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.

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].

Port-au-Prince – Some 24 hours before making an appearance in Hollywood at the Golden Globes, former President Bill Clinton was in Haiti on January 12, commemorating the three year mark since the Haiti earthquake and remembering the hundreds of thousands who died. The Haitian government held another ceremony, without Clinton, earlier in the morning where the national palace once stood, in what the AP described as “purposely low-key.” Other than the beefed up security and stream of official vehicles entering the grounds, life around the former palace gates seemed little different than most days, though local church services picked up throughout the morning. Unable to enter without being on an official list, those passing by peered in at the distant ceremony behind the gates.

Meanwhile, about 25 kilometers north, in Titanyen, the burial site for many of the earthquake’s victims, as well as victims of the Duvalier dictatorships, another steady stream of official vehicles was arriving. These belonged mainly to what appeared to be members of the diplomatic corps, as well as a number of Haitian and foreign journalists. Clinton was also there, arriving well before Haiti’s President Martelly and Prime Minister Lamothe made it to the “barren hillside at the outskirts of Haiti’s capital.”

Titanyen Burnt Cross

There was an eerie feeling at the site. Just the day before, the hundreds of memorial crosses which once dotted the hillside had apparently burned, leaving a backdrop of scorched earth. A few crosses were still standing amidst the burnt grass. Adding to the strange feeling was that other than the officialdom and journalists present, there was a noticeable lack of “people”. Apparently not many had decided to make the trip, if they were aware of it at all. Once Martelly arrived from the ceremony in Port-au-Prince, the entire event with Clinton lasted less than 30 minutes. Neither Martelly nor Clinton gave a speech.  Journalists got photos of the two of them together, and as quickly as the motorcades had arrived, they left.

There was no public reflection on what has happened over the past three years or whether Clinton’s brief visits to Haiti had resulted in “building back better,” as he had envisioned. It seemed like little more than a haphazardly planned photo-op.

The same afternoon, a different ceremony took place back in Port-au-Prince at the Asanble Vwazen Solino (Solino Neighbors Assembly), a community center and school that has been around since 2006, where a participative commemoration was held with local residents. Esaie Jules Jelin, a member of the coordinating committee at AVS commented, “it was an open invitation, everyone was encouraged to participate and interact, not just sit and listen. We wanted people to understand the difference between the rhetoric and the reality.”

The rhetoric Jules Jelin spoke of was what one can hear from the Haitian government, the international community and many of the international organizations present in Haiti, that indeed, recovery and reconstruction has been progressing. The reality in Solino, however, was very different.

Jules Jelin told the story of residents of a nearby tent camp, which had been cleared out with the help of a Catholic Relief Services rental subsidy program. The residents were given some funds to move out of the camp and find apartments, though as Jules Jelin noted, the money was generally not enough to find a good place, if any place at all, and that “eventually they will have to return to the street.” He added, “think about what the NGO’s have done in the past. They [camp residents] were given water, then it was taken away, given toilets, then they were taken away, given a little job, then it was taken away. This created the situation where people had to accept what was offered, because it could be taken away at any time. Now they went back to the damaged houses they fled from, just returning to the same situation as before. These are the people who came together to discuss the situation on the 12th.”

A discussion was held where James Olrich of Bri Kouri Nouvel Gaye and Mark Snyder, a housing rights advocate, spoke of the ongoing conditions in camps and the problems of forced evictions, and addressed the question of “where did the money go?” Jules Jelin added, “We wanted to educate the people so they could understand what the reality of reconstruction is, after all the money, why are things still so bad?”

Snyder added, “It was the actual community deciding to come together to pay respect to their family, neighbors, and fellow Haitians who perished or suffered great loss from the earthquake three years earlier. It is a model for true inclusion for the visiting NGOs or UN entities in Haiti to strive for.”

Compared to the Clinton photo-op earlier in the day, the differences could not have been starker. It was a time of reflection, to look back at what has and has not happened and to engage with those whose lives have been most affected by the earthquake and the ongoing international and national response. “You can look all around you and see the country destroyed but not do anything about it. We try to make people aware, and then they can take action,” said Jules Jelin.

Port-au-Prince – Some 24 hours before making an appearance in Hollywood at the Golden Globes, former President Bill Clinton was in Haiti on January 12, commemorating the three year mark since the Haiti earthquake and remembering the hundreds of thousands who died. The Haitian government held another ceremony, without Clinton, earlier in the morning where the national palace once stood, in what the AP described as “purposely low-key.” Other than the beefed up security and stream of official vehicles entering the grounds, life around the former palace gates seemed little different than most days, though local church services picked up throughout the morning. Unable to enter without being on an official list, those passing by peered in at the distant ceremony behind the gates.

Meanwhile, about 25 kilometers north, in Titanyen, the burial site for many of the earthquake’s victims, as well as victims of the Duvalier dictatorships, another steady stream of official vehicles was arriving. These belonged mainly to what appeared to be members of the diplomatic corps, as well as a number of Haitian and foreign journalists. Clinton was also there, arriving well before Haiti’s President Martelly and Prime Minister Lamothe made it to the “barren hillside at the outskirts of Haiti’s capital.”

Titanyen Burnt Cross

There was an eerie feeling at the site. Just the day before, the hundreds of memorial crosses which once dotted the hillside had apparently burned, leaving a backdrop of scorched earth. A few crosses were still standing amidst the burnt grass. Adding to the strange feeling was that other than the officialdom and journalists present, there was a noticeable lack of “people”. Apparently not many had decided to make the trip, if they were aware of it at all. Once Martelly arrived from the ceremony in Port-au-Prince, the entire event with Clinton lasted less than 30 minutes. Neither Martelly nor Clinton gave a speech.  Journalists got photos of the two of them together, and as quickly as the motorcades had arrived, they left.

