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.

Although cholera cases decreased by nearly half from July to August following the predictable spike during the rainy season, on average, cholera infected more than 500 people and killed three people each day in September. Although these numbers are still well below previous peaks, they should not provide false confidence, as a decreased caseload in March and April did previously. Cases could increase quickly at almost any time, as cholera is a highly cyclical disease. Indeed, Haiti Libre reported just this week that Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has seen a significant increase in their case load in Port-au-Prince. Romaine Gitenet, MSF head of mission, told Haiti Libre that “”In one month we went from less than 300 admissions per week to over 850, which suggests a worsening situation in the coming weeks.”  Also worrisome is the continued lack of support to the United Nation’s cholera appeal as humanitarian relief efforts continue to dwindle as funds run out.

In our paper, “Not Doing Enough: Unnecessary Sickness and Death from Cholera in Haiti” we noted that funding for the UN’s appeal largely stagnated beginning in February when the caseload began to slow. This led to health actors pulling out of cholera relief right as the rainy season was about to begin. Yet in the last three months, despite the surge in cases, funding has only increased by $13 million. This is the nearly the same amount that was contributed in the three previous months, despite the significantly smaller caseload. The UN cholera appeal, originally set at $175 million, was based on estimates that severely underestimated the seriousness and longevity of the current epidemic. Nevertheless, the UN has since reduced its appeal to $110 million (and the overall humanitarian appeal from $900 million to less than $400 million) and in the most recent OCHA Humanitarian Bulletin it states that “97 per cent of the initial cholera appeal of $110 million” has been funded. However the original appeal, itself based on an underestimate, was for $175 million. There seems to be no evidence that Haiti’s needs for cholera relief have decreased. In fact, the UN itself, even while reducing their appeal, is sounding the alarm over the lack of funding. As Emergency Relief Coordinator and United Nations Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos warned after recently traveling to Haiti:

Funding gaps have resulted in reductions in the number of humanitarian agencies working in key sectors such as water and sanitation and camp management. Hundreds of latrines are now unusable. The overflowing latrines, particularly during this rainy season, pose significant health risks, including spread of cholera.

The number of health partners responding to the cholera epidemic continues to decline. The number decreased from 128 organizations in January to just 48 by July. That number has since decreased further to 44 with the UN warning that this includes “8 that will run out of funds at the end of Sept. 2011.” Additionally, another UN document on cholera notes that as the “end of the year approaches, certain organizations are struggling to find necessary funding to maintain their activities. In the Nippes and Grande Anse, actors are planning to leave late October.” These two departments have the second- and third-highest fatality rates in the country. In fact, in the same document that touts the cholera appeal being 97 percent funded the UN states that “additional needs will not be covered should severe outbreaks of cholera occur due to rains and flooding.” The document also notes that “[i]t is projected that the current epidemiologic curb will remain the same for the coming 2 to 3 years with moderate peaks before stabilizing into an endemic phase.”

It is vital, given the cyclical nature of cholera and the disease’s ability to peak rapidly that treatment efforts are maintained at a high level and that the international community and Haitian government evaluate the use of the cholera vaccine. These ramped up treatment efforts, combined with serious investment in health and water infrastructure is the only way that Haiti will be able to overcome this fatal disease. Now is not the time to repeat past mistakes and be unprepared for the next spike, leading to more uneccessary deaths.

Although cholera cases decreased by nearly half from July to August following the predictable spike during the rainy season, on average, cholera infected more than 500 people and killed three people each day in September. Although these numbers are still well below previous peaks, they should not provide false confidence, as a decreased caseload in March and April did previously. Cases could increase quickly at almost any time, as cholera is a highly cyclical disease. Indeed, Haiti Libre reported just this week that Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has seen a significant increase in their case load in Port-au-Prince. Romaine Gitenet, MSF head of mission, told Haiti Libre that “”In one month we went from less than 300 admissions per week to over 850, which suggests a worsening situation in the coming weeks.”  Also worrisome is the continued lack of support to the United Nation’s cholera appeal as humanitarian relief efforts continue to dwindle as funds run out.

In our paper, “Not Doing Enough: Unnecessary Sickness and Death from Cholera in Haiti” we noted that funding for the UN’s appeal largely stagnated beginning in February when the caseload began to slow. This led to health actors pulling out of cholera relief right as the rainy season was about to begin. Yet in the last three months, despite the surge in cases, funding has only increased by $13 million. This is the nearly the same amount that was contributed in the three previous months, despite the significantly smaller caseload. The UN cholera appeal, originally set at $175 million, was based on estimates that severely underestimated the seriousness and longevity of the current epidemic. Nevertheless, the UN has since reduced its appeal to $110 million (and the overall humanitarian appeal from $900 million to less than $400 million) and in the most recent OCHA Humanitarian Bulletin it states that “97 per cent of the initial cholera appeal of $110 million” has been funded. However the original appeal, itself based on an underestimate, was for $175 million. There seems to be no evidence that Haiti’s needs for cholera relief have decreased. In fact, the UN itself, even while reducing their appeal, is sounding the alarm over the lack of funding. As Emergency Relief Coordinator and United Nations Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos warned after recently traveling to Haiti:

Funding gaps have resulted in reductions in the number of humanitarian agencies working in key sectors such as water and sanitation and camp management. Hundreds of latrines are now unusable. The overflowing latrines, particularly during this rainy season, pose significant health risks, including spread of cholera.

The number of health partners responding to the cholera epidemic continues to decline. The number decreased from 128 organizations in January to just 48 by July. That number has since decreased further to 44 with the UN warning that this includes “8 that will run out of funds at the end of Sept. 2011.” Additionally, another UN document on cholera notes that as the “end of the year approaches, certain organizations are struggling to find necessary funding to maintain their activities. In the Nippes and Grande Anse, actors are planning to leave late October.” These two departments have the second- and third-highest fatality rates in the country. In fact, in the same document that touts the cholera appeal being 97 percent funded the UN states that “additional needs will not be covered should severe outbreaks of cholera occur due to rains and flooding.” The document also notes that “[i]t is projected that the current epidemiologic curb will remain the same for the coming 2 to 3 years with moderate peaks before stabilizing into an endemic phase.”

It is vital, given the cyclical nature of cholera and the disease’s ability to peak rapidly that treatment efforts are maintained at a high level and that the international community and Haitian government evaluate the use of the cholera vaccine. These ramped up treatment efforts, combined with serious investment in health and water infrastructure is the only way that Haiti will be able to overcome this fatal disease. Now is not the time to repeat past mistakes and be unprepared for the next spike, leading to more uneccessary deaths.

The United Nations Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti (OSE) released updated figures on the status of donor countries’ aid pledges earlier this week. The analysis reveals that just 43 percent of the $4.6 billion in pledges has been disbursed, up from 37.8 percent in June. This increase of $230 million is much larger than the observed increase in aid disbursement from March to June, when total disbursements increased by only $30 million. Also, an additional $475 million of aid money has been committed, meaning more money is now in the pipeline for Haiti. This increase is certainly a positive development, yet the overall levels of disbursement remain extremely low. The $4.6 billion in pledges was for the years 2010 and 2011, which means that donors have only a few months to fulfill their pledges.

While $1.52 billion was disbursed in 2010, this year, less than 30 percent of that—$455 million—has been disbursed. The United States, which pledged over $900 million for recovery efforts in 2010 and 2011, has disbursed just 18.8 percent of this (PDF). Of countries that pledged over $100 million dollars, only Japan has achieved 100 percent disbursement.

But it is important to go beyond the level of disbursements to see how much of this money has actually been spent on the ground and how it has supported both the Haitian public and private sectors. The following analysis shows that much of the money donors have disbursed has not actually been spent on the ground yet, that the Haitian government has not received the support it needs, and that Haitian firms have largely been bypassed in the contracting process.

Just 10 percent of funds disbursed by the Haiti Reconstruction Fund, which received nearly 20 percent of all donor pledges, have actually been spent on the ground. The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission has approved over $3 billion in projects, yet most have not even begun. Budget support for the Haitian government is set to be lower in 2011 than it was before the earthquake in 2009. Finally, only 2.4 percent of U.S. government contracts went directly to Haitian firms, while USAID relied on beltway contractors (Maryland, Virginia and DC) for over 90 percent of their contracts.

Disbursed By Donor Doesn’t Mean Spent on the Ground

The international community has set up a number of institutions that aim to centralize aid flows and projects, in particular the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) and the Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF). The HRF has received roughly 20 percent of donor funds.

Our analysis of the Haiti Reconstruction Fund’s annual report revealed that despite public announcements touting a 71 percent disbursal rate at the Fund, in reality, closer to 10 percent had actually been spent on the ground, much of which was on consultant fees.

The HRF report notes that “The Trustee has transferred funds totaling US$197 million in respect of those approved projects and associated fees to the Partner Entities,” and an additional $40 million is set to be transferred. Together the $237 million is equal to 71 percent of the total funds raised. However, as the HRF notes, this money has not actually been spent on the ground, but simply transferred to their Partner Entities (the World Bank, UN and the Inter-American Development Bank – IDB). The disbursement of funds from those organizations is just $35 million, or about 10 percent of the total contributions received. The IDB, which has received $37 million in HRF funds, has yet to actually disburse any of this total.

Despite this, the HRF press release at the time listed a number of projects as “highlights of the work done so far. ” HRF manager Josef Leitmann commented to the Financial Times:

“That’s no mean feat in an environment like Haiti where there are so many obstacles and challenges to getting things done on the ground.”

Yet the projects that Leitmann refers to –though funding has been made available for them by the HRF — have not actually been undertaken. As is clear from the HRF’s own report, nowhere near $240 million has been spent “on the ground.”

The IHRC, which approves projects, but does not fund them, has green-lighted over $3 billion in projects, yet the vast majority of them remain underfunded or in the very early stages of implementation. Although not all IHRC-approved projects provided updates on disbursement rates, an analysis of the Performance and Anti-Corruption Office’s Status Update reveals that just over $100 million, or 3 percent, has been spent on 75 projects. In the critical health sector, less than 2.5 percent of the $350 million in approved projects has been spent as of June.

Additionally, the OSE found in June that close to 75 percent of bilateral recovery aid to Haiti went to international NGOs, contractors and multilateral agencies. Although this money has been disbursed to these partners there is no guarantee, or transparent data showing, that it has been spent on the ground in Haiti yet.

Aid as Accompaniment

As important as the level of disbursement is the question of where that money has gone. In June, the OSE published “Has Aid Changed? Channeling Assistance to Haiti Before and After the Earthquake,” which analyzed whether donors “have changed the way they provide their assistance in accordance with the principle of accompaniment”, which “is specifically focused on guiding international partners to transfer more resources and assets directly to Haitian public and private institutions as part of their support.”

While 2010 saw some changes in donor behavior, including increased budget support, there are signs that the change has been temporary. The June report notes:

Over 50 percent of the budget support disbursed after the earthquake arrived in the last two months (August and September 2010) of the Haitian fiscal year, more than eight months after the earthquake. According to the IMF, only 29 percent of the budget support pledged for the 2011 fiscal year has been disbursed by donors, although over half of these funds remain in the HRF and have not yet reached the government. The delayed disbursements to budget support negatively impacted the government’s ability to effectively plan activities.

Although there were some changes, the Special Envoy concludes that little has changed overall, and that “[m]ost aid is still channelled in the form of grants directly to international multilateral agencies, and non-state service providers (NGOs and private contractors).” Yet, as the Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti Paul Farmer notes, strengthening Haiti’s public institutions is a must, and the report concludes that “aid is most effective at strengthening public institutions when it is channelled through them.”

The updated numbers from the OSE reveal an increase of $40 million in budget support coming from the European Commission. Yet even after this increase, direct budget support for fiscal year 2011 remains below the amount Haiti received in 2009, before the earthquake decimated much of the government. This is especially critical as many aid agencies continue to wind down operations or fully pull out of Haiti. In many cases the Haitian government, which remains underfunded, is left to pick up the slack.

Support to the Haitian Private Sector – Spending the Development Dollar Twice

In addition to supporting the Haitian public sector, the idea of accompaniment pertains to supporting the Haitian private sector. One of the most direct ways to stimulate local production is through local procurement practices. Peace Dividend Trust (PDT) has been working in Haiti since 2009 to increase the amount of aid that enters the local economy. The Peace Dividend Marketplace is a forum that connects local businesses with development agencies, NGOs, and foreign governments. Forthcoming research from PDT shows that their database contains over 2,200 local businesses, over 600 of which are in the construction sector.

PDT describes the benefits of local procurement as “spending the development dollar twice.” Previous PDT research, predominantly focusing on Afghanistan, revealed that “only a small portion of the aid money pledged and spent in the aftermath of a disaster or conflict will actually be channeled through the host government and local economy.” PDT was instrumental in creating the “Afghanistan Compact,” in which “donors agreed to channel an increasing proportion of their assistance through the core government budget, either directly or through trust fund mechanisms. Where this was not possible, the Compact acknowledges the significance of three things: using national partners rather than international partners to implement projects; increasing procurement within Afghanistan; and using Afghan goods and services wherever feasible rather than importing goods and services.” Yet in Haiti, no such explicit policy exists.

PDT research in Afghanistan showed that “funds provided through trust fund and budget support arrangements” had the greatest local economic impact, calculated by PDT at 80 percent. This means that 80 percent of the funds enter the local economy and generate local economic impact. In comparison, funding provided to international NGOs and contractors provided just 15 percent local economic impact. Although not an exact science, it is reasonable to assume a similar breakdown in Haiti. As mentioned earlier, the OSE report in June found that some 75 percent of recovery funding went to international NGOs, contractors and multilateral agencies where the local economic impact is much lower than direct budget support.

The HRF, although much of its funds remain unspent, is an example of how trust funds can have a greater local impact than contracts with NGOs or for-profit companies. According to the HRF annual report, the Haitian government is the implementing partner for 88.4 percent of HRF funds. Based on PDT research, this will likely lead to the most significant local economic impact of aid allocation.

As was previously mentioned, over 600 of the Haitian businesses listed by PDT are in the construction sector, a key area for development projects. A forthcoming report from PDT on local procurement within the construction sector surveys local business and international organizations, and reveals that at least in the construction sector, many organizations are already doing business with Haitian firms. This is especially important because as PDT found in Afghanistan, “[i]nternational construction contracts are approximated at a 10-15% local economic impact,” an especially low rate. The forthcoming report finds that 32 of 33 international organizations surveyed had used local construction companies, but were much more likely to use larger Haitian firms. Over 60 percent of the companies PDT interviewed had fewer than 10 employees, but these firms were much less likely to have done work for an international organization.

Although PDT has found that many aid organizations are contracting with Haitian businesses, it is unclear what the economic impact is. As PDT explained in Afghanistan, the reason why international construction contracts have such a low economic impact is that “[t]he vast majority of funds are used to pay for international staff and the procurement of international materials – including capital equipment as well as inputs. These companies use a considerable amount of local labour, but since local wages are often much lower than wages paid to international staff, this figure does not represent a large portion of the overall expenditures.” Further research from PDT may shine more light on this issue.

