage theft is occurring at the country’s Caracol Industrial Park, a new factory complex on Haiti’s northern coast whose construction was heavily subsidized by the U.S. State Department and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).5 The Caracol complex is slated to eventually employ more than 20,000 workers. 

At Caracol, the WRC found that “On average, workers were paid 34% less than the law requires…” Caracol’s anchor tenant, SAE-A, according to the WRC, “produces apparel for Walmart, as well as for other major U.S. retailers, such as Target, Old Navy and Kohl’s.”

In a separate report focused on the Caracol park, based on interviews with community residents and factory workers (and also released last week), Gender Action concludes that the

estimated 2,000 workers (as of July 2013) barely make ends meet, with unstable jobs in mediocre conditions, let alone invest in surrounding communities. Apparel assembly workers face tremendous pressure to produce more and more for minimal wages, with instances of verbal and, in one documented case, physical abuse. Donors predict that women would be empowered through [Caracol Industrial Park] PIC jobs; based on women workers’ testimony, PIC jobs are not empowering.

One Caracol worker told the New York Times:

“I am forced to live with debt,” said Rositha Guerrier, 27, who has worked at Sae-A for more than a year and said she was told she would be paid 350 Haitian gourdes a day, but makes 200. But like many workers she prefers to stay on the job because she has found few alternatives.

An underpaid female worker, Guerrier can be seen as a typical apparel factory worker. As Gender Action notes, “The garment factory workforce comprises mostly women (CIA 2012). In December 2012, just over 64 percent of garment workers in 24 factories registered by Better Work Haiti…were women (2013: 30).” Disturbingly, Gender Action notes in “Building Back by Half?” that

Women workers have also expressed concerns about workplace sexual harassment (Better Work 2013: 16). Sexual harassment is often unreported for fear of retaliation, as well as power imbalance between victims and perpetrators. Women workers also have poor sanitation facilities.

Indeed, Better Work Haiti’s new review concluded that “A major issue is that 21 factories were found to not have the legally required number of accessible toilets, as reported in the previous reports.”

Better Work Haiti also found “a 91% non-compliance rate  for Worker Protection,” in part because “Fifteen factories did not have proper guards installed and maintained on all dangerous moving parts of machines and equipment,” and “Electrical wires, switches, plugs were not properly installed, grounded and maintained in six factories.” The Associated Press also noted that “The study …says many Haitian garment workers don’t have sufficient access to toilets, safe drinking water, emergency exits or medical care.”

Several new reports released in the past two weeks by the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), Gender Action, and Better Work Haiti examine working conditions in Haiti’s garment factories and find that most workers are not being paid the wages they are legally owed, even as they are subject to unsafe and unsanitary working conditions, sexual harassment, and other abusive treatment.

A new report [PDF] released this week by the WRC, an organization that monitors working conditions in apparel factories producing products sold in the U.S. market, finds that most Haitian garment workers are subject to wage theft. The New York Times’ Randal Archibold and Steven Greenhouse reported this week that

[t]he report …focused on 5 of Haiti’s 24 garment factories and found that “the majority of Haitian garment workers are being denied nearly a third of the wages they are legally due as a result of the factories’ theft of their income.”

The group said that the factories deprive workers of higher wages they are entitled to under law by setting difficult-to-meet production quotas and neglecting to pay overtime.

The WRC report states:

Tacitly complicit in this theft of wages are the major North American apparel brands and retailers, like Gap, Gildan, Hanes, Kohl’s, Levi’s, Russell, Target, VF, and Walmart, that are buyers of garments from Haiti. Although most, if not all, of these firms are well-aware of this law-breaking, they continue with business as usual, profiting from the lower prices that they can obtain from factories that cheat their workers of legally owed wages.

As the Associated Press noted in their coverage of the WRC report:

Under a law that took effect in 2009, garment workers who meet production quotas earn 300 gourdes for an eight-hour day, or $6.81. Workers elsewhere earn 200 gourdes, or $4.54.

The report accuses employers of cheating workers in three ways: Production quotas are set so high that workers can’t meet the goals in a regular work day. Wages paid for overtime are based on an hourly rate below the minimum wage for production workers instead of at a premium rate above this wage as required by law. Some factory workers aren’t paid for work performed before and after their recorded working hours or during lunch breaks.

