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.

On March 13, President Jovenel Moise appointed six individuals to the high command of the recently reinstated Haitian armed forces (FAdH). All of the appointees, now in their sixties, were majors or colonels in the former FAdH, disbanded in 1995 after a long history of involvement in coups, violent repression, and drug trafficking. At least three of the officers appear to have held senior positions within the early-‘90s military coup regime. One of them is a convicted intellectual author of a civilian massacre, and another was a member of a committee that sought to cover it up.

FAdH command blog 1
Ministry of Defense press release from March 13, 2018 announcing the FAdH’s new senior leadership.

The makeup of the new leadership has raised concerns among human rights organizations over the trajectory of the new force and its commitment to the rule of law.

“The appointment confirms once again that the Haitian Armed Forces, remobilized by the [ruling Tét Kale party] is a militia whose hidden mission is to have the Haitian people relive the darkest hours of bloodthirsty Duvalierism,” wrote the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in a press release, referencing the illegal arrests, forced disappearances, assassinations, and other abuses that characterized the Duvalier dictatorship.

Haitian Defense Minister Herve Denis responded that the new high-command is “clean,” and that all were vetted for involvement in human rights abuses or drug trafficking.

In 1990, an outspoken liberation theologian priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was elected in the first democratic election in the country’s history. But within months, a group of Haitian military officers – backed by many of the country’s wealthiest families – overthrew the new government, imposing a military dictatorship that would last three years. It was later revealed that the CIA had supported certain military elements involved in the coup, and that leaders of a paramilitary group that waged a campaign of terror against Aristide supporters and other activists were on the CIA payroll.

The group, FRAPH, helped to prop up the coup regime of Lieutenant General Raoul Cédras, while also at times appearing to undermine and sabotage the official actions of Clinton administration to restore democratic government to Haiti. Thousands of Haitians were murdered under the coup regime and hundreds of thousands fled the country.

Colonel Jean-Robert Gabriel, the new FAdH’s assistant chief of staff, was the secretary of the general staff, and later a public spokesperson, for the Cédras regime.

Following the 1991 military coup, the US and the international community implemented sanctions against the regime, eventually instituting an embargo. After Bill Clinton became president in January 1993, and increasingly in 1994, the Congressional Black Caucus played a leading role in pushing for a more aggressive role against the dictatorship, and solidarity groups in the US and elsewhere also influenced policy.

In June of 1993, the Clinton administration announced individual targeted sanctions against those determined to be a part of the “de facto regime in Haiti.” The initial sanction list, published in July of 1993, named 83 individuals, including 29 military officers. Included in this initial list was Jean-Robert Gabriel.

Gabriel sanction list
Screenshot of the Federal Register from July 1993, listing Jean-Robert Gabriel as one of 29 military officers sanctioned for their participation in the coup regime.

In 1993, the UN mediated indirect negotiations between Cédras and Aristide (who had taken up residence in Washington, DC to lobby for his restoration to office). Known as the Governors Island negotiations for the location where they took place, the eventual accord did little to immediately overturn the bloody coup. According to official documents, Gabriel, as well as the newly appointed chief of the general staff, Sadrac Saintil, were members of the delegation, indicating their senior positions within the Cédras regime.  

Gov island delegation
List of members of Armed Forces delegation to Governors Island.

The US temporarily suspended some of the sanctions during the negotiations, but when it became clear that Cédras and his regime would not back down, the sanctions were expanded. In October 1993, the administration revoked US visas and froze the US assets of 41 officials who were determined to be thwarting a return to democratic rule and contributing to the violence in Haiti. Among the 41 individuals was Derby Guerrier, recently named as an assistant chief of staff in the reinstated armed forces ? and then a lieutenant colonel.

Guerrier held a US passport, and a New Jersey address was listed next to his name. According to press reports at the time, Guerrier was the head of the military’s anti-drug unit. Though there is little public information about Guerrier, drug trafficking took off under the military regime.

A 1997 federal indictment in Miami alleged that Joseph-Michel François, a former military officer who helped topple Aristide in 1991 and later become the police chief under Cédras, “placed the political and military structure of the Republic of Haiti under his control” in order to facilitate drug shipments from Colombia. François, by that time, was living in exile in Honduras and managed to avoid accountability.

