Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch is a blog that tracks multinational aid efforts in Haiti with an eye towards ensuring they are oriented towards the needs of the Haitian people, and that aid is not used to undermine Haitians' right to self-determination.

In early March, social scientists Athena Kolbe and Robert Muggah released a study, backed by Canada’s International Development Research Centre and the Igarapé Institute of Brazil, showing increasing crime rates in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Based on household surveys, the authors found that “[f]or the first time since 2007, the incidence of violent crime and victimization has shown a consistent increase”. While the homicide rate in Haiti’s capital is lower than in many other Caribbean cities, the authors note the current rate in Haiti makes it one of the highest recorded rates since the post-coup period of 2004. At the same time, the authors found a reversal in citizens’ support for the Haitian National Police.

In an interview with HRRW, Kolbe, a clinical social worker affiliated with the University of Michigan, explains the social context of the current study and explores some of the causes and implications of the results. Kolbe finds that most of the victims of violence and criminal activities were residents of low-income neighborhoods where the population has experienced “social and political marginalization.” The ending of aid programs has also had a “profound impact on the people who need the services the most.” Kolbe notes that the bypassing of the Haitian government by NGOs and donor governments has created a situation where these entities and not the Haitian state “provide basic social and municipal services.” With a government that cannot guarantee its citizens access to services, Kolbe notes that “simply increasing the number of police on the street isn’t going to solve Haiti’s crime problem.” What is needed is to “focus efforts on improving the conditions in society that create the climate where crime is a viable option.”

Read more for the full interview:


HRRW: You have been conducting household surveys in Haiti for many years now, could you discuss the most recent findings in relation to the previous studies you have undertaken? For instance, how do the current levels of crime compare to the post-2004 coup time period? Do you see any similarities?

AK: In the 22 months after President Aristide was forced from the country in 2004 we saw a great deal of crime and violence in Haiti. At that time the murder rate for Port-au-Prince was 219 per 100,000 per year. Beginning at the very end of 2006 and early 2007 we saw a decrease in crime in Haiti; this was a steady decrease both in the use of violence by armed political groups and state actors as well as a decrease in crime overall. There was a slight increase in property crime just after the earthquake but this decreased and through August 2011 we had a very low crime rate in Haiti.

In fact we can compare Port-au-Prince to Detroit, which is where I live when I’m not in Haiti. Since 2007 the crude rate of all forms of crime that we measure (assault, property crimes, murder, and illegal detention or kidnapping) was lower in Port-au-Prince than it was in Detroit.  This was very encouraging, but it has changed, which was what motivated our report. We see a lot more armed robberies and of course more murders, more than at any other time since the end of 2006.

HRRW: Do the survey results give an indication of who is committing the violent crime? And what groups have been the most affected?

AK: When we are trying to figure out if crime is politically motivated, we can look at who is doing the crime as well as who is being victimized. Unlike the 2004-2006 period there is little crime reported to have been perpetrated by armed political groups or police officers. The crimes that people have reported to us are primarily committed by criminals or unknown persons. And of course there are some crimes by neighbors, family members, friends and the like, which you would expect to see in a survey of crime victimization in any country.

People who live in popular zones – the densely populated poor areas in urban cities – are the most at risk to be a victim of a crime, particularly murder or armed robbery. Popular zone residents are in a unique and difficult situation. These areas have few social and municipal services. They often don’t have the same kind of physical access that other neighborhoods have. For instance, because these areas are so densely populated people live everywhere and thus, the “roads” are just corridors between homes.  This limits vehicle access to a lot of homes which impacts everything from providing access for disabled residents to adequate policing serves and even the access to water delivery trucks. (Truck water is a common way to get water to your home when you don’t have piped water and is markedly less expensive than buying water by the bucket at a water kiosk, which is the only other option for most popular zone residents).

Residents of popular zones also experience social and political marginalization. They’ve been demonized in the press as “chimeres.” They live in neighborhoods that are designated as “red zones” — the most dangerous areas of the city where some UN, embassy and NGO staffers are prohibited from traveling.  Even when crime was low last year and the property crime rate in Bel Air was less than that of Detroit, these areas still had such negative reputation that some NGOs wouldn’t enter to provide services to the residents.  A lot of popular zone residents feel a great deal of shame and embarrassment in admitting where they are from, and this is understandable as the attitude among some is that people from Martissant or Cité Soleil are less trustworthy, more violent, and less capable. People are rightly concerned that if they disclose they are from Cité Soleil that it will prevent them from getting a job or being respected and trusted by others.

HRRW: In a previous household survey, you found that violence, sexual violence and theft were all significantly higher in IDP camps. In the recent survey you also point to the declining aid services being offered as a factor in the increasing crime rate. Could you explain this relationship further?

AK: Over the past two decades, the emphasis on foreign aid disbursement in Haiti has been to divert aid funds to NGOs or other non-state partners rather than funding the Haitian government directly. This means that everything from loans to straight up foreign aid packages are often disseminated in a way that doesn’t directly give the money to the Haitian government. There are reasons for this policy, which are beyond the scope of what we have time to cover today, but suffice it to say that by giving foreign aid through NGOs, the donor governments have created a situation in which the Haitian people are relying on NGOs and international organizations like MINUSTAH to provide basic social and municipal services. So when the funding for post-earthquake relief within these organizations started to get used up and when, in the last quarter of 2011, organizations started to reduce or eliminate services in urban areas, it had a profound impact on the people who need the services the most.

There needs to be a delicate balance of both empowerment and accountability so that the Haitian government is able to develop the capacity to deliver services to its people and to assure that the services actually get delivered.  I don’t think anyone believes that Haiti will be in a good place if NGOs permanently replace the Haitian government in providing essential state services to the Haitian people.

We know that globally crime is tied to certain social and economic conditions; when quality of life improves and economic and political uncertainty decrease, crime also decreases. Simply increasing the number of police on the street isn’t going to solve Haiti’s crime problem, we need to also focus efforts on improving the conditions in society that create the climate where crime is a viable option.  MINUSTAH needs to invest in what is known to reduce crime, such as creating economic opportunity, promoting education, building infrastructure, improving municipal capacity, and the like.

HRRW: Both you and Mario Andersol, head of the HNP, cite political instability as a leading factor in the rising violence. Could you explain this relationship further and how does the previous election, which saw record low turnout, the exclusion of the largest political party and unprecedented international interference, play into this?

AK: We have a difficult situation in Haiti right now. [Fanmi] Lavalas, which some international actors had hoped would slowly fade away, continues to be an influential and popular political party, particularly amongst the poor majority. I’m not sure what people thought the outcome would be when Lavalas was excluded from the ballot. And the current administration is struggling in other ways as well; for instance the prime minister recently resigned after only four months in office. This is a time of political instability and when things are unstable people lose faith in state institutions. The way to rebuild this trust in the state is for those who lead the state to demonstrate significant progress towards a social contract that is inclusive of poor and historically marginalized populations.   Trust is rebuilt in a number of ways including fighting the culture of impunity by holding people – regardless of their power or wealth—responsible when they commit crimes, by giving low income neighborhoods access to municipal services like trash collection, and by directly and specifically acknowledging the need for improvement.

HRRW: Since at least the 2004 coup, HNP reform has been a stated priority of the U.S. government and other international donors, yet widespread problems with police competence and accountability remain, coupled with a poorly functioning judiciary. What do you think is needed for the HNP to actually become effective and accountable?

AK: The HNP has improved immensely since 2007. The Haitian government needs to continue this forward movement by holding police officers responsible when they act unprofessionally or unethically, by keeping the police independent so they aren’t controlled or used by politicians, by upholding high standards of behavior and for recruitment.  In the past people have been integrated into the Haitian National Police despite histories that included violence, crime, human rights violations, and involvement in coups. The police should not be politicized in this way.  No one who has committed human rights violations or been involved in a coup or an illegal armed group should become a police officer. For Haiti this is a sensitive matter and there needs to be a clear line drawn, at least for the time being.

In early March, social scientists Athena Kolbe and Robert Muggah released a study, backed by Canada’s International Development Research Centre and the Igarapé Institute of Brazil, showing increasing crime rates in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Based on household surveys, the authors found that “[f]or the first time since 2007, the incidence of violent crime and victimization has shown a consistent increase”. While the homicide rate in Haiti’s capital is lower than in many other Caribbean cities, the authors note the current rate in Haiti makes it one of the highest recorded rates since the post-coup period of 2004. At the same time, the authors found a reversal in citizens’ support for the Haitian National Police.

In an interview with HRRW, Kolbe, a clinical social worker affiliated with the University of Michigan, explains the social context of the current study and explores some of the causes and implications of the results. Kolbe finds that most of the victims of violence and criminal activities were residents of low-income neighborhoods where the population has experienced “social and political marginalization.” The ending of aid programs has also had a “profound impact on the people who need the services the most.” Kolbe notes that the bypassing of the Haitian government by NGOs and donor governments has created a situation where these entities and not the Haitian state “provide basic social and municipal services.” With a government that cannot guarantee its citizens access to services, Kolbe notes that “simply increasing the number of police on the street isn’t going to solve Haiti’s crime problem.” What is needed is to “focus efforts on improving the conditions in society that create the climate where crime is a viable option.”

