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.

Last week Deborah Sontag of the New York Times reported in depth on the lack of sustainable housing solutions in Haiti since the earthquake:

Two and a half years after the earthquake, despite billions of dollars in reconstruction aid, the most obvious, pressing need — safe, stable housing for all displaced people — remains unmet.

In what international officials term a protracted humanitarian crisis, hundreds of thousands remain in increasingly wretched tent camps. Tens of thousands inhabit dangerously damaged buildings. And countless others, evicted from camps and yards, have simply disappeared with their raggedy tarps and rusty sheet metal into the hills.”

Sontag notes that $500 million was spent on transitional shelters that were “not built to last”, meaning “All the money spent on T-shelters will be melted away,” as H. Kit Miyamoto, an engineer working in Haiti, told Sontag. Meanwhile, although some 200,000 houses were damaged or destroyed:

international aid has led to an estimated 15,000 repairs and 5,700 new, permanent homes so far. Most of the new houses are outside greater Port-au-Prince, where it was easier to obtain land, and some have yet to be occupied.

Though many are quick to tout the decrease in camp population as a sign the housing and displacement crisis is being met, it is clear the number of new housing solutions can only explain a fraction of the camp population reduction. The lack of adequate housing has led 33 international organizations to sponsor the Under Tents campaign. Working with Haitian grassroots groups, the campaign seeks to win housing rights for the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who remain displaced or living in unsustainable housing.

Of particular concern is the sustainability of the government and international community’s flagship IDP relocation program, called “16/6.” Under Tents writes:

The extent to which Martelly’s plan constitutes a “durable” solution remains to be seen. First, the plan relocated just 5% of the IDP population. Second, human rights advocates worry this “relocation” has not ensured basic human rights such as access to water and sanitation services. Third, the plan offers families a rental stipend for just one year. 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.

The plan was also the subject of a report for the Toronto Star by Catherine Porter. Although the project originally aimed to clear out six camps and rehabilitate 16 neighborhoods for those camp residents to return to, as Porter explains, “The plan for new houses, though, is modest. In total, only 1,000 new houses will be built in eight neighbourhoods by the 16/6 program.”

Rather, most beneficiaries of the “16/6” plan will receive a rental subsidy and move into potentially dangerous housing in neighborhoods that have yet to see major reconstruction since the earthquake. Porter continues:

I spent two mornings walking around Fort National, investigating what a $500 rent subsidy would get.

A sign greeted me from the main road, tacked to the side of a tin shed: Une Chambre a Maisson a Affermer. Room for Rent. I called the number. A man named Nobert led me through a warren of narrow alleys to the bottom floor of a big concrete house. The room was like a prison cell: three metres by three metres, one window with no glass, a wire dangling from the ceiling with no light bulb.

Like most apartments in the slums, there was no stove or running water. Nobert took me back up the hill to the shared privy — a hole in the ground of a shed. For this, he was charging $375 (U.S.) for the year. “I’m renting eight other apartments already,” he said, “all of them to the IOM.”

As Sontag explains in the Times, a significant impediment to the creation of new housing has been the lack of a more comprehensive policy, and instead a focus on individual projects such as “16/6”:

In the absence of an overarching housing policy, Haiti’s shelter problem has been tackled unsystematically, in a way that has favored rural over urban victims and homeowners over renters because their needs were more easily met. Many families with the least resources have been neglected unless they happened to belong to a tent camp, neighborhood or vulnerable population targeted by a particular program.

“It’s the project syndrome — one neighborhood gets incredible resources, the next is in total limbo, or one camp gets rental subsidies, the next gets nothing,” said Maggie Stephenson, a senior technical adviser to U.N.-Habitat in Haiti. “We have to spread the remaining resources more equitably. Equity is essential, and so are durable solutions.”

One of these projects was the subject of a front page Washington Post article this past weekend, which praised a USAID-financed reconstruction project in the Ravine Pintade neighborhood (and echoed many of the same points as a press release on the USAID website three months ago). The $8.5 million project, “gives a hint of what is possible on a small scale,” writes David Brown of the Post. But it also suffered from the exact problem mentioned by Maggie Stephenson in the quote above:

However, there was only enough money to rebuild one side of the ravine. The north side was chosen because CHF and PCI had “strong existing community relationships” there, Khachadurian said. As it turned out, that asymmetry was the source of recurrent trouble during the 17 months of reconstruction.

Peter Van Buren wrote a scathing response to the Post article. Van Buren is the author of the book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. Van Buren spent a year leading State Department reconstruction teams in Iraq before writing his book, after which, according to his website the State Department “began termination proceedings against him, reassigning him to a make-work position and stripping him of his security clearance and diplomatic credentials.” Van Buren notes that the “default media plan at State is to follow anything negative in the press with a planted puff piece,” which he considers the article in the Post to be. He also posts a number of questions that he submitted to the Washington Post Ombudsman, among them:

Brown’s article, which ran on the front page of the Post and continued inside, quoted only two people connected with the project by name, the project manager paid by USAID and one engineer paid by USAID. Why were there no quotes from any of the Haitian residents of the new dwellings? Why were there no quotes from any local Haitain officials? Did the WaPo editors cut out such quotes? Did they not ask Brown to obtain such quotes? How did Brown fact-check the details given to him by the USAID-paid people? DID Brown fact check those details?

As I learned in Iraq, building things is relatively easy given massive amounts of money. The real magic is sustainability. Brown tells us “Groups of houses share 23 septic tanks and 100 bucket-flush toilets, which can be locked for privacy. Twenty solar-powered lights illuminate streets.” What plans and whose money are in place to repair and maintain that technology? Who/how will the septic tanks be drained or pumped out? What happens when the first solar light needs replacing? Will any of this be there working a year from now? If so, under what plan? The article calls the work in Haiti a “renaissance,” a pretty dramatic word that is empty, meaningless and damned temporary unless there is a sustainability plan in place.

 

Last week Deborah Sontag of the New York Times reported in depth on the lack of sustainable housing solutions in Haiti since the earthquake:

Two and a half years after the earthquake, despite billions of dollars in reconstruction aid, the most obvious, pressing need — safe, stable housing for all displaced people — remains unmet.

In what international officials term a protracted humanitarian crisis, hundreds of thousands remain in increasingly wretched tent camps. Tens of thousands inhabit dangerously damaged buildings. And countless others, evicted from camps and yards, have simply disappeared with their raggedy tarps and rusty sheet metal into the hills.”

Sontag notes that $500 million was spent on transitional shelters that were “not built to last”, meaning “All the money spent on T-shelters will be melted away,” as H. Kit Miyamoto, an engineer working in Haiti, told Sontag. Meanwhile, although some 200,000 houses were damaged or destroyed:

international aid has led to an estimated 15,000 repairs and 5,700 new, permanent homes so far. Most of the new houses are outside greater Port-au-Prince, where it was easier to obtain land, and some have yet to be occupied.

Though many are quick to tout the decrease in camp population as a sign the housing and displacement crisis is being met, it is clear the number of new housing solutions can only explain a fraction of the camp population reduction. The lack of adequate housing has led 33 international organizations to sponsor the Under Tents campaign. Working with Haitian grassroots groups, the campaign seeks to win housing rights for the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who remain displaced or living in unsustainable housing.

Of particular concern is the sustainability of the government and international community’s flagship IDP relocation program, called “16/6.” Under Tents writes:

The extent to which Martelly’s plan constitutes a “durable” solution remains to be seen. First, the plan relocated just 5% of the IDP population. Second, human rights advocates worry this “relocation” has not ensured basic human rights such as access to water and sanitation services. Third, the plan offers families a rental stipend for just one year. 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.

The plan was also the subject of a report for the Toronto Star by Catherine Porter. Although the project originally aimed to clear out six camps and rehabilitate 16 neighborhoods for those camp residents to return to, as Porter explains, “The plan for new houses, though, is modest. In total, only 1,000 new houses will be built in eight neighbourhoods by the 16/6 program.”

Rather, most beneficiaries of the “16/6” plan will receive a rental subsidy and move into potentially dangerous housing in neighborhoods that have yet to see major reconstruction since the earthquake. Porter continues:

I spent two mornings walking around Fort National, investigating what a $500 rent subsidy would get.

A sign greeted me from the main road, tacked to the side of a tin shed: Une Chambre a Maisson a Affermer. Room for Rent. I called the number. A man named Nobert led me through a warren of narrow alleys to the bottom floor of a big concrete house. The room was like a prison cell: three metres by three metres, one window with no glass, a wire dangling from the ceiling with no light bulb.

Like most apartments in the slums, there was no stove or running water. Nobert took me back up the hill to the shared privy — a hole in the ground of a shed. For this, he was charging $375 (U.S.) for the year. “I’m renting eight other apartments already,” he said, “all of them to the IOM.”

As Sontag explains in the Times, a significant impediment to the creation of new housing has been the lack of a more comprehensive policy, and instead a focus on individual projects such as “16/6”:

In the absence of an overarching housing policy, Haiti’s shelter problem has been tackled unsystematically, in a way that has favored rural over urban victims and homeowners over renters because their needs were more easily met. Many families with the least resources have been neglected unless they happened to belong to a tent camp, neighborhood or vulnerable population targeted by a particular program.

“It’s the project syndrome — one neighborhood gets incredible resources, the next is in total limbo, or one camp gets rental subsidies, the next gets nothing,” said Maggie Stephenson, a senior technical adviser to U.N.-Habitat in Haiti. “We have to spread the remaining resources more equitably. Equity is essential, and so are durable solutions.”

One of these projects was the subject of a front page Washington Post article this past weekend, which praised a USAID-financed reconstruction project in the Ravine Pintade neighborhood (and echoed many of the same points as a press release on the USAID website three months ago). The $8.5 million project, “gives a hint of what is possible on a small scale,” writes David Brown of the Post. But it also suffered from the exact problem mentioned by Maggie Stephenson in the quote above:

However, there was only enough money to rebuild one side of the ravine. The north side was chosen because CHF and PCI had “strong existing community relationships” there, Khachadurian said. As it turned out, that asymmetry was the source of recurrent trouble during the 17 months of reconstruction.

Peter Van Buren wrote a scathing response to the Post article. Van Buren is the author of the book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. Van Buren spent a year leading State Department reconstruction teams in Iraq before writing his book, after which, according to his website the State Department “began termination proceedings against him, reassigning him to a make-work position and stripping him of his security clearance and diplomatic credentials.” Van Buren notes that the “default media plan at State is to follow anything negative in the press with a planted puff piece,” which he considers the article in the Post to be. He also posts a number of questions that he submitted to the Washington Post Ombudsman, among them:

Brown’s article, which ran on the front page of the Post and continued inside, quoted only two people connected with the project by name, the project manager paid by USAID and one engineer paid by USAID. Why were there no quotes from any of the Haitian residents of the new dwellings? Why were there no quotes from any local Haitain officials? Did the WaPo editors cut out such quotes? Did they not ask Brown to obtain such quotes? How did Brown fact-check the details given to him by the USAID-paid people? DID Brown fact check those details?

As I learned in Iraq, building things is relatively easy given massive amounts of money. The real magic is sustainability. Brown tells us “Groups of houses share 23 septic tanks and 100 bucket-flush toilets, which can be locked for privacy. Twenty solar-powered lights illuminate streets.” What plans and whose money are in place to repair and maintain that technology? Who/how will the septic tanks be drained or pumped out? What happens when the first solar light needs replacing? Will any of this be there working a year from now? If so, under what plan? The article calls the work in Haiti a “renaissance,” a pretty dramatic word that is empty, meaningless and damned temporary unless there is a sustainability plan in place.

 

The latest data from the MSPP (Ministry of Health) shows that the number of cholera cases and resulting deaths continues to rise. As of August 2, there have been a total of 583,871 cases and 7,497 deaths reported since October 2010 and this almost certainly is an underestimate. While the number of cases this summer has not spiked as high as it did last year, there have still been 377 deaths and nearly 45,000 cases reported in just the last three months.

The MSPP attributes the slower rate of infection this summer to unusually dry weather; however they predict an increase in the coming months as the hurricane season begins. The Pan American Health Organization estimates that Haiti could see up to 170,000 new cases this year, which would mean an average of about 20,000 cases per month over the next five months. Over the previous three months, the average number of cases has been over 15,000. Despite this, funding for the cholera response, as well as for the infrastructure needed to stem the spread of the disease, has been inadequate.  At the end of July, the Comite de Coordination des ONGs Internationales en Haiti (CCO Haiti), which is made up of many international NGOs operating in Haiti, released a statement on the situation:

The cholera outbreak that has already claimed thousands of lives all over the country remains a major threat to public health. Cholera prevention and response should be a key priority for the Haitian Government.

Furthermore, many public health workers in the Cholera Treatment Center (CTCs) have not received salaries for several months and there are reports of strikes by front line medical staff to redress this situation. This is a serious issue negatively affecting the effectiveness of the cholera response and it needs to be urgently addressed. In addition, there is evidence that the MSPP struggles to carry out its work efficiently due to poor logistics and inefficient fleet maintenance. This seriously hinders the material distribution within the CTCs, Cholera Treatment Units (CTUs) and Acute Diarrhea Treatment Centers (ADTCs), and affects the appropriate collection of cadavers. Necessary arrangement should be made to correct the situation. Overall, the MSPP must once again reinforce its leadership and coordination roles at both central and departmental levels.

