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.

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

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

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

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 In addition to many other problems, the audit found that “the key monitoring data was outdated, incomplete, or inaccurate,” for example, information on whether the recipient was a first-time borrower was “recorded incorrectly 41 percent of the time.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other problems included that,

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

And

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

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

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

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

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

USAID has been without a permanent IG for 507 days.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other problems included that,

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

And

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

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

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

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

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

USAID has been without a permanent IG for 507 days.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest here.

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

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

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

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

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

Plan Remains Woefully Underfunded

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haiti Cholera Plan Sector Funds

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

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

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

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

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

Plan Remains Woefully Underfunded

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haiti Cholera Plan Sector Funds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It goes on to say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It goes on to say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On September 23, 2011 MWH Americas, previously alleged to have overcharged the city of New Orleans on reconstruction projects, was awarded a $2.8 million contract from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to conduct a “feasibility study of northern ports in Haiti.” The study is likely linked to the new, much touted Caracol Industrial Park in northern Haiti, which includes plans for new port facilities.

Within two weeks of receiving the $2.8 million contract, MWH Americas turned around and gave out $1.45 million in subcontracts to four different firms, all headquartered in Washington DC or Virginia. MWH gave $363,540 to Nathan Associates to perform “economic and financial studies on potential port projects,” including a review “of previous studies and existing conditions.” URS Group received $438,670; the project description for that subaward is simply “feasibility study of northern ports in Haiti,” the same as is listed for MWH. Meanwhile TEC Inc. (which later became Cardno-TEC Inc.) was awarded $620,123 to provide the “Senior Port Engineer,” “Senior Environmental Specialist” and the engineering and support staff to “perform” the feasibility study. Finally, GW Consulting Inc., was given $26,932 for security and logistics. At this point, there were five U.S. firms based in the DC area working on the feasibility study, each with its own staff and associated overhead costs. Firms are allowed to allocate a percentage of their contract to headquarters to cover general operating costs of the firm; this is known as the indirect cost rate. Although this information is not disclosed (and has been redacted in contracts obtained through the Freedom of Information Act), according to those familiar with the process it is generally around 20 percent.

Despite the millions already spent on the feasibility study, when the expected project completion date came, MWH was awarded $1 million to cover additional costs and the completion date was changed. Subsequently, MWH was awarded $435,000 in September 2012 and the completion date was pushed back to November 30, 2012. Since then, the completion date has been pushed back two more times and is now set for the end of February 2013. Of the additional $1.44 million awarded to MWH, they gave out some $550,000 in subcontracts. In total, as can be seen below, nearly 50 percent of the total award to MWH was spent on subcontracts to other U.S. firms.

MWH Subcontractors

The contract with MWH Americas is, however, commendable in one way.  It is the only USAID contract in Haiti for which there is information on subcontractors, thanks to the fact that MWH actually reported their sub-awards to USASpending.gov. While MWH Americas is the only contractor to have done this, it is likely that many others are also required to do so. For example, Chemonics, the largest USAID contractor in Haiti (and the world) is required to report on their use of subcontractors, according to a copy of their contract acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request. Yet no information from any other contracts for work in Haiti appears on the USAspending.gov website. Additionally, there is legislation which now requires prime contractors to report sub-awards: the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, which was passed in 2006. Under the legislation, as of March 2011 all sub awards over $25,000 must be reported to a centralized system.

Direct inquiries to USAID for information on subcontracting have not been answered, while USAID’s primary contractors refer inquiries back to USAID. The USAID website previously stated that they do “not have the systems in place to track sub-grants and sub-contracts.” In late 2011, USAID was working on developing the systems to actually track this information in Haiti, however at least publicly, this has not yet happened.

The use of contractors to perform the feasibility study also is a result of the years of staff decline which led Hillary Clinton to declare that USAID is “more of a contracting agency than an operational agency with the ability to deliver.” The Government Accountability Office reported in November 2011 on the USAID ports project, noting that:

USAID’s program in Haiti has not previously involved port construction activities. With no staff who have port construction expertise or experience, USAID will rely on (1) a private firm to conduct a feasibility study and make recommendations regarding, among other things, port design, economic feasibility, and financial viability; and (2) a public private partnership to construct a new port.