Back in 1994, with the situation in Haiti continuing to deteriorate, and more and more Haitians fleeing the country, the US expanded its sanctions policy. Some 550 military officers were added to the sanctions list, including all of those recently appointed to the FAdH’s new high command.

In April that year, around the same time the new sanctions were levied, Haitian military and paramilitary forces descended on the neighborhood of Raboteau, where many opposition supporters were apparently seeking refuge. At least eight, and likely far more, were assassinated.

The next month a military-led commission of inquiry was tasked with investigating the allegations that a massacre had taken place in Raboteau. Cédras named Lieutenant Colonel Sadrac Saintil as one of four members, according to official documents made public as part of the Raboteau trial. Unsurprisingly, the commission found no evidence of a massacre and the FADH high command accepted the commission’s recommendation that nobody be punished.

Raboteau commission blog
Communique signed by Raoul Cédras, appointing Sadrac Saintil to a commission of inquiry looking into the Raboteau massacre.

But in 2000, in a landmark human rights trial supported by the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (the same organization now denouncing the new armed forces’ leadership), a Haitian court convicted 53 former officers and paramilitaries of involvement in the Raboteau massacre. Among the military officers convicted was Jean-Robert Gabriel. Though he was not implicated in direct involvement, he was charged under the theory of “command responsibility” due to his position within the top echelons of the Cédras regime.

“It’s the same type of case made against the Nazis and (Slobodan) Milosevic,” Brian Concannon, an American attorney who helped form the BAI in the early ‘90s and who worked the Raboteau case, told the St. Petersburg Times in 2002. Concannon is now the executive director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a partner organization to the BAI.

The Haitian government has pushed back on Gabriel’s involvement in Raboteau. “What I can tell you in all honesty,” the defense minister told the press, “the candidates were subjected to vetting, including Colonel Gabriel. There is nothing negative against him in the vetting with regard to human rights.”

In 2005, under a new de facto regime following Aristide’s second Washington-backed ouster (this one in 2004, and also backed by former military and paramilitary officers), the Haitian supreme court controversially vacated the sentences that had been handed down five years earlier. Most of those who had been convicted were on the run, including Jean-Robert Gabriel, who had taken up residence in Florida. Those that had been in jail escaped from prison years earlier.

After the convictions were overturned, Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch (who had previously worked with the BAI), commented: “In a country in which the poor have been killed and brutalized with impunity for centuries, Raboteau was perhaps the only time that justice was achieved after a massacre, and in a scrupulously fair trial … To overturn that verdict is to say that the only justice possible in Haiti is the justice of those with guns. It’s a sad day.”

By 2005 however, the Haitian Armed Forces had already been disbanded for 10 years.

On November 18, 2017, 214th anniversary of the Battle of Vértieres, the decisive battle in Haiti’s victorious fight for independence, current president Jovenel Moise oversaw a military parade to celebrate the FAdH’s reestablishment. It was the culmination of a two-decade fight by former military officers and their civilian supporters that had received new life in 2010 with the election of Moise’s predecessor, Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly.

That’s the same nickname that François, the drug-trafficking former police chief, went by. He apparently got it from Martelly, a popular musician, who has previously acknowledged his ties to François. During the Cédras regime, Martelly operated a nightclub that was frequented by his friends in the military.

While president, Martelly put the restoration of the military front and center in his party’s agenda. Martelly brought on the past dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier’s son as a counselor, and other officials with links to the Duvalier years populated the administration. “The army has always been a part of our policy…There is no way to have Haiti without an army,” a party representative told me in 2015.

On his way out of office Martelly issued an executive decree reinstating the FAdH, but was unable to get it off the ground. That has changed under Moise. Despite public opposition from the UN and the US ? both of which have spent billions training the Haitian police ? Moise has now fulfilled a major promise to a segment of the party’s supporters.

Moise “vowed that the new military would be different” and would focus on protecting the country’s borders, responding to natural disasters, and civil engineering projects. But the appointment of six former FAdH officers to the new command ? all of whom are around the same age and were in same promotional class ? sends the wrong message, according to Concannon, the human rights lawyer.

“Filling the new High Command with people who played key leadership roles in Haiti’s de facto dictatorship demonstrates a determination to revive the brutal practices that caused so much suffering and undermined Haiti’s democracy and economy,” he said.

Rather than a modern force, the new military is starting to look a lot like the old one.

