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.

Is USAID Mainly Serving U.S. Interests?

An op-ed in Bloomberg Businessweek yesterday lays out the case for USAID reform, highlighting the case of contractors in Haiti (and citing this blog) as an example. The piece, by Charles Kenny of the Center for Global Development, also examines the politicized nature of USAID practices. Kenny writes:

When it comes to buying friends at the United Nations, or buying crops in the Midwest, or creating jobs around the Capital Beltway, the U.S. foreign aid system is a paragon of effectiveness. Take the goal of buying friends. Eric Werker, a Harvard Business School associate professor, and Ilyana Kuziemko, now a Columbia Business School associate professor and Harvard Ph.D., estimated in a 2006 Harvard paper that countries rotating onto the UN Security Council were likely to see their U.S. aid increase by 59 percent. The aid then fell as the countries finished their terms. In a 1999 study, Illinois State University’s T.Y. Wang found that U.S. aid successfully affects UN voting patterns on issues vital to America’s national interests.

It is notable that the fifth largest USAID vendor is the government of Pakistan, currently a U.N. Security Council member. (The top four vendors – as September 30, 2012 – were the World Bank, the U.N. World Food Program, Chemonics (whose work in Haiti we have examined on this blog), and John Snow, Inc.)

Kenny also describes problems with USAID’s food assistance to developing nations:

The U.S. food aid program, for instance, purchases about $1 billion worth of American crops a year. It spends roughly an additional $1 billion transporting the crops overseas, in most cases using U.S.-flagged ships.

Economics professors Nathan Nunn of Harvard and Nancy Qian of Yale demonstrated in a 2010 paper that what determines the size of U.S. food aid shipments isn’t recipient need, but the size of the U.S. crop. And about half the funding is used on shipping. That same money could buy supplies in local markets and help farmers in developing countries.

Anthropologist and well-known critic of past Haiti aid practices Timothy Schwartz has detailed the pitfalls from food aid monetization in his book Travesty in Haiti and elsewhere. Schwartz also noted that USAID and U.N. World Food Program shipments of grains to Haiti often have had a negative impact on Haitian agriculture partly because of the timing of the shipments. He noted several cases in which food was shipped to Haiti during Haiti’s harvest while such assistance was lacking in the Haitian off-season – the exact opposite of when food assistance should be delivered to both maximize the benefit to Haitian recipients and to help foster Haitian agriculture.

As Kenny notes, rather than use USAID funds to purchase crops from Haitian farmers, USAID relies on shipping U.S. crops, which undercuts the cost of local produce. The monetization practice has involved USAID provision of food supplies to aid NGO’s such as CARE, World Vision, Catholic Relief Services (the 16th largest USAID vendor) and ACDI/VOCA (34th largest vendor), which in turn are required to sell the grains on the local market. As we have previously noted, the practice has been criticized even by some of these implementing NGO’s, the U.S. Government Accountability Office and various aid experts.

Following the earthquake in 2010, we proposed that the international community instead use a tiny portion of its committed aid funds – 1.76 to 2.35 percent – to purchase the entire Haitian rice crop, which would have provided a boost to Haitian farmers while also delivering urgently needed food assistance. While there was some congressional interest in the idea, ultimately it did not get much traction, and USAID food aid has continued along the same path: following what is good for “farmers in Arkansas,” as former president Bill Clinton put it, rather than what is best for Haiti.

But the apparent prioritization of U.S. suppliers over foreign aid recipients should not come as a surprise; it is close to USAID’s central mission. USAID summarizes its activities as “developing partnerships with countries committed to enabling the private sector investment that is the basis of sustained economic growth to open new markets for American goods, promote trade overseas, and create jobs here at home.” [Emphasis added.] And in an October 2011 speech, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested – as cited by Jonathan Katz – that “America should ‘put economics at the center’ of its foreign policy. In foreign relations, the question should always be ‘how will this affect our economic growth?’” [USAID is under the U.S. State Department.]

Kenny notes that the blame for USAID failures to serve the needs of Haiti and other countries overseas is “not the fault of the long-suffering staff of U.S. aid agencies, who can deliver very effective programs if given the chance,” but “The blame, instead, lies largely with members of Congress who complain that aid is wasted because it doesn’t lead to development, and then turn around and ensure hardly any assistance is designed or delivered with development as the primary goal.” He also notes the damaging impact of lobbyists that contractors and U.S. agriculture companies have had in hampering reform efforts:

USAID’s current contractors have hired lobbyists from the Podesta Group to combat procurement reform, and an alliance of domestic agricultural groups, shipping interests, and U.S. nongovernmental organizations that implement the food aid program are also resisting change.

An op-ed in Bloomberg Businessweek yesterday lays out the case for USAID reform, highlighting the case of contractors in Haiti (and citing this blog) as an example. The piece, by Charles Kenny of the Center for Global Development, also examines the politicized nature of USAID practices. Kenny writes:

When it comes to buying friends at the United Nations, or buying crops in the Midwest, or creating jobs around the Capital Beltway, the U.S. foreign aid system is a paragon of effectiveness. Take the goal of buying friends. Eric Werker, a Harvard Business School associate professor, and Ilyana Kuziemko, now a Columbia Business School associate professor and Harvard Ph.D., estimated in a 2006 Harvard paper that countries rotating onto the UN Security Council were likely to see their U.S. aid increase by 59 percent. The aid then fell as the countries finished their terms. In a 1999 study, Illinois State University’s T.Y. Wang found that U.S. aid successfully affects UN voting patterns on issues vital to America’s national interests.

It is notable that the fifth largest USAID vendor is the government of Pakistan, currently a U.N. Security Council member. (The top four vendors – as September 30, 2012 – were the World Bank, the U.N. World Food Program, Chemonics (whose work in Haiti we have examined on this blog), and John Snow, Inc.)

Kenny also describes problems with USAID’s food assistance to developing nations:

The U.S. food aid program, for instance, purchases about $1 billion worth of American crops a year. It spends roughly an additional $1 billion transporting the crops overseas, in most cases using U.S.-flagged ships.

Economics professors Nathan Nunn of Harvard and Nancy Qian of Yale demonstrated in a 2010 paper that what determines the size of U.S. food aid shipments isn’t recipient need, but the size of the U.S. crop. And about half the funding is used on shipping. That same money could buy supplies in local markets and help farmers in developing countries.

Anthropologist and well-known critic of past Haiti aid practices Timothy Schwartz has detailed the pitfalls from food aid monetization in his book Travesty in Haiti and elsewhere. Schwartz also noted that USAID and U.N. World Food Program shipments of grains to Haiti often have had a negative impact on Haitian agriculture partly because of the timing of the shipments. He noted several cases in which food was shipped to Haiti during Haiti’s harvest while such assistance was lacking in the Haitian off-season – the exact opposite of when food assistance should be delivered to both maximize the benefit to Haitian recipients and to help foster Haitian agriculture.

As Kenny notes, rather than use USAID funds to purchase crops from Haitian farmers, USAID relies on shipping U.S. crops, which undercuts the cost of local produce. The monetization practice has involved USAID provision of food supplies to aid NGO’s such as CARE, World Vision, Catholic Relief Services (the 16th largest USAID vendor) and ACDI/VOCA (34th largest vendor), which in turn are required to sell the grains on the local market. As we have previously noted, the practice has been criticized even by some of these implementing NGO’s, the U.S. Government Accountability Office and various aid experts.

Following the earthquake in 2010, we proposed that the international community instead use a tiny portion of its committed aid funds – 1.76 to 2.35 percent – to purchase the entire Haitian rice crop, which would have provided a boost to Haitian farmers while also delivering urgently needed food assistance. While there was some congressional interest in the idea, ultimately it did not get much traction, and USAID food aid has continued along the same path: following what is good for “farmers in Arkansas,” as former president Bill Clinton put it, rather than what is best for Haiti.

But the apparent prioritization of U.S. suppliers over foreign aid recipients should not come as a surprise; it is close to USAID’s central mission. USAID summarizes its activities as “developing partnerships with countries committed to enabling the private sector investment that is the basis of sustained economic growth to open new markets for American goods, promote trade overseas, and create jobs here at home.” [Emphasis added.] And in an October 2011 speech, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested – as cited by Jonathan Katz – that “America should ‘put economics at the center’ of its foreign policy. In foreign relations, the question should always be ‘how will this affect our economic growth?’” [USAID is under the U.S. State Department.]

Kenny notes that the blame for USAID failures to serve the needs of Haiti and other countries overseas is “not the fault of the long-suffering staff of U.S. aid agencies, who can deliver very effective programs if given the chance,” but “The blame, instead, lies largely with members of Congress who complain that aid is wasted because it doesn’t lead to development, and then turn around and ensure hardly any assistance is designed or delivered with development as the primary goal.” He also notes the damaging impact of lobbyists that contractors and U.S. agriculture companies have had in hampering reform efforts:

USAID’s current contractors have hired lobbyists from the Podesta Group to combat procurement reform, and an alliance of domestic agricultural groups, shipping interests, and U.S. nongovernmental organizations that implement the food aid program are also resisting change.

The U.N. Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued a press statement at the end of last week “express[ing] the grave concern of the humanitarian community in country regarding the recent incidents of forced evictions of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from camps in Port-au-Prince.”

The OCHA release follows a visit to the Acra 2 IDP camp in Port-au-Prince which “followed evictions of about 1,000 displaced families in camps Acra 1 and 2 (Petionville) and Gaston Margron (Carrefour) in metropolitan Port-au-Prince on 17 February 2013.”

The OCHA press statement notes:

Today, a little less than 350,000 displaced people live in 450 camps, most of them unable to find a return solution and without access to appropriate services. The humanitarian community estimates that more than 66,000 internally displaced persons (in 150 camps) have been victims of forced evictions since July 2010. More than 73,000 people living in 87 camps (20 per cent of the total displaced population) are facing threats of eviction in 2013. A forced eviction is the permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families or communities from the homes or land they occupy, without the provision of access to appropriate forms of legal or other protection.

The statement was an improvement over past OCHA mischaracterizations of some forced eviction cases as “voluntary returns.”

According to the release, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Ross Mountain “met with the Minister of Human Rights and the Fight against Extreme Poverty, Mrs. Rose Anne Auguste to discuss the issue of forced evictions in IDP camps.” Ms. Auguste

stated that a judicial inquiry was ongoing and security presence was being strengthened around camps at risk. She pointed out that President Martelly had on several occasions condemned forced evictions and that the Government-designed 16/6 programme for camp closure remains the way forward. The 16/6 project supports the return and resettlement of displaced persons living in camps, as well as the rehabilitation of the neighborhoods affected by displacement.

But as we have previously noted, the Martelly administration’s “16/6” program has failed to assist the majority of Haiti’s IDP’s. We noted in October that after one year, only some 44,000 people had been resettled through the program, significantly less than had been forcibly evicted, and just 60 of the remaining IDP sites were planned to benefit from return programs similar to 16/6. As we have also noted, there has been no systematic tracking of what has happened to people leaving the camps, and there is a need to examine what will happen to former camp residents once the rental subsidies they receive under the 16/6 program end.