The report was released the same day that Better Work Haiti, “a partnership of the [International Labor Organization] and the International Finance Corporation” released its biannual review [PDF] of Haitian factories’ compliance with “core labour standards and national labour law in the factories that are eligible for tariff advantages under HOPE II” legislation with the United States. Better Work Haiti examined many more factories – 23 altogether – and also found that most were failing to meet their legal commitments to workers. Only 25 percent of workers were being paid 300 gourds for an eight-hour day, while “The average percentage of piece rate workers earning between 201 and 249 gourdes after eight hours of regular work is 43%, and 32% for those earning between 250 and 299 gourdes…”

This level of pay makes it very difficult for workers to get by. Gender Action noted in a report titled “Building Back by Half?” [PDF] released last week:

According to one study, Haitian women workers were spending half of their daily wages on transport to and from work and a mid-day meal, leaving little funds to provide for their families, including paying school fees for children (Haiti Grassroots Watch 2012b). Unwilling to respect even these very basic pay rates, it is doubtful that garment manufacturers will generate significant economic gains for their Haitian women employees.

WRC noted that “Workers report that as a result of their low wages, they cannot obtain needed medical attention for themselves or their children.”

Factories in the Caracol industrial park – a showcase project of post-quake reconstruction and “U.S. State Department and Clinton Foundation pet project” that has been highly controversial – are among those engaging in wage theft, according to the WRC:

The WRC’s research indicates that a similarly egregious level of wage theft is occurring at the country’s Caracol Industrial Park, a new factory complex on Haiti’s northern coast whose construction was heavily subsidized by the U.S. State Department and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).5 The Caracol complex is slated to eventually employ more than 20,000 workers. 

At Caracol, the WRC found that “On average, workers were paid 34% less than the law requires…” Caracol’s anchor tenant, SAE-A, according to the WRC, “produces apparel for Walmart, as well as for other major U.S. retailers, such as Target, Old Navy and Kohl’s.”

In a separate report focused on the Caracol park, based on interviews with community residents and factory workers (and also released last week), Gender Action concludes that the

estimated 2,000 workers (as of July 2013) barely make ends meet, with unstable jobs in mediocre conditions, let alone invest in surrounding communities. Apparel assembly workers face tremendous pressure to produce more and more for minimal wages, with instances of verbal and, in one documented case, physical abuse. Donors predict that women would be empowered through [Caracol Industrial Park] PIC jobs; based on women workers’ testimony, PIC jobs are not empowering.

One Caracol worker told the New York Times:

“I am forced to live with debt,” said Rositha Guerrier, 27, who has worked at Sae-A for more than a year and said she was told she would be paid 350 Haitian gourdes a day, but makes 200. But like many workers she prefers to stay on the job because she has found few alternatives.

An underpaid female worker, Guerrier can be seen as a typical apparel factory worker. As Gender Action notes, “The garment factory workforce comprises mostly women (CIA 2012). In December 2012, just over 64 percent of garment workers in 24 factories registered by Better Work Haiti…were women (2013: 30).” Disturbingly, Gender Action notes in “Building Back by Half?” that

Women workers have also expressed concerns about workplace sexual harassment (Better Work 2013: 16). Sexual harassment is often unreported for fear of retaliation, as well as power imbalance between victims and perpetrators. Women workers also have poor sanitation facilities.

Indeed, Better Work Haiti’s new review concluded that “A major issue is that 21 factories were found to not have the legally required number of accessible toilets, as reported in the previous reports.”

Better Work Haiti also found “a 91% non-compliance rate  for Worker Protection,” in part because “Fifteen factories did not have proper guards installed and maintained on all dangerous moving parts of machines and equipment,” and “Electrical wires, switches, plugs were not properly installed, grounded and maintained in six factories.” The Associated Press also noted that “The study …says many Haitian garment workers don’t have sufficient access to toilets, safe drinking water, emergency exits or medical care.”

In a development that has received much media attention, lawyers working on behalf of Haitian cholera victims brought a class action lawsuit against the United Nations on Wednesday over U.N. troops’ role in introducing the cholera bacteria to Haiti three years ago. The suit was filed in a federal court in New York on behalf of five named victims by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and the law firm of Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzelli & Pratt, with more plaintiffs expected to join. Since it is a class action complaint, the amount of damages sought is unspecified, although it does include $2.2 billion in order to provide full funding for the Haitian and Dominican governments’ cholera eradication plan, which was created with the U.N. but is only about 9 percent funded some 8 months after it was unveiled.