The US and Local Procurement – Haitian Firms Remain Sidelined

The United States, and especially USAID, have made many statements concerning local procurement and their commitment to work with Haitian companies, yet this commitment has yet to show up in their actual contracting. An updated analysis of the Federal Procurement Database System (FPDS) shows that an extremely low percentage of contracts are going to Haitian companies. As can be seen in Table I, as of September 15, 1537 contracts had been awarded for a total of $204,604,670. Of those 1537 contracts, only 23 have gone to Haitian companies, totaling just $4,841,426, or roughly 2.4 percent of the total. For every $100 dollars spent, just $2.40 has gone directly to a Haitian firm.

Table I.
haiti-2011-09-22a

While Haitian firms have largely been left on the sidelines, Beltway contractors (from DC, Maryland and Virginia) have received 35.5 percent of the $200 million in contracts, as can be seen in Table II. We have written before about the controversial track records of two of the largest Beltway contractors, DAI and Chemonics.

Table II.

haiti-2011-09-22b

USAID has actually been one of the worst US government agencies in terms of contracting to local businesses. USAID has awarded contracts totaling $32.5 million, yet not a single contract has been awarded to a Haitian company. In addition, an astounding 93 percent of contracts awarded by USAID have gone to Beltway contractors. Although some of the companies that USAID contracts with use Haitian inputs and subcontract to Haitian firms, USAID does not publicly disclose this information making a more detailed analysis of the local economic impact impossible. As Edward Rees of Peace Dividend Trust told the AP back in December, “No one is systematically tracking how many contracts have gone to Haitian companies.”

A USAID Inspector General report on the provision of shelter determined that the way grants were made was problematic and excluded Haitian businesses:

USAID/OFDA implemented the shelter project by accepting unsolicited grant proposals issued under a waiver for competition because of the urgency of the need after the earthquake. Grants, which do not permit substantial involvement by the Agency, may not have been the best award mechanism to achieve rapid construction of cost-effective shelters meeting industry standards. If USAID/OFDA had used contracts for shelter construction, it could have prescribed the shelter design and could have given local Haitian businesses an opportunity to participate.

The IG recommended to USAID/OFDA that they “set-aside awards to local organizations for future awards for transitional shelter construction.” Although they disagreed with the IG’s recommendation, USAID/OFDA noted that they “support making subawards to local organizations,” and that “it could add a requirement that all proposals include local partners to increase the number of local organizations involved in constructing transitional shelters.”

Additionally, the report found that the largest contractors had not employed as many Haitians as originally planned. The AP reported at the time:

And an audit this fall by US AID’s Inspector General found that more than 70 percent of the funds given to the two largest U.S. contractors for a cash for work project in Haiti was spent on equipment and materials. As a result, just 8,000 Haitians a day were being hired by June, instead of the planned 25,000 a day, according to the IG.

In addition to the above analysis, USAID has provided frequent updates on their humanitarian funding in Haiti since the earthquake. An analysis of USAID factsheets shows that 50 percent of the nearly $1.2 billion in humanitarian funding was allocated to U.S. government agencies. International NGOs and contractors received over 30 percent and UN agencies 16 percent. While there is no doubt that some of this money went to Haitian businesses or NGOs as subcontractors, not a single Haitian organization is named as an “implementing partner” among the 98 activities listed.

The United Nations Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti (OSE) released updated figures on the status of donor countries’ aid pledges earlier this week. The analysis reveals that just 43 percent of the $4.6 billion in pledges has been disbursed, up from 37.8 percent in June. This increase of $230 million is much larger than the observed increase in aid disbursement from March to June, when total disbursements increased by only $30 million. Also, an additional $475 million of aid money has been committed, meaning more money is now in the pipeline for Haiti. This increase is certainly a positive development, yet the overall levels of disbursement remain extremely low. The $4.6 billion in pledges was for the years 2010 and 2011, which means that donors have only a few months to fulfill their pledges.

While $1.52 billion was disbursed in 2010, this year, less than 30 percent of that—$455 million—has been disbursed. The United States, which pledged over $900 million for recovery efforts in 2010 and 2011, has disbursed just 18.8 percent of this (PDF). Of countries that pledged over $100 million dollars, only Japan has achieved 100 percent disbursement.

But it is important to go beyond the level of disbursements to see how much of this money has actually been spent on the ground and how it has supported both the Haitian public and private sectors. The following analysis shows that much of the money donors have disbursed has not actually been spent on the ground yet, that the Haitian government has not received the support it needs, and that Haitian firms have largely been bypassed in the contracting process.

Just 10 percent of funds disbursed by the Haiti Reconstruction Fund, which received nearly 20 percent of all donor pledges, have actually been spent on the ground. The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission has approved over $3 billion in projects, yet most have not even begun. Budget support for the Haitian government is set to be lower in 2011 than it was before the earthquake in 2009. Finally, only 2.4 percent of U.S. government contracts went directly to Haitian firms, while USAID relied on beltway contractors (Maryland, Virginia and DC) for over 90 percent of their contracts.

Disbursed By Donor Doesn’t Mean Spent on the Ground

The international community has set up a number of institutions that aim to centralize aid flows and projects, in particular the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) and the Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF). The HRF has received roughly 20 percent of donor funds.

Our analysis of the Haiti Reconstruction Fund’s annual report revealed that despite public announcements touting a 71 percent disbursal rate at the Fund, in reality, closer to 10 percent had actually been spent on the ground, much of which was on consultant fees.

The HRF report notes that “The Trustee has transferred funds totaling US$197 million in respect of those approved projects and associated fees to the Partner Entities,” and an additional $40 million is set to be transferred. Together the $237 million is equal to 71 percent of the total funds raised. However, as the HRF notes, this money has not actually been spent on the ground, but simply transferred to their Partner Entities (the World Bank, UN and the Inter-American Development Bank – IDB). The disbursement of funds from those organizations is just $35 million, or about 10 percent of the total contributions received. The IDB, which has received $37 million in HRF funds, has yet to actually disburse any of this total.

Despite this, the HRF press release at the time listed a number of projects as “highlights of the work done so far. ” HRF manager Josef Leitmann commented to the Financial Times:

“That’s no mean feat in an environment like Haiti where there are so many obstacles and challenges to getting things done on the ground.”

Yet the projects that Leitmann refers to –though funding has been made available for them by the HRF — have not actually been undertaken. As is clear from the HRF’s own report, nowhere near $240 million has been spent “on the ground.”

The IHRC, which approves projects, but does not fund them, has green-lighted over $3 billion in projects, yet the vast majority of them remain underfunded or in the very early stages of implementation. Although not all IHRC-approved projects provided updates on disbursement rates, an analysis of the Performance and Anti-Corruption Office’s Status Update reveals that just over $100 million, or 3 percent, has been spent on 75 projects. In the critical health sector, less than 2.5 percent of the $350 million in approved projects has been spent as of June.

Additionally, the OSE found in June that close to 75 percent of bilateral recovery aid to Haiti went to international NGOs, contractors and multilateral agencies. Although this money has been disbursed to these partners there is no guarantee, or transparent data showing, that it has been spent on the ground in Haiti yet.

Aid as Accompaniment

As important as the level of disbursement is the question of where that money has gone. In June, the OSE published “Has Aid Changed? Channeling Assistance to Haiti Before and After the Earthquake,” which analyzed whether donors “have changed the way they provide their assistance in accordance with the principle of accompaniment”, which “is specifically focused on guiding international partners to transfer more resources and assets directly to Haitian public and private institutions as part of their support.”

While 2010 saw some changes in donor behavior, including increased budget support, there are signs that the change has been temporary. The June report notes:

Over 50 percent of the budget support disbursed after the earthquake arrived in the last two months (August and September 2010) of the Haitian fiscal year, more than eight months after the earthquake. According to the IMF, only 29 percent of the budget support pledged for the 2011 fiscal year has been disbursed by donors, although over half of these funds remain in the HRF and have not yet reached the government. The delayed disbursements to budget support negatively impacted the government’s ability to effectively plan activities.

Although there were some changes, the Special Envoy concludes that little has changed overall, and that “[m]ost aid is still channelled in the form of grants directly to international multilateral agencies, and non-state service providers (NGOs and private contractors).” Yet, as the Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti Paul Farmer notes, strengthening Haiti’s public institutions is a must, and the report concludes that “aid is most effective at strengthening public institutions when it is channelled through them.”

The updated numbers from the OSE reveal an increase of $40 million in budget support coming from the European Commission. Yet even after this increase, direct budget support for fiscal year 2011 remains below the amount Haiti received in 2009, before the earthquake decimated much of the government. This is especially critical as many aid agencies continue to wind down operations or fully pull out of Haiti. In many cases the Haitian government, which remains underfunded, is left to pick up the slack.

Support to the Haitian Private Sector – Spending the Development Dollar Twice

In addition to supporting the Haitian public sector, the idea of accompaniment pertains to supporting the Haitian private sector. One of the most direct ways to stimulate local production is through local procurement practices. Peace Dividend Trust (PDT) has been working in Haiti since 2009 to increase the amount of aid that enters the local economy. The Peace Dividend Marketplace is a forum that connects local businesses with development agencies, NGOs, and foreign governments. Forthcoming research from PDT shows that their database contains over 2,200 local businesses, over 600 of which are in the construction sector.

PDT describes the benefits of local procurement as “spending the development dollar twice.” Previous PDT research, predominantly focusing on Afghanistan, revealed that “only a small portion of the aid money pledged and spent in the aftermath of a disaster or conflict will actually be channeled through the host government and local economy.” PDT was instrumental in creating the “Afghanistan Compact,” in which “donors agreed to channel an increasing proportion of their assistance through the core government budget, either directly or through trust fund mechanisms. Where this was not possible, the Compact acknowledges the significance of three things: using national partners rather than international partners to implement projects; increasing procurement within Afghanistan; and using Afghan goods and services wherever feasible rather than importing goods and services.” Yet in Haiti, no such explicit policy exists.

PDT research in Afghanistan showed that “funds provided through trust fund and budget support arrangements” had the greatest local economic impact, calculated by PDT at 80 percent. This means that 80 percent of the funds enter the local economy and generate local economic impact. In comparison, funding provided to international NGOs and contractors provided just 15 percent local economic impact. Although not an exact science, it is reasonable to assume a similar breakdown in Haiti. As mentioned earlier, the OSE report in June found that some 75 percent of recovery funding went to international NGOs, contractors and multilateral agencies where the local economic impact is much lower than direct budget support.

The HRF, although much of its funds remain unspent, is an example of how trust funds can have a greater local impact than contracts with NGOs or for-profit companies. According to the HRF annual report, the Haitian government is the implementing partner for 88.4 percent of HRF funds. Based on PDT research, this will likely lead to the most significant local economic impact of aid allocation.

As was previously mentioned, over 600 of the Haitian businesses listed by PDT are in the construction sector, a key area for development projects. A forthcoming report from PDT on local procurement within the construction sector surveys local business and international organizations, and reveals that at least in the construction sector, many organizations are already doing business with Haitian firms. This is especially important because as PDT found in Afghanistan, “[i]nternational construction contracts are approximated at a 10-15% local economic impact,” an especially low rate. The forthcoming report finds that 32 of 33 international organizations surveyed had used local construction companies, but were much more likely to use larger Haitian firms. Over 60 percent of the companies PDT interviewed had fewer than 10 employees, but these firms were much less likely to have done work for an international organization.

Although PDT has found that many aid organizations are contracting with Haitian businesses, it is unclear what the economic impact is. As PDT explained in Afghanistan, the reason why international construction contracts have such a low economic impact is that “[t]he vast majority of funds are used to pay for international staff and the procurement of international materials – including capital equipment as well as inputs. These companies use a considerable amount of local labour, but since local wages are often much lower than wages paid to international staff, this figure does not represent a large portion of the overall expenditures.” Further research from PDT may shine more light on this issue.

The US and Local Procurement – Haitian Firms Remain Sidelined

The United States, and especially USAID, have made many statements concerning local procurement and their commitment to work with Haitian companies, yet this commitment has yet to show up in their actual contracting. An updated analysis of the Federal Procurement Database System (FPDS) shows that an extremely low percentage of contracts are going to Haitian companies. As can be seen in Table I, as of September 15, 1537 contracts had been awarded for a total of $204,604,670. Of those 1537 contracts, only 23 have gone to Haitian companies, totaling just $4,841,426, or roughly 2.4 percent of the total. For every $100 dollars spent, just $2.40 has gone directly to a Haitian firm.

Table I.
haiti-2011-09-22a

While Haitian firms have largely been left on the sidelines, Beltway contractors (from DC, Maryland and Virginia) have received 35.5 percent of the $200 million in contracts, as can be seen in Table II. We have written before about the controversial track records of two of the largest Beltway contractors, DAI and Chemonics.

Table II.

haiti-2011-09-22b

USAID has actually been one of the worst US government agencies in terms of contracting to local businesses. USAID has awarded contracts totaling $32.5 million, yet not a single contract has been awarded to a Haitian company. In addition, an astounding 93 percent of contracts awarded by USAID have gone to Beltway contractors. Although some of the companies that USAID contracts with use Haitian inputs and subcontract to Haitian firms, USAID does not publicly disclose this information making a more detailed analysis of the local economic impact impossible. As Edward Rees of Peace Dividend Trust told the AP back in December, “No one is systematically tracking how many contracts have gone to Haitian companies.”

A USAID Inspector General report on the provision of shelter determined that the way grants were made was problematic and excluded Haitian businesses:

USAID/OFDA implemented the shelter project by accepting unsolicited grant proposals issued under a waiver for competition because of the urgency of the need after the earthquake. Grants, which do not permit substantial involvement by the Agency, may not have been the best award mechanism to achieve rapid construction of cost-effective shelters meeting industry standards. If USAID/OFDA had used contracts for shelter construction, it could have prescribed the shelter design and could have given local Haitian businesses an opportunity to participate.

The IG recommended to USAID/OFDA that they “set-aside awards to local organizations for future awards for transitional shelter construction.” Although they disagreed with the IG’s recommendation, USAID/OFDA noted that they “support making subawards to local organizations,” and that “it could add a requirement that all proposals include local partners to increase the number of local organizations involved in constructing transitional shelters.”

Additionally, the report found that the largest contractors had not employed as many Haitians as originally planned. The AP reported at the time:

And an audit this fall by US AID’s Inspector General found that more than 70 percent of the funds given to the two largest U.S. contractors for a cash for work project in Haiti was spent on equipment and materials. As a result, just 8,000 Haitians a day were being hired by June, instead of the planned 25,000 a day, according to the IG.

In addition to the above analysis, USAID has provided frequent updates on their humanitarian funding in Haiti since the earthquake. An analysis of USAID factsheets shows that 50 percent of the nearly $1.2 billion in humanitarian funding was allocated to U.S. government agencies. International NGOs and contractors received over 30 percent and UN agencies 16 percent. While there is no doubt that some of this money went to Haitian businesses or NGOs as subcontractors, not a single Haitian organization is named as an “implementing partner” among the 98 activities listed.