Donors must provide sustained and adequate funding to support a comprehensive and integrated approach to cholera prevention and care.

Although less severe than the cholera outbreak last year, the current situation on the ground is much worse than statistics portray. And yet, a shortage of funding has translated into fewer health partners and created serious gaps in coverage. From August, 2011 to May, 2012, the number of Cholera Treatment Centers (CTCs) has declined from 38 to 20, and the number of Cholera Treatment Units from 205 to 74.

In their latest humanitarian bulletin, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that, “national capacity to respond to potential outbreaks, especially during the rainy season, remains very weak. The country has only 468 beds for cholera admissions, with 233 of these already occupied. At the height of the epidemic in June 2011, 2500 beds were available.” Despite this, OCHA notes that “significant progress has been made especially in the surveillance and reporting of the epidemic as well as in the integration of cholera care in the national healthcare system.” 

Despite OCHA’s positive assessment of strengthening the national health care system, as CCO Haiti pointed out, MSPP is still facing serious issues in their response to cholera. One reason why the Haitian government has had a hard time leading the response is that the international community largely bypassed the government in their provision of funding for cholera. The government of Haiti received only $4.9 million in funds for the cholera response, while the Red Cross alone received $6.1 million. While CCO Haiti calls for increased funding from donors, it is imperative that this money not simply be channeled to international NGOs, but through the MSPP. As the UN Special Envoy has noted, “aid is most effective at strengthening public institutions when it is channelled through them.”

Infrastructure

While the short-term cholera response has reportedly diminished, the only long term solution to stemming cholera’s spread is through investment in water and sanitation infrastructure. This is a key demand of the 15,000 plus Haitians who filed a complaint with the United Nations seeking compensation. Three weeks ago 104 congressional Democrats made a similar demand of the United Nations in a letter to Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN.

Thus far, the UN has failed to accept responsibility and the 104 Members of Congress have yet to receive a reply from Ambassador Rice. In the meantime, little money has been dedicated to improving the water and sanitation infrastructure throughout Haiti. As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot writes today for McClatchy:

But controlling and putting an end to the epidemic is the least that the U.N. can do for Haiti, having caused this disaster. We know that it can be done, too – as it has in many other countries – by building the necessary infrastructure so that Haitians can have access to clean drinking water. The cost has been estimated at $800 million – or the amount that the U.N. spends on keeping its soldiers there for a year.

Surveillance System

Tracking the evolution and spread of cholera is key to an efficient response. Health actors must know where to focus efforts and where to allocate resources. Nevertheless, there have been increasing complaints about the national surveillance system. There are often long delays in publishing information and often there are unexplained jumps in the number of cases and deaths. In May, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), one of the leading responders to the epidemic called the surveillance system “dysfunctional,” later adding that “the numbers are incomplete and unreliable.” In their statement, CCO Haiti adds:

Further efforts need to be made to improve the quality and reliability of data collection systems. Thorough evaluations are needed to identify and address the problems in the epidemiological surveillance system. According to MSPP, only 57.8 % of the 341 daily cholera reports were submitted by departments during the period from March 27 to April 26, 2012. This lack of accurate reporting seriously impacts the capacity to effectively respond.

This trend appears to be continuing as the recent daily reports published by the MSPP are consistently missing data from numerous departments. Without a clear picture of what the disease is actually doing, responding to it will continue to be hampered.

The latest data from the MSPP (Ministry of Health) shows that the number of cholera cases and resulting deaths continues to rise. As of August 2, there have been a total of 583,871 cases and 7,497 deaths reported since October 2010 and this almost certainly is an underestimate. While the number of cases this summer has not spiked as high as it did last year, there have still been 377 deaths and nearly 45,000 cases reported in just the last three months.

The MSPP attributes the slower rate of infection this summer to unusually dry weather; however they predict an increase in the coming months as the hurricane season begins. The Pan American Health Organization estimates that Haiti could see up to 170,000 new cases this year, which would mean an average of about 20,000 cases per month over the next five months. Over the previous three months, the average number of cases has been over 15,000. Despite this, funding for the cholera response, as well as for the infrastructure needed to stem the spread of the disease, has been inadequate.  At the end of July, the Comite de Coordination des ONGs Internationales en Haiti (CCO Haiti), which is made up of many international NGOs operating in Haiti, released a statement on the situation:

The cholera outbreak that has already claimed thousands of lives all over the country remains a major threat to public health. Cholera prevention and response should be a key priority for the Haitian Government.

Furthermore, many public health workers in the Cholera Treatment Center (CTCs) have not received salaries for several months and there are reports of strikes by front line medical staff to redress this situation. This is a serious issue negatively affecting the effectiveness of the cholera response and it needs to be urgently addressed. In addition, there is evidence that the MSPP struggles to carry out its work efficiently due to poor logistics and inefficient fleet maintenance. This seriously hinders the material distribution within the CTCs, Cholera Treatment Units (CTUs) and Acute Diarrhea Treatment Centers (ADTCs), and affects the appropriate collection of cadavers. Necessary arrangement should be made to correct the situation. Overall, the MSPP must once again reinforce its leadership and coordination roles at both central and departmental levels.

Donors must provide sustained and adequate funding to support a comprehensive and integrated approach to cholera prevention and care.

Although less severe than the cholera outbreak last year, the current situation on the ground is much worse than statistics portray. And yet, a shortage of funding has translated into fewer health partners and created serious gaps in coverage. From August, 2011 to May, 2012, the number of Cholera Treatment Centers (CTCs) has declined from 38 to 20, and the number of Cholera Treatment Units from 205 to 74.

In their latest humanitarian bulletin, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that, “national capacity to respond to potential outbreaks, especially during the rainy season, remains very weak. The country has only 468 beds for cholera admissions, with 233 of these already occupied. At the height of the epidemic in June 2011, 2500 beds were available.” Despite this, OCHA notes that “significant progress has been made especially in the surveillance and reporting of the epidemic as well as in the integration of cholera care in the national healthcare system.” 

Despite OCHA’s positive assessment of strengthening the national health care system, as CCO Haiti pointed out, MSPP is still facing serious issues in their response to cholera. One reason why the Haitian government has had a hard time leading the response is that the international community largely bypassed the government in their provision of funding for cholera. The government of Haiti received only $4.9 million in funds for the cholera response, while the Red Cross alone received $6.1 million. While CCO Haiti calls for increased funding from donors, it is imperative that this money not simply be channeled to international NGOs, but through the MSPP. As the UN Special Envoy has noted, “aid is most effective at strengthening public institutions when it is channelled through them.”

Infrastructure

While the short-term cholera response has reportedly diminished, the only long term solution to stemming cholera’s spread is through investment in water and sanitation infrastructure. This is a key demand of the 15,000 plus Haitians who filed a complaint with the United Nations seeking compensation. Three weeks ago 104 congressional Democrats made a similar demand of the United Nations in a letter to Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN.

Thus far, the UN has failed to accept responsibility and the 104 Members of Congress have yet to receive a reply from Ambassador Rice. In the meantime, little money has been dedicated to improving the water and sanitation infrastructure throughout Haiti. As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot writes today for McClatchy:

But controlling and putting an end to the epidemic is the least that the U.N. can do for Haiti, having caused this disaster. We know that it can be done, too – as it has in many other countries – by building the necessary infrastructure so that Haitians can have access to clean drinking water. The cost has been estimated at $800 million – or the amount that the U.N. spends on keeping its soldiers there for a year.

Surveillance System

Tracking the evolution and spread of cholera is key to an efficient response. Health actors must know where to focus efforts and where to allocate resources. Nevertheless, there have been increasing complaints about the national surveillance system. There are often long delays in publishing information and often there are unexplained jumps in the number of cases and deaths. In May, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), one of the leading responders to the epidemic called the surveillance system “dysfunctional,” later adding that “the numbers are incomplete and unreliable.” In their statement, CCO Haiti adds:

Further efforts need to be made to improve the quality and reliability of data collection systems. Thorough evaluations are needed to identify and address the problems in the epidemiological surveillance system. According to MSPP, only 57.8 % of the 341 daily cholera reports were submitted by departments during the period from March 27 to April 26, 2012. This lack of accurate reporting seriously impacts the capacity to effectively respond.

This trend appears to be continuing as the recent daily reports published by the MSPP are consistently missing data from numerous departments. Without a clear picture of what the disease is actually doing, responding to it will continue to be hampered.

The killing of four adults, and – according to some reports – disappearance of four children in a violent forced eviction on July 23rd has gone all but unnoticed by the major English language media, but some details have emerged through Haitian and some independent English language press. Haïti Liberté has a detailed report in English of the incident at Parc La Visite in Seguin, Marigot, on the southern coast. Haïti Liberté and other outlets’ reports are based in large part on the work of Haitian journalist Claudy Belizaire of the Reference Institute for Journalism and Communication (RIJC), who also took graphic photos of the killing’s aftermath. 

Haïti Liberté reported that the four were killed when 36 “Haitian police [officers] …destroyed seven homes in an attempt to clear peasants from a remote mountain-top park where they have lived and farmed for the past 70 years,” noting that “The bloody confrontation …occurred exactly 25 years to the day after an infamous 1987 peasant massacre near the northwestern town of Jean-Rabel…”

The RIJC reported the four confirmed dead to be “Desire Enoz – 32 years; Nicolas David – 28 years, Robinson Volcin – 22 years and Desire Aleis – 18 years.”

Belizaire, as translated by Haïti Liberté, wrote that three days later, “since this serious incident, no state official has come to Seguin, where barricades have been erected by the people, in protest. The only item known about this negotiation was an envelope of 50,000 gourdes [about $ 1,250] promised to each family (50% before departure, 50% after).”

The $600 before, $600 after moving payments are reminiscent of Martelly’s much-criticized cash incentive plan to get people to relocate.  Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) attorney Mario Joseph describes the government’s strategy in a new letter [PDF] of complaint to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR):

The only apparent strategy of the Haitian government with respect to victims of the earthquake of January 12, [2010], is to provide internally displaced persons (IDP) camps located in the rich neighborhoods of Petion Ville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, with small sums of money to force them to leave. The Haitian government implemented this program, providing “financial assistance” amounting to 20,000 gourdes (U.S. $ 500) for residents of camps Places Saint-Pierre, Place Boyer, Canapé Vert, Mais Gate, Primature, Parc Pélé, and Champ Mars.

Residents affected by this program have been so harassed by officials to leave the camp that they feel they have no choice but to leave, turning the government’s initiatives into forced evictions in many cases.  According to residents, they will either be removed with force against their will without a penny or moved voluntarily with at least some money.

RIJC describes a possible motive for the eviction operation:

For groundwaters, this nature reserve is also a water reservoir for the departments of the West and South-east through the capital Port-au-Prince and Jacmel. According to experts, the water level drops significantly over time and the effects are visible in the watershed and in the two cities above-mentioned. Recommendations were made to the government to take measures to protect the reserve through the eviction of 140 families of this population.

And Haïti Liberté adds:

The Parc La Visite is one of Haiti’s three national parks and has one of Haiti’s last remaining pine forests, in a country that is 98% deforested. It has suffered from unauthorized logging and clearing over the last decades, which has affected the watersheds for the cities of Port-au-Prince and Jacmel.

The La Selle region, which includes La Visite, was recently added to UNESCO’s network of biosphere reserves. Additionally, a USAID financed program (WINNER) implemented by Chemonics is funding reforestation and other conservation measures in the park.

While there has been relatively little media coverage of the killings, the UN says it is looking into the incident, as translated by Haïti Liberté:

The United Nations Mission for Stabilization in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is concerned by reports of the deaths of at least four Haitians and several injured, in circumstances not yet clear, during an operation of forced evictions conducted by police officers,” the note says. “A multidisciplinary team of the United Nations was deployed in the field to collect information to help establish the facts. MINUSTAH recalls that forced eviction without providing alternative adequate housing is contrary to international human rights, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The Associated Press also ran a brief article noting MINUSTAH’s investigation. (UPI and Xinhua did as well, but in Spanish.)

Of course, the Parc La Visite incident is just one of many recent incidents of forced eviction, and is perhaps notable – aside from the killings – in that the residents being evicted are not IDP’s. Forced evictions are among the human rights abuses that attorney Mario Joseph has condemned in his letter [PDF] to the IACHR:

President Martelly’s failure to hold elections, and his outrageous actions with the State University and the press, the forced evictions of victims displaced by the earthquake and the arrest of a Member of Parliament show that he does not stand for democracy, human rights or the rule of law.

The killing of four adults, and – according to some reports – disappearance of four children in a violent forced eviction on July 23rd has gone all but unnoticed by the major English language media, but some details have emerged through Haitian and some independent English language press. Haïti Liberté has a detailed report in English of the incident at Parc La Visite in Seguin, Marigot, on the southern coast. Haïti Liberté and other outlets’ reports are based in large part on the work of Haitian journalist Claudy Belizaire of the Reference Institute for Journalism and Communication (RIJC), who also took graphic photos of the killing’s aftermath. 