Read more for the full interview:


HRRW: You have been conducting household surveys in Haiti for many years now, could you discuss the most recent findings in relation to the previous studies you have undertaken? For instance, how do the current levels of crime compare to the post-2004 coup time period? Do you see any similarities?

AK: In the 22 months after President Aristide was forced from the country in 2004 we saw a great deal of crime and violence in Haiti. At that time the murder rate for Port-au-Prince was 219 per 100,000 per year. Beginning at the very end of 2006 and early 2007 we saw a decrease in crime in Haiti; this was a steady decrease both in the use of violence by armed political groups and state actors as well as a decrease in crime overall. There was a slight increase in property crime just after the earthquake but this decreased and through August 2011 we had a very low crime rate in Haiti.

In fact we can compare Port-au-Prince to Detroit, which is where I live when I’m not in Haiti. Since 2007 the crude rate of all forms of crime that we measure (assault, property crimes, murder, and illegal detention or kidnapping) was lower in Port-au-Prince than it was in Detroit.  This was very encouraging, but it has changed, which was what motivated our report. We see a lot more armed robberies and of course more murders, more than at any other time since the end of 2006.

HRRW: Do the survey results give an indication of who is committing the violent crime? And what groups have been the most affected?

AK: When we are trying to figure out if crime is politically motivated, we can look at who is doing the crime as well as who is being victimized. Unlike the 2004-2006 period there is little crime reported to have been perpetrated by armed political groups or police officers. The crimes that people have reported to us are primarily committed by criminals or unknown persons. And of course there are some crimes by neighbors, family members, friends and the like, which you would expect to see in a survey of crime victimization in any country.

People who live in popular zones – the densely populated poor areas in urban cities – are the most at risk to be a victim of a crime, particularly murder or armed robbery. Popular zone residents are in a unique and difficult situation. These areas have few social and municipal services. They often don’t have the same kind of physical access that other neighborhoods have. For instance, because these areas are so densely populated people live everywhere and thus, the “roads” are just corridors between homes.  This limits vehicle access to a lot of homes which impacts everything from providing access for disabled residents to adequate policing serves and even the access to water delivery trucks. (Truck water is a common way to get water to your home when you don’t have piped water and is markedly less expensive than buying water by the bucket at a water kiosk, which is the only other option for most popular zone residents).

Residents of popular zones also experience social and political marginalization. They’ve been demonized in the press as “chimeres.” They live in neighborhoods that are designated as “red zones” — the most dangerous areas of the city where some UN, embassy and NGO staffers are prohibited from traveling.  Even when crime was low last year and the property crime rate in Bel Air was less than that of Detroit, these areas still had such negative reputation that some NGOs wouldn’t enter to provide services to the residents.  A lot of popular zone residents feel a great deal of shame and embarrassment in admitting where they are from, and this is understandable as the attitude among some is that people from Martissant or Cité Soleil are less trustworthy, more violent, and less capable. People are rightly concerned that if they disclose they are from Cité Soleil that it will prevent them from getting a job or being respected and trusted by others.

HRRW: In a previous household survey, you found that violence, sexual violence and theft were all significantly higher in IDP camps. In the recent survey you also point to the declining aid services being offered as a factor in the increasing crime rate. Could you explain this relationship further?

AK: Over the past two decades, the emphasis on foreign aid disbursement in Haiti has been to divert aid funds to NGOs or other non-state partners rather than funding the Haitian government directly. This means that everything from loans to straight up foreign aid packages are often disseminated in a way that doesn’t directly give the money to the Haitian government. There are reasons for this policy, which are beyond the scope of what we have time to cover today, but suffice it to say that by giving foreign aid through NGOs, the donor governments have created a situation in which the Haitian people are relying on NGOs and international organizations like MINUSTAH to provide basic social and municipal services. So when the funding for post-earthquake relief within these organizations started to get used up and when, in the last quarter of 2011, organizations started to reduce or eliminate services in urban areas, it had a profound impact on the people who need the services the most.

There needs to be a delicate balance of both empowerment and accountability so that the Haitian government is able to develop the capacity to deliver services to its people and to assure that the services actually get delivered.  I don’t think anyone believes that Haiti will be in a good place if NGOs permanently replace the Haitian government in providing essential state services to the Haitian people.

We know that globally crime is tied to certain social and economic conditions; when quality of life improves and economic and political uncertainty decrease, crime also decreases. Simply increasing the number of police on the street isn’t going to solve Haiti’s crime problem, we need to also focus efforts on improving the conditions in society that create the climate where crime is a viable option.  MINUSTAH needs to invest in what is known to reduce crime, such as creating economic opportunity, promoting education, building infrastructure, improving municipal capacity, and the like.

HRRW: Both you and Mario Andersol, head of the HNP, cite political instability as a leading factor in the rising violence. Could you explain this relationship further and how does the previous election, which saw record low turnout, the exclusion of the largest political party and unprecedented international interference, play into this?

AK: We have a difficult situation in Haiti right now. [Fanmi] Lavalas, which some international actors had hoped would slowly fade away, continues to be an influential and popular political party, particularly amongst the poor majority. I’m not sure what people thought the outcome would be when Lavalas was excluded from the ballot. And the current administration is struggling in other ways as well; for instance the prime minister recently resigned after only four months in office. This is a time of political instability and when things are unstable people lose faith in state institutions. The way to rebuild this trust in the state is for those who lead the state to demonstrate significant progress towards a social contract that is inclusive of poor and historically marginalized populations.   Trust is rebuilt in a number of ways including fighting the culture of impunity by holding people – regardless of their power or wealth—responsible when they commit crimes, by giving low income neighborhoods access to municipal services like trash collection, and by directly and specifically acknowledging the need for improvement.

HRRW: Since at least the 2004 coup, HNP reform has been a stated priority of the U.S. government and other international donors, yet widespread problems with police competence and accountability remain, coupled with a poorly functioning judiciary. What do you think is needed for the HNP to actually become effective and accountable?

AK: The HNP has improved immensely since 2007. The Haitian government needs to continue this forward movement by holding police officers responsible when they act unprofessionally or unethically, by keeping the police independent so they aren’t controlled or used by politicians, by upholding high standards of behavior and for recruitment.  In the past people have been integrated into the Haitian National Police despite histories that included violence, crime, human rights violations, and involvement in coups. The police should not be politicized in this way.  No one who has committed human rights violations or been involved in a coup or an illegal armed group should become a police officer. For Haiti this is a sensitive matter and there needs to be a clear line drawn, at least for the time being.

Jacob Kushner and Jean Pharés Jérôme of Global Post report today on the high-profile USAID project to build a temporary building for Haiti’s parliament. Although the $1.9 million building was “inaugurated” in November 2011, Kushner and Jérôme report that:

But more than four months later, that location remains vacant. The building is scattered with woodwork trimmings and debris from a costly ongoing renovation paid for by the Haitian treasury because legislators say the United States never finished the job. And critics in Haiti charge that the unfinished work and empty building stand as a powerful metaphor for much of what is wrong with USAID’s approach to development in Haiti: that it lacks coordination with and input from the Haitians themselves about how best to undertake reconstruction projects.

The building remains nothing more than a “shell” and the Haitian government has already spent $770,000 in renovations and will have to spend much more before it is actually usable. Cholzer Chancy of Haiti’s Chamber of Deputies told Global Post, “It may cost more for us to renovate it than for them to build it in the first place.”

U.S. Embassy spokesman Jon Piechowski defended the project, saying:

“We explained to them what could be done, we consulted with them on that, and they approved the project,” he said. “We answer to the American people and we need to be good stewards of their tax money, and I think we’ve done that in this case.”

The authors continue:

But to the half a million Haitians who remain displaced to tents and shacks since the earthquake, the $2 million US aid dollars spent on an empty building and the hundreds of thousands more taken from the Haitian Treasury to renovate it seem inexcusable.

“All the time, I hear on the radio that American money is going here or there,” said Acelus Saint Louis, a 45-year-old who lives in a tent with his wife and two children. “But I don’t see it. This could lift us up, but instead it’s just wasted.”

The contract to build the temporary parliament building is part of an indefinite quantity contract with Chemonics International. The for-profit development company has received two contracts through USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) since the earthquake totaling $73 million. Chemonics has also received over $80 million for the USAID WINNER program. They are the largest single recipient of USAID funds since the earthquake. HRRW has reportedpreviously on Chemonics, and in November did a three-part series looking at USAID’s reliance on contractors, the lack of oversight of Chemonics and other contractors and their previous poor performance in Afghanistan and Haiti.

Between Chemonics and Development Alternatives Inc., USAID/OTI has appropriated over $115 million for Haiti-related work to the two for-profit firms. The latest USAID/OTI quarterly report lists expenditures of $83 million. Although some of the remaining $32 million may still be in the coffers, a portion of it will be taken off the top and returned to Washington DC, through what is known as the “indirect cost rate”. This allows a portion of all funds allocated to go towards costs not related to the actual program, in other words, back to their headquarters inside the Beltway. Both Chemonics and USAID declined to provide HRRW with the Indirect Cost Rate stipulated in their contract. The info has been redacted in the contract obtained by HRRW.