We have noted the many scandals that have dogged MINUSTAH’s presence in Haiti since the beginning to the most recent, which involve the video-taped rape of an 18-year-old man, and MINUSTAH troops having sex – and fathering children – with Haitian minors and women. Protests have erupted following these new scandals, and signals from the Haitian government and prominent political figures in Haiti have signaled an impatience with the open-ended Mission.

The Haitian government’s stated support for MINUSTAH’s presence has always been key to its ability to remain in Haiti. A classified Embassy cable by then-Ambassador Janet Sanderson, written in October 2008, and recently made available by Wikileaks, describes how the Haitian government questioned the Mission’s purpose years ago. Then-President René Préval appears to have sought to have MINUSTAH’s mandate changed from a Chapter 7 to a Chapter 6 designation:

2. (C)  UNSRSG Hedi Annabi tells me that Haitian President Rene Preval intends to seek a change in the MINUSTAH mandate from Chapter 7 to Chapter 6 status. Arguing that bringing MINUSTAH here under Chapter 7 sends the signal to investors that Haiti is a “war zone,” and ups insurance rates, Preval told Annabi on October 1 that he is writing the UNSC President to request that the Council revisit this issue  prior to vote on the extension of the MINUSTAH mandate. Annabi added that Preval briefly raised this issue with UNSYG Ban Ki Moon during his courtesy call at the UNGA last month; the SYG tried to dissuade Preval but noted that this matter was more in the purview of the UNSC rather than the SYG’s office.

[Hedi Annabi, was Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and MINUSTAH head before being killed in the January 12, 2010 earthquake.]

As we have noted before, the distinction is important, because while a Chapter 7 designation is intended for situations in which the consent of the destination country for the UN “peace keepers” is not required because “a threat or breach of the peace” exists, a Chapter 6 designation requires “only consent by the state in question.” (See this Statement [PDF] by GWU Law School Professor Michael Matheson; h/t Ansel Herz.) Were MINUSTAH’s mandate to change to a Chapter 6 status, as Préval was suggesting, then all the Haitian government would need to do, presumably, to force the Mission’s exit, would be to publicly call for it.

Interestingly, nowhere in the cable does Sanderson respond to the questioning of whether Haiti is indeed a “war zone.” Were there indeed significant ongoing armed conflict of any sort to justify such a strong military presence, it would seem appropriate for Sanderson to reference it here. The cable seems to suggest that the issue of whether or not warfare exists in Haiti is beside the point for the U.S. government’s insistence on MINUSTAH’s Chapter 7 designation.

The cable demonstrates that Préval’s statements caused consternation for both the U.S. government, which, as we have noted, has made its motives for supporting an ongoing MINUSTAH presence very clear, and, of course for Annabi. Previously Wikileaked cables have revealed the lackluster enthusiasm that many Latin American MINUSTAH members had for the Mission from early on. A key component of the U.S. government’s strategy in encouraging Latin American participation in the Mission was to underscore the Haitian government’s desire for MINUSTAH to stay. Shifting MINUSTAH’s mandate from a Chapter 7 “non-consensual” to a Chapter 6 “consensual” designation could have been interpreted as a signal that the Haitian government was actually not as supportive of the foreign troops’ presence. It would also make plain that there was no “threat or breach of the peace” that justified MINUSTAH’s presence.

3. (C) Annabi told me that he argued strongly with Preval
that opening this matter now might unravel the Security
Council consensus, carefully crafted in 2004-2005, which
brought MINUSTAH to Haiti. He expressed deep concern that
moving to Chapter 6 status could open discussions in certain
capitals about troop commitment levels, calling into question
MINUSTAH’s current configuration. Preval, he said, made it
clear that he wants MINUSTAH to stay through the end of his
term (2011.) But Preval has, deliberately or not,
misinterpreted the difference between the two chapters and
will argue in his letter that MINUSTAH’s military role should
now evolve into a developmental presence.  Preval does not
understand, Annabi states, that MINUSTAH troop contributor
countries may not wish to play that role and could use any
such change to dial back their engagement here.

Sanderson seems to have been alarmed that Préval would pursue this proposal, which she notes had previously been suggested by his Minister of Planning, without consequence. “My Chinese, Canadian and French colleagues all agree that from our vantage point here this is a terrible idea which opens a Pandora’s box of issues better left closed,” she wrote, ending the cable with a request that the Secretary of State’s office “provide guidance on USG position on Preval’s proposal” as she planned to soon meet with Préval.

Another pertinent cable that was just made available, from February 2010, describes the Uruguayan government attempting damage control in the wake of a Frente Amplio (ruling party coalition) statement criticizing the U.S. role in Haiti following the earthquake:

1. Charg???? met with ruling Frente Amplio (FA) coalition president Jorge Brovetto February 3 to explain the U.S. role in Haiti disaster relief and underscore the extensive support the USG is providing to Uruguayan peacekeepers in Haiti. She emphasized the moral imperative our entire government and country feels to come to the aid of Haiti, our full respect for the country’s sovereignty, one government response, and our close coordination with MINUSTAH and other donors. She urged a joint public stance of collaboration that reflects our joint work together on this vital mission. Background: The FA issued a declaration January 28 articulating concern that “hegemonic powers” would take advantage of the current situation, and incoming Minister of Defense Luis Rosadilla, currently in Haiti, has made similar statements.

Considering the U.S. government’s clear desire for a robust, ongoing MINUSTAH presence, the recent sexual abuse scandals involving Uruguayan troops – which have led to President José Mujica apologizing to Haitian president Michel Martelly, and to renewed criticism in Brazil and elsewhere – must be causing new worries in the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince.

We have noted the many scandals that have dogged MINUSTAH’s presence in Haiti since the beginning to the most recent, which involve the video-taped rape of an 18-year-old man, and MINUSTAH troops having sex – and fathering children – with Haitian minors and women. Protests have erupted following these new scandals, and signals from the Haitian government and prominent political figures in Haiti have signaled an impatience with the open-ended Mission.

The Haitian government’s stated support for MINUSTAH’s presence has always been key to its ability to remain in Haiti. A classified Embassy cable by then-Ambassador Janet Sanderson, written in October 2008, and recently made available by Wikileaks, describes how the Haitian government questioned the Mission’s purpose years ago. Then-President René Préval appears to have sought to have MINUSTAH’s mandate changed from a Chapter 7 to a Chapter 6 designation:

2. (C)  UNSRSG Hedi Annabi tells me that Haitian President Rene Preval intends to seek a change in the MINUSTAH mandate from Chapter 7 to Chapter 6 status. Arguing that bringing MINUSTAH here under Chapter 7 sends the signal to investors that Haiti is a “war zone,” and ups insurance rates, Preval told Annabi on October 1 that he is writing the UNSC President to request that the Council revisit this issue  prior to vote on the extension of the MINUSTAH mandate. Annabi added that Preval briefly raised this issue with UNSYG Ban Ki Moon during his courtesy call at the UNGA last month; the SYG tried to dissuade Preval but noted that this matter was more in the purview of the UNSC rather than the SYG’s office.

[Hedi Annabi, was Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and MINUSTAH head before being killed in the January 12, 2010 earthquake.]

As we have noted before, the distinction is important, because while a Chapter 7 designation is intended for situations in which the consent of the destination country for the UN “peace keepers” is not required because “a threat or breach of the peace” exists, a Chapter 6 designation requires “only consent by the state in question.” (See this Statement [PDF] by GWU Law School Professor Michael Matheson; h/t Ansel Herz.) Were MINUSTAH’s mandate to change to a Chapter 6 status, as Préval was suggesting, then all the Haitian government would need to do, presumably, to force the Mission’s exit, would be to publicly call for it.

Interestingly, nowhere in the cable does Sanderson respond to the questioning of whether Haiti is indeed a “war zone.” Were there indeed significant ongoing armed conflict of any sort to justify such a strong military presence, it would seem appropriate for Sanderson to reference it here. The cable seems to suggest that the issue of whether or not warfare exists in Haiti is beside the point for the U.S. government’s insistence on MINUSTAH’s Chapter 7 designation.

The cable demonstrates that Préval’s statements caused consternation for both the U.S. government, which, as we have noted, has made its motives for supporting an ongoing MINUSTAH presence very clear, and, of course for Annabi. Previously Wikileaked cables have revealed the lackluster enthusiasm that many Latin American MINUSTAH members had for the Mission from early on. A key component of the U.S. government’s strategy in encouraging Latin American participation in the Mission was to underscore the Haitian government’s desire for MINUSTAH to stay. Shifting MINUSTAH’s mandate from a Chapter 7 “non-consensual” to a Chapter 6 “consensual” designation could have been interpreted as a signal that the Haitian government was actually not as supportive of the foreign troops’ presence. It would also make plain that there was no “threat or breach of the peace” that justified MINUSTAH’s presence.

3. (C) Annabi told me that he argued strongly with Preval
that opening this matter now might unravel the Security
Council consensus, carefully crafted in 2004-2005, which
brought MINUSTAH to Haiti. He expressed deep concern that
moving to Chapter 6 status could open discussions in certain
capitals about troop commitment levels, calling into question
MINUSTAH’s current configuration. Preval, he said, made it
clear that he wants MINUSTAH to stay through the end of his
term (2011.) But Preval has, deliberately or not,
misinterpreted the difference between the two chapters and
will argue in his letter that MINUSTAH’s military role should
now evolve into a developmental presence.  Preval does not
understand, Annabi states, that MINUSTAH troop contributor
countries may not wish to play that role and could use any
such change to dial back their engagement here.

Sanderson seems to have been alarmed that Préval would pursue this proposal, which she notes had previously been suggested by his Minister of Planning, without consequence. “My Chinese, Canadian and French colleagues all agree that from our vantage point here this is a terrible idea which opens a Pandora’s box of issues better left closed,” she wrote, ending the cable with a request that the Secretary of State’s office “provide guidance on USG position on Preval’s proposal” as she planned to soon meet with Préval.

Another pertinent cable that was just made available, from February 2010, describes the Uruguayan government attempting damage control in the wake of a Frente Amplio (ruling party coalition) statement criticizing the U.S. role in Haiti following the earthquake:

1. Charg???? met with ruling Frente Amplio (FA) coalition president Jorge Brovetto February 3 to explain the U.S. role in Haiti disaster relief and underscore the extensive support the USG is providing to Uruguayan peacekeepers in Haiti. She emphasized the moral imperative our entire government and country feels to come to the aid of Haiti, our full respect for the country’s sovereignty, one government response, and our close coordination with MINUSTAH and other donors. She urged a joint public stance of collaboration that reflects our joint work together on this vital mission. Background: The FA issued a declaration January 28 articulating concern that “hegemonic powers” would take advantage of the current situation, and incoming Minister of Defense Luis Rosadilla, currently in Haiti, has made similar statements.

Considering the U.S. government’s clear desire for a robust, ongoing MINUSTAH presence, the recent sexual abuse scandals involving Uruguayan troops – which have led to President José Mujica apologizing to Haitian president Michel Martelly, and to renewed criticism in Brazil and elsewhere – must be causing new worries in the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince.

In July, one Haitian fell ill with cholera every minute. In August, after the “second peak” from the May/June rains receded, that rate has slowed and yet still one Haitian falls ill every two minutes.  In our report, “Not Doing Enough: Unnecessary Sickness and Death from Cholera in Haiti“, we noted that funding was withdrawn from the cholera response right as the rainy season was about to begin, despite the predictable spike in cases from the increased rains. Thankfully, the case load has receded some, as Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald pointed out yesterday:

Health experts anticipate that Haiti might experience one more deadly peak before the end of this hurricane season. After that, there are chances that the disease might become endemic in Haiti with frequent peaks over the years.

Recently, health organizations and the Haitian government have sounded the alarm over the lack of funding to combat cholera in Haiti. Al Jazeera’s Craig Mauro spoke with Romain Gitenet of the health organization Doctors Without Borders, who explained:

“We just noticed that the funding for cholera is decreasing, and some actor, well some funder, who was giving money, stopped giving money which is something we don’t understand.”

As NGOs have retreated from the field, Haiti’s Ministry of Health has taken over many of their operations and has become stretched thin. As Charles writes:

“Funding is not enough to fight against cholera in the upcoming months,’’ said Dr Gabriel Thimothé, executive director of Haiti’s Health Ministry, which lacks money to provide even basics, such as water at treatment centers.

Although the cholera response has been much stronger in the capital and surrounding areas, as we pointed out in our report, there are wide discrepancies in the response between departments. Rural areas are hard to access and often lack the cholera response facilities necessary. As Charles writes:

But the disease, which has infected more than 400,000 Haitians since its initial outbreak a year ago, is continuing to have a major impact on far flung villages surrounding communities like this one in the lower Aribonite Valley. It’s main water supply, the 199-mile Artibonite River, was the initial source for spreading the epidemic.

“It’s a big headache,’’ Romain Gitenet, head of mission for the French humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders who supervises the mobile cholera response team, which registered 10,000 new cholera cases in the valley over 10 weeks earlier this summer. “Cholera has no limits.’’

More than half of Haiti’s 10 million citizens live in remote rural communities, many of them accessible only by foot and mules. And at least 40 percent have no access to a doctor or nurse, much less sanitation or potable water. With even cell service lacking, alerts aren’t often heard until too late.

Compensation

With funding from international donors and NGOs waning, and with recent scientific studies confirming that MINUSTAH troops introduced cholera into Haiti, there have been growing calls for some sort of compensation from the UN peacekeepers. Charles continues:

Earlier this year, Haitian lawmakers formed a cholera commission in parliament. The commission’s objectives are unclear, but with recently erected billboards around Port-au-Prince saying cholera and the peacekeeping mission are “one and the same,” calls are increasing for U.N. compensation.

“They have a moral responsibility to find money so these people can get help,’’ said Sen. Simon Desras of the Central Plateau.

After a recent study provided the clearest evidence yet that MINUSTAH troops introduced cholera into Haiti, French epidemiologist Renauld Piarroux suggested there could be a “practical upshot” of the study:

The study should have a practical upshot, Piarroux says. Now that there’s evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, the United Nations should accept responsibility and make amends to Haiti, he says—for instance, by offering financial compensation or by supporting an all-out effort to make the country cholera-free again. “More than 6000 people are dead,” Piarroux says. “It’s our fault, as the people of the world.”

Haiti Begins Construction of First Sewage Treatment Plant

Although treatment efforts are critical, without a commitment to improving the water and sanitation infrastructure in Haiti, cholera will continue to flourish. BBC’s The Health Show, which took a look at the cholera epidemic in Haiti during their program over the weekend, also points out that Haiti is beginning work on their first sewage treatment plant. Wilson Etienne of the Haitian Ministry of Health and Sanitation told the BBC:

“It would be a huge improvement for Haiti, it’s a facility where all the excreta can be disposed of, it can go through a treatment process so any excreta that potentially has cholera in it would be contained, it will be treated so that it’s not disposed of maybe as it currently is being done in canals and ravines.”