On March 13, President Jovenel Moise appointed six individuals to the high command of the recently reinstated Haitian armed forces (FAdH). All of the appointees, now in their sixties, were majors or colonels in the former FAdH, disbanded in 1995 after a long history of involvement in coups, violent repression, and drug trafficking. At least three of the officers appear to have held senior positions within the early-‘90s military coup regime. One of them is a convicted intellectual author of a civilian massacre, and another was a member of a committee that sought to cover it up.

FAdH command blog 1
Ministry of Defense press release from March 13, 2018 announcing the FAdH’s new senior leadership.

The makeup of the new leadership has raised concerns among human rights organizations over the trajectory of the new force and its commitment to the rule of law.

“The appointment confirms once again that the Haitian Armed Forces, remobilized by the [ruling Tét Kale party] is a militia whose hidden mission is to have the Haitian people relive the darkest hours of bloodthirsty Duvalierism,” wrote the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in a press release, referencing the illegal arrests, forced disappearances, assassinations, and other abuses that characterized the Duvalier dictatorship.

Haitian Defense Minister Herve Denis responded that the new high-command is “clean,” and that all were vetted for involvement in human rights abuses or drug trafficking.

In 1990, an outspoken liberation theologian priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was elected in the first democratic election in the country’s history. But within months, a group of Haitian military officers – backed by many of the country’s wealthiest families – overthrew the new government, imposing a military dictatorship that would last three years. It was later revealed that the CIA had supported certain military elements involved in the coup, and that leaders of a paramilitary group that waged a campaign of terror against Aristide supporters and other activists were on the CIA payroll.

The group, FRAPH, helped to prop up the coup regime of Lieutenant General Raoul Cédras, while also at times appearing to undermine and sabotage the official actions of Clinton administration to restore democratic government to Haiti. Thousands of Haitians were murdered under the coup regime and hundreds of thousands fled the country.

Colonel Jean-Robert Gabriel, the new FAdH’s assistant chief of staff, was the secretary of the general staff, and later a public spokesperson, for the Cédras regime.

Following the 1991 military coup, the US and the international community implemented sanctions against the regime, eventually instituting an embargo. After Bill Clinton became president in January 1993, and increasingly in 1994, the Congressional Black Caucus played a leading role in pushing for a more aggressive role against the dictatorship, and solidarity groups in the US and elsewhere also influenced policy.

In June of 1993, the Clinton administration announced individual targeted sanctions against those determined to be a part of the “de facto regime in Haiti.” The initial sanction list, published in July of 1993, named 83 individuals, including 29 military officers. Included in this initial list was Jean-Robert Gabriel.

Gabriel sanction list
Screenshot of the Federal Register from July 1993, listing Jean-Robert Gabriel as one of 29 military officers sanctioned for their participation in the coup regime.

In 1993, the UN mediated indirect negotiations between Cédras and Aristide (who had taken up residence in Washington, DC to lobby for his restoration to office). Known as the Governors Island negotiations for the location where they took place, the eventual accord did little to immediately overturn the bloody coup. According to official documents, Gabriel, as well as the newly appointed chief of the general staff, Sadrac Saintil, were members of the delegation, indicating their senior positions within the Cédras regime.  

Gov island delegation
List of members of Armed Forces delegation to Governors Island.

The US temporarily suspended some of the sanctions during the negotiations, but when it became clear that Cédras and his regime would not back down, the sanctions were expanded. In October 1993, the administration revoked US visas and froze the US assets of 41 officials who were determined to be thwarting a return to democratic rule and contributing to the violence in Haiti. Among the 41 individuals was Derby Guerrier, recently named as an assistant chief of staff in the reinstated armed forces ? and then a lieutenant colonel.

Guerrier held a US passport, and a New Jersey address was listed next to his name. According to press reports at the time, Guerrier was the head of the military’s anti-drug unit. Though there is little public information about Guerrier, drug trafficking took off under the military regime.

A 1997 federal indictment in Miami alleged that Joseph-Michel François, a former military officer who helped topple Aristide in 1991 and later become the police chief under Cédras, “placed the political and military structure of the Republic of Haiti under his control” in order to facilitate drug shipments from Colombia. François, by that time, was living in exile in Honduras and managed to avoid accountability.