Haïti Liberté reported that the four were killed when 36 “Haitian police [officers] …destroyed seven homes in an attempt to clear peasants from a remote mountain-top park where they have lived and farmed for the past 70 years,” noting that “The bloody confrontation …occurred exactly 25 years to the day after an infamous 1987 peasant massacre near the northwestern town of Jean-Rabel…”

The RIJC reported the four confirmed dead to be “Desire Enoz – 32 years; Nicolas David – 28 years, Robinson Volcin – 22 years and Desire Aleis – 18 years.”

Belizaire, as translated by Haïti Liberté, wrote that three days later, “since this serious incident, no state official has come to Seguin, where barricades have been erected by the people, in protest. The only item known about this negotiation was an envelope of 50,000 gourdes [about $ 1,250] promised to each family (50% before departure, 50% after).”

The $600 before, $600 after moving payments are reminiscent of Martelly’s much-criticized cash incentive plan to get people to relocate.  Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) attorney Mario Joseph describes the government’s strategy in a new letter [PDF] of complaint to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR):

The only apparent strategy of the Haitian government with respect to victims of the earthquake of January 12, [2010], is to provide internally displaced persons (IDP) camps located in the rich neighborhoods of Petion Ville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, with small sums of money to force them to leave. The Haitian government implemented this program, providing “financial assistance” amounting to 20,000 gourdes (U.S. $ 500) for residents of camps Places Saint-Pierre, Place Boyer, Canapé Vert, Mais Gate, Primature, Parc Pélé, and Champ Mars.

Residents affected by this program have been so harassed by officials to leave the camp that they feel they have no choice but to leave, turning the government’s initiatives into forced evictions in many cases.  According to residents, they will either be removed with force against their will without a penny or moved voluntarily with at least some money.

RIJC describes a possible motive for the eviction operation:

For groundwaters, this nature reserve is also a water reservoir for the departments of the West and South-east through the capital Port-au-Prince and Jacmel. According to experts, the water level drops significantly over time and the effects are visible in the watershed and in the two cities above-mentioned. Recommendations were made to the government to take measures to protect the reserve through the eviction of 140 families of this population.

And Haïti Liberté adds:

The Parc La Visite is one of Haiti’s three national parks and has one of Haiti’s last remaining pine forests, in a country that is 98% deforested. It has suffered from unauthorized logging and clearing over the last decades, which has affected the watersheds for the cities of Port-au-Prince and Jacmel.

The La Selle region, which includes La Visite, was recently added to UNESCO’s network of biosphere reserves. Additionally, a USAID financed program (WINNER) implemented by Chemonics is funding reforestation and other conservation measures in the park.

While there has been relatively little media coverage of the killings, the UN says it is looking into the incident, as translated by Haïti Liberté:

The United Nations Mission for Stabilization in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is concerned by reports of the deaths of at least four Haitians and several injured, in circumstances not yet clear, during an operation of forced evictions conducted by police officers,” the note says. “A multidisciplinary team of the United Nations was deployed in the field to collect information to help establish the facts. MINUSTAH recalls that forced eviction without providing alternative adequate housing is contrary to international human rights, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The Associated Press also ran a brief article noting MINUSTAH’s investigation. (UPI and Xinhua did as well, but in Spanish.)

Of course, the Parc La Visite incident is just one of many recent incidents of forced eviction, and is perhaps notable – aside from the killings – in that the residents being evicted are not IDP’s. Forced evictions are among the human rights abuses that attorney Mario Joseph has condemned in his letter [PDF] to the IACHR:

President Martelly’s failure to hold elections, and his outrageous actions with the State University and the press, the forced evictions of victims displaced by the earthquake and the arrest of a Member of Parliament show that he does not stand for democracy, human rights or the rule of law.

A review of publicly available reports and recently released documents obtained via an Associated Press (AP) Freedom of Information Act request reveal that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has spent over $200 million on Title II food aid in Haiti since the earthquake. Title II food aid, administered by USAID and implemented by NGOs and intergovernmental organizations (primarily the World Food Program – WFP), is “the main avenue for U.S. food assistance.” As can be seen in Figure 1, in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, USAID obligated over $200 million and distributed over 174,000 metric tons of food aid in Haiti. Although most of this came in the form of emergency food aid following the earthquake, food distributions have continued in 2011 as well.

Figure 1.

alt
Source: USAID, Author’s Calculations

The Numbers

According to a report prepared for USAID’s Office of Food for Peace, in fiscal year 2010, USAID Title II food aid totaled 153,000 metric tons (MT), of which over 115,000 came in the form of emergency food aid. In 2011, these totals decreased drastically to 21,430 MT, of which 5,950 MT was emergency aid. According to the report, emergency food aid was distributed through two avenues: Single-Year Assistance Programs and the World Food Program. Based on documents obtained by the AP, USAID obligated over $21 million to World Vision, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Agricultural Cooperative Development International and Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (ACDI/VOCA) for program costs associated with these emergency distributions. Additionally, USAID, which covers the cost of commodities and shipping, valued these services at over $100 million.

Non-emergency food aid takes the form of food distribution, but also often incorporates agricultural productivity, natural resource management as well as other issues related to food security. The majority of non-emergency food aid, which totaled over 50,000 MT in FY 2010 and 2011, came through Multi-Year Assistance Programs implemented by the same partners as the above-mentioned emergency, single-year programs: ACDI/VOCA, World Vision and CRS. These three programs all began prior to the earthquake and are ongoing until at least September 2012. A recent audit conducted by the USAID Inspector General (IG) reveals that, since the programs began in 2008, these partners have spent $46 million dollars in program costs. According to the AP documents most of this came after the earthquake. Together, the three organizations distributed nearly $70 million in commodities.

The Inspector General, in its audit of these multi-year programs, noted that “assistance generally has improved conditions for targeted beneficiaries…However, we could not determine whether the effects will last well into the future.” Nevertheless, the IG found a number of problems in the management of these programs, including overlapping with other USAID projects; lack of data management; the use of duplicative, excessive and uncoordinated indicators; uneven and poorly tracked integration of key activities; and other problems.

Overall, the documents obtained by the Associated Press show that World Vision, ACDI/VOCA and CRS have received $57 million since the earthquake from USAID for program costs related to Title II food aid, as can be seen in Figure 2. As will be discussed in more detail later, while this data shows program costs, the provision of the actual commodities for distribution and the shipping of those commodities are paid for directly by USAID, and so do not show up in Figure 2.

Figure 2.

alt
Source: USAID, Associated Press


Monetization

One of the more controversial aspects of food aid is the practice of monetization, organizations selling food aid in local markets to fund their work. The Haiti Justice Alliance has discussed this in detail:

Aid experts agree that monetization harms “beneficiary” populations for a range of reasons. Even the US Government Accountability Office urged Congress to stop giving NGOs food aid for monetization.

Even the NGOs who monetize aid admit it’s a bad practice. The two biggest NGO recipients of post-earthquake Title II food aid were World Vision and Catholic Relief Services (CRS). World Vision is regularly criticized for its extreme lack of transparency (and here), so it’s difficult to determine their stance on monetization. CRS, however, has this disclaimer on the FAQ section of its website:

CRS recognizes that selling commodities, also referred to as monetization, is an inefficient method of obtaining funding.

Historically, World Vision, CRS and ACDI/VOCA have taken part in large scale monetization of food aid, though USAID, at least temporarily, halted this practice in 2011, perhaps heeding the advice of both the GAO and their implementing partners. Yet, as of January 2012, a total of $32 million in food aid had been monetized, according to the IG. Although no current monetization efforts are underway, in 2010 about half (19,000 MT) of the non-emergency food aid was monetized. There are some smaller scale monetization projects scheduled for 2012, most of which rely on third-party monetization which would entail selling the commodities in, say, the Dominican Republic to fund work in Haiti.

Barriers to Reform

As the IG notes, USAID food aid programs can be helpful, at least in the short-term, yet the sustainability of food aid is often questioned. Timothy Schwartz, who has written extensively on the topic, posted a chapter of his book “Travesty in Haiti” on his blog last year:

Food assistance to Haiti during the 1980s tripled reaching a yearly average of over $50 million in gratuitous U.S. surplus beans, corn, rice, and cracked wheat. Put in simpler terms, that was enough food to meet the calorific needs of over 15 percent of the Haitian population.

The large and persistent flows of food aid have done little to increase the self-sufficiency of Haitian agriculture and as Schwartz later describes, have in many cases undermined local production, something for which former President Bill Clinton publicly apologized for in 2010. Additionally, because of byzantine regulations, U.S. food aid is not often delivered in the most efficient and sustainable manner. The result is that a recently released food security index from the Economist Intelligence Unit ranks Haiti in the bottom five out of 105 countries analyzed.

While agreements with the implementing partners discussed above cover the costs of internal distribution in Haiti, as well as management and input costs, the procurement of the commodities themselves as well as their shipment to Haiti are separate costs borne directly by USAID. As we have previously reported, according to public contractor databases, USAID spent at least $18 million between January 14, 2010 and February 26, 2011 on shipping emergency food aid. Additionally, the IG report notes that for the Multi-Year programs over $23 million was spent on ocean freight to deliver $67 million worth of commodities. Because of U.S. regulations, the vast majority of food aid must be shipped on U.S.-flagged carriers. The shipping industry has been cited by researchers as one of the barriers to reform of the U.S. food aid system. A 2010 report from Cornell University explains:

The sheer size and history of US food aid programs obviously create inertia that differentiates it from most donors. But in political economy terms, arguably the most distinctive feature of US food aid programs is the intimate involvement of ocean carriers, who benefit from little?known agricultural cargo preference (ACP) requirements absent in other donor countries. While food aid policy reforms have had to overcome resistance from agribusiness and some nongovernmental organization (NGO) interests in every donor nation, the “iron triangle” of interests formed by agribusiness, some NGOs and ocean carriers has been a uniquely effective lobby for the status quo in US food aid policy.

U.S. procurement regulations also prohibit the procurement of food aid locally, although some recent efforts have resulted in pilot local procurement programs on a small scale. Although these pilot programs have had positive results, they have come under scrutiny in the latest versions of the U.S. Farm Bill that are currently being discussed in the House and Senate. According to The Guardian:

The Senate version of the farm bill would extend the pilot. However, the House version doesn’t even mention it. Now the two chambers of Congress have to reconcile their differences, and with big farm bill fights over farm subsidies and domestic food stamps, it’s anyone’s guess what happens next.

Trade groups are clear in their opposition to local and regional purchasing. In letters to Congress earlier this year 31 agribusiness and shipping groups wrote: “US food aid programmes not only further our humanitarian and security goals by allowing Americans to share their bounty with the needy, but these programmes also provide stable jobs for hundreds of thousands of Americans.”

Previous research has shown the possible benefits of local procurement, and a recent study by the Local and Regional Procurement Learning Alliance points to other potential positive impacts. Surveys showed that “poorer individual recipients were significantly more likely to report maximal overall satisfaction with locally procured food aid than with transoceanic food aid.” Nevertheless, as The Guardian points out, agribusinesses continue to dominate the food aid game:

It is not surprising ADM, Cargill and Bunge dominate food aid, since they dominate global grain trade too. They are also powerful political players; in the first three months of 2012 alone, ADM and Cargill reported lobbying expenses of $360,000 and $340,000 respectively; Bunge reported spending $230,000 over the same period, lobbying Congress on a range of largely agricultural issues, including “support for US in-kind food aid programmes”.

Patrick Woodall, research director at Food and Water Watch, pointed out the inherent contradiction in current policy. The companies that benefit from the US food aid business are the very companies that encourage poor countries to cultivate non-food crops for export rather than food to feed their people. “In terms of global food security, it seems like a double-edged sword,” he said.

The U.S. government has clearly taken steps in the right direction by curbing the use of monetization and beginning pilot local procurement projects, yet even these modest reforms are under threat from the so-called “iron triangle”. The purpose of food aid is supposed to be to sustainably promote food security in developing countries, not to subsidize agribusinesses, the shipping industry or large NGOs. In order to successfully reform USAID’s food aid policies, they must confront these entrenched interests head on.

A review of publicly available reports and recently released documents obtained via an Associated Press (AP) Freedom of Information Act request reveal that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has spent over $200 million on Title II food aid in Haiti since the earthquake. Title II food aid, administered by USAID and implemented by NGOs and intergovernmental organizations (primarily the World Food Program – WFP), is “the main avenue for U.S. food assistance.” As can be seen in Figure 1, in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, USAID obligated over $200 million and distributed over 174,000 metric tons of food aid in Haiti. Although most of this came in the form of emergency food aid following the earthquake, food distributions have continued in 2011 as well.

Figure 1.

alt
Source: USAID, Author’s Calculations

The Numbers

According to a report prepared for USAID’s Office of Food for Peace, in fiscal year 2010, USAID Title II food aid totaled 153,000 metric tons (MT), of which over 115,000 came in the form of emergency food aid. In 2011, these totals decreased drastically to 21,430 MT, of which 5,950 MT was emergency aid. According to the report, emergency food aid was distributed through two avenues: Single-Year Assistance Programs and the World Food Program. Based on documents obtained by the AP, USAID obligated over $21 million to World Vision, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Agricultural Cooperative Development International and Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (ACDI/VOCA) for program costs associated with these emergency distributions. Additionally, USAID, which covers the cost of commodities and shipping, valued these services at over $100 million.