And so, without the staff expertise, USAID turned to MWH Americas. In fact, the project was delayed before the contract to MWH was even signed. As the GAO noted, the contract was originally planned to be signed in June 2011. In September, when the contract was finally awarded, MWH was given 8 months and $2.8 million dollars to complete the task. Now, nearly 16 months later, the project is still not completed, and the total cost has increased by $1.5 million dollars, to $4.27 million. What the multiple contractors working with MWH have accomplished to date remains a mystery.

 

On September 23, 2011 MWH Americas, previously alleged to have overcharged the city of New Orleans on reconstruction projects, was awarded a $2.8 million contract from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to conduct a “feasibility study of northern ports in Haiti.” The study is likely linked to the new, much touted Caracol Industrial Park in northern Haiti, which includes plans for new port facilities.

Within two weeks of receiving the $2.8 million contract, MWH Americas turned around and gave out $1.45 million in subcontracts to four different firms, all headquartered in Washington DC or Virginia. MWH gave $363,540 to Nathan Associates to perform “economic and financial studies on potential port projects,” including a review “of previous studies and existing conditions.” URS Group received $438,670; the project description for that subaward is simply “feasibility study of northern ports in Haiti,” the same as is listed for MWH. Meanwhile TEC Inc. (which later became Cardno-TEC Inc.) was awarded $620,123 to provide the “Senior Port Engineer,” “Senior Environmental Specialist” and the engineering and support staff to “perform” the feasibility study. Finally, GW Consulting Inc., was given $26,932 for security and logistics. At this point, there were five U.S. firms based in the DC area working on the feasibility study, each with its own staff and associated overhead costs. Firms are allowed to allocate a percentage of their contract to headquarters to cover general operating costs of the firm; this is known as the indirect cost rate. Although this information is not disclosed (and has been redacted in contracts obtained through the Freedom of Information Act), according to those familiar with the process it is generally around 20 percent.

Despite the millions already spent on the feasibility study, when the expected project completion date came, MWH was awarded $1 million to cover additional costs and the completion date was changed. Subsequently, MWH was awarded $435,000 in September 2012 and the completion date was pushed back to November 30, 2012. Since then, the completion date has been pushed back two more times and is now set for the end of February 2013. Of the additional $1.44 million awarded to MWH, they gave out some $550,000 in subcontracts. In total, as can be seen below, nearly 50 percent of the total award to MWH was spent on subcontracts to other U.S. firms.

MWH Subcontractors

The contract with MWH Americas is, however, commendable in one way.  It is the only USAID contract in Haiti for which there is information on subcontractors, thanks to the fact that MWH actually reported their sub-awards to USASpending.gov. While MWH Americas is the only contractor to have done this, it is likely that many others are also required to do so. For example, Chemonics, the largest USAID contractor in Haiti (and the world) is required to report on their use of subcontractors, according to a copy of their contract acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request. Yet no information from any other contracts for work in Haiti appears on the USAspending.gov website. Additionally, there is legislation which now requires prime contractors to report sub-awards: the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, which was passed in 2006. Under the legislation, as of March 2011 all sub awards over $25,000 must be reported to a centralized system.

Direct inquiries to USAID for information on subcontracting have not been answered, while USAID’s primary contractors refer inquiries back to USAID. The USAID website previously stated that they do “not have the systems in place to track sub-grants and sub-contracts.” In late 2011, USAID was working on developing the systems to actually track this information in Haiti, however at least publicly, this has not yet happened.

The use of contractors to perform the feasibility study also is a result of the years of staff decline which led Hillary Clinton to declare that USAID is “more of a contracting agency than an operational agency with the ability to deliver.” The Government Accountability Office reported in November 2011 on the USAID ports project, noting that:

USAID’s program in Haiti has not previously involved port construction activities. With no staff who have port construction expertise or experience, USAID will rely on (1) a private firm to conduct a feasibility study and make recommendations regarding, among other things, port design, economic feasibility, and financial viability; and (2) a public private partnership to construct a new port.

And so, without the staff expertise, USAID turned to MWH Americas. In fact, the project was delayed before the contract to MWH was even signed. As the GAO noted, the contract was originally planned to be signed in June 2011. In September, when the contract was finally awarded, MWH was given 8 months and $2.8 million dollars to complete the task. Now, nearly 16 months later, the project is still not completed, and the total cost has increased by $1.5 million dollars, to $4.27 million. What the multiple contractors working with MWH have accomplished to date remains a mystery.