Jacob Kushner and Jean Pharés Jérôme of Global Post report today on the high-profile USAID project to build a temporary building for Haiti’s parliament. Although the $1.9 million building was “inaugurated” in November 2011, Kushner and Jérôme report that:

But more than four months later, that location remains vacant. The building is scattered with woodwork trimmings and debris from a costly ongoing renovation paid for by the Haitian treasury because legislators say the United States never finished the job. And critics in Haiti charge that the unfinished work and empty building stand as a powerful metaphor for much of what is wrong with USAID’s approach to development in Haiti: that it lacks coordination with and input from the Haitians themselves about how best to undertake reconstruction projects.

The building remains nothing more than a “shell” and the Haitian government has already spent $770,000 in renovations and will have to spend much more before it is actually usable. Cholzer Chancy of Haiti’s Chamber of Deputies told Global Post, “It may cost more for us to renovate it than for them to build it in the first place.”

U.S. Embassy spokesman Jon Piechowski defended the project, saying:

“We explained to them what could be done, we consulted with them on that, and they approved the project,” he said. “We answer to the American people and we need to be good stewards of their tax money, and I think we’ve done that in this case.”

The authors continue:

But to the half a million Haitians who remain displaced to tents and shacks since the earthquake, the $2 million US aid dollars spent on an empty building and the hundreds of thousands more taken from the Haitian Treasury to renovate it seem inexcusable.

“All the time, I hear on the radio that American money is going here or there,” said Acelus Saint Louis, a 45-year-old who lives in a tent with his wife and two children. “But I don’t see it. This could lift us up, but instead it’s just wasted.”

The contract to build the temporary parliament building is part of an indefinite quantity contract with Chemonics International. The for-profit development company has received two contracts through USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) since the earthquake totaling $73 million. Chemonics has also received over $80 million for the USAID WINNER program. They are the largest single recipient of USAID funds since the earthquake. HRRW has reportedpreviously on Chemonics, and in November did a three-part series looking at USAID’s reliance on contractors, the lack of oversight of Chemonics and other contractors and their previous poor performance in Afghanistan and Haiti.

Between Chemonics and Development Alternatives Inc., USAID/OTI has appropriated over $115 million for Haiti-related work to the two for-profit firms. The latest USAID/OTI quarterly report lists expenditures of $83 million. Although some of the remaining $32 million may still be in the coffers, a portion of it will be taken off the top and returned to Washington DC, through what is known as the “indirect cost rate”. This allows a portion of all funds allocated to go towards costs not related to the actual program, in other words, back to their headquarters inside the Beltway. Both Chemonics and USAID declined to provide HRRW with the Indirect Cost Rate stipulated in their contract. The info has been redacted in the contract obtained by HRRW.

By Mark Snyder and Ellie Happel

At two in the morning on Monday March 12th, 2012, the tents of Camp Lycèe Toussaint in downtown Port-au-Prince became engulfed in flames.  Within an hour, 96 of the approximately 120 emergency shelters, home to some of Haiti’s internally displaced, burned to the ground.  Although most of the camp residents escaped without serious injury, the families lost the few belongings they had accumulated in the two years and two months since the earthquake.  Camp residents reported that they did not have water to extinguish the fire.  For months, five Red Cross water tanks have sat empty at the entrance to the camp.

The cause of the fire remains unknown. Neither the Government of Haiti nor the International Organization for Migration (IOM), responsible for camp management, has released an official statement about the fire.

Community members reported that a twelve-year old boy died in the fire.  His brother died in the hospital.  Their mother remains in critical condition.  Many people in the camp reported suffering burns.

By Monday afternoon, camp residents reported that they had yet to receive a visit from a local or national government representative. Residents said that IOM staff came to the camp for “only some minutes” and added that they “told us nothing.” 

Community organizers arrived at the site to remind the victims of the fire that they were not helpless: the Haitian Constitution and international conventions grant specific rights to the internally displaced and place a duty on the government to respect and fulfill these rights.  As the organizers spoke, a small group of residents grew larger and the conversation became more animated.  Residents decided to hold a spontaneous protest to call attention to their situation.  Within a half hour, the residents found a bullhorn and a driver willing to use his minibus and charred shelter to block the road.  They rallied their displaced neighbors to block the side street that borders the camp.

When the protestors lit a tire in the road, the Haitian National Police (PNH) arrived within minutes.  They extinguished the low flame and aggressively broke up the protest.  On two occasions officers leveled their assault rifles and shotguns on the crowd, forcing them to disperse. One of these incidences was recorded on video, just after the PNH officer rushed into the camp with his weapon drawn and chased a young boy who yelled of the injustice of the situation. The boy ran from the officer and disappeared through an opening in an earthquake-damaged building. Additional armed officers arrived and charged into the crowd with assault rifles, shotguns, and a teargas gun.

Camp residents commented that their entire camp can burn along with their children, and the Haitian Government does nothing.  But when residents burn a tire in the street, the police respond.

In the early evening of the 12th, two members of the Department of Civil Protection (DPC) visited the camp and began to register the victims.  They did not state what results this would yield. 

The following day, Tuesday March 13th, IOM representatives returned to the site to distribute basic goods.  Some families received flashlights, some received hygiene kits, and some received sleeping mats.  Many received nothing.  The IOM did not distribute water purification tablets, particularly important in light of the cholera epidemic.

The families of what was, just two days ago, Camp Lycèe Toussaint are still without shelter. For now, the families are waiting.  And now they have nothing.  Their possessions—saved money, clothes, bibles and books, foam mattresses and tents—are ashes.  

The fire in Kan Lycèe Toussaint is not the first.  Last month, a camp in a different schoolyard in a nearby neighborhood burned to the ground.  Three hundred families became displaced again.  In his article about Monday’s fire, Haitian journalist Pierre Louis suggested that these fires are not accidental.  The political instability of today distracts attention from the flames and, says Pierre Louis, provides landowners or their political allies the opportunity to commit criminal acts and force the displaced off of camp land.  Pierre Louis ends his article with the rhetorical question:  When will authorities in our country stop these criminal acts and provide security to our people?

To view more pictures from the fire, please click here. The photos are in the Kan Lycèe Toussaint folder.

Ellie Happel is in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where she works as a human rights lawyer with the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux.

Mark Snyder, based in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is an independent human rights activist working with Haitian civil society groups and displaced persons.

UPDATE 3/16: Happel reported last night that two additional residents of the camp have died due to injuries suffered from the fire, raising the total to four.

By Mark Snyder and Ellie Happel

At two in the morning on Monday March 12th, 2012, the tents of Camp Lycèe Toussaint in downtown Port-au-Prince became engulfed in flames.  Within an hour, 96 of the approximately 120 emergency shelters, home to some of Haiti’s internally displaced, burned to the ground.  Although most of the camp residents escaped without serious injury, the families lost the few belongings they had accumulated in the two years and two months since the earthquake.  Camp residents reported that they did not have water to extinguish the fire.  For months, five Red Cross water tanks have sat empty at the entrance to the camp.

The cause of the fire remains unknown. Neither the Government of Haiti nor the International Organization for Migration (IOM), responsible for camp management, has released an official statement about the fire.

Community members reported that a twelve-year old boy died in the fire.  His brother died in the hospital.  Their mother remains in critical condition.  Many people in the camp reported suffering burns.

By Monday afternoon, camp residents reported that they had yet to receive a visit from a local or national government representative. Residents said that IOM staff came to the camp for “only some minutes” and added that they “told us nothing.” 

Community organizers arrived at the site to remind the victims of the fire that they were not helpless: the Haitian Constitution and international conventions grant specific rights to the internally displaced and place a duty on the government to respect and fulfill these rights.  As the organizers spoke, a small group of residents grew larger and the conversation became more animated.  Residents decided to hold a spontaneous protest to call attention to their situation.  Within a half hour, the residents found a bullhorn and a driver willing to use his minibus and charred shelter to block the road.  They rallied their displaced neighbors to block the side street that borders the camp.

When the protestors lit a tire in the road, the Haitian National Police (PNH) arrived within minutes.  They extinguished the low flame and aggressively broke up the protest.  On two occasions officers leveled their assault rifles and shotguns on the crowd, forcing them to disperse. One of these incidences was recorded on video, just after the PNH officer rushed into the camp with his weapon drawn and chased a young boy who yelled of the injustice of the situation. The boy ran from the officer and disappeared through an opening in an earthquake-damaged building. Additional armed officers arrived and charged into the crowd with assault rifles, shotguns, and a teargas gun.

Camp residents commented that their entire camp can burn along with their children, and the Haitian Government does nothing.  But when residents burn a tire in the street, the police respond.

In the early evening of the 12th, two members of the Department of Civil Protection (DPC) visited the camp and began to register the victims.  They did not state what results this would yield. 

The following day, Tuesday March 13th, IOM representatives returned to the site to distribute basic goods.  Some families received flashlights, some received hygiene kits, and some received sleeping mats.  Many received nothing.  The IOM did not distribute water purification tablets, particularly important in light of the cholera epidemic.