Non-emergency food aid takes the form of food distribution, but also often incorporates agricultural productivity, natural resource management as well as other issues related to food security. The majority of non-emergency food aid, which totaled over 50,000 MT in FY 2010 and 2011, came through Multi-Year Assistance Programs implemented by the same partners as the above-mentioned emergency, single-year programs: ACDI/VOCA, World Vision and CRS. These three programs all began prior to the earthquake and are ongoing until at least September 2012. A recent audit conducted by the USAID Inspector General (IG) reveals that, since the programs began in 2008, these partners have spent $46 million dollars in program costs. According to the AP documents most of this came after the earthquake. Together, the three organizations distributed nearly $70 million in commodities.

The Inspector General, in its audit of these multi-year programs, noted that “assistance generally has improved conditions for targeted beneficiaries…However, we could not determine whether the effects will last well into the future.” Nevertheless, the IG found a number of problems in the management of these programs, including overlapping with other USAID projects; lack of data management; the use of duplicative, excessive and uncoordinated indicators; uneven and poorly tracked integration of key activities; and other problems.

Overall, the documents obtained by the Associated Press show that World Vision, ACDI/VOCA and CRS have received $57 million since the earthquake from USAID for program costs related to Title II food aid, as can be seen in Figure 2. As will be discussed in more detail later, while this data shows program costs, the provision of the actual commodities for distribution and the shipping of those commodities are paid for directly by USAID, and so do not show up in Figure 2.

Figure 2.

alt
Source: USAID, Associated Press


Monetization

One of the more controversial aspects of food aid is the practice of monetization, organizations selling food aid in local markets to fund their work. The Haiti Justice Alliance has discussed this in detail:

Aid experts agree that monetization harms “beneficiary” populations for a range of reasons. Even the US Government Accountability Office urged Congress to stop giving NGOs food aid for monetization.

Even the NGOs who monetize aid admit it’s a bad practice. The two biggest NGO recipients of post-earthquake Title II food aid were World Vision and Catholic Relief Services (CRS). World Vision is regularly criticized for its extreme lack of transparency (and here), so it’s difficult to determine their stance on monetization. CRS, however, has this disclaimer on the FAQ section of its website:

CRS recognizes that selling commodities, also referred to as monetization, is an inefficient method of obtaining funding.

Historically, World Vision, CRS and ACDI/VOCA have taken part in large scale monetization of food aid, though USAID, at least temporarily, halted this practice in 2011, perhaps heeding the advice of both the GAO and their implementing partners. Yet, as of January 2012, a total of $32 million in food aid had been monetized, according to the IG. Although no current monetization efforts are underway, in 2010 about half (19,000 MT) of the non-emergency food aid was monetized. There are some smaller scale monetization projects scheduled for 2012, most of which rely on third-party monetization which would entail selling the commodities in, say, the Dominican Republic to fund work in Haiti.

Barriers to Reform

As the IG notes, USAID food aid programs can be helpful, at least in the short-term, yet the sustainability of food aid is often questioned. Timothy Schwartz, who has written extensively on the topic, posted a chapter of his book “Travesty in Haiti” on his blog last year:

Food assistance to Haiti during the 1980s tripled reaching a yearly average of over $50 million in gratuitous U.S. surplus beans, corn, rice, and cracked wheat. Put in simpler terms, that was enough food to meet the calorific needs of over 15 percent of the Haitian population.

The large and persistent flows of food aid have done little to increase the self-sufficiency of Haitian agriculture and as Schwartz later describes, have in many cases undermined local production, something for which former President Bill Clinton publicly apologized for in 2010. Additionally, because of byzantine regulations, U.S. food aid is not often delivered in the most efficient and sustainable manner. The result is that a recently released food security index from the Economist Intelligence Unit ranks Haiti in the bottom five out of 105 countries analyzed.

While agreements with the implementing partners discussed above cover the costs of internal distribution in Haiti, as well as management and input costs, the procurement of the commodities themselves as well as their shipment to Haiti are separate costs borne directly by USAID. As we have previously reported, according to public contractor databases, USAID spent at least $18 million between January 14, 2010 and February 26, 2011 on shipping emergency food aid. Additionally, the IG report notes that for the Multi-Year programs over $23 million was spent on ocean freight to deliver $67 million worth of commodities. Because of U.S. regulations, the vast majority of food aid must be shipped on U.S.-flagged carriers. The shipping industry has been cited by researchers as one of the barriers to reform of the U.S. food aid system. A 2010 report from Cornell University explains:

The sheer size and history of US food aid programs obviously create inertia that differentiates it from most donors. But in political economy terms, arguably the most distinctive feature of US food aid programs is the intimate involvement of ocean carriers, who benefit from little?known agricultural cargo preference (ACP) requirements absent in other donor countries. While food aid policy reforms have had to overcome resistance from agribusiness and some nongovernmental organization (NGO) interests in every donor nation, the “iron triangle” of interests formed by agribusiness, some NGOs and ocean carriers has been a uniquely effective lobby for the status quo in US food aid policy.

U.S. procurement regulations also prohibit the procurement of food aid locally, although some recent efforts have resulted in pilot local procurement programs on a small scale. Although these pilot programs have had positive results, they have come under scrutiny in the latest versions of the U.S. Farm Bill that are currently being discussed in the House and Senate. According to The Guardian:

The Senate version of the farm bill would extend the pilot. However, the House version doesn’t even mention it. Now the two chambers of Congress have to reconcile their differences, and with big farm bill fights over farm subsidies and domestic food stamps, it’s anyone’s guess what happens next.

Trade groups are clear in their opposition to local and regional purchasing. In letters to Congress earlier this year 31 agribusiness and shipping groups wrote: “US food aid programmes not only further our humanitarian and security goals by allowing Americans to share their bounty with the needy, but these programmes also provide stable jobs for hundreds of thousands of Americans.”

Previous research has shown the possible benefits of local procurement, and a recent study by the Local and Regional Procurement Learning Alliance points to other potential positive impacts. Surveys showed that “poorer individual recipients were significantly more likely to report maximal overall satisfaction with locally procured food aid than with transoceanic food aid.” Nevertheless, as The Guardian points out, agribusinesses continue to dominate the food aid game:

It is not surprising ADM, Cargill and Bunge dominate food aid, since they dominate global grain trade too. They are also powerful political players; in the first three months of 2012 alone, ADM and Cargill reported lobbying expenses of $360,000 and $340,000 respectively; Bunge reported spending $230,000 over the same period, lobbying Congress on a range of largely agricultural issues, including “support for US in-kind food aid programmes”.

Patrick Woodall, research director at Food and Water Watch, pointed out the inherent contradiction in current policy. The companies that benefit from the US food aid business are the very companies that encourage poor countries to cultivate non-food crops for export rather than food to feed their people. “In terms of global food security, it seems like a double-edged sword,” he said.

The U.S. government has clearly taken steps in the right direction by curbing the use of monetization and beginning pilot local procurement projects, yet even these modest reforms are under threat from the so-called “iron triangle”. The purpose of food aid is supposed to be to sustainably promote food security in developing countries, not to subsidize agribusinesses, the shipping industry or large NGOs. In order to successfully reform USAID’s food aid policies, they must confront these entrenched interests head on.

Martha Mendoza and Trenton Daniel of the Associated Press reported over the weekend on the state of U.S. reconstruction efforts in Haiti. The report is based largely on documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. Mendoza and Daniel write:

Until now, comprehensive details about who is receiving U.S. funds and how they are spending them have not been released. Contracts, budgets and a 300-item spreadsheet obtained by The Associated Press under a Freedom of Information Act request show:

– Of the $988 million spent so far, a quarter went toward debt relief to unburden the hemisphere’s poorest nation of repayments. But after Haiti’s loans were paid off, the government began borrowing again: $657 million so far, largely for oil imports rather than development projects.

– Less than 12 percent of the reconstruction money sent to Haiti after the earthquake has gone toward energy, shelter, ports or other infrastructure. At least a third, $329 million, went to projects that were awarded before the 2010 catastrophe and had little to do with the recovery – such as HIV/AIDS programs.

– Half of the $1.8 billion the U.S. promised for rebuilding is still in the Treasury, its disbursement stymied by an understaffed U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince in the months after the quake and by a Haitian government that was barely functional for more than a year.

– Despite State Department promises to keep spending public, some members of Congress and watchdogs say they aren’t getting detailed information about how the millions are being spent, as dozens of contractors working for the U.S. government in Haiti leave a complex money trail.

Searching for evidence of success after more than two years and two billion dollars, the AP found lasting results hard to come by as “projects fundamental to Haiti’s transformation out of poverty, such as permanent housing and electric plants in the heavily hit capital of Port-au-Prince have not taken off.” Attempting to preempt the AP article, Mark Feierstein, Assistant Administrator for Latin America and Thomas C. Adams, Haiti Special Coordinator at the U.S. Department of State wrote an article, “Progress in Haiti” to combat what they believe to be an unfair portrayal of U.S. reconstruction efforts.

Housing

Mendoza and Daniel note that the reconstruction plan laid out a number of benchmarks, 40 of which were due to be reached this month. But while some benchmarks have been achieved, many have not. One area of particular concern is the provision of shelter. While Adams and Feierstein point to the decrease in the camp population as the first sign of success, AP reports:

Meanwhile, 390,000 people are still homeless. The U.S. promised to rebuild or replace thousands of destroyed homes, but so far has not built even one new permanent house. Auditors say land disputes, lack of USAID oversight and no clear plan have hampered the housing effort. USAID contested that critique.

The State Department says 29,100 transitional shelters have been built, to which residents are adding floors, walls or roofs to make permanent homes, although homes once again vulnerable to natural disasters. U.S. funds also supported 27,000 households as they moved in with friends or families, and repaired 5,800 of the 35,000 damaged homes they had planned to complete with partners by July 2012. Also by this month the U.S. had planned to help resolve 40,000 to 80,000 land disputes, but at latest count had helped 10,400.

As we have previously pointed out, the provision of new shelter options cannot explain the majority of the decrease in the camp population, and many of those that have left the camps have found themselves in even more precarious living conditions, this time out of sight of the humanitarian community.

Education

The article also reveals why it is so important to look beyond the headlines and press releases and try to truly assess what has been done. The largest program in the education sector, which began before the earthquake, was with the Washington, D.C.-based American Institutes for Research (AIR). After the quake, AIR was told they had to “start doing other things with that money.” The AP continues:

In April 2011, USAID announced that a $12 million AIR project had “constructed or is in the process of constructing more than 600 semi-permanent classrooms serving over 60,000 students.”

But when pressed for details, AIR spokesman Larry McQuillan said the number of classrooms actually was 322. They were serving at least 38,640 students each day, many in two shifts.

The organization left Haiti last year after building 120 temporary schools. Today, about half of Haiti’s school age children attend school, about the same as before the catastrophe. The Haitian government says it wants to put another 1.5 million children into school – by 2016.

Transparency

An issue that we have written about extensively is the lack of transparency in U.S. government relief and reconstruction programs. As the AP writes, “From interviews to records requests, efforts to track spending in Haiti by members of Congress, university researchers and news organizations have sometimes been met with resistance and even, in some cases, outright refusals.” Yet the U.S. government, in their preemptive response to the article, point out that:

The State Department and USAID regularly provide information to the public and consult with Congress. In the last nine months alone, we have held more than 50 briefings for Members of Congress and their staffers, submitted strategies and reports, and have made ourselves available to answer inquiries via letters, emails, phone calls and meetings. And, for U.S. development projects, USAID provides Congress with a progress report every two weeks.

And yet, when USAID contracted a company to provide an independent assessment of the U.S.’s earthquake response, the authors of the review couldn’t determine the effectiveness or impact of aid because of a “disquieting lack of data.”

Though USAID often harps on the importance of transparency, AP’s investigation into where the money has gone was stymied by USAID:

In its own effort to follow the money, this year the AP began contacting firms that have received U.S. funding since the earthquake. A memo went out two weeks later.

“A series of requests from journalists may come your way,” cautioned Karine Roy, a spokeswoman for the USAID, in an email to about 50 humanitarian aid officials. “Wait for formal clearance from me before releasing any information.”

U.S. contractors, from pollsters to private development firms, told the AP that USAID had asked them not to provide any information, and referred to publicly released descriptions of their projects.

The Durham, North Carolina-based group Family Health International 360, for example, received $32 million, including $10 million for what the State Department described as an “initiative designed to increase the flow of commercially viable financial products and services to productive enterprises, with a focus on semi-urban and rural areas.”

When the AP asked for a budget breakdown, FHI 360 spokeswoman Liza Morris said, “We were pulling that for you but were told that it was proprietary by our funder.”

Who is the funder?

“Our funder,” she said, “is USAID.”

Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, presumably privy to at least some of the “more than 50 briefings for Members of Congress and their staffers”, comments:

“The lack of specific details in where the money has gone facilitates corruption and waste, creates a closed process that reduces competition and prevents us from assessing the efficacy of certain taxpayer-funded projects.”

Martha Mendoza and Trenton Daniel of the Associated Press reported over the weekend on the state of U.S. reconstruction efforts in Haiti. The report is based largely on documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. Mendoza and Daniel write:

Until now, comprehensive details about who is receiving U.S. funds and how they are spending them have not been released. Contracts, budgets and a 300-item spreadsheet obtained by The Associated Press under a Freedom of Information Act request show:

– Of the $988 million spent so far, a quarter went toward debt relief to unburden the hemisphere’s poorest nation of repayments. But after Haiti’s loans were paid off, the government began borrowing again: $657 million so far, largely for oil imports rather than development projects.