 

Port-au-Prince – It “shook the house, like this” he says, violently rocking back and forth, acting it out. He yelled to his wife to get out, grabbed the children and went to the street. “Ten minutes later it was,” he said, bringing his hands together, “flat.” With this, Sonny Jean’s post-earthquake story begins; three years later we’re speaking at one of Haiti’s first sewage treatment plants, located in Titanyen.

Sonny DINEPA
Sonny Jean, showing off the DINEPA sewage treatment plan in Titanyen; Hundreds of shelters dot the background in Kanaan.

Like many of those who lost their homes, Sonny settled with his family on the Champ de Mars, the public park in downtown Port-au-Prince across from where the national palace once stood, which later became home to at least 20,000 people. Sonny lived there with his family in a small shelter and “it was tough,” he said, adding, “it wasn’t the place I wanted to raise my family.” In December of 2010, a friend tried to convince him to move to a tract of land the government had declared to be of public utility. While at first skeptical of moving so far from downtown Port-au-Prince, he knew he couldn’t stay in the Champ de Mars camp either.

Eventually, he packed up his tent and what belongings had survived the earthquake and went with his wife and children to Kanaan, a vast expanse of land on a hillside about 20 km outside of Port-au-Prince. Like the majority of those who have left the camps, it wasn’t through a rental subsidy or because they were given a temporary shelter or had their home repaired. According to Sonny, he was the first to set up a tent so far west in the area, though he’s now joined by hundreds of others close by, and up to hundreds of thousands in all of Kanaan.

But life there is difficult and was especially in those early days. “I was lonely, man, scared,” he said.  With the wind whipping incessantly and no other families around, there were many restless nights.

Later, across the street from his new home, Sonny noticed some people starting to clear the land. He told his wife he was going to check it out; she was skeptical anything good would come of it. He went across the street, standing alone, just looking on. Eventually he heard someone, who seemed to be in charge, speaking Kreyol but “different than I speak it.” So he responded in English, which he had picked up in the years he had lived in the U.S. on a seaman’s visa. (Though he’d like to return to the U.S. someday, he hasn’t been able to get a new visa.)

The manager, an English speaker from another Caribbean island, was impressed by his English, and after speaking for awhile, offered him a job on the site.

It’s been many months since that chance encounter, and now, some nine months since Haiti’s second sewage treatment plant opened, he was showing the place off; the area where the trucks dump their waste water, the treatment ponds which the water filters in to, the area where they clean the trucks before they exist the plant and also where they hope to have a garden, where they can use the treated water for irrigation.

We walk past the two pools where the water is held. The third, where the filtered water collects, looks like the blue of the Caribbean compared to the murky pools before it.

Titanyen Ponds
Treatment ponds at Titanyen.

He shows off the workers, dredging solids out of the first pool – high boots, gloves, masks, full suit. Throughout it all he’s insistent on dumping chlorinated water on the ground to wash our feet off – “you don’t want to bring cholera home with you!” The plant, while still relatively new, stands as one of the great achievements of post-earthquake construction, especially given the ongoing cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 8,000. There is another plant, not far away, in Morne a Cabrit, and many more planned throughout the country. Amazingly, before September 2011, Haiti had never had a sewage treatment plant. Nevertheless, much more will need to be done to meet the vast water and sanitation infrastructure needs of Haiti.

Sanco Truck Titanyen
Sanco, one of Haiti’s private waste collectors, dumps wastewater at Titanyen. There has been a problem of getting private companies to pay the fees at the plant, required to fund its operations; two workers look on before cleaning the area.

He knows he’s one of the lucky ones in Kanaan, where there are few opportunities to earn an income. He’s been able to save up some, reinforce his house and add a few rooms. Occasionally, Sonny can afford to buy a large sack of rice that can last his family for at least a few weeks. But there is tremendous need in the community. “Sometimes people come and ask for some food. I tell my wife to give what we can so they can eat and try and feed their family.” He adds, smiling, “to receive, you have to give …it’s true, I see it.”

Yet, while Sonny was beaming with pride at the new sewage treatment facility, like the livelihoods of the hundreds of thousands in Kanaan, it’s future remains tenuous. While donors and agencies from the international community provided the funds to build the plants, DINEPA – Haiti’s under-funded water authority – has been left to a large extent alone to run it. The lack of an operational budget remains one of the biggest obstacles to its continued functioning. As is the case with so many projects in Haiti over the last three years, (and decades previously for that matter), while there may be funding for building things, there is often little funding for what in the end is the most important part: ensuring a project’s long term sustainability.