The Martelly administration has also been charged with complicity in various forced evictions, and those of Acra camp residents last month are but the latest example. According to housing and IDP rights coalition Fos Refleksyon ak Aksyon sou Koze Kay (FRAKKA), residents of the Acra 2 camp were the victims of arson by “heavily armed men” who set fire to tents on the nights of both February 16 and 17. On the 17th, they

set fire to whatever tents and victims’ possessions had not been burned the night before. The criminal blaze consumed a five-year-old child, nearly four thousand tents, and all the possessions of four thousand families. Dilia Marie, mother of five, says she just barely rescued her one-month-old baby, Cadet Ismaella, from the flames of Martelly’s bandits.

After the blaze had burned out within the Acra 2 camp, more than four thousand families had nowhere to go. They are now sleeping on the streets and on the porches of others’ houses, where they are harassed and left empty-handed.

FRAKKA cited camp residents who claimed police were “complicit” in the attack. FRAKKA also notes that following a previous forced eviction at Place Jérémie, President Martelly took credit for the clearing of the camp, saying “We scored four goals.” According to FRAKKA:

The camp at Place Jérémie was one of them. Justice should have brought public action against the criminal acts that these men committed against the inhabitants of the tents, but the President had officially sanctioned one of those acts. However, Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that the State is responsible for protecting the lives of all people who are victims of any natural disaster and must give those people every form of necessary assistance.

“Government officials have not come to our rescue,” ousted residents of Acra 2 told Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste, “while they travel this route every day.”

Residents of another camp, the Grace Village camp also reported government complicity at both the local and national level in attempts to force them to move: “The Haitian National Police have been in the camp, firing their weapons in the air to pressure people to leave,” adding to violence and intimidation that they say they are under from landowner Pastor Joel Jeune. The residents also note “The local Mayor has been reported to only take the side of the Pastor, and supports his illegal activities, as do the church groups in the US that are funding these actions by Pastor Jeune, though hopefully without their knowledge.”

“The President [Martelly] doesn’t think that we are people,” one Grace Village camp resident was quoted as saying.

The Grace Village camp residents have long been under threat of forced eviction, and those remaining in the camp likely have avoided it thus far only through organized legal and other resistance:

The Haitian housing rights group, FRAKKA has been organizing with the camp members and informing them of their rights. Haitian human rights firms, BAI and DOP are supporting their legal battle. Both are assisting with the organization of the camp members to resist the forced eviction and the violation of their rights.

The larger context behind the struggle of IDP camp residents is of course the lack of housing. The failure of both the Haitian government and the international community to produce a clear, viable and deliverable housing plan after three years is evident in how few houses were built in the first three years after the earthquake – less than 6,000 – and the less than 19,000 houses that were repaired, even though 1.5 million people were displaced by the disaster.

The U.N. Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued a press statement at the end of last week “express[ing] the grave concern of the humanitarian community in country regarding the recent incidents of forced evictions of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from camps in Port-au-Prince.”

The OCHA release follows a visit to the Acra 2 IDP camp in Port-au-Prince which “followed evictions of about 1,000 displaced families in camps Acra 1 and 2 (Petionville) and Gaston Margron (Carrefour) in metropolitan Port-au-Prince on 17 February 2013.”

The OCHA press statement notes:

Today, a little less than 350,000 displaced people live in 450 camps, most of them unable to find a return solution and without access to appropriate services. The humanitarian community estimates that more than 66,000 internally displaced persons (in 150 camps) have been victims of forced evictions since July 2010. More than 73,000 people living in 87 camps (20 per cent of the total displaced population) are facing threats of eviction in 2013. A forced eviction is the permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families or communities from the homes or land they occupy, without the provision of access to appropriate forms of legal or other protection.

The statement was an improvement over past OCHA mischaracterizations of some forced eviction cases as “voluntary returns.”

According to the release, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Ross Mountain “met with the Minister of Human Rights and the Fight against Extreme Poverty, Mrs. Rose Anne Auguste to discuss the issue of forced evictions in IDP camps.” Ms. Auguste

stated that a judicial inquiry was ongoing and security presence was being strengthened around camps at risk. She pointed out that President Martelly had on several occasions condemned forced evictions and that the Government-designed 16/6 programme for camp closure remains the way forward. The 16/6 project supports the return and resettlement of displaced persons living in camps, as well as the rehabilitation of the neighborhoods affected by displacement.

But as we have previously noted, the Martelly administration’s “16/6” program has failed to assist the majority of Haiti’s IDP’s. We noted in October that after one year, only some 44,000 people had been resettled through the program, significantly less than had been forcibly evicted, and just 60 of the remaining IDP sites were planned to benefit from return programs similar to 16/6. As we have also noted, there has been no systematic tracking of what has happened to people leaving the camps, and there is a need to examine what will happen to former camp residents once the rental subsidies they receive under the 16/6 program end.

The Martelly administration has also been charged with complicity in various forced evictions, and those of Acra camp residents last month are but the latest example. According to housing and IDP rights coalition Fos Refleksyon ak Aksyon sou Koze Kay (FRAKKA), residents of the Acra 2 camp were the victims of arson by “heavily armed men” who set fire to tents on the nights of both February 16 and 17. On the 17th, they

set fire to whatever tents and victims’ possessions had not been burned the night before. The criminal blaze consumed a five-year-old child, nearly four thousand tents, and all the possessions of four thousand families. Dilia Marie, mother of five, says she just barely rescued her one-month-old baby, Cadet Ismaella, from the flames of Martelly’s bandits.

After the blaze had burned out within the Acra 2 camp, more than four thousand families had nowhere to go. They are now sleeping on the streets and on the porches of others’ houses, where they are harassed and left empty-handed.

FRAKKA cited camp residents who claimed police were “complicit” in the attack. FRAKKA also notes that following a previous forced eviction at Place Jérémie, President Martelly took credit for the clearing of the camp, saying “We scored four goals.” According to FRAKKA:

The camp at Place Jérémie was one of them. Justice should have brought public action against the criminal acts that these men committed against the inhabitants of the tents, but the President had officially sanctioned one of those acts. However, Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that the State is responsible for protecting the lives of all people who are victims of any natural disaster and must give those people every form of necessary assistance.

“Government officials have not come to our rescue,” ousted residents of Acra 2 told Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste, “while they travel this route every day.”

Residents of another camp, the Grace Village camp also reported government complicity at both the local and national level in attempts to force them to move: “The Haitian National Police have been in the camp, firing their weapons in the air to pressure people to leave,” adding to violence and intimidation that they say they are under from landowner Pastor Joel Jeune. The residents also note “The local Mayor has been reported to only take the side of the Pastor, and supports his illegal activities, as do the church groups in the US that are funding these actions by Pastor Jeune, though hopefully without their knowledge.”

“The President [Martelly] doesn’t think that we are people,” one Grace Village camp resident was quoted as saying.

The Grace Village camp residents have long been under threat of forced eviction, and those remaining in the camp likely have avoided it thus far only through organized legal and other resistance:

The Haitian housing rights group, FRAKKA has been organizing with the camp members and informing them of their rights. Haitian human rights firms, BAI and DOP are supporting their legal battle. Both are assisting with the organization of the camp members to resist the forced eviction and the violation of their rights.

The larger context behind the struggle of IDP camp residents is of course the lack of housing. The failure of both the Haitian government and the international community to produce a clear, viable and deliverable housing plan after three years is evident in how few houses were built in the first three years after the earthquake – less than 6,000 – and the less than 19,000 houses that were repaired, even though 1.5 million people were displaced by the disaster.

Last week, after the passing of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, Haiti declared three days of national mourning. President Martelly stated that Chávez was a “great friend of Haiti who never missed an opportunity to express his solidarity with the Haitian people in their most difficult times.” It’s not the first time Martelly had such kind words for the Venezuelan president. Last year, Martelly told the press that it was Venezuelan aid that was “the most important in Haiti right now in terms of impact, direct impact.” In February, Martelly attended the 11th summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our Americas, a regional political organization spearheaded by Venezuela, and announced that Haiti was debating joining the group as a full member. While most of the coverage around Chávez’s legacy in Haiti and the greater Caribbean has focused on the Petrocaribe initiative, which provides subsidized fuel to the region, Chávez developed close ties to the Haitian people well before Petrocaribe. Following the earthquake of 2010, Chávez, in cancelling Haiti’s debt to Venezuela, declared, “Haiti has no debt with Venezuela — on the contrary, it is Venezuela that has a historic debt with Haiti.” As Chávez was quick to point out, it was Haiti that provided a vital safe-haven for Latin American independence hero Símon Bolívar before he went on to liberate much of South America from Spanish rule.

Opposition to 2004 Coup

In 2004, following the U.S.-backed coup against Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Chávez was one of only a few voices in the region condemning what had taken place and refusing to recognize the coup government. Chávez told the Organization of American States that, “The President of Haiti is called Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and he was elected by the people.” He formally extended an offer of asylum to Aristide in March of 2004. Perhaps the solidarity was in part due to the fact that just two years previously Chávez had been temporarily ousted in a coup, and similar actors were involved in both the Venezuelan and Haitian coups. As detailed in a 2004 investigation by Mother Jones, the International Republican Institute was active in both organizing and training those involved in the 2004 coup in Haiti as well as opposition factions before the 2002 coup in Venezuela, and its point man in Haiti at the time – Stanley Lucas, now an advisor to Martelly – had been in Venezuela some seven times prior to the coup.  Senior Bush administration officials Roger Noriega and Otto Reich also actively supported both the Venezuelan and Haitian coups.

One with the People

In 2007, President Chávez traveled to Haiti; Brian Concannon and Mario Joseph described the scene at the time:

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez found a hero’s welcome when he visited Haiti on March 12. People from Port-au-Prince’s poor neighborhoods lined the streets of the capitol to cheer, to chant, to dance and sing, with the infectious enthusiasm of Haitian celebrations. President Chávez returned the affection. He jumped from his motorcade and joined the party, marching, even running with the crowd. At the National Palace, Mr. Chávez climbed up on the perimeter fence to shake and slap hands, like he had just scored a World Cup goal. He publicly thanked the Haitian people for their hospitality and enthusiasm, and for their historic support for liberty in the world.

President Chávez and the Haitian people hit it off so well for reasons of principle and of practice. Haitians consider Chávez a leader in the global fight against the global power inequalities that keep people in Haiti, Venezuela and the rest of Latin America poor, hungry and uneducated. They see him standing up to the most powerful leader in today’s world- President Bush (whose name was frequently invoked that day, not charitably) – and to the World Bank and other powerbrokers. Even better, unlike their President Aristide (whose name was frequently, and charitably, invoked), Chávez keeps getting away with standing up to the powerful.

Petrocaribe

Of course, while the solidarity between Chávez and the Haitian people has long existed, the more recent direct impact of this solidarity has been through the Petrocaribe initiative. The agreement, which was nearly blocked by the U.S. government and major oil companies, has provided Haiti with 23.6 million barrels of oil since 2008. Through the agreement Venezuela finances part of Haiti’s fuel import bill, allowing for a portion to be paid up front and the remainder to be used as a loan with a long maturity and low rates. Since the program’s inception, Venezuela has provided oil worth nearly $2.5 billion. Haiti has paid back over $1 billion of that and although Venezuela cancelled nearly $400 million in debt after the earthquake, Haiti retains a debt of roughly $950 million to Venezuela.  Most of this will be paid back over a period of 25 years at a 1 percent interest rate. In the meantime, there is a two-year grace period. The IMF estimated fiscal year 2012/2013 external debt payments to be 0.1 percent of GDP, or less than 0.5 percent of government expenditure. 

