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.

In a press release yesterday, DynCorp International announced that the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) had awarded the company with a $48.6 million contract. The purpose of the contract is to “recruit and support up to 100 UNPOL and 10 U.N. Corrections Advisors. DI will also provide logistics support to the Haitian National Police (HNP) Academy and each academy class. In addition, DI will supply five high-level French and Haitian Creole speaking subject matter experts to advise senior HNP officials.”

While the press release went out yesterday, the contract was actually awarded to DynCorp a year ago, and the first funding through the award was given to DynCorp in November 2012 in the amount of $12.9 million. DynCorp is one of the largest government contractors, receiving well over $3 billion in 2012.

As the company points out, its previous work in Haiti began in 2008 and involved the training of over 400 police officers. That work, part of the Haiti Stabilization Initiative, also entailed increasing the size of the U.N. military base in Cite Soleil. DynCorp, which continues to receive funds through that task order, has received over $23 million since 2008 for its work in Haiti.

One of the primary tasks of the U.N. military mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is to recruit and train members for the Haitian National Police, so that they could eventually take over for the foreign troops. With this latest contract, DynCorp has gone from training police to take over for MINUSTAH, to simply supplying troops directly to MINUSTAH.

But the awarding of the contract to DynCorp is also problematic given the company’s terrible track record in the same exact program areas where they will now operate in Haiti. 

In Bosnia in the late ‘90s, DynCorp was contracted by the State Department to provide “peacekeepers” for the U.N. police there, just as in Haiti now. One employee, Kathryn Bolkovac, was eventually fired after blowing the whistle to her superiors at DynCorp on the participation of her colleagues in sex trafficking, among other abuses. The case was the basis for the 2011 Hollywood movie, The Whistleblower.

Unfortunately, these types of abuses have been all too common in Haiti since the arrival of U.N. troops in 2004. And similar to the situation in Bosnia, there have been only sporadic and piecemeal efforts to hold those responsible, accountable.

Additionally, DynCorp has a history of waste, fraud and abuse, including under U.S. government contracts to provide police training in Afghanistan and Iraq, similar to their program in Haiti. In 2010, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction issued a report which found that the State Department and DynCorp could not account for $1 billion dollars spent training the Iraq police. At the time, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said “[INL has]been managing this contract in Iraq since 2004 and, according to this report, they have no idea where any of the money went… What’s even worse is that these are the same people responsible for police training in Afghanistan, so I don’t have any confidence that they’re doing a better job there.”

Sure enough, in 2011 DynCorp was slammed by a joint audit from the State Department and Department of Defense over their work training the Afghan police.  It wasn’t the first time. Also In 2011, according to the Project on Government Oversight’s Contractor Misconduct Database, DynCorp paid $7.7 million to settle a False Claims Act lawsuit after a whistleblower alleged that the company had inflated claims under a “contract with the State Department to provide civilian police training in Iraq.”

In a press release yesterday, DynCorp International announced that the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) had awarded the company with a $48.6 million contract. The purpose of the contract is to “recruit and support up to 100 UNPOL and 10 U.N. Corrections Advisors. DI will also provide logistics support to the Haitian National Police (HNP) Academy and each academy class. In addition, DI will supply five high-level French and Haitian Creole speaking subject matter experts to advise senior HNP officials.”

While the press release went out yesterday, the contract was actually awarded to DynCorp a year ago, and the first funding through the award was given to DynCorp in November 2012 in the amount of $12.9 million. DynCorp is one of the largest government contractors, receiving well over $3 billion in 2012.

As the company points out, its previous work in Haiti began in 2008 and involved the training of over 400 police officers. That work, part of the Haiti Stabilization Initiative, also entailed increasing the size of the U.N. military base in Cite Soleil. DynCorp, which continues to receive funds through that task order, has received over $23 million since 2008 for its work in Haiti.

One of the primary tasks of the U.N. military mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is to recruit and train members for the Haitian National Police, so that they could eventually take over for the foreign troops. With this latest contract, DynCorp has gone from training police to take over for MINUSTAH, to simply supplying troops directly to MINUSTAH.

But the awarding of the contract to DynCorp is also problematic given the company’s terrible track record in the same exact program areas where they will now operate in Haiti. 

In Bosnia in the late ‘90s, DynCorp was contracted by the State Department to provide “peacekeepers” for the U.N. police there, just as in Haiti now. One employee, Kathryn Bolkovac, was eventually fired after blowing the whistle to her superiors at DynCorp on the participation of her colleagues in sex trafficking, among other abuses. The case was the basis for the 2011 Hollywood movie, The Whistleblower.

Unfortunately, these types of abuses have been all too common in Haiti since the arrival of U.N. troops in 2004. And similar to the situation in Bosnia, there have been only sporadic and piecemeal efforts to hold those responsible, accountable.

Additionally, DynCorp has a history of waste, fraud and abuse, including under U.S. government contracts to provide police training in Afghanistan and Iraq, similar to their program in Haiti. In 2010, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction issued a report which found that the State Department and DynCorp could not account for $1 billion dollars spent training the Iraq police. At the time, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said “[INL has]been managing this contract in Iraq since 2004 and, according to this report, they have no idea where any of the money went… What’s even worse is that these are the same people responsible for police training in Afghanistan, so I don’t have any confidence that they’re doing a better job there.”

Sure enough, in 2011 DynCorp was slammed by a joint audit from the State Department and Department of Defense over their work training the Afghan police.  It wasn’t the first time. Also In 2011, according to the Project on Government Oversight’s Contractor Misconduct Database, DynCorp paid $7.7 million to settle a False Claims Act lawsuit after a whistleblower alleged that the company had inflated claims under a “contract with the State Department to provide civilian police training in Iraq.”

The New York Times reported yesterday that the Obama administration plans to change the way U.S. food assistance to other countries is conducted. The reforms, according to the Times’ Ron Nixon, would notably focus on local procurement of food rather than shipping U.S.-grown crops overseas. This is something we and other groups have proposed be done to both assist Haitian farmers and food insecure people in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Despite some interest from some congressional offices, the proposal never went anywhere.