The IJDH warned the U.N. in May that such a lawsuit would be forthcoming if the organization continued to dodge responsibility for bringing cholera to Haiti. This Friday, October 19 will mark three years since the first cholera case was reported in Haiti in over a century.

Reuters reported:

“Haiti today has the worst cholera epidemic in the world,” said Miami attorney Ira Kurzban, who announced the lawsuit at a joint news conference with the human rights groups Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH).

“Before these events, Haiti did not know of cholera for 100 years. Cholera was brought to Haiti by U.N. troops,” Kurzban said.

Asked to comment on the suit, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said: “We don’t discuss claims brought against the U.N.”

The United Nations was working on the ground in Haiti to provide assistance to those affected, he added. It was committed to do all it can do “to help the people of Haiti overcome the cholera epidemic,” Haq said.

Although the U.N. has yet to admit responsibility for the epidemic that has killed over 8,300 people and sickened over 675,000, at least 10 scientific studies have linked the outbreak to U.N. troops from Nepal. As IJDH explains in a press release

The 67-page complaint, filed [Wednesday] in federal court in the Southern District of New York, details extensive evidence demonstrating that the UN knew or should have known that its reckless sanitation and waste disposal practices posed a high risk of harm to the population, and that it consciously disregarded that risk, triggering an explosive epidemic.

Among the reckless practices, IJDH notes that

Defendants knowingly disregarded the high risk of transmitting cholera to Haiti when, in the ordinary course of business, they deployed personnel from Nepal to Haiti, knowing that Nepal was a country in which cholera is endemic and where a surge in infections had just been reported. Defendants failed to exercise reasonable care to test or screen the personnel prior to deployment, allowing them to carry into Haiti a strain of cholera that a UN-appointed panel of experts and other independent scientific experts have since determined is the source of Haiti’s present cholera epidemic.

And

Defendants stationed their personnel on a base on the banks of the Meille Tributary, which flows into the Artibonite River, Haiti’s longest river and primary watersource for tens of thousands. There, Defendants discharged raw sewage from poor pipe connections, haphazard piping, and releases of water contaminated with human waste. They also regularly disposed of untreated human waste in unprotected, open-air pits outside the base where it flowed into the Meille Tributary. Defendants’ sanitation facilities and disposal pits overflowed in heavy rain, emitted noxious odors, and exposed the local community to raw sewage.

The complaint goes on to describe how despite being aware of the dangers, the U.N. “did not take any steps” to mitigate them, and “recklessly failed to take remedial steps necessary to contain the outbreak” once it began – including by “willfully delay[ing] investigation” and “obscur[ing] discovery of the outbreak’s source.”

This behavior was especially negligent, since, as IJDH states, “Defendants have long known that Haiti’s weak water and sanitation infrastructure created a heightened vulnerability to waterborne disease but failed to exercise due care to prevent the devastating outbreak of such disease.” Indeed, the U.N. previously attempted to lay blame for the epidemic with Haiti’s lacking water and sanitation infrastructure – seemingly overlooking that these factors made the U.N.’s behavior all the more dangerous and egregious.

The suit was filed just days after a high-level U.N. official finally spoke out and said that Haitian cholera victims are owed compensation. Speaking at a ceremony in Geneva where BAI Director Mario Joseph was a finalist for the Martin Ennals human rights award, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said “I have used my voice both inside the United Nations and outside to call for the right — for an investigation by the United Nations, by the country concerned, and I still stand by the call that victims of — of those who suffered as a result of that cholera be provided with compensation.”

But Pillay did not say who should compensate the victims and their families. Pillay’s comments in turn come only weeks after Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told the U.N. General Assembly that “The United Nations has ‘a moral responsibility” in the deadly cholera outbreak,” as the Miami Herald reported.