There was no public reflection on what has happened over the past three years or whether Clinton’s brief visits to Haiti had resulted in “building back better,” as he had envisioned. It seemed like little more than a haphazardly planned photo-op.

The same afternoon, a different ceremony took place back in Port-au-Prince at the Asanble Vwazen Solino (Solino Neighbors Assembly), a community center and school that has been around since 2006, where a participative commemoration was held with local residents. Esaie Jules Jelin, a member of the coordinating committee at AVS commented, “it was an open invitation, everyone was encouraged to participate and interact, not just sit and listen. We wanted people to understand the difference between the rhetoric and the reality.”

The rhetoric Jules Jelin spoke of was what one can hear from the Haitian government, the international community and many of the international organizations present in Haiti, that indeed, recovery and reconstruction has been progressing. The reality in Solino, however, was very different.

Jules Jelin told the story of residents of a nearby tent camp, which had been cleared out with the help of a Catholic Relief Services rental subsidy program. The residents were given some funds to move out of the camp and find apartments, though as Jules Jelin noted, the money was generally not enough to find a good place, if any place at all, and that “eventually they will have to return to the street.” He added, “think about what the NGO’s have done in the past. They [camp residents] were given water, then it was taken away, given toilets, then they were taken away, given a little job, then it was taken away. This created the situation where people had to accept what was offered, because it could be taken away at any time. Now they went back to the damaged houses they fled from, just returning to the same situation as before. These are the people who came together to discuss the situation on the 12th.”

A discussion was held where James Olrich of Bri Kouri Nouvel Gaye and Mark Snyder, a housing rights advocate, spoke of the ongoing conditions in camps and the problems of forced evictions, and addressed the question of “where did the money go?” Jules Jelin added, “We wanted to educate the people so they could understand what the reality of reconstruction is, after all the money, why are things still so bad?”

Snyder added, “It was the actual community deciding to come together to pay respect to their family, neighbors, and fellow Haitians who perished or suffered great loss from the earthquake three years earlier. It is a model for true inclusion for the visiting NGOs or UN entities in Haiti to strive for.”

Compared to the Clinton photo-op earlier in the day, the differences could not have been starker. It was a time of reflection, to look back at what has and has not happened and to engage with those whose lives have been most affected by the earthquake and the ongoing international and national response. “You can look all around you and see the country destroyed but not do anything about it. We try to make people aware, and then they can take action,” said Jules Jelin.

In the face of headlines such as “3 years after Haiti’s quake, lives still in upheaval” and “Haiti: the graveyard of hope,” Heraldo Muñoz,  U.N. assistant secretary-general and director of the Regional Bureau for Latin America & the Caribbean at UNDP, had a defensive piece in Foreign Policy Tuesday titled “Haiti’s Recovery is Real.” It may be true that some media coverage and commentary has been unfairly focused on the negative to the exclusion of any mention of progress.  But, while overwhelmingly negative coverage of Haiti fits into tired stereotypes, there is a real danger in exaggerating what has been accomplished when so many emergencies remain.

The UNDP deserves credit for accomplishments that have indeed made a difference, which Muñoz lists throughout his piece. But passages such as this one are troubling:

The UNDP has also helped train more than 7,000 people in home reconstruction, strengthened Haiti’s national disaster risk-management system, and launched environmental protection programs. The results have been significant and tangible — a direct outcome of the international support that followed the earthquake and that remains a critical lifeline. The government of Haiti is now building on these achievements and developing a longer-term development roadmap toward a truly inclusive, resilient society.

It is hard not to read this as propaganda,  considering the wasted resources (financial and human), wasted time, and perhaps most importantly, wasted opportunities that have been the focus of much other analysis and commentary on the state of affairs after three years. Truly inclusive society? Tell that to the tens of thousands [PDF] of camp residents who have been forcibly evicted, the many others who lack clean water [PDF] or toilets, or the garment factory workers who are paid below minimum wage.

Muñoz misses the point with the overall premise of his article. He writes:

With support from national and international partners, Haitians are rebuilding a better, more resilient country — a fact that has been repeatedly overlooked in the international press. Among Haitians, however, the sense of progress is unmistakable.

If Haitians are really at the center of the relief effort, as they should be, and UNDP sees this as a good thing, then one might wonder why Haitians – unaccompanied by foreigners – would be automatically barred from relief coordination cluster meetings (in which UNDP participates), or why such meetings would be conducted in English – or French – and not kreyol.

Muñoz notes that:

Gallup also found that an unprecedented 46 percent of Haitians expressed confidence in national government institutions. (In 2008, just 24 percent reported confidence in the government and by 2010 that number had fallen to 16 percent.)

One might then ponder why the international community continues to express so little confidence in the Haitian government, giving it less budget support in 2011 than it did the year before the earthquake, and just one dollar out of every $100 [PDF] spent in humanitarian relief.

Muñoz puts a happy face on things when he writes that “more than 1.1 million people who were displaced by the quake have been moved out of camps and into long-term housing, also with UNDP support.”