Nixon notes that current U.S. food aid practices are unique: “The United States spends about $1.4 billion a year on food aid and is the only major donor country that continues to send food to humanitarian crisis spots, rather than buying food produced locally.” A recent op-ed by the Center for Global Development’s Charles Kenny in Bloomberg Businessweek noted additionally that “The U.S. food aid program… spends roughly an additional $1 billion transporting the crops overseas, in most cases using U.S.-flagged ships.”

U.S. food aid to Haiti is emblematic of the program as a whole. As we have previously noted, in roughly the first year after the 2010 earthquake, USAID signed nine contracts with three shipping companies to send 73,000 metric tons of rice and other commodities in Title II emergency food aid to Haiti, at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of over $18 million dollars.

The Associated Press’ Mary Clare Jalonick reports on other controversial aspects of the U.S. food aid regime:

Particularly controversial is the process of what is called “monetization,” or selling the food once it arrives overseas to finance development projects. A 2011 report by the Government Accountability Office found monetization cost the U.S. an extra $219 million over a three years, money that could have been used for other development projects.

Aid groups are split on the point, since some finance their activities through monetization. But major aid groups like Oxfam and CARE say the process can destroy local agriculture by dumping cheap crops on the market at a price too low for local farmers to compete.

Nixon noted that “A 2011 report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s investigative arm, also concluded that the system of supplying food to charities to sell for cash was “inherently inefficient.” The G.A.O found that nearly $300 million was lost because of inefficiencies in the program.”

The Obama administration’s proposed changes, however, could greatly increase the number of people helped by U.S. food assistance overseas, while also supporting local farmers in recipient countries. Jalonick reports that “Gawain Kripke of Oxfam says his group estimates that by spending the same amount of money [as the U.S. currently spends on food aid], the United States could provide assistance for 17 million more poor people by changing the way the aid is distributed.”

Food insecurity in Haiti is currently a significant and growing concern. The U.N. reported this week that “that more than more than 1.5 million of Haiti’s people are at risk of malnutrition because of crops lost in [Hurricane Sandy,” AP noted. This means that “At least one in five households faces a serious food deficit and acute malnutrition despite efforts to reduce hunger.”

But as with past efforts to reform U.S. food assistance, the proposed changes are strongly opposed by vested interests. Nixon writes:

In a letter to members of Congress and the Obama administration, more than 60 organizations like the USA Rice Federation and the American Maritime Congress defended the way the program is currently run and called on lawmakers and the Obama administration to resist changing it.

“Growing, manufacturing, bagging, shipping and transportation of nutritious U.S. food creates jobs and economic activity here at home, provides support for our U.S. Merchant Marine, essential to our national defense sealift capability, and sustains a robust domestic constituency for these programs not easily replicated in foreign aid programs,” the groups wrote. [That full letter is available here.]

AP describes the opposition to food aid reform within the U.S. Senate:

Worried that an overhaul of the Food for Peace program could come in Obama’s budget, a bipartisan group of 21 senators wrote a letter to the president in February asking him not to make changes.

“American agriculture is one of the few U.S. business sectors to produce a trade surplus, exporting $108 billion in farm goods in 2010,” the senators wrote. “During this time of economic distress, we should maintain support for the areas of our economy that are growing.”

The letter was signed by Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, the Democratic chairman of the Senate subcommittee that controls agriculture spending. The top Republicans on both of those panels signed the letter as well, as did Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski of Maryland. [The full letter is available here.]

Some farmers’ organizations were candid about other goals currently served by traditional U.S. food aid practices. As Jalonick reported:

Farm groups say the program is also a public relations tool for the United States.

“Bags of U.S.-grown food bearing the U.S. flag and stamped as “From the American People” serve as ambassadors of our nation’s goodwill, which can help to address the root causes of instability,” several farm and shipping groups wrote in a February letter to Obama.

“These are the kinds of things you don’t want to make dramatic quick changes to,” says Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, one of the groups that signed the letter.

But it is questionable what sort of positive PR is achieved when Haitian farmers lose their livelihoods because they are undermined by cheap imported rice “bearing the U.S. flag.”

Considering that 1.5 million people in Haiti are at risk of malnutrition, according to the U.N., the U.S. Senators, farmers’ organizations and agribusinesses that oppose food aid reform may want to reconsider their priorities. Should the U.S. help to end hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity in Haiti and other countries, or will it continue to put the interests of big agribusinesses, food producers and shipping contractors first?

The New York Times reported yesterday that the Obama administration plans to change the way U.S. food assistance to other countries is conducted. The reforms, according to the Times’ Ron Nixon, would notably focus on local procurement of food rather than shipping U.S.-grown crops overseas. This is something we and other groups have proposed be done to both assist Haitian farmers and food insecure people in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Despite some interest from some congressional offices, the proposal never went anywhere.

Nixon notes that current U.S. food aid practices are unique: “The United States spends about $1.4 billion a year on food aid and is the only major donor country that continues to send food to humanitarian crisis spots, rather than buying food produced locally.” A recent op-ed by the Center for Global Development’s Charles Kenny in Bloomberg Businessweek noted additionally that “The U.S. food aid program… spends roughly an additional $1 billion transporting the crops overseas, in most cases using U.S.-flagged ships.”

U.S. food aid to Haiti is emblematic of the program as a whole. As we have previously noted, in roughly the first year after the 2010 earthquake, USAID signed nine contracts with three shipping companies to send 73,000 metric tons of rice and other commodities in Title II emergency food aid to Haiti, at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of over $18 million dollars.

The Associated Press’ Mary Clare Jalonick reports on other controversial aspects of the U.S. food aid regime:

Particularly controversial is the process of what is called “monetization,” or selling the food once it arrives overseas to finance development projects. A 2011 report by the Government Accountability Office found monetization cost the U.S. an extra $219 million over a three years, money that could have been used for other development projects.

Aid groups are split on the point, since some finance their activities through monetization. But major aid groups like Oxfam and CARE say the process can destroy local agriculture by dumping cheap crops on the market at a price too low for local farmers to compete.