The financing that comes from Petrocaribe remains the primary source of revenue for government reconstruction projects. Since the earthquake, the Haitian government has used Petrocaribe resources to finance over 80 projects worth nearly $750 million. Unlike most other aid Haiti has received, the Petrocaribe funds are “under the control of the central government.” While official donor pledges have been slow to arrive and have largely bypassed the Haitian government, over $530 million or 72% of obligated Petrocaribe funds have been spent on the ground. While even long-term, low interest loans can cause problems for poor countries, and there have been issues regarding transparency, the billions in financing from Petrocaribe have been a key part of the country’s ongoing reconstruction from the devastating 2010 earthquake.

The relationship that Haiti has had with Venezuela over the past decade is glaringly different from its relations with most of the rest of the international community. Whereas much of the international community supported the 2004 coup against Aristide, Chávez was an outspoken opponent. Whereas the Haitian government has received less than 10 percent of all reconstruction aid given by donors, aid from the Venezuelan government has gone directly to the Haitian government.  Whereas aid agencies and high-ranking foreign officials often “travel quickly between homes in wealthy neighborhoods and offices in wealthy neighborhoods, with armed escorts in large cars, windows tinted and rolled up, air-conditioning on” as Joseph and Concannon describe, Chávez ran alongside his motorcade directly with the Haitian people.

 

Last week, after the passing of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, Haiti declared three days of national mourning. President Martelly stated that Chávez was a “great friend of Haiti who never missed an opportunity to express his solidarity with the Haitian people in their most difficult times.” It’s not the first time Martelly had such kind words for the Venezuelan president. Last year, Martelly told the press that it was Venezuelan aid that was “the most important in Haiti right now in terms of impact, direct impact.” In February, Martelly attended the 11th summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our Americas, a regional political organization spearheaded by Venezuela, and announced that Haiti was debating joining the group as a full member. While most of the coverage around Chávez’s legacy in Haiti and the greater Caribbean has focused on the Petrocaribe initiative, which provides subsidized fuel to the region, Chávez developed close ties to the Haitian people well before Petrocaribe. Following the earthquake of 2010, Chávez, in cancelling Haiti’s debt to Venezuela, declared, “Haiti has no debt with Venezuela — on the contrary, it is Venezuela that has a historic debt with Haiti.” As Chávez was quick to point out, it was Haiti that provided a vital safe-haven for Latin American independence hero Símon Bolívar before he went on to liberate much of South America from Spanish rule.

Opposition to 2004 Coup

In 2004, following the U.S.-backed coup against Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Chávez was one of only a few voices in the region condemning what had taken place and refusing to recognize the coup government. Chávez told the Organization of American States that, “The President of Haiti is called Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and he was elected by the people.” He formally extended an offer of asylum to Aristide in March of 2004. Perhaps the solidarity was in part due to the fact that just two years previously Chávez had been temporarily ousted in a coup, and similar actors were involved in both the Venezuelan and Haitian coups. As detailed in a 2004 investigation by Mother Jones, the International Republican Institute was active in both organizing and training those involved in the 2004 coup in Haiti as well as opposition factions before the 2002 coup in Venezuela, and its point man in Haiti at the time – Stanley Lucas, now an advisor to Martelly – had been in Venezuela some seven times prior to the coup.  Senior Bush administration officials Roger Noriega and Otto Reich also actively supported both the Venezuelan and Haitian coups.

One with the People

In 2007, President Chávez traveled to Haiti; Brian Concannon and Mario Joseph described the scene at the time:

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez found a hero’s welcome when he visited Haiti on March 12. People from Port-au-Prince’s poor neighborhoods lined the streets of the capitol to cheer, to chant, to dance and sing, with the infectious enthusiasm of Haitian celebrations. President Chávez returned the affection. He jumped from his motorcade and joined the party, marching, even running with the crowd. At the National Palace, Mr. Chávez climbed up on the perimeter fence to shake and slap hands, like he had just scored a World Cup goal. He publicly thanked the Haitian people for their hospitality and enthusiasm, and for their historic support for liberty in the world.

President Chávez and the Haitian people hit it off so well for reasons of principle and of practice. Haitians consider Chávez a leader in the global fight against the global power inequalities that keep people in Haiti, Venezuela and the rest of Latin America poor, hungry and uneducated. They see him standing up to the most powerful leader in today’s world- President Bush (whose name was frequently invoked that day, not charitably) – and to the World Bank and other powerbrokers. Even better, unlike their President Aristide (whose name was frequently, and charitably, invoked), Chávez keeps getting away with standing up to the powerful.

Petrocaribe

Of course, while the solidarity between Chávez and the Haitian people has long existed, the more recent direct impact of this solidarity has been through the Petrocaribe initiative. The agreement, which was nearly blocked by the U.S. government and major oil companies, has provided Haiti with 23.6 million barrels of oil since 2008. Through the agreement Venezuela finances part of Haiti’s fuel import bill, allowing for a portion to be paid up front and the remainder to be used as a loan with a long maturity and low rates. Since the program’s inception, Venezuela has provided oil worth nearly $2.5 billion. Haiti has paid back over $1 billion of that and although Venezuela cancelled nearly $400 million in debt after the earthquake, Haiti retains a debt of roughly $950 million to Venezuela.  Most of this will be paid back over a period of 25 years at a 1 percent interest rate. In the meantime, there is a two-year grace period. The IMF estimated fiscal year 2012/2013 external debt payments to be 0.1 percent of GDP, or less than 0.5 percent of government expenditure. 

The financing that comes from Petrocaribe remains the primary source of revenue for government reconstruction projects. Since the earthquake, the Haitian government has used Petrocaribe resources to finance over 80 projects worth nearly $750 million. Unlike most other aid Haiti has received, the Petrocaribe funds are “under the control of the central government.” While official donor pledges have been slow to arrive and have largely bypassed the Haitian government, over $530 million or 72% of obligated Petrocaribe funds have been spent on the ground. While even long-term, low interest loans can cause problems for poor countries, and there have been issues regarding transparency, the billions in financing from Petrocaribe have been a key part of the country’s ongoing reconstruction from the devastating 2010 earthquake.

The relationship that Haiti has had with Venezuela over the past decade is glaringly different from its relations with most of the rest of the international community. Whereas much of the international community supported the 2004 coup against Aristide, Chávez was an outspoken opponent. Whereas the Haitian government has received less than 10 percent of all reconstruction aid given by donors, aid from the Venezuelan government has gone directly to the Haitian government.  Whereas aid agencies and high-ranking foreign officials often “travel quickly between homes in wealthy neighborhoods and offices in wealthy neighborhoods, with armed escorts in large cars, windows tinted and rolled up, air-conditioning on” as Joseph and Concannon describe, Chávez ran alongside his motorcade directly with the Haitian people.

 

As of March 4, 2013, cholera has killed 8,057 Haitians and infected nearly 650,000 more. Despite some claims of progress, the epidemic, which was introduced by United Nations troops, has been significantly worse in 2013 than during the same period the year before. From January 1, 145 cholera victims have officially been reported dead, compared to just 22 last year. Worse, this occurred during the dry season, when cases generally taper off. The latest bulletin from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that compared to February 2012, this year “the Centre department has seen an increase of 67 per cent during this period, while the Artibonite and Ouest departments have seen increases of 38 per cent and 35 per cent respectively.”

Three weeks ago the U.N., after 15 months of dodging and evading, formally rejected a claim brought on behalf of over 6,000 cholera victims for damages. The claimants had also demanded the U.N. provide funding for the new infrastructure needed for the clean water and sanitation that would eradicate the epidemic. A new, 10-year, cholera eradication plan was announced less than a week later. The ambitious plan, if carried out, would provide lifesaving infrastructure, which previously had been blocked due to political pressure from the United States. Yet, while the plan was welcomed as a positive step forward, there is little funding available for its implementation. The U.N., for its part, committed just $23 million, a far cry from the $2.2 billion needed.

While the infrastructure which is needed may be a long way off, some groups are already looking at new solutions to combatting the cholera epidemic and creating a more sustainable country in the process. Isabeau Doucet reports for The Guardian:

“If we can take all the poop that’s making people sick right now,” said Dr Sasha Kramer as she stuck a thermometer into a large mound of faecal waste in the middle of Troutier, Port-au-Prince’s city dump, “and turn it into this really valuable resource that could be used for reforestation or for increased agricultural production, then you really take a problem and turn it into a solution.”

Every week, Soil (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods) collects the human waste from 56 dry toilets built in camps for displaced earthquake victims, and mixes it with chips of sugar cane bagasse, a byproduct of local rum production.

And it’s not just NGOs which are taking part:

The Haitian government recently built several sewage treatment plants that process traditional pit latrine waste in open-air stabilisation ponds. It and sewage treatment companies such as Jedco are experimenting with the alchemy of transforming a potentially deadly substance into a rich and much-needed fertiliser.

In order to treat human waste safely and kill pathogens, the waste must sit for at least seven days at 50C, according to the World Health Organisation. After six to nine months, the potentially toxic waste is transformed, with low carbon emissions, into fertile soil, simultaneously helping to fight cholera and deforestation, and revive food production.

The government has opened two sewage treatment plants on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince and there are a number planned for other major cities in the coming years. The plants are the first ever in Haiti’s history. SOIL is exploring ways to transform their composting process to be able to handle waste from pit latrines, which are currently emptied at the government sewage plants, and not just the dry toilets that they distribute.

In addition to composting, the sewage treatment plants hope to be able to use the water they are treating for irrigation. Together, the reuse of waste could have a large impact on sustainability. Doucet continues:

In Haiti’s northern region of Cap Haïtien, where Soil built its first toilets in 2006, there is now a farm and the compost is used to grow peanuts and fight malnutrition. Collaborating with farmers and Scouts, Soil aims to fight Haiti’s extreme deforestation – it has only 2% forest cover – by planting 10,000 mango, cashew, orange, lemon and other indigenous fruit trees.

Please see below for a series of pictures from the SOIL composting site in Port-au-Prince and from the Haitian government’s two new sewage treatment plants.

DINEPA 1 Small
A UN vehicle dumps their waste water at the new sewage treatment plant in Morne Cabrit.

DINEPA 2 Small
Stabilization ponds at the sewage treatment plant run by Haiti’s water authority, DINEPA.

DINEPA 3 Small
Latrines from camps for the internally displaced sit after being emptied at Haiti’s first ever sewage treatment plant.

Soil 1 Small
View out over SOIL’s composting site at the city dump in Troutier.

Soil 2 Small
SOILS’s Sasha Kramer reads a thermometer stuck in a large pile of fecal waste at the composting site. The temperature must remain above 50 degrees Celsius for seven days to kill off the cholera bacteria. 

Soil 3 Small
After rotating between composting bins for 4 months, the piles are left to mature.

Soil 4 Small
Between composting bins, SOIL has planted various species endemic to Haiti. The plants are meant to demonstrate how composting can rehabilitate even the worst of environments.

Soil 5 Small
Sasha Kramer shows off some new soil. They have sold over 1,300 bags in the last month and half, helping to create a sustainable product.

Photos from Jake Johnston.

 

As of March 4, 2013, cholera has killed 8,057 Haitians and infected nearly 650,000 more. Despite some claims of progress, the epidemic, which was introduced by United Nations troops, has been significantly worse in 2013 than during the same period the year before. From January 1, 145 cholera victims have officially been reported dead, compared to just 22 last year. Worse, this occurred during the dry season, when cases generally taper off. The latest bulletin from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that compared to February 2012, this year “the Centre department has seen an increase of 67 per cent during this period, while the Artibonite and Ouest departments have seen increases of 38 per cent and 35 per cent respectively.”