The lawsuit was greeted with a new wave of editorials condemning the U.N. both for its negligence in causing the epidemic and its “obstinacy” in refusing to take responsibility and ensure justice for the victims. The New York Times called on the U.N. to “acknowledge responsibility, apologize to Haitians and give the victims the means to file claims against it for the harm they say has been done them. It can also redouble its faltering, underfinanced response to the epidemic, which threatens to kill and sicken thousands more in the coming decade.” Bloomberg echoed these sentiments, adding that the organization should “create a compensation fund for families of the dead, the ailing and the many more who are expected to fall victim to cholera in Haiti over the next decade.”

Despite U.N. troops’ responsibility in the disease’s emergence, the U.N. Security Council unanimously decided to extend the U.N.’s Haiti mission (MINUSTAH’s) mandate for another year, meaning that another over half-million dollars will go to the unpopular military and police presence instead of efforts to eradicate cholera. Ironically, in making the decision, as the Associated Press reported, “The Security Council urged the United Nations on Thursday to keep up efforts to combat cholera in Haiti in a resolution extending the mandate of the peacekeeping force whose soldiers have been widely blamed for starting the epidemic.”

In a development that has received much media attention, lawyers working on behalf of Haitian cholera victims brought a class action lawsuit against the United Nations on Wednesday over U.N. troops’ role in introducing the cholera bacteria to Haiti three years ago. The suit was filed in a federal court in New York on behalf of five named victims by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and the law firm of Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzelli & Pratt, with more plaintiffs expected to join. Since it is a class action complaint, the amount of damages sought is unspecified, although it does include $2.2 billion in order to provide full funding for the Haitian and Dominican governments’ cholera eradication plan, which was created with the U.N. but is only about 9 percent funded some 8 months after it was unveiled.

The IJDH warned the U.N. in May that such a lawsuit would be forthcoming if the organization continued to dodge responsibility for bringing cholera to Haiti. This Friday, October 19 will mark three years since the first cholera case was reported in Haiti in over a century.

Reuters reported:

“Haiti today has the worst cholera epidemic in the world,” said Miami attorney Ira Kurzban, who announced the lawsuit at a joint news conference with the human rights groups Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH).

“Before these events, Haiti did not know of cholera for 100 years. Cholera was brought to Haiti by U.N. troops,” Kurzban said.

Asked to comment on the suit, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said: “We don’t discuss claims brought against the U.N.”

The United Nations was working on the ground in Haiti to provide assistance to those affected, he added. It was committed to do all it can do “to help the people of Haiti overcome the cholera epidemic,” Haq said.

Although the U.N. has yet to admit responsibility for the epidemic that has killed over 8,300 people and sickened over 675,000, at least 10 scientific studies have linked the outbreak to U.N. troops from Nepal. As IJDH explains in a press release

The 67-page complaint, filed [Wednesday] in federal court in the Southern District of New York, details extensive evidence demonstrating that the UN knew or should have known that its reckless sanitation and waste disposal practices posed a high risk of harm to the population, and that it consciously disregarded that risk, triggering an explosive epidemic.

Among the reckless practices, IJDH notes that

Defendants knowingly disregarded the high risk of transmitting cholera to Haiti when, in the ordinary course of business, they deployed personnel from Nepal to Haiti, knowing that Nepal was a country in which cholera is endemic and where a surge in infections had just been reported. Defendants failed to exercise reasonable care to test or screen the personnel prior to deployment, allowing them to carry into Haiti a strain of cholera that a UN-appointed panel of experts and other independent scientific experts have since determined is the source of Haiti’s present cholera epidemic.

And

Defendants stationed their personnel on a base on the banks of the Meille Tributary, which flows into the Artibonite River, Haiti’s longest river and primary watersource for tens of thousands. There, Defendants discharged raw sewage from poor pipe connections, haphazard piping, and releases of water contaminated with human waste. They also regularly disposed of untreated human waste in unprotected, open-air pits outside the base where it flowed into the Meille Tributary. Defendants’ sanitation facilities and disposal pits overflowed in heavy rain, emitted noxious odors, and exposed the local community to raw sewage.

The complaint goes on to describe how despite being aware of the dangers, the U.N. “did not take any steps” to mitigate them, and “recklessly failed to take remedial steps necessary to contain the outbreak” once it began – including by “willfully delay[ing] investigation” and “obscur[ing] discovery of the outbreak’s source.”