Nixon noted that “A 2011 report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s investigative arm, also concluded that the system of supplying food to charities to sell for cash was “inherently inefficient.” The G.A.O found that nearly $300 million was lost because of inefficiencies in the program.”

The Obama administration’s proposed changes, however, could greatly increase the number of people helped by U.S. food assistance overseas, while also supporting local farmers in recipient countries. Jalonick reports that “Gawain Kripke of Oxfam says his group estimates that by spending the same amount of money [as the U.S. currently spends on food aid], the United States could provide assistance for 17 million more poor people by changing the way the aid is distributed.”

Food insecurity in Haiti is currently a significant and growing concern. The U.N. reported this week that “that more than more than 1.5 million of Haiti’s people are at risk of malnutrition because of crops lost in [Hurricane Sandy,” AP noted. This means that “At least one in five households faces a serious food deficit and acute malnutrition despite efforts to reduce hunger.”

But as with past efforts to reform U.S. food assistance, the proposed changes are strongly opposed by vested interests. Nixon writes:

In a letter to members of Congress and the Obama administration, more than 60 organizations like the USA Rice Federation and the American Maritime Congress defended the way the program is currently run and called on lawmakers and the Obama administration to resist changing it.

“Growing, manufacturing, bagging, shipping and transportation of nutritious U.S. food creates jobs and economic activity here at home, provides support for our U.S. Merchant Marine, essential to our national defense sealift capability, and sustains a robust domestic constituency for these programs not easily replicated in foreign aid programs,” the groups wrote. [That full letter is available here.]

AP describes the opposition to food aid reform within the U.S. Senate:

Worried that an overhaul of the Food for Peace program could come in Obama’s budget, a bipartisan group of 21 senators wrote a letter to the president in February asking him not to make changes.

“American agriculture is one of the few U.S. business sectors to produce a trade surplus, exporting $108 billion in farm goods in 2010,” the senators wrote. “During this time of economic distress, we should maintain support for the areas of our economy that are growing.”

The letter was signed by Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, the Democratic chairman of the Senate subcommittee that controls agriculture spending. The top Republicans on both of those panels signed the letter as well, as did Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski of Maryland. [The full letter is available here.]

Some farmers’ organizations were candid about other goals currently served by traditional U.S. food aid practices. As Jalonick reported:

Farm groups say the program is also a public relations tool for the United States.

“Bags of U.S.-grown food bearing the U.S. flag and stamped as “From the American People” serve as ambassadors of our nation’s goodwill, which can help to address the root causes of instability,” several farm and shipping groups wrote in a February letter to Obama.

“These are the kinds of things you don’t want to make dramatic quick changes to,” says Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, one of the groups that signed the letter.

But it is questionable what sort of positive PR is achieved when Haitian farmers lose their livelihoods because they are undermined by cheap imported rice “bearing the U.S. flag.”

Considering that 1.5 million people in Haiti are at risk of malnutrition, according to the U.N., the U.S. Senators, farmers’ organizations and agribusinesses that oppose food aid reform may want to reconsider their priorities. Should the U.S. help to end hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity in Haiti and other countries, or will it continue to put the interests of big agribusinesses, food producers and shipping contractors first?

Today, CEPR released a new report authored by Jake Johnston and Alex Main on USAID in Haiti. The paper looks at the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance, what we know about how it is being administered, to what extent it is adhering to the USAID Forward reform agenda and what steps can be taken to ensure more effective and transparent delivery of aid to Haiti. While one can see who the primary awardees are, the lack of more detailed data creates the impression that U.S. foreign assistance goes into a “black box” where it becomes nearly impossible to tell what happens afterwards.

The report notes that the few audits and evaluations of USAID’s programs in Haiti since the earthquake present a “troubling picture of the manner in which U.S. relief and reconstruction efforts have been conducted so far.” Contractors have hired far fewer Haitians than promised, Haitian businesses were largely excluded, goals were not met, there was inadequate supervision of grantees, and USAID had not conducted internal financial reviews of contractors.

The paper makes several recommendations for how to improve transparency and accountability around the $1 billion in outstanding obligated U.S. aid funds for Haiti, as well as around any additional aid funding in the future. These include making data available on subcontractors; ensuring awardee compliance with federal regulations and contract requirements; reducing reliance on large, multi-year contracts that favor traditional partners while increasing direct contracting to Haitian entities; strengthening USAID’s capacity to carry out effective monitoring and evaluation of assistance programs; making all evaluations publically available; ensuring the involvement of local populations; and making all available information on assistance programs accessible to Haitians – including via translations to Haitian Creole.

“Without transparency, not only is it impossible for U.S. taxpayers to know what is being done with their money, but the Haitian government and the Haitian people have little opportunity to ensure that U.S.-funded projects actually assist Haiti in rebuilding and dealing with ongoing urgent humanitarian needs,” paper co-author Alex Main said.

Below are a series of graphs from the report, illustrating what we do know and the limitations of the data available.

Total USAID Obligations in Millions of USD

alt

Since the earthquake in January 2010, USAID has awarded $1.15 billion in contracts and grants. 

Top Ten USAID Awardees (in Millions of USD)

alt

More than half of the $1.15 billion have gone to the top ten recipients of USAID awards. Chemonics, the largest single recipient of USAID funds, has received more than the next three largest recipients combined.

2010-2012 USAID Funds for Haiti: Planned, Obligated, Spent (in millions of USD)

alt

While one can ascertain overall levels of funding, more detailed breakdowns are not provided. As can be seen above, of the $2.15 billion in planned spending, just 25 percent has been spent.

Sectorial Breakdown of USAID Spending in Haiti, 2010-2012

alt

USAID provides a sectorial breakdown of spending from 2010-2012, but little information on specific projects within these sectors.

Percent Breakdown in Location of USAID Prime Awardees

alt

Across all of USAID’s grants and contracts, just 0.7 percent has gone directly to Haitian organizations or firms. This is despite the USAID Forward reform program, which envisions increasing local procurement. Over 56 percent went to organizations or firms located in the Beltway area (Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia).

Share of Haiti Contracts that Have Gone to CIDC Firms

alt

More than half of all contracts awarded by USAID have gone to firms belonging to the Coalition for International Development companies, a lobbying group which is pushing back against USAID’s Forward reform agenda.

Percent of USAID Prime Awardees Reporting Subawards

alt

To truly assess where USAID funds go, and what percent is spent locally, it is vital to have information on subawards as well as on prime awards. Unfortunately, only 1 percent of all awards have publically reported information on subawards.

To read the entire report, click here

 

 

Today, CEPR released a new report authored by Jake Johnston and Alex Main on USAID in Haiti. The paper looks at the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance, what we know about how it is being administered, to what extent it is adhering to the USAID Forward reform agenda and what steps can be taken to ensure more effective and transparent delivery of aid to Haiti. While one can see who the primary awardees are, the lack of more detailed data creates the impression that U.S. foreign assistance goes into a “black box” where it becomes nearly impossible to tell what happens afterwards.

The report notes that the few audits and evaluations of USAID’s programs in Haiti since the earthquake present a “troubling picture of the manner in which U.S. relief and reconstruction efforts have been conducted so far.” Contractors have hired far fewer Haitians than promised, Haitian businesses were largely excluded, goals were not met, there was inadequate supervision of grantees, and USAID had not conducted internal financial reviews of contractors.

The paper makes several recommendations for how to improve transparency and accountability around the $1 billion in outstanding obligated U.S. aid funds for Haiti, as well as around any additional aid funding in the future. These include making data available on subcontractors; ensuring awardee compliance with federal regulations and contract requirements; reducing reliance on large, multi-year contracts that favor traditional partners while increasing direct contracting to Haitian entities; strengthening USAID’s capacity to carry out effective monitoring and evaluation of assistance programs; making all evaluations publically available; ensuring the involvement of local populations; and making all available information on assistance programs accessible to Haitians – including via translations to Haitian Creole.

“Without transparency, not only is it impossible for U.S. taxpayers to know what is being done with their money, but the Haitian government and the Haitian people have little opportunity to ensure that U.S.-funded projects actually assist Haiti in rebuilding and dealing with ongoing urgent humanitarian needs,” paper co-author Alex Main said.

Below are a series of graphs from the report, illustrating what we do know and the limitations of the data available.

Total USAID Obligations in Millions of USD

alt

Since the earthquake in January 2010, USAID has awarded $1.15 billion in contracts and grants. 

Top Ten USAID Awardees (in Millions of USD)

alt

More than half of the $1.15 billion have gone to the top ten recipients of USAID awards. Chemonics, the largest single recipient of USAID funds, has received more than the next three largest recipients combined.

2010-2012 USAID Funds for Haiti: Planned, Obligated, Spent (in millions of USD)

alt

While one can ascertain overall levels of funding, more detailed breakdowns are not provided. As can be seen above, of the $2.15 billion in planned spending, just 25 percent has been spent.

Sectorial Breakdown of USAID Spending in Haiti, 2010-2012

alt

USAID provides a sectorial breakdown of spending from 2010-2012, but little information on specific projects within these sectors.

Percent Breakdown in Location of USAID Prime Awardees

alt

Across all of USAID’s grants and contracts, just 0.7 percent has gone directly to Haitian organizations or firms. This is despite the USAID Forward reform program, which envisions increasing local procurement. Over 56 percent went to organizations or firms located in the Beltway area (Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia).

Share of Haiti Contracts that Have Gone to CIDC Firms

alt

More than half of all contracts awarded by USAID have gone to firms belonging to the Coalition for International Development companies, a lobbying group which is pushing back against USAID’s Forward reform agenda.

Percent of USAID Prime Awardees Reporting Subawards

alt

To truly assess where USAID funds go, and what percent is spent locally, it is vital to have information on subawards as well as on prime awards. Unfortunately, only 1 percent of all awards have publically reported information on subawards.

To read the entire report, click here

 

 

Earlier this week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures in favor of the 567 families that have been under constant threat of eviction in the Grace Village camp. Given the “imminent” threat to those in the camp, the IACHR urged the Government of Haiti:

1. To adopt the necessary measures to avoid the excessive use of force and of violence in any eviction.  In particular, to guarantee that the public authorities’ actions as well as those of private parties pose no risk to the life and personal integrity of the camp residents;

2. To implement effective security measures, in particular, to ensure that there is an adequate patrol around and inside the camp and to install police stations close to the camp. To this effect, the IACHR asks the Government to provide special protection to women and children;

3. To ensure that the residents have access to the potable water required for basic needs;

4. To consult with the beneficiaries and their representatives regarding the measures that need to be taken.  In particular, ensure that the camp residents’ committee as well as grassroots women’s groups can fully participate in the planning and execution of the measures implemented for the benefit of residents, including measures focused on the prevention of sexual violence and other forms of violence in the camp; and

5. To inform [the public] regarding the adopted measures so as to investigate the events that justifies the adoption of precautionary measures

As we have written previously, the residents of Grace Village have faced significant and on-going harassment, which has included government complicity at both the local and national level. The alleged owner of the land is Pastor Joel Jeune, the founder of a Florida based 501(c)(3) organization, Grace International Inc. As the request for precautionary measures points out, the pastor’s close “ties to the mayor’s office and the local police force him to enlist the help of Haitian police to carry out illegal evictions. With his private security forces and the Haitian police, Pastor Joel Jeune has orchestrated and participated in violent, forced evictions of displaced families living inside Grace Village.”

Amnesty International had warned earlier this month that the camp was “under threat of forced eviction” and that there was a “list of people from the camp” that the police were going to arrest. Amnesty urged the Haitian government to “ensure that residents of Grace Village camp are not evicted without due process, adequate notice and consultation, and that all those affected have access to adequate alternative accommodation.”

In requesting the precautionary measures, human rights lawyers Mario Joseph, Patrice Florvilus and Nicole Phillips argue that:

the Haitian government’s failure to protect a vulnerable group, while simultaneously assisting non-state actors in brutalizing this vulnerable group, violates the Equal Protection clause enshrined in Article 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights. Finally, the Haitian government’s failure to protect displaced families in Grace Village from forced evictions interferes with these individuals’ exercise of fundamental rights, including the right to life, personal liberty, privacy, family, property, and judicial protection, as guaranteed by the Inter-American Convention.

The recommendations by the IACHR “reconfirm that forced evictions from displacement camps not only add trauma to earthquake victims, but also violate Haitian and international human rights standards,” said Nicole Phillips of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. She added, “landowners should raise their concerns with the Haitian government and international community who have not provided adequate housing to earthquake victims, rather than waging violence against displaced communities desperate to find a safe home.”

Meanwhile, in Haiti today, hundreds perhaps thousands of displaced persons are marching for adequate housing and against forced evictions. Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye, which is tweeting updates from the march, notes that, “Each time the IDP protest passes a camp the number of people grows; was several hundreds, now thousands.” According to the UN, over 70,000 people (20% of the total displaced population) are facing threats of eviction in 2013.

 

Earlier this week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures in favor of the 567 families that have been under constant threat of eviction in the Grace Village camp. Given the “imminent” threat to those in the camp, the IACHR urged the Government of Haiti:

1. To adopt the necessary measures to avoid the excessive use of force and of violence in any eviction.  In particular, to guarantee that the public authorities’ actions as well as those of private parties pose no risk to the life and personal integrity of the camp residents;

2. To implement effective security measures, in particular, to ensure that there is an adequate patrol around and inside the camp and to install police stations close to the camp. To this effect, the IACHR asks the Government to provide special protection to women and children;

3. To ensure that the residents have access to the potable water required for basic needs;

4. To consult with the beneficiaries and their representatives regarding the measures that need to be taken.  In particular, ensure that the camp residents’ committee as well as grassroots women’s groups can fully participate in the planning and execution of the measures implemented for the benefit of residents, including measures focused on the prevention of sexual violence and other forms of violence in the camp; and

5. To inform [the public] regarding the adopted measures so as to investigate the events that justifies the adoption of precautionary measures

As we have written previously, the residents of Grace Village have faced significant and on-going harassment, which has included government complicity at both the local and national level. The alleged owner of the land is Pastor Joel Jeune, the founder of a Florida based 501(c)(3) organization, Grace International Inc. As the request for precautionary measures points out, the pastor’s close “ties to the mayor’s office and the local police force him to enlist the help of Haitian police to carry out illegal evictions. With his private security forces and the Haitian police, Pastor Joel Jeune has orchestrated and participated in violent, forced evictions of displaced families living inside Grace Village.”

Amnesty International had warned earlier this month that the camp was “under threat of forced eviction” and that there was a “list of people from the camp” that the police were going to arrest. Amnesty urged the Haitian government to “ensure that residents of Grace Village camp are not evicted without due process, adequate notice and consultation, and that all those affected have access to adequate alternative accommodation.”

In requesting the precautionary measures, human rights lawyers Mario Joseph, Patrice Florvilus and Nicole Phillips argue that:

the Haitian government’s failure to protect a vulnerable group, while simultaneously assisting non-state actors in brutalizing this vulnerable group, violates the Equal Protection clause enshrined in Article 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights. Finally, the Haitian government’s failure to protect displaced families in Grace Village from forced evictions interferes with these individuals’ exercise of fundamental rights, including the right to life, personal liberty, privacy, family, property, and judicial protection, as guaranteed by the Inter-American Convention.

The recommendations by the IACHR “reconfirm that forced evictions from displacement camps not only add trauma to earthquake victims, but also violate Haitian and international human rights standards,” said Nicole Phillips of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. She added, “landowners should raise their concerns with the Haitian government and international community who have not provided adequate housing to earthquake victims, rather than waging violence against displaced communities desperate to find a safe home.”

Meanwhile, in Haiti today, hundreds perhaps thousands of displaced persons are marching for adequate housing and against forced evictions. Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye, which is tweeting updates from the march, notes that, “Each time the IDP protest passes a camp the number of people grows; was several hundreds, now thousands.” According to the UN, over 70,000 people (20% of the total displaced population) are facing threats of eviction in 2013.

 

The Haitian government’s Société Nationale des Parcs Industriels (SONAPI) hired a U.S. lobbying firm in February to draft documents and arrange meetings “with Congressional Members and staff and Administration officials to seek change to trade legislation” and to help “implement” worker rights provisions, according to Foreign Agent registration documents. SONAPI is the government entity which owns the newly-opened Caracol industrial park, and is the institution responsible for locating, organizing and managing industrial parks throughout Haiti. Yesterday, a presidential decree named business owner Bernard Schettini as the new head of SONAPI, replacing George Sassine, the ex-president of the Association of Industries of Haiti and the former Executive Director of CTMO-HOPE, the commission in charge of implementing U.S. preferential trade legislation.

Lobbying disclosures show that Sorini, Samet & Associates has been hired at the rate of $5,000 a month to help SONAPI lobby congress. Andrew Samet, the co-founder and principal of the firm, was the Deputy Undersecretary of Labor under President Clinton and later worked for law firm Sandler Travis and Rosenberg which counted the industry group the American Apparel and Footwear Association as a major client (the Association in turn has supported “free trade” deals such as CAFTA and HELP legislation for Haiti). Samet was hired as a lobbyist by Colombia in 2008 when it was pushing for passage of a “free trade” agreement with the U.S. Samet was hired to provide “a strategy on labor issues directed to support favourable consideration” of the FTA with the U.S. and to assist “the government of Colombia in presenting information on labor issues with relevant U.S. stakeholders, including U.S. Congress, the administration, labor advocacy groups, trade unions and the media.” The FTA with Colombia was eventually passed despite the ongoing killing of unionists in the country, which continues to this day. In June 2012 the AFL-CIO issued a report documenting how the Labor Action plan attached to the FTA was failing to prevent labor and human rights violations. For six months of work in 2008, Sorini, Samet & Associates received over $100,000, according to lobbying disclosuredocuments.

The firm has also done previous work for Sassine and the Haitian government during Sassine’s tenure at CTMO-HOPE, earning nearly $400,000 from 20082010 lobbying Congress for the passage of new trade legislation and the implementation of “worker rights provisions.” Industrial parks and garment manufacturing are seen as vital development tools by the Haitian government and many of its international backers. The industry is reliant on trade preferences offered by the United States which started in 2006 with the HOPE act and culminated in the “HELP” act, which was passed soon after the earthquake. According to stakeholders, the HELP legislation, which extended the length of the preferences and increased the amount of textiles that would be subject to benefits, was a key part of bringing in Sae-A Trading, the global manufacturer that recently opened a factory at the Caracol industrial park.

While Sorini, Samet & Associates was previously hired to help implement “worker rights provisions” associated with the HOPE legislation, factories in Haiti are still in violation of a significant number of provisions under the preferential trade legislation. The most recent Better Work Haiti report found that 21 of 22 factories covered in their analysis (Caracol is not covered yet) were non-compliant with minimum wage laws, for example. This past summer, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, in their annual compliance report, found that “there was sufficient credible evidence to conclude that three specific producers were non-compliant with one or more of the core labor standards.” This was the first time in four years that the report named specific factories. The violations included non-compliance in: sexual harassment, freedom of association and forced labor.

Just last month, Batay Ouvriye, one of the leading worker rights groups in Haiti issued a statement on the case of Leo Vedél.  Vedél works for a factory in Port-au-Prince named Premium Apparel, which supplies textiles to Gildan, a Canadian clothing company. While the minimum wage in Haiti was recently raised, many factories have not yet raised their wages. Vedél and other workers organized a protest after their requests to be paid the minimum wage were rebuffed. The result, as Batay Ouvriye notes, was that Vedél was beaten by a manager of the park and subsequently fired.

With the Caracol industrial park the centerpiece of the U.S. and international community’s earthquake reconstruction, new focus is being put on labor violations in Haiti’s factories. The U.S., International Labor Organization and other entities have indeed stepped up monitoring of factories; nevertheless, the U.S. has been reluctant to enforce worker rights provisions through the suspension of tariff benefits, opting instead to work with factories and not “scare off jobs” by revoking benefits.

This increased scrutiny, even if it hasn’t resulted in tangible consequences, could be why Sorini, Samet & Associates was hired to “provide support to SONAPI on the continued implementation and compliance with the requirements of the HOPE and HELP legislation, with specific reference to the labor and social compliance obligations of the legislation.” Additionally, the firm will support “officials of SONAPI in meeting with the US Government, US Congress, international organizations, and other interested stakeholders… on the implementation of the legislation and programs related to it.”

Caracol is not yet included in the Better Work monitoring reports but press reports have noted that working conditions are far from ideal, despite a U.S. pledge that “Sae-A would be closely monitored in Haiti because of trade legislation requiring stringent scrutiny through an American-financed inspection program.” One worker recently told Haiti Grassroots Watch, “They yell at us as if we were animals. The food they prepare is bad. There is only warm water to drink. Sometimes I’ve had to work all day without a facemask. Dust fills my nose.” Additionally, while the factory seems to be paying the minimum wage, “most have only 57 gourdes, or US$1.36, in hand after paying for transportation and food,” far from a living wage. Commenting on the pay, another worker told Haiti Grassroots Watch that, “It’s not worth it! The supervisors don’t respect us. They don’t see us as human beings. They hit us with pieces of cloth.”

While a union has taken shape in Caracol, there are still many impediments in factories to organizing. One worker for Global Manufacturers and Contractors recently told Fran Quigley, “‘The people fired for being part of the union make a list this long, “ Jackson says, holding his hands two feet apart. “They find a different reason to let them go, but they are tagged because they are part of the syndicat [union].’”

Sorini, Samet & Associates has a track record of working for governments whose compliance with labor and human rights are questioned, in addition to Colombia. In April, as the government of Bahrain was leading a bloody crackdown on its population, the AFL-CIO submitted a complaint under the U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement because of the “firing of hundreds of workers and union leaders for participating in strikes and other pro-democracy actions,” according to Justin Elliot of Salon. The Obama administration eventually accepted the submission. In response, the foreign ministry of Bahrain hired Sorini, Samet & Associates at a rate of up to $550 per hour to “support…the engagement of other U.S. stakeholders related to the Submission, including the AFL-CIO and other labor organizations, relevant human rights groups, think tanks and scholars, elements of the U.S. business community, and the media,” among other actions.

The Haitian government’s Société Nationale des Parcs Industriels (SONAPI) hired a U.S. lobbying firm in February to draft documents and arrange meetings “with Congressional Members and staff and Administration officials to seek change to trade legislation” and to help “implement” worker rights provisions, according to Foreign Agent registration documents. SONAPI is the government entity which owns the newly-opened Caracol industrial park, and is the institution responsible for locating, organizing and managing industrial parks throughout Haiti. Yesterday, a presidential decree named business owner Bernard Schettini as the new head of SONAPI, replacing George Sassine, the ex-president of the Association of Industries of Haiti and the former Executive Director of CTMO-HOPE, the commission in charge of implementing U.S. preferential trade legislation.

Lobbying disclosures show that Sorini, Samet & Associates has been hired at the rate of $5,000 a month to help SONAPI lobby congress. Andrew Samet, the co-founder and principal of the firm, was the Deputy Undersecretary of Labor under President Clinton and later worked for law firm Sandler Travis and Rosenberg which counted the industry group the American Apparel and Footwear Association as a major client (the Association in turn has supported “free trade” deals such as CAFTA and HELP legislation for Haiti). Samet was hired as a lobbyist by Colombia in 2008 when it was pushing for passage of a “free trade” agreement with the U.S. Samet was hired to provide “a strategy on labor issues directed to support favourable consideration” of the FTA with the U.S. and to assist “the government of Colombia in presenting information on labor issues with relevant U.S. stakeholders, including U.S. Congress, the administration, labor advocacy groups, trade unions and the media.” The FTA with Colombia was eventually passed despite the ongoing killing of unionists in the country, which continues to this day. In June 2012 the AFL-CIO issued a report documenting how the Labor Action plan attached to the FTA was failing to prevent labor and human rights violations. For six months of work in 2008, Sorini, Samet & Associates received over $100,000, according to lobbying disclosuredocuments.

The firm has also done previous work for Sassine and the Haitian government during Sassine’s tenure at CTMO-HOPE, earning nearly $400,000 from 20082010 lobbying Congress for the passage of new trade legislation and the implementation of “worker rights provisions.” Industrial parks and garment manufacturing are seen as vital development tools by the Haitian government and many of its international backers. The industry is reliant on trade preferences offered by the United States which started in 2006 with the HOPE act and culminated in the “HELP” act, which was passed soon after the earthquake. According to stakeholders, the HELP legislation, which extended the length of the preferences and increased the amount of textiles that would be subject to benefits, was a key part of bringing in Sae-A Trading, the global manufacturer that recently opened a factory at the Caracol industrial park.

While Sorini, Samet & Associates was previously hired to help implement “worker rights provisions” associated with the HOPE legislation, factories in Haiti are still in violation of a significant number of provisions under the preferential trade legislation. The most recent Better Work Haiti report found that 21 of 22 factories covered in their analysis (Caracol is not covered yet) were non-compliant with minimum wage laws, for example. This past summer, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, in their annual compliance report, found that “there was sufficient credible evidence to conclude that three specific producers were non-compliant with one or more of the core labor standards.” This was the first time in four years that the report named specific factories. The violations included non-compliance in: sexual harassment, freedom of association and forced labor.

Just last month, Batay Ouvriye, one of the leading worker rights groups in Haiti issued a statement on the case of Leo Vedél.  Vedél works for a factory in Port-au-Prince named Premium Apparel, which supplies textiles to Gildan, a Canadian clothing company. While the minimum wage in Haiti was recently raised, many factories have not yet raised their wages. Vedél and other workers organized a protest after their requests to be paid the minimum wage were rebuffed. The result, as Batay Ouvriye notes, was that Vedél was beaten by a manager of the park and subsequently fired.

With the Caracol industrial park the centerpiece of the U.S. and international community’s earthquake reconstruction, new focus is being put on labor violations in Haiti’s factories. The U.S., International Labor Organization and other entities have indeed stepped up monitoring of factories; nevertheless, the U.S. has been reluctant to enforce worker rights provisions through the suspension of tariff benefits, opting instead to work with factories and not “scare off jobs” by revoking benefits.

This increased scrutiny, even if it hasn’t resulted in tangible consequences, could be why Sorini, Samet & Associates was hired to “provide support to SONAPI on the continued implementation and compliance with the requirements of the HOPE and HELP legislation, with specific reference to the labor and social compliance obligations of the legislation.” Additionally, the firm will support “officials of SONAPI in meeting with the US Government, US Congress, international organizations, and other interested stakeholders… on the implementation of the legislation and programs related to it.”

Caracol is not yet included in the Better Work monitoring reports but press reports have noted that working conditions are far from ideal, despite a U.S. pledge that “Sae-A would be closely monitored in Haiti because of trade legislation requiring stringent scrutiny through an American-financed inspection program.” One worker recently told Haiti Grassroots Watch, “They yell at us as if we were animals. The food they prepare is bad. There is only warm water to drink. Sometimes I’ve had to work all day without a facemask. Dust fills my nose.” Additionally, while the factory seems to be paying the minimum wage, “most have only 57 gourdes, or US$1.36, in hand after paying for transportation and food,” far from a living wage. Commenting on the pay, another worker told Haiti Grassroots Watch that, “It’s not worth it! The supervisors don’t respect us. They don’t see us as human beings. They hit us with pieces of cloth.”

While a union has taken shape in Caracol, there are still many impediments in factories to organizing. One worker for Global Manufacturers and Contractors recently told Fran Quigley, “‘The people fired for being part of the union make a list this long, “ Jackson says, holding his hands two feet apart. “They find a different reason to let them go, but they are tagged because they are part of the syndicat [union].’”

Sorini, Samet & Associates has a track record of working for governments whose compliance with labor and human rights are questioned, in addition to Colombia. In April, as the government of Bahrain was leading a bloody crackdown on its population, the AFL-CIO submitted a complaint under the U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement because of the “firing of hundreds of workers and union leaders for participating in strikes and other pro-democracy actions,” according to Justin Elliot of Salon. The Obama administration eventually accepted the submission. In response, the foreign ministry of Bahrain hired Sorini, Samet & Associates at a rate of up to $550 per hour to “support…the engagement of other U.S. stakeholders related to the Submission, including the AFL-CIO and other labor organizations, relevant human rights groups, think tanks and scholars, elements of the U.S. business community, and the media,” among other actions.

According to reports on Twitter yesterday, the United Nations independent expert on the human rights situation in Haiti, Michel Forst has resigned for “personal reasons,” even though his mandate was supposed to continue for another year. In one of his last acts, Forst’s report for the U.N. Human Rights Council was presented yesterday, recommending to Haiti and the international community that they “throw light” on the cause of the cholera outbreak and “respond to any compensation requests”. The cholera outbreak has killed at least 8,050 and sickened over 650,000 more.

In his report Forst notes that the “question of what caused the outbreak of the epidemic in Haiti remains a burning issue that has attracted significant public controversy.” Over the last few years, a number of scientific reports have identified U.N. troops as the source of cholera’s introduction. Forst’s report, which was issued before the U.N.’s denial of victims’ compensation claims, notes “that silence is the worst response.”

The U.N. broke their “silence” on the issue by rejecting the victims’ claims, yet they have continued to stonewall on the issue of responsibility. While Forst “deplores” the exploitation of the issue by “certain organizations…for political ends,” he recognizes the “need that victims or their families have expressed to know the truth and perhaps even to be given compensation.”

In addition to recommending shedding light on the cause of the outbreak, Forst also calls on the international community and Haitian government to, “Secure international assistance to combat the spread of the cholera epidemic.” The claim against the U.N., in addition to seeking damages, also asks for the U.N. to fund the needed infrastructure to eradicate cholera from Haiti. A 10 year, $2.2 billion eradication plan has been announced, but thus far the funding for it remains in doubt. The plan for the first two years notes that “The total cost for implementation of the Action Plan for 2013–2015 is estimated to be US$443,723,100.” So far, little more than half of that – $238 million – has been secured, most of it from existing funds.

On Sunday, the New York Times editorial board added their voice to those critical of the U.N.’s immunity claim, noting that the U.N.’s “handling of cholera is looking like a fiasco.” The Times adds:

While it insists that it has no legal liability for cholera victims, it must not duck its moral obligations. That means mobilizing doctors and money to save lives now, and making sure the eradication plan gets all the money and support it needs.

Its record so far is dubious. A U.N. appeal last year for $24 million for cholera programs ended the year only 32 percent financed, and in December, the U.N. said it would contribute $23.5 million to the new 10-year plan — about 1 percent of what is needed.

The opinion from the Times comes after the medical group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned last week that a “lack of funds and supplies has crippled cholera treatment programs in Haiti, leading to unnecessary deaths and increasing the risk of greater outbreaks during the upcoming rainy season.” Duncan McLean, MSF program manager in New York, added that, “Cholera now appears to be seen as a development issue to be resolved over the next 10 years, whereas the current situation still calls for an emergency medical response…The necessary resources for such a response are becoming increasingly scarce.”

And who should pay for that? In an article for The Nation, Isabeau Doucet asked Yann Libessart, MSF communications officer, who offered a blunt response: “The people who are responsible for the introduction of the disease into the country.”

While the U.N. has only funded 1 percent of the plan, Nigel Fisher, head of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) – whose troops caused the cholera outbreak – told Doucet that the rest of the money should come from the “private sector” or “major venture philanthropist individuals.”

Yesterday the U.N. Security Council met to discuss the Secretary General’s annual report on MINUSTAH. Some countries used the opportunity to call on the U.N. to do more to combat the cholera epidemic. The representative from Luxembourg noted that the launching of a cholera eradication plan was part of the international community’s “moral responsibility” to help those affected. The representative from Togo went even further noting that “the source…was known,” and that the “United Nations should continue to assume a “moral responsibility” to eradicate that disease.” Permanent members of the Security Council such as the U.S. remained silent on the issue.

 

According to reports on Twitter yesterday, the United Nations independent expert on the human rights situation in Haiti, Michel Forst has resigned for “personal reasons,” even though his mandate was supposed to continue for another year. In one of his last acts, Forst’s report for the U.N. Human Rights Council was presented yesterday, recommending to Haiti and the international community that they “throw light” on the cause of the cholera outbreak and “respond to any compensation requests”. The cholera outbreak has killed at least 8,050 and sickened over 650,000 more.

In his report Forst notes that the “question of what caused the outbreak of the epidemic in Haiti remains a burning issue that has attracted significant public controversy.” Over the last few years, a number of scientific reports have identified U.N. troops as the source of cholera’s introduction. Forst’s report, which was issued before the U.N.’s denial of victims’ compensation claims, notes “that silence is the worst response.”

The U.N. broke their “silence” on the issue by rejecting the victims’ claims, yet they have continued to stonewall on the issue of responsibility. While Forst “deplores” the exploitation of the issue by “certain organizations…for political ends,” he recognizes the “need that victims or their families have expressed to know the truth and perhaps even to be given compensation.”

In addition to recommending shedding light on the cause of the outbreak, Forst also calls on the international community and Haitian government to, “Secure international assistance to combat the spread of the cholera epidemic.” The claim against the U.N., in addition to seeking damages, also asks for the U.N. to fund the needed infrastructure to eradicate cholera from Haiti. A 10 year, $2.2 billion eradication plan has been announced, but thus far the funding for it remains in doubt. The plan for the first two years notes that “The total cost for implementation of the Action Plan for 2013–2015 is estimated to be US$443,723,100.” So far, little more than half of that – $238 million – has been secured, most of it from existing funds.

On Sunday, the New York Times editorial board added their voice to those critical of the U.N.’s immunity claim, noting that the U.N.’s “handling of cholera is looking like a fiasco.” The Times adds:

While it insists that it has no legal liability for cholera victims, it must not duck its moral obligations. That means mobilizing doctors and money to save lives now, and making sure the eradication plan gets all the money and support it needs.

Its record so far is dubious. A U.N. appeal last year for $24 million for cholera programs ended the year only 32 percent financed, and in December, the U.N. said it would contribute $23.5 million to the new 10-year plan — about 1 percent of what is needed.

The opinion from the Times comes after the medical group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned last week that a “lack of funds and supplies has crippled cholera treatment programs in Haiti, leading to unnecessary deaths and increasing the risk of greater outbreaks during the upcoming rainy season.” Duncan McLean, MSF program manager in New York, added that, “Cholera now appears to be seen as a development issue to be resolved over the next 10 years, whereas the current situation still calls for an emergency medical response…The necessary resources for such a response are becoming increasingly scarce.”

And who should pay for that? In an article for The Nation, Isabeau Doucet asked Yann Libessart, MSF communications officer, who offered a blunt response: “The people who are responsible for the introduction of the disease into the country.”

While the U.N. has only funded 1 percent of the plan, Nigel Fisher, head of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) – whose troops caused the cholera outbreak – told Doucet that the rest of the money should come from the “private sector” or “major venture philanthropist individuals.”

Yesterday the U.N. Security Council met to discuss the Secretary General’s annual report on MINUSTAH. Some countries used the opportunity to call on the U.N. to do more to combat the cholera epidemic. The representative from Luxembourg noted that the launching of a cholera eradication plan was part of the international community’s “moral responsibility” to help those affected. The representative from Togo went even further noting that “the source…was known,” and that the “United Nations should continue to assume a “moral responsibility” to eradicate that disease.” Permanent members of the Security Council such as the U.S. remained silent on the issue.

 

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.

 

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