The families of what was, just two days ago, Camp Lycèe Toussaint are still without shelter. For now, the families are waiting.  And now they have nothing.  Their possessions—saved money, clothes, bibles and books, foam mattresses and tents—are ashes.  

The fire in Kan Lycèe Toussaint is not the first.  Last month, a camp in a different schoolyard in a nearby neighborhood burned to the ground.  Three hundred families became displaced again.  In his article about Monday’s fire, Haitian journalist Pierre Louis suggested that these fires are not accidental.  The political instability of today distracts attention from the flames and, says Pierre Louis, provides landowners or their political allies the opportunity to commit criminal acts and force the displaced off of camp land.  Pierre Louis ends his article with the rhetorical question:  When will authorities in our country stop these criminal acts and provide security to our people?

To view more pictures from the fire, please click here. The photos are in the Kan Lycèe Toussaint folder.

Ellie Happel is in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where she works as a human rights lawyer with the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux.

Mark Snyder, based in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is an independent human rights activist working with Haitian civil society groups and displaced persons.

UPDATE 3/16: Happel reported last night that two additional residents of the camp have died due to injuries suffered from the fire, raising the total to four.

The UN announced today that three Pakistani officers were found guilty of sexual exploitation and abuse. Although the UN did not discuss many specifics, Reuters reported earlier that two members of the UN stabilization mission (MINUSTAH) had “been sentenced to a year in prison for raping a 14-year-old Haitian boy.” Reuters also notes that:

It was the first time that members of the U.N. military on deployment in Haiti have been tried and sentenced within its borders.

The Haitian government had previously requested the lifting of immunity for the Pakistani officers and the Senate passed a resolution requesting they be tried in Haitian courts.  Yet, while the trial was held in Haiti, it was a “military justice procedure…undertaken in accordance with the national laws of Pakistan.” Those found guilty will serve their sentence in Pakistan. As Reuters reports, “Haitian government authorities were given no advance notice of the military tribunal.” Had the Pakistani police officers been tried in a Haitian court they likely would have faced much harsher penalties. Haiti’s Justice Minister, Michel Brunache told Reuters it was a “small” step, adding:

“We expected more from the U.N. and the Pakistani government, but now we want to focus on the proper reparation that the victim deserves.”

The case is but the latest in a long string of sexual abuse cases involving MINUSTAH personnel. In 2007 over 100 Sri Lankan MINUSTAH soldiers were repatriated (PDF) after allegations of “transactional sex with underage girls”. To this date no information on if they were ever prosecuted has been made public. More recently, five Uruguayan MINUSTAH troops were repatriated and jailed after a cell phone video showing them sexual assaulting a young Haitian man was reported by the press. The soldiers have since been released from jail and the trial has stalled.

This case, however, differs from the Sri Lanka and Uruguay cases in that the abuse involved members of a Formed Police Unit rather than military personnel. Of the 11,241 MINUSTAH personnel in Haiti, 3,542 are police. The UN announced the case in January, noting a significant difference from previous cases of sexual abuse my MINUSTAH troops:

However, unlike cases involving UN military contingent personnel, investigations into allegations involving UN police fall under the responsibility of the United Nations.  For this reason, a team was dispatched to Haiti, on 21 January 2012, to investigate these allegations with the utmost determination

Despite the UN’s “zero tolerance” policy on sexual abuse, they have few means to actually ensure legal prosecution of troops as the responsibility for investigating and prosecuting abuses falls on the troop contributing country. In the case of Formed Police Units (PDF), the UN has the power to investigate, 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.” Although Pakistan was responsible for the disciplinary action, it is unclear if it was prompted by the UN investigation. It seems likely, however, that because the guilty officers were police rather than soldiers, the UN had a greater ability to influence the case and actually enforce their “zero tolerance” policy. Still, the circumstances in which the Pakistani officers’ abuses were investigated and prosecuted remain murky at best.  The UN could take an important step toward fostering an environment of transparency and accountability by releasing their internal investigation into the rape committed by the Pakistani police officers, and clarifying their role in the prosecution. 

The UN announced today that three Pakistani officers were found guilty of sexual exploitation and abuse. Although the UN did not discuss many specifics, Reuters reported earlier that two members of the UN stabilization mission (MINUSTAH) had “been sentenced to a year in prison for raping a 14-year-old Haitian boy.” Reuters also notes that:

It was the first time that members of the U.N. military on deployment in Haiti have been tried and sentenced within its borders.

The Haitian government had previously requested the lifting of immunity for the Pakistani officers and the Senate passed a resolution requesting they be tried in Haitian courts.  Yet, while the trial was held in Haiti, it was a “military justice procedure…undertaken in accordance with the national laws of Pakistan.” Those found guilty will serve their sentence in Pakistan. As Reuters reports, “Haitian government authorities were given no advance notice of the military tribunal.” Had the Pakistani police officers been tried in a Haitian court they likely would have faced much harsher penalties. Haiti’s Justice Minister, Michel Brunache told Reuters it was a “small” step, adding:

“We expected more from the U.N. and the Pakistani government, but now we want to focus on the proper reparation that the victim deserves.”

The case is but the latest in a long string of sexual abuse cases involving MINUSTAH personnel. In 2007 over 100 Sri Lankan MINUSTAH soldiers were repatriated (PDF) after allegations of “transactional sex with underage girls”. To this date no information on if they were ever prosecuted has been made public. More recently, five Uruguayan MINUSTAH troops were repatriated and jailed after a cell phone video showing them sexual assaulting a young Haitian man was reported by the press. The soldiers have since been released from jail and the trial has stalled.

This case, however, differs from the Sri Lanka and Uruguay cases in that the abuse involved members of a Formed Police Unit rather than military personnel. Of the 11,241 MINUSTAH personnel in Haiti, 3,542 are police. The UN announced the case in January, noting a significant difference from previous cases of sexual abuse my MINUSTAH troops:

However, unlike cases involving UN military contingent personnel, investigations into allegations involving UN police fall under the responsibility of the United Nations.  For this reason, a team was dispatched to Haiti, on 21 January 2012, to investigate these allegations with the utmost determination

Despite the UN’s “zero tolerance” policy on sexual abuse, they have few means to actually ensure legal prosecution of troops as the responsibility for investigating and prosecuting abuses falls on the troop contributing country. In the case of Formed Police Units (PDF), the UN has the power to investigate, 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.” Although Pakistan was responsible for the disciplinary action, it is unclear if it was prompted by the UN investigation. It seems likely, however, that because the guilty officers were police rather than soldiers, the UN had a greater ability to influence the case and actually enforce their “zero tolerance” policy. Still, the circumstances in which the Pakistani officers’ abuses were investigated and prosecuted remain murky at best.  The UN could take an important step toward fostering an environment of transparency and accountability by releasing their internal investigation into the rape committed by the Pakistani police officers, and clarifying their role in the prosecution. 

To mark International Women’s Day today, human rights groups and cholera victims are peacefully protesting “against the cholera and sexual violence that the UN and its peacekeeping mission, MINUSTAH, have inflicted on Haitians.” (You can follow updates from the march via the twitter feed of BAI, @BAIayiti as well Alexis Erkert of Other Worlds, @aerkert). In a statement released earlier this week to announce the march Rose Getchine Lima, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) Women’s Network Coordinator stated:

Despite its ‘protection’ mandate, the UN’s militarization of Haiti has harmed women. MINUSTAH soldiers themselves have been guilty of sexual violence and the deadly cholera the UN brought to Haiti has destroyed families. Women, often the heads of their households, have been most vulnerable to these harms. They continue to suffer while the UN’s wrongs go unpunished.

The UN security council met today to discuss the Secretary General’s bi-annual report on MINUSTAH and Haiti, with many members expressing the need for the UN to redouble their efforts to prevent future abuses and hold those responsible accountable. The representatives of Pakistan and Uruguay, whose troops have been implicated in abuses, both pledged thorough investigations. As of yet, however, no MINUSTAH troops have been held accountable for the myriad of crimes committed against Haitians. These issues are not new. In 2007 over 100 Sri Lankan MINUSTAH soldiers were repatriated after allegations of “transactional sex with underage girls”. To this date no information on if they were ever prosecuted has been made public.

As BAI Managing Attorney Mario Joseph has noted:

The United Nations says it acts to ‘advance the status of women.’ Yet it won’t hold its personnel accountable for raping Haitian women, girls, and boys, or take responsibility for the cholera epidemic that has killed over 7,000 Haitians. The UN needs to act or the rapes and the cholera deaths will continue to decimate Haiti’s people

To mark International Women’s Day today, human rights groups and cholera victims are peacefully protesting “against the cholera and sexual violence that the UN and its peacekeeping mission, MINUSTAH, have inflicted on Haitians.” (You can follow updates from the march via the twitter feed of BAI, @BAIayiti as well Alexis Erkert of Other Worlds, @aerkert). In a statement released earlier this week to announce the march Rose Getchine Lima, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) Women’s Network Coordinator stated:

Despite its ‘protection’ mandate, the UN’s militarization of Haiti has harmed women. MINUSTAH soldiers themselves have been guilty of sexual violence and the deadly cholera the UN brought to Haiti has destroyed families. Women, often the heads of their households, have been most vulnerable to these harms. They continue to suffer while the UN’s wrongs go unpunished.