– Less than 12 percent of the reconstruction money sent to Haiti after the earthquake has gone toward energy, shelter, ports or other infrastructure. At least a third, $329 million, went to projects that were awarded before the 2010 catastrophe and had little to do with the recovery – such as HIV/AIDS programs.

– Half of the $1.8 billion the U.S. promised for rebuilding is still in the Treasury, its disbursement stymied by an understaffed U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince in the months after the quake and by a Haitian government that was barely functional for more than a year.

– Despite State Department promises to keep spending public, some members of Congress and watchdogs say they aren’t getting detailed information about how the millions are being spent, as dozens of contractors working for the U.S. government in Haiti leave a complex money trail.

Searching for evidence of success after more than two years and two billion dollars, the AP found lasting results hard to come by as “projects fundamental to Haiti’s transformation out of poverty, such as permanent housing and electric plants in the heavily hit capital of Port-au-Prince have not taken off.” Attempting to preempt the AP article, Mark Feierstein, Assistant Administrator for Latin America and Thomas C. Adams, Haiti Special Coordinator at the U.S. Department of State wrote an article, “Progress in Haiti” to combat what they believe to be an unfair portrayal of U.S. reconstruction efforts.

Housing

Mendoza and Daniel note that the reconstruction plan laid out a number of benchmarks, 40 of which were due to be reached this month. But while some benchmarks have been achieved, many have not. One area of particular concern is the provision of shelter. While Adams and Feierstein point to the decrease in the camp population as the first sign of success, AP reports:

Meanwhile, 390,000 people are still homeless. The U.S. promised to rebuild or replace thousands of destroyed homes, but so far has not built even one new permanent house. Auditors say land disputes, lack of USAID oversight and no clear plan have hampered the housing effort. USAID contested that critique.

The State Department says 29,100 transitional shelters have been built, to which residents are adding floors, walls or roofs to make permanent homes, although homes once again vulnerable to natural disasters. U.S. funds also supported 27,000 households as they moved in with friends or families, and repaired 5,800 of the 35,000 damaged homes they had planned to complete with partners by July 2012. Also by this month the U.S. had planned to help resolve 40,000 to 80,000 land disputes, but at latest count had helped 10,400.

As we have previously pointed out, the provision of new shelter options cannot explain the majority of the decrease in the camp population, and many of those that have left the camps have found themselves in even more precarious living conditions, this time out of sight of the humanitarian community.

Education

The article also reveals why it is so important to look beyond the headlines and press releases and try to truly assess what has been done. The largest program in the education sector, which began before the earthquake, was with the Washington, D.C.-based American Institutes for Research (AIR). After the quake, AIR was told they had to “start doing other things with that money.” The AP continues:

In April 2011, USAID announced that a $12 million AIR project had “constructed or is in the process of constructing more than 600 semi-permanent classrooms serving over 60,000 students.”

But when pressed for details, AIR spokesman Larry McQuillan said the number of classrooms actually was 322. They were serving at least 38,640 students each day, many in two shifts.

The organization left Haiti last year after building 120 temporary schools. Today, about half of Haiti’s school age children attend school, about the same as before the catastrophe. The Haitian government says it wants to put another 1.5 million children into school – by 2016.

Transparency

An issue that we have written about extensively is the lack of transparency in U.S. government relief and reconstruction programs. As the AP writes, “From interviews to records requests, efforts to track spending in Haiti by members of Congress, university researchers and news organizations have sometimes been met with resistance and even, in some cases, outright refusals.” Yet the U.S. government, in their preemptive response to the article, point out that:

The State Department and USAID regularly provide information to the public and consult with Congress. In the last nine months alone, we have held more than 50 briefings for Members of Congress and their staffers, submitted strategies and reports, and have made ourselves available to answer inquiries via letters, emails, phone calls and meetings. And, for U.S. development projects, USAID provides Congress with a progress report every two weeks.

And yet, when USAID contracted a company to provide an independent assessment of the U.S.’s earthquake response, the authors of the review couldn’t determine the effectiveness or impact of aid because of a “disquieting lack of data.”

Though USAID often harps on the importance of transparency, AP’s investigation into where the money has gone was stymied by USAID:

In its own effort to follow the money, this year the AP began contacting firms that have received U.S. funding since the earthquake. A memo went out two weeks later.

“A series of requests from journalists may come your way,” cautioned Karine Roy, a spokeswoman for the USAID, in an email to about 50 humanitarian aid officials. “Wait for formal clearance from me before releasing any information.”

U.S. contractors, from pollsters to private development firms, told the AP that USAID had asked them not to provide any information, and referred to publicly released descriptions of their projects.

The Durham, North Carolina-based group Family Health International 360, for example, received $32 million, including $10 million for what the State Department described as an “initiative designed to increase the flow of commercially viable financial products and services to productive enterprises, with a focus on semi-urban and rural areas.”

When the AP asked for a budget breakdown, FHI 360 spokeswoman Liza Morris said, “We were pulling that for you but were told that it was proprietary by our funder.”

Who is the funder?

“Our funder,” she said, “is USAID.”

Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, presumably privy to at least some of the “more than 50 briefings for Members of Congress and their staffers”, comments:

“The lack of specific details in where the money has gone facilitates corruption and waste, creates a closed process that reduces competition and prevents us from assessing the efficacy of certain taxpayer-funded projects.”

Haiti’s cholera infection and death rates show an alarming recent increase, with official statistics reporting 290 deaths and nearly 40,000 cases in May and June alone, as the rainy season returned. Pressure continues to build for the United Nations to take responsibility for causing the cholera outbreak, which has now killed over 7,418 people and infected over 579,014. Last week, Hollywood took notice of the issue, with some 90 celebrities attending a screening of the Olivia Wilde-produced documentary film, “Baseball in the Time of Cholera” directed by David Darg and Bryn Mooser, and many urged action on the issue via Twitter, leading to the hashtag #undeny becoming a top trend for much of the day last Thursday.

Today, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which features prominently in the film, took “Baseball” to Congress with a screening. The move is well-timed, as 104 members of Congress just released a letter addressed to U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice calling on her to “to strongly encourage the United Nations to take a leadership role in addressing this catastrophic public health crisis,” specifically by urging “UN authorities to support efficient treatment and prevention of the epidemic and to help Haiti acquire adequate water and sanitation infrastructure.”

The letter, which was circulated by Rep. John Conyers (D – MI) states:

As cholera was brought to Haiti due to the actions of the UN, we believe that it is imperative for the UN to now act decisively to control the cholera epidemic. UN authorities should work with Haiti’s government and the international community to confront and, ultimately, eliminate this deadly disease from Haiti and the rest of the island of Hispaniola.  A failure to act will not only lead to countless more deaths: it will undermine the crucial effort to reconstruct Haiti and will pose a permanent public health threat to the populations of neighboring nations.

According to the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), Haiti is one of the most underserved countries in the world in terms of water and sanitation infrastructure. These infrastructural weaknesses have made Haiti particularly susceptible to water-borne disease. Cholera had not been present in Haiti for over a century prior to October 2010, making Haitians ‘immunologically naïve’ and even more vulnerable to the disease.

On January 12th of this year, the presidents of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, joined by UN agencies PAHO, World Health Organization and UNICEF and the U.S. CDC, appealed to donor countries to honor pledges and provide funds for water and sanitation infrastructure.  However, there has been little response to this appeal from the international community.  Moreover, with the onset of the rainy season, the number of deaths from cholera is rising once again.

Accordingly, we call upon you to urge UN authorities to play a central role in addressing the cholera crisis.  First, by helping ensure that resources are in place to provide adequate treatment and prevention of the disease in the short term. Secondly, by taking the lead in helping Haiti and the rest of the island of Hispaniola acquire the necessary funding to develop the water and sanitation infrastructure needed to effectively control the cholera epidemic.

Finally, we ask that you encourage UN authorities and all donor governments involved in the effort to fight cholera to intensify their cooperation with the Haitian state and people through capacity-building and the active inclusion of government representatives in decision-making and through the regular consultation of civil society actors. [The full letter is available here.]

The 104 members of Congress are the latest to join a growing chorus calling for the UN to take responsibility and ensure funding for Haiti’s water and sanitation infrastructure. The New York Times made the same recommendations in an editorial May 12, thousands of individuals have voiced the same in online petitions, and of course these are the same demands made by the 5,000 Haitian victims of cholera who filed claims with the UN in November. But over 630 days after cholera was first detected in Haiti, the UN has yet to apologize for introducing the disease.

A new UN document, “Draft articles on the responsibility of international organizations”, which was cited by Ruth Wedgwood, Edward B. Burling Professor of International Law and Diplomacy at SAIS, at this morning’s briefing, could pressure the UN itself to act if it is eventually approved by the General Assembly. Reportedly already approved by the UN’s International Law Commission, it includes, among other provisions:

Article 35
Restitution

An international organization responsible for an internationally wrongful act is under an obligation to make restitution, that is, to re-establish the situation which existed before the wrongful act was committed, provided and to the extent that restitution:

(a) is not materially impossible;

(b) does not involve a burden out of all proportion to the benefit deriving from restitution instead of compensation.

Article 36
Compensation

1. The international organization responsible for an internationally wrongful act is under an obligation to compensate for the damage caused thereby, insofar as such damage is not made good by restitution.

2. The compensation shall cover any financially assessable damage including loss of profits insofar as it is established.

Article 37
Satisfaction

1. The international organization responsible for an internationally wrongful act is under an obligation to give satisfaction for the injury caused by that act insofar as it cannot be made good by restitution or compensation.

2. Satisfaction may consist in an acknowledgement of the breach, an expression of regret, a formal apology or another appropriate modality.

3. Satisfaction shall not be out of proportion to the injury and may not take a form humiliating to the responsible international organization.

Haiti’s cholera infection and death rates show an alarming recent increase, with official statistics reporting 290 deaths and nearly 40,000 cases in May and June alone, as the rainy season returned. Pressure continues to build for the United Nations to take responsibility for causing the cholera outbreak, which has now killed over 7,418 people and infected over 579,014. Last week, Hollywood took notice of the issue, with some 90 celebrities attending a screening of the Olivia Wilde-produced documentary film, “Baseball in the Time of Cholera” directed by David Darg and Bryn Mooser, and many urged action on the issue via Twitter, leading to the hashtag #undeny becoming a top trend for much of the day last Thursday.

Today, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which features prominently in the film, took “Baseball” to Congress with a screening. The move is well-timed, as 104 members of Congress just released a letter addressed to U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice calling on her to “to strongly encourage the United Nations to take a leadership role in addressing this catastrophic public health crisis,” specifically by urging “UN authorities to support efficient treatment and prevention of the epidemic and to help Haiti acquire adequate water and sanitation infrastructure.”

The letter, which was circulated by Rep. John Conyers (D – MI) states:

As cholera was brought to Haiti due to the actions of the UN, we believe that it is imperative for the UN to now act decisively to control the cholera epidemic. UN authorities should work with Haiti’s government and the international community to confront and, ultimately, eliminate this deadly disease from Haiti and the rest of the island of Hispaniola.  A failure to act will not only lead to countless more deaths: it will undermine the crucial effort to reconstruct Haiti and will pose a permanent public health threat to the populations of neighboring nations.

According to the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), Haiti is one of the most underserved countries in the world in terms of water and sanitation infrastructure. These infrastructural weaknesses have made Haiti particularly susceptible to water-borne disease. Cholera had not been present in Haiti for over a century prior to October 2010, making Haitians ‘immunologically naïve’ and even more vulnerable to the disease.

On January 12th of this year, the presidents of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, joined by UN agencies PAHO, World Health Organization and UNICEF and the U.S. CDC, appealed to donor countries to honor pledges and provide funds for water and sanitation infrastructure.  However, there has been little response to this appeal from the international community.  Moreover, with the onset of the rainy season, the number of deaths from cholera is rising once again.

Accordingly, we call upon you to urge UN authorities to play a central role in addressing the cholera crisis.  First, by helping ensure that resources are in place to provide adequate treatment and prevention of the disease in the short term. Secondly, by taking the lead in helping Haiti and the rest of the island of Hispaniola acquire the necessary funding to develop the water and sanitation infrastructure needed to effectively control the cholera epidemic.

Finally, we ask that you encourage UN authorities and all donor governments involved in the effort to fight cholera to intensify their cooperation with the Haitian state and people through capacity-building and the active inclusion of government representatives in decision-making and through the regular consultation of civil society actors. [The full letter is available here.]

The 104 members of Congress are the latest to join a growing chorus calling for the UN to take responsibility and ensure funding for Haiti’s water and sanitation infrastructure. The New York Times made the same recommendations in an editorial May 12, thousands of individuals have voiced the same in online petitions, and of course these are the same demands made by the 5,000 Haitian victims of cholera who filed claims with the UN in November. But over 630 days after cholera was first detected in Haiti, the UN has yet to apologize for introducing the disease.

A new UN document, “Draft articles on the responsibility of international organizations”, which was cited by Ruth Wedgwood, Edward B. Burling Professor of International Law and Diplomacy at SAIS, at this morning’s briefing, could pressure the UN itself to act if it is eventually approved by the General Assembly. Reportedly already approved by the UN’s International Law Commission, it includes, among other provisions:

Article 35
Restitution

An international organization responsible for an internationally wrongful act is under an obligation to make restitution, that is, to re-establish the situation which existed before the wrongful act was committed, provided and to the extent that restitution:

(a) is not materially impossible;

(b) does not involve a burden out of all proportion to the benefit deriving from restitution instead of compensation.

Article 36
Compensation

1. The international organization responsible for an internationally wrongful act is under an obligation to compensate for the damage caused thereby, insofar as such damage is not made good by restitution.

2. The compensation shall cover any financially assessable damage including loss of profits insofar as it is established.

Article 37
Satisfaction

1. The international organization responsible for an internationally wrongful act is under an obligation to give satisfaction for the injury caused by that act insofar as it cannot be made good by restitution or compensation.

2. Satisfaction may consist in an acknowledgement of the breach, an expression of regret, a formal apology or another appropriate modality.

3. Satisfaction shall not be out of proportion to the injury and may not take a form humiliating to the responsible international organization.

In March, three Pakistani MINUSTAH troops were found guilty, sentenced to one year in prison and repatriated for the rape of a 14-year old Haitian boy. Although the trial was held on Haitian soil, it was a “military justice procedure…undertaken in accordance with the national laws of Pakistan,” according to the UN. Additionally, Reuters reported at the time that “Haitian government authorities were given no advance notice of the military tribunal.” Had the troops faced a Haitian court, their sentences would likely have been much longer. Had the troops had to face Haitian justice they may also have had to respond to further allegations that the Pakistani UN Mission tried to cover-up the crime, going so far as to kidnap the victim.

While some Haitian media and blogs picked up the story at the time, little has been written about the attempted cover-up.  Independent journalist Kathie Klarreich, who recently traveled to Gonaïves where the crime took place, mentioned the cover-up in a larger piece about MINUSTAH scandals for the Christian Science Monitor. Klarreich has now provided new details to HRRW on what happened, raising even more questions about the level of impunity for UN troops in Haiti and just how widespread these abuses are. While the Haitian police have witnesses and evidence tying MINUSTAH to the cover-up of rape, the UN has apparently not been cooperative and has failed to adequately investigate and hold accountable those responsible.

What Happened

The UN first disclosed the case in January, announcing that an investigative team would be heading to Haiti. In February, as the circumstances around the case became clearer, Senator Youri Latortue took to the airwaves to call for the lifting of immunity for MINUSTAH and to denounce the apparent cover-up that was executed by the Pakistani contingent. After witnesses of the abuse went to local police, the 14-year-old boy was kidnapped and taken to a MINUSTAH base in Cap- Haïtien with the “objective to prevent the continuation of the investigation” according to Latortue. On January 26, 2012, police arrested Vladimir Alexandre, a local Haitian, for being an accomplice to the kidnapping. Another alleged accomplice is still at large. While the “military tribunal” was conducted behind closed doors and the guilty members of MINUSTAH whisked out of the country, the local case in the city of Gonaïves has gone nowhere.

Alexandre, speaking with Klarreich, defended himself, telling her, “All I did was show them where he [the victim] lived. I don’t know anything about taking him anywhere,” adding that he didn’t receive anything from the soldiers in return. But Klarreich said that what he told her directly contradicts what he had told police when they arrested him.  According to a copy of his testimony which Klarreich read, Alexandre admitted that he knew the boy, that he’d been in contact with the Pakistani MINUSTAH troops, and that he and the other accomplice had agreed to remove the boy from the area. He also admits that the Pakistanis came to his home bearing gifts for his mother – $100 Haitian Gourdes ($12 US) and a sack of rice.

Alexandre remains in the police station jail, held in a room with 111 other prisoners. The Gonaïves police chief told Klarreich that according to Haitian law, Alexandre could be held for up to two months but if no charges were brought then legally he should be allowed to go free.  “I am not here to judge,” the police chief said, “but rather to make sure that the justice system works. Let’s remove the obstacles and finish this case.” The local officials in charge of the case continue to seek answers, while the lawyers for the victim continue to seek compensation from the United Nations.


Military Tribunal Covers-Up the Cover-Up

This case was different than some of the other high-profile MINUSTAH abuse cases in that this time it involved members of a Formed Police Unit (FPU) rather than military personnel. Unlike cases involving military, the United Nations can investigate misconduct of FPU’s, but “responsibility for disciplinary action in these units rests with the commanders of the national units, who must keep the Head of Mission fully informed in all disciplinary matters.”

In the case of the Pakistani FPU, the unit commander was accused by Latortue of complicity in the boy’s kidnapping. Although HRRW can’t confirm that the specific commander that Latortue accused was the person responsible for disciplinary action, the possible involvement of higher-ups within the Pakistani unit would clearly compromise any sense of impartiality.

In early February, the Haitian government wrote a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, requesting he lift immunity, enabling those accused of rape of being tried in a Haitian court.  The Haitian Senate followed suit by unanimously approving a resolution requesting the same. However UNSG Ban Ki-moon did not fulfill the request, despite the fact that it appears he had the power to do so. According to UN Department of Peacekeeping Policy:

As “Experts on Mission”, members of FPUs are inter alia “…immune from personal arrest or detention” and are immune from legal process of any kind “in respect of words spoken or written and acts done by them in the course of the performance of their mission”. However, the Secretary-General has “…the right and the duty to waive the immunity of any expert in any case where, in his opinion, the immunity would impede the course of justice and it can be waived without prejudice to the interests of the United Nations”.

Rather than lift immunity and let the details of the case become public, the tribunal was held behind closed doors. Le Nouvelliste reported in May that the local authorities in Gonaïves investigating the case, and even the victim’s family only learned of the tribunal through the media. While the three rapists have been repatriated and are serving short jail sentences, the MINUSTAH accomplices in the cover-up have not been held responsible. In responding to Klarreich’s piece in the Christian Science Monitor, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in Haiti, Mariano Fernández Amunátegui addressed the sexual abuse allegations:

I will not evade the cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, against which the United Nations are committed to enforce its zero tolerance policy. They are outrageous and totally unacceptable, and they are severely punished. Impunity does not prevail.

Yet, while the UN has sought to portray this and other acts of sexual abuse as simple cases of “a few bad apples”, the possible involvement of higher level MINUSTAH officials and multiple bases to cover-up a rape should raise serious questions about the commitment to accountability and “zero tolerance” on the part of the UN.

In March, three Pakistani MINUSTAH troops were found guilty, sentenced to one year in prison and repatriated for the rape of a 14-year old Haitian boy. Although the trial was held on Haitian soil, it was a “military justice procedure…undertaken in accordance with the national laws of Pakistan,” according to the UN. Additionally, Reuters reported at the time that “Haitian government authorities were given no advance notice of the military tribunal.” Had the troops faced a Haitian court, their sentences would likely have been much longer. Had the troops had to face Haitian justice they may also have had to respond to further allegations that the Pakistani UN Mission tried to cover-up the crime, going so far as to kidnap the victim.

While some Haitian media and blogs picked up the story at the time, little has been written about the attempted cover-up.  Independent journalist Kathie Klarreich, who recently traveled to Gonaïves where the crime took place, mentioned the cover-up in a larger piece about MINUSTAH scandals for the Christian Science Monitor. Klarreich has now provided new details to HRRW on what happened, raising even more questions about the level of impunity for UN troops in Haiti and just how widespread these abuses are. While the Haitian police have witnesses and evidence tying MINUSTAH to the cover-up of rape, the UN has apparently not been cooperative and has failed to adequately investigate and hold accountable those responsible.

What Happened

The UN first disclosed the case in January, announcing that an investigative team would be heading to Haiti. In February, as the circumstances around the case became clearer, Senator Youri Latortue took to the airwaves to call for the lifting of immunity for MINUSTAH and to denounce the apparent cover-up that was executed by the Pakistani contingent. After witnesses of the abuse went to local police, the 14-year-old boy was kidnapped and taken to a MINUSTAH base in Cap- Haïtien with the “objective to prevent the continuation of the investigation” according to Latortue. On January 26, 2012, police arrested Vladimir Alexandre, a local Haitian, for being an accomplice to the kidnapping. Another alleged accomplice is still at large. While the “military tribunal” was conducted behind closed doors and the guilty members of MINUSTAH whisked out of the country, the local case in the city of Gonaïves has gone nowhere.

Alexandre, speaking with Klarreich, defended himself, telling her, “All I did was show them where he [the victim] lived. I don’t know anything about taking him anywhere,” adding that he didn’t receive anything from the soldiers in return. But Klarreich said that what he told her directly contradicts what he had told police when they arrested him.  According to a copy of his testimony which Klarreich read, Alexandre admitted that he knew the boy, that he’d been in contact with the Pakistani MINUSTAH troops, and that he and the other accomplice had agreed to remove the boy from the area. He also admits that the Pakistanis came to his home bearing gifts for his mother – $100 Haitian Gourdes ($12 US) and a sack of rice.

Alexandre remains in the police station jail, held in a room with 111 other prisoners. The Gonaïves police chief told Klarreich that according to Haitian law, Alexandre could be held for up to two months but if no charges were brought then legally he should be allowed to go free.  “I am not here to judge,” the police chief said, “but rather to make sure that the justice system works. Let’s remove the obstacles and finish this case.” The local officials in charge of the case continue to seek answers, while the lawyers for the victim continue to seek compensation from the United Nations.


Military Tribunal Covers-Up the Cover-Up

This case was different than some of the other high-profile MINUSTAH abuse cases in that this time it involved members of a Formed Police Unit (FPU) rather than military personnel. Unlike cases involving military, the United Nations can investigate misconduct of FPU’s, but “responsibility for disciplinary action in these units rests with the commanders of the national units, who must keep the Head of Mission fully informed in all disciplinary matters.”

In the case of the Pakistani FPU, the unit commander was accused by Latortue of complicity in the boy’s kidnapping. Although HRRW can’t confirm that the specific commander that Latortue accused was the person responsible for disciplinary action, the possible involvement of higher-ups within the Pakistani unit would clearly compromise any sense of impartiality.

In early February, the Haitian government wrote a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, requesting he lift immunity, enabling those accused of rape of being tried in a Haitian court.  The Haitian Senate followed suit by unanimously approving a resolution requesting the same. However UNSG Ban Ki-moon did not fulfill the request, despite the fact that it appears he had the power to do so. According to UN Department of Peacekeeping Policy:

As “Experts on Mission”, members of FPUs are inter alia “…immune from personal arrest or detention” and are immune from legal process of any kind “in respect of words spoken or written and acts done by them in the course of the performance of their mission”. However, the Secretary-General has “…the right and the duty to waive the immunity of any expert in any case where, in his opinion, the immunity would impede the course of justice and it can be waived without prejudice to the interests of the United Nations”.

Rather than lift immunity and let the details of the case become public, the tribunal was held behind closed doors. Le Nouvelliste reported in May that the local authorities in Gonaïves investigating the case, and even the victim’s family only learned of the tribunal through the media. While the three rapists have been repatriated and are serving short jail sentences, the MINUSTAH accomplices in the cover-up have not been held responsible. In responding to Klarreich’s piece in the Christian Science Monitor, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in Haiti, Mariano Fernández Amunátegui addressed the sexual abuse allegations:

I will not evade the cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, against which the United Nations are committed to enforce its zero tolerance policy. They are outrageous and totally unacceptable, and they are severely punished. Impunity does not prevail.

Yet, while the UN has sought to portray this and other acts of sexual abuse as simple cases of “a few bad apples”, the possible involvement of higher level MINUSTAH officials and multiple bases to cover-up a rape should raise serious questions about the commitment to accountability and “zero tolerance” on the part of the UN.

Vijaya Ramachandran and Julie Walz of the Center for Global Development recently reported on their trip to Haiti, where they further examined aid accountability and the ongoing reconstruction effort, the themes of their recent policy paper which we have previously described.

Among the problems that Ramachandran and Walz noted were:

International NGOs have frequent staff turnover and very high costs.  In the aftermath of the quake, we learned that senior staff came and went, some staying as little as a few weeks.  A new arrival meant starting all over again, often with an individual who had little knowledge of Haiti and no knowledge of Creole (or even French).   The cost of maintaining expatriate staff in Haiti is very high.  According to the Miami Herald, it can cost upwards of $200,000 annually in housing and other benefits to keep a senior-level manager in Haiti. Some of our interviewees explained how NGOs and foreign workers are exempt from Haitian taxes and often do not follow Haitian registration requirements.  Donors have spent billions of dollars trying to repair Haiti’s broken infrastructure, largely with their own goods and labor.  In the meantime, most Haitians in Port-au-Prince spend their day trying to sell a few vegetables or fruit or other goods on the sidewalk, which in most cases, does not generate enough money to feed themselves or their families.

We repeatedly heard stories about the unintended economic and social consequences of the influx of foreign workers.  Housing costs in certain areas have skyrocketed – rentals easily go for over $30,000 per year, with some houses being rented for a lot more. Restaurants and supermarkets in certain areas of Petion-ville cater exclusively to foreign tastes, and prices of basic goods have been driven up to a level that even middle-class Haitians cannot afford.