This behavior was especially negligent, since, as IJDH states, “Defendants have long known that Haiti’s weak water and sanitation infrastructure created a heightened vulnerability to waterborne disease but failed to exercise due care to prevent the devastating outbreak of such disease.” Indeed, the U.N. previously attempted to lay blame for the epidemic with Haiti’s lacking water and sanitation infrastructure – seemingly overlooking that these factors made the U.N.’s behavior all the more dangerous and egregious.

The suit was filed just days after a high-level U.N. official finally spoke out and said that Haitian cholera victims are owed compensation. Speaking at a ceremony in Geneva where BAI Director Mario Joseph was a finalist for the Martin Ennals human rights award, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said “I have used my voice both inside the United Nations and outside to call for the right — for an investigation by the United Nations, by the country concerned, and I still stand by the call that victims of — of those who suffered as a result of that cholera be provided with compensation.”

But Pillay did not say who should compensate the victims and their families. Pillay’s comments in turn come only weeks after Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told the U.N. General Assembly that “The United Nations has ‘a moral responsibility” in the deadly cholera outbreak,” as the Miami Herald reported.

The lawsuit was greeted with a new wave of editorials condemning the U.N. both for its negligence in causing the epidemic and its “obstinacy” in refusing to take responsibility and ensure justice for the victims. The New York Times called on the U.N. to “acknowledge responsibility, apologize to Haitians and give the victims the means to file claims against it for the harm they say has been done them. It can also redouble its faltering, underfinanced response to the epidemic, which threatens to kill and sicken thousands more in the coming decade.” Bloomberg echoed these sentiments, adding that the organization should “create a compensation fund for families of the dead, the ailing and the many more who are expected to fall victim to cholera in Haiti over the next decade.”

Despite U.N. troops’ responsibility in the disease’s emergence, the U.N. Security Council unanimously decided to extend the U.N.’s Haiti mission (MINUSTAH’s) mandate for another year, meaning that another over half-million dollars will go to the unpopular military and police presence instead of efforts to eradicate cholera. Ironically, in making the decision, as the Associated Press reported, “The Security Council urged the United Nations on Thursday to keep up efforts to combat cholera in Haiti in a resolution extending the mandate of the peacekeeping force whose soldiers have been widely blamed for starting the epidemic.”

On September 19, in an event attended by U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Pamela White, USAID and Haitian government officials, the U.S.’ largest post-earthquake program came to its official close. According to Ambassador White, the $155 million Haiti Recovery Initiative (HRI) “is among the U.S. Government’s biggest earthquake response programs, and throughout its entire lifetime, the program has remained committed to helping Haitians rebuild their communities and work with national and local leadership to prioritize and respond to community needs.” But, as the program comes to a close, there remain more questions than answers as to what was accomplished.

In the first days after the earthquake in Haiti, USAID awarded contracts to Chemonics International and Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), each with a value of up to $50 million dollars. The contracts were awarded through USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives, which aims to support “U.S. foreign policy objectives…in priority countries in crisis,” according to their website. Chemonics’ contract with USAID, obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, explains that “OTI seeks to focus its resources where they will have the greatest impact on U.S. diplomatic and security interests.” Further, while noting that “OTI cannot create a transition or impose democracy,” they can “identify and support key individuals and groups…In short, OTI acts as a catalyst for change where there is sufficient indigenous political will.”

A press release from USAID announcing the end of the program lists a number of interventions taken by OTI: provision of emergency materials to those displaced, removal of rubble, cash-for-work programs and rehabilitation of government infrastructure, among others. While the press release contains few details, quarterly and annual reports on the OTI website are supposed to provide greater detail — yet there hasn’t been an update posted in over a year-and-a-half. When asked about the lack of disclosure in December 2012, a USAID official responded that “Due to USAID’s website overhaul, more information will be available in the New Year.” No such information has been posted.

USAID Refuses to Release Info to Prevent “Demonstrations”

What information has been made public about OTI’s operations in Haiti has called into question the efficiency and performance of OTI’s contractors. In October 2012, the USAID Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released an audit on the HRI program, finding that the program was “not on track” to complete its projects on schedule. The audit also found that Chemonics was operating with little to no oversight on the part of USAID. Performance indicators were “not well-defined” and only one performance evaluation was completed despite the contract stating that “they should be conducted between two and four times a year.” A previous USAID OIG audit found that OTI was not performing internal financial reviews, despite the contractors “expending millions of dollars rapidly…in a high-risk environment.”