The UN security council met today to discuss the Secretary General’s bi-annual report on MINUSTAH and Haiti, with many members expressing the need for the UN to redouble their efforts to prevent future abuses and hold those responsible accountable. The representatives of Pakistan and Uruguay, whose troops have been implicated in abuses, both pledged thorough investigations. As of yet, however, no MINUSTAH troops have been held accountable for the myriad of crimes committed against Haitians. These issues are not new. In 2007 over 100 Sri Lankan MINUSTAH soldiers were repatriated after allegations of “transactional sex with underage girls”. To this date no information on if they were ever prosecuted has been made public.

As BAI Managing Attorney Mario Joseph has noted:

The United Nations says it acts to ‘advance the status of women.’ Yet it won’t hold its personnel accountable for raping Haitian women, girls, and boys, or take responsibility for the cholera epidemic that has killed over 7,000 Haitians. The UN needs to act or the rapes and the cholera deaths will continue to decimate Haiti’s people

To mark International Women’s Day, HRRW is highlighting recent research concerning issues relating to women’s rights in Haiti.

Recent research from the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice sheds light on factors contributing to an increase in sexual violence since the earthquake over two-years ago. The report, “Yon Je Louvri: Reducing Vulnerability to Sexual Violence in Haiti’s IDP Camps,” is based on surveys conducted in four IDP camps in January 2011 and additional follow up research throughout 2011. While the small sample size and logistical constraints prevent the research from being representative of the IDP population at large, it nonetheless provides an important analysis of the factors contributing to gender-based violence (GBV) and steps that can be taken to remedy the situation using a human rights based approach.

The report found that in the four camps visited, 14 percent of surveyed households reported that at least one member of the household had been a victim of sexual violence since the earthquake, while 70 percent of those surveyed were “more worried” about sexual violence after the earthquake. The report explains that because of underreporting this “is particularly striking because it likely captures a minimum level of sexual violence within the studied IDP camps.” Other studies have estimated significantly higher levels of sexual violence.

The vast majority of victims, 86 percent, were female. The study also found a significant correlation between a lack of services in IDP camps and the likelihood of being a victim of sexual violence. The report finds four significant factors other than gender:

• Suffer from limited access to food. Individuals who reported that they went at least one day without eating in the previous week were more than twice as likely to come from a victim household, as compared to those who did not report insufficient access to food;

• Confront limited access to water. The average victim household had less consistent access to drinking water than their non-victim counterparts. Four out of ten respondents from victim households did not obtain water from a free connection inside their camp during the previous week;

• Face limited access to sanitation. Participants who felt that the nearest latrine was “too far” from their shelter were twice as likely to live in a victim household, and among victim households, 29 percent indicated that they knew someone who was attacked while using the latrines;

• Live in a camp that lacks participatory and responsive governance structures. The survey found that camps with lower levels of consultation regarding camp management had a higher proportion of households reporting that one or more of their members had experienced sexual violence.

This is particularly troublesome because more recently services have been transferred out of IDP camps and into neighborhoods. This has left many in the camps with even fewer basic services available to them. After free water trucking services were discontinued, a DINEPA survey found that a third of all camp residents’ primary access to water is from a remote source, far from their camp.

The report notes that “while the Haitian State may bear primary responsibility for preventing, investigating, and remedying sexual violence,” it is also the case that “all the major players, from the government of Haiti and donor States to the United Nations and INGOs, have certain legal and moral obligations to take concrete, concerted actions to reduce vulnerabilities and increase the capacity of those living in camps to access what they need to survive in safety and dignity.”

In order to ensure that basic human rights are respected and all players participate in the strengthening of these rights and of the capacity of the Haitian government to ensure these rights, the report outlines specific recommendations:

1) Provide IDPs who have been sexually assaulted in camps with free and immediate access to alternative shelter, medical services, and legal assistance
2) Expand security patrols in and around camps and install lighting and locks in sanitation facilities in camps
3) Prioritize creation of income-generating activities for women
4) Ensure all IDPs have access to free or affordable clean water
5) Stop forced evictions of IDPs

To read the entire report, click here.

To find out more about the work that KOFAVIV, a Haitian grassroots group, is doing to provide services to victims of sexual violence and their efforts to prevent further abuses, click here and here. Also follow them on twitter, @KOFAVIV

For further background see the Institute for Justice and Democracy’s website.

To mark International Women’s Day, HRRW is highlighting recent research concerning issues relating to women’s rights in Haiti.

Recent research from the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice sheds light on factors contributing to an increase in sexual violence since the earthquake over two-years ago. The report, “Yon Je Louvri: Reducing Vulnerability to Sexual Violence in Haiti’s IDP Camps,” is based on surveys conducted in four IDP camps in January 2011 and additional follow up research throughout 2011. While the small sample size and logistical constraints prevent the research from being representative of the IDP population at large, it nonetheless provides an important analysis of the factors contributing to gender-based violence (GBV) and steps that can be taken to remedy the situation using a human rights based approach.

The report found that in the four camps visited, 14 percent of surveyed households reported that at least one member of the household had been a victim of sexual violence since the earthquake, while 70 percent of those surveyed were “more worried” about sexual violence after the earthquake. The report explains that because of underreporting this “is particularly striking because it likely captures a minimum level of sexual violence within the studied IDP camps.” Other studies have estimated significantly higher levels of sexual violence.

The vast majority of victims, 86 percent, were female. The study also found a significant correlation between a lack of services in IDP camps and the likelihood of being a victim of sexual violence. The report finds four significant factors other than gender:

• Suffer from limited access to food. Individuals who reported that they went at least one day without eating in the previous week were more than twice as likely to come from a victim household, as compared to those who did not report insufficient access to food;

• Confront limited access to water. The average victim household had less consistent access to drinking water than their non-victim counterparts. Four out of ten respondents from victim households did not obtain water from a free connection inside their camp during the previous week;

• Face limited access to sanitation. Participants who felt that the nearest latrine was “too far” from their shelter were twice as likely to live in a victim household, and among victim households, 29 percent indicated that they knew someone who was attacked while using the latrines;

• Live in a camp that lacks participatory and responsive governance structures. The survey found that camps with lower levels of consultation regarding camp management had a higher proportion of households reporting that one or more of their members had experienced sexual violence.

This is particularly troublesome because more recently services have been transferred out of IDP camps and into neighborhoods. This has left many in the camps with even fewer basic services available to them. After free water trucking services were discontinued, a DINEPA survey found that a third of all camp residents’ primary access to water is from a remote source, far from their camp.

The report notes that “while the Haitian State may bear primary responsibility for preventing, investigating, and remedying sexual violence,” it is also the case that “all the major players, from the government of Haiti and donor States to the United Nations and INGOs, have certain legal and moral obligations to take concrete, concerted actions to reduce vulnerabilities and increase the capacity of those living in camps to access what they need to survive in safety and dignity.”

In order to ensure that basic human rights are respected and all players participate in the strengthening of these rights and of the capacity of the Haitian government to ensure these rights, the report outlines specific recommendations:

1) Provide IDPs who have been sexually assaulted in camps with free and immediate access to alternative shelter, medical services, and legal assistance
2) Expand security patrols in and around camps and install lighting and locks in sanitation facilities in camps
3) Prioritize creation of income-generating activities for women
4) Ensure all IDPs have access to free or affordable clean water
5) Stop forced evictions of IDPs

To read the entire report, click here.

To find out more about the work that KOFAVIV, a Haitian grassroots group, is doing to provide services to victims of sexual violence and their efforts to prevent further abuses, click here and here. Also follow them on twitter, @KOFAVIV

For further background see the Institute for Justice and Democracy’s website.

To mark International Women’s Day, HRRW is highlighting recent research concerning issues relating to women’s rights in Haiti.

Gender Action released a report this week analyzing the extent to which the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) address gender-based violence (GBV) in their post-earthquake loans. Gender Action applies their Essential Gender Analysis Checklist to five different projects implemented by the two international financial institutions. The report finds that:

[N]either the World Bank nor the IDB adequately address GBV within other critical post-earthquake investments. Sadly, this lack of attention to GBV is hardly surprising: according to Interaction, an alliance of international non-governmental organizations, “the humanitarian community continues to see women’s protection as a second-tier concern in crises, particularly natural disasters, and is slow to address GBV at the onset of an emergency” (Interaction, 2010). This case study underscores the urgent need for the World Bank and IDB to strengthen their own gender policies and explicitly address GBV across all sectors.

The report does salute the World Bank for a recent grant to combat GBV in Haiti, which was the result of advocacy efforts on the part of Gender Action and other groups.


The Projects

In analyzing the World Bank’s “Port-au-Prince Neighborhood Housing Reconstruction Project,” part of the government’s 16/6 project, the report finds that:

While the World Bank’s special focus on women, female-headed households and other vulnerable groups is laudable, project indicators do not measure whether these services are actually carried out.

Adding:

Although the project’s housing repair and reconstruction component includes “training on gender awareness,” the World Bank neither discusses the content of this training, nor the methods used to measure the training’s impact.

In the IDB’s project to rehabilitate and expand the electricity system of Port-au-Prince, Gender Action notes that:

Neither the original loan document nor IDB statements on its supplemental funding address the need for electricity in IDP camps, which can reduce women and girls? risk of GBV (CHRGJ, 2012). (In fact, the words “women” and “gender” never once appear in the original 35-page loan proposal, nor the 26 page post-earthquake grant proposal).

Similarly, the IDB’s “Support to the Shelter Sector Response Plan,” fails to “acknowledge or address the relationship between inadequate shelter and vulnerable populations’ increased risk of GBV.” The report adds:

Although the project paper states that construction site “layouts will include special measures to prevent violence,” it does not describe these measures, nor does it target violence aimed at women and girls.

Gender Action does point to an IDB loan from 2005 as “a positive example of how IFI investments can successfully acknowledge and address gender issues.” However the project received additional funding after the earthquake and “the IDB has not published any information on whether the project’s original goals and objectives were achieved prior to the infusion of additional post-earthquake grant funding in 2010.”

In conclusion, the report outlines specific recommendations to the World Bank and IDB on how to improve their responsiveness to GBV:

–          Approach all investments from a women’s/human rights perspective
–          Methodically require equal consultation with women and men in all reconstruction and development projects
–          Ensure women’s equal involvement throughout all project cycle stages, including project design implementation and evaluation, and promote outcomes that equally benefit women and men, boys and girls
–          Leverage their influence to urge the Haitian government to implement and enforce gender equality and anti-discrimination laws, particularly against GBV and human trafficking
–          Immediately strengthen IDP camp security, shelters and services, especially for women and girls via their projects
–          Invest in Haiti’s health system in order to improve services for GBV survivors, including sexual and reproductive health services
–          Assist the Haitian government to strengthen its police force and legal system to better respond to allegations of GBV
–          Invest in projects that empower women and girls and challenge dominant gender norms that fuel GBV in Haiti

To read the entire report, click here.

UPDATE 3/14:  This post has been edited slightly for accuracy.

To mark International Women’s Day, HRRW is highlighting recent research concerning issues relating to women’s rights in Haiti.

Gender Action released a report this week analyzing the extent to which the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) address gender-based violence (GBV) in their post-earthquake loans. Gender Action applies their Essential Gender Analysis Checklist to five different projects implemented by the two international financial institutions. The report finds that:

[N]either the World Bank nor the IDB adequately address GBV within other critical post-earthquake investments. Sadly, this lack of attention to GBV is hardly surprising: according to Interaction, an alliance of international non-governmental organizations, “the humanitarian community continues to see women’s protection as a second-tier concern in crises, particularly natural disasters, and is slow to address GBV at the onset of an emergency” (Interaction, 2010). This case study underscores the urgent need for the World Bank and IDB to strengthen their own gender policies and explicitly address GBV across all sectors.

The report does salute the World Bank for a recent grant to combat GBV in Haiti, which was the result of advocacy efforts on the part of Gender Action and other groups.


The Projects

In analyzing the World Bank’s “Port-au-Prince Neighborhood Housing Reconstruction Project,” part of the government’s 16/6 project, the report finds that:

While the World Bank’s special focus on women, female-headed households and other vulnerable groups is laudable, project indicators do not measure whether these services are actually carried out.

Adding:

Although the project’s housing repair and reconstruction component includes “training on gender awareness,” the World Bank neither discusses the content of this training, nor the methods used to measure the training’s impact.

In the IDB’s project to rehabilitate and expand the electricity system of Port-au-Prince, Gender Action notes that:

Neither the original loan document nor IDB statements on its supplemental funding address the need for electricity in IDP camps, which can reduce women and girls? risk of GBV (CHRGJ, 2012). (In fact, the words “women” and “gender” never once appear in the original 35-page loan proposal, nor the 26 page post-earthquake grant proposal).

Similarly, the IDB’s “Support to the Shelter Sector Response Plan,” fails to “acknowledge or address the relationship between inadequate shelter and vulnerable populations’ increased risk of GBV.” The report adds:

Although the project paper states that construction site “layouts will include special measures to prevent violence,” it does not describe these measures, nor does it target violence aimed at women and girls.

Gender Action does point to an IDB loan from 2005 as “a positive example of how IFI investments can successfully acknowledge and address gender issues.” However the project received additional funding after the earthquake and “the IDB has not published any information on whether the project’s original goals and objectives were achieved prior to the infusion of additional post-earthquake grant funding in 2010.”

In conclusion, the report outlines specific recommendations to the World Bank and IDB on how to improve their responsiveness to GBV:

–          Approach all investments from a women’s/human rights perspective
–          Methodically require equal consultation with women and men in all reconstruction and development projects
–          Ensure women’s equal involvement throughout all project cycle stages, including project design implementation and evaluation, and promote outcomes that equally benefit women and men, boys and girls
–          Leverage their influence to urge the Haitian government to implement and enforce gender equality and anti-discrimination laws, particularly against GBV and human trafficking
–          Immediately strengthen IDP camp security, shelters and services, especially for women and girls via their projects
–          Invest in Haiti’s health system in order to improve services for GBV survivors, including sexual and reproductive health services
–          Assist the Haitian government to strengthen its police force and legal system to better respond to allegations of GBV
–          Invest in projects that empower women and girls and challenge dominant gender norms that fuel GBV in Haiti

To read the entire report, click here.

UPDATE 3/14:  This post has been edited slightly for accuracy.

While the UN has long denied responsibility for introducing cholera to Haiti, the UN Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton acknowledged today that a MINUSTAH soldier introduced the deadly bacteria that has killed over 7,000 and sickened more than half a million. The statement by Clinton is the first by a UN official to acknowledge UN responsibility.

Independent journalist Ansel Herz reported via Twitter this afternoon that at a press conference in Mirebalais, Haiti, Bill Clinton acknowledged “that a UN peacekeeping soldier brought cholera to Haiti by accident.” Herz has just posted the audio recording of Clinton’s comments, during which he responds to a question from Herz by stating:

I don’t know that the person who introduced cholera into Haiti, the UN peacekeeping soldier from South Asia was aware that he was carrying the virus. [Ed. Note: cholera is not a virus, but bacteria].

It was the proximate cause of cholera, that is, he was carrying the cholera strain; it came from his waste stream into the waterways of Haiti and into the bodies of Haitians.

Clinton goes on to repeat the line from the UN investigation, which shifts blame off the UN and onto Haiti for not having adequate water and sanitation infrastructure. Clinton states that, “what really caused it is that you don’t have a sanitation system, you don’t have a comprehensive water system…”

This explanation, however neglects to account for the fact that as the UN’s own investigation found, “sanitation conditions at the Mirebalais MINUSTAH camp were not sufficient to prevent fecal contamination of the Meye Tributary System of the Artibonite River.” Had the UN adequately disposed of their waste, the outbreak would never have begun. Additionally, the UN failed to screen troops prior to their deployment from a cholera endemic region.

Since the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH)  and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) filed a claim on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims in November, the UN has not responded and repeatedly denied their responsibility. The statement today marks an important shift from these repeated denials.

This acknowledgement of responsibility comes on the heels of statements made by U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Susan Rice, which IJDH and BAI applauded in a press release earlier this week:

In a statement to the United Nations (UN) Security Council last week, U.S. Permanent Representative Susan Rice stressed the importance of UN accountability for its role in bringing cholera to Haiti, calling on the UN to “redouble its efforts to prevent any further incidents of this kind and to ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”

 

With Bill Clinton’s comments today, perhaps the UN will finally begin taking responsibility for the deadly epidemic and heed calls for financial compensation to victims and investment in critical life-saving infrastructure.

While the UN has long denied responsibility for introducing cholera to Haiti, the UN Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton acknowledged today that a MINUSTAH soldier introduced the deadly bacteria that has killed over 7,000 and sickened more than half a million. The statement by Clinton is the first by a UN official to acknowledge UN responsibility.

Independent journalist Ansel Herz reported via Twitter this afternoon that at a press conference in Mirebalais, Haiti, Bill Clinton acknowledged “that a UN peacekeeping soldier brought cholera to Haiti by accident.” Herz has just posted the audio recording of Clinton’s comments, during which he responds to a question from Herz by stating:

I don’t know that the person who introduced cholera into Haiti, the UN peacekeeping soldier from South Asia was aware that he was carrying the virus. [Ed. Note: cholera is not a virus, but bacteria].

It was the proximate cause of cholera, that is, he was carrying the cholera strain; it came from his waste stream into the waterways of Haiti and into the bodies of Haitians.

Clinton goes on to repeat the line from the UN investigation, which shifts blame off the UN and onto Haiti for not having adequate water and sanitation infrastructure. Clinton states that, “what really caused it is that you don’t have a sanitation system, you don’t have a comprehensive water system…”

This explanation, however neglects to account for the fact that as the UN’s own investigation found, “sanitation conditions at the Mirebalais MINUSTAH camp were not sufficient to prevent fecal contamination of the Meye Tributary System of the Artibonite River.” Had the UN adequately disposed of their waste, the outbreak would never have begun. Additionally, the UN failed to screen troops prior to their deployment from a cholera endemic region.