But he neglects to mention that some 66,566 of these people had been forcibly evicted [PDF] by the end of last April. Many others were encouraged to leave camps with payouts through the Martelly administration’s “16/6” plan, but the Under Tents campaign noted that “In the absence of work opportunities, families’ ability to pay rent one year from now is dubious. Advocates have also raised concerns that residents of the original six camps were not told about the plan or given input into how it would affect them.” Under Tents also expressed concern that “human rights advocates worry this ‘relocation’ has not ensured basic human rights such as access to water and sanitation services.”

Muñoz highlights that “Neighbourhoods, roads, and houses have been rehabilitated, creating thousands of jobs in the process.”

But according to the Shelter Cluster, only 18,725 houses have actually been repaired, and just 5,911 new houses have been built, while 1 million people were living in houses marked as either red (in need of demolition) or yellow (in need of repairs to make safe enough to live in) as of June 2011.

Muñoz writes that “Haiti’s remarkable recovery, moreover, has been largely driven by Haitians themselves. Within neighbourhoods, community members have set priorities for rebuilding homes and infrastructure, ensuring that the unique risks faced by city-dwellers are satisfactorily addressed.”

Despite their exclusion from decision making by international groups and NGO’s, many Haitians have of course worked together and accomplished much, beginning right after the earthquake when people removed rubble – by hand in many cases – to rescue trapped survivors. Many quake survivors quickly organized and got to work immediately after the quake had occurred, as independent journalist Ansel Herz reported at the time. They received little help from the U.S. military, which assumed the central role in the relief effort and which prioritized “security concerns” instead of the humanitarian emergency, while media outlets such as CNN described “a frenzy of looting” which in fact never took place.

The Haitian people – often normal, everyday people who are not paid by anyone to do the work they do – are responsible for much of the progress of the relief effort. This is why so many both within and outside of Haiti have clamored for three years for the international community to do more to provide these people with the resources and the support that they need. The numbers three years later – punctuated by egregious examples of waste – demonstrate how the international community has failed to do that, compounding the tragedy of how little has been achieved.

In the face of headlines such as “3 years after Haiti’s quake, lives still in upheaval” and “Haiti: the graveyard of hope,” Heraldo Muñoz,  U.N. assistant secretary-general and director of the Regional Bureau for Latin America & the Caribbean at UNDP, had a defensive piece in Foreign Policy Tuesday titled “Haiti’s Recovery is Real.” It may be true that some media coverage and commentary has been unfairly focused on the negative to the exclusion of any mention of progress.  But, while overwhelmingly negative coverage of Haiti fits into tired stereotypes, there is a real danger in exaggerating what has been accomplished when so many emergencies remain.

The UNDP deserves credit for accomplishments that have indeed made a difference, which Muñoz lists throughout his piece. But passages such as this one are troubling:

The UNDP has also helped train more than 7,000 people in home reconstruction, strengthened Haiti’s national disaster risk-management system, and launched environmental protection programs. The results have been significant and tangible — a direct outcome of the international support that followed the earthquake and that remains a critical lifeline. The government of Haiti is now building on these achievements and developing a longer-term development roadmap toward a truly inclusive, resilient society.

It is hard not to read this as propaganda,  considering the wasted resources (financial and human), wasted time, and perhaps most importantly, wasted opportunities that have been the focus of much other analysis and commentary on the state of affairs after three years. Truly inclusive society? Tell that to the tens of thousands [PDF] of camp residents who have been forcibly evicted, the many others who lack clean water [PDF] or toilets, or the garment factory workers who are paid below minimum wage.

Muñoz misses the point with the overall premise of his article. He writes:

With support from national and international partners, Haitians are rebuilding a better, more resilient country — a fact that has been repeatedly overlooked in the international press. Among Haitians, however, the sense of progress is unmistakable.

If Haitians are really at the center of the relief effort, as they should be, and UNDP sees this as a good thing, then one might wonder why Haitians – unaccompanied by foreigners – would be automatically barred from relief coordination cluster meetings (in which UNDP participates), or why such meetings would be conducted in English – or French – and not kreyol.

Muñoz notes that:

Gallup also found that an unprecedented 46 percent of Haitians expressed confidence in national government institutions. (In 2008, just 24 percent reported confidence in the government and by 2010 that number had fallen to 16 percent.)

One might then ponder why the international community continues to express so little confidence in the Haitian government, giving it less budget support in 2011 than it did the year before the earthquake, and just one dollar out of every $100 [PDF] spent in humanitarian relief.

Muñoz puts a happy face on things when he writes that “more than 1.1 million people who were displaced by the quake have been moved out of camps and into long-term housing, also with UNDP support.”

But he neglects to mention that some 66,566 of these people had been forcibly evicted [PDF] by the end of last April. Many others were encouraged to leave camps with payouts through the Martelly administration’s “16/6” plan, but the Under Tents campaign noted that “In the absence of work opportunities, families’ ability to pay rent one year from now is dubious. Advocates have also raised concerns that residents of the original six camps were not told about the plan or given input into how it would affect them.” Under Tents also expressed concern that “human rights advocates worry this ‘relocation’ has not ensured basic human rights such as access to water and sanitation services.”

Muñoz highlights that “Neighbourhoods, roads, and houses have been rehabilitated, creating thousands of jobs in the process.”

But according to the Shelter Cluster, only 18,725 houses have actually been repaired, and just 5,911 new houses have been built, while 1 million people were living in houses marked as either red (in need of demolition) or yellow (in need of repairs to make safe enough to live in) as of June 2011.