Back in 1994, with the situation in Haiti continuing to deteriorate, and more and more Haitians fleeing the country, the US expanded its sanctions policy. Some 550 military officers were added to the sanctions list, including all of those recently appointed to the FAdH’s new high command.

In April that year, around the same time the new sanctions were levied, Haitian military and paramilitary forces descended on the neighborhood of Raboteau, where many opposition supporters were apparently seeking refuge. At least eight, and likely far more, were assassinated.

The next month a military-led commission of inquiry was tasked with investigating the allegations that a massacre had taken place in Raboteau. Cédras named Lieutenant Colonel Sadrac Saintil as one of four members, according to official documents made public as part of the Raboteau trial. Unsurprisingly, the commission found no evidence of a massacre and the FADH high command accepted the commission’s recommendation that nobody be punished.

Raboteau commission blog
Communique signed by Raoul Cédras, appointing Sadrac Saintil to a commission of inquiry looking into the Raboteau massacre.

But in 2000, in a landmark human rights trial supported by the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (the same organization now denouncing the new armed forces’ leadership), a Haitian court convicted 53 former officers and paramilitaries of involvement in the Raboteau massacre. Among the military officers convicted was Jean-Robert Gabriel. Though he was not implicated in direct involvement, he was charged under the theory of “command responsibility” due to his position within the top echelons of the Cédras regime.

“It’s the same type of case made against the Nazis and (Slobodan) Milosevic,” Brian Concannon, an American attorney who helped form the BAI in the early ‘90s and who worked the Raboteau case, told the St. Petersburg Times in 2002. Concannon is now the executive director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a partner organization to the BAI.

The Haitian government has pushed back on Gabriel’s involvement in Raboteau. “What I can tell you in all honesty,” the defense minister told the press, “the candidates were subjected to vetting, including Colonel Gabriel. There is nothing negative against him in the vetting with regard to human rights.”

In 2005, under a new de facto regime following Aristide’s second Washington-backed ouster (this one in 2004, and also backed by former military and paramilitary officers), the Haitian supreme court controversially vacated the sentences that had been handed down five years earlier. Most of those who had been convicted were on the run, including Jean-Robert Gabriel, who had taken up residence in Florida. Those that had been in jail escaped from prison years earlier.

After the convictions were overturned, Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch (who had previously worked with the BAI), commented: “In a country in which the poor have been killed and brutalized with impunity for centuries, Raboteau was perhaps the only time that justice was achieved after a massacre, and in a scrupulously fair trial … To overturn that verdict is to say that the only justice possible in Haiti is the justice of those with guns. It’s a sad day.”

By 2005 however, the Haitian Armed Forces had already been disbanded for 10 years.

On November 18, 2017, 214th anniversary of the Battle of Vértieres, the decisive battle in Haiti’s victorious fight for independence, current president Jovenel Moise oversaw a military parade to celebrate the FAdH’s reestablishment. It was the culmination of a two-decade fight by former military officers and their civilian supporters that had received new life in 2010 with the election of Moise’s predecessor, Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly.

That’s the same nickname that François, the drug-trafficking former police chief, went by. He apparently got it from Martelly, a popular musician, who has previously acknowledged his ties to François. During the Cédras regime, Martelly operated a nightclub that was frequented by his friends in the military.

While president, Martelly put the restoration of the military front and center in his party’s agenda. Martelly brought on the past dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier’s son as a counselor, and other officials with links to the Duvalier years populated the administration. “The army has always been a part of our policy…There is no way to have Haiti without an army,” a party representative told me in 2015.

On his way out of office Martelly issued an executive decree reinstating the FAdH, but was unable to get it off the ground. That has changed under Moise. Despite public opposition from the UN and the US ? both of which have spent billions training the Haitian police ? Moise has now fulfilled a major promise to a segment of the party’s supporters.

Moise “vowed that the new military would be different” and would focus on protecting the country’s borders, responding to natural disasters, and civil engineering projects. But the appointment of six former FAdH officers to the new command ? all of whom are around the same age and were in same promotional class ? sends the wrong message, according to Concannon, the human rights lawyer.

“Filling the new High Command with people who played key leadership roles in Haiti’s de facto dictatorship demonstrates a determination to revive the brutal practices that caused so much suffering and undermined Haiti’s democracy and economy,” he said.

Rather than a modern force, the new military is starting to look a lot like the old one.