Documents obtained from Freedom of Information Act requests submitted by HRRW have redacted cost information, and the contractually mandated report on to whom Chemonics distributed funds has not been released either. After HRRW appealed the redactions, USAID responded in July, upholding their decision and in fact going even further, reissuing the document that had previously been released, with the entire Statement of Work redacted (the previous version had redacted just part of it). As can be seen in the highlighted section of the image, below, USAID justifies the lack of transparency by stating that “if the information is released, we believe that the information will be used selectively and out of context,” and that “to release the information in such a way could willfully stir up false allegations about the HRI and cause strife within target communities.” Finally, USAID notes that the “release of the information in the Statement of Work would likely instigate demonstrations and create an unsafe environment in which to implement and/or develop programs.” It is unclear how or why the projects listed in their press release would lead to such a violent reaction.

USAID FOIA

The response may refer to the last time OTI was active in Haiti, after the 2004 coup that ousted democratically-elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Field Reports from USAID at the time stated that they saw the “political transition” in 2004 as having “created a new environment for collaboration with the Interim Government of Haiti,” and that “Haiti’s future depends on elections that are considered free and fair to ensure the legitimacy of the new government.” Further reports from USAID describe how they used OTI-funded programs in neighborhoods to reduce participation in protests and limit support for politicians from Fanmi Lavalas, the party of the deposed Aristide. In August 2005, USAID reported that:

OTI initiated a Play for Peace summer camp in Petit Place Cazeau, the Port-au-Prince stronghold of Lavalas Party presidential candidate Father Gerard Jean-Juste… The fruits of these efforts were seen during a recent demonstration attended by 200 people. At the same time that the demonstration was taking place, 300 people were enjoying the summer camp activities. It is believed that this camp prevented the demonstration from being larger and giving greater legitimacy to the protesters. The coming weeks will see a deepening of OTI activities in Petit Place Cazeau, where events like the summer camp will become increasingly important now that Father Jean-Juste has been arrested. His imprisonment has inflamed pro-Lavalas fires in the area and made him a martyr to some Haitians. [The document has been edited on the USAID website]

The same month, a USAID-sponsored soccer game would be the scene of a horrific massacre, when masked killers armed with guns and machetes – accompanied by uniformed police – stormed a stadium in Martissant in the middle of a match and shot and hacked at least eight people to death. The Miami Herald described the perpetrators as a new “death squad.”

OTI’s work has also been the center of controversy in Venezuela and Bolivia. Recently released diplomatic cables from Wikileaks describe a five point plan, implemented by OTI from 2004-2006 that was aimed at “penetrating [Venezuelan president Hugo] Chavez’ Political Base,” “Dividing Chavismo,” “Isolating Chavez internationally,” and “Protecting Vital US business.” It’s a similar story in Bolivia, where OTI funds aided a separatist movement that attempted to destabilize the government in 2008. Demands for information on whom USAID was supporting in those countries and throughout Latin America – and why — went unanswered. OTI offices in Venezuela and Bolivia have both been closed after pressure from those governments.

While USAID may prefer to keep their projects secret, this lack of transparency may have the consequence of fostering distrust on the ground in Haiti.

On September 19, in an event attended by U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Pamela White, USAID and Haitian government officials, the U.S.’ largest post-earthquake program came to its official close. According to Ambassador White, the $155 million Haiti Recovery Initiative (HRI) “is among the U.S. Government’s biggest earthquake response programs, and throughout its entire lifetime, the program has remained committed to helping Haitians rebuild their communities and work with national and local leadership to prioritize and respond to community needs.” But, as the program comes to a close, there remain more questions than answers as to what was accomplished.

In the first days after the earthquake in Haiti, USAID awarded contracts to Chemonics International and Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), each with a value of up to $50 million dollars. The contracts were awarded through USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives, which aims to support “U.S. foreign policy objectives…in priority countries in crisis,” according to their website. Chemonics’ contract with USAID, obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, explains that “OTI seeks to focus its resources where they will have the greatest impact on U.S. diplomatic and security interests.” Further, while noting that “OTI cannot create a transition or impose democracy,” they can “identify and support key individuals and groups…In short, OTI acts as a catalyst for change where there is sufficient indigenous political will.”