And:

[I]nternational NGOs have set up programs and carried out construction projects that are often at odds with local needs, and sometimes harmful in the longer-term.  The United Nations Logistics Center, near the airport, was virtually inaccessible to Haitians in the period immediately following the quake.  The brand new U.S. embassy, housing the largest USAID mission in the world, is like a fortress, complete with a perimeter of sandbags and armed guards.  A lack of communication often means mistakes are made, for instance we learned of a housing project constructed by an NGO over a watershed for Port-au-Prince, in violation of environmental guidelines and the Government of Haiti’s own rules.

(See the full post here.)

But as we have described in earlier posts, it is not only NGO’s that carry out ill-planned construction projects. As Haiti Grassroots Watch details in a new investigative report, the Haitian government appears to be channeling PetroCaribe funds into a massive housing development, apparently to be adjacent to a planned industrial park. HGW’s contacted various authorities in an effort to get answers to questions about the project, such as

What is the exact number of lodgings to be built? What is the total budget? When will the construction be completed? Under what conditions was the contract signed, and by whom? What firm is executing the project, and what firm is overseeing the project? Does the project fit with the government’s new housing policy? Who is or are the landowner(s) and how much money did he or they receive?

Are the houses meant to be “public” housing for the victims of the January 2010 earthquake?

Or – like the housing being built in the north near the new industrial park in Caracol – are they “private,” meant for the eventual workers at another industrial park, planned by the government? Or maybe for the workers that will work at a third set of factories, planned for the private “integrated economic zone” of Corail, more commonly known as “NABATEC”?

Is the “public” subsidizing the “private” by making it cheaper and easier for foreign corporations to set up factories where they can hire workers for the lowest salary in the hemisphere?

But HGW describes their inquiries into the Morne à Cabri housing project being met with obstruction and obfuscation by an array of authorities. For example

The Supreme Court of Accounts and of Administrative Litigations (CSCCA in French) is supposed to give  advice on all the contracts, accords and convention that the government signs. But on two visits, a journalist was rebuked.

“You don’t have the right to that information. Who are you to ask me about the contracts? A state agency? A company?” were among the rude and hostile responses.

The HGW team summarized the cold response thus:

Haitian officials have decided to keep their mouths shut about the circumstances that led to the country’s largest housing project, even though that silence is a flagrant violation of Article 40 of the Haitian Constitution, which states:

“The State is obligated to publicize via the written, spoken and televised media, in Creole and French, the laws, orders, decrees, international accords, treaties, conventions, and all that concerns the life of the nation, except for information that would put in jeopardy national security.”

But

The list of authorities and entities refusing to speak – or at least, to speak about the contract – is long.

Vijaya Ramachandran and Julie Walz of the Center for Global Development recently reported on their trip to Haiti, where they further examined aid accountability and the ongoing reconstruction effort, the themes of their recent policy paper which we have previously described.

Among the problems that Ramachandran and Walz noted were:

International NGOs have frequent staff turnover and very high costs.  In the aftermath of the quake, we learned that senior staff came and went, some staying as little as a few weeks.  A new arrival meant starting all over again, often with an individual who had little knowledge of Haiti and no knowledge of Creole (or even French).   The cost of maintaining expatriate staff in Haiti is very high.  According to the Miami Herald, it can cost upwards of $200,000 annually in housing and other benefits to keep a senior-level manager in Haiti. Some of our interviewees explained how NGOs and foreign workers are exempt from Haitian taxes and often do not follow Haitian registration requirements.  Donors have spent billions of dollars trying to repair Haiti’s broken infrastructure, largely with their own goods and labor.  In the meantime, most Haitians in Port-au-Prince spend their day trying to sell a few vegetables or fruit or other goods on the sidewalk, which in most cases, does not generate enough money to feed themselves or their families.

We repeatedly heard stories about the unintended economic and social consequences of the influx of foreign workers.  Housing costs in certain areas have skyrocketed – rentals easily go for over $30,000 per year, with some houses being rented for a lot more. Restaurants and supermarkets in certain areas of Petion-ville cater exclusively to foreign tastes, and prices of basic goods have been driven up to a level that even middle-class Haitians cannot afford.

And:

[I]nternational NGOs have set up programs and carried out construction projects that are often at odds with local needs, and sometimes harmful in the longer-term.  The United Nations Logistics Center, near the airport, was virtually inaccessible to Haitians in the period immediately following the quake.  The brand new U.S. embassy, housing the largest USAID mission in the world, is like a fortress, complete with a perimeter of sandbags and armed guards.  A lack of communication often means mistakes are made, for instance we learned of a housing project constructed by an NGO over a watershed for Port-au-Prince, in violation of environmental guidelines and the Government of Haiti’s own rules.

(See the full post here.)

But as we have described in earlier posts, it is not only NGO’s that carry out ill-planned construction projects. As Haiti Grassroots Watch details in a new investigative report, the Haitian government appears to be channeling PetroCaribe funds into a massive housing development, apparently to be adjacent to a planned industrial park. HGW’s contacted various authorities in an effort to get answers to questions about the project, such as

What is the exact number of lodgings to be built? What is the total budget? When will the construction be completed? Under what conditions was the contract signed, and by whom? What firm is executing the project, and what firm is overseeing the project? Does the project fit with the government’s new housing policy? Who is or are the landowner(s) and how much money did he or they receive?

Are the houses meant to be “public” housing for the victims of the January 2010 earthquake?

Or – like the housing being built in the north near the new industrial park in Caracol – are they “private,” meant for the eventual workers at another industrial park, planned by the government? Or maybe for the workers that will work at a third set of factories, planned for the private “integrated economic zone” of Corail, more commonly known as “NABATEC”?

Is the “public” subsidizing the “private” by making it cheaper and easier for foreign corporations to set up factories where they can hire workers for the lowest salary in the hemisphere?

But HGW describes their inquiries into the Morne à Cabri housing project being met with obstruction and obfuscation by an array of authorities. For example

The Supreme Court of Accounts and of Administrative Litigations (CSCCA in French) is supposed to give  advice on all the contracts, accords and convention that the government signs. But on two visits, a journalist was rebuked.

“You don’t have the right to that information. Who are you to ask me about the contracts? A state agency? A company?” were among the rude and hostile responses.

The HGW team summarized the cold response thus:

Haitian officials have decided to keep their mouths shut about the circumstances that led to the country’s largest housing project, even though that silence is a flagrant violation of Article 40 of the Haitian Constitution, which states:

“The State is obligated to publicize via the written, spoken and televised media, in Creole and French, the laws, orders, decrees, international accords, treaties, conventions, and all that concerns the life of the nation, except for information that would put in jeopardy national security.”

But

The list of authorities and entities refusing to speak – or at least, to speak about the contract – is long.

This is the second installment looking at the New York Times in depth investigation into the Caracol industrial park. For part one, click here.

Jobs at What Cost?

Sontag reports that while concerns over Sae-A’s labor practices were consistently brought to the attention of officials, the project continued to go forward without a comprehensive review:

Before the Haiti deal was sealed, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. urged American and international officials to reconsider, given what it described in a detailed memo as Sae-A’s egregious antiunion repression, including “acts of violence and intimidation” in Guatemala, where Homero Fuentes, who monitors factories for American retailers, calls Sae-A “one of the major labor violators.”

The five-page memo “accused Sae-A of using bribes, death threats and imprisonment to prevent and break up unions.” Sontag describes the allegations against Sae-A in some detail, and notes that while “Gail W. Strickler… the assistant United States trade representative for textiles, says she considered Sae-A ‘an exemplary corporate citizen,’” meanwhile “Scott Nova, executive director of the Workers Rights Consortium, calls the company ‘a big player in a dirty industry with a track record that suggests a degree of ruthlessness even worse than the norm.’”

Of course, labor rights violations in the garment sector in Haiti are nothing new. In fact, on the same day that U.S., Haitian and development bank officials inaugurated the Caracol park, an investigation by Better Work Haiti found “evidence of violations of freedom of association” at other Haitian textile factories.  The most recent Better Work Haiti report, which “uncovered a higher number of violations in the areas of core labour standards than what [was] observed in the previous assessments”, is available here. 11 of 20 factories were found to be non-compliant in at least one of the core labor standards.

“American officials said Sae-A would be closely monitored in Haiti because of trade legislation requiring stringent scrutiny through an American-financed inspection program.”  As part of the legislation providing duty free access to the U.S. market, the U.S., together with the Better Work Haiti program, provides oversight as well as training to employers, employees and Haitian government officials on labor rights issues. But as Yannick Etienne of the Haitian workers’ rights group Batay Ouvriye tells Sontag, ‘“it remains to be seen” whether the inspection program will have “any teeth.”’

Every two years, the U.S. must identify which producers are in compliance with core labor standards and Haitian labor law. The most recent report, which was published in the last month, notes that, “While this is USTR’s fourth report, this is the first reporting period that [non-compliant] producers have been identified.” Yet, giving credence to Etienne’s concerns, this does not mean that the three producers identified as non-compliant on core labor standards will miss out on duty-free access to the U.S. market. As long as the producer shows an effort to improve and work with the U.S. to correct the problems, they will face no sanctions.

One resident of Caracol, who went to Nicaragua to participate in a Sae-A apprenticeship came back so disillusioned he told the New York Times that as soon as he found other work, he would quit his job with Sae-A:

“The way the Koreans treat the Nicaraguan workers is awful,” Mr. Joseph said. “They just treat them like nothing. Just: ‘Do your job. If you don’t do it, I’ll call somebody else to do it.’ ”

Sae-A Chasing Lower Costs

Sae-A made it clear to their employees in Guatemala that if their costs went up, they would pack up and move elsewhere:

According to the formal minutes of a labor-management meeting, a Sae-A executive accused union leaders of saddling the company with expenses that would force the factory’s closing. “It should be made clear,” the executive said, “that the members of the board of directors would simply go to work in another country and the real losers would be the workers.”

Following continued confrontation with the union, the factory closed in 2011, yet as Sontag points out much of their production had already shifted to Nicaragua, another beneficiary of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). And, as Mr Garwood, the Sae-A advisor pointed out, once trade preferences for Nicaragua expire in 2014, “a lot of product orders now going to factories in Nicaragua can go through the Haiti operation.” Which, as independent journalist Tate Watkins points out, begs the question:

With so much of the project’s costs being borne by USAID and IDB and dependent upon favorable tax and tariff deals in both Haiti and the U.S., you can’t help but wonder whether the company’s product orders will still be going “through the Haiti operation” in 10 years.

Of course, while labor rights, environmental degradation and social concerns may have been side-tracked in the race to push forward the flagship reconstruction project, the program’s backers were aware of the risks. IDB manager José Agustín Aguerre tells Sontag:

“But to be honest, in a country like Haiti, maquiladoras are a good opportunity, a quick employment generator. Yes, it’s low-paying, yes, it’s unstable, yes, maybe tomorrow there will a better opportunity for firms elsewhere and they will just leave. But everyone thought this was a risk worth taking.”

But Etienne, Sontag writes, worries that “Caracol will undermine the nearby Codevi industrial park, the only unionized garment operation in the country.

This is the second installment looking at the New York Times in depth investigation into the Caracol industrial park. For part one, click here.

Jobs at What Cost?

Sontag reports that while concerns over Sae-A’s labor practices were consistently brought to the attention of officials, the project continued to go forward without a comprehensive review:

Before the Haiti deal was sealed, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. urged American and international officials to reconsider, given what it described in a detailed memo as Sae-A’s egregious antiunion repression, including “acts of violence and intimidation” in Guatemala, where Homero Fuentes, who monitors factories for American retailers, calls Sae-A “one of the major labor violators.”

The five-page memo “accused Sae-A of using bribes, death threats and imprisonment to prevent and break up unions.” Sontag describes the allegations against Sae-A in some detail, and notes that while “Gail W. Strickler… the assistant United States trade representative for textiles, says she considered Sae-A ‘an exemplary corporate citizen,’” meanwhile “Scott Nova, executive director of the Workers Rights Consortium, calls the company ‘a big player in a dirty industry with a track record that suggests a degree of ruthlessness even worse than the norm.’”

Of course, labor rights violations in the garment sector in Haiti are nothing new. In fact, on the same day that U.S., Haitian and development bank officials inaugurated the Caracol park, an investigation by Better Work Haiti found “evidence of violations of freedom of association” at other Haitian textile factories.  The most recent Better Work Haiti report, which “uncovered a higher number of violations in the areas of core labour standards than what [was] observed in the previous assessments”, is available here. 11 of 20 factories were found to be non-compliant in at least one of the core labor standards.

“American officials said Sae-A would be closely monitored in Haiti because of trade legislation requiring stringent scrutiny through an American-financed inspection program.”  As part of the legislation providing duty free access to the U.S. market, the U.S., together with the Better Work Haiti program, provides oversight as well as training to employers, employees and Haitian government officials on labor rights issues. But as Yannick Etienne of the Haitian workers’ rights group Batay Ouvriye tells Sontag, ‘“it remains to be seen” whether the inspection program will have “any teeth.”’