Although the sewage treatment plant would be a terrific advancement, it is far from complete and in the meantime the response to the cholera epidemic has done little to strengthen the public water system. The Health Cluster noted in July that “the conditions that led to the spread of the epidemic are largely unchanged,” and that “health infrastructure in the country has seen little to no benefit.” It is because of this that Dr. Paul Farmer, Jeffrey Sachs and others advise using the cholera response “as a wedge to bolster primary health care services and strengthen the Haitian health system.” This is consistent with the findings of a report from the UN Special Envoy for Haiti on aid effectiveness, which concluded that “aid is most effective at strengthening public institutions when it is channeled through them.”

In July, one Haitian fell ill with cholera every minute. In August, after the “second peak” from the May/June rains receded, that rate has slowed and yet still one Haitian falls ill every two minutes.  In our report, “Not Doing Enough: Unnecessary Sickness and Death from Cholera in Haiti“, we noted that funding was withdrawn from the cholera response right as the rainy season was about to begin, despite the predictable spike in cases from the increased rains. Thankfully, the case load has receded some, as Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald pointed out yesterday:

Health experts anticipate that Haiti might experience one more deadly peak before the end of this hurricane season. After that, there are chances that the disease might become endemic in Haiti with frequent peaks over the years.

Recently, health organizations and the Haitian government have sounded the alarm over the lack of funding to combat cholera in Haiti. Al Jazeera’s Craig Mauro spoke with Romain Gitenet of the health organization Doctors Without Borders, who explained:

“We just noticed that the funding for cholera is decreasing, and some actor, well some funder, who was giving money, stopped giving money which is something we don’t understand.”

As NGOs have retreated from the field, Haiti’s Ministry of Health has taken over many of their operations and has become stretched thin. As Charles writes:

“Funding is not enough to fight against cholera in the upcoming months,’’ said Dr Gabriel Thimothé, executive director of Haiti’s Health Ministry, which lacks money to provide even basics, such as water at treatment centers.

Although the cholera response has been much stronger in the capital and surrounding areas, as we pointed out in our report, there are wide discrepancies in the response between departments. Rural areas are hard to access and often lack the cholera response facilities necessary. As Charles writes:

But the disease, which has infected more than 400,000 Haitians since its initial outbreak a year ago, is continuing to have a major impact on far flung villages surrounding communities like this one in the lower Aribonite Valley. It’s main water supply, the 199-mile Artibonite River, was the initial source for spreading the epidemic.

“It’s a big headache,’’ Romain Gitenet, head of mission for the French humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders who supervises the mobile cholera response team, which registered 10,000 new cholera cases in the valley over 10 weeks earlier this summer. “Cholera has no limits.’’

More than half of Haiti’s 10 million citizens live in remote rural communities, many of them accessible only by foot and mules. And at least 40 percent have no access to a doctor or nurse, much less sanitation or potable water. With even cell service lacking, alerts aren’t often heard until too late.

Compensation

With funding from international donors and NGOs waning, and with recent scientific studies confirming that MINUSTAH troops introduced cholera into Haiti, there have been growing calls for some sort of compensation from the UN peacekeepers. Charles continues:

Earlier this year, Haitian lawmakers formed a cholera commission in parliament. The commission’s objectives are unclear, but with recently erected billboards around Port-au-Prince saying cholera and the peacekeeping mission are “one and the same,” calls are increasing for U.N. compensation.

“They have a moral responsibility to find money so these people can get help,’’ said Sen. Simon Desras of the Central Plateau.

After a recent study provided the clearest evidence yet that MINUSTAH troops introduced cholera into Haiti, French epidemiologist Renauld Piarroux suggested there could be a “practical upshot” of the study:

The study should have a practical upshot, Piarroux says. Now that there’s evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, the United Nations should accept responsibility and make amends to Haiti, he says—for instance, by offering financial compensation or by supporting an all-out effort to make the country cholera-free again. “More than 6000 people are dead,” Piarroux says. “It’s our fault, as the people of the world.”

Haiti Begins Construction of First Sewage Treatment Plant

Although treatment efforts are critical, without a commitment to improving the water and sanitation infrastructure in Haiti, cholera will continue to flourish. BBC’s The Health Show, which took a look at the cholera epidemic in Haiti during their program over the weekend, also points out that Haiti is beginning work on their first sewage treatment plant. Wilson Etienne of the Haitian Ministry of Health and Sanitation told the BBC:

“It would be a huge improvement for Haiti, it’s a facility where all the excreta can be disposed of, it can go through a treatment process so any excreta that potentially has cholera in it would be contained, it will be treated so that it’s not disposed of maybe as it currently is being done in canals and ravines.”

Although the sewage treatment plant would be a terrific advancement, it is far from complete and in the meantime the response to the cholera epidemic has done little to strengthen the public water system. The Health Cluster noted in July that “the conditions that led to the spread of the epidemic are largely unchanged,” and that “health infrastructure in the country has seen little to no benefit.” It is because of this that Dr. Paul Farmer, Jeffrey Sachs and others advise using the cholera response “as a wedge to bolster primary health care services and strengthen the Haitian health system.” This is consistent with the findings of a report from the UN Special Envoy for Haiti on aid effectiveness, which concluded that “aid is most effective at strengthening public institutions when it is channeled through them.”

(updated below)

ABC News released an explosive report today which appears to confirm one of many allegations that Haitians have been making for weeks regarding gross sexual misconduct by Uruguayan peacekeeping forces who participate in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Journalist Ansel Herz, reporting from Port Salut, uncovered a disturbing scene recorded on a cell phone video, showing the Spanish-speaking troops in sky-blue hats and military fatigues laughing as they pin an 18-year-old Haitian youth down on a mattress on the floor, and–as a photograph captured from the video seems to suggest–sexually assault him.

According to the ABC article, Uruguayan Navy Lieutenant Nicolas Casariego confirmed that the video was real, but dismissed charges of assault, construing the incident as a nonsexual “game” of “bullying.” However, a medical certificate filed with the court in Haiti and acquired by ABC News belies his interpretation of video’s the events: the examiner asserted that the alleged victim was beaten and sustained “injuries consistent with having been sexually assaulted.” When interviewed, the youth described being “snatched from behind as he walked by the U.N. base.” The young man’s mother, a street merchant, stated that he “had stayed in his bed during about two weeks but he never told me what was wrong with him. We’re humiliated…After I saw the video, I couldn’t stop crying.”

This latest episode may further amplify the pressure that is already mounting on Latin American countries involved in the U.S.-led MINUSTAH occupation of Haiti to withdraw from the country. Uruguay, which according to ABC News has 1,100 troops stationed in Haiti, had been facing weeks of embarrassing allegations of malfeasance even before this video was released. According to Uruguyan press, in mid-August Uruguayan Undersecretary of Defense Jorge Menéndez confirmed the launch of investigations into accusations that members of the contingent were “involved in prostitution based on sexual relations with disadvantaged children” [translated]. A member of a Port Salut community group denounced the alleged activity, citing as “worst of all” the fact that the peacekeepers “take photographs of naked children on their phones to show the other soldiers” [translated]. The group also criticized MINUSTAH’s creation of a sewage disposal system that emits bad odor into the area–a cause for alarm, considering that new scientific evidence definitively places responsibility for the 2010 introduction of the cholera bacterium into Haiti on UN troops from Nepal stationed in Mirebalais. The contamination of Haiti’s Artibonite river with UN troops’ improperly treated waste was the likely cause of the outbreak, which has killed over 6,000 Haitians to date.

While largely focusing on one particular case of purported sexual assault, ABC News does seem to independently corroborate these complaints raised in the Uruguayan news media: “Sinal Bertrand, a Haitian parliamentary deputy from the Port Salut area, said he began talks with U.N. officials last week about other allegations against the soldiers by residents of Port Salut, ranging from sexually exploiting young women to environmentally polluting the area.” ABC also interviewed a local mechanic in Port Salut who denies that the troops provide more security: “They aren’t useful to us at all…They just go back and forth to the beach, nothing more here in Port Salut. They just check out the young girls.”

Whereas the Uruguayan mission in New York failed to respond to ABC’s requests for comment, a Spanish-language report published two days ago says the Uruguayan Ministry of Defense ordered another “urgent investigation”–independent of those launched earlier in August–to determine the veracity of accusations specifically related to the “aberrant acts” against the Haitian youth who is the subject of the ABC story. If proven accurate, the Uruguayan government promised to apply the “maximum sanction” possible against the perpetrators.

However, the piece also provides reason for skepticism over the possibility of appropriate punishment and commensurate reforms [translated]:
The new complaint occurs a few days after an internal investigation and another carried out by the UN determined that there were no Uruguayan troops implicated in other acusations of purported sexual abuses against the Haitian population.
Earlier on Wednesday, at the end of a training course for officials in the UN peacekeeping mission, [Uruguayan Defense Minister] Fernandez Huidobro said that “in such a large number of people, there will always be someone who behaves wrongly,” but “don’t let those minor failures rob you of your faith in what you are doing, nor should you allow the criticisms you hear prevent you all from believing in yourselves.”
The article also notes that with a population of just 3.4 million, Uruguay provides more MINUSTAH troops, per capita, than any other country. Further emphasizing the political considerations behind Uruguay’s strong participation in the UN occupation of Haiti, another Spanish-language report published earlier this week details the statements made on Tuesday in a Montevideo speech by Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations Esther Brimmer, an Obama appointee, to 120 Uruguayan officials preparing to go to Haiti and Congo as part of UN missions. While Uruguayan reports of misconduct in Haiti were swirling within the country, Brimmer “recognized and appreciated” Uruguay’s role in peacekeeping operations [translated]:

“This visit shows the close cooperation that exists between Uruguay and the U.S. in important foreign affairs for both countries…Your impressive contributions to UN peacekeeping have turned you into an undisputed leader on issues of international peace and security.”
She further underlined the U.S. government’s “strong interest” in working with Uruguay as it presides over the UN Human Rights Council this year. Regardless of the economic crisis, the Obama administration placed a high priority on UN peacekeeping initiatives and would not reduce its economic support for them, she said.
Brimmer’s statements to Uruguayan government officials closely conform to former U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Janet Sanderson’s recommendations in 2008, released by Wikileaks, for bolstering MINUSTAH’s long-term prospects: “The Department [of State] and Embassies in Latin countries contributing troops should work to ensure these countries’ continuing support for MINUSTAH.” As we noted last week, Sanderson considered the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti “an indispensable tool in realizing core USG policy interests in Haiti”:

In the current context of our military commitments elsewhere, the U.S. alone could not replace this mission. This regionally-coordinated Latin American commitment to Haiti would not be possible without the UN umbrella. That same umbrella helps other major donors — led by Canada and followed up by the EU, France, Spain, Japan and others — justify their bilateral assistance domestically. Without a UN-sanctioned peacekeeping and stabilization force, we would be getting far less help from our hemispheric and European partners in managing Haiti.
Celso Amorim, the Defense Minister of Brazil, recently voiced public support for the withdrawal of troops from Haiti, partly spurred by high-profile opposition within his own political party. If domestic pressure forces the government of Uruguay, the largest per capita contributor of soldiers to MINUSTAH, to follow the lead of Brazil (the largest overall contributor), the fragile cooperation among Latin American countries in support of a U.S.-led occupation would be further compromised.
From the standpoint of the Haitian people, who have previously been victims of widespread sexual violations at the hands of Sri Lankan MINUSTAH troops, this would be a welcome development. UN peacekeepers engaging in criminal activity benefit from an opaque legal framework that provides them with broad immunity and fosters a culture of impunity.

In a paper submitted to the UN this year, a broad coalition of NGOs explains [PDF]:

The [Status Of Forces Agreement] SOFA grants broad immunity to members of MINUSTAH for crimes committed in Haiti. Civilian members of MINUSTAH can only be prosecuted for crimes committed in Haiti by mutual agreement of the [Government of Haiti] GOH and the Special Representative. Military members of MINUSTAH are subject to their home country’s exclusive jurisdiction. The Haitian Constitution specifically provides that ordinary courts of law can hear cases of disputes between military personnel and civilians. But MINUSTAH members are only subject to civil liability for acts committed in Haiti if the Special Representative certifies the charges are unrelated to the member’s official duties. The SOFA’s lack of any real accountability for civil or criminal human rights violations of MINUSTAH members violates the GOH’s obligations to ensure universal human rights and equal protection under the law.

In a 2005 article [PDF] published in the journal Politics and Ethics Review, Professor of Government Andrew Ladley argues that “[e]ven if there are ‘laws’ of varying sorts prohibiting certain conduct, the accountability regime is inadequate in at least six main respects:

(1) To the extent that perpetrators might be liable to prosecution in their home countries for offences committed on UN service abroad, there are major inconsistencies between different countries’ legal systems as to what exactly is an offence.

(2) There are major gaps in legal jurisdiction as regards civilians, compared with military personnel.

(3) There are signi?cant differences in jurisdiction, capacity and willingness of countries to hold their troops or civilians accountable.

(4) Even if there were uniform willingness to prosecute back home (and jurisdiction covering both military and civilians), it is often impractical to get reliable evidence to enforce criminal laws back home if the events took place abroad.

(5) The possibility of lifting UN immunity and subjecting a person to the local courts and punishment systems is often either impractical or would raise major other human rights questions about fair process and punishment.

(6) The UN’s own sanctions are essentially ’employment-related’, rather than criminal.”

Haiti is a country that is not experiencing a civil war and is not the subject of a legitimate peacekeeping or post-conflict agreement, the justifications for a UN military presence. After seven years of egregious abuses–and in light of serious obstacles to transparency and accountability for UN forces–a full withdrawal of MINUSTAH troops could not come soon enough.

Update (Sept 4):

The news agency EFE reports (in Spanish) that Alberto Caramés, commander of the Uruguayan Navy, has relieved the chief of the Uruguayan naval contingent in Haiti from his post today and has ordered the immediate repatriation of the five Navy soldiers shown in the ABC video, which was released on Friday. It also explains that the Uruguayan Navy is undertaking a parallel investigation to those ordered by both UN and Haitian authorities. This includes the creation of a Council on Military Discipline in Haiti.

The Uruguayan newspaper El País also notes that Javier Garcia, a member of parliament, has demanded the troops’ repatriation, discharge and arraignment. Below are translated excerpts from the piece, which includes a number of noteworthy points:

The audio [of the cell phone video] allows one to hear the soldiers’ roars of laughter…and some unintelligible comments. However, one of them can clearly be heard saying, “Stop, I’m putting it in.”?
…?
[The Uruguayan Navy spokesperson] said that the directive of Caramés is “to implement the maximum penalties under the code of conduct, including a dishonorable discharge from the Navy units and the loss of pension rights.” The Navy spokesman admitted that the episode “affects the image” of the Uruguayan troops deployed in the mission in Haiti, where Uruguay has 900 troops.

He added that the UN, in its preliminary findings, concluded that “an intent to sexually assault was not apparent, considering the disposition of the crew members, who were all dressed. It was a bad joke, in the wrong place at the wrong time.”?
…?
Nevertheless, the [United Nations] determined that there was a violation to the UN Code by “allowing the entry of a local resident into the military area.”