Since the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH)  and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) filed a claim on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims in November, the UN has not responded and repeatedly denied their responsibility. The statement today marks an important shift from these repeated denials.

This acknowledgement of responsibility comes on the heels of statements made by U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Susan Rice, which IJDH and BAI applauded in a press release earlier this week:

In a statement to the United Nations (UN) Security Council last week, U.S. Permanent Representative Susan Rice stressed the importance of UN accountability for its role in bringing cholera to Haiti, calling on the UN to “redouble its efforts to prevent any further incidents of this kind and to ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”

 

With Bill Clinton’s comments today, perhaps the UN will finally begin taking responsibility for the deadly epidemic and heed calls for financial compensation to victims and investment in critical life-saving infrastructure.

For the previous five years an independent organization, DARA, has been publishing the Humanitarian Response Index (HRI). The DARA website explains the HRI as “the world’s only independent tool for measuring the individual performance and commitment of government donors to apply the principles of Good Humanitarian Donorship which they agreed to in 2003.” (To learn more about the HRI, see the DARA website).

Unlike other independent evaluations which have focused as much on NGO behavior as donors, the 2011 HRI Haiti report focuses almost exclusively on the donor side of the equation. The report finds a host of missed opportunities, skewed priorities, a lack of coordination and perhaps most importantly, a shortage of communication with both the Haitian government and Haitian people. The result, as the report concludes, is that:

The international community cannot claim that it has helped Haiti build back better, and missed an opportunity to redress years of neglect and inattention to the issue of building capacity, resilience and strengthening preparedness for future crises.

Coordination and Local Input

While the HRI report found that coordination among international actors was relatively good, this “came at the price of better engagement and ownership of local actors.” A problem that has been mentioned numerous times before was the holding of meetings at the UN Logistics base, which the report notes “excluded local NGOs: there was no mechanism by which the large number of Haitian NGOs could be identified or contacted, and their participation was physically limited by making their entry difficult to the logistics base and by convening cluster meetings in English.”

One interviewee told the report’s authors:

“Donors having meetings in a military base in a humanitarian crisis makes no sense and the fact that they still do it one year and a half later is even worse. It hampers participation. Haitians are totally excluded. Many people can’t enter because there are strict controls at the entrance. As Haitians it’s harder for them to get through.”

The report suggests that rather than housing UN operations on a military base, “UN agencies and clusters should have been physically based within government ministries, to expedite their re-building and support their efforts.”

Many organizations also criticized donors for being “inflexible in allowing Haitian NGOs to be subgrantees.” One exception to this was Spain, which required that NGOs partner with local organizations. Canada also set some money aside specifically to build capacity of local NGOs. The U.S. government on the other hand was “criticized…for being confusing, non-transparent and inward-looking, despite their large presence.”

As an interviewee explained:

USAID has had a complete bunker mentality. It’s impossible to have any continuity in conversations with them. OFDA had platoons of consultants rotating in and out.

Missed Opportunities

One of the primary criticisms the HRI has for donor countries was that they missed opportunities to actually “build back better”.  Although the report notes that many actors were inexperienced in large scale urban disasters, donors come in for criticism for not applying the lessons learned from previous disasters, such as integrating local organizations into the response.

Another critical missed opportunity concerns land tenure issues. While it is clear that Haiti faces an extreme housing crisis, there is very little land available for building new houses. NGOs and donors have consistently shifted blame to the Haitian government because of the lack of clarity around land tenure and their reluctance to use eminent domain. Although the report acknowledges these constraints, the authors find that it was “mostly poor planning and coordination” which caused the significant delays in building temporary and permanent shelters.  The authors continue:

The Haitian government had a short window of opportunity to declare eminent domain and squandered it, in large part because donors did not provide early and strong support for such a controversial and bold action despite similar problems occurring in past natural disasters.

Using the natural migration after the earthquake to support decentralization was another missed opportunity, according to the report. Some 700,000 residents left the capital after the earthquake, yet “the collective aid community sucked hundreds of thousands of people back into the already over-congested capital of Port-au-Prince, an unintended by-product of the many cash-for-work, other employment, and cash distributions that were focused on the area of destruction, not the areas where people had fled to.” The reason is simple. As the report states, “Most donors preferred to support the response in the capital, where their aid was more visible.”

The Cholera Response

Donors’ role in the cholera response stands as one of the biggest failures over the last two years. Introduced by MINUSTAH, the cholera epidemic has killed over 7,000 people and sickened over half-a-million. As CEPR argued in a research paper in the summer of 2011, funding for the cholera response was withdrawn right before the rainy season, resulting in an extreme spike in cases and mortality that could have been prevented. The HRI report echoes these concerns:

The cholera crisis demonstrated the typical strength of donors to provide funding while the crisis was in the news, but similarly demonstrated the weakness of donors to be transparent or communicative about their proposed solutions for the transitional phases. While cholera was killing an increasing number of Haitians in the second semester of 2011, donors individually and collectively pulled back without advice other than to encourage integrated health care.

The report concludes, while noting the difficult circumstances on the ground, that:

Much more could have been done to coordinate their own efforts, and to be more transparent and less political about their aid allocations and decision-making processes. The fact that many of the billions of aid promised has still not been delivered and is nearly impossible to track is scandalous. While many mistakes have been made, there are still opportunities to set a new course for longer-term recovery and development that will take these concerns into consideration, and focus on living up to the promises made to Haiti that the international community will not abandon them, but work with them to rebuild and renew.

To read the full report, click here.

For the previous five years an independent organization, DARA, has been publishing the Humanitarian Response Index (HRI). The DARA website explains the HRI as “the world’s only independent tool for measuring the individual performance and commitment of government donors to apply the principles of Good Humanitarian Donorship which they agreed to in 2003.” (To learn more about the HRI, see the DARA website).

Unlike other independent evaluations which have focused as much on NGO behavior as donors, the 2011 HRI Haiti report focuses almost exclusively on the donor side of the equation. The report finds a host of missed opportunities, skewed priorities, a lack of coordination and perhaps most importantly, a shortage of communication with both the Haitian government and Haitian people. The result, as the report concludes, is that:

The international community cannot claim that it has helped Haiti build back better, and missed an opportunity to redress years of neglect and inattention to the issue of building capacity, resilience and strengthening preparedness for future crises.

Coordination and Local Input

While the HRI report found that coordination among international actors was relatively good, this “came at the price of better engagement and ownership of local actors.” A problem that has been mentioned numerous times before was the holding of meetings at the UN Logistics base, which the report notes “excluded local NGOs: there was no mechanism by which the large number of Haitian NGOs could be identified or contacted, and their participation was physically limited by making their entry difficult to the logistics base and by convening cluster meetings in English.”

One interviewee told the report’s authors:

“Donors having meetings in a military base in a humanitarian crisis makes no sense and the fact that they still do it one year and a half later is even worse. It hampers participation. Haitians are totally excluded. Many people can’t enter because there are strict controls at the entrance. As Haitians it’s harder for them to get through.”

The report suggests that rather than housing UN operations on a military base, “UN agencies and clusters should have been physically based within government ministries, to expedite their re-building and support their efforts.”

Many organizations also criticized donors for being “inflexible in allowing Haitian NGOs to be subgrantees.” One exception to this was Spain, which required that NGOs partner with local organizations. Canada also set some money aside specifically to build capacity of local NGOs. The U.S. government on the other hand was “criticized…for being confusing, non-transparent and inward-looking, despite their large presence.”

As an interviewee explained:

USAID has had a complete bunker mentality. It’s impossible to have any continuity in conversations with them. OFDA had platoons of consultants rotating in and out.

Missed Opportunities

One of the primary criticisms the HRI has for donor countries was that they missed opportunities to actually “build back better”.  Although the report notes that many actors were inexperienced in large scale urban disasters, donors come in for criticism for not applying the lessons learned from previous disasters, such as integrating local organizations into the response.

Another critical missed opportunity concerns land tenure issues. While it is clear that Haiti faces an extreme housing crisis, there is very little land available for building new houses. NGOs and donors have consistently shifted blame to the Haitian government because of the lack of clarity around land tenure and their reluctance to use eminent domain. Although the report acknowledges these constraints, the authors find that it was “mostly poor planning and coordination” which caused the significant delays in building temporary and permanent shelters.  The authors continue:

The Haitian government had a short window of opportunity to declare eminent domain and squandered it, in large part because donors did not provide early and strong support for such a controversial and bold action despite similar problems occurring in past natural disasters.

Using the natural migration after the earthquake to support decentralization was another missed opportunity, according to the report. Some 700,000 residents left the capital after the earthquake, yet “the collective aid community sucked hundreds of thousands of people back into the already over-congested capital of Port-au-Prince, an unintended by-product of the many cash-for-work, other employment, and cash distributions that were focused on the area of destruction, not the areas where people had fled to.” The reason is simple. As the report states, “Most donors preferred to support the response in the capital, where their aid was more visible.”