Every two years, the U.S. must identify which producers are in compliance with core labor standards and Haitian labor law. The most recent report, which was published in the last month, notes that, “While this is USTR’s fourth report, this is the first reporting period that [non-compliant] producers have been identified.” Yet, giving credence to Etienne’s concerns, this does not mean that the three producers identified as non-compliant on core labor standards will miss out on duty-free access to the U.S. market. As long as the producer shows an effort to improve and work with the U.S. to correct the problems, they will face no sanctions.

One resident of Caracol, who went to Nicaragua to participate in a Sae-A apprenticeship came back so disillusioned he told the New York Times that as soon as he found other work, he would quit his job with Sae-A:

“The way the Koreans treat the Nicaraguan workers is awful,” Mr. Joseph said. “They just treat them like nothing. Just: ‘Do your job. If you don’t do it, I’ll call somebody else to do it.’ ”

Sae-A Chasing Lower Costs

Sae-A made it clear to their employees in Guatemala that if their costs went up, they would pack up and move elsewhere:

According to the formal minutes of a labor-management meeting, a Sae-A executive accused union leaders of saddling the company with expenses that would force the factory’s closing. “It should be made clear,” the executive said, “that the members of the board of directors would simply go to work in another country and the real losers would be the workers.”

Following continued confrontation with the union, the factory closed in 2011, yet as Sontag points out much of their production had already shifted to Nicaragua, another beneficiary of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). And, as Mr Garwood, the Sae-A advisor pointed out, once trade preferences for Nicaragua expire in 2014, “a lot of product orders now going to factories in Nicaragua can go through the Haiti operation.” Which, as independent journalist Tate Watkins points out, begs the question:

With so much of the project’s costs being borne by USAID and IDB and dependent upon favorable tax and tariff deals in both Haiti and the U.S., you can’t help but wonder whether the company’s product orders will still be going “through the Haiti operation” in 10 years.

Of course, while labor rights, environmental degradation and social concerns may have been side-tracked in the race to push forward the flagship reconstruction project, the program’s backers were aware of the risks. IDB manager José Agustín Aguerre tells Sontag:

“But to be honest, in a country like Haiti, maquiladoras are a good opportunity, a quick employment generator. Yes, it’s low-paying, yes, it’s unstable, yes, maybe tomorrow there will a better opportunity for firms elsewhere and they will just leave. But everyone thought this was a risk worth taking.”

But Etienne, Sontag writes, worries that “Caracol will undermine the nearby Codevi industrial park, the only unionized garment operation in the country.

The first of two installments looking at the New York Times in depth investigation into the Caracol industrial park. Part two will be posted shortly.

Deborah Sontag, writing in today’s New York Times, takes a detailed look at the new Caracol industrial park being built in northeastern Haiti, finding that in their rush to show reconstruction progress the plan’s backers have overlooked labor and environmental concerns. Sontag writes:

Two and a half years after the earthquake, Haiti remains mired in a humanitarian crisis, with 390,000 people languishing in tents. Yet the showcase project of the reconstruction effort is this: an industrial park that will create jobs and housing in an area undamaged by the temblor, a venture that risks benefiting foreign companies more than Haiti itself.

The park, whose main tenant Sae-A expects to generate some 20,000 jobs over the next six years, has been made possible by generous subsidies from the U.S. and Haitian governments and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Sae-A officials were invited to the U.S. embassy in Seoul to meet with Secretary of State Clinton in 2010. One concern the company had at the time was “uncertainty about whether Haiti’s minimum wage for textile workers, scheduled to increase to $5 from $3.75 a day this October, would continue to rise.” Wikileaks cables later revealed that the U.S. embassy in Haiti, along with some multinational companies had “aggressively moved to block a minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers,” according to The Nation.  While the minimum wage has increased, 18 out of 20 factories monitored by the Better Work Haiti program were found to be non-compliant on the minimum wage in their most recent assessment published in April.

Despite the “obstacles,” and convinced by legislation providing tariff-free access to the U.S. market, Sae-A officials were soon heading to sign an agreement — but not in Haiti, in Washington:

By late summer, they were flying with their investment plan to Washington for a meeting with Mrs. Clinton and other international officials in a historic treaty-signing room on the State Department’s seventh floor.

While Sae-A originally estimated the project would create 3,000-4,000 jobs, American and international officials wanted more:

“We would say, ‘We could probably do a factory with about 3,000 to 4,000 people.’ They’re like, ‘Wow. What would you need to make it bigger?’ I [Lon Garwood, senior advisor to Sae-A] said, ‘If we could get a loan for the machines, we could probably double that.’ They said, ‘What about 10,000?’ We said, ‘If we didn’t have to worry about purchasing the land, if we didn’t have to build the factory shells, then we could double it again.’ That’s where the 20,000 jobs figure came from.”

In the end, the land was provided free of charge by the Haitian government (evicting some 350 farmers in the process), the IDB agreed to provide $100 million to finance the building, while the U.S. would contribute $124 million for a power plant, housing and a port. Sae-A, which reported $1.1 billion in export business last year, only needs to invest $39.2 million. The $124 million provided by the U.S. is over a quarter of the money the U.S. earmarked for reconstruction. 

Yet, despite billions in donor pledges, and billions more in private donations, reconstruction has lagged far behind expectations. Sontag writes:

“I think there was emotion within State that we haven’t done anything effective in Haiti,” said Cathy Feingold, international development director for the A.F.L.-C.I.O. “There was a guilty sense that we have to do something, anything. But doing it this way is not going to be helpful to Haitians. It’s got to be done so there are living wages and the environment is healthy.”

Environmental, Social Concerns Overlooked

As HRRW, and others have written about before, there are a number of environmental and labor concerns that have surrounded the Caracol park in controversy since its inception.  For starters, the designated site, in addition to being home to 350 farming families, sits in a bay known for its mangroves, coral reefs and a number of endangered species. As Sontag notes, prior to the earthquake “environmentalists had designated Caracol Bay to become the country’s first marine protected area.”

Never the less, as Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW) previously reported, the consultants contracted to select possible sites recommended Caracol, at first.  After the fact, the same consultancy admitted that “the study process and the section of sites was not accompanied by extensive environmental, hydrologic or topographic research.” HGW reports that Koios went on to suggest either moving the location or cancelling the project outright.

It wasn’t just the consultants who were alarmed. Sontag writes:

The United States Treasury Department had concerns, too. Because an environmental impact study was not done properly or far enough in advance, the Treasury, which represents the United States on the development bank board, took the unusual step of abstaining from the vote that approved the $55 million grant to build the park.

One person who was not consulted about the location was the mayor of Caracol, Landry Colas:

“I would have chosen another site, given that this one was already occupied by people earning a living,” he said. “But I’m no expert.”

Colas added, “Foreigners know more about what’s going on in Caracol than I do.”

Another concern is if the Caracol area will be able to handle the influx of people expected. What many fear is that with thousands of people migrating to an area without adequate infrastructure, the conditions which led to the formation of Cite Soleil in the Duvalier era will be repeated. Jacqueline Charlies, writing for the Miami Herald, reported:

“When you look at the social problems that Cité Soleil poses today, you have to ask, did it have to be that way?” said Michèle Oriol, executive secretary of Haiti’s Inter-ministerial Commission on Territorial Planning, which has objected to the park’s location, and that of a U.S.-financed housing development just off the main commercial corridor.

As part of the Caracol project, the U.S. government has signed contracts to build some 750 houses in the Caracol area, costing some $20 million. In comparison, as Sontag points out, the U.S. embassy in Haiti is building 86-100 townhouses complete with recreation facilities for up to $100 million. Additionally, the houses, while larger than originally planned due to community input, have been criticized as well.  Sontag writes:

Described by American officials as a cost-efficient use of space, the Caracol housing project is criticized as “extremely dense and monotonous” and “violating numerous principles inherent to sound urban design” by Greg Higgins, an architect who wrote a scathing peer review.

Part two, detailing concerns about labor rights with Sae-A and other garment manufacturing companies in Haiti will be available shortly.

The first of two installments looking at the New York Times in depth investigation into the Caracol industrial park. Part two will be posted shortly.

Deborah Sontag, writing in today’s New York Times, takes a detailed look at the new Caracol industrial park being built in northeastern Haiti, finding that in their rush to show reconstruction progress the plan’s backers have overlooked labor and environmental concerns. Sontag writes:

Two and a half years after the earthquake, Haiti remains mired in a humanitarian crisis, with 390,000 people languishing in tents. Yet the showcase project of the reconstruction effort is this: an industrial park that will create jobs and housing in an area undamaged by the temblor, a venture that risks benefiting foreign companies more than Haiti itself.

The park, whose main tenant Sae-A expects to generate some 20,000 jobs over the next six years, has been made possible by generous subsidies from the U.S. and Haitian governments and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Sae-A officials were invited to the U.S. embassy in Seoul to meet with Secretary of State Clinton in 2010. One concern the company had at the time was “uncertainty about whether Haiti’s minimum wage for textile workers, scheduled to increase to $5 from $3.75 a day this October, would continue to rise.” Wikileaks cables later revealed that the U.S. embassy in Haiti, along with some multinational companies had “aggressively moved to block a minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers,” according to The Nation.  While the minimum wage has increased, 18 out of 20 factories monitored by the Better Work Haiti program were found to be non-compliant on the minimum wage in their most recent assessment published in April.

Despite the “obstacles,” and convinced by legislation providing tariff-free access to the U.S. market, Sae-A officials were soon heading to sign an agreement — but not in Haiti, in Washington:

By late summer, they were flying with their investment plan to Washington for a meeting with Mrs. Clinton and other international officials in a historic treaty-signing room on the State Department’s seventh floor.

While Sae-A originally estimated the project would create 3,000-4,000 jobs, American and international officials wanted more:

“We would say, ‘We could probably do a factory with about 3,000 to 4,000 people.’ They’re like, ‘Wow. What would you need to make it bigger?’ I [Lon Garwood, senior advisor to Sae-A] said, ‘If we could get a loan for the machines, we could probably double that.’ They said, ‘What about 10,000?’ We said, ‘If we didn’t have to worry about purchasing the land, if we didn’t have to build the factory shells, then we could double it again.’ That’s where the 20,000 jobs figure came from.”

In the end, the land was provided free of charge by the Haitian government (evicting some 350 farmers in the process), the IDB agreed to provide $100 million to finance the building, while the U.S. would contribute $124 million for a power plant, housing and a port. Sae-A, which reported $1.1 billion in export business last year, only needs to invest $39.2 million. The $124 million provided by the U.S. is over a quarter of the money the U.S. earmarked for reconstruction. 

Yet, despite billions in donor pledges, and billions more in private donations, reconstruction has lagged far behind expectations. Sontag writes:

“I think there was emotion within State that we haven’t done anything effective in Haiti,” said Cathy Feingold, international development director for the A.F.L.-C.I.O. “There was a guilty sense that we have to do something, anything. But doing it this way is not going to be helpful to Haitians. It’s got to be done so there are living wages and the environment is healthy.”

Environmental, Social Concerns Overlooked

As HRRW, and others have written about before, there are a number of environmental and labor concerns that have surrounded the Caracol park in controversy since its inception.  For starters, the designated site, in addition to being home to 350 farming families, sits in a bay known for its mangroves, coral reefs and a number of endangered species. As Sontag notes, prior to the earthquake “environmentalists had designated Caracol Bay to become the country’s first marine protected area.”

Never the less, as Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW) previously reported, the consultants contracted to select possible sites recommended Caracol, at first.  After the fact, the same consultancy admitted that “the study process and the section of sites was not accompanied by extensive environmental, hydrologic or topographic research.” HGW reports that Koios went on to suggest either moving the location or cancelling the project outright.

It wasn’t just the consultants who were alarmed. Sontag writes:

The United States Treasury Department had concerns, too. Because an environmental impact study was not done properly or far enough in advance, the Treasury, which represents the United States on the development bank board, took the unusual step of abstaining from the vote that approved the $55 million grant to build the park.

One person who was not consulted about the location was the mayor of Caracol, Landry Colas:

“I would have chosen another site, given that this one was already occupied by people earning a living,” he said. “But I’m no expert.”

Colas added, “Foreigners know more about what’s going on in Caracol than I do.”

Another concern is if the Caracol area will be able to handle the influx of people expected. What many fear is that with thousands of people migrating to an area without adequate infrastructure, the conditions which led to the formation of Cite Soleil in the Duvalier era will be repeated. Jacqueline Charlies, writing for the Miami Herald, reported:

“When you look at the social problems that Cité Soleil poses today, you have to ask, did it have to be that way?” said Michèle Oriol, executive secretary of Haiti’s Inter-ministerial Commission on Territorial Planning, which has objected to the park’s location, and that of a U.S.-financed housing development just off the main commercial corridor.

As part of the Caracol project, the U.S. government has signed contracts to build some 750 houses in the Caracol area, costing some $20 million. In comparison, as Sontag points out, the U.S. embassy in Haiti is building 86-100 townhouses complete with recreation facilities for up to $100 million. Additionally, the houses, while larger than originally planned due to community input, have been criticized as well.  Sontag writes:

Described by American officials as a cost-efficient use of space, the Caracol housing project is criticized as “extremely dense and monotonous” and “violating numerous principles inherent to sound urban design” by Greg Higgins, an architect who wrote a scathing peer review.

Part two, detailing concerns about labor rights with Sae-A and other garment manufacturing companies in Haiti will be available shortly.

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