When Donald Trump allegedly referred to Haiti as a “shithole” country earlier this year, the US Ambassador was called in to explain the comments, but the Haitian government stopped short of any type of retaliation. But since last week, the government has been up in arms after a UN mission with a mandate to support the Haitian justice system went so far as to welcome a judicial inquiry into corruption allegations. The government has recalled its ambassador to the UN in response.

The Background

In November, a Senate commission released a 650-page report on Petrocaribe-related corruption. The report implicated top officials from previous administrations in inflating government contracts, funneling money to ghost companies, no-bid contracts for projects that were never finished, and a host of other financial crimes. Even current president Jovenel Moïse was named, allegedly overbilling the government on a $100,000 contract to install solar lamps back in 2013 when he was a relatively unknown businessman.

Moïse has rejected the allegations as politically motivated, as have others implicated. And rather than follow up on their colleague’s report, the Senate has worked to bury it.

On February 8, four civil society organizations released a statement condemning the efforts to obstruct further investigation into the allegations contained in the Petrocaribe dossier. The organizations noted that the Senate had blocked a vote on the report for four months and then, in a “clandestine” session conducted once the opposition had left the building, passed a resolution condemning the report as politically motivated and sending the dossier to the Superior Court of Accounts ? a governmental body that had already signed off on the contracts in question at the time they were awarded. The civil society organizations wrote that these actions “expose the cowardice” of the Senate, and their desire to bury the report.

Anticipating the Senate’s lack of action, a private citizen, Johnson Colin ? backed by lawyer and government critic André Michel ? filed multiple cases at the Port-au-Prince Court of First Instance on January 29 and February 20. (The original filing is available here.)

The UN Statement

On February 25, the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) issued a press release welcoming “the assignment of investigating judges to pursue the Petrocaribe court cases filed by private citizens.” The mission noted that Haiti is ranked near the bottom of Transparency International’s corruption report.

“I welcome the initiative and the active role of Haitian citizens and civil society who are engaged in the fight against corruption and impunity. Their actions demonstrate that the population is standing up for accountability and justice,” said the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of MINUJUSTH, Susan D. Page.

The UN also expressed its regret that no investigating judge had been assigned to two cases of alleged human rights violations on the part of the Haitian police; one in Lilavois on October 12, 2017 and one, the alleged summary execution of civilians, in Grand Ravine on November 13, 2017. (The Grand Ravine operation was planned in coordination with the UN mission).

The mandate of MINUJUSTH, which took over for the previous UN mission, MINUSTAH, this past October is to “help the Government of Haiti strengthen rule-of-law institutions, further develop and support the Haitian National Police and engage in human rights monitoring, reporting and analysis.” 

Of course, as many observers have pointed out (including here on this blog), the UN has its own terrible track record in terms of avoiding accountability for its actions. The UN’s introduction of cholera has killed more than 10,000 and sickened a million while the UN continues to dodge legal accountability or properly fund eradication efforts. Hundreds, if not thousands, of cases of sexual exploitation and abuse involving UN personnel have been identified ? however in the overwhelming majority of those cases, the perpetrators were simply moved out of Haiti and avoided prosecution. How can the UN have the moral authority to call for justice in Haiti when the UN itself has yet to face justice for its crimes there?

Yet the UN statement was not so much surprising for its content, but for going against the Haitian government. Throughout its controversial history, the UN has rarely even hinted at criticism of the Haitian government. Then again, in this case the UN simply welcomed a judicial investigation.

Given its mandate to support anticorruption efforts and strengthen the judicial system, and its creation under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, the mission was within its rights to make those comments, argued university professor James Boyard.

The UN did not express an opinion on the content of the Petrocaribe dossier, and given the current state of Haiti’s judicial system, the likelihood of the current case leading to any meaningful accountability is slim. The statement posed little threat to those implicated in the dossier (who, if they believe they are innocent, should be welcoming an investigation into the allegations rather than letting the dossier be used by politicians for political reasons).

The Government’s Reaction

The first response to the UN statement came from Haitian foreign minister Antonio Rodrigue. Reuters reported that Rodrigue “said in a statement on Tuesday that Page had exceeded her authority and that her comments reflect an ‘attitude harmful to the political and institutional stability acquired during the past few years.’”