Meanwhile, Haitian authorities opened an investigation against four Navy soldiers…for sexually assaulting an 18-year-old, said Paul Tarte, a judge on the island, on Friday.

The judge handling the case told [Agence France-Presse] that they were investigating the youth’s testimony and images of the incident…The judge added that medical evidence of the attack on the boy was obtained.

“Having seen the evidence, we’ve given the case to prosecutors to take action,” Tarte said.

(updated below)

ABC News released an explosive report today which appears to confirm one of many allegations that Haitians have been making for weeks regarding gross sexual misconduct by Uruguayan peacekeeping forces who participate in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Journalist Ansel Herz, reporting from Port Salut, uncovered a disturbing scene recorded on a cell phone video, showing the Spanish-speaking troops in sky-blue hats and military fatigues laughing as they pin an 18-year-old Haitian youth down on a mattress on the floor, and–as a photograph captured from the video seems to suggest–sexually assault him.

According to the ABC article, Uruguayan Navy Lieutenant Nicolas Casariego confirmed that the video was real, but dismissed charges of assault, construing the incident as a nonsexual “game” of “bullying.” However, a medical certificate filed with the court in Haiti and acquired by ABC News belies his interpretation of video’s the events: the examiner asserted that the alleged victim was beaten and sustained “injuries consistent with having been sexually assaulted.” When interviewed, the youth described being “snatched from behind as he walked by the U.N. base.” The young man’s mother, a street merchant, stated that he “had stayed in his bed during about two weeks but he never told me what was wrong with him. We’re humiliated…After I saw the video, I couldn’t stop crying.”

This latest episode may further amplify the pressure that is already mounting on Latin American countries involved in the U.S.-led MINUSTAH occupation of Haiti to withdraw from the country. Uruguay, which according to ABC News has 1,100 troops stationed in Haiti, had been facing weeks of embarrassing allegations of malfeasance even before this video was released. According to Uruguyan press, in mid-August Uruguayan Undersecretary of Defense Jorge Menéndez confirmed the launch of investigations into accusations that members of the contingent were “involved in prostitution based on sexual relations with disadvantaged children” [translated]. A member of a Port Salut community group denounced the alleged activity, citing as “worst of all” the fact that the peacekeepers “take photographs of naked children on their phones to show the other soldiers” [translated]. The group also criticized MINUSTAH’s creation of a sewage disposal system that emits bad odor into the area–a cause for alarm, considering that new scientific evidence definitively places responsibility for the 2010 introduction of the cholera bacterium into Haiti on UN troops from Nepal stationed in Mirebalais. The contamination of Haiti’s Artibonite river with UN troops’ improperly treated waste was the likely cause of the outbreak, which has killed over 6,000 Haitians to date.

While largely focusing on one particular case of purported sexual assault, ABC News does seem to independently corroborate these complaints raised in the Uruguayan news media: “Sinal Bertrand, a Haitian parliamentary deputy from the Port Salut area, said he began talks with U.N. officials last week about other allegations against the soldiers by residents of Port Salut, ranging from sexually exploiting young women to environmentally polluting the area.” ABC also interviewed a local mechanic in Port Salut who denies that the troops provide more security: “They aren’t useful to us at all…They just go back and forth to the beach, nothing more here in Port Salut. They just check out the young girls.”

Whereas the Uruguayan mission in New York failed to respond to ABC’s requests for comment, a Spanish-language report published two days ago says the Uruguayan Ministry of Defense ordered another “urgent investigation”–independent of those launched earlier in August–to determine the veracity of accusations specifically related to the “aberrant acts” against the Haitian youth who is the subject of the ABC story. If proven accurate, the Uruguayan government promised to apply the “maximum sanction” possible against the perpetrators.

However, the piece also provides reason for skepticism over the possibility of appropriate punishment and commensurate reforms [translated]:
The new complaint occurs a few days after an internal investigation and another carried out by the UN determined that there were no Uruguayan troops implicated in other acusations of purported sexual abuses against the Haitian population.
Earlier on Wednesday, at the end of a training course for officials in the UN peacekeeping mission, [Uruguayan Defense Minister] Fernandez Huidobro said that “in such a large number of people, there will always be someone who behaves wrongly,” but “don’t let those minor failures rob you of your faith in what you are doing, nor should you allow the criticisms you hear prevent you all from believing in yourselves.”
The article also notes that with a population of just 3.4 million, Uruguay provides more MINUSTAH troops, per capita, than any other country. Further emphasizing the political considerations behind Uruguay’s strong participation in the UN occupation of Haiti, another Spanish-language report published earlier this week details the statements made on Tuesday in a Montevideo speech by Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations Esther Brimmer, an Obama appointee, to 120 Uruguayan officials preparing to go to Haiti and Congo as part of UN missions. While Uruguayan reports of misconduct in Haiti were swirling within the country, Brimmer “recognized and appreciated” Uruguay’s role in peacekeeping operations [translated]:

“This visit shows the close cooperation that exists between Uruguay and the U.S. in important foreign affairs for both countries…Your impressive contributions to UN peacekeeping have turned you into an undisputed leader on issues of international peace and security.”
She further underlined the U.S. government’s “strong interest” in working with Uruguay as it presides over the UN Human Rights Council this year. Regardless of the economic crisis, the Obama administration placed a high priority on UN peacekeeping initiatives and would not reduce its economic support for them, she said.
Brimmer’s statements to Uruguayan government officials closely conform to former U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Janet Sanderson’s recommendations in 2008, released by Wikileaks, for bolstering MINUSTAH’s long-term prospects: “The Department [of State] and Embassies in Latin countries contributing troops should work to ensure these countries’ continuing support for MINUSTAH.” As we noted last week, Sanderson considered the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti “an indispensable tool in realizing core USG policy interests in Haiti”:

In the current context of our military commitments elsewhere, the U.S. alone could not replace this mission. This regionally-coordinated Latin American commitment to Haiti would not be possible without the UN umbrella. That same umbrella helps other major donors — led by Canada and followed up by the EU, France, Spain, Japan and others — justify their bilateral assistance domestically. Without a UN-sanctioned peacekeeping and stabilization force, we would be getting far less help from our hemispheric and European partners in managing Haiti.
Celso Amorim, the Defense Minister of Brazil, recently voiced public support for the withdrawal of troops from Haiti, partly spurred by high-profile opposition within his own political party. If domestic pressure forces the government of Uruguay, the largest per capita contributor of soldiers to MINUSTAH, to follow the lead of Brazil (the largest overall contributor), the fragile cooperation among Latin American countries in support of a U.S.-led occupation would be further compromised.
From the standpoint of the Haitian people, who have previously been victims of widespread sexual violations at the hands of Sri Lankan MINUSTAH troops, this would be a welcome development. UN peacekeepers engaging in criminal activity benefit from an opaque legal framework that provides them with broad immunity and fosters a culture of impunity.

In a paper submitted to the UN this year, a broad coalition of NGOs explains [PDF]:

The [Status Of Forces Agreement] SOFA grants broad immunity to members of MINUSTAH for crimes committed in Haiti. Civilian members of MINUSTAH can only be prosecuted for crimes committed in Haiti by mutual agreement of the [Government of Haiti] GOH and the Special Representative. Military members of MINUSTAH are subject to their home country’s exclusive jurisdiction. The Haitian Constitution specifically provides that ordinary courts of law can hear cases of disputes between military personnel and civilians. But MINUSTAH members are only subject to civil liability for acts committed in Haiti if the Special Representative certifies the charges are unrelated to the member’s official duties. The SOFA’s lack of any real accountability for civil or criminal human rights violations of MINUSTAH members violates the GOH’s obligations to ensure universal human rights and equal protection under the law.

In a 2005 article [PDF] published in the journal Politics and Ethics Review, Professor of Government Andrew Ladley argues that “[e]ven if there are ‘laws’ of varying sorts prohibiting certain conduct, the accountability regime is inadequate in at least six main respects:

(1) To the extent that perpetrators might be liable to prosecution in their home countries for offences committed on UN service abroad, there are major inconsistencies between different countries’ legal systems as to what exactly is an offence.

(2) There are major gaps in legal jurisdiction as regards civilians, compared with military personnel.

(3) There are signi?cant differences in jurisdiction, capacity and willingness of countries to hold their troops or civilians accountable.

(4) Even if there were uniform willingness to prosecute back home (and jurisdiction covering both military and civilians), it is often impractical to get reliable evidence to enforce criminal laws back home if the events took place abroad.

(5) The possibility of lifting UN immunity and subjecting a person to the local courts and punishment systems is often either impractical or would raise major other human rights questions about fair process and punishment.

(6) The UN’s own sanctions are essentially ’employment-related’, rather than criminal.”

Haiti is a country that is not experiencing a civil war and is not the subject of a legitimate peacekeeping or post-conflict agreement, the justifications for a UN military presence. After seven years of egregious abuses–and in light of serious obstacles to transparency and accountability for UN forces–a full withdrawal of MINUSTAH troops could not come soon enough.

Update (Sept 4):

The news agency EFE reports (in Spanish) that Alberto Caramés, commander of the Uruguayan Navy, has relieved the chief of the Uruguayan naval contingent in Haiti from his post today and has ordered the immediate repatriation of the five Navy soldiers shown in the ABC video, which was released on Friday. It also explains that the Uruguayan Navy is undertaking a parallel investigation to those ordered by both UN and Haitian authorities. This includes the creation of a Council on Military Discipline in Haiti.

The Uruguayan newspaper El País also notes that Javier Garcia, a member of parliament, has demanded the troops’ repatriation, discharge and arraignment. Below are translated excerpts from the piece, which includes a number of noteworthy points:

The audio [of the cell phone video] allows one to hear the soldiers’ roars of laughter…and some unintelligible comments. However, one of them can clearly be heard saying, “Stop, I’m putting it in.”?
…?
[The Uruguayan Navy spokesperson] said that the directive of Caramés is “to implement the maximum penalties under the code of conduct, including a dishonorable discharge from the Navy units and the loss of pension rights.” The Navy spokesman admitted that the episode “affects the image” of the Uruguayan troops deployed in the mission in Haiti, where Uruguay has 900 troops.

He added that the UN, in its preliminary findings, concluded that “an intent to sexually assault was not apparent, considering the disposition of the crew members, who were all dressed. It was a bad joke, in the wrong place at the wrong time.”?
…?
Nevertheless, the [United Nations] determined that there was a violation to the UN Code by “allowing the entry of a local resident into the military area.”

Meanwhile, Haitian authorities opened an investigation against four Navy soldiers…for sexually assaulting an 18-year-old, said Paul Tarte, a judge on the island, on Friday.

The judge handling the case told [Agence France-Presse] that they were investigating the youth’s testimony and images of the incident…The judge added that medical evidence of the attack on the boy was obtained.

“Having seen the evidence, we’ve given the case to prosecutors to take action,” Tarte said.

A January 2006 cable recently made available by Wikileaks describes Haitian business leaders’ efforts to pressure MINUSTAH to crack down on slums, in particular Cite Soleil (site of the July 5, 2005 operation that resulted in dozens of unarmed civilian deaths and injuries, including of children). In the cable, then-Charge d’Affairs to the post-coup interim regime (and now Executive Vice President for the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund), Timothy Carney, describes how the business leaders also “pleaded” with him for more ammunition for the police:

 

¶2.  (SBU)  SUMMARY:  Leaders of the Haitian business community told Charge that they would call a general strike for Monday, January 9 to protest MINUSTAH,s ineffectiveness in countering the recent upswing of violence and kidnappings. Representatives will also meet with UNSRSG [Special Representative to the UN Secretary General] Juan Gabriel Valdez to pressure him to take action against the criminal gangs.  They also pleaded with the Charge for more ammunition for the police.  Charge told the group to be ready to assist Cite Soleil immediately after a MINUSTAH operation, if it were to take place, and countered that the problem of the police was not a a lack of ammunition, but a lack of skills and training.  Clearly, the private sector is worried about the recent upsurge in violence.  END SUMMARY.

 

The cable describes how the business leaders (Reginald Boulos, President of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Rene-Max Auguste, President of the American Chamber of Commerce; Gladys Coupet, President of the bankers’ association, and Carl Auguste Boisson, President of the petroleum distributors’ association) wanted MINUSTAH to systematically sweep through Cite Soleil, one of Haiti’s poorest slums:

 

¶5.  (SBU)  Representatives of the private sector will also meet one-on-one with UNSRSG Juan Gabriel Valdez to pressure him personally to take action against the criminal gangs in Cite Soleil.  Boulos argued that MINUSTAH could take back the slum if it were to work systematically, section by section, in securing the area.  Immediately after MINUSTAH secured
Cite Soleil, Boulos said that he and other groups were prepared to go in immediately with social programs and social spending.  NOTE:  Boulos has been active in providing social programs in Cite Soleil for many years.  END NOTE.

 

Carney warned them that this would “inevitably cause unintended civilian casualties”. But rather than a warning that such an operation should be out of the question, considering the “inevitable” civilian deaths it would entail, Carney merely cautioned that the business leaders should follow up the raid with “social programs and social spending”, presumably to calm the expected outrage among Cite Soleil residents:

¶6.  (SBU)  The Charge cautioned that such an operation would inevitably cause unintended civilian casualties given the crowded conditions and flimsy construction of tightly packed housing in Cite Soleil.  Therefore, the private sector associations must be willing to quickly assist in the aftermath of such an operation, including providing financial support to families of potential victims.  Boulos agreed.

 

(Indeed, there were dozens of civilian casualties – including children – during MINUSTAH’s raid into Cite Soleil in July 2005. The outcry following that incident, limited though it was, is a likely explanation for what the business leaders saw as MINUSTAH’s “ineffectiveness” in the months that followed.)

According to the cable, Carney – a founding board member of the Washington, D.C. based “Haiti Democracy Project”, along with Boulos’ brother Rudolph – was effectively giving a “green light” to the Haitian elite’s call for an assault on Cite Soleil, even though he was sure civilians (bystanders, in this case, people inside their own homes), would be killed. The implications of the cable are all the worse considering that the term “gangs” was often a euphemism – like “chimeres” or “bandits” – to describe impoverished, pro-Aristide Haitians, and considering that a Lancet study determined that there may have been as many as 4,000 political murders during the 2004-2006 post-coup period.

The cable also describes how Boulos and Auguste asked Carney for ammo for the Haitian police (who, at the time, were carrying out extra-judicial executions [PDF] in the streets, and even participating in broad daylight massacres of Fanmi Lavalas supporters at soccer stadiums): “Boulos began reading off a specific list of needed ammunition, but Charge pointed out that it was not a question of lack of ammunition, but a lack of training of the police officers.” Again, Carney’s reaction is telling, if not shocking. Rather than express surprise or outrage, Carney’s response is not an objection to the request for ammunition in itself, but rather that Boulos has mis-diagnosed the problem. Carney’s summary of the conversation is also damning in that there was a U.S. arms embargo on Haiti at the time (partially lifted later that year), albeit one that the Bush administration was already known to be violating. As Newsday’s Letta Tayler reported in February 2006:

Guns are smuggled in from neighbouring countries or obtained from the United States, despite a U.S. embargo on arms sales to Haiti.

Washington imposed the embargo in 1991, after the military toppled Aristide, but kept it in place after U.S. marines returned him to power in 1994. Since Aristide’s second ouster in 2004, the U.S. government has given at least 2,600 used side arms to Haitian police, arguing that without bigger and better weapons, the tiny, poorly equipped force can’t compete against machine-gun-toting gangsters.

A January 2006 cable recently made available by Wikileaks describes Haitian business leaders’ efforts to pressure MINUSTAH to crack down on slums, in particular Cite Soleil (site of the July 5, 2005 operation that resulted in dozens of unarmed civilian deaths and injuries, including of children). In the cable, then-Charge d’Affairs to the post-coup interim regime (and now Executive Vice President for the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund), Timothy Carney, describes how the business leaders also “pleaded” with him for more ammunition for the police:

 

¶2.  (SBU)  SUMMARY:  Leaders of the Haitian business community told Charge that they would call a general strike for Monday, January 9 to protest MINUSTAH,s ineffectiveness in countering the recent upswing of violence and kidnappings. Representatives will also meet with UNSRSG [Special Representative to the UN Secretary General] Juan Gabriel Valdez to pressure him to take action against the criminal gangs.  They also pleaded with the Charge for more ammunition for the police.  Charge told the group to be ready to assist Cite Soleil immediately after a MINUSTAH operation, if it were to take place, and countered that the problem of the police was not a a lack of ammunition, but a lack of skills and training.  Clearly, the private sector is worried about the recent upsurge in violence.  END SUMMARY.

 

The cable describes how the business leaders (Reginald Boulos, President of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Rene-Max Auguste, President of the American Chamber of Commerce; Gladys Coupet, President of the bankers’ association, and Carl Auguste Boisson, President of the petroleum distributors’ association) wanted MINUSTAH to systematically sweep through Cite Soleil, one of Haiti’s poorest slums:

 

¶5.  (SBU)  Representatives of the private sector will also meet one-on-one with UNSRSG Juan Gabriel Valdez to pressure him personally to take action against the criminal gangs in Cite Soleil.  Boulos argued that MINUSTAH could take back the slum if it were to work systematically, section by section, in securing the area.  Immediately after MINUSTAH secured
Cite Soleil, Boulos said that he and other groups were prepared to go in immediately with social programs and social spending.  NOTE:  Boulos has been active in providing social programs in Cite Soleil for many years.  END NOTE.

 

Carney warned them that this would “inevitably cause unintended civilian casualties”. But rather than a warning that such an operation should be out of the question, considering the “inevitable” civilian deaths it would entail, Carney merely cautioned that the business leaders should follow up the raid with “social programs and social spending”, presumably to calm the expected outrage among Cite Soleil residents:

¶6.  (SBU)  The Charge cautioned that such an operation would inevitably cause unintended civilian casualties given the crowded conditions and flimsy construction of tightly packed housing in Cite Soleil.  Therefore, the private sector associations must be willing to quickly assist in the aftermath of such an operation, including providing financial support to families of potential victims.  Boulos agreed.

 

(Indeed, there were dozens of civilian casualties – including children – during MINUSTAH’s raid into Cite Soleil in July 2005. The outcry following that incident, limited though it was, is a likely explanation for what the business leaders saw as MINUSTAH’s “ineffectiveness” in the months that followed.)

According to the cable, Carney – a founding board member of the Washington, D.C. based “Haiti Democracy Project”, along with Boulos’ brother Rudolph – was effectively giving a “green light” to the Haitian elite’s call for an assault on Cite Soleil, even though he was sure civilians (bystanders, in this case, people inside their own homes), would be killed. The implications of the cable are all the worse considering that the term “gangs” was often a euphemism – like “chimeres” or “bandits” – to describe impoverished, pro-Aristide Haitians, and considering that a Lancet study determined that there may have been as many as 4,000 political murders during the 2004-2006 post-coup period.

The cable also describes how Boulos and Auguste asked Carney for ammo for the Haitian police (who, at the time, were carrying out extra-judicial executions [PDF] in the streets, and even participating in broad daylight massacres of Fanmi Lavalas supporters at soccer stadiums): “Boulos began reading off a specific list of needed ammunition, but Charge pointed out that it was not a question of lack of ammunition, but a lack of training of the police officers.” Again, Carney’s reaction is telling, if not shocking. Rather than express surprise or outrage, Carney’s response is not an objection to the request for ammunition in itself, but rather that Boulos has mis-diagnosed the problem. Carney’s summary of the conversation is also damning in that there was a U.S. arms embargo on Haiti at the time (partially lifted later that year), albeit one that the Bush administration was already known to be violating. As Newsday’s Letta Tayler reported in February 2006:

Guns are smuggled in from neighbouring countries or obtained from the United States, despite a U.S. embargo on arms sales to Haiti.

Washington imposed the embargo in 1991, after the military toppled Aristide, but kept it in place after U.S. marines returned him to power in 1994. Since Aristide’s second ouster in 2004, the U.S. government has given at least 2,600 used side arms to Haitian police, arguing that without bigger and better weapons, the tiny, poorly equipped force can’t compete against machine-gun-toting gangsters.

As a new child sex abuse scandal involving Uruguayan MINUSTAH troops unfolds (without coverage in the English language media), and new scientific studies emerge linking MINUSTAH to the origin of the current cholera epidemic, recently Wikileaked cables from the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince spell out MINUSTAH’s importance to the U.S. government in a more direct fashion than probably any previously released documents. A confidential October 2008 cable from then-Ambassador Janet Sanderson begins:

The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti is an indispensable tool in realizing core USG policy interests in Haiti. Security vulnerabilities and fundamental institutional weaknesses mean that Haiti will require a continuing – albeit eventually shrinking – MINUSTAH presence for at least three and more likely five years. Haiti needs the UN presence to fill the security gap caused by Haiti’s fledgling police force’s lack of numbers and capabilities. It needs MINUSTAH to partner with the USG and other donors in institution-building.

It goes on to state:

MINUSTAH is a remarkable product and symbol of hemispheric cooperation in a country with little going for it. There is no feasible substitute for this UN presence. It is a financial and regional security bargain for the USG. USG civilian and military assistance under current domestic and international conditions, alone or in combination with our closest partners, could never fill the gap left by a premature MINUSTAH pullout.

The cable expands on these points later on, noting in detail how the U.S. government benefits from Latin American and other nations’ contributions to the Mission in funds and troops:

MINUSTAH’s presence produces real regional security dividends for the U.S. Paying one-quarter of MINUSTAH’s budget through our DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] assessment, the U.S. reaps the security and stabilization benefits of a 9,000-person international military and civilian stabilization mission in the hemisphere’s most troubled country. The security dividend the U.S. reaps from this hemispheric cooperation not only benefits the immediate Caribbean, but also is developing habits of security cooperation in the hemisphere that will serve our interests for years to come.

The cable notes that this partnership is important, since, with “commitments elsewhere” (such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), the U.S. apparently would not be able to maintain a unilateral military occupation of Haiti:

In the current context of our military commitments elsewhere, the U.S. alone could not replace this mission. This regionally-coordinated Latin American commitment to Haiti would not be possible without the UN umbrella. That same umbrella helps other major donors — led by Canada and followed up by the EU, France, Spain, Japan and others — justify their bilateral assistance domestically. Without a UN-sanctioned peacekeeping and stabilization force, we would be getting far less help from our hemispheric and European partners in managing Haiti.

The cable underscores what Sanderson says is the importance of partnering with Latin American countries in MINUSTAH especially – suggesting that such partnerships can make up for the “perceptions” that Haitians don’t want the troops there (perceptions no doubt caused by numerous demonstrations over the years):

The U.S. will reap benefits from this hemispheric security cooperation for years to come – but only if its success is not endangered by early withdrawal. We must work to preserve MINUSTAH by continuing to partner with it at all levels in coordination with other major donor and MINUSTAH contributor countries from the hemisphere. That partnering will also help counter perceptions in Latin contributing countries that Haitians see their presence in Haiti as unwanted. The Department and Embassies in Latin countries contributing troops should work to ensure these countries’ continuing support for MINUSTAH.

Sanderson expands on this point later on:

We should take [sic] emphasize in UN venues and bilaterally to our Latin partners that the Haitian people and their legitimate government support MINUSTAH’s presence, and that the UN is here at the express request of the Government of Haiti. We must be sensitive to Latin fears that any Haitian opposition to the UN presence undermines their domestic support for deployments in Haiti.

The cable describes MINUSTAH’s role in containing social unrest. The cable was written half-a-year after food riots in Haiti (and various other countries) captured world news headlines, but observers and critics of MINUSTAH have noted the troops’ role in policing and attempting to discourage political protests since the Mission first began in 2004.

They [MINUSTAH] are also the country’s ultimate riot control force which in times of unrest protects strategic government installations, including the National Palace and the airport. In MINUSTAH’s UN police operations pillar, Formed Police Units (FPU – gendarmerie-type police units from individual contributor countries) aid the HNP with security operations, such as helping put down the mutiny at the national penitentiary last November, and performing riot control during the April disturbances.

The cable is also notable for its lack of mention of any controversy or wrongdoing by MINUSTAH troops, despite that Sanderson wrote it after several of the most notorious scandals and incidents, including the July 2005 killings of several unarmed Cite Soleil residents, including small children, and the 2007 expulsion of over 100 Sri Lankan “peacekeepers” for their involvement in prostitution (including with Haitian minors). The cable says “MINUSTAH troops continue to provide security in areas such as the Cite Soleil slum, liberated from overt gang rule in early 2007,” without mentioning the bloody operations that supposedly led to such “liberation”, including the killing of dozens of people in the process as MINUSTAH troops fired 22,000 rounds in just seven hours in the July 2005 incident alone. Avoiding such controversy allowed Sanderson to write “The MINUSTAH apparatus is also conducting the vetting of the entire HNP [Haitian National Police], an essential aspect of HNP reform” without suggesting that there might first be a need for MINUSTAH reform.

The cable, which was ironically released the same day that Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim made comments regarding a Brazilian withdrawal of troops from MINUSTAH, recommends that

a significant withdrawal of the MINUSTAH security forces and civilian advisers is not advisable for a minimum of three years, and we believe that a full withdrawal of MINUSTAH should not be considered before five years.

As we’ve noted before, MINUSTAH’s Brazilian leaders repeatedly expressed concerns about their participation to the U.S. government, according to other Wikileaked cables, and lack of popular domestic support for Brazil’s role in the Mission. The cable addresses Brazilian concerns explicitly:

During the April riots, the Brazilian MINUSTAH Force Commander told Ambassador and others that his greatest fear was that his troops would be forced to fire on demonstrators. He understood that this could ignite opposition in Haiti, Brazil, and other contributing countries to his troops’ presence in Haiti. The Brazilian Embassy’s national day celebration in Port au Prince September 8 was an exercise aimed at the Brazilian domestic audience. Attended by several Brazilian senators, it featured slide paels [sic] extolling the humanitarian work of Brazil’s army at home and in Haiti, and a pathos-filled speech by the Ambassador about the history and culture Brazil shares with Haiti.

A strong U.S. commitment to MINUSTAH, therefore, is important because

The Port au Prince embassies of Latin countries contributing to MINUSTAH look to the strength of the U.S. commitment to the UN presence as a bellwether. Any slippage of U.S. commitment would embolden domestic elements who oppose these countries’ participation in in the UN mission here. We sense that the strong U.S. embrace of the UN presence in Haiti helps their case at home for continuing deployments in Haiti.

To this end, the devastating hurricanes of 2008 provided an opportunity:

The current post-hurricane relief effort, however disordered, is proving an opportunity for U.S., Canadian, and other bilateral donors to partner with MINUSTAH in disaster assistance and reconstruction. We sense that the humanitarian focus of these crisis-response efforts — in contrast to riot-control efforts in April — is helping the case in Latin countries for continuing their peacekeeping contributions in Haiti.

As a new child sex abuse scandal involving Uruguayan MINUSTAH troops unfolds (without coverage in the English language media), and new scientific studies emerge linking MINUSTAH to the origin of the current cholera epidemic, recently Wikileaked cables from the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince spell out MINUSTAH’s importance to the U.S. government in a more direct fashion than probably any previously released documents. A confidential October 2008 cable from then-Ambassador Janet Sanderson begins:

The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti is an indispensable tool in realizing core USG policy interests in Haiti. Security vulnerabilities and fundamental institutional weaknesses mean that Haiti will require a continuing – albeit eventually shrinking – MINUSTAH presence for at least three and more likely five years. Haiti needs the UN presence to fill the security gap caused by Haiti’s fledgling police force’s lack of numbers and capabilities. It needs MINUSTAH to partner with the USG and other donors in institution-building.

It goes on to state:

MINUSTAH is a remarkable product and symbol of hemispheric cooperation in a country with little going for it. There is no feasible substitute for this UN presence. It is a financial and regional security bargain for the USG. USG civilian and military assistance under current domestic and international conditions, alone or in combination with our closest partners, could never fill the gap left by a premature MINUSTAH pullout.

The cable expands on these points later on, noting in detail how the U.S. government benefits from Latin American and other nations’ contributions to the Mission in funds and troops:

MINUSTAH’s presence produces real regional security dividends for the U.S. Paying one-quarter of MINUSTAH’s budget through our DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] assessment, the U.S. reaps the security and stabilization benefits of a 9,000-person international military and civilian stabilization mission in the hemisphere’s most troubled country. The security dividend the U.S. reaps from this hemispheric cooperation not only benefits the immediate Caribbean, but also is developing habits of security cooperation in the hemisphere that will serve our interests for years to come.

The cable notes that this partnership is important, since, with “commitments elsewhere” (such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), the U.S. apparently would not be able to maintain a unilateral military occupation of Haiti:

In the current context of our military commitments elsewhere, the U.S. alone could not replace this mission. This regionally-coordinated Latin American commitment to Haiti would not be possible without the UN umbrella. That same umbrella helps other major donors — led by Canada and followed up by the EU, France, Spain, Japan and others — justify their bilateral assistance domestically. Without a UN-sanctioned peacekeeping and stabilization force, we would be getting far less help from our hemispheric and European partners in managing Haiti.

The cable underscores what Sanderson says is the importance of partnering with Latin American countries in MINUSTAH especially – suggesting that such partnerships can make up for the “perceptions” that Haitians don’t want the troops there (perceptions no doubt caused by numerous demonstrations over the years):

The U.S. will reap benefits from this hemispheric security cooperation for years to come – but only if its success is not endangered by early withdrawal. We must work to preserve MINUSTAH by continuing to partner with it at all levels in coordination with other major donor and MINUSTAH contributor countries from the hemisphere. That partnering will also help counter perceptions in Latin contributing countries that Haitians see their presence in Haiti as unwanted. The Department and Embassies in Latin countries contributing troops should work to ensure these countries’ continuing support for MINUSTAH.

Sanderson expands on this point later on:

We should take [sic] emphasize in UN venues and bilaterally to our Latin partners that the Haitian people and their legitimate government support MINUSTAH’s presence, and that the UN is here at the express request of the Government of Haiti. We must be sensitive to Latin fears that any Haitian opposition to the UN presence undermines their domestic support for deployments in Haiti.

The cable describes MINUSTAH’s role in containing social unrest. The cable was written half-a-year after food riots in Haiti (and various other countries) captured world news headlines, but observers and critics of MINUSTAH have noted the troops’ role in policing and attempting to discourage political protests since the Mission first began in 2004.

They [MINUSTAH] are also the country’s ultimate riot control force which in times of unrest protects strategic government installations, including the National Palace and the airport. In MINUSTAH’s UN police operations pillar, Formed Police Units (FPU – gendarmerie-type police units from individual contributor countries) aid the HNP with security operations, such as helping put down the mutiny at the national penitentiary last November, and performing riot control during the April disturbances.

The cable is also notable for its lack of mention of any controversy or wrongdoing by MINUSTAH troops, despite that Sanderson wrote it after several of the most notorious scandals and incidents, including the July 2005 killings of several unarmed Cite Soleil residents, including small children, and the 2007 expulsion of over 100 Sri Lankan “peacekeepers” for their involvement in prostitution (including with Haitian minors). The cable says “MINUSTAH troops continue to provide security in areas such as the Cite Soleil slum, liberated from overt gang rule in early 2007,” without mentioning the bloody operations that supposedly led to such “liberation”, including the killing of dozens of people in the process as MINUSTAH troops fired 22,000 rounds in just seven hours in the July 2005 incident alone. Avoiding such controversy allowed Sanderson to write “The MINUSTAH apparatus is also conducting the vetting of the entire HNP [Haitian National Police], an essential aspect of HNP reform” without suggesting that there might first be a need for MINUSTAH reform.

The cable, which was ironically released the same day that Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim made comments regarding a Brazilian withdrawal of troops from MINUSTAH, recommends that

a significant withdrawal of the MINUSTAH security forces and civilian advisers is not advisable for a minimum of three years, and we believe that a full withdrawal of MINUSTAH should not be considered before five years.

As we’ve noted before, MINUSTAH’s Brazilian leaders repeatedly expressed concerns about their participation to the U.S. government, according to other Wikileaked cables, and lack of popular domestic support for Brazil’s role in the Mission. The cable addresses Brazilian concerns explicitly:

During the April riots, the Brazilian MINUSTAH Force Commander told Ambassador and others that his greatest fear was that his troops would be forced to fire on demonstrators. He understood that this could ignite opposition in Haiti, Brazil, and other contributing countries to his troops’ presence in Haiti. The Brazilian Embassy’s national day celebration in Port au Prince September 8 was an exercise aimed at the Brazilian domestic audience. Attended by several Brazilian senators, it featured slide paels [sic] extolling the humanitarian work of Brazil’s army at home and in Haiti, and a pathos-filled speech by the Ambassador about the history and culture Brazil shares with Haiti.

A strong U.S. commitment to MINUSTAH, therefore, is important because

The Port au Prince embassies of Latin countries contributing to MINUSTAH look to the strength of the U.S. commitment to the UN presence as a bellwether. Any slippage of U.S. commitment would embolden domestic elements who oppose these countries’ participation in in the UN mission here. We sense that the strong U.S. embrace of the UN presence in Haiti helps their case at home for continuing deployments in Haiti.

To this end, the devastating hurricanes of 2008 provided an opportunity:

The current post-hurricane relief effort, however disordered, is proving an opportunity for U.S., Canadian, and other bilateral donors to partner with MINUSTAH in disaster assistance and reconstruction. We sense that the humanitarian focus of these crisis-response efforts — in contrast to riot-control efforts in April — is helping the case in Latin countries for continuing their peacekeeping contributions in Haiti.

CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot has filed his latest Guardian column from Port-au-Prince. It highlights ongoing forced evictions following a tense stand-off over the weekend between residents of Camp Barbancourt 17 and actor Danny Glover and other activists, on the one side, and the camp’s landlord, on the other.

Mark writes:

Port-au-Prince, Haiti —  At this sprawling IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp of battered tents and tarps here in the neighborhood of Barbancourt in Port-au-Prince, a confrontation was underway. A landlord who claimed ownership of the land on which some 75 families had been living since the earthquake was very angry. A crowd of hundreds had gathered and a man in his thirties said that the landlord had beaten him and destroyed his tent.

“These people have been here for 19 months and I want them out of here!” the landlord shouted.  He was yelling in English now because a group of activists had arrived, including the actor and human rights campaigner Danny Glover. They were defending the camp residents, but the landlord wasn’t having it.

Meanwhile a group of heavily armed troops from MINUSTAH – the UN military force that has occupied the country for the past seven years – arrived on the scene.  They were tense and sweating in the morning heat, and as the standoff continued and the crowd spilled into the street, another contingent of troops arrived, bringing the total to about fifteen.

Finally, a well-known human rights lawyer, Mario Joseph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) arrived. He explained to the landlord – in another heated argument — that there was a legal and judicial process for evictions, and that as a matter of law, people could not be evicted without a court decision. The standoff came to an end, for the moment, as residents returned to the camp to avoid being locked out and possibly losing their possessions.

But nineteen months after the earthquake, there are still almost 600,000 people living in camps, mostly under tents and tarps.  Despite the billions of dollars of aid pledged by governments and donors since the earthquake, there are probably less than 50,000 that have been resettled. And for the 600,000 homeless, the strategy seems to be moving in the direction of evictions – without regard to where they might end up.

“The government, in collaboration with international donors and some NGO’s, is trying to pretend that there is no land,” says Etant Dupain, an activist with the group Bri Kouri Novel Gaye (Noise Travels, News Spreads).  His group is organizing to stop the evictions, and he was present in the confrontation in Barbancourt on Saturday, where he tried to defuse the confrontation by talking to the landlord, whom he happened to know.  “But there is land – they gave a big piece of land to MINUSTAH, and this was cultivated land.”

Indeed this seems to be the heart of the problem: the international donors, led by the U.S. , do not seem to care enough to resolve the problem by “building back better,” as President Clinton promised after the earthquake. Or building much of anything, really. (Clinton heads up the Haiti Interim Recovery Commission – which until recently was called the Haiti Interim Reconstruction Commission, as well as being the UN special envoy to Haiti.)

Read the rest here.

CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot has filed his latest Guardian column from Port-au-Prince. It highlights ongoing forced evictions following a tense stand-off over the weekend between residents of Camp Barbancourt 17 and actor Danny Glover and other activists, on the one side, and the camp’s landlord, on the other.

Mark writes:

Port-au-Prince, Haiti —  At this sprawling IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp of battered tents and tarps here in the neighborhood of Barbancourt in Port-au-Prince, a confrontation was underway. A landlord who claimed ownership of the land on which some 75 families had been living since the earthquake was very angry. A crowd of hundreds had gathered and a man in his thirties said that the landlord had beaten him and destroyed his tent.

“These people have been here for 19 months and I want them out of here!” the landlord shouted.  He was yelling in English now because a group of activists had arrived, including the actor and human rights campaigner Danny Glover. They were defending the camp residents, but the landlord wasn’t having it.

Meanwhile a group of heavily armed troops from MINUSTAH – the UN military force that has occupied the country for the past seven years – arrived on the scene.  They were tense and sweating in the morning heat, and as the standoff continued and the crowd spilled into the street, another contingent of troops arrived, bringing the total to about fifteen.

Finally, a well-known human rights lawyer, Mario Joseph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) arrived. He explained to the landlord – in another heated argument — that there was a legal and judicial process for evictions, and that as a matter of law, people could not be evicted without a court decision. The standoff came to an end, for the moment, as residents returned to the camp to avoid being locked out and possibly losing their possessions.

But nineteen months after the earthquake, there are still almost 600,000 people living in camps, mostly under tents and tarps.  Despite the billions of dollars of aid pledged by governments and donors since the earthquake, there are probably less than 50,000 that have been resettled. And for the 600,000 homeless, the strategy seems to be moving in the direction of evictions – without regard to where they might end up.

“The government, in collaboration with international donors and some NGO’s, is trying to pretend that there is no land,” says Etant Dupain, an activist with the group Bri Kouri Novel Gaye (Noise Travels, News Spreads).  His group is organizing to stop the evictions, and he was present in the confrontation in Barbancourt on Saturday, where he tried to defuse the confrontation by talking to the landlord, whom he happened to know.  “But there is land – they gave a big piece of land to MINUSTAH, and this was cultivated land.”

Indeed this seems to be the heart of the problem: the international donors, led by the U.S. , do not seem to care enough to resolve the problem by “building back better,” as President Clinton promised after the earthquake. Or building much of anything, really. (Clinton heads up the Haiti Interim Recovery Commission – which until recently was called the Haiti Interim Reconstruction Commission, as well as being the UN special envoy to Haiti.)

Read the rest here.

A new paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research argues that cholera treatment and prevention efforts in Haiti have fallen woefully behind, leading to thousands of preventable deaths, even though the dramatic rise in new cases this spring and summer was entirely predictable. The paper, “Not Doing Enough: Unnecessary Sickness and Death from Cholera in Haiti”, by researchers Jake Johnston and Keane Bhatt, argues that it is not too late to bring the 10-month old cholera epidemic under control and save thousands of lives by ramping up treatment and prevention efforts. Below is the Executive Summary of the paper, to read it in its entirety, click here.

In October 2010, cholera, a waterborne disease spread by the Vibrio cholerae bacterium, first appeared in Haiti and rapidly spread through a vulnerable population that had not been exposed to the pathogen in over a century. This cholera outbreak—having afflicted 420,000 people, 6,000 of whom have perished as a result—is the most catastrophic epidemic the hemisphere has seen in decades. Yet ten months after its first detection, the disease has yet to be decisively halted. In fact, in recent months cholera cases have spiked dramatically. In July 2011, one person was infected with cholera almost every minute, and at least 375 died over the course of the month due to an easily preventable and curable illness.

The present health crisis did not originate as a natural byproduct of the January 2010 earthquake’s devastation—the organism was virtually alien to the country. Its inadvertent introduction is the result of the negligence of the United Nations Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which has maintained an international, military troop presence in Haiti since 2004. A Nepalese contingent of UN peacekeeping forces is believed to have spread the illness by contaminating the Artibonite region’s water supply through a leaky sewage system and inadequate waste disposal. The specific strain of V. cholerae in Haiti is identical to a particularly virulent one endemic to South Asia. It infects the small intestine, provoking severe diarrhea and vomiting that, if left untreated, can fatally dehydrate a healthy adult within a matter of hours.

The health interventions launched to fight cholera have been hobbled by the initial missteps made in the wake of the epidemic. The international community underestimated the virulence of the outbreak; the UN initially denied responsibility for its introduction; and there was hesitation in investigating the circumstances surrounding its appearance. These errors led to a smaller and more delayed mobilization of funds and treatment interventions than could have been otherwise marshaled to contain the outbreak. The UN’s cholera appeal, which was based on its low estimate, is still barely more than 50 percent funded. Furthermore, despite myriad warnings, many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) withdrew from cholera treatment efforts right before this summer’s rainy season and the predictable increase in the number of cholera cases that followed. To date, treatment is still unequally focused on urban centers despite the much higher fatality rates in Haiti’s more rural areas. With proper treatment, fatality rates should be below one percent. However, in some rural areas, they are as high as 5.4 percent.

Cholera is both eminently preventable and treatable. Much can be done immediately to curb the disturbingly large number of Haitians falling sick, and address cholera’s relative deadliness in rural and remote regions. In the short-term, the international community and NGOs should provide firm support for expanding the reach of inpatient facilities in areas hardest hit by the epidemic. Money and human resources should also be invested in the proposals of public health experts who advocate for scaling up treatment efforts through antibiotics and supplements, and integrating prevention and care through education campaigns and a vaccination strategy.

NGOs raised an astonishing $1.4 billion for Haiti relief efforts from the U.S. alone, yet many some have failed to disburse funds despite the dire situation on the ground. The international community pledged over $5 billion for Haiti, yet over a year later, less than 40 percent has been disbursed, while far less has actually made an impact on the ground. The U.S., having appropriated over $1 billion for Haiti, has only disbursed $180 million. International financial institutions (e.g. World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank), NGOs, and donor countries should use this opportunity to redouble their efforts to address the cholera epidemic and commit to assisting the Haitian government in carrying out projects for water and sewage treatment—the same infrastructure projects which have rendered cholera essentially nonexistent in most of the world.

A new paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research argues that cholera treatment and prevention efforts in Haiti have fallen woefully behind, leading to thousands of preventable deaths, even though the dramatic rise in new cases this spring and summer was entirely predictable. The paper, “Not Doing Enough: Unnecessary Sickness and Death from Cholera in Haiti”, by researchers Jake Johnston and Keane Bhatt, argues that it is not too late to bring the 10-month old cholera epidemic under control and save thousands of lives by ramping up treatment and prevention efforts. Below is the Executive Summary of the paper, to read it in its entirety, click here.

In October 2010, cholera, a waterborne disease spread by the Vibrio cholerae bacterium, first appeared in Haiti and rapidly spread through a vulnerable population that had not been exposed to the pathogen in over a century. This cholera outbreak—having afflicted 420,000 people, 6,000 of whom have perished as a result—is the most catastrophic epidemic the hemisphere has seen in decades. Yet ten months after its first detection, the disease has yet to be decisively halted. In fact, in recent months cholera cases have spiked dramatically. In July 2011, one person was infected with cholera almost every minute, and at least 375 died over the course of the month due to an easily preventable and curable illness.

The present health crisis did not originate as a natural byproduct of the January 2010 earthquake’s devastation—the organism was virtually alien to the country. Its inadvertent introduction is the result of the negligence of the United Nations Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which has maintained an international, military troop presence in Haiti since 2004. A Nepalese contingent of UN peacekeeping forces is believed to have spread the illness by contaminating the Artibonite region’s water supply through a leaky sewage system and inadequate waste disposal. The specific strain of V. cholerae in Haiti is identical to a particularly virulent one endemic to South Asia. It infects the small intestine, provoking severe diarrhea and vomiting that, if left untreated, can fatally dehydrate a healthy adult within a matter of hours.

The health interventions launched to fight cholera have been hobbled by the initial missteps made in the wake of the epidemic. The international community underestimated the virulence of the outbreak; the UN initially denied responsibility for its introduction; and there was hesitation in investigating the circumstances surrounding its appearance. These errors led to a smaller and more delayed mobilization of funds and treatment interventions than could have been otherwise marshaled to contain the outbreak. The UN’s cholera appeal, which was based on its low estimate, is still barely more than 50 percent funded. Furthermore, despite myriad warnings, many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) withdrew from cholera treatment efforts right before this summer’s rainy season and the predictable increase in the number of cholera cases that followed. To date, treatment is still unequally focused on urban centers despite the much higher fatality rates in Haiti’s more rural areas. With proper treatment, fatality rates should be below one percent. However, in some rural areas, they are as high as 5.4 percent.