Port-au-Prince – It “shook the house, like this” he says, violently rocking back and forth, acting it out. He yelled to his wife to get out, grabbed the children and went to the street. “Ten minutes later it was,” he said, bringing his hands together, “flat.” With this, Sonny Jean’s post-earthquake story begins; three years later we’re speaking at one of Haiti’s first sewage treatment plants, located in Titanyen.

Sonny DINEPA
Sonny Jean, showing off the DINEPA sewage treatment plan in Titanyen; Hundreds of shelters dot the background in Kanaan.

Like many of those who lost their homes, Sonny settled with his family on the Champ de Mars, the public park in downtown Port-au-Prince across from where the national palace once stood, which later became home to at least 20,000 people. Sonny lived there with his family in a small shelter and “it was tough,” he said, adding, “it wasn’t the place I wanted to raise my family.” In December of 2010, a friend tried to convince him to move to a tract of land the government had declared to be of public utility. While at first skeptical of moving so far from downtown Port-au-Prince, he knew he couldn’t stay in the Champ de Mars camp either.

Eventually, he packed up his tent and what belongings had survived the earthquake and went with his wife and children to Kanaan, a vast expanse of land on a hillside about 20 km outside of Port-au-Prince. Like the majority of those who have left the camps, it wasn’t through a rental subsidy or because they were given a temporary shelter or had their home repaired. According to Sonny, he was the first to set up a tent so far west in the area, though he’s now joined by hundreds of others close by, and up to hundreds of thousands in all of Kanaan.

But life there is difficult and was especially in those early days. “I was lonely, man, scared,” he said.  With the wind whipping incessantly and no other families around, there were many restless nights.

Later, across the street from his new home, Sonny noticed some people starting to clear the land. He told his wife he was going to check it out; she was skeptical anything good would come of it. He went across the street, standing alone, just looking on. Eventually he heard someone, who seemed to be in charge, speaking Kreyol but “different than I speak it.” So he responded in English, which he had picked up in the years he had lived in the U.S. on a seaman’s visa. (Though he’d like to return to the U.S. someday, he hasn’t been able to get a new visa.)

The manager, an English speaker from another Caribbean island, was impressed by his English, and after speaking for awhile, offered him a job on the site.

It’s been many months since that chance encounter, and now, some nine months since Haiti’s second sewage treatment plant opened, he was showing the place off; the area where the trucks dump their waste water, the treatment ponds which the water filters in to, the area where they clean the trucks before they exist the plant and also where they hope to have a garden, where they can use the treated water for irrigation.

We walk past the two pools where the water is held. The third, where the filtered water collects, looks like the blue of the Caribbean compared to the murky pools before it.

Titanyen Ponds
Treatment ponds at Titanyen.

He shows off the workers, dredging solids out of the first pool – high boots, gloves, masks, full suit. Throughout it all he’s insistent on dumping chlorinated water on the ground to wash our feet off – “you don’t want to bring cholera home with you!” The plant, while still relatively new, stands as one of the great achievements of post-earthquake construction, especially given the ongoing cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 8,000. There is another plant, not far away, in Morne a Cabrit, and many more planned throughout the country. Amazingly, before September 2011, Haiti had never had a sewage treatment plant. Nevertheless, much more will need to be done to meet the vast water and sanitation infrastructure needs of Haiti.

Sanco Truck Titanyen
Sanco, one of Haiti’s private waste collectors, dumps wastewater at Titanyen. There has been a problem of getting private companies to pay the fees at the plant, required to fund its operations; two workers look on before cleaning the area.

He knows he’s one of the lucky ones in Kanaan, where there are few opportunities to earn an income. He’s been able to save up some, reinforce his house and add a few rooms. Occasionally, Sonny can afford to buy a large sack of rice that can last his family for at least a few weeks. But there is tremendous need in the community. “Sometimes people come and ask for some food. I tell my wife to give what we can so they can eat and try and feed their family.” He adds, smiling, “to receive, you have to give …it’s true, I see it.”