The Haitian government, rather than address the allegations in the Petrocaribe dossier, has doubled down on this response. “The country is fighting to defend its image,” President Moïse said. “People have to speak well of the country,” he added. (The Haitian government recently hired an international PR firm to help with “media relations services.”)

Moïse responded by recalling the Haitian ambassador to the UN and summoning Page to explain her comments. Page has since left the country to travel to New York ? a move the government characterized as punishment for her comments.

Last Friday, government spokesperson Lucien Jura told the press that Moïse had spoken with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who Jura claimed distanced the UN from Page’s statement. But journalist Jacqueline Charles noted that she had been told Page’s travel had been scheduled for weeks. The UN has not provided any clarity on the situation.

Reuters put Page’s press release into the context of international bodies leading corruption fights throughout Latin America, and the pushback those efforts have faced:

The case is the latest example of governments across the Americas – including Guatemala and Honduras – chafing at criticisms by U.N. bodies, which have highlighted lackluster efforts to tackle corruption, human rights abuses or impunity.

Jocelyne Colas, the director general of the Episcopal Justice and Peace Commission (JILAP), told the press that the government’s response showed that they had no desire to “curb the phenomenon of corruption in the country.” Colas said: “There must be light in this case. We do not have the right to close our eyes.”

There is also a certain amount of hypocrisy in the reaction of the Moïse administration and their apparent nationalist response to the comments from the UN. As Haitian author Edwidge Danticat has noted, Moïse’s “two heavily contested election cycles are often touted as a [UN] success.” In other words, Moïse (and the ruling party to which he belongs), in many ways owe their own political success to the international actors they are now criticizing.

The Fallout

Since he assumed office last February, Moïse has seemingly been at odds with at least some members of the ever-influential international community in Haiti. The Miami Herald reported that in January, Moïse “irked the country’s foreign diplomatic corps when, according to several sources, he demanded that foreign donors support his campaign promises or take their aid elsewhere.”

The Inter-American Development Bank, one of Haiti’s largest donors, is providing financing for Moïse’s flagship government program ? his “Caravan for Change.” But Moïse has failed to secure public support for his controversial decision to reinstate the Haitian military. The UN ? which has spent more than a decade training and funding the Haitian police ? was publicly opposed to the decision.

In early February, Moïse took his criticism public, telling Bloomberg:

Right now in Haiti, the money of foreign taxpayers, your money, is being wasted … Every year we receive $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion in aid, or more. However, it’s all consumed in a state of disorder that constitutes public international development aid.

It may be difficult to view the latest disagreement between Page and the Haitian government as anything other than a continuation of this conflict ? but it remains very much unclear to what extent there really is any conflict, or if both sides are simply posturing in order to save face in public.

Though the Moïse administration did not respond as forcefully as many had hoped to Trump’s comments about Haiti, the administration has been very outspoken about the revelation of the Oxfam sexual abuse scandal and what lessons should be learned about foreign aid more broadly. In a Washington Post opinion piece, Moïse wrote:

The general paradigm of aid and power in Haiti, as elsewhere in the developing world, is not a balanced one. Our government is often sidestepped by aid agencies that refuse oversight as they pursue their own development and humanitarian agendas in our country. The level and direction of aid, and its implementation, is controlled by donor forces with little or no input from Haiti’s government or other local stakeholders.

Moïse is not incorrect in criticizing the way foreign aid is administered in Haiti ? and elsewhere (as has been pointed out innumerable times on this blog). This blog has long been an advocate of greater donor coordination with the Haitian government and of directing funds directly to the Haitian government as opposed to high-priced foreign “experts” that often lack any local understanding. But it is next to impossible to imagine a world in which donors simply give funding directly to the Haitian government, given its history of corruption.

This is why the battle over the Petrocaribe dossier is so important. If the Moïse administration wants to be in the lead with donors, then the first step must be to clean house. It’s not just donors who are wary of the government ? recent surveys have shown corruption to be high atop Haitian citizens’ list of priorities.

Unfortunately, the fallout from the UN statement appears to be having the opposite effect. The government has deftly deflected attention from the underlying corruption allegations, instead shifting focus to the intervention ? and nefarious practices ? of the international community. There is plenty there worthy of criticism, but the sins of one’s enemies do not absolve one’s own.