A press release from USAID announcing the end of the program lists a number of interventions taken by OTI: provision of emergency materials to those displaced, removal of rubble, cash-for-work programs and rehabilitation of government infrastructure, among others. While the press release contains few details, quarterly and annual reports on the OTI website are supposed to provide greater detail — yet there hasn’t been an update posted in over a year-and-a-half. When asked about the lack of disclosure in December 2012, a USAID official responded that “Due to USAID’s website overhaul, more information will be available in the New Year.” No such information has been posted.

USAID Refuses to Release Info to Prevent “Demonstrations”

What information has been made public about OTI’s operations in Haiti has called into question the efficiency and performance of OTI’s contractors. In October 2012, the USAID Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released an audit on the HRI program, finding that the program was “not on track” to complete its projects on schedule. The audit also found that Chemonics was operating with little to no oversight on the part of USAID. Performance indicators were “not well-defined” and only one performance evaluation was completed despite the contract stating that “they should be conducted between two and four times a year.” A previous USAID OIG audit found that OTI was not performing internal financial reviews, despite the contractors “expending millions of dollars rapidly…in a high-risk environment.”

Documents obtained from Freedom of Information Act requests submitted by HRRW have redacted cost information, and the contractually mandated report on to whom Chemonics distributed funds has not been released either. After HRRW appealed the redactions, USAID responded in July, upholding their decision and in fact going even further, reissuing the document that had previously been released, with the entire Statement of Work redacted (the previous version had redacted just part of it). As can be seen in the highlighted section of the image, below, USAID justifies the lack of transparency by stating that “if the information is released, we believe that the information will be used selectively and out of context,” and that “to release the information in such a way could willfully stir up false allegations about the HRI and cause strife within target communities.” Finally, USAID notes that the “release of the information in the Statement of Work would likely instigate demonstrations and create an unsafe environment in which to implement and/or develop programs.” It is unclear how or why the projects listed in their press release would lead to such a violent reaction.

USAID FOIA

The response may refer to the last time OTI was active in Haiti, after the 2004 coup that ousted democratically-elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Field Reports from USAID at the time stated that they saw the “political transition” in 2004 as having “created a new environment for collaboration with the Interim Government of Haiti,” and that “Haiti’s future depends on elections that are considered free and fair to ensure the legitimacy of the new government.” Further reports from USAID describe how they used OTI-funded programs in neighborhoods to reduce participation in protests and limit support for politicians from Fanmi Lavalas, the party of the deposed Aristide. In August 2005, USAID reported that:

OTI initiated a Play for Peace summer camp in Petit Place Cazeau, the Port-au-Prince stronghold of Lavalas Party presidential candidate Father Gerard Jean-Juste… The fruits of these efforts were seen during a recent demonstration attended by 200 people. At the same time that the demonstration was taking place, 300 people were enjoying the summer camp activities. It is believed that this camp prevented the demonstration from being larger and giving greater legitimacy to the protesters. The coming weeks will see a deepening of OTI activities in Petit Place Cazeau, where events like the summer camp will become increasingly important now that Father Jean-Juste has been arrested. His imprisonment has inflamed pro-Lavalas fires in the area and made him a martyr to some Haitians. [The document has been edited on the USAID website]

The same month, a USAID-sponsored soccer game would be the scene of a horrific massacre, when masked killers armed with guns and machetes – accompanied by uniformed police – stormed a stadium in Martissant in the middle of a match and shot and hacked at least eight people to death. The Miami Herald described the perpetrators as a new “death squad.”

OTI’s work has also been the center of controversy in Venezuela and Bolivia. Recently released diplomatic cables from Wikileaks describe a five point plan, implemented by OTI from 2004-2006 that was aimed at “penetrating [Venezuelan president Hugo] Chavez’ Political Base,” “Dividing Chavismo,” “Isolating Chavez internationally,” and “Protecting Vital US business.” It’s a similar story in Bolivia, where OTI funds aided a separatist movement that attempted to destabilize the government in 2008. Demands for information on whom USAID was supporting in those countries and throughout Latin America – and why — went unanswered. OTI offices in Venezuela and Bolivia have both been closed after pressure from those governments.

While USAID may prefer to keep their projects secret, this lack of transparency may have the consequence of fostering distrust on the ground in Haiti.

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