Muñoz writes that “Haiti’s remarkable recovery, moreover, has been largely driven by Haitians themselves. Within neighbourhoods, community members have set priorities for rebuilding homes and infrastructure, ensuring that the unique risks faced by city-dwellers are satisfactorily addressed.”

Despite their exclusion from decision making by international groups and NGO’s, many Haitians have of course worked together and accomplished much, beginning right after the earthquake when people removed rubble – by hand in many cases – to rescue trapped survivors. Many quake survivors quickly organized and got to work immediately after the quake had occurred, as independent journalist Ansel Herz reported at the time. They received little help from the U.S. military, which assumed the central role in the relief effort and which prioritized “security concerns” instead of the humanitarian emergency, while media outlets such as CNN described “a frenzy of looting” which in fact never took place.

The Haitian people – often normal, everyday people who are not paid by anyone to do the work they do – are responsible for much of the progress of the relief effort. This is why so many both within and outside of Haiti have clamored for three years for the international community to do more to provide these people with the resources and the support that they need. The numbers three years later – punctuated by egregious examples of waste – demonstrate how the international community has failed to do that, compounding the tragedy of how little has been achieved.

Haiti marked the third anniversary of the 2010 earthquake on Saturday. The LA Times’ Tracy Wilkinson reported:

In simple ceremonies Saturday in and around the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, President Michel Martelly laid a wreath at a mass grave and, earlier, called on his countrymen and women to remember, persevere and move on. He was joined by former U.S. President Clinton, a U.N. special envoy to Haiti.

“Haitian people, hand in hand, we remember what has gone,” Martelly said against a backdrop of a Haitian flag at half-staff and Cabinet members dressed in mourning black, according to the Associated Press. 

Clinton told the Reuters news agency that though some progress has been made, particularly in rebuilding airports and roads, “we still need a lot more infrastructure work.”

“From my point of view, keeping the investment coming in, dealing with the housing and unlocking the education, those are the things I’d like to see real progress on this year,” Clinton said.

As Democracy Now noted, Clinton was questioned about the U.N.’s responsibility for bringing the cholera epidemic to Haiti:

Reporter: “And cholera? What about — you’ve said the U.N. introduced cholera to Haiti. Do you think they should be liable for all of those deaths? There’s nearly 8,000 people who have been killed.”

Bill Clinton: “I think that’s a decision someone else has to make now. I think the most important thing is that the U.N. asked Paul Farmer to oversee the response. We’ve got the infection and mortality rate cut in half, and I think it can be contained, so I’m encouraged by that.”

Speaking of Bill Clinton, Foreign Policy magazine has taken a cue from Clinton’s now (in)famous mea culpa that U.S. food aid policy “may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas,” but also resulted in the “lost capacity to produce a rice crop” in Haiti – something we’ve examined on this blog before. Maura O’Connor reports from Stuttgart, Arkansas, where:

…the farm bill has been a tremendous source of anxiety over the last year. For rice farmer Dow Brantley, the consequences are huge. Cuts to subsidy programs would take away his safety net and the risk of growing rice would become prohibitive, forcing him to turn his fields to corn or soybeans. “There’s a lot of fear in the countryside,” he said.

O’Connor notes that cutting the subsidies might have hurt Arkansas farmers, but could have helped their Haitian counterparts:

…for the last year a piece of U.S. legislation that could have arguably changed the playing field for Haiti’s farmers has been stalled in Washington, D.C. A new $500 billion, five-year farm bill that might have cut subsidies to American rice farmers was never passed. And in the final hours of 2012, politicians extended the old one for another nine months.

The move effectively kicked the can down the road for changes to America’s decades-old agricultural policies — changes that could represent the first challenge to the “devil’s bargain” Haiti and Arkansas have been a part of for so long.

It is a “devil’s bargain,” because, as O’Connor writes:

Since 1995, when it dropped its import tariffs on rice from 50 to 3 percent as part of a structural adjustment program run by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, Haiti has steadily increased its imports of rice from the north. Today it is the fifth-largest importer of American rice in the world despite having a population of just 10 million. Much of Haiti’s rice comes from Arkansas; each year, Riceland Foods and Producers Rice Mill send millions of tons of rice down the Mississippi river on barges to New Orleans, where the rice is loaded onto container ships, taken to port in Haiti, and packaged as popular brands such as Tchaco or Mega Rice. Haiti today imports over 80 percent of its rice from the United States, making it a critical market for farmers in Arkansas.

This was after, following the end of Haiti’s revolution in 1804:

Shut out of global markets, Haiti’s farmers managed to survive, feeding the population and producing trade surpluses into the 20th century. Throughout the 1970s, Haiti imported a mere 19 percent of its food. The regimes of François Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude (“Baby Doc”) Duvalier had abysmal human rights records, but they largely protected farmers from foreign competition by instituting virtual bans on foreign food with tariffs that neared 100 percent. The country was self-sufficient when it came to rice production in part because Haitians only ate rice two or three times a week as part of a diverse diet that included corn and sorghum.

Open markets, virtually no access to banks and credit, and a lack of private and public sector investment made it impossible for Haitian farmers to thrive. Today, most farmers have an income level of just $400 per year and they view the policies that brought them to this state as not just bad economics for Haitians, but also as an ongoing assault by foreigners on their cultural independence.

In a related op-ed for The Guardian, Jonathan Katz writes on U.S. motivations behind food, and other “aid”:

Addressing an audience of wealthy New Yorkers, [Secretary of State Hillary Clinton] laid out a vision of what the US is trying to accomplish in the world; it was very telling for those trying to understand foreign aid – and its younger, hipper cousin, investment.