And it appears the reaction will have real implications on the ground. Last week, the Haitian government reportedly canceled its participation in a high-level retreat, coordinated by the UN, to address the ongoing cholera epidemic in Haiti. Moïse was scheduled to give the keynote address ? until the press release from Page. (The Haitian government has since said that the retreat was postponed.)

In all likelihood, the relationship between the UN and the Haitian government will be just fine. Both, in fact, depend upon the other for their successes. But both can use the situation to their advantage.

The public conflict allows the UN to garner some sympathy from the political opposition, which has long criticized the UN mission as an infringement upon Haiti’s sovereignty and for supporting the elite of the country (including the current administration). Moïse and his administration can point to their response as evidence of their standing up against the international forces that have taken advantage of Haiti for centuries ? all while ignoring the corruption allegations.

The UN may have no moral standing to question the Haitian justice system, but that doesn’t absolve the Haitian government. Unless, and until, corruption is seriously addressed in Haiti, the faulty aid paradigm that the Moïse administration has criticized will assuredly continue.

When Donald Trump allegedly referred to Haiti as a “shithole” country earlier this year, the US Ambassador was called in to explain the comments, but the Haitian government stopped short of any type of retaliation. But since last week, the government has been up in arms after a UN mission with a mandate to support the Haitian justice system went so far as to welcome a judicial inquiry into corruption allegations. The government has recalled its ambassador to the UN in response.

The Background

In November, a Senate commission released a 650-page report on Petrocaribe-related corruption. The report implicated top officials from previous administrations in inflating government contracts, funneling money to ghost companies, no-bid contracts for projects that were never finished, and a host of other financial crimes. Even current president Jovenel Moïse was named, allegedly overbilling the government on a $100,000 contract to install solar lamps back in 2013 when he was a relatively unknown businessman.

Moïse has rejected the allegations as politically motivated, as have others implicated. And rather than follow up on their colleague’s report, the Senate has worked to bury it.

On February 8, four civil society organizations released a statement condemning the efforts to obstruct further investigation into the allegations contained in the Petrocaribe dossier. The organizations noted that the Senate had blocked a vote on the report for four months and then, in a “clandestine” session conducted once the opposition had left the building, passed a resolution condemning the report as politically motivated and sending the dossier to the Superior Court of Accounts ? a governmental body that had already signed off on the contracts in question at the time they were awarded. The civil society organizations wrote that these actions “expose the cowardice” of the Senate, and their desire to bury the report.

Anticipating the Senate’s lack of action, a private citizen, Johnson Colin ? backed by lawyer and government critic André Michel ? filed multiple cases at the Port-au-Prince Court of First Instance on January 29 and February 20. (The original filing is available here.)

The UN Statement

On February 25, the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) issued a press release welcoming “the assignment of investigating judges to pursue the Petrocaribe court cases filed by private citizens.” The mission noted that Haiti is ranked near the bottom of Transparency International’s corruption report.

“I welcome the initiative and the active role of Haitian citizens and civil society who are engaged in the fight against corruption and impunity. Their actions demonstrate that the population is standing up for accountability and justice,” said the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of MINUJUSTH, Susan D. Page.

The UN also expressed its regret that no investigating judge had been assigned to two cases of alleged human rights violations on the part of the Haitian police; one in Lilavois on October 12, 2017 and one, the alleged summary execution of civilians, in Grand Ravine on November 13, 2017. (The Grand Ravine operation was planned in coordination with the UN mission).

The mandate of MINUJUSTH, which took over for the previous UN mission, MINUSTAH, this past October is to “help the Government of Haiti strengthen rule-of-law institutions, further develop and support the Haitian National Police and engage in human rights monitoring, reporting and analysis.” 

Of course, as many observers have pointed out (including here on this blog), the UN has its own terrible track record in terms of avoiding accountability for its actions. The UN’s introduction of cholera has killed more than 10,000 and sickened a million while the UN continues to dodge legal accountability or properly fund eradication efforts. Hundreds, if not thousands, of cases of sexual exploitation and abuse involving UN personnel have been identified ? however in the overwhelming majority of those cases, the perpetrators were simply moved out of Haiti and avoided prosecution. How can the UN have the moral authority to call for justice in Haiti when the UN itself has yet to face justice for its crimes there?

Yet the UN statement was not so much surprising for its content, but for going against the Haitian government. Throughout its controversial history, the UN has rarely even hinted at criticism of the Haