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.

Yesterday Canadian Minister of Defense Peter MacKay announced that 34 soldiers would be deploying to Haiti as part of the U.N. stabilization mission (MINUSTAH). The announcement, which comes as MINUSTAH is reducing the overall size of its force in Haiti, appears to be as much about strengthening relations with Brazil, as it is about “peacekeeping.”  Lee Berthiaume reports for Canada’s Postmedia News:

But MacKay was quick to confirm that Canada wasn’t re-upping with the UN in any significant way, but that the mission was part of a larger effort to help Haiti while strengthening ties with the emerging political, economic and military powerhouse that is Brazil.

MacKay was joined by Minister of State for the Americas Diane Ablonczy, who highlighted “the tremendous potential and the great partners that are available to Canada in Brazil.”

Aside from the fact that MINUSTAH is not truly a “peacekeeping” force, as there is no armed conflict in Haiti, Canada wouldn’t be the first country to use MINUSTAH for diplomatic or political reasons as opposed to legitimate security concerns. In fact, as we have previously noted, diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks show the motives behind Brazil taking the lead for MINUSTAH were largely political. One such cable, from March 2008 asserts:

Brazil has stayed the course as leader of MINUSTAH in Haiti despite a lack of domestic support for the PKO [peacekeeping operation]. The MRE [Ministry of External Relations] has remained committed to the initiative because it believes that the operation serves [Foreign Minister Celso] Amorim’s obsessive international goal of qualifying Brazil for a seat on the UN Security Council. The Brazilian military remains committed as well, because the mission enhances its international prestige and provides training and operational opportunities.

And it doesn’t stop there.  In addition to being led by Brazil, MINUSTAH is comprised predominantly by troops from Latin America, making up over 70 percent of the total currently. Wikileaked cables provide insight into the U.S. strategic interests behind MINUSTAH and the advantage of having it be led by Latin American countries.

As we described shortly after Wikileaks made the relevant “cablegate” documents available, in October 2008, then-Ambassador to Haiti Janet Sanderson wrote that MINUSTAH was “an indispensable tool in realizing core USG policy interests in Haiti.” Sanderson noted that an early departure of MINUSTAH could lead to “resurgent populist and anti-market economy political forces.” Sanderson continues:

In the current context of our military commitments elsewhere, the U.S. alone could not replace this mission. This regionally-coordinated Latin American commitment to Haiti would not be possible without the UN umbrella…Without a UN-sanctioned peacekeeping and stabilization force, we would be getting far less help from our hemispheric and European partners in managing Haiti.

Further, the leadership role of Latin American countries helped further the U.S. goal of isolating Venezuela and Hugo Chávez, as a cable from June 2007 explains:

An increasingly unifying theme that completely excludes Chavez, and isolates Venezuela among the militaries and security forces of the region, is participation in international and regional peacekeeping operations.

But for Canada – at least according to MacKay, “Soldiers are good diplomats.” He reportedly went on to add: “They’re great representatives of our country. They bring with them significant experience and in many cases . . . the mission-specific training that they go through makes them wonderful representatives of our country.”

But many of the international soldiers who have taken part in MINUSTAH have been anything but “good diplomats.” As we have detailed in the past, some troops have assisted police in deadly raids in slums that resulted in innocent people (including children) killed, are accused of lynching a boy for stealing, have violently attacked demonstrators, have impregnated minors, many Haitians have accused them of stealing livestock and other possessions, and they have raped women, children, and young men, among other crimes. These are all reasons why calls for MINUSTAH’s withdrawal from Haiti are getting louder. On June 1, marking nine years of MINUSTAH’s presence in Haiti, civil society groups from all over the world and including many in Haiti issued a statement demanding the mission’s withdrawal, noting that:

MINUSTAH has failed miserably to achieve the goals set out by the United Nations Security Council, the only objective accomplished being the military occupation of the country on behalf of interests that are not those of the Haitian people.

At least Canada has stated its motives publicly.

 

 

 

Yesterday Canadian Minister of Defense Peter MacKay announced that 34 soldiers would be deploying to Haiti as part of the U.N. stabilization mission (MINUSTAH). The announcement, which comes as MINUSTAH is reducing the overall size of its force in Haiti, appears to be as much about strengthening relations with Brazil, as it is about “peacekeeping.”  Lee Berthiaume reports for Canada’s Postmedia News:

But MacKay was quick to confirm that Canada wasn’t re-upping with the UN in any significant way, but that the mission was part of a larger effort to help Haiti while strengthening ties with the emerging political, economic and military powerhouse that is Brazil.

MacKay was joined by Minister of State for the Americas Diane Ablonczy, who highlighted “the tremendous potential and the great partners that are available to Canada in Brazil.”

Aside from the fact that MINUSTAH is not truly a “peacekeeping” force, as there is no armed conflict in Haiti, Canada wouldn’t be the first country to use MINUSTAH for diplomatic or political reasons as opposed to legitimate security concerns. In fact, as we have previously noted, diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks show the motives behind Brazil taking the lead for MINUSTAH were largely political. One such cable, from March 2008 asserts:

Brazil has stayed the course as leader of MINUSTAH in Haiti despite a lack of domestic support for the PKO [peacekeeping operation]. The MRE [Ministry of External Relations] has remained committed to the initiative because it believes that the operation serves [Foreign Minister Celso] Amorim’s obsessive international goal of qualifying Brazil for a seat on the UN Security Council. The Brazilian military remains committed as well, because the mission enhances its international prestige and provides training and operational opportunities.

And it doesn’t stop there.  In addition to being led by Brazil, MINUSTAH is comprised predominantly by troops from Latin America, making up over 70 percent of the total currently. Wikileaked cables provide insight into the U.S. strategic interests behind MINUSTAH and the advantage of having it be led by Latin American countries.

As we described shortly after Wikileaks made the relevant “cablegate” documents available, in October 2008, then-Ambassador to Haiti Janet Sanderson wrote that MINUSTAH was “an indispensable tool in realizing core USG policy interests in Haiti.” Sanderson noted that an early departure of MINUSTAH could lead to “resurgent populist and anti-market economy political forces.” Sanderson continues:

In the current context of our military commitments elsewhere, the U.S. alone could not replace this mission. This regionally-coordinated Latin American commitment to Haiti would not be possible without the UN umbrella…Without a UN-sanctioned peacekeeping and stabilization force, we would be getting far less help from our hemispheric and European partners in managing Haiti.

Further, the leadership role of Latin American countries helped further the U.S. goal of isolating Venezuela and Hugo Chávez, as a cable from June 2007 explains:

An increasingly unifying theme that completely excludes Chavez, and isolates Venezuela among the militaries and security forces of the region, is participation in international and regional peacekeeping operations.

But for Canada – at least according to MacKay, “Soldiers are good diplomats.” He reportedly went on to add: “They’re great representatives of our country. They bring with them significant experience and in many cases . . . the mission-specific training that they go through makes them wonderful representatives of our country.”

But many of the international soldiers who have taken part in MINUSTAH have been anything but “good diplomats.” As we have detailed in the past, some troops have assisted police in deadly raids in slums that resulted in innocent people (including children) killed, are accused of lynching a boy for stealing, have violently attacked demonstrators, have impregnated minors, many Haitians have accused them of stealing livestock and other possessions, and they have raped women, children, and young men, among other crimes. These are all reasons why calls for MINUSTAH’s withdrawal from Haiti are getting louder. On June 1, marking nine years of MINUSTAH’s presence in Haiti, civil society groups from all over the world and including many in Haiti issued a statement demanding the mission’s withdrawal, noting that:

MINUSTAH has failed miserably to achieve the goals set out by the United Nations Security Council, the only objective accomplished being the military occupation of the country on behalf of interests that are not those of the Haitian people.

At least Canada has stated its motives publicly.

 

 

 

In 2010, just months after Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake, the United States passed legislation allocating $651 million to USAID to support relief and reconstruction efforts. Three years later, just 31 percent of these funds have been spent as delays mount and goals are scaled back, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report [PDF] released yesterday. The report also criticizes USAID for a lack of transparency, especially in its reporting to Congress.

“This report shows a significant and sobering disconnect between what was originally promised for the Haitian people, and what it appears USAID is now prepared to deliver.  The Haitian people, as well as the US taxpayer, deserve better answers about our assistance than we have received to date,” according to Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The GAO found that inaccurate cost estimates and delays led to an increase in the amount dedicated to providing shelter from $59 million to $97 million while at the same time “decreased the projected number of houses to be built by over 80 percent, from 15,000 to 2,649.” Originally estimated to cost less than $10,000 for a completed house, actual costs have been greater than $33,000. USAID has awarded over $46 million to contractors for housing. Meanwhile, some 300,000 people remain in camps over three years after the earthquake. Overall, the humanitarian community has constructed just 7,000 new homes, about 40 percent of what is currently planned.

Further, the GAO report is critical of U.S. investments supporting the Caracol Industrial Park.  Randal C. Archibold of the New York Times reports:

A big portion of Agency for International Development money, $170.3 million, went toward a power plant and port for an industrial park in northern Haiti that was the centerpiece of United States reconstruction efforts and had been heavily promoted by the State Department and former President Bill Clinton.

But the project had mixed results. Although the aid agency completed the power plant under budget, the port, crucial to the industrial park’s long-term success, is two years behind schedule “due in part to a lack of U.S.A.I.D. expertise in port planning in Haiti,” the report said, and is now vulnerable to cost overruns.

The GAO also found that a lack of oversight of USAID operations in Haiti and that congressionally mandated reports “did not include” “detailed information on funding and sector activities” as required and that despite a significant amount of funds left to be disbursed, the reporting requirement has now ended.  “Congress lacks information on the amounts of funds obligated and disbursed and program by program progress of U.S. reconstruction activities,” concludes the report.

The findings echo those made by CEPR in a report released in April, “Breaking Open the Black Box: Increasing Aid Transparency and Accountability in Haiti” and should lead to increased support for the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act that is currently making its way through the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The bill (H. R. 1749), which requires detailed reporting on amounts obligated and spent by USAID, including use of contractors and subcontractors, was introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and has 29 cosponsors in the House. While all the cosponsors are currently Democrats, the GAO report was requested by former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and the former ranking Democrat on the Committee, Howard Berman,.  Yesterday, Ros Lehtinen, along with the current chairman of the Committee, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), and the current ranking Democrat, Eliot Engel (D-NY) released a joint statement registering concern about the GAO’s findings and calling for hearings on the issue, suggesting bipartisan support for greater transparency around U.S. assistance programs in Haiti.

In 2010, just months after Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake, the United States passed legislation allocating $651 million to USAID to support relief and reconstruction efforts. Three years later, just 31 percent of these funds have been spent as delays mount and goals are scaled back, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report [PDF] released yesterday. The report also criticizes USAID for a lack of transparency, especially in its reporting to Congress.

“This report shows a significant and sobering disconnect between what was originally promised for the Haitian people, and what it appears USAID is now prepared to deliver.  The Haitian people, as well as the US taxpayer, deserve better answers about our assistance than we have received to date,” according to Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The GAO found that inaccurate cost estimates and delays led to an increase in the amount dedicated to providing shelter from $59 million to $97 million while at the same time “decreased the projected number of houses to be built by over 80 percent, from 15,000 to 2,649.” Originally estimated to cost less than $10,000 for a completed house, actual costs have been greater than $33,000. USAID has awarded over $46 million to contractors for housing. Meanwhile, some 300,000 people remain in camps over three years after the earthquake. Overall, the humanitarian community has constructed just 7,000 new homes, about 40 percent of what is currently planned.

Further, the GAO report is critical of U.S. investments supporting the Caracol Industrial Park.  Randal C. Archibold of the New York Times reports:

A big portion of Agency for International Development money, $170.3 million, went toward a power plant and port for an industrial park in northern Haiti that was the centerpiece of United States reconstruction efforts and had been heavily promoted by the State Department and former President Bill Clinton.

But the project had mixed results. Although the aid agency completed the power plant under budget, the port, crucial to the industrial park’s long-term success, is two years behind schedule “due in part to a lack of U.S.A.I.D. expertise in port planning in Haiti,” the report said, and is now vulnerable to cost overruns.

The GAO also found that a lack of oversight of USAID operations in Haiti and that congressionally mandated reports “did not include” “detailed information on funding and sector activities” as required and that despite a significant amount of funds left to be disbursed, the reporting requirement has now ended.  “Congress lacks information on the amounts of funds obligated and disbursed and program by program progress of U.S. reconstruction activities,” concludes the report.

The findings echo those made by CEPR in a report released in April, “Breaking Open the Black Box: Increasing Aid Transparency and Accountability in Haiti” and should lead to increased support for the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act that is currently making its way through the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The bill (H. R. 1749), which requires detailed reporting on amounts obligated and spent by USAID, including use of contractors and subcontractors, was introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and has 29 cosponsors in the House. While all the cosponsors are currently Democrats, the GAO report was requested by former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and the former ranking Democrat on the Committee, Howard Berman,.  Yesterday, Ros Lehtinen, along with the current chairman of the Committee, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), and the current ranking Democrat, Eliot Engel (D-NY) released a joint statement registering concern about the GAO’s findings and calling for hearings on the issue, suggesting bipartisan support for greater transparency around U.S. assistance programs in Haiti.

On May 31 the World Bank, PAHO and UNICEF announced $28.1 million in new funding for cholera elimination efforts in Haiti. The new funding was announced following a meeting in Washington, D.C. of the Regional Coalition to Eliminate Cholera Transmission in Hispaniola. In February 2013, a $2.2 billion, 10-year cholera elimination plan was announced by the Government of Haiti, with the support of the coalition. The plan calls for $443.7 million over the first two years. Thus far, however, there have been few details of how the plan will be funded and coordinated.

In announcing the new funding, PAHO noted that UNICEF would “take lead responsibility for the operation of a national trust fund to channel resources to cholera elimination.” While the terms of reference for the national fund are still being worked out, those familiar with the discussions told HRRW that it would be run by a steering committee led by the ministries of health of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In contrast with previous aid and reconstruction funds that have largely bypassed the Haitian government and Haitian institutions, the new fund would have the ability to directly fund the work of the Haitian government as well as international NGOs.

“Donors are looking for improved international cooperation with Haiti and this is a model they’re looking for,” said Kate Dickson, Senior Policy Advisor at PAHO. Dickson added, “it is a model that allows the respective governments, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, to actually take the lead, accompanied by a coalition at the international level.”

This would represent a significant change from previous efforts, such as the Haiti Reconstruction Fund, which was only able to disburse funds to the U.N., World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. It also may reflect the influence of Paul Farmer, named the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Community Based Medicine and Lessons from Haiti. Under his previous role as Deputy U.N. Special Envoy, Farmer argued that “the way aid is channeled matters a great deal, and determines its impact on the lives of the Haitian people.”

During the meeting between coalition partners and donor groups in late May, Farmer directly addressed this, in an appeal to donors:

By December 2012, only 10% of the total $6.4 billion dollars invested in Haiti had gone through national systems.  We have learned and relearned this lesson in Haiti: unless efforts are made to increase the amount of such resources to and through public institutions, the process of building them is slowed or thwarted. When we say “through”, we mean of course, that there can be local private entities, from contractors to NGOs, that wish to be part of rebuilding… Again, we are here not only to fund the national actions plans, but to do so in a way that strengthens ownership and local capacity, while accompanying local authorities and providers. This requires, as the Americans say, “boots on the ground” – not those of soldiers but of community health workers.

Nevertheless, some traditional donors, reluctant to give up operational control of their aid funds may instead opt to work outside of the national fund. This is already evident. In December, when the U.N. Secretary General announced an initiative to support the cholera elimination plan, he stated that there had already been $238.5 million committed. However, with the recent funding commitments of $28.1 million announced last week, PAHO noted that it “brings the total funds committed to support the national plans to $209.4 million, less than half the amount needed over just the next two years.”

The Secretary General’s announcement, where he pledged to “use every opportunity” to mobilize funding for the plan, included commitments from the IDB and Spanish government for example, to support the water and sanitation sector in general.  Once plans for a national fund emerged, some donors appear to have balked at providing resources through this mechanism rather than through other channels of their choosing.  USAID also reportedly does not favor putting resources into a national fund, though it is apparently interested in coordinating with the coalition. USAID did not respond to a request for comment.

But, as the national fund has yet to formally take shape and the immediate needs on the ground remain pressing, for the time being many donors will continue to fund work in the water and sanitation sector through their existing funds. “Saving lives is a priority,” said PAHO’s Dickson. “We cannot wait on the mobilization of resources for the fund to be set up, we have to move now using existing funding mechanisms to ensure a timely response to any additional outbreaks.” While donors may at first be reluctant to channel resources into a national fund, by working with the coalition the hope is that program activities will be integrated into the scope of the cholera elimination plan. The risk, however, is that aid agencies and donors fall into the same mistakes that have been made in the past, bypassing the Haitian government and failing to coordinate. What is clear though is that with hurricane season beginning, and cholera continuing to spread, the needs are not just long-term but also immediate.

“The situation is worse than it was two years ago,” says Duncan McLean, a health program manager for Medecin Sans Frontieres, adding, “I’m very, very concerned about the state of cholera preparation in Haiti. The situation has become more dangerous than it was before.”

Through the first three months of the year, the number of reported cases was up 83 percent over 2012, while deaths had increased by over 100 percent. Over the last two months cases have diminished, though cholera is still sickening nearly 100 Haitians every day. Part of this decrease is because the spring rains, which led to large increases in the caseload in 2012, have not occurred this year. However, with the hurricane season starting June 1 and the potential for a late rainy season, the expected cholera spike may have just been delayed. As of May 28, over 6.5 percent of the population has been sickened by the disease and at least 8,120 Haitians have died, according to the Health Ministry

Meanwhile, funds for the short-term response have been just has hard to come by as funding for long-term development. “To treat cholera primarily as a development issue is grand, but people are dying now,” McLean told Fox News. The Miami Herald reported last month that the $37 million U.N. appeal for Haiti was just 19 percent funded and that “Water, sanitation and health activities related to cholera are so far the least funded sectors” of the appeal.

The result has been a decreased response capacity on the ground. According to data from the United Nations, the number of cholera treatment centers and treatment units has decreased drastically over the last two years, and has reached a low of just 28 for the entire country as of April 2013, down from over 300 in early 2011.  Haiti’s Ministry of Health, which has struggled to take over for departing NGOs, is sounding the alarm. “The rainy season is upon us. Alas, our resources are not as available as they need to be. We must take urgent and bold steps to meet these needs,” Marie Raymond, director general of MSPP warned.

As Farmer stated to donors last week, “there is much to be done in the immediate term, long before the goal of eradication might be met. The fatality rate among cholera patients in Haiti is still far too high; of course no one should get cholera but no one, once sick, should die from it.”

 

On May 31 the World Bank, PAHO and UNICEF announced $28.1 million in new funding for cholera elimination efforts in Haiti. The new funding was announced following a meeting in Washington, D.C. of the Regional Coalition to Eliminate Cholera Transmission in Hispaniola. In February 2013, a $2.2 billion, 10-year cholera elimination plan was announced by the Government of Haiti, with the support of the coalition. The plan calls for $443.7 million over the first two years. Thus far, however, there have been few details of how the plan will be funded and coordinated.

In announcing the new funding, PAHO noted that UNICEF would “take lead responsibility for the operation of a national trust fund to channel resources to cholera elimination.” While the terms of reference for the national fund are still being worked out, those familiar with the discussions told HRRW that it would be run by a steering committee led by the ministries of health of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In contrast with previous aid and reconstruction funds that have largely bypassed the Haitian government and Haitian institutions, the new fund would have the ability to directly fund the work of the Haitian government as well as international NGOs.

“Donors are looking for improved international cooperation with Haiti and this is a model they’re looking for,” said Kate Dickson, Senior Policy Advisor at PAHO. Dickson added, “it is a model that allows the respective governments, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, to actually take the lead, accompanied by a coalition at the international level.”

This would represent a significant change from previous efforts, such as the Haiti Reconstruction Fund, which was only able to disburse funds to the U.N., World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. It also may reflect the influence of Paul Farmer, named the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Community Based Medicine and Lessons from Haiti. Under his previous role as Deputy U.N. Special Envoy, Farmer argued that “the way aid is channeled matters a great deal, and determines its impact on the lives of the Haitian people.”

During the meeting between coalition partners and donor groups in late May, Farmer directly addressed this, in an appeal to donors:

By December 2012, only 10% of the total $6.4 billion dollars invested in Haiti had gone through national systems.  We have learned and relearned this lesson in Haiti: unless efforts are made to increase the amount of such resources to and through public institutions, the process of building them is slowed or thwarted. When we say “through”, we mean of course, that there can be local private entities, from contractors to NGOs, that wish to be part of rebuilding… Again, we are here not only to fund the national actions plans, but to do so in a way that strengthens ownership and local capacity, while accompanying local authorities and providers. This requires, as the Americans say, “boots on the ground” – not those of soldiers but of community health workers.

Nevertheless, some traditional donors, reluctant to give up operational control of their aid funds may instead opt to work outside of the national fund. This is already evident. In December, when the U.N. Secretary General announced an initiative to support the cholera elimination plan, he stated that there had already been $238.5 million committed. However, with the recent funding commitments of $28.1 million announced last week, PAHO noted that it “brings the total funds committed to support the national plans to $209.4 million, less than half the amount needed over just the next two years.”

The Secretary General’s announcement, where he pledged to “use every opportunity” to mobilize funding for the plan, included commitments from the IDB and Spanish government for example, to support the water and sanitation sector in general.  Once plans for a national fund emerged, some donors appear to have balked at providing resources through this mechanism rather than through other channels of their choosing.  USAID also reportedly does not favor putting resources into a national fund, though it is apparently interested in coordinating with the coalition. USAID did not respond to a request for comment.

But, as the national fund has yet to formally take shape and the immediate needs on the ground remain pressing, for the time being many donors will continue to fund work in the water and sanitation sector through their existing funds. “Saving lives is a priority,” said PAHO’s Dickson. “We cannot wait on the mobilization of resources for the fund to be set up, we have to move now using existing funding mechanisms to ensure a timely response to any additional outbreaks.” While donors may at first be reluctant to channel resources into a national fund, by working with the coalition the hope is that program activities will be integrated into the scope of the cholera elimination plan. The risk, however, is that aid agencies and donors fall into the same mistakes that have been made in the past, bypassing the Haitian government and failing to coordinate. What is clear though is that with hurricane season beginning, and cholera continuing to spread, the needs are not just long-term but also immediate.

“The situation is worse than it was two years ago,” says Duncan McLean, a health program manager for Medecin Sans Frontieres, adding, “I’m very, very concerned about the state of cholera preparation in Haiti. The situation has become more dangerous than it was before.”

Through the first three months of the year, the number of reported cases was up 83 percent over 2012, while deaths had increased by over 100 percent. Over the last two months cases have diminished, though cholera is still sickening nearly 100 Haitians every day. Part of this decrease is because the spring rains, which led to large increases in the caseload in 2012, have not occurred this year. However, with the hurricane season starting June 1 and the potential for a late rainy season, the expected cholera spike may have just been delayed. As of May 28, over 6.5 percent of the population has been sickened by the disease and at least 8,120 Haitians have died, according to the Health Ministry

Meanwhile, funds for the short-term response have been just has hard to come by as funding for long-term development. “To treat cholera primarily as a development issue is grand, but people are dying now,” McLean told Fox News. The Miami Herald reported last month that the $37 million U.N. appeal for Haiti was just 19 percent funded and that “Water, sanitation and health activities related to cholera are so far the least funded sectors” of the appeal.

The result has been a decreased response capacity on the ground. According to data from the United Nations, the number of cholera treatment centers and treatment units has decreased drastically over the last two years, and has reached a low of just 28 for the entire country as of April 2013, down from over 300 in early 2011.  Haiti’s Ministry of Health, which has struggled to take over for departing NGOs, is sounding the alarm. “The rainy season is upon us. Alas, our resources are not as available as they need to be. We must take urgent and bold steps to meet these needs,” Marie Raymond, director general of MSPP warned.

As Farmer stated to donors last week, “there is much to be done in the immediate term, long before the goal of eradication might be met. The fatality rate among cholera patients in Haiti is still far too high; of course no one should get cholera but no one, once sick, should die from it.”

 

The Associated Press’ Trenton Daniel takes a look at high levels of malnutrition and food insecurity in Haiti, reporting that

Three years after an earthquake killed hundreds of thousands and the U.S. promised that Haiti would “build back better,” hunger is worse than ever. Despite billions of dollars from around the world pledged toward rebuilding efforts, the country’s food problems underscore just how vulnerable its 10 million people remain.

In 1997 some 1.2 million Haitians didn’t have enough food to eat. A decade later the number had more than doubled. Today, that figure is 6.7 million, or a staggering 67 percent of the population that goes without food some days, can’t afford a balanced diet or has limited access to food, according to surveys by the government’s National Coordination of Food Security. As many as 1.5 million of those face malnutrition and other hunger-related problems.

The AP article follows the release last week of a USAID-sponsored “Famine Early Warning System Network” report that warns that

The early depletion of food supplies from bad harvests, the growing dependence for poor households on market, and a reduction in agricultural employment opportunities have contributed to the increasingly widespread acute food insecurity throughout the country. Many municipalities are currently in Crisis

Late rains, seed shortages (driving up seed prices), and withering crops that were planted early are factors contributing to climbing food prices, the report states.

Daniel surveys some of the government’s responses to the challenge. One of the more hopeful efforts to tackle hunger in Haiti that Daniel describes is the Petrocaribe-funded program “Aba Grangou”:

Shortly after taking office, President Michel Martelly launched a nationwide program led by his wife, Sophia, called Aba Grangou, Creole for “end hunger.” Financed with $30 million from Venezuela’s PetroCaribe fund, the program aims to halve the number of people who are hungry in Haiti by 2016 and eradicate hunger and malnutrition altogether by 2025. Some 2.2 million children are supposed to take part in a school food program financed by the fund.

Eberwein, whose government agency oversees Aba Grangou, said 60,000 mothers have received cash transfers for keeping their children in school. A half million food kits were distributed after Hurricane Sandy, along with 45,000 seed kits to replenish damaged crops, he said. Mid- to long-term solutions require creating jobs.

But the villagers in the Belle Anse area say they’ve seen scant evidence of the program, as if officials have forgotten the deaths in 2008 of at least 26 severely malnourished children in this very region. That same year, the government collapsed after soaring food prices triggered riots.

The article notes that USAID, which has awarded $1.15 billion in contracts and grants to for work in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake, has devoted only two-thirds as much ($20 million) to a post-Hurricane Sandy food program as the Petrocaribe-funded Aba Grangou. Not to worry – AP cites an expert who assures readers that were people not receiving the aid, they would riot:

USAID has allocated nearly $20 million to international aid groups to focus on food problems since Hurricane Sandy, but villagers in southern Haiti said they have seen little evidence of that.

Despite the discrepancy, one public health expert said there’s sufficient proof that at least some of the aid is reaching the population. Were it not, Richard Garfield said, Haiti would see mass migration and unrest.

“Overall aid has gotten to people pretty well. If aid hadn’t gotten to people that place would be so much more of a mess,” said Garfield, a professor emeritus at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and now a specialist in emergency response at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “You’d see starvation and riots … The absence of terrible things is about the best positive thing that we can say.

But has been discussed repeatedly in news articles, on this blog, and elsewhere – and as former president Clinton has admitted – U.S. food assistance policies are in large part responsible for the destabilization of Haitian agriculture and the related prevalence of food insecurity and malnutrition. As we have previously noted, Chemonics, by far the largest single recipient of USAID funds, used to be a sister company to Comet Rice, which was a central player in this tragedy.

Proposed reforms to such food aid practices made by the Obama administration could assist an additional four million people for the same amount of funds, according to USAID; the Center for Global Development (CGD) estimates as many as 10 million more. As CGD’s Beth Schwanke describes, these proposals would “relax in-kind and cargo preference requirements on emergency aid, shift $250 million of non-emergency food aid into a new account without in-kind restrictions, and eliminate monetization.” But these and other proposed reforms [PDF] are being strongly opposed by vested interests that profit from the current system, at Haitians’ expense.

The Associated Press’ Trenton Daniel takes a look at high levels of malnutrition and food insecurity in Haiti, reporting that

Three years after an earthquake killed hundreds of thousands and the U.S. promised that Haiti would “build back better,” hunger is worse than ever. Despite billions of dollars from around the world pledged toward rebuilding efforts, the country’s food problems underscore just how vulnerable its 10 million people remain.

In 1997 some 1.2 million Haitians didn’t have enough food to eat. A decade later the number had more than doubled. Today, that figure is 6.7 million, or a staggering 67 percent of the population that goes without food some days, can’t afford a balanced diet or has limited access to food, according to surveys by the government’s National Coordination of Food Security. As many as 1.5 million of those face malnutrition and other hunger-related problems.

The AP article follows the release last week of a USAID-sponsored “Famine Early Warning System Network” report that warns that

The early depletion of food supplies from bad harvests, the growing dependence for poor households on market, and a reduction in agricultural employment opportunities have contributed to the increasingly widespread acute food insecurity throughout the country. Many municipalities are currently in Crisis

Late rains, seed shortages (driving up seed prices), and withering crops that were planted early are factors contributing to climbing food prices, the report states.

Daniel surveys some of the government’s responses to the challenge. One of the more hopeful efforts to tackle hunger in Haiti that Daniel describes is the Petrocaribe-funded program “Aba Grangou”:

Shortly after taking office, President Michel Martelly launched a nationwide program led by his wife, Sophia, called Aba Grangou, Creole for “end hunger.” Financed with $30 million from Venezuela’s PetroCaribe fund, the program aims to halve the number of people who are hungry in Haiti by 2016 and eradicate hunger and malnutrition altogether by 2025. Some 2.2 million children are supposed to take part in a school food program financed by the fund.

Eberwein, whose government agency oversees Aba Grangou, said 60,000 mothers have received cash transfers for keeping their children in school. A half million food kits were distributed after Hurricane Sandy, along with 45,000 seed kits to replenish damaged crops, he said. Mid- to long-term solutions require creating jobs.

But the villagers in the Belle Anse area say they’ve seen scant evidence of the program, as if officials have forgotten the deaths in 2008 of at least 26 severely malnourished children in this very region. That same year, the government collapsed after soaring food prices triggered riots.

The article notes that USAID, which has awarded $1.15 billion in contracts and grants to for work in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake, has devoted only two-thirds as much ($20 million) to a post-Hurricane Sandy food program as the Petrocaribe-funded Aba Grangou. Not to worry – AP cites an expert who assures readers that were people not receiving the aid, they would riot:

USAID has allocated nearly $20 million to international aid groups to focus on food problems since Hurricane Sandy, but villagers in southern Haiti said they have seen little evidence of that.

Despite the discrepancy, one public health expert said there’s sufficient proof that at least some of the aid is reaching the population. Were it not, Richard Garfield said, Haiti would see mass migration and unrest.

“Overall aid has gotten to people pretty well. If aid hadn’t gotten to people that place would be so much more of a mess,” said Garfield, a professor emeritus at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and now a specialist in emergency response at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “You’d see starvation and riots … The absence of terrible things is about the best positive thing that we can say.

But has been discussed repeatedly in news articles, on this blog, and elsewhere – and as former president Clinton has admitted – U.S. food assistance policies are in large part responsible for the destabilization of Haitian agriculture and the related prevalence of food insecurity and malnutrition. As we have previously noted, Chemonics, by far the largest single recipient of USAID funds, used to be a sister company to Comet Rice, which was a central player in this tragedy.

Proposed reforms to such food aid practices made by the Obama administration could assist an additional four million people for the same amount of funds, according to USAID; the Center for Global Development (CGD) estimates as many as 10 million more. As CGD’s Beth Schwanke describes, these proposals would “relax in-kind and cargo preference requirements on emergency aid, shift $250 million of non-emergency food aid into a new account without in-kind restrictions, and eliminate monetization.” But these and other proposed reforms [PDF] are being strongly opposed by vested interests that profit from the current system, at Haitians’ expense.

Writing in the Toronto Star, Catherine Porter reports on revelations from former Haitian President René Préval in Raoul Peck’s documentary film Fatal Assistance that UN head Edmond Mulet tried to remove him from the country on election day in November 2010:

“I got a phone call from Mr. (Edmond) Mulet, who was head of MINUSTAH, saying: ‘Mr. President, this is a political problem. We need to get you on a plane and evacuate you,’” Préval says in the documentary, Fatal Assistance. “I said: ‘Bring your plane, collect me from the palace, handcuff me, everyone will see that it’s a kidnapping.’”       

The comments from Préval echo those made at the time by Organization of American States special representative Ricardo Seitenfus, who told BBC Brasil in January 2011 that Mulet and other representatives of the “core group” of donor countries, “suggested that President Rene Préval should leave the country and we should think of an airplane for that. I heard it and was appalled.” The forced departure of Préval wouldn’t have been the first time a Haitian president was spirited out of the country, as former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was flown out of Haiti in 2004 on a U.S. airplane and taken to the Central African Republic in what he described as a “kidnapping” and “coup d’etat.” There is no doubt that it was a coup d’etat – the New York Times, among others, documented the U.S. role in bringing about the coup.  And Aristide’s charges that it was a kidnapping are credible and backed up by witnesses.

In response, Edmond Mulet told the Star, “I never said that, he [Préval] never answered that,” adding “I was worried if he didn’t stop the fraud and rioting, a revolution would force him to leave. I didn’t have the capability, the power or the interest of putting him on a plane.”

The first round of voting for president in November 2010 was plagued by irregularities. A CEPR statistical analysis found that some three-quarters of Haitians did not vote, over 12 percent of votes were never even received by the electoral authorities and that more than 8 percent of tally sheets contained irregularities. Perhaps most importantly, Haiti’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas, was excluded from the election. At the time, 45 Democratic members of Congress wrote to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warning that political party “exclusion[s] will undermine both Haitians’ right to vote and the resulting government’s ability to govern.” These warnings fell on deaf ears, but diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks reveal the international community’s thinking at the time. At an early December 2009 meeting, Haiti’s largest donors concluded that “the international community has too much invested in Haiti’s democracy to walk away from the upcoming elections, despite its imperfections.”

These imperfections proved even greater than anticipated. Based on the pervasiveness of the irregularities and the close results, we concluded at the time that “it is impossible to determine who should advance to a second round” and that if “there is a second round, it will be based on arbitrary assumptions and/or exclusions.”

After intense international pressure to exclude the government-backed candidate for the second round and to include now President Martelly, the Haitian government agreed to let a group from the OAS come to the country to review the results and determine who should advance to the second round. As Porter notes in the Star, Préval alleges that the UN and U.S. rigged the results and overturned the first round, leading to Martelly’s inclusion in the second round and eventually winning the Presidency.

In the film, Préval states that after they agreed to let the OAS review the results:

“I summoned him [Mulet] to come: ‘Problem solved?’ He said: ‘No, it isn’t. If the OAS isn’t in line with the American mission’s recommendations we won’t accept the election results,’” Préval says in documentary.

“I told him whatever candidate wins, wins. And he replied that they wouldn’t accept those results. I asked: ‘So why hold elections?’”

Indeed, a CEPR statistical analysis of the OAS decision to replace the government candidate with Martelly in the second round found that the OAS “had no statistical evidence to do so,” and that in fact the “results showed that Célestin [the government-backed candidate], not Martelly, was by far the most likely second place finisher in the first round.”

The director of the documentary in which Préval makes these comments, Raoul Peck, explains to Porter the history and rationale of international meddling in Haiti’s politics:

“You have a bunch of ambassadors who feel they are governors of Haiti…They are the ones crafting politics in Haiti. They are the ones creating government there. We have a long history of this. They’d rather have a dictator, if he’s our man and we can control the country.”

Porter notes in her article that:

Foreign powers, notably the United States, have a long record of meddling with Haitian politics. The country was occupied for 19 years by American marines, ending in 1934. More recently, an American plane whisked away dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier during the popular uprising of 1986 and, 18 years later, president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was facing a coup. Afterward, Aristide called his evacuation a “kidnapping.”

Tomorrow marks two years since Martelly came to office. Legislative elections, delayed for over a year, have yet to be scheduled. Former President Aristide, who spoke publicly last week for the first time since his return from exile in South Africa in 2011 stated that “if there are free, fair and democratic elections,” then “there is a good chance” that Fanmi Lavalas “can win the majority of posts that are in play.” The international community is expected to pick up the tab on the forthcoming elections, as they did in 2010. Though elections have yet to be scheduled, the United States has already awarded over $2 million to the National Democratic Institute and the International Federation for Electoral Systems – U.S. government-linked institutions with a problematic history [PDF] in Haiti and other countries — to “support” the electoral process

Meanwhile, Fanmi Lavalas supporters have voiced concern that a new attempt to exclude the party from the upcoming elections could be underway, via the renewed investigation into the murder of radio journalist Jean Dominique, who like Aristide was a fierce critic of Haiti’s wealthy elite, the Haitian army, and other powerful interests. Although some have suggested that attempts to link Aristide to the murder are a political smear, Aristide was called before a judge for questioning in the case last week. The AP’s Trenton Daniel wrote:

An open case against Aristide, the official leader of the Lavalas party, could make it difficult for candidates to register under the party in elections that are supposed to be held before year’s end.

“We hope this isn’t political, that the government isn’t using the Jean Dominique case so Lavalas can’t qualify for the elections,” an Aristide supporter, Jean Cene, said while pressed against a barricade.

 

Writing in the Toronto Star, Catherine Porter reports on revelations from former Haitian President René Préval in Raoul Peck’s documentary film Fatal Assistance that UN head Edmond Mulet tried to remove him from the country on election day in November 2010:

“I got a phone call from Mr. (Edmond) Mulet, who was head of MINUSTAH, saying: ‘Mr. President, this is a political problem. We need to get you on a plane and evacuate you,’” Préval says in the documentary, Fatal Assistance. “I said: ‘Bring your plane, collect me from the palace, handcuff me, everyone will see that it’s a kidnapping.’”       

The comments from Préval echo those made at the time by Organization of American States special representative Ricardo Seitenfus, who told BBC Brasil in January 2011 that Mulet and other representatives of the “core group” of donor countries, “suggested that President Rene Préval should leave the country and we should think of an airplane for that. I heard it and was appalled.” The forced departure of Préval wouldn’t have been the first time a Haitian president was spirited out of the country, as former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was flown out of Haiti in 2004 on a U.S. airplane and taken to the Central African Republic in what he described as a “kidnapping” and “coup d’etat.” There is no doubt that it was a coup d’etat – the New York Times, among others, documented the U.S. role in bringing about the coup.  And Aristide’s charges that it was a kidnapping are credible and backed up by witnesses.

In response, Edmond Mulet told the Star, “I never said that, he [Préval] never answered that,” adding “I was worried if he didn’t stop the fraud and rioting, a revolution would force him to leave. I didn’t have the capability, the power or the interest of putting him on a plane.”

The first round of voting for president in November 2010 was plagued by irregularities. A CEPR statistical analysis found that some three-quarters of Haitians did not vote, over 12 percent of votes were never even received by the electoral authorities and that more than 8 percent of tally sheets contained irregularities. Perhaps most importantly, Haiti’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas, was excluded from the election. At the time, 45 Democratic members of Congress wrote to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warning that political party “exclusion[s] will undermine both Haitians’ right to vote and the resulting government’s ability to govern.” These warnings fell on deaf ears, but diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks reveal the international community’s thinking at the time. At an early December 2009 meeting, Haiti’s largest donors concluded that “the international community has too much invested in Haiti’s democracy to walk away from the upcoming elections, despite its imperfections.”

These imperfections proved even greater than anticipated. Based on the pervasiveness of the irregularities and the close results, we concluded at the time that “it is impossible to determine who should advance to a second round” and that if “there is a second round, it will be based on arbitrary assumptions and/or exclusions.”

After intense international pressure to exclude the government-backed candidate for the second round and to include now President Martelly, the Haitian government agreed to let a group from the OAS come to the country to review the results and determine who should advance to the second round. As Porter notes in the Star, Préval alleges that the UN and U.S. rigged the results and overturned the first round, leading to Martelly’s inclusion in the second round and eventually winning the Presidency.

In the film, Préval states that after they agreed to let the OAS review the results:

“I summoned him [Mulet] to come: ‘Problem solved?’ He said: ‘No, it isn’t. If the OAS isn’t in line with the American mission’s recommendations we won’t accept the election results,’” Préval says in documentary.

“I told him whatever candidate wins, wins. And he replied that they wouldn’t accept those results. I asked: ‘So why hold elections?’”

Indeed, a CEPR statistical analysis of the OAS decision to replace the government candidate with Martelly in the second round found that the OAS “had no statistical evidence to do so,” and that in fact the “results showed that Célestin [the government-backed candidate], not Martelly, was by far the most likely second place finisher in the first round.”

The director of the documentary in which Préval makes these comments, Raoul Peck, explains to Porter the history and rationale of international meddling in Haiti’s politics:

“You have a bunch of ambassadors who feel they are governors of Haiti…They are the ones crafting politics in Haiti. They are the ones creating government there. We have a long history of this. They’d rather have a dictator, if he’s our man and we can control the country.”

Porter notes in her article that:

Foreign powers, notably the United States, have a long record of meddling with Haitian politics. The country was occupied for 19 years by American marines, ending in 1934. More recently, an American plane whisked away dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier during the popular uprising of 1986 and, 18 years later, president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was facing a coup. Afterward, Aristide called his evacuation a “kidnapping.”

Tomorrow marks two years since Martelly came to office. Legislative elections, delayed for over a year, have yet to be scheduled. Former President Aristide, who spoke publicly last week for the first time since his return from exile in South Africa in 2011 stated that “if there are free, fair and democratic elections,” then “there is a good chance” that Fanmi Lavalas “can win the majority of posts that are in play.” The international community is expected to pick up the tab on the forthcoming elections, as they did in 2010. Though elections have yet to be scheduled, the United States has already awarded over $2 million to the National Democratic Institute and the International Federation for Electoral Systems – U.S. government-linked institutions with a problematic history [PDF] in Haiti and other countries — to “support” the electoral process

Meanwhile, Fanmi Lavalas supporters have voiced concern that a new attempt to exclude the party from the upcoming elections could be underway, via the renewed investigation into the murder of radio journalist Jean Dominique, who like Aristide was a fierce critic of Haiti’s wealthy elite, the Haitian army, and other powerful interests. Although some have suggested that attempts to link Aristide to the murder are a political smear, Aristide was called before a judge for questioning in the case last week. The AP’s Trenton Daniel wrote:

An open case against Aristide, the official leader of the Lavalas party, could make it difficult for candidates to register under the party in elections that are supposed to be held before year’s end.

“We hope this isn’t political, that the government isn’t using the Jean Dominique case so Lavalas can’t qualify for the elections,” an Aristide supporter, Jean Cene, said while pressed against a barricade.

 

Lawyers seeking justice on behalf of thousands of cholera victims announced their next steps after the U.N. rebuffed their claim in February, citing immunity. Saying that they were offering the U.N. its “last opportunity to accept its legal responsibility,” attorneys with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) announced in a press conference today (video here) that the U.N.’s response opens doors to trying the case in national courts, and that they will pursue this option if the U.N does not reply with “an appropriate response” in the next 60 days. The BBC’s Mark Doyle reported that “The lawyers say they will file claims for $100,000 (£64,000) for the families of those who have died and $50,000 (£32,000) for every one of the hundreds of thousands who have fallen sick,” which would total billions of dollars.

The attorneys described the U.N.’s rationale for rejecting the claim as being on “flimsy grounds.” They also placed the case in a broader context of impunity for abuse, which has included sexual assaults by U.N. troops and officers, and extrajudicial shootings in Haiti and other countries where U.N. troops have been stationed.

Attorney and IJDH board member Ira Kurzban slammed the U.N.’s justification of dumping of sewage into rivers as a matter of “policy,” even though this would clearly go against U.N. principles. Kurzban also noted that the U.N.’s failure to establish a standing claims commission that would allow Haitians to seek redress for U.N. wrongs goes against its responsibility to the world.

Also speaking at the press conference, Dr. Jean Ford Figaro, MD, MPH, and Health Education Coordinator at Boston Medical Center detailed various recommendations that the U.N.’s own Independent Panel of Experts have made that have yet to be implemented. Among these are the screening of U.N. troops, the distribution of prophylaxis, and on-site treatment of human waste. Figaro cited a new Physicians for Haiti paper that states that all three of these “recommendations could be implemented at either no or minimal cost to the UN.” In its paper, Physicians for Haiti also notes, “Two year later, the UN has not responded publicly to the [Panel’s] report, made public any proceedings from the task force, or made any of the changes in its medical or sanitation protocols recommended by the report.”

Physicians for Haiti notes that the U.N. has not admitted responsibility for causing the cholera epidemic that has killed over 8,100 people and sickened some 654,337 so far. “Despite data from the International Vaccine Institute that demonstrated cholera strains  from Nepal and Haiti epidemics were an ‘exact match’” and other studies that identified U.N. troops from Nepal as the source.

In a letter responding to the U.N.’s claim of immunity from prosecution, IJDH spells out legal arguments to explain why the U.N. is liable for the cholera victims’ claims, including “treaty obligations under the [Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations] and [Status of Forces Agreement]” and “the fundamental right to an effective remedy, which has been recognized in major human rights instruments, including those adopted by the UN itself.” But, the letter also notes

The UN’s obligation to accept and respond to claims of liability for third-party personal injury and death attributable to the organization extends beyond the CPIUN and SOFA. Your predecessor as UN Legal Counsel stressed that “[a]s a matter of international law, it is clear that the Organization can incur liabilities of a private law nature and is obligated to pay in regard to such liabilities.”

And that

In 1996, the Secretary-General observed that “the United Nations has, since the inception of peacekeeping operations, assumed its liability for damage caused by members of its forces in the performance of their duties.”

The IJDH team also noted that the efforts the U.N. is supposed to be making to eradicate cholera – namely their plan announced at the end of last year – has yet to receive significant funding. This was also noted in a Miami Herald article on Friday, which reported that:

Five months after U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon promised to “use every opportunity” to push for funding to eliminate cholera from Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic, government officials in both nations are still waiting on donors to open their wallets.

The feet-dragging comes as the rainy season begins and a new French study says the disease could quickly be eliminated from Haiti if investments are made to restrain transmissions.

“Cholera is only shrinking and has not yet disappeared. But it can disappear if the fight is correctly managed,” said Dr. Renaud Piarroux, who has studied the deadly waterborne disease in Haiti since it first appeared in October 2010.

The Herald’s Jacqueline Charles goes on to note

More than three years after the international community pledged $5.4 billion to help Haiti rebuild after its devastating Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, more than $2?billion remains outstanding. Meanwhile, emergency cholera funds in Haiti are quickly drying up.

Charles quotes HRRW’s own Jake Johnston: “This is now the third year that funding for cholera has diminished prior to the rainy season when cases will predictably spike, leading to more easily preventable and unnecessary deaths.”

As we have been pointing out repeatedly, there have been many more deaths from cholera so far this year than in the same time period last year, and the rate could become worse once the rainy season starts.

Lawyers seeking justice on behalf of thousands of cholera victims announced their next steps after the U.N. rebuffed their claim in February, citing immunity. Saying that they were offering the U.N. its “last opportunity to accept its legal responsibility,” attorneys with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) announced in a press conference today (video here) that the U.N.’s response opens doors to trying the case in national courts, and that they will pursue this option if the U.N does not reply with “an appropriate response” in the next 60 days. The BBC’s Mark Doyle reported that “The lawyers say they will file claims for $100,000 (£64,000) for the families of those who have died and $50,000 (£32,000) for every one of the hundreds of thousands who have fallen sick,” which would total billions of dollars.

The attorneys described the U.N.’s rationale for rejecting the claim as being on “flimsy grounds.” They also placed the case in a broader context of impunity for abuse, which has included sexual assaults by U.N. troops and officers, and extrajudicial shootings in Haiti and other countries where U.N. troops have been stationed.

Attorney and IJDH board member Ira Kurzban slammed the U.N.’s justification of dumping of sewage into rivers as a matter of “policy,” even though this would clearly go against U.N. principles. Kurzban also noted that the U.N.’s failure to establish a standing claims commission that would allow Haitians to seek redress for U.N. wrongs goes against its responsibility to the world.

Also speaking at the press conference, Dr. Jean Ford Figaro, MD, MPH, and Health Education Coordinator at Boston Medical Center detailed various recommendations that the U.N.’s own Independent Panel of Experts have made that have yet to be implemented. Among these are the screening of U.N. troops, the distribution of prophylaxis, and on-site treatment of human waste. Figaro cited a new Physicians for Haiti paper that states that all three of these “recommendations could be implemented at either no or minimal cost to the UN.” In its paper, Physicians for Haiti also notes, “Two year later, the UN has not responded publicly to the [Panel’s] report, made public any proceedings from the task force, or made any of the changes in its medical or sanitation protocols recommended by the report.”

Physicians for Haiti notes that the U.N. has not admitted responsibility for causing the cholera epidemic that has killed over 8,100 people and sickened some 654,337 so far. “Despite data from the International Vaccine Institute that demonstrated cholera strains  from Nepal and Haiti epidemics were an ‘exact match’” and other studies that identified U.N. troops from Nepal as the source.

In a letter responding to the U.N.’s claim of immunity from prosecution, IJDH spells out legal arguments to explain why the U.N. is liable for the cholera victims’ claims, including “treaty obligations under the [Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations] and [Status of Forces Agreement]” and “the fundamental right to an effective remedy, which has been recognized in major human rights instruments, including those adopted by the UN itself.” But, the letter also notes

The UN’s obligation to accept and respond to claims of liability for third-party personal injury and death attributable to the organization extends beyond the CPIUN and SOFA. Your predecessor as UN Legal Counsel stressed that “[a]s a matter of international law, it is clear that the Organization can incur liabilities of a private law nature and is obligated to pay in regard to such liabilities.”

And that

In 1996, the Secretary-General observed that “the United Nations has, since the inception of peacekeeping operations, assumed its liability for damage caused by members of its forces in the performance of their duties.”

The IJDH team also noted that the efforts the U.N. is supposed to be making to eradicate cholera – namely their plan announced at the end of last year – has yet to receive significant funding. This was also noted in a Miami Herald article on Friday, which reported that:

Five months after U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon promised to “use every opportunity” to push for funding to eliminate cholera from Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic, government officials in both nations are still waiting on donors to open their wallets.

The feet-dragging comes as the rainy season begins and a new French study says the disease could quickly be eliminated from Haiti if investments are made to restrain transmissions.

“Cholera is only shrinking and has not yet disappeared. But it can disappear if the fight is correctly managed,” said Dr. Renaud Piarroux, who has studied the deadly waterborne disease in Haiti since it first appeared in October 2010.

The Herald’s Jacqueline Charles goes on to note

More than three years after the international community pledged $5.4 billion to help Haiti rebuild after its devastating Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, more than $2?billion remains outstanding. Meanwhile, emergency cholera funds in Haiti are quickly drying up.

Charles quotes HRRW’s own Jake Johnston: “This is now the third year that funding for cholera has diminished prior to the rainy season when cases will predictably spike, leading to more easily preventable and unnecessary deaths.”

As we have been pointing out repeatedly, there have been many more deaths from cholera so far this year than in the same time period last year, and the rate could become worse once the rainy season starts.

On April 25th, Representative Barbara Lee of California introduced H.R. 1749, the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, which would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to produce a detailed and comprehensive report on U.S. aid programs to Haiti since the January 2010 earthquake.  The bill, which has 24 original co-sponsors, reflects the growing concern in Congress about the lack of tangible progress in U.S. post-quake relief and reconstruction efforts, and the lack of transparency around how U.S. aid money is being used.

An earlier version of this bill was passed in the House of Representatives in May of 2011 and later was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but never made it to a vote on the Senate floor.  The legislation has been significantly revised and, whereas the old bill (which can be viewed here) had general reporting requirements, the new bill (which can be viewed here) has very specific and probing reporting language that should help shed light on how USAID funds are being used on the ground in Haiti.  Among other things, the legislation calls for:

·         An assessment of the “amounts obligated and expended on United States Government programs and activities since January 2010 (…) including award data [read: financial data] on the use of implementing partners at both prime and subprime levels, and disbursement data from prime and subprime implementing partners.”

·         A description of “goals and quantitative and qualitative indicators to evaluate the progress, or lack of achievement of such goals…”

·         An “assessment of the manner in which the Department of State and USAID are working with Haitian ministries and local authorities, including the extent to which the Government of Haiti has been consulted on the establishment of goals and timeframes and on the design and implementation of new programs…”

·         An “assessment of how consideration for vulnerable populations, including IDPs (Internally Displaced Populations), women, children, orphans, and persons with disabilities, have been incorporated in the design and implementation of new programs and infrastructure”

·         An “assessment of how agriculture and infrastructure programs are impacting food security and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Haiti”

Last month CEPR published a report titled “Breaking Open the Black Box” describing the lack of transparency of U.S. aid programs in Haiti, particularly at the contracting level, and recommended USAID reporting requirements similar to those found in H.R.1749.  The report noted that the effectiveness of U.S. aid to Haiti has been questioned by the GAO, the USAID Inspector General and other government watchdogs. 

At a mid-April congressional hearing on the U.S. Department of State FY 2014 budget, Secretary of State John Kerry was asked about Haiti by Congresswoman Barbara Lee. In her question, Rep. Lee mentioned that she will be introducing legislation to promote U.S. aid transparency and accountability:

REP. LEE: And finally, just with regard to Haiti, you know, many of us are concerned about the lack of tangible results for vulnerable communities in Haiti after billions were pledged in the wake of the 2010 tragic earthquake. We’ve been calling for greater transparency and accountability, and of course I have legislation that I’m introducing once again to call on the State Department to really let us know how this money has been spent.

And so I wanted to know if there was any way administratively, because you know sometimes this legislative process can be very cumbersome — but if you can administratively figure out a way to let us know how the money is being spent. It’s my understanding that just over 50 percent of the funds made available for Haiti reconstruction through fiscal year 2012 have been dispersed — only 50 percent. And given the overwhelming needs of the country, why haven’t we moved faster or why haven’t they moved faster?

As Kerry was in fact a co-sponsor of the Assessing Progress in Haiti bill while a Senator, his position as Secretary of State could help bolster support for the forthcoming reintroduction of the bill.  Kerry’s response to Lee, however, was ambivalent and vague:

SEC. KERRY: Well, on Haiti — let me begin with Haiti. I think — as you know, the administration put a lot of effort into Haiti in the last four years — a lot of money, a lot of effort — the Clinton Global Initiative, President Clinton himself, others — and Secretary Clinton put enormous focus on it. Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills personally was shepherding it, et cetera — still is helping us, actually. She’s doing that part time right now.

And you know, the great complication that I have observed — I’m not doing a general policy thing here — but I think is just capacity to absorb; governance combined with sort of sustainability issues that are very challenging there. And then — and also a lack of coordinated approach. I think more than anything, if I had to find a thing to say to you has been a challenge, it’s how to coordinate. It’s not lack of effort. It’s just very, very difficult.

So you asked the question. I think that’s been the hardest thing to achieve.

We’re going to stay at it. You know, it’s vital to us in lots of ways. I had — I represented — I had the privilege of representing a huge Haitian community up in Boston and I know after the earthquake we gathered that very night and we — you know, we talked about how we’d try to make this go-around different in terms of the aid and the focus and attention.

I probably need — you know, you’ve jogged my needs on this, and I probably need to get the team together and sort of take stock of exactly what our broader judgment is, comparing it with all the agencies involved and maybe get back to you even further. But that’s my quick take on it.

Kerry might be pleased to know that his concern about “a lack of coordinated approach” in Haiti is addressed in Lee’s bill.  The legislation’s seventh reporting requirement calls for “an assessment of recovery and development coordination among United States Government agencies and between the United States Government and other donors.”

On April 25th, Representative Barbara Lee of California introduced H.R. 1749, the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, which would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to produce a detailed and comprehensive report on U.S. aid programs to Haiti since the January 2010 earthquake.  The bill, which has 24 original co-sponsors, reflects the growing concern in Congress about the lack of tangible progress in U.S. post-quake relief and reconstruction efforts, and the lack of transparency around how U.S. aid money is being used.

An earlier version of this bill was passed in the House of Representatives in May of 2011 and later was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but never made it to a vote on the Senate floor.  The legislation has been significantly revised and, whereas the old bill (which can be viewed here) had general reporting requirements, the new bill (which can be viewed here) has very specific and probing reporting language that should help shed light on how USAID funds are being used on the ground in Haiti.  Among other things, the legislation calls for:

·         An assessment of the “amounts obligated and expended on United States Government programs and activities since January 2010 (…) including award data [read: financial data] on the use of implementing partners at both prime and subprime levels, and disbursement data from prime and subprime implementing partners.”

·         A description of “goals and quantitative and qualitative indicators to evaluate the progress, or lack of achievement of such goals…”

·         An “assessment of the manner in which the Department of State and USAID are working with Haitian ministries and local authorities, including the extent to which the Government of Haiti has been consulted on the establishment of goals and timeframes and on the design and implementation of new programs…”

·         An “assessment of how consideration for vulnerable populations, including IDPs (Internally Displaced Populations), women, children, orphans, and persons with disabilities, have been incorporated in the design and implementation of new programs and infrastructure”

·         An “assessment of how agriculture and infrastructure programs are impacting food security and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Haiti”

Last month CEPR published a report titled “Breaking Open the Black Box” describing the lack of transparency of U.S. aid programs in Haiti, particularly at the contracting level, and recommended USAID reporting requirements similar to those found in H.R.1749.  The report noted that the effectiveness of U.S. aid to Haiti has been questioned by the GAO, the USAID Inspector General and other government watchdogs. 

At a mid-April congressional hearing on the U.S. Department of State FY 2014 budget, Secretary of State John Kerry was asked about Haiti by Congresswoman Barbara Lee. In her question, Rep. Lee mentioned that she will be introducing legislation to promote U.S. aid transparency and accountability:

REP. LEE: And finally, just with regard to Haiti, you know, many of us are concerned about the lack of tangible results for vulnerable communities in Haiti after billions were pledged in the wake of the 2010 tragic earthquake. We’ve been calling for greater transparency and accountability, and of course I have legislation that I’m introducing once again to call on the State Department to really let us know how this money has been spent.

And so I wanted to know if there was any way administratively, because you know sometimes this legislative process can be very cumbersome — but if you can administratively figure out a way to let us know how the money is being spent. It’s my understanding that just over 50 percent of the funds made available for Haiti reconstruction through fiscal year 2012 have been dispersed — only 50 percent. And given the overwhelming needs of the country, why haven’t we moved faster or why haven’t they moved faster?

As Kerry was in fact a co-sponsor of the Assessing Progress in Haiti bill while a Senator, his position as Secretary of State could help bolster support for the forthcoming reintroduction of the bill.  Kerry’s response to Lee, however, was ambivalent and vague:

SEC. KERRY: Well, on Haiti — let me begin with Haiti. I think — as you know, the administration put a lot of effort into Haiti in the last four years — a lot of money, a lot of effort — the Clinton Global Initiative, President Clinton himself, others — and Secretary Clinton put enormous focus on it. Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills personally was shepherding it, et cetera — still is helping us, actually. She’s doing that part time right now.

And you know, the great complication that I have observed — I’m not doing a general policy thing here — but I think is just capacity to absorb; governance combined with sort of sustainability issues that are very challenging there. And then — and also a lack of coordinated approach. I think more than anything, if I had to find a thing to say to you has been a challenge, it’s how to coordinate. It’s not lack of effort. It’s just very, very difficult.

So you asked the question. I think that’s been the hardest thing to achieve.

We’re going to stay at it. You know, it’s vital to us in lots of ways. I had — I represented — I had the privilege of representing a huge Haitian community up in Boston and I know after the earthquake we gathered that very night and we — you know, we talked about how we’d try to make this go-around different in terms of the aid and the focus and attention.

I probably need — you know, you’ve jogged my needs on this, and I probably need to get the team together and sort of take stock of exactly what our broader judgment is, comparing it with all the agencies involved and maybe get back to you even further. But that’s my quick take on it.

Kerry might be pleased to know that his concern about “a lack of coordinated approach” in Haiti is addressed in Lee’s bill.  The legislation’s seventh reporting requirement calls for “an assessment of recovery and development coordination among United States Government agencies and between the United States Government and other donors.”

Over the last decade the fight for accountability in Latin America for crimes committed by past dictatorships has seen a tremendous number of successes. In Peru, Alberto Fujimori is in jail. In Argentina dozens of defendants have been convicted in just the last year. But two ongoing cases continue to drag on, Efraín Ríos Montt in Guatemala and Jean-Claude Duvalier in Haiti. Both Ríos Montt and Duvalier enjoyed support of all kinds from the U.S. government, but the U.S.’s response to the cases illustrates the ongoing hypocrisy of the U.S. in the region.

In Guatemala, as numerous media outlets have described it, Ríos Montt is “the first former head of state in the Americas to stand trial for genocide in a national court.” While the case was recently suspended, after a week of legal maneuvers, it appears that it may be set to resume this week.  After the trial was suspended on April 18, investigative journalist Allan Nairn reported that “Guatemalan army associates had threatened the lives of case judges and prosecutors and that the case had been annulled after intervention by Guatemala’s president, General Otto Pérez Molina.” Nairn, who investigated atrocities in Guatemala in the ‘80s – including Pérez Molina’s involvement in them — was supposed to testify at the trial.

But less than a week later, the U.S. sent Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen J. Rapp to Guatemala to “meet with U.S. Government and Embassy officials, local victims groups, and other international officials.” Last Friday, as the trial continued to be suspended, State Department Acting Deputy Spokesperson  Patrick Ventrell stated:

So we urge the Government of Guatemala to ensure that this legal case is conducted in accordance with Guatemala’s domestic and international legal obligations, and we expect the process and outcome will advance the rule of law.

The statement from the State Department came the same day that Rapp concluded his trip to Guatemala. Over the weekend, president Pérez Molina also seemed to partially walk back his previous statements criticizing the trial, calling the trial “historic” and pledging to not personally intervene.

In Haiti, on the other hand, the U.S. has been entirely absent.

The case against Duvalier is currently making its way, slowly, through an appeals court after an investigative judge had ruled he could not be tried for crimes against humanity. As is the case with Guatemala, the former dictator on trial appears to enjoy the support of the central government. As Amnesty International wrote last week:

The Public Prosecutor, instead of fulfilling her role of defending the public interest, has aligned with the defence and does not miss any opportunity to dismiss the complainants’ arguments.

The current administration, several members of which reportedly held positions of power in Jean-Claude Duvalier’s government, has shown no interest in bringing Duvalier to justice. On the contrary, it has granted him a diplomatic passport.

Last week was supposed to be the ninth hearing in the case, yet it was cancelled “as one of the judges needed to attend a funeral.” Amnesty points out that “Only five of the 20-plus complainants have been heard” and that Duvalier “has been evading the courts for some time,” having not appeared since February.

Yet, in contrast to Guatemala, the U.S. is silent. In March, Fran Quigley argued that the U.S. held the keys to the Duvalier trial, and noticed that Rapp, and other U.S. human rights officials (some with specific backgrounds in Haiti) were “sitting this one out.”

Instead, as Quigley wrote from the courtroom in late February, “the U.S. is represented today by just one embassy official, who does not participate in the hearing and does not want to speak for the record.” Rather than calling on the Haitian government to “ensure that this legal case is conducted in accordance with Haiti’s domestic and international legal obligations,” as they did for the Ríos Montt trial, the U.S. government has repeatedly stated that with regards to the Duvalier case “a decision about what is to be done is left to the government and people of Haiti.”

Update 5/01: A previous version of this post referred to an article from March by Bill Quigley, it was actually written by Fran Quigley.

Over the last decade the fight for accountability in Latin America for crimes committed by past dictatorships has seen a tremendous number of successes. In Peru, Alberto Fujimori is in jail. In Argentina dozens of defendants have been convicted in just the last year. But two ongoing cases continue to drag on, Efraín Ríos Montt in Guatemala and Jean-Claude Duvalier in Haiti. Both Ríos Montt and Duvalier enjoyed support of all kinds from the U.S. government, but the U.S.’s response to the cases illustrates the ongoing hypocrisy of the U.S. in the region.

In Guatemala, as numerous media outlets have described it, Ríos Montt is “the first former head of state in the Americas to stand trial for genocide in a national court.” While the case was recently suspended, after a week of legal maneuvers, it appears that it may be set to resume this week.  After the trial was suspended on April 18, investigative journalist Allan Nairn reported that “Guatemalan army associates had threatened the lives of case judges and prosecutors and that the case had been annulled after intervention by Guatemala’s president, General Otto Pérez Molina.” Nairn, who investigated atrocities in Guatemala in the ‘80s – including Pérez Molina’s involvement in them — was supposed to testify at the trial.

But less than a week later, the U.S. sent Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen J. Rapp to Guatemala to “meet with U.S. Government and Embassy officials, local victims groups, and other international officials.” Last Friday, as the trial continued to be suspended, State Department Acting Deputy Spokesperson  Patrick Ventrell stated:

So we urge the Government of Guatemala to ensure that this legal case is conducted in accordance with Guatemala’s domestic and international legal obligations, and we expect the process and outcome will advance the rule of law.

The statement from the State Department came the same day that Rapp concluded his trip to Guatemala. Over the weekend, president Pérez Molina also seemed to partially walk back his previous statements criticizing the trial, calling the trial “historic” and pledging to not personally intervene.

In Haiti, on the other hand, the U.S. has been entirely absent.

The case against Duvalier is currently making its way, slowly, through an appeals court after an investigative judge had ruled he could not be tried for crimes against humanity. As is the case with Guatemala, the former dictator on trial appears to enjoy the support of the central government. As Amnesty International wrote last week:

The Public Prosecutor, instead of fulfilling her role of defending the public interest, has aligned with the defence and does not miss any opportunity to dismiss the complainants’ arguments.

The current administration, several members of which reportedly held positions of power in Jean-Claude Duvalier’s government, has shown no interest in bringing Duvalier to justice. On the contrary, it has granted him a diplomatic passport.

Last week was supposed to be the ninth hearing in the case, yet it was cancelled “as one of the judges needed to attend a funeral.” Amnesty points out that “Only five of the 20-plus complainants have been heard” and that Duvalier “has been evading the courts for some time,” having not appeared since February.

Yet, in contrast to Guatemala, the U.S. is silent. In March, Fran Quigley argued that the U.S. held the keys to the Duvalier trial, and noticed that Rapp, and other U.S. human rights officials (some with specific backgrounds in Haiti) were “sitting this one out.”

Instead, as Quigley wrote from the courtroom in late February, “the U.S. is represented today by just one embassy official, who does not participate in the hearing and does not want to speak for the record.” Rather than calling on the Haitian government to “ensure that this legal case is conducted in accordance with Haiti’s domestic and international legal obligations,” as they did for the Ríos Montt trial, the U.S. government has repeatedly stated that with regards to the Duvalier case “a decision about what is to be done is left to the government and people of Haiti.”

Update 5/01: A previous version of this post referred to an article from March by Bill Quigley, it was actually written by Fran Quigley.

In February, the United Nations confirmed that a Canadian serving with the United Nations Police contingent of MINUSTAH had been accused of sexually and physically assaulting a Haitian woman. Yesterday, Marie Rosy Kesner Auguste Ducena, a lawyer with the Haitian National Human Rights Defense Network, told CBC news that, though the victim reported the assault to police, “nothing will happen… Women who will go to complain, you will see that maybe somebody will take the complaint and will say to her you will be called after. But in fact, the case will just be closed.” CBC notes that the “day after the incident, the man boarded a flight back to Canada, where he remains.”

This is but the latest in a series of sexual abuse allegations leveled against MINUSTAH personnel in Haiti. According to U.N. data, since 2007 there have been 70 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation against MINUSTAH members, but as CBC news points out, “not one has ended up in a Haitian court.”

The lack of accountability of U.N. military and police personnel in Haiti has “undermined” the organizations reputation and its ability to carry out its mandate, according to Mark Schneider of the International Crisis Group (ICG). “The UN should ensure that in the agreement with the troop-contributing countries, that there is an understanding of what will happen if an abuse occurs — that there will be a full investigation, and that there will be appropriate action taken,” Schneider added.

According to the CBC, the current case is complicated by the fact that the Canadian was serving as a UN Police agent. The CBC reports:

Soldiers can be tried in a military court, but under UN rules, civilian staff — including police officers — are immune from criminal prosecution in the country where the alleged offence occurred. Once back in Canada, they cannot be charged for a crime committed abroad.