Cholera is both eminently preventable and treatable. Much can be done immediately to curb the disturbingly large number of Haitians falling sick, and address cholera’s relative deadliness in rural and remote regions. In the short-term, the international community and NGOs should provide firm support for expanding the reach of inpatient facilities in areas hardest hit by the epidemic. Money and human resources should also be invested in the proposals of public health experts who advocate for scaling up treatment efforts through antibiotics and supplements, and integrating prevention and care through education campaigns and a vaccination strategy.

NGOs raised an astonishing $1.4 billion for Haiti relief efforts from the U.S. alone, yet many some have failed to disburse funds despite the dire situation on the ground. The international community pledged over $5 billion for Haiti, yet over a year later, less than 40 percent has been disbursed, while far less has actually made an impact on the ground. The U.S., having appropriated over $1 billion for Haiti, has only disbursed $180 million. International financial institutions (e.g. World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank), NGOs, and donor countries should use this opportunity to redouble their efforts to address the cholera epidemic and commit to assisting the Haitian government in carrying out projects for water and sewage treatment—the same infrastructure projects which have rendered cholera essentially nonexistent in most of the world.

A 11,849-word article by journalist Janet Reitman in the new issue of Rolling Stone provides a sometimes fascinating and always disheartening overview of relief and reconstruction in Haiti since the earthquake. Reitman, who has recently been in the news herself over her new book, Inside Scientology, spent months researching the report, both in the U.S. and in Haiti, and so she is able to cover a good deal of ground. Much of her focus falls on the failings of various initiatives by often prominent individuals and organizations, which often contrast with their public images and their stated goals and intentions. Addressing the role of big NGO’s, for example, Reitman writes

On top of the earthquake, aid workers in Haiti are contending with a cholera crisis, a disease of poverty spread through poor sanitation and contaminated drinking water. These are all things that NGOs like the Red Cross have expertise in fighting, but larger structural issues often trump their best intentions. Because international NGOs get most of their money from large government agencies, they are beholden to the broader policy imperatives of their funders. “The big problem is that most NGOs are only really accountable to their donors, when we should really be accountable to the people we’re trying to serve,” says Dr. Louise Ivers, senior health and policy adviser for Partners in Health, a Boston-based NGO that has worked in Haiti for 25 years. Some organizations, she notes, “exist only to write grant proposals that respond to specific donor requests. If your mandate is just to follow the money, then the money determines what happens.”

CHF International is one NGO that comes in for scrutiny further on:

[American field-office director for CHF International, Ann] Lee admits that [CHF], a vast NGO with relief operations in 25 countries around the world, has never done “micro-urban planning,” as she calls it — nor have the half dozen or so other NGOs planning similar projects in Port-au-Prince. “It’s a complete learning experience for all of us,” she says. All that’s needed to make the project a reality, she adds, are more funds.

Critics regard such claims with amusement: CHF, which works out of two spacious mansions in Port-au-Prince and maintains a fleet of brand-new vehicles, is generally considered one of the most ostentatious NGOs in Haiti. It is also one of the largest USAID contractors in Haiti and enjoys a cozy relationship with Washington: Its president and CEO, David Weiss, is a former State Department official and lobbyist.

A good portion of Reitman’s article examines the role that the Clintons – ex-president and co-chair of the Interim Haiti Relief Commission Bill, and Secretary of State Hillary, have made for themselves in post-quake Haiti. These other powerful officials appear the least sympathetic when Reitman allows them to use their own terminology in describing Washington’s Haiti policy:

In Washington, meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was pursuing a Haiti strategy that dovetailed neatly with her husband’s efforts. Within the State Department, Haiti was viewed, in the words of one official, as a “laboratory”: a petri dish in which America could prove that it could be a force for good in the world. The impulse falls squarely within the Clinton doctrine known as “smart power,” which stresses the importance of diplomacy and development to further U.S. interests. For too long, Clinton believed, the West had embraced “development for development’s sake,” throwing money at poor countries without demanding either accountability or results. Haiti had received so much foreign assistance over the years — more than $300 million annually from the U.S. alone — that it had become a virtual, albeit dysfunctional, ward of the West, and a poster child for the inadequacies of foreign aid.

Reitman’s examination of the role that the Clintons have played in implementing a development plan for Haiti – a process in motion before the quake – is neatly pieced together:

Manufacturing, [Bill] Clinton believed, was “a great opportunity, not only for investors to come and make a profit but for the people of Haiti to have a more secure and a more broadly shared, prosperous future.” He also envisioned a myriad of other possibilities, from tourist hotels to outsourced call centers.

By that Christmas, [Hillary Clinton’s Chief-of-Staff, Cheryl] Mills and her team had identified four key pillars for aid — health, energy, agriculture and security — that promised what seemed like the highest return, and were preparing to send a report on the new Haiti strategy to the National Security Council for review. Bill Clinton’s hands-on approach had also begun to pay off: Two international hotel chains had committed to projects in Haiti, and new industrial parks were in the works with interest from American, South Korean and Irish investors. The Vietnamese military was in negotiations to buy a controlling share of Haiti’s state-owned telephone company, and the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince was making plans to open a shopping arcade.

Then came the earthquake. The tragedy put “a dent in expectations,” as one State Department official puts it, but it “didn’t completely destroy the underlying economic opportunities.” Immediately after the quake, in fact, Bill Clinton was not only talking about Haiti’s reconstruction but was casting the tragedy as an opportunity for the country to “re-imagine” itself, using a modified version of the Collier plan that had already been endorsed by both the U.S. and Haitian governments. “Is this going to be hard? Yes,” Clinton said in a teary-eyed interview with The Miami Herald. “Do I think we can do it? Absolutely, I do.”

But these development plans did not work out as planned, and as Reitman reports it, the earthquake is only one reason why. She describes how time, money and opportunities were wasted by poor practices, duplication of efforts, incompetence and a lack of foresight. She quotes USAID expert Bill Vastine:

“I kept telling these State Department people to go and look in their frickin’ filing cabinets, but it fell on deaf ears,” he says. “It was truly astonishing to me. The amount of previous study on Haiti is immense. But there was no reflection on the existing knowledge base. Instead, they would go out and hire some company to the tune of half a million dollars to barge in equipment from the United States and go punch some holes in the ground, even though we already knew what was down there. Then they’d hire some Ph.D. to study it for six months and do a PowerPoint presentation. Haiti doesn’t need any more Ph.D.s to study it. What it needs are some professionals who know what they’re doing to go out and do the goddamn work and rebuild it.”

For an on-the-ground perspective on the failings of aid and “the Republic of NGO’s” in Haiti – both before and since the earthquake, Reitman turns to Tim Schwartz, anthropologist and author of the book Travesty in Haiti: A true account of Christian missions, orphanages, fraud, food aid and drug trafficking:

“There is a shocking lack of transparency and accountability in aid, and it’s crystallized in this relief effort,” says Schwartz, the anthropologist. “For an NGO in Haiti, the criteria for success is raising money, filling out paperwork and making sure the money is ‘accounted for’ — meaning they can show donors that they spent the money. But nobody goes out there and judges the project, or even verifies that the project exists. In the majority of the cases, nobody even talks to the community.”

“Most of these NGO people genuinely dupe themselves into thinking this is really going to work,” says Schwartz, who spent six months on a USAID-funded survey of Port-au-Prince’s housing. What he found is that roughly 85 percent of Haiti’s damaged homes, including those deemed irreparable, have been reinhabited by people who either returned to them from the camps or, as with Bertin Voise, never bothered to leave them in the first place, despite warnings that a strong storm could collapse what remains of the structures. Such a disaster, notes Schwartz, could be avoided if money were invested in repairing the homes rather than replacing them. “We have to listen to these people,” he says. “They are telling us what they want, and we are ignoring it. That’s the real tragedy.”

Although there are a few mistakes (it was George H. W. Bush who imposed sanctions on Haiti in 1991 following the first coup against Aristide, not Bill Clinton, who wouldn’t take office until 1993; there was no recount of the 2010 Haitian presidential election, nor did the U.S. push for one, e.g.), Reitman’s article may be one of the best surveys of the sad state of post-quake relief and reconstructions efforts so far.

A 11,849-word article by journalist Janet Reitman in the new issue of Rolling Stone provides a sometimes fascinating and always disheartening overview of relief and reconstruction in Haiti since the earthquake. Reitman, who has recently been in the news herself over her new book, Inside Scientology, spent months researching the report, both in the U.S. and in Haiti, and so she is able to cover a good deal of ground. Much of her focus falls on the failings of various initiatives by often prominent individuals and organizations, which often contrast with their public images and their stated goals and intentions. Addressing the role of big NGO’s, for example, Reitman writes

On top of the earthquake, aid workers in Haiti are contending with a cholera crisis, a disease of poverty spread through poor sanitation and contaminated drinking water. These are all things that NGOs like the Red Cross have expertise in fighting, but larger structural issues often trump their best intentions. Because international NGOs get most of their money from large government agencies, they are beholden to the broader policy imperatives of their funders. “The big problem is that most NGOs are only really accountable to their donors, when we should really be accountable to the people we’re trying to serve,” says Dr. Louise Ivers, senior health and policy adviser for Partners in Health, a Boston-based NGO that has worked in Haiti for 25 years. Some organizations, she notes, “exist only to write grant proposals that respond to specific donor requests. If your mandate is just to follow the money, then the money determines what happens.”

CHF International is one NGO that comes in for scrutiny further on:

[American field-office director for CHF International, Ann] Lee admits that [CHF], a vast NGO with relief operations in 25 countries around the world, has never done “micro-urban planning,” as she calls it — nor have the half dozen or so other NGOs planning similar projects in Port-au-Prince. “It’s a complete learning experience for all of us,” she says. All that’s needed to make the project a reality, she adds, are more funds.

Critics regard such claims with amusement: CHF, which works out of two spacious mansions in Port-au-Prince and maintains a fleet of brand-new vehicles, is generally considered one of the most ostentatious NGOs in Haiti. It is also one of the largest USAID contractors in Haiti and enjoys a cozy relationship with Washington: Its president and CEO, David Weiss, is a former State Department official and lobbyist.

A good portion of Reitman’s article examines the role that the Clintons – ex-president and co-chair of the Interim Haiti Relief Commission Bill, and Secretary of State Hillary, have made for themselves in post-quake Haiti. These other powerful officials appear the least sympathetic when Reitman allows them to use their own terminology in describing Washington’s Haiti policy:

In Washington, meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was pursuing a Haiti strategy that dovetailed neatly with her husband’s efforts. Within the State Department, Haiti was viewed, in the words of one official, as a “laboratory”: a petri dish in which America could prove that it could be a force for good in the world. The impulse falls squarely within the Clinton doctrine known as “smart power,” which stresses the importance of diplomacy and development to further U.S. interests. For too long, Clinton believed, the West had embraced “development for development’s sake,” throwing money at poor countries without demanding either accountability or results. Haiti had received so much foreign assistance over the years — more than $300 million annually from the U.S. alone — that it had become a virtual, albeit dysfunctional, ward of the West, and a poster child for the inadequacies of foreign aid.

Reitman’s examination of the role that the Clintons have played in implementing a development plan for Haiti – a process in motion before the quake – is neatly pieced together:

Manufacturing, [Bill] Clinton believed, was “a great opportunity, not only for investors to come and make a profit but for the people of Haiti to have a more secure and a more broadly shared, prosperous future.” He also envisioned a myriad of other possibilities, from tourist hotels to outsourced call centers.

By that Christmas, [Hillary Clinton’s Chief-of-Staff, Cheryl] Mills and her team had identified four key pillars for aid — health, energy, agriculture and security — that promised what seemed like the highest return, and were preparing to send a report on the new Haiti strategy to the National Security Council for review. Bill Clinton’s hands-on approach had also begun to pay off: Two international hotel chains had committed to projects in Haiti, and new industrial parks were in the works with interest from American, South Korean and Irish investors. The Vietnamese military was in negotiations to buy a controlling share of Haiti’s state-owned telephone company, and the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince was making plans to open a shopping arcade.

Then came the earthquake. The tragedy put “a dent in expectations,” as one State Department official puts it, but it “didn’t completely destroy the underlying economic opportunities.” Immediately after the quake, in fact, Bill Clinton was not only talking about Haiti’s reconstruction but was casting the tragedy as an opportunity for the country to “re-imagine” itself, using a modified version of the Collier plan that had already been endorsed by both the U.S. and Haitian governments. “Is this going to be hard? Yes,” Clinton said in a teary-eyed interview with The Miami Herald. “Do I think we can do it? Absolutely, I do.”

But these development plans did not work out as planned, and as Reitman reports it, the earthquake is only one reason why. She describes how time, money and opportunities were wasted by poor practices, duplication of efforts, incompetence and a lack of foresight. She quotes USAID expert Bill Vastine:

“I kept telling these State Department people to go and look in their frickin’ filing cabinets, but it fell on deaf ears,” he says. “It was truly astonishing to me. The amount of previous study on Haiti is immense. But there was no reflection on the existing knowledge base. Instead, they would go out and hire some company to the tune of half a million dollars to barge in equipment from the United States and go punch some holes in the ground, even though we already knew what was down there. Then they’d hire some Ph.D. to study it for six months and do a PowerPoint presentation. Haiti doesn’t need any more Ph.D.s to study it. What it needs are some professionals who know what they’re doing to go out and do the goddamn work and rebuild it.”

For an on-the-ground perspective on the failings of aid and “the Republic of NGO’s” in Haiti – both before and since the earthquake, Reitman turns to Tim Schwartz, anthropologist and author of the book Travesty in Haiti: A true account of Christian missions, orphanages, fraud, food aid and drug trafficking:

“There is a shocking lack of transparency and accountability in aid, and it’s crystallized in this relief effort,” says Schwartz, the anthropologist. “For an NGO in Haiti, the criteria for success is raising money, filling out paperwork and making sure the money is ‘accounted for’ — meaning they can show donors that they spent the money. But nobody goes out there and judges the project, or even verifies that the project exists. In the majority of the cases, nobody even talks to the community.”

“Most of these NGO people genuinely dupe themselves into thinking this is really going to work,” says Schwartz, who spent six months on a USAID-funded survey of Port-au-Prince’s housing. What he found is that roughly 85 percent of Haiti’s damaged homes, including those deemed irreparable, have been reinhabited by people who either returned to them from the camps or, as with Bertin Voise, never bothered to leave them in the first place, despite warnings that a strong storm could collapse what remains of the structures. Such a disaster, notes Schwartz, could be avoided if money were invested in repairing the homes rather than replacing them. “We have to listen to these people,” he says. “They are telling us what they want, and we are ignoring it. That’s the real tragedy.”

Although there are a few mistakes (it was George H. W. Bush who imposed sanctions on Haiti in 1991 following the first coup against Aristide, not Bill Clinton, who wouldn’t take office until 1993; there was no recount of the 2010 Haitian presidential election, nor did the U.S. push for one, e.g.), Reitman’s article may be one of the best surveys of the sad state of post-quake relief and reconstructions efforts so far.

Want to search in the archives?

¿Quieres buscar en los archivos?

Click Here Haga clic aquí