Clinton told the audience: “Our problems have never respected dividing lines between global economics and international diplomacy. And neither can our solutions.” That is why, she explained, she has put “economic statecraft” at the heart of the US foreign policy agenda. Clinton further defined how the US can use “the forces and tools of global economics” to bolster American “diplomacy and presence” abroad and to strengthen the economy at home. She argued that America should “put economics at the center” of its foreign policy. In foreign relations, the question should always be “how will this affect our economic growth?”

A superpower such as the US would, of course, always consider its domestic interests, especially economic ones, when it acts abroad. But we tend to forget this whenever the conversation turns to a specific circumstance – the intervention in one war instead of another, or the way we choose to respond to a humanitarian crisis abroad.

Take the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Clinton herself said in the wake of the disaster that it was necessary to work with Haiti’s government and not go around it by supporting NGOs or foreign-government projects as had been done destructively in the past. Bill Clinton remarked in March 2010 that a policy of importing huge amounts of heavily subsidised US rice and other grain into the impoverished country, which undercut Haitian farmers and drove families into poverty, had to change. Yet none of the US humanitarian funds spent in Haiti after the quake, and only about 1% of the longer-term recovery funds, went to the government. And the food policy remains unaddressed.

As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot noted in a statement last week, one proposal that could have supported Haitian farmers and helped provide food assistance to people who needed it never went far policy makers in Washington: “Some 2.1 million people now live in severe food insecurity in Haiti, up from 800,000 in 2011,” Weisbrot said. “The U.S. Congress had an opportunity after the quake to support Haitian farmers by buying up their crops as part of U.S. food aid, but this proposal went nowhere.”

Amy Wilentz meanwhile writes in The Nation of another Clinton-linked initiative: the Royal Oasis hotel, the name of which is laden with disturbing symbolism:

The “five-star” Royal Oasis is a violation of human decency. Not because it’s big and luxurious in a desperately poor country, although it is that: it has 128 rooms, five restaurants, five bars, a conference center, an art gallery and an upscale shopping mall. But the indecent, depraved thing about it is that—amazingly, astoundingly—its construction was financed in part by grants from organizations ostensibly providing post-earthquake reconstruction funds: $7.5 million from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation went to the Oasis project, as well as $2 million from the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, the recovery group headed by former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. (Having funded the Oasis, among other enterprises, the Clinton Bush fund announced that it was ceasing operations at the end of 2012.) The Royal Oasis is one of the few post-quake projects that have come to fruition, unlike dozens of housing and school construction projects. 

Haiti marked the third anniversary of the 2010 earthquake on Saturday. The LA Times’ Tracy Wilkinson reported:

In simple ceremonies Saturday in and around the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, President Michel Martelly laid a wreath at a mass grave and, earlier, called on his countrymen and women to remember, persevere and move on. He was joined by former U.S. President Clinton, a U.N. special envoy to Haiti.

“Haitian people, hand in hand, we remember what has gone,” Martelly said against a backdrop of a Haitian flag at half-staff and Cabinet members dressed in mourning black, according to the Associated Press. 

Clinton told the Reuters news agency that though some progress has been made, particularly in rebuilding airports and roads, “we still need a lot more infrastructure work.”

“From my point of view, keeping the investment coming in, dealing with the housing and unlocking the education, those are the things I’d like to see real progress on this year,” Clinton said.

As Democracy Now noted, Clinton was questioned about the U.N.’s responsibility for bringing the cholera epidemic to Haiti:

Reporter: “And cholera? What about — you’ve said the U.N. introduced cholera to Haiti. Do you think they should be liable for all of those deaths? There’s nearly 8,000 people who have been killed.”

Bill Clinton: “I think that’s a decision someone else has to make now. I think the most important thing is that the U.N. asked Paul Farmer to oversee the response. We’ve got the infection and mortality rate cut in half, and I think it can be contained, so I’m encouraged by that.”

Speaking of Bill Clinton, Foreign Policy magazine has taken a cue from Clinton’s now (in)famous mea culpa that U.S. food aid policy “may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas,” but also resulted in the “lost capacity to produce a rice crop” in Haiti – something we’ve examined on this blog before. Maura O’Connor reports from Stuttgart, Arkansas, where:

…the farm bill has been a tremendous source of anxiety over the last year. For rice farmer Dow Brantley, the consequences are huge. Cuts to subsidy programs would take away his safety net and the risk of growing rice would become prohibitive, forcing him to turn his fields to corn or soybeans. “There’s a lot of fear in the countryside,” he said.

O’Connor notes that cutting the subsidies might have hurt Arkansas farmers, but could have helped their Haitian counterparts:

…for the last year a piece of U.S. legislation that could have arguably changed the playing field for Haiti’s farmers has been stalled in Washington, D.C. A new $500 billion, five-year farm bill that might have cut subsidies to American rice farmers was never passed. And in the final hours of 2012, politicians extended the old one for another nine months.

The move effectively kicked the can down the road for changes to America’s decades-old agricultural policies — changes that could represent the first challenge to the “devil’s bargain” Haiti and Arkansas have been a part of for so long.

It is a “devil’s bargain,” because, as O’Connor writes:

Since 1995, when it dropped its import tariffs on rice from 50 to 3 percent as part of a structural adjustment program run by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, Haiti has steadily increased its imports of rice from the north. Today it is the fifth-largest importer of American rice in the world despite having a population of just 10 million. Much of Haiti’s rice comes from Arkansas; each year, Riceland Foods and Producers Rice Mill send millions of tons of rice down the Mississippi river on barges to New Orleans, where the rice is loaded onto container ships, taken to port in Haiti, and packaged as popular brands such as Tchaco or Mega Rice. Haiti today imports over 80 percent of its rice from the United States, making it a critical market for farmers in Arkansas.