The Cholera Response

Donors’ role in the cholera response stands as one of the biggest failures over the last two years. Introduced by MINUSTAH, the cholera epidemic has killed over 7,000 people and sickened over half-a-million. As CEPR argued in a research paper in the summer of 2011, funding for the cholera response was withdrawn right before the rainy season, resulting in an extreme spike in cases and mortality that could have been prevented. The HRI report echoes these concerns:

The cholera crisis demonstrated the typical strength of donors to provide funding while the crisis was in the news, but similarly demonstrated the weakness of donors to be transparent or communicative about their proposed solutions for the transitional phases. While cholera was killing an increasing number of Haitians in the second semester of 2011, donors individually and collectively pulled back without advice other than to encourage integrated health care.

The report concludes, while noting the difficult circumstances on the ground, that:

Much more could have been done to coordinate their own efforts, and to be more transparent and less political about their aid allocations and decision-making processes. The fact that many of the billions of aid promised has still not been delivered and is nearly impossible to track is scandalous. While many mistakes have been made, there are still opportunities to set a new course for longer-term recovery and development that will take these concerns into consideration, and focus on living up to the promises made to Haiti that the international community will not abandon them, but work with them to rebuild and renew.

To read the full report, click here.

A new report from Haiti Grassroots Watch examines the State University of Haiti (UEH), more than a year after the university first came to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) with a proposal for rebuilding following the January 2010 earthquake. The report describes how the IHRC’s mandate ended before it ever got around to doing anything for the university – one of Haiti’s most important institutions of public education, concluding:

The fact that the Haitian government and its “friends” have not financed the reconstruction – and a sufficient operating budget – of the oldest and most important institution of higher learning in then country represents more than a “peril” to Haiti’s future.

The university’s 11 “units of teaching and research” are spread throughout Port-au-Prince, a spatial decentralization that, in a city where traffic is as notoriously difficult as it is in Haiti’s capital presents a significant logistical challenge to communication and organization by students and faculty across schools. Following the earthquake, in which many university buildings were destroyed and others damaged, and 50 faculty and 380 students killed or disappeared, centralization became a key component of the University’s reconstruction plan, which it brought to the IHRC.

The report details how

Over one year ago, the Rectorate submitted a proposal to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), the institution charged with approving and coordinating all reconstruction projects.

“Right in its first extraordinary meeting, on Feb. 5, 2010, the University Council decided to face the reconstruction problem… and we voted a resolution asking the Executive Council to take all measures deemed necessary to assure all the University faculties could be rehoused together,” according to the project, which HGW obtained.

“When considered as part of the challenge of reconstruction and of the re-founding of this nation, this project can be seen as a crucial asset of primary importance which will assure a better tomorrow for our population,” the same document continues.

The Rectorate proposed a provisional student and preliminary budget of US$200 million for the construction of the main campus with classroom buildings, libraries, laboratories, restaurants, and university residents to lodge 15,000 students and 1,000 professors on part of the old Habitation Damien land in Croix-des-Bouquets, north of Port-au-Prince.

(UEH Rector Jean-Vernet Henry discussed some of these ideas, and the university’s post-quake needs, in this July 2010 video interview.)

Commenting on the decentralization, Fritz Deshommes, Vice Rector for Research,
told HGW, “It’s really an aberration… despite the importance of UEH in the higher education system in Haiti, this prestigious institution has never had a campus.”

So what did the IHRC do about the University’s proposal? An insider gives HGW a glimpse into the process:

“The project was never discussed at any IHRC assembly, but every member knew about it,” [Rose Anne] Auguste [Founder of the Association for the Promotion of Integral Family Health and a former IHRC member] told HGW. “I tried to pressure the administrative council to get the project considered and discussed.”

UEH faculty and students that HRRW have met with have expressed views that the decentralization of the university has political motives. These are echoed in HGW’s interviews. “The reason that the university campus has never built is political,” Deshommes said:

“Because, if all the students were permanently together in one place, they would have the necessary material conditions to better organize themselves and make their demands heard. Then, they would be able to turn everything upside down. The political authorities understood the importance of this. A single campus is not in their interests.”

HGW presents some of the history behind this:

Ever since a 1960 strike of students at the University of Haiti, Francois Duvalier established his control over the various faculties. He issued a decree on Dec. 16, 1960, creating the “University of the State” in the place of the University of Haiti. The decree’s fascist character was apparent in the various lines. One reads in the decree that Duvalier was “considering the necessity to organize the
University on new foundations in order to prevent it from transforming into a bastion where subversive ideas would develop…”

Article 9 was even clearer. It noted that any student wanting to enroll in the university had to get a certificate from the police that he or she did not belong to any communist group or any association
under suspicion by the State.

The HGW report notes that the IHRC’s neglect of the university was despite the high priority that development experts place on public education, citing a World Bank study:

But the World Bank’s “Peril and Promise” study is also clear on the necessity to invest in public sector higher education.

“Markets require profit and this can crowd out important educational duties and opportunities,” the study says. “The disturbing truth is that these enormous disparities are poised to grow even more extreme, impelled in large part by the progress of the knowledge revolution and the continuing brain drain… For this reason the Task Force urges policymakers and donors – public and private, national and international – to waste no time. They must work with educational leaders and other key stakeholders to reposition higher education in developing countries.”

Read the full HGW report here.

A new report from Haiti Grassroots Watch examines the State University of Haiti (UEH), more than a year after the university first came to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) with a proposal for rebuilding following the January 2010 earthquake. The report describes how the IHRC’s mandate ended before it ever got around to doing anything for the university – one of Haiti’s most important institutions of public education, concluding:

The fact that the Haitian government and its “friends” have not financed the reconstruction – and a sufficient operating budget – of the oldest and most important institution of higher learning in then country represents more than a “peril” to Haiti’s future.

The university’s 11 “units of teaching and research” are spread throughout Port-au-Prince, a spatial decentralization that, in a city where traffic is as notoriously difficult as it is in Haiti’s capital presents a significant logistical challenge to communication and organization by students and faculty across schools. Following the earthquake, in which many university buildings were destroyed and others damaged, and 50 faculty and 380 students killed or disappeared, centralization became a key component of the University’s reconstruction plan, which it brought to the IHRC.

The report details how

Over one year ago, the Rectorate submitted a proposal to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), the institution charged with approving and coordinating all reconstruction projects.

“Right in its first extraordinary meeting, on Feb. 5, 2010, the University Council decided to face the reconstruction problem… and we voted a resolution asking the Executive Council to take all measures deemed necessary to assure all the University faculties could be rehoused together,” according to the project, which HGW obtained.

“When considered as part of the challenge of reconstruction and of the re-founding of this nation, this project can be seen as a crucial asset of primary importance which will assure a better tomorrow for our population,” the same document continues.

The Rectorate proposed a provisional student and preliminary budget of US$200 million for the construction of the main campus with classroom buildings, libraries, laboratories, restaurants, and university residents to lodge 15,000 students and 1,000 professors on part of the old Habitation Damien land in Croix-des-Bouquets, north of Port-au-Prince.

(UEH Rector Jean-Vernet Henry discussed some of these ideas, and the university’s post-quake needs, in this July 2010 video interview.)

Commenting on the decentralization, Fritz Deshommes, Vice Rector for Research,
told HGW, “It’s really an aberration… despite the importance of UEH in the higher education system in Haiti, this prestigious institution has never had a campus.”

So what did the IHRC do about the University’s proposal? An insider gives HGW a glimpse into the process:

“The project was never discussed at any IHRC assembly, but every member knew about it,” [Rose Anne] Auguste [Founder of the Association for the Promotion of Integral Family Health and a former IHRC member] told HGW. “I tried to pressure the administrative council to get the project considered and discussed.”

UEH faculty and students that HRRW have met with have expressed views that the decentralization of the university has political motives. These are echoed in HGW’s interviews. “The reason that the university campus has never built is political,” Deshommes said:

“Because, if all the students were permanently together in one place, they would have the necessary material conditions to better organize themselves and make their demands heard. Then, they would be able to turn everything upside down. The political authorities understood the importance of this. A single campus is not in their interests.”

HGW presents some of the history behind this:

Ever since a 1960 strike of students at the University of Haiti, Francois Duvalier established his control over the various faculties. He issued a decree on Dec. 16, 1960, creating the “University of the State” in the place of the University of Haiti. The decree’s fascist character was apparent in the various lines. One reads in the decree that Duvalier was “considering the necessity to organize the
University on new foundations in order to prevent it from transforming into a bastion where subversive ideas would develop…”

Article 9 was even clearer. It noted that any student wanting to enroll in the university had to get a certificate from the police that he or she did not belong to any communist group or any association
under suspicion by the State.

The HGW report notes that the IHRC’s neglect of the university was despite the high priority that development experts place on public education, citing a World Bank study:

But the World Bank’s “Peril and Promise” study is also clear on the necessity to invest in public sector higher education.

“Markets require profit and this can crowd out important educational duties and opportunities,” the study says. “The disturbing truth is that these enormous disparities are poised to grow even more extreme, impelled in large part by the progress of the knowledge revolution and the continuing brain drain… For this reason the Task Force urges policymakers and donors – public and private, national and international – to waste no time. They must work with educational leaders and other key stakeholders to reposition higher education in developing countries.”

Read the full HGW report here.

Want to search in the archives?

¿Quieres buscar en los archivos?

Click Here Haga clic aquí