Three weeks ago the U.N., after 15 months of dodging and evading, formally rejected a claim brought on behalf of over 6,000 cholera victims for damages. The claimants had also demanded the U.N. provide funding for the new infrastructure needed for the clean water and sanitation that would eradicate the epidemic. A new, 10-year, cholera eradication plan was announced less than a week later. The ambitious plan, if carried out, would provide lifesaving infrastructure, which previously had been blocked due to political pressure from the United States. Yet, while the plan was welcomed as a positive step forward, there is little funding available for its implementation. The U.N., for its part, committed just $23 million, a far cry from the $2.2 billion needed.

While the infrastructure which is needed may be a long way off, some groups are already looking at new solutions to combatting the cholera epidemic and creating a more sustainable country in the process. Isabeau Doucet reports for The Guardian:

“If we can take all the poop that’s making people sick right now,” said Dr Sasha Kramer as she stuck a thermometer into a large mound of faecal waste in the middle of Troutier, Port-au-Prince’s city dump, “and turn it into this really valuable resource that could be used for reforestation or for increased agricultural production, then you really take a problem and turn it into a solution.”

Every week, Soil (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods) collects the human waste from 56 dry toilets built in camps for displaced earthquake victims, and mixes it with chips of sugar cane bagasse, a byproduct of local rum production.

And it’s not just NGOs which are taking part:

The Haitian government recently built several sewage treatment plants that process traditional pit latrine waste in open-air stabilisation ponds. It and sewage treatment companies such as Jedco are experimenting with the alchemy of transforming a potentially deadly substance into a rich and much-needed fertiliser.

In order to treat human waste safely and kill pathogens, the waste must sit for at least seven days at 50C, according to the World Health Organisation. After six to nine months, the potentially toxic waste is transformed, with low carbon emissions, into fertile soil, simultaneously helping to fight cholera and deforestation, and revive food production.

The government has opened two sewage treatment plants on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince and there are a number planned for other major cities in the coming years. The plants are the first ever in Haiti’s history. SOIL is exploring ways to transform their composting process to be able to handle waste from pit latrines, which are currently emptied at the government sewage plants, and not just the dry toilets that they distribute.

In addition to composting, the sewage treatment plants hope to be able to use the water they are treating for irrigation. Together, the reuse of waste could have a large impact on sustainability. Doucet continues:

In Haiti’s northern region of Cap Haïtien, where Soil built its first toilets in 2006, there is now a farm and the compost is used to grow peanuts and fight malnutrition. Collaborating with farmers and Scouts, Soil aims to fight Haiti’s extreme deforestation – it has only 2% forest cover – by planting 10,000 mango, cashew, orange, lemon and other indigenous fruit trees.

Please see below for a series of pictures from the SOIL composting site in Port-au-Prince and from the Haitian government’s two new sewage treatment plants.

DINEPA 1 Small
A UN vehicle dumps their waste water at the new sewage treatment plant in Morne Cabrit.

DINEPA 2 Small
Stabilization ponds at the sewage treatment plant run by Haiti’s water authority, DINEPA.

DINEPA 3 Small
Latrines from camps for the internally displaced sit after being emptied at Haiti’s first ever sewage treatment plant.

Soil 1 Small
View out over SOIL’s composting site at the city dump in Troutier.

Soil 2 Small
SOILS’s Sasha Kramer reads a thermometer stuck in a large pile of fecal waste at the composting site. The temperature must remain above 50 degrees Celsius for seven days to kill off the cholera bacteria. 

Soil 3 Small
After rotating between composting bins for 4 months, the piles are left to mature.

Soil 4 Small
Between composting bins, SOIL has planted various species endemic to Haiti. The plants are meant to demonstrate how composting can rehabilitate even the worst of environments.

Soil 5 Small
Sasha Kramer shows off some new soil. They have sold over 1,300 bags in the last month and half, helping to create a sustainable product.

Photos from Jake Johnston.

 

The U.S. Agency for International Development Inspector General (IG) last week released an audit of a program to provide loans to businesses in Haiti (available here). The audit is just the latest report from the IG to find significant problems with USAID’s programs in Haiti, following previous findings regarding cash-for-work programs, shelter provision, food aid and USAID’s largest contractor, Chemonics. The Associated Press’ Trenton Daniel reports that:

An audit of a U.S. Agency for International Department program that aimed to boost Haiti’s economy by providing loans to businesses has found that the program failed to award loans to intended targets, train workers and keep accurate records.

The aim of the audit released in late February by USAID’s Office of the Inspector General was to see whether a USAID loan program was indeed introducing lending practices to overlooked areas and borrowers, particularly in the areas of agriculture, construction, tourism, handicrafts and waste management. Most of the loans were supposed to go toward women, first-time borrowers and small- and medium-sized enterprises.

The loan program provided some $37.5 million in guarantees, of which just over $19 million in guarantees have been extended. According to publicly available data, only about a quarter went to woman-owned businesses, less than 30 percent went to first-time borrowers, and 75 percent were concentrated in the West department, though these numbers likely overstate the reality on the ground. In addition to many other problems, the audit found that “the key monitoring data was outdated, incomplete, or inaccurate,” for example, information on whether the recipient was a first-time borrower was “recorded incorrectly 41 percent of the time.”

The focus of the audit, Daniel reports, was the four largest of the seven guarantees, “worth $31.5 million,” of the $37.5 million total. Of these Daniel notes that two were made after the 2010 earthquake:

They were a Haitian bank named Sogebank, a Haitian development finance institution named Sofihdes that USAID helped create in 1983 and an agriculture-focused outfit named Le Levier Federation.

The audit found that few women and first-time borrowers received loans and lenders didn’t make much effort to work with them.

And while the loans were intended to target “development corridors,” Daniel notes,

Instead they stayed in the Port-au-Prince area.

Ninety percent of Sogebank’s loans were confined to the capital and the bank didn’t give loans to other parts of the country. Some 81 percent of the Sofihdes loans were in Haiti’s capital.

Other problems included that,

The USAID office in Haiti failed to properly train workers who make the loan guarantee coverage decisions. Lenders didn’t always understand or carry out program goals and didn’t always adjust lending practices to meet the goals.

And

The loans weren’t supposed to go to enterprises that appeared on a list of “prohibited businesses” that supported law enforcement activities, surveillance, gambling, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, and alcohol and jewelry. Loans, however, went to some of these businesses because, the audit said, “lenders didn’t have effective practices in place and because USAID didn’t periodically review the loans.”

The loan program sought to expand financial services to underserved areas but most borrowers already had relationships with at least one of the lenders. More than a quarter of the Sofihdes and Sogebank borrowers interviewed by auditors said they could qualify for a loan elsewhere.

Many of the problems found by the IG revolve around the lack of oversight provided by USAID, which allowed the problems detailed above to occur. As we have previously noted, USAID’s increasing reliance on contractors has affected efforts to provide greater oversight, implement procurement reform and improve the efficacy of U.S. aid in Haiti.

As was the case with previous audits conducted by the IG, the report includes a number of recommendations for USAID on how to improve the program. While USAID agreed to all the recommendations, the agency has a record of failing to implement IG recommendations. A report released today by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform notes that USAID has over 1,200 “open and unimplemented” recommendations.  The report notes that the USAID IG, “disclosed numerous unimplemented recommendations related to vast overpayments and suggested recoveries of unsupported or ineligible costs,” incurred by contractors.

The lack of implementation is tied to the absence of permanent leadership in the IG offices at USAID and other agencies. The Project on Government Oversight, which tracks IG vacancies, notes that, “a permanent IG has the ability to set a long-term strategic plan for the office, including setting investigative and audit priorities. An acting official, on the other hand, is known by all OIG staff to be temporary, which one former IG has argued “can have a debilitating effect on [an] OIG, particularly over a lengthy period.” Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) has echoed that sentiment, saying “Even the best acting inspector general lacks the standing to make lasting changes needed to improve his or her office.”

USAID has been without a permanent IG for 507 days.

 

 

The U.S. Agency for International Development Inspector General (IG) last week released an audit of a program to provide loans to businesses in Haiti (available here). The audit is just the latest report from the IG to find significant problems with USAID’s programs in Haiti, following previous findings regarding cash-for-work programs, shelter provision, food aid and USAID’s largest contractor, Chemonics. The Associated Press’ Trenton Daniel reports that:

An audit of a U.S. Agency for International Department program that aimed to boost Haiti’s economy by providing loans to businesses has found that the program failed to award loans to intended targets, train workers and keep accurate records.

The aim of the audit released in late February by USAID’s Office of the Inspector General was to see whether a USAID loan program was indeed introducing lending practices to overlooked areas and borrowers, particularly in the areas of agriculture, construction, tourism, handicrafts and waste management. Most of the loans were supposed to go toward women, first-time borrowers and small- and medium-sized enterprises.

The loan program provided some $37.5 million in guarantees, of which just over $19 million in guarantees have been extended. According to publicly available data, only about a quarter went to woman-owned businesses, less than 30 percent went to first-time borrowers, and 75 percent were concentrated in the West department, though these numbers likely overstate the reality on the ground. In addition to many other problems, the audit found that “the key monitoring data was outdated, incomplete, or inaccurate,” for example, information on whether the recipient was a first-time borrower was “recorded incorrectly 41 percent of the time.”

The focus of the audit, Daniel reports, was the four largest of the seven guarantees, “worth $31.5 million,” of the $37.5 million total. Of these Daniel notes that two were made after the 2010 earthquake:

They were a Haitian bank named Sogebank, a Haitian development finance institution named Sofihdes that USAID helped create in 1983 and an agriculture-focused outfit named Le Levier Federation.

The audit found that few women and first-time borrowers received loans and lenders didn’t make much effort to work with them.

And while the loans were intended to target “development corridors,” Daniel notes,

Instead they stayed in the Port-au-Prince area.

Ninety percent of Sogebank’s loans were confined to the capital and the bank didn’t give loans to other parts of the country. Some 81 percent of the Sofihdes loans were in Haiti’s capital.

Other problems included that,

The USAID office in Haiti failed to properly train workers who make the loan guarantee coverage decisions. Lenders didn’t always understand or carry out program goals and didn’t always adjust lending practices to meet the goals.

And

The loans weren’t supposed to go to enterprises that appeared on a list of “prohibited businesses” that supported law enforcement activities, surveillance, gambling, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, and alcohol and jewelry. Loans, however, went to some of these businesses because, the audit said, “lenders didn’t have effective practices in place and because USAID didn’t periodically review the loans.”

The loan program sought to expand financial services to underserved areas but most borrowers already had relationships with at least one of the lenders. More than a quarter of the Sofihdes and Sogebank borrowers interviewed by auditors said they could qualify for a loan elsewhere.

Many of the problems found by the IG revolve around the lack of oversight provided by USAID, which allowed the problems detailed above to occur. As we have previously noted, USAID’s increasing reliance on contractors has affected efforts to provide greater oversight, implement procurement reform and improve the efficacy of U.S. aid in Haiti.

As was the case with previous audits conducted by the IG, the report includes a number of recommendations for USAID on how to improve the program. While USAID agreed to all the recommendations, the agency has a record of failing to implement IG recommendations. A report released today by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform notes that USAID has over 1,200 “open and unimplemented” recommendations.  The report notes that the USAID IG, “disclosed numerous unimplemented recommendations related to vast overpayments and suggested recoveries of unsupported or ineligible costs,” incurred by contractors.

The lack of implementation is tied to the absence of permanent leadership in the IG offices at USAID and other agencies. The Project on Government Oversight, which tracks IG vacancies, notes that, “a permanent IG has the ability to set a long-term strategic plan for the office, including setting investigative and audit priorities. An acting official, on the other hand, is known by all OIG staff to be temporary, which one former IG has argued “can have a debilitating effect on [an] OIG, particularly over a lengthy period.” Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) has echoed that sentiment, saying “Even the best acting inspector general lacks the standing to make lasting changes needed to improve his or her office.”

USAID has been without a permanent IG for 507 days.

 

 

An op-ed in the Caribbean Journal by HRRW’s Jake Johnston reads:

Less than a week after cholera began its violent spread throughout Haiti, a UN military base in the central plateau became the prime suspect for having introduced the bacteria.

The UN was quick to shoot down this theory, claiming the base met international standards. Days later, journalists found sewage tanks and latrines overflowing, with the resulting black liquid flowing into a tributary of Haiti’s largest river.

Still, the UN didn’t hesitate to defend itself; the head of the UN troops (known as MINUSTAH), said that it was “really unfair to accuse the UN for bringing cholera into Haiti.”

But the evidence kept mounting; in January 2011, a scientific journal lent further credence to the theory, in July another, and in August yet another.

Even the UN’s own investigation into the outbreak found that the UN base was the likely source, though the results were obfuscated by blaming the spread on a “confluence of factors.”

In the meantime, Haitians continued to die. By the end of January 2011, just over three months after cholera’s introduction, the official death toll was over 4,300.  All the while the U.N. maintained its innocence.

Read the rest here.

An op-ed in the Caribbean Journal by HRRW’s Jake Johnston reads:

Less than a week after cholera began its violent spread throughout Haiti, a UN military base in the central plateau became the prime suspect for having introduced the bacteria.

The UN was quick to shoot down this theory, claiming the base met international standards. Days later, journalists found sewage tanks and latrines overflowing, with the resulting black liquid flowing into a tributary of Haiti’s largest river.

Still, the UN didn’t hesitate to defend itself; the head of the UN troops (known as MINUSTAH), said that it was “really unfair to accuse the UN for bringing cholera into Haiti.”

But the evidence kept mounting; in January 2011, a scientific journal lent further credence to the theory, in July another, and in August yet another.

Even the UN’s own investigation into the outbreak found that the UN base was the likely source, though the results were obfuscated by blaming the spread on a “confluence of factors.”

In the meantime, Haitians continued to die. By the end of January 2011, just over three months after cholera’s introduction, the official death toll was over 4,300.  All the while the U.N. maintained its innocence.

Read the rest here.

865 days after Haiti’s cholera epidemic first began, with over 8,000 dead and some 650,000 sickened, the government of Haiti, with international support, officially launched a ten-year cholera eradication plan today after months of delays. The plan calls for an investment of $2.2 billion in clean water and sanitation infrastructure, with some $485.9 million needed for the next two years. Currently 31 percent of the population does not have access to potable water, while 83 percent lack access to adequate sanitation. By 2022, the plan aims to deliver potable water and improved sanitation services to 85 and 90 percent of the population, respectively.

The plan notes that in the short term, “actions will focus on preventing the transmission of cholera from one person to another through the use of drinking water disinfected with chlorine, and the promotion of hand washing, good sanitary practices, and food hygiene.” Resources will also go to capacity building and training for the relevant government agencies, in particular the health ministry (MSPP) and the water agency (DINEPA). Over the long-term, some $650 million will go to DINEPA to build water supply systems in the 21 largest cities in the country, though most of this would start after the next two years. A breakdown of funding needs by sector, program and time-frame can be seen below. Overall, about 70 percent of the needed funds are to go to water and sanitation provision, though just over 10 percent of that is planned to be spent in the first two years.

The objectives, in terms of cholera specifically, are to reduce the incidence rate to below 0.5 percent by 2014, below 0.1 percent in 2017 and below 0.01 percent by 2022. This compares to an incidence rate of over 1.1 percent in 2012, which translates to about 110,000 cases for that year.

The plan also envisions a strengthening of the public health sector and of the coordination between NGOs and the government. To this end, the government plans to “integrate their support into the national health system.” Through investments in training, capacity building and by channeling funds through the domestic institutions in charge of each sector, the plan aims to create a stronger public sector overall. This could be especially significant given that aid for the cholera response (and for the overall relief and reconstruction effort) has largely bypassed the Haitian government. According to data from the U.N. Special Envoy, only 2.5 percent of humanitarian spending for cholera went through the Haitian government. As noted in the plan, the “lack of investment coming directly from the country’s fiscal budget represents a threat to the stability of the” water and sanitation sector.

There are to be three evaluations of implementation done in 2014, 2017 and 2022 and an audit will be conducted at the half-way point and at the conclusion of the plan. Additionally, a technical committee made up of high-level representatives from relevant government agencies will meet quarterly to assess progress and propose remedies.

Plan Remains Woefully Underfunded

Responding to the plans’ launch today, implementing partner PAHO’s Director Carissa F. Etienne noted that, “For the plan to be implemented, Haiti’s friends in the international community must align their efforts and harmonize around this plan and provide the necessary financial resources.” Yet thus far, meaningful support has been hard to find.

Over two months ago, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced an initiative to support the Haitian government’s cholera eradication plan, which as Jonathan Katz has noted has been used by the “U.N. to shut down talk about the epidemic’s cause.” A host of scientific studies indicated that foreign troops belonging to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (known as MINUSTAH) were the source of the disease’s introduction, yet last week the U.N. rejected a claim brought by over 6,000 victims seeking not only damages but also for the U.N. to make the investments necessary to rid Haiti of the disease.

In announcing the initiative in December, the U.N. said they were contributing $23.5 million to the plan, or a mere 1 percent of what is called for. This compares to over $650 million that the U.N. is spending annually on the same military mission which brought the epidemic to Haiti. In fact, the U.N. has spent nearly $2 billion on MINUSTAH since the earthquake, enough to cover almost the entire cholera eradication plan.

In December, Ban Ki-moon said that he would “use every opportunity” to mobilize funding for the cholera response, yet at the official launch today, the only new funding announced was $500,000 from PAHO, leaving the plan woefully underfunded. Overall, just $238 million has been secured, most of it from existing funds. This is less than half of what is needed over just the first two years, to say nothing of the full ten-year plan. A donor conference organized by the World Bank may be in the pipeline, but it is unclear how effective that may be. Donors have failed to even live up to their post-earthquake pledges, disbursing just over 50 percent so far.

And it’s not just the long-term funding that is missing; emergency funding for the cholera response is drying up as well. Despite an increase in cholera cases following Hurricane Sandy in October, the $32 million appeal for cholera in 2012 ended the year just 32 percent funded. With the number of NGOs responding to cholera dwindling, and funding for the government practically non-existent, the last few months have actually seen an increase in the number of cases and in the fatality rate compared to from the same time a year before.

In the first 7 weeks of 2013, 115 Haitians reportedly died of cholera compared to just 15 during the same time last year. Perhaps even more worrisome is that the fatality rate jumped from 0.2 percent last year to 1.0 percent this year, meaning that one is five times more likely to die from contracting cholera today than they were last year. The situation is unlikely to get better fast, as one health expert told HRRW in January, “2013 will be even worse than 2012.”

Haiti Cholera Plan Sector Funds

865 days after Haiti’s cholera epidemic first began, with over 8,000 dead and some 650,000 sickened, the government of Haiti, with international support, officially launched a ten-year cholera eradication plan today after months of delays. The plan calls for an investment of $2.2 billion in clean water and sanitation infrastructure, with some $485.9 million needed for the next two years. Currently 31 percent of the population does not have access to potable water, while 83 percent lack access to adequate sanitation. By 2022, the plan aims to deliver potable water and improved sanitation services to 85 and 90 percent of the population, respectively.

The plan notes that in the short term, “actions will focus on preventing the transmission of cholera from one person to another through the use of drinking water disinfected with chlorine, and the promotion of hand washing, good sanitary practices, and food hygiene.” Resources will also go to capacity building and training for the relevant government agencies, in particular the health ministry (MSPP) and the water agency (DINEPA). Over the long-term, some $650 million will go to DINEPA to build water supply systems in the 21 largest cities in the country, though most of this would start after the next two years. A breakdown of funding needs by sector, program and time-frame can be seen below. Overall, about 70 percent of the needed funds are to go to water and sanitation provision, though just over 10 percent of that is planned to be spent in the first two years.

The objectives, in terms of cholera specifically, are to reduce the incidence rate to below 0.5 percent by 2014, below 0.1 percent in 2017 and below 0.01 percent by 2022. This compares to an incidence rate of over 1.1 percent in 2012, which translates to about 110,000 cases for that year.

The plan also envisions a strengthening of the public health sector and of the coordination between NGOs and the government. To this end, the government plans to “integrate their support into the national health system.” Through investments in training, capacity building and by channeling funds through the domestic institutions in charge of each sector, the plan aims to create a stronger public sector overall. This could be especially significant given that aid for the cholera response (and for the overall relief and reconstruction effort) has largely bypassed the Haitian government. According to data from the U.N. Special Envoy, only 2.5 percent of humanitarian spending for cholera went through the Haitian government. As noted in the plan, the “lack of investment coming directly from the country’s fiscal budget represents a threat to the stability of the” water and sanitation sector.

There are to be three evaluations of implementation done in 2014, 2017 and 2022 and an audit will be conducted at the half-way point and at the conclusion of the plan. Additionally, a technical committee made up of high-level representatives from relevant government agencies will meet quarterly to assess progress and propose remedies.

Plan Remains Woefully Underfunded

Responding to the plans’ launch today, implementing partner PAHO’s Director Carissa F. Etienne noted that, “For the plan to be implemented, Haiti’s friends in the international community must align their efforts and harmonize around this plan and provide the necessary financial resources.” Yet thus far, meaningful support has been hard to find.

Over two months ago, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced an initiative to support the Haitian government’s cholera eradication plan, which as Jonathan Katz has noted has been used by the “U.N. to shut down talk about the epidemic’s cause.” A host of scientific studies indicated that foreign troops belonging to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (known as MINUSTAH) were the source of the disease’s introduction, yet last week the U.N. rejected a claim brought by over 6,000 victims seeking not only damages but also for the U.N. to make the investments necessary to rid Haiti of the disease.

In announcing the initiative in December, the U.N. said they were contributing $23.5 million to the plan, or a mere 1 percent of what is called for. This compares to over $650 million that the U.N. is spending annually on the same military mission which brought the epidemic to Haiti. In fact, the U.N. has spent nearly $2 billion on MINUSTAH since the earthquake, enough to cover almost the entire cholera eradication plan.

In December, Ban Ki-moon said that he would “use every opportunity” to mobilize funding for the cholera response, yet at the official launch today, the only new funding announced was $500,000 from PAHO, leaving the plan woefully underfunded. Overall, just $238 million has been secured, most of it from existing funds. This is less than half of what is needed over just the first two years, to say nothing of the full ten-year plan. A donor conference organized by the World Bank may be in the pipeline, but it is unclear how effective that may be. Donors have failed to even live up to their post-earthquake pledges, disbursing just over 50 percent so far.

And it’s not just the long-term funding that is missing; emergency funding for the cholera response is drying up as well. Despite an increase in cholera cases following Hurricane Sandy in October, the $32 million appeal for cholera in 2012 ended the year just 32 percent funded. With the number of NGOs responding to cholera dwindling, and funding for the government practically non-existent, the last few months have actually seen an increase in the number of cases and in the fatality rate compared to from the same time a year before.

In the first 7 weeks of 2013, 115 Haitians reportedly died of cholera compared to just 15 during the same time last year. Perhaps even more worrisome is that the fatality rate jumped from 0.2 percent last year to 1.0 percent this year, meaning that one is five times more likely to die from contracting cholera today than they were last year. The situation is unlikely to get better fast, as one health expert told HRRW in January, “2013 will be even worse than 2012.”

Haiti Cholera Plan Sector Funds

UN’s Immunity Claim Provokes Outrage

The U.N.’s claim of immunity in response to the legal complaint filed against it on behalf of over 6,000 cholera victims has provoked outrage. Author Kathie Klarreich called it “unconscionable and immoral” in a Miami Herald op-ed yesterday, saying the U.N.’s statement “appears more like an apology for a snake bite than an effective response to what is currently the worst cholera outbreak in the world.” Klarreich underscores the urgency of cholera in contrast to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s expressed sympathy:

The World Health Organization expects 100,000 new cases this year alone, and some think that’s conservative, given the data. Many, if not most, of the non-governmental organizations that were involved in educating Haitians about the bacteria have scaled back their programs or closed shop, taking with them the chlorine they had been providing to make drinking water safe, and the soap to wash hands, fruits and vegetables.

Writing for the Atlantic, Armin Rosen suggests that “If a multinational corporation behaved the way the U.N. did in Haiti, it would be sued for stratospheric amounts of money.” As well “They would have to contend with Interpol red notices, along with the occasional cream pie attack.”

Former AP correspondent Jonathan Katz, whose important work in documenting the source of the outbreak is detailed in his book The Big Truck That Went By notes that the U.N. immunity claim is just the latest in a series of efforts to stall and obstruct the efforts of cholera victims to receive justice – and for the U.N. to take appropriate action to stop cholera. Katz writes in Slate:

A more recent tactic has been for the U.N. to shut down talk about the epidemic’s cause by discussing its new effort to eradicate the disease—despite the fact that the primary program it is touting is not actually a U.N. effort, lacks clear goals, and remains almost totally unfunded.

Katz notes that “Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon added a generic statement expressing sympathy for the thousands killed and hundreds of thousands sickened or left unable to work by the disease. His spokesman dodged all further questions.”

As Katz points out – as does legal blogger Kristen Boon – with this immunity claim, the U.N. has now attempted to preempt each possible venue for the victims’ redress: Haitian courts (from which the U.N. claims it has immunity), the standing claims commission which the U.N. has never set up, and any hearing of the claims internally.

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) finds the U.N.’s decision all the more egregious because of its dubious claim that the complaint is based on “policy.” A letter [PDF] from the U.N.’s Under-Secretary for Legal Affairs to Brian Concannon of IJDH states:

With respect to the claims submitted, consideration of these claims would necessarily include a review of political and policy matters.  Accordingly, these claims are not receivable pursuant to Section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, adopted by the General Assembly on 13 February 1946.

This raises the question: is it U.N. policy to dump raw sewage into rivers of countries where it operates, even when those countries lack adequate water and sanitation services? If so, is this really the kind of defense the U.N. wants to make for itself?

Concannon offers his take to the Atlantic: “If dumping sewage is a policy, it has two consequences[.] The first is that it’s a problematic policy and they should answer questions about that. And secondly — if that’s allowed to be under a policy that’s not reviewable, anything is ‘not reviewable.'”

Katz argues that it is well within the U.N.’s capacity to fulfill the demands in the IJDH complaint:

The U.N. estimates it would cost $2.27 billion to provide the necessary infrastructure in Haiti over the next 10 years. The victims’ lawyers have asked for up to $100,000 in additional compensation for each of the families they represent. In all, the total cost would probably be shy of $3 billion—a bargain compared with the economic, social, and personal damage the epidemic has brought. To put that figure in perspective, MINUSTAH’s budget for 2013 alone—again, a quarter of which is provided by the United States—is $644 million. Reduce the size of the nine-year-old peacekeeping mission, which after all is patrolling a country that’s not at war, and you could start paying that debt down quickly.

That the U.N. could help “stabilize” Haiti by putting the MINUSTAH budget toward cholera eradication is a point that CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot also made on Thursday, saying, “They have the resources to put an end to cholera in Haiti for less money than they are going to spend in the next year or two on keeping U.N. troops there. But they’re in no rush to right the wrongs that they have done.”

Departing from its normally low profile on the subject of the U.N.’s responsibility for the cholera epidemic, Partners in Health’s Louise Ivers had an op-ed in the New York Times over the weekend also pointing out that

the organization’s sta­bi­liza­tion mis­sion in Haiti is bud­geted for $648 mil­lion this year — a sum that could more than finance the entire cholera elim­i­na­tion ini­tia­tive for two years.

It’s time for the United Nations to rethink what true sta­bi­liza­tion could be: pre­vent­ing peo­ple from dying of a gru­el­ing, painful — and wholly pre­ventable — dis­ease is a good start.

The U.N.’s claim of immunity in response to the legal complaint filed against it on behalf of over 6,000 cholera victims has provoked outrage. Author Kathie Klarreich called it “unconscionable and immoral” in a Miami Herald op-ed yesterday, saying the U.N.’s statement “appears more like an apology for a snake bite than an effective response to what is currently the worst cholera outbreak in the world.” Klarreich underscores the urgency of cholera in contrast to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s expressed sympathy:

The World Health Organization expects 100,000 new cases this year alone, and some think that’s conservative, given the data. Many, if not most, of the non-governmental organizations that were involved in educating Haitians about the bacteria have scaled back their programs or closed shop, taking with them the chlorine they had been providing to make drinking water safe, and the soap to wash hands, fruits and vegetables.

Writing for the Atlantic, Armin Rosen suggests that “If a multinational corporation behaved the way the U.N. did in Haiti, it would be sued for stratospheric amounts of money.” As well “They would have to contend with Interpol red notices, along with the occasional cream pie attack.”

Former AP correspondent Jonathan Katz, whose important work in documenting the source of the outbreak is detailed in his book The Big Truck That Went By notes that the U.N. immunity claim is just the latest in a series of efforts to stall and obstruct the efforts of cholera victims to receive justice – and for the U.N. to take appropriate action to stop cholera. Katz writes in Slate:

A more recent tactic has been for the U.N. to shut down talk about the epidemic’s cause by discussing its new effort to eradicate the disease—despite the fact that the primary program it is touting is not actually a U.N. effort, lacks clear goals, and remains almost totally unfunded.

Katz notes that “Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon added a generic statement expressing sympathy for the thousands killed and hundreds of thousands sickened or left unable to work by the disease. His spokesman dodged all further questions.”

As Katz points out – as does legal blogger Kristen Boon – with this immunity claim, the U.N. has now attempted to preempt each possible venue for the victims’ redress: Haitian courts (from which the U.N. claims it has immunity), the standing claims commission which the U.N. has never set up, and any hearing of the claims internally.

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) finds the U.N.’s decision all the more egregious because of its dubious claim that the complaint is based on “policy.” A letter [PDF] from the U.N.’s Under-Secretary for Legal Affairs to Brian Concannon of IJDH states:

With respect to the claims submitted, consideration of these claims would necessarily include a review of political and policy matters.  Accordingly, these claims are not receivable pursuant to Section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, adopted by the General Assembly on 13 February 1946.

This raises the question: is it U.N. policy to dump raw sewage into rivers of countries where it operates, even when those countries lack adequate water and sanitation services? If so, is this really the kind of defense the U.N. wants to make for itself?

Concannon offers his take to the Atlantic: “If dumping sewage is a policy, it has two consequences[.] The first is that it’s a problematic policy and they should answer questions about that. And secondly — if that’s allowed to be under a policy that’s not reviewable, anything is ‘not reviewable.'”

Katz argues that it is well within the U.N.’s capacity to fulfill the demands in the IJDH complaint:

The U.N. estimates it would cost $2.27 billion to provide the necessary infrastructure in Haiti over the next 10 years. The victims’ lawyers have asked for up to $100,000 in additional compensation for each of the families they represent. In all, the total cost would probably be shy of $3 billion—a bargain compared with the economic, social, and personal damage the epidemic has brought. To put that figure in perspective, MINUSTAH’s budget for 2013 alone—again, a quarter of which is provided by the United States—is $644 million. Reduce the size of the nine-year-old peacekeeping mission, which after all is patrolling a country that’s not at war, and you could start paying that debt down quickly.

That the U.N. could help “stabilize” Haiti by putting the MINUSTAH budget toward cholera eradication is a point that CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot also made on Thursday, saying, “They have the resources to put an end to cholera in Haiti for less money than they are going to spend in the next year or two on keeping U.N. troops there. But they’re in no rush to right the wrongs that they have done.”

Departing from its normally low profile on the subject of the U.N.’s responsibility for the cholera epidemic, Partners in Health’s Louise Ivers had an op-ed in the New York Times over the weekend also pointing out that

the organization’s sta­bi­liza­tion mis­sion in Haiti is bud­geted for $648 mil­lion this year — a sum that could more than finance the entire cholera elim­i­na­tion ini­tia­tive for two years.

It’s time for the United Nations to rethink what true sta­bi­liza­tion could be: pre­vent­ing peo­ple from dying of a gru­el­ing, painful — and wholly pre­ventable — dis­ease is a good start.

There were two significant and possibly historic legal developments in Haiti today.

After Jean-Claude Duvalier refused yet again to appear in court today, Judge Jean Joseph Lebrun issued an order for him to appear at the next hearing, meaning Duvalier will be escorted there by the authorities. Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch commented that the “ruling is a victory for Duvalier ‘s victims who have never given up hope of seeing him in a court of law,” adding that the “decision means even Duvalier is not above the law.”

In his stead, Duvalier’s lawyer, Reynold Georges, appeared in the appeals court today, 90 minutes late, according to AP – after apparently initially saying he wouldn’t – and continued to display the Duvalier legal team’s contempt for the human rights plaintiffs, the media, and the court itself. According to Twitter updates from journalists, members of the Institute for Justice in Democracy in Haiti team, and observers from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, during the proceedings this morning, Georges held his own press conference of sorts in the court room, during which he is said to have told an Aljazeera reporter “your international law, keep it for yourself,” and to have said to the press that “I don’t lose. I’m Haiti’s Johnnie Cochran.” He also reportedly claimed that Amnesty had at some point given his client a good grade on human rights, which led to laughter and the expected denials from Amnesty International’s representative in the court room.

According to the AP, “Georges, a brash former senator, said he was confident that the Supreme Court would not only overturn the order to compel Duvalier’s presence in court but also block the effort by victims of the Duvalier regime from getting the court to reinstate the charges.”

The BAI’s Mario Joseph told the BBC that “Duvalier is trying to control the justice system like when he was a dictator.”

No less outrageous, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon finally issued a statement today in response to the complaint filed by over 6,000 cholera victims calling for U.N. responsibility in causing the epidemic. Apparently no more interested in facing the music than Duvalier is, the statement reads:

Today, the United Nations advised the claimants’ representatives that the claims are not receivable pursuant to Section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. The Secretary-General telephoned Haitian President Michel Martelly to inform him of the decision, and to reiterate the commitment of the United Nations to the elimination of cholera in Haiti.

It goes on to say:

Since the outbreak began in 2010, the United Nations and its partners have worked closely with the people and Government of Haiti to provide treatment, improve water and sanitation facilities, and strengthen prevention and early warning. In December 2012, the Secretary-General launched an initiative for the Elimination of Cholera in Haiti, which aims to strengthen Haiti’s own National Cholera Elimination Plan through significant investments and the use of an oral cholera vaccine.

The Secretary-General again expresses his profound sympathy for the terrible suffering caused by the cholera epidemic, and calls on all partners in Haiti and the international community to work together to ensure better health and a better future for the people of Haiti.

Speaking to AFP, Brian Concannon of IJDH commented that, “This extreme interpretation of immunity is depriving our clients of any remedies for wrongs committed.” IJDH will now “pursue the case in court in either Haiti, the United States, or Europe,” according to Reuters.

In their statement the UN touts their efforts to combat cholera, but as a letter from Congressman John Conyers (D – MI) and several others, addressed to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, says, “nearly two months after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced his initiative to support the plan, only 10 percent of the funding has been secured and only one percent of this funding has been pledged from the United Nations itself.”

“…there is still no sign that implementation of the plan has begun,” the letter reminds Rice, urging her to “to ensure that the United Nations continues to take a leading role in addressing the crisis,” since “The United Nations has a special responsibility to ensure this plan is funded.”

There were two significant and possibly historic legal developments in Haiti today.

After Jean-Claude Duvalier refused yet again to appear in court today, Judge Jean Joseph Lebrun issued an order for him to appear at the next hearing, meaning Duvalier will be escorted there by the authorities. Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch commented that the “ruling is a victory for Duvalier ‘s victims who have never given up hope of seeing him in a court of law,” adding that the “decision means even Duvalier is not above the law.”

In his stead, Duvalier’s lawyer, Reynold Georges, appeared in the appeals court today, 90 minutes late, according to AP – after apparently initially saying he wouldn’t – and continued to display the Duvalier legal team’s contempt for the human rights plaintiffs, the media, and the court itself. According to Twitter updates from journalists, members of the Institute for Justice in Democracy in Haiti team, and observers from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, during the proceedings this morning, Georges held his own press conference of sorts in the court room, during which he is said to have told an Aljazeera reporter “your international law, keep it for yourself,” and to have said to the press that “I don’t lose. I’m Haiti’s Johnnie Cochran.” He also reportedly claimed that Amnesty had at some point given his client a good grade on human rights, which led to laughter and the expected denials from Amnesty International’s representative in the court room.

According to the AP, “Georges, a brash former senator, said he was confident that the Supreme Court would not only overturn the order to compel Duvalier’s presence in court but also block the effort by victims of the Duvalier regime from getting the court to reinstate the charges.”

The BAI’s Mario Joseph told the BBC that “Duvalier is trying to control the justice system like when he was a dictator.”

No less outrageous, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon finally issued a statement today in response to the complaint filed by over 6,000 cholera victims calling for U.N. responsibility in causing the epidemic. Apparently no more interested in facing the music than Duvalier is, the statement reads:

Today, the United Nations advised the claimants’ representatives that the claims are not receivable pursuant to Section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. The Secretary-General telephoned Haitian President Michel Martelly to inform him of the decision, and to reiterate the commitment of the United Nations to the elimination of cholera in Haiti.

It goes on to say:

Since the outbreak began in 2010, the United Nations and its partners have worked closely with the people and Government of Haiti to provide treatment, improve water and sanitation facilities, and strengthen prevention and early warning. In December 2012, the Secretary-General launched an initiative for the Elimination of Cholera in Haiti, which aims to strengthen Haiti’s own National Cholera Elimination Plan through significant investments and the use of an oral cholera vaccine.

The Secretary-General again expresses his profound sympathy for the terrible suffering caused by the cholera epidemic, and calls on all partners in Haiti and the international community to work together to ensure better health and a better future for the people of Haiti.

Speaking to AFP, Brian Concannon of IJDH commented that, “This extreme interpretation of immunity is depriving our clients of any remedies for wrongs committed.” IJDH will now “pursue the case in court in either Haiti, the United States, or Europe,” according to Reuters.

In their statement the UN touts their efforts to combat cholera, but as a letter from Congressman John Conyers (D – MI) and several others, addressed to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, says, “nearly two months after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced his initiative to support the plan, only 10 percent of the funding has been secured and only one percent of this funding has been pledged from the United Nations itself.”

“…there is still no sign that implementation of the plan has begun,” the letter reminds Rice, urging her to “to ensure that the United Nations continues to take a leading role in addressing the crisis,” since “The United Nations has a special responsibility to ensure this plan is funded.”

In Argentina, Guatemala, Peru and other countries in the region, former dictators and many of those responsible for egregious human rights violations under former authoritarian regimes have been, or are in the process of being tried for their crimes.  In Haiti, for the first time, there appears to be genuine hope that Haiti’s former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier will face human rights charges in court.  But there’s still a very difficult road ahead.

After Duvalier failed to appear at an appeals hearing regarding human rights charges on February 7, the judge rescheduled the hearing for February 21. “The hearing on February 21 could be a pivotal moment in the prosecution of Jean-Claude Duvalier,” the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti’s Nicole Phillips told NACLA blogger Kevin Edmonds. “If Duvalier appears as ordered by the appellate court, it will present the first opportunity for the former brutal dictator to speak about his political violence crimes in a courtroom full of his victims and the media. If Duvalier fails to appear, the Haitian government will be under intense pressure to arrest him for violating a court order.” While Duvalier has blatantly violated his house arrest related to pending corruption charges, failure to appear again would presumably be a more flagrant disregard for the Haitian judicial system. Duvalier also must appear in his own role as an appellant; he is appealing the standing corruption charges against him.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both announced that they will monitor the proceedings tomorrow. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a press release today “reminding the Haitian state of its international obligation to investigate, prosecute, and punish the serious human rights violations committed in that country, and to ensure that justice operators may work with independence and impartiality.”

On January 30, 2012, Investigative Judge Carvés Jean ruled that Duvalier could not stand trial for human rights crimes, while allowing corruption charges to go ahead. The ruling shocked the human rights community, considering that Duvalier is one of the hemisphere’s more notorious past dictators, infamous for brutally crushing dissent with the assistance of the dreaded “Tonton Macoute” secret police and the Haitian army during 15 years in power. “Under the presidency of Duvalier and his Tonton Macoutes, thousands were killed and tortured, and hundreds of thousands of Haitians fled into exile,” according to Human Rights Watch.

At the time, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said it was “extremely disappointed” by the ruling. Human Rights Watch condemned the judge’s decision, saying that it “ignores Haiti’s international obligation to prosecute such crimes.” Human Rights Watch’s Reed Brody stated that “This wrong-headed decision, if upheld on appeal, would entrench Haiti’s culture of impunity by denying justice for Duvalier’s thousands of victims.”

Amnesty International also condemned what it determined to be “stalling” by the Haitian judiciary: “Haitian authorities at the highest level have until now shown great leniency towards Jean-Claude Duvalier, while showing contempt to the victims of human rights violations who continue to await justice and reparation.”

The IACHR pointed out that “tor­ture, extra­ju­di­cial exe­cu­tions and forced dis­ap­pear­ances com­mit­ted dur­ing the regime of Jean-Claude Duva­lier are crimes against human­ity that, as such, are sub­ject nei­ther to a statute of lim­i­ta­tions nor to amnesty laws.” Several human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and others also noted that there is no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity, and that Haiti has a duty to prosecute Duvalier under international law, including the American Convention on Human Rights.

The human rights plaintiffs filed an appeal to Judge Carvés Jean’s decision, and the February 7 hearing was the latest of several over the past few months in which Duvalier was a no show.

Duvalier’s defense team and supporters have responded to human rights charges with great hostility. Duvalier’s lawyers and supporters disrupted a press conference by Amnesty international where Amnesty was presenting its report, “’You cannot kill the truth’: The case against Jean-Claude Duvalier” in September 2011. Victims of Duvalier, many of which were present “were intimidated and harassed” and “most felt forced to leave the room due to fear for their security.”  Amnesty stated that the “type of pressure and intimidation which has been exerted on victims and the judicial authorities since the start of the criminal investigation against Jean-Claude Duvalier is totally unacceptable.” Prosecuting attorney Mario Joseph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux began to receive death threats and experience various forms of harassment following Judge Carvés Jean’s decision. On February 7 this month, one of Duvalier’s attorneys reportedly demonstrated open contempt for the would-be plaintiffs – New York Times editorial writer Lawrence Downes wrote, “according to observers on Twitter, a Duvalier lawyer jabbed his finger at one victim and yelled, ‘The victims will never be able to participate!’” As for crimes themselves, a letter that Duvalier’s team presented to the judge declared Duvalier’s having been forced to flee Haiti to be one of “the greatest political crimes (…) committed in this country.”

“The handful of victims who have been interviewed had been subjected to intimidation by Duvalier supporters and his lawyers,” Amnesty International Special Advisor Javier Zúñiga has said.

An important factor, many observers agree, is the U.S. government’s response to the case, which has been consistently muted. Asked about Duvalier after his surprise return to Haiti in January 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hinted that Duvalier’s past abuses were old news, and that trying him could hamper efforts to “stabilize” the country:

Well, we are very clear going back many years about the abuses of that regime. And certainly, we believe that his record is one of repression of the Haitian people. Ultimately, a decision about what is to be done is left to the government and people of Haiti. But we’re focused on trying to maintain stability, prevent chaos and violence in this very unpredictable period with his return, with cholera still raging, with the challenges of reconstruction, with an election that’s been challenged.

The line that “a decision about what is to be done is left to the government and people of Haiti” is a position that has been restated in subsequent State Department press briefings and other fora. “What happens at this point forward is a matter for the people of Haiti. …This is their concern, not ours,” then-State Department spokesperson P. J. Crowley told reporters on January 18, 2011. “It is now up to Haitians to decide what to do,” U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said on January 20, 2011. Even more distressing, former president Bill Clinton went so far as to shake Duvalier’s hand at a high-profile public event last year marking the second anniversary of the Haitian earthquake – as did Haitian President Michel Martelly.

The Obama administration’s position on Duvalier stands in contrast to past U.S. government statements regarding other fallen dictators. As Human Rights Watch described in June last year, for example:

[Then Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton urged the Senegalese government to “move quickly” in bringing [former Chadian dictator Hissène] Habré to justice. “If progress is not forthcoming on efforts to extradite or prosecute, the Department of State will continue to press vigorously for expedient action by Senegal in finally holding Habré to account,” Clinton said in the report.

Even worse, the U.S. government may be obstructing justice by withholding documents that could be used as evidence against Duvalier. While the U.S. did make public similar documents about former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and members of Argentina’s former junta, for example, prior to judicial proceedings in those countries, it has yet to take similar action that could help build the case against Duvalier. The U.S government has also notably long refused to hand over documents regarding the former C.I.A.-linked Haitian death squad, FRAPH.

The U.S. response could signal an unwillingness to see Duvalier pay for his crimes, which might come as no surprise considering the enduring support the U.S. government showed for Duvalier during his rule, with U.S. aid to Haiti – including military training — increasing during the 1970’s and 80’s. When a popular uprising finally forced Duvalier to flee in 1986, the U.S. flew him out on a military plane.

The U.S. position is also ironic considering that USAID has spent $150 million [PDF] on “governance and rule of law” programs in Haiti just since the earthquake, and helped to create the Superior Judicial Council – which has been dogged by controversy during its brief existence. Nor should Duvalier’s return have caught U.S. officials off guard. A Wikileaked cable reveals that Duvalier’s possible return was a concern as far back as 2006, when then U.S. charge d’affaires in the Dominican Republic Lisa Kubiske (now assigned to Honduras) “expressed USG [US government] concern over a return to Haiti of either Duvalier or [Jean-Bertrand] Aristide [the former Haitian president]. Both potentially were provocative and could complicate the ability of any new government to establish itself,” The Guardian summarized the cable as saying. The cable does not mention any desire by the U.S. government to see Duvalier tried, nor any mention of possible charges whatsoever.

The Martelly administration in Haiti has also been reluctant to see Duvalier prosecuted. Martelly’s connections to the Duvalier regime are well known, and Martelly has admitted to being a former Tonton Macoute himself. Amnesty noted that as well as allowing Duvalier to take part in ceremonies to mark the second anniversary of the Haiti quake, “In October [2011], President Martelly paid a highly publicized visit to Duvalier’s home, under the pretext of national reconciliation.” More recently, the Haitian government reportedly gave Duvalier a diplomatic passport. “Several public statements from President Martelly have also hinted at pardoning Duvalier,” as Amnesty noted.

As Edmonds wrote for NACLA, “The 61-year-old Duvalier would face no more than five years in prison if convicted of embezzling public funds and other financial crimes. On the other hand, a conviction of crimes against humanity could put him away for life.”

“The Duvalier trial could be the most important criminal case in Haitian history,” Human Rights Watch’s Brody has said. As important as it is in holding Duvalier accountable for human rights crimes and finding justice for victims, its magnitude transcends even this. If Duvalier is allowed to walk free, it would demonstrate that in Haiti some people truly are above the law, and it would send a dangerous message to other rights abusers, past, present and future – of which there are many, a good number of them also notorious, like Duvalier. As Zúñiga said, “It is the whole credibility of the Haitian justice system which is at stake.”

In Argentina, Guatemala, Peru and other countries in the region, former dictators and many of those responsible for egregious human rights violations under former authoritarian regimes have been, or are in the process of being tried for their crimes.  In Haiti, for the first time, there appears to be genuine hope that Haiti’s former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier will face human rights charges in court.  But there’s still a very difficult road ahead.

After Duvalier failed to appear at an appeals hearing regarding human rights charges on February 7, the judge rescheduled the hearing for February 21. “The hearing on February 21 could be a pivotal moment in the prosecution of Jean-Claude Duvalier,” the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti’s Nicole Phillips told NACLA blogger Kevin Edmonds. “If Duvalier appears as ordered by the appellate court, it will present the first opportunity for the former brutal dictator to speak about his political violence crimes in a courtroom full of his victims and the media. If Duvalier fails to appear, the Haitian government will be under intense pressure to arrest him for violating a court order.” While Duvalier has blatantly violated his house arrest related to pending corruption charges, failure to appear again would presumably be a more flagrant disregard for the Haitian judicial system. Duvalier also must appear in his own role as an appellant; he is appealing the standing corruption charges against him.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both announced that they will monitor the proceedings tomorrow. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a press release today “reminding the Haitian state of its international obligation to investigate, prosecute, and punish the serious human rights violations committed in that country, and to ensure that justice operators may work with independence and impartiality.”

On January 30, 2012, Investigative Judge Carvés Jean ruled that Duvalier could not stand trial for human rights crimes, while allowing corruption charges to go ahead. The ruling shocked the human rights community, considering that Duvalier is one of the hemisphere’s more notorious past dictators, infamous for brutally crushing dissent with the assistance of the dreaded “Tonton Macoute” secret police and the Haitian army during 15 years in power. “Under the presidency of Duvalier and his Tonton Macoutes, thousands were killed and tortured, and hundreds of thousands of Haitians fled into exile,” according to Human Rights Watch.

At the time, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said it was “extremely disappointed” by the ruling. Human Rights Watch condemned the judge’s decision, saying that it “ignores Haiti’s international obligation to prosecute such crimes.” Human Rights Watch’s Reed Brody stated that “This wrong-headed decision, if upheld on appeal, would entrench Haiti’s culture of impunity by denying justice for Duvalier’s thousands of victims.”

Amnesty International also condemned what it determined to be “stalling” by the Haitian judiciary: “Haitian authorities at the highest level have until now shown great leniency towards Jean-Claude Duvalier, while showing contempt to the victims of human rights violations who continue to await justice and reparation.”

The IACHR pointed out that “tor­ture, extra­ju­di­cial exe­cu­tions and forced dis­ap­pear­ances com­mit­ted dur­ing the regime of Jean-Claude Duva­lier are crimes against human­ity that, as such, are sub­ject nei­ther to a statute of lim­i­ta­tions nor to amnesty laws.” Several human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and others also noted that there is no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity, and that Haiti has a duty to prosecute Duvalier under international law, including the American Convention on Human Rights.

The human rights plaintiffs filed an appeal to Judge Carvés Jean’s decision, and the February 7 hearing was the latest of several over the past few months in which Duvalier was a no show.

Duvalier’s defense team and supporters have responded to human rights charges with great hostility. Duvalier’s lawyers and supporters disrupted a press conference by Amnesty international where Amnesty was presenting its report, “’You cannot kill the truth’: The case against Jean-Claude Duvalier” in September 2011. Victims of Duvalier, many of which were present “were intimidated and harassed” and “most felt forced to leave the room due to fear for their security.”  Amnesty stated that the “type of pressure and intimidation which has been exerted on victims and the judicial authorities since the start of the criminal investigation against Jean-Claude Duvalier is totally unacceptable.” Prosecuting attorney Mario Joseph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux began to receive death threats and experience various forms of harassment following Judge Carvés Jean’s decision. On February 7 this month, one of Duvalier’s attorneys reportedly demonstrated open contempt for the would-be plaintiffs – New York Times editorial writer Lawrence Downes wrote, “according to observers on Twitter, a Duvalier lawyer jabbed his finger at one victim and yelled, ‘The victims will never be able to participate!’” As for crimes themselves, a letter that Duvalier’s team presented to the judge declared Duvalier’s having been forced to flee Haiti to be one of “the greatest political crimes (…) committed in this country.”

“The handful of victims who have been interviewed had been subjected to intimidation by Duvalier supporters and his lawyers,” Amnesty International Special Advisor Javier Zúñiga has said.

An important factor, many observers agree, is the U.S. government’s response to the case, which has been consistently muted. Asked about Duvalier after his surprise return to Haiti in January 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hinted that Duvalier’s past abuses were old news, and that trying him could hamper efforts to “stabilize” the country:

Well, we are very clear going back many years about the abuses of that regime. And certainly, we believe that his record is one of repression of the Haitian people. Ultimately, a decision about what is to be done is left to the government and people of Haiti. But we’re focused on trying to maintain stability, prevent chaos and violence in this very unpredictable period with his return, with cholera still raging, with the challenges of reconstruction, with an election that’s been challenged.

The line that “a decision about what is to be done is left to the government and people of Haiti” is a position that has been restated in subsequent State Department press briefings and other fora. “What happens at this point forward is a matter for the people of Haiti. …This is their concern, not ours,” then-State Department spokesperson P. J. Crowley told reporters on January 18, 2011. “It is now up to Haitians to decide what to do,” U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said on January 20, 2011. Even more distressing, former president Bill Clinton went so far as to shake Duvalier’s hand at a high-profile public event last year marking the second anniversary of the Haitian earthquake – as did Haitian President Michel Martelly.

The Obama administration’s position on Duvalier stands in contrast to past U.S. government statements regarding other fallen dictators. As Human Rights Watch described in June last year, for example:

[Then Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton urged the Senegalese government to “move quickly” in bringing [former Chadian dictator Hissène] Habré to justice. “If progress is not forthcoming on efforts to extradite or prosecute, the Department of State will continue to press vigorously for expedient action by Senegal in finally holding Habré to account,” Clinton said in the report.

Even worse, the U.S. government may be obstructing justice by withholding documents that could be used as evidence against Duvalier. While the U.S. did make public similar documents about former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and members of Argentina’s former junta, for example, prior to judicial proceedings in those countries, it has yet to take similar action that could help build the case against Duvalier. The U.S government has also notably long refused to hand over documents regarding the former C.I.A.-linked Haitian death squad, FRAPH.

The U.S. response could signal an unwillingness to see Duvalier pay for his crimes, which might come as no surprise considering the enduring support the U.S. government showed for Duvalier during his rule, with U.S. aid to Haiti – including military training — increasing during the 1970’s and 80’s. When a popular uprising finally forced Duvalier to flee in 1986, the U.S. flew him out on a military plane.

The U.S. position is also ironic considering that USAID has spent $150 million [PDF] on “governance and rule of law” programs in Haiti just since the earthquake, and helped to create the Superior Judicial Council – which has been dogged by controversy during its brief existence. Nor should Duvalier’s return have caught U.S. officials off guard. A Wikileaked cable reveals that Duvalier’s possible return was a concern as far back as 2006, when then U.S. charge d’affaires in the Dominican Republic Lisa Kubiske (now assigned to Honduras) “expressed USG [US government] concern over a return to Haiti of either Duvalier or [Jean-Bertrand] Aristide [the former Haitian president]. Both potentially were provocative and could complicate the ability of any new government to establish itself,” The Guardian summarized the cable as saying. The cable does not mention any desire by the U.S. government to see Duvalier tried, nor any mention of possible charges whatsoever.

The Martelly administration in Haiti has also been reluctant to see Duvalier prosecuted. Martelly’s connections to the Duvalier regime are well known, and Martelly has admitted to being a former Tonton Macoute himself. Amnesty noted that as well as allowing Duvalier to take part in ceremonies to mark the second anniversary of the Haiti quake, “In October [2011], President Martelly paid a highly publicized visit to Duvalier’s home, under the pretext of national reconciliation.” More recently, the Haitian government reportedly gave Duvalier a diplomatic passport. “Several public statements from President Martelly have also hinted at pardoning Duvalier,” as Amnesty noted.

As Edmonds wrote for NACLA, “The 61-year-old Duvalier would face no more than five years in prison if convicted of embezzling public funds and other financial crimes. On the other hand, a conviction of crimes against humanity could put him away for life.”

“The Duvalier trial could be the most important criminal case in Haitian history,” Human Rights Watch’s Brody has said. As important as it is in holding Duvalier accountable for human rights crimes and finding justice for victims, its magnitude transcends even this. If Duvalier is allowed to walk free, it would demonstrate that in Haiti some people truly are above the law, and it would send a dangerous message to other rights abusers, past, present and future – of which there are many, a good number of them also notorious, like Duvalier. As Zúñiga said, “It is the whole credibility of the Haitian justice system which is at stake.”

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