Yet, while Sonny was beaming with pride at the new sewage treatment facility, like the livelihoods of the hundreds of thousands in Kanaan, it’s future remains tenuous. While donors and agencies from the international community provided the funds to build the plants, DINEPA – Haiti’s under-funded water authority – has been left to a large extent alone to run it. The lack of an operational budget remains one of the biggest obstacles to its continued functioning. As is the case with so many projects in Haiti over the last three years, (and decades previously for that matter), while there may be funding for building things, there is often little funding for what in the end is the most important part: ensuring a project’s long term sustainability.

CEPR’s Arthur Phillips and Stephan Lefebvre have written a nice post analyzing the World Bank and IMF’s repeatedly over-optimistic economic growth projections for Haiti over at our sister-blog, “The Americas Blog.” They note that the latest “projections of 6 percent or higher GDP growth in 2013 seem unfounded.” The institutions’ growth projections for Venezuela in recent years, by contrast, have repeatedly been overly pessimistic compared to the actual results.

CEPR’s Arthur Phillips and Stephan Lefebvre have written a nice post analyzing the World Bank and IMF’s repeatedly over-optimistic economic growth projections for Haiti over at our sister-blog, “The Americas Blog.” They note that the latest “projections of 6 percent or higher GDP growth in 2013 seem unfounded.” The institutions’ growth projections for Venezuela in recent years, by contrast, have repeatedly been overly pessimistic compared to the actual results.

The Office of the Haiti Special Coordinator under the U.S. State Department has issued a new report to the U.S. Congress as required under the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010. The new report covers the period of 180 days up to September 30 last year. While there are some noteworthy accomplishments, these are unfortunately few, and it is important to keep in mind the greater context of money raised, committed, disbursed and spent, as well as the urgent needs at hand. The report notes that of $2.35 billion committed to Haiti since 2010, only about 50 percent has actually been spent. Excluding debt relief, of the $900 million made available in the 2010 supplemental appropriations bill as part of the New York donor conference pledge, just 32.9 percent has been spent [PDF]. It’s also noteworthy that of the nearly $300 million committed in 2012, only about a third was even obligated.

Considering that some 360,000 people are still estimated to be living in IDP camps three years after the earthquake, the report of “over 900 seismic and hurricane resistant houses under construction in Caracol, Northern Haiti and in Cabaret north of Port-au-Prince” seems relatively insignificant, not to mention the figure of “227 Haitian beneficiaries…selected to receive housing” “to date.” This is even less impressive considering that the sprawling U.S. Embassy compound in Port-au-Prince “consists of 107 new [three to five bedroom] townhouse units and a new Deputy Chief of Mission residence, along with support facilities, including a recreation center with an outdoor pool and courts, for two separate compounds,” according to the architectural firm that the State Department contracted to design it.

The report similarly mentions “250 LPG commercial stoves were sold to large charcoal users (street food vendors and schools) in Port-au-Prince” and four “Haitian small- and medium-size enterprises” that “won matching grants” in a “business plan competition.”

The report is also notable for what it does not mention: cholera, for example. This is a word and topic that does not appear once in the report, despite the ongoing epidemic and despite that “Health and Other Basic Services” is “Pillar C” of USAID’s “Haiti Rebuilding and Development Strategy.” Pillar C is allotted three paragraphs of the report; cholera is arguably Haiti’s most urgent humanitarian crisis, killing more people every day.

It also seems that the while the report provides a platform to tout the highlights of the U.S.’s work in Haiti, it fails to include many aspects that are required in the legislation mandating the report. The report notes that the supplemental appropriations act mandated that the

report is to include…a description, by goal and objective, of the implementation of the Strategy; an assessment of progress, or lack thereof, during the preceding 180 days toward meeting the goals and objectives, benchmarks, and timeframes specified in the Strategy, including an assessment of the performance of the Government of Haiti; a description of U.S. government programs contributing to the achievement of the goals and objectives including the amounts obligated and expended on such programs during the preceding six months; and an assessment of efforts to coordinate U.S. government programs with assistance provided by other donors and implementing partners, including significant gaps in donor assistance.

That is the sole mention of the word “benchmark” in the report and there is extremely little information on “amounts obligated and expended” on specific programs. For example, in the section on Infrastructure and Energy, there is no mention of any costs associated with the new houses being built or how the completion of 900 houses compares to what the benchmarks of those programs actually were. Without this information, it would be extremely difficult for Congress to come to any sort of conclusion about the effectiveness of U.S. government aid in Haiti. And while the report certainly lists some areas where there has been progress, there is no mention of areas where progress has lagged, or if programs have not been as effective as intended, a fact hard to reconcile with previous independent government evaluations showing significant delays and problems in U.S. government funded programs.

Other accomplishments mentioned in the report may unfortunately already have been swept away, since the report covers a period of time that ended a full month before Hurricane Sandy hit Haiti. Progress on increased crop yields noted under “Pillar B: Food and Economic Security” has likely been undone by Sandy’s impact, which left 2.1 million people food insecure, according to the U.N. Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [PDF].

The Office of the Haiti Special Coordinator under the U.S. State Department has issued a new report to the U.S. Congress as required under the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010. The new report covers the period of 180 days up to September 30 last year. While there are some noteworthy accomplishments, these are unfortunately few, and it is important to keep in mind the greater context of money raised, committed, disbursed and spent, as well as the urgent needs at hand. The report notes that of $2.35 billion committed to Haiti since 2010, only about 50 percent has actually been spent. Excluding debt relief, of the $900 million made available in the 2010 supplemental appropriations bill as part of the New York donor conference pledge, just 32.9 percent has been spent [PDF]. It’s also noteworthy that of the nearly $300 million committed in 2012, only about a third was even obligated.

Considering that some 360,000 people are still estimated to be living in IDP camps three years after the earthquake, the report of “over 900 seismic and hurricane resistant houses under construction in Caracol, Northern Haiti and in Cabaret north of Port-au-Prince” seems relatively insignificant, not to mention the figure of “227 Haitian beneficiaries…selected to receive housing” “to date.” This is even less impressive considering that the sprawling U.S. Embassy compound in Port-au-Prince “consists of 107 new [three to five bedroom] townhouse units and a new Deputy Chief of Mission residence, along with support facilities, including a recreation center with an outdoor pool and courts, for two separate compounds,” according to the architectural firm that the State Department contracted to design it.

The report similarly mentions “250 LPG commercial stoves were sold to large charcoal users (street food vendors and schools) in Port-au-Prince” and four “Haitian small- and medium-size enterprises” that “won matching grants” in a “business plan competition.”

The report is also notable for what it does not mention: cholera, for example. This is a word and topic that does not appear once in the report, despite the ongoing epidemic and despite that “Health and Other Basic Services” is “Pillar C” of USAID’s “Haiti Rebuilding and Development Strategy.” Pillar C is allotted three paragraphs of the report; cholera is arguably Haiti’s most urgent humanitarian crisis, killing more people every day.

It also seems that the while the report provides a platform to tout the highlights of the U.S.’s work in Haiti, it fails to include many aspects that are required in the legislation mandating the report. The report notes that the supplemental appropriations act mandated that the

report is to include…a description, by goal and objective, of the implementation of the Strategy; an assessment of progress, or lack thereof, during the preceding 180 days toward meeting the goals and objectives, benchmarks, and timeframes specified in the Strategy, including an assessment of the performance of the Government of Haiti; a description of U.S. government programs contributing to the achievement of the goals and objectives including the amounts obligated and expended on such programs during the preceding six months; and an assessment of efforts to coordinate U.S. government programs with assistance provided by other donors and implementing partners, including significant gaps in donor assistance.

That is the sole mention of the word “benchmark” in the report and there is extremely little information on “amounts obligated and expended” on specific programs. For example, in the section on Infrastructure and Energy, there is no mention of any costs associated with the new houses being built or how the completion of 900 houses compares to what the benchmarks of those programs actually were. Without this information, it would be extremely difficult for Congress to come to any sort of conclusion about the effectiveness of U.S. government aid in Haiti. And while the report certainly lists some areas where there has been progress, there is no mention of areas where progress has lagged, or if programs have not been as effective as intended, a fact hard to reconcile with previous independent government evaluations showing significant delays and problems in U.S. government funded programs.

Other accomplishments mentioned in the report may unfortunately already have been swept away, since the report covers a period of time that ended a full month before Hurricane Sandy hit Haiti. Progress on increased crop yields noted under “Pillar B: Food and Economic Security” has likely been undone by Sandy’s impact, which left 2.1 million people food insecure, according to the U.N. Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [PDF].

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