Since 2007, the majority of sexual abuse allegations have involved civilian (including police) staff, while 40 percent of allegations involved military personnel. While police are granted immunity from local courts, military personnel are also afforded a layer of protection. In fact, the UN has little control over investigating and punishing military personnel accused of wrongdoing. According to an ICG interview with a senior official in the Conduct and Discipline Unit of MINUSTAH, “The UN reviews cases and urges countries to provide faster follow-up but does not investigate to determine if discipline or punishment is needed.” The U.N.’s lack of ability to investigate or hold accountable those accused of wrongdoing flies in the face of the organization’s stated “zero tolerance” policy.

Looking further at the data, MINUSTAH’s track record looks even worse. Since 2008, 31 percent of the allegations involved minors, while another 30 percent involved individuals of an “unidentified” age. Also, while allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation across all U.N. missions has decreased over the last 6 years, the number of allegations involving MINUSTAH increased each year from 2009-2011, and there have been 5 such allegations already in 2013, which puts the mission on pace for more than ever before. Despite accounting for 10 percent of U.N. “peacekeeping” staff worldwide, MINUSTAH accounted for over 20 percent of the allegations of sexual abuse in 2011 and nearly 40 percent so far in 2013.

In February, the United Nations confirmed that a Canadian serving with the United Nations Police contingent of MINUSTAH had been accused of sexually and physically assaulting a Haitian woman. Yesterday, Marie Rosy Kesner Auguste Ducena, a lawyer with the Haitian National Human Rights Defense Network, told CBC news that, though the victim reported the assault to police, “nothing will happen… Women who will go to complain, you will see that maybe somebody will take the complaint and will say to her you will be called after. But in fact, the case will just be closed.” CBC notes that the “day after the incident, the man boarded a flight back to Canada, where he remains.”

This is but the latest in a series of sexual abuse allegations leveled against MINUSTAH personnel in Haiti. According to U.N. data, since 2007 there have been 70 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation against MINUSTAH members, but as CBC news points out, “not one has ended up in a Haitian court.”

The lack of accountability of U.N. military and police personnel in Haiti has “undermined” the organizations reputation and its ability to carry out its mandate, according to Mark Schneider of the International Crisis Group (ICG). “The UN should ensure that in the agreement with the troop-contributing countries, that there is an understanding of what will happen if an abuse occurs — that there will be a full investigation, and that there will be appropriate action taken,” Schneider added.

According to the CBC, the current case is complicated by the fact that the Canadian was serving as a UN Police agent. The CBC reports:

Soldiers can be tried in a military court, but under UN rules, civilian staff — including police officers — are immune from criminal prosecution in the country where the alleged offence occurred. Once back in Canada, they cannot be charged for a crime committed abroad.

Since 2007, the majority of sexual abuse allegations have involved civilian (including police) staff, while 40 percent of allegations involved military personnel. While police are granted immunity from local courts, military personnel are also afforded a layer of protection. In fact, the UN has little control over investigating and punishing military personnel accused of wrongdoing. According to an ICG interview with a senior official in the Conduct and Discipline Unit of MINUSTAH, “The UN reviews cases and urges countries to provide faster follow-up but does not investigate to determine if discipline or punishment is needed.” The U.N.’s lack of ability to investigate or hold accountable those accused of wrongdoing flies in the face of the organization’s stated “zero tolerance” policy.

Looking further at the data, MINUSTAH’s track record looks even worse. Since 2008, 31 percent of the allegations involved minors, while another 30 percent involved individuals of an “unidentified” age. Also, while allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation across all U.N. missions has decreased over the last 6 years, the number of allegations involving MINUSTAH increased each year from 2009-2011, and there have been 5 such allegations already in 2013, which puts the mission on pace for more than ever before. Despite accounting for 10 percent of U.N. “peacekeeping” staff worldwide, MINUSTAH accounted for over 20 percent of the allegations of sexual abuse in 2011 and nearly 40 percent so far in 2013.

The IOM reported this week that over the last three months, some 27,000 people have left IDP camps, bringing the total amount remaining to around 320,000. The IOM credits the vast majority of this reduction, some 74 percent, on relocation programs – most often a one-year rental subsidy. The report’s “highlights” section says that “Evictions accounted for a 6% decrease in IDP household population.”  Yet the data in the report directly contradicts this. Of a reported reduction of 6,401 households, the IOM says 977 were forced to leave due to evictions, representing over 15 percent of the total reduction.

But even this is most likely an underestimate. Over previous months, there has been “a dramatic new wave of forced evictions,” according to the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). One camp which has been under the threat of eviction, and from which some families have already been evicted, is Camp Gaston Margon. On March 22, Amnesty International released a statement, warning that:

Approximately 650 families living in Gaston Margon displacement camp in the Port-au-Prince municipality of Carrefour are currently under the threat of forced eviction. Already, on 15 February, 150 families were forcibly evicted from the camp by police officers and a group of men carrying machetes and knives who were accompanied by a local justice of the peace. The armed men began destroying the families’ shelters, while some people were still inside, and attacked individuals that attempted to stop them. The police also shot their firearms into the air to intimidate the families. One infant was reported to have suffered injuries when armed men and police damaged a shelter with the child still inside. The men reportedly threatened to burn down the entire camp and to kill the children of families who did not move.

During the previous IOM reporting period, Camp Margon had a population of 3,376. During the most recent reporting period, the population had decreased to 2,327. Given the reports of threats of eviction, and at least a partial eviction, it is clear that this reduction is not simply a case of “spontaneous return,” as the IOM report implicitly states.

In videos posted earlier this week by Let Haiti Live, residents of Camp Gaston Margon talk about the threats:

We have been living in this camp for three years and two months since the earthquake. We have faced a lot of threats from the landowner because we are on private land. One time they came to destroy the camp and they ripped our tents, we rebuilt the tents again. I used to live in a first part of the camp and when they forced us to leave I came here. The landowner wants the land to build his business.

We stay here because we have nowhere to go. When it rains we have a lot of problems and in the night it’s as though we live under streetlights because our tarps are no good. If the government relocates us from the camps it would be a miracle.

As the IOM’s own report notes, of those remaining in the camps, some 27 percent are facing the threat of eviction. This compares to 18 percent who stand to benefit from planned return programs. In the meantime, IDPs continue to be targeted with violent threats of eviction. Amnesty International, which will be releasing a report on the issue of evictions next week, issued a statement on Wednesday urging an investigation into “[a]llegations that a man died after being beaten by the police as he took part in a protest against an arson attack on a camp for displaced people in Haiti’s capital.” Amnesty notes that the “attack occurred less than 48 hours after the alleged owner of a portion of the land where the camp is located told the residents that he would “use all possible means to evict them.””

Javier Zúñiga, a special adviser for Amnesty International, said, “Unfortunately this incident is emblematic of the situation of powerlessness in which thousands of people still living in displacement camps find themselves.” Adding, “This terrible event is proof of the consequences of continuing forced evictions in Haiti.”

 

The IOM reported this week that over the last three months, some 27,000 people have left IDP camps, bringing the total amount remaining to around 320,000. The IOM credits the vast majority of this reduction, some 74 percent, on relocation programs – most often a one-year rental subsidy. The report’s “highlights” section says that “Evictions accounted for a 6% decrease in IDP household population.”  Yet the data in the report directly contradicts this. Of a reported reduction of 6,401 households, the IOM says 977 were forced to leave due to evictions, representing over 15 percent of the total reduction.

But even this is most likely an underestimate. Over previous months, there has been “a dramatic new wave of forced evictions,” according to the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). One camp which has been under the threat of eviction, and from which some families have already been evicted, is Camp Gaston Margon. On March 22, Amnesty International released a statement, warning that:

Approximately 650 families living in Gaston Margon displacement camp in the Port-au-Prince municipality of Carrefour are currently under the threat of forced eviction. Already, on 15 February, 150 families were forcibly evicted from the camp by police officers and a group of men carrying machetes and knives who were accompanied by a local justice of the peace. The armed men began destroying the families’ shelters, while some people were still inside, and attacked individuals that attempted to stop them. The police also shot their firearms into the air to intimidate the families. One infant was reported to have suffered injuries when armed men and police damaged a shelter with the child still inside. The men reportedly threatened to burn down the entire camp and to kill the children of families who did not move.

During the previous IOM reporting period, Camp Margon had a population of 3,376. During the most recent reporting period, the population had decreased to 2,327. Given the reports of threats of eviction, and at least a partial eviction, it is clear that this reduction is not simply a case of “spontaneous return,” as the IOM report implicitly states.

In videos posted earlier this week by Let Haiti Live, residents of Camp Gaston Margon talk about the threats:

We have been living in this camp for three years and two months since the earthquake. We have faced a lot of threats from the landowner because we are on private land. One time they came to destroy the camp and they ripped our tents, we rebuilt the tents again. I used to live in a first part of the camp and when they forced us to leave I came here. The landowner wants the land to build his business.

We stay here because we have nowhere to go. When it rains we have a lot of problems and in the night it’s as though we live under streetlights because our tarps are no good. If the government relocates us from the camps it would be a miracle.

As the IOM’s own report notes, of those remaining in the camps, some 27 percent are facing the threat of eviction. This compares to 18 percent who stand to benefit from planned return programs. In the meantime, IDPs continue to be targeted with violent threats of eviction. Amnesty International, which will be releasing a report on the issue of evictions next week, issued a statement on Wednesday urging an investigation into “[a]llegations that a man died after being beaten by the police as he took part in a protest against an arson attack on a camp for displaced people in Haiti’s capital.” Amnesty notes that the “attack occurred less than 48 hours after the alleged owner of a portion of the land where the camp is located told the residents that he would “use all possible means to evict them.””

Javier Zúñiga, a special adviser for Amnesty International, said, “Unfortunately this incident is emblematic of the situation of powerlessness in which thousands of people still living in displacement camps find themselves.” Adding, “This terrible event is proof of the consequences of continuing forced evictions in Haiti.”

 

Want to search in the archives?

¿Quieres buscar en los archivos?

Click Here Haga clic aquí