This was after, following the end of Haiti’s revolution in 1804:

Shut out of global markets, Haiti’s farmers managed to survive, feeding the population and producing trade surpluses into the 20th century. Throughout the 1970s, Haiti imported a mere 19 percent of its food. The regimes of François Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude (“Baby Doc”) Duvalier had abysmal human rights records, but they largely protected farmers from foreign competition by instituting virtual bans on foreign food with tariffs that neared 100 percent. The country was self-sufficient when it came to rice production in part because Haitians only ate rice two or three times a week as part of a diverse diet that included corn and sorghum.

Open markets, virtually no access to banks and credit, and a lack of private and public sector investment made it impossible for Haitian farmers to thrive. Today, most farmers have an income level of just $400 per year and they view the policies that brought them to this state as not just bad economics for Haitians, but also as an ongoing assault by foreigners on their cultural independence.

In a related op-ed for The Guardian, Jonathan Katz writes on U.S. motivations behind food, and other “aid”:

Addressing an audience of wealthy New Yorkers, [Secretary of State Hillary Clinton] laid out a vision of what the US is trying to accomplish in the world; it was very telling for those trying to understand foreign aid – and its younger, hipper cousin, investment.

Clinton told the audience: “Our problems have never respected dividing lines between global economics and international diplomacy. And neither can our solutions.” That is why, she explained, she has put “economic statecraft” at the heart of the US foreign policy agenda. Clinton further defined how the US can use “the forces and tools of global economics” to bolster American “diplomacy and presence” abroad and to strengthen the economy at home. She argued that America should “put economics at the center” of its foreign policy. In foreign relations, the question should always be “how will this affect our economic growth?”

A superpower such as the US would, of course, always consider its domestic interests, especially economic ones, when it acts abroad. But we tend to forget this whenever the conversation turns to a specific circumstance – the intervention in one war instead of another, or the way we choose to respond to a humanitarian crisis abroad.

Take the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Clinton herself said in the wake of the disaster that it was necessary to work with Haiti’s government and not go around it by supporting NGOs or foreign-government projects as had been done destructively in the past. Bill Clinton remarked in March 2010 that a policy of importing huge amounts of heavily subsidised US rice and other grain into the impoverished country, which undercut Haitian farmers and drove families into poverty, had to change. Yet none of the US humanitarian funds spent in Haiti after the quake, and only about 1% of the longer-term recovery funds, went to the government. And the food policy remains unaddressed.

As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot noted in a statement last week, one proposal that could have supported Haitian farmers and helped provide food assistance to people who needed it never went far policy makers in Washington: “Some 2.1 million people now live in severe food insecurity in Haiti, up from 800,000 in 2011,” Weisbrot said. “The U.S. Congress had an opportunity after the quake to support Haitian farmers by buying up their crops as part of U.S. food aid, but this proposal went nowhere.”

Amy Wilentz meanwhile writes in The Nation of another Clinton-linked initiative: the Royal Oasis hotel, the name of which is laden with disturbing symbolism:

The “five-star” Royal Oasis is a violation of human decency. Not because it’s big and luxurious in a desperately poor country, although it is that: it has 128 rooms, five restaurants, five bars, a conference center, an art gallery and an upscale shopping mall. But the indecent, depraved thing about it is that—amazingly, astoundingly—its construction was financed in part by grants from organizations ostensibly providing post-earthquake reconstruction funds: $7.5 million from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation went to the Oasis project, as well as $2 million from the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, the recovery group headed by former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. (Having funded the Oasis, among other enterprises, the Clinton Bush fund announced that it was ceasing operations at the end of 2012.) The Royal Oasis is one of the few post-quake projects that have come to fruition, unlike dozens of housing and school construction projects. 

Freelance journalist Ansel Herz survived the earthquake and reported from Haiti for two years. His work has been published by ABC News, the New York Daily News and Al Jazeera English, among other media outlets. Ansel is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism. Below, in a guest post for Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch, Herz answers three key questions about Haiti three years after the earthquake.

1.  How would you describe the situation in Haiti today?

“Peyi a vin kraze.” As Haiti enters a new year, I’ve heard this phrase several times from different Haitians over the past week. It’s usually said with a resigned, slight shake of the head.

In English, this means “The country has completely crashed.”

Last week, the U.S. Coast Guard repatriated 168 people fleeing Haiti by boat. At least 360,000 people displaced by the earthquake live in appalling conditions in tent camps throughout the capital city, three years after the earthquake. The cholera epidemic killed 27 more people in the first week of January, bringing the total number of casualties to nearly 8,000.

So the situation is dire. And while I don’t want to add to Haiti’s bad press, this really should not be understated. It’s hard to take the government’s ubiquitous new slogan, “Haiti is Open for Business,” seriously.

At the same time, it’s important to point out that in the minds of outsiders, Haiti often comes packaged with a set of spurious assumptions.

Haiti is simultaneously romanticized and demeaned as so unique, poor and chaotic that it becomes a category unto itself. It’s the land of zombies and vodou (usually this word is spelled pejoratively as voodoo). Haitians are amazingly “resilient” – code for inhuman, able to go on suffering indignities that others could not.

In fact, Haiti is more like the United States than one might think. The country is afflicted with vast wealth inequality and an influential power elite. Many young people can’t find jobs. The healthcare system is a mess. Farmers are struggling to maintain their livelihoods amidst environmental destruction.

Of course, Haiti suffers from all of this to a more extreme degree, along with other crises.

More on this below.

2.   What’s been the biggest success in terms of the aid response? The biggest failure?

As I search my memory, I’m looking out on a restaurant parking lot full of SUVs belonging to wealthy Haitians and aid workers.

The only meaningful success that comes to mind is the construction and opening of a government-run sewage treatment plant outside Port-au-Prince. There is an urgent need for improved sanitation in Haiti.

Aid groups have long since left most of the tent camps, leaving clogged and overflowing latrines in their wake. Before, the toilets were desludged by trucks that would empty the contents on a massive, unregulated dump site not far from where people live.

The foul stink in the camps and the bubbling shit ponds are a vivid example of an aid response that has proved to be fleeting, haphazard, negligent and disrespectful to Haiti and her people.

I never thought that the understated, utilitarian look of a sewage treatment plant could be attractive. But in the dust of a barren area called Titanyen, gleaming in the sun, it looks rather beautiful. Not far away are mass graves of the quake dead.

For months after the temblor, one of the country’s wealthiest families claimed to own the land and held up construction of the plant. Finally, the government seized the land. With direct financing from the Spanish government and other donors, the structures went up.

“This was a pioneering step,” one Haitian official told me. “It’s the first time the country has ever had a plant like this. In terms of sanitation, this is revolutionary for Haiti.”

The Titanyen sewage treatment plant represents a planned, durable, and modern solution to a serious humanitarian issue. It’s a triumph of Haitian political will. It’s everything that the aid response should have been.

Some might point out that rubble from the quake throughout Port-au-Prince has been cleared. This was done inefficiently and at high cost by a for-profit company contracted by USAID, however.

A bunch of the SUVs are leaving now, probably to make their way up the hill to Petionville, the well-off part of the capital city where most aid workers live. Traffic will be bad.

The fact that despite $10 billion was pledged to Haiti’s reconstruction effort and I can think of no other big successes, says enough about the endless litany of failures, don’t you think?

But one failure that stands out is the CIRH, a reconstruction commission co-chaired by Bill Clinton and the Haitian Prime Minister. Representatives from all the big donor countries (and a few tokenized Haitians) sat around a table trying to decide where to spend money. The body was stunningly slow and ineffective, until the Haitian legislature unceremoniously declined to renew its mandate, having protested its creation in the first place.

This is to say nothing of the cholera, which was brought to Haiti by the United Nations, according to scientific studies.

3.   What should the humanitarian community do differently? What have we learned?

I mentioned that Haiti is more like other countries, including our own, than commonly thought. Across the board, we face a similar set of issues.

But in the U.S., the idea is to solve these problems through political discussion and negotiation among ourselves. Elected officials listen to the citizenry, take action and implement programs. At least, that’s what we expect.

Now imagine something else. Imagine that in our midst, we have a foreign humanitarian community trying to help us solve our problems. Imagine that their combined budget dwarfs that of our government at every level.

Imagine that members of this community – Canadians, Venezuelans, Jordanians, the French, or Nigerians from hundreds of separate organizations – drive the best cars and occupy the largest houses. They eat at the most expensive restaurants because they are afraid to eat what the rest of us buy in the market. Most of them don’t speak English. They mainly hire American staff from the tiny, most educated and privileged sector of society.

And imagine that all of these groups claim they are supporting, rather than exercising any undue influence, over our government.

On top of all that, imagine that a foreign “peacekeeping” army larger than our own police force patrols the streets. Imagine that President Obama had asked the army to trade its tanks for bulldozers and its guns for shovels, but that his call had been completely ignored.

This is Haiti today, shed of its sovereignty. This has been the situation ever since it earned the nickname “The Republic of NGOs,” amidst a set of neoliberal economic reforms foisted upon it in the late 1980s.

What should the humanitarian community do differently? Two things:

In the short-term, be more inclusive of Haitians at every level. This point was urgently made by Refugees International shortly after the earthquake, when, to take one of many examples, a Haitian mayor could not access the military base where aid workers held meetings, often in English.

Over the medium- and long-term, the humanitarian community should transition all of its resources into Haitian hands. Frankly, it smacks of racism to pretend that the Haitian government is more prone to corruption than outside aid groups. In many ways, we’ve simply legalized it.

As U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton asked a conference of development workers after the quake, “Are we serious about working ourselves out of a job?”

If the humanitarians can’t do that, then they are not actually humanitarians. And they should leave.

There’s another option: Haitians have kicked out exploitative foreigners before. They can surely do it again.

Freelance journalist Ansel Herz survived the earthquake and reported from Haiti for two years. His work has been published by ABC News, the New York Daily News and Al Jazeera English, among other media outlets. Ansel is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism. Below, in a guest post for Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch, Herz answers three key questions about Haiti three years after the earthquake.

1.  How would you describe the situation in Haiti today?

“Peyi a vin kraze.” As Haiti enters a new year, I’ve heard this phrase several times from different Haitians over the past week. It’s usually said with a resigned, slight shake of the head.

In English, this means “The country has completely crashed.”

Last week, the U.S. Coast Guard repatriated 168 people fleeing Haiti by boat. At least 360,000 people displaced by the earthquake live in appalling conditions in tent camps throughout the capital city, three years after the earthquake. The cholera epidemic killed 27 more people in the first week of January, bringing the total number of casualties to nearly 8,000.

So the situation is dire. And while I don’t want to add to Haiti’s bad press, this really should not be understated. It’s hard to take the government’s ubiquitous new slogan, “Haiti is Open for Business,” seriously.

At the same time, it’s important to point out that in the minds of outsiders, Haiti often comes packaged with a set of spurious assumptions.

Haiti is simultaneously romanticized and demeaned as so unique, poor and chaotic that it becomes a category unto itself. It’s the land of zombies and vodou (usually this word is spelled pejoratively as voodoo). Haitians are amazingly “resilient” – code for inhuman, able to go on suffering indignities that others could not.

In fact, Haiti is more like the United States than one might think. The country is afflicted with vast wealth inequality and an influential power elite. Many young people can’t find jobs. The healthcare system is a mess. Farmers are struggling to maintain their livelihoods amidst environmental destruction.

Of course, Haiti suffers from all of this to a more extreme degree, along with other crises.

More on this below.

2.   What’s been the biggest success in terms of the aid response? The biggest failure?

As I search my memory, I’m looking out on a restaurant parking lot full of SUVs belonging to wealthy Haitians and aid workers.

The only meaningful success that comes to mind is the construction and opening of a government-run sewage treatment plant outside Port-au-Prince. There is an urgent need for improved sanitation in Haiti.

Aid groups have long since left most of the tent camps, leaving clogged and overflowing latrines in their wake. Before, the toilets were desludged by trucks that would empty the contents on a massive, unregulated dump site not far from where people live.

The foul stink in the camps and the bubbling shit ponds are a vivid example of an aid response that has proved to be fleeting, haphazard, negligent and disrespectful to Haiti and her people.

I never thought that the understated, utilitarian look of a sewage treatment plant could be attractive. But in the dust of a barren area called Titanyen, gleaming in the sun, it looks rather beautiful. Not far away are mass graves of the quake dead.

For months after the temblor, one of the country’s wealthiest families claimed to own the land and held up construction of the plant. Finally, the government seized the land. With direct financing from the Spanish government and other donors, the structures went up.

“This was a pioneering step,” one Haitian official told me. “It’s the first time the country has ever had a plant like this. In terms of sanitation, this is revolutionary for Haiti.”

The Titanyen sewage treatment plant represents a planned, durable, and modern solution to a serious humanitarian issue. It’s a triumph of Haitian political will. It’s everything that the aid response should have been.

Some might point out that rubble from the quake throughout Port-au-Prince has been cleared. This was done inefficiently and at high cost by a for-profit company contracted by USAID, however.

A bunch of the SUVs are leaving now, probably to make their way up the hill to Petionville, the well-off part of the capital city where most aid workers live. Traffic will be bad.

The fact that despite $10 billion was pledged to Haiti’s reconstruction effort and I can think of no other big successes, says enough about the endless litany of failures, don’t you think?

But one failure that stands out is the CIRH, a reconstruction commission co-chaired by Bill Clinton and the Haitian Prime Minister. Representatives from all the big donor countries (and a few tokenized Haitians) sat around a table trying to decide where to spend money. The body was stunningly slow and ineffective, until the Haitian legislature unceremoniously declined to renew its mandate, having protested its creation in the first place.

This is to say nothing of the cholera, which was brought to Haiti by the United Nations, according to scientific studies.

3.   What should the humanitarian community do differently? What have we learned?

I mentioned that Haiti is more like other countries, including our own, than commonly thought. Across the board, we face a similar set of issues.

But in the U.S., the idea is to solve these problems through political discussion and negotiation among ourselves. Elected officials listen to the citizenry, take action and implement programs. At least, that’s what we expect.

Now imagine something else. Imagine that in our midst, we have a foreign humanitarian community trying to help us solve our problems. Imagine that their combined budget dwarfs that of our government at every level.

Imagine that members of this community – Canadians, Venezuelans, Jordanians, the French, or Nigerians from hundreds of separate organizations – drive the best cars and occupy the largest houses. They eat at the most expensive restaurants because they are afraid to eat what the rest of us buy in the market. Most of them don’t speak English. They mainly hire American staff from the tiny, most educated and privileged sector of society.

And imagine that all of these groups claim they are supporting, rather than exercising any undue influence, over our government.

On top of all that, imagine that a foreign “peacekeeping” army larger than our own police force patrols the streets. Imagine that President Obama had asked the army to trade its tanks for bulldozers and its guns for shovels, but that his call had been completely ignored.

This is Haiti today, shed of its sovereignty. This has been the situation ever since it earned the nickname “The Republic of NGOs,” amidst a set of neoliberal economic reforms foisted upon it in the late 1980s.

What should the humanitarian community do differently? Two things:

In the short-term, be more inclusive of Haitians at every level. This point was urgently made by Refugees International shortly after the earthquake, when, to take one of many examples, a Haitian mayor could not access the military base where aid workers held meetings, often in English.

Over the medium- and long-term, the humanitarian community should transition all of its resources into Haitian hands. Frankly, it smacks of racism to pretend that the Haitian government is more prone to corruption than outside aid groups. In many ways, we’ve simply legalized it.

As U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton asked a conference of development workers after the quake, “Are we serious about working ourselves out of a job?”

If the humanitarians can’t do that, then they are not actually humanitarians. And they should leave.

There’s another option: Haitians have kicked out exploitative foreigners before. They can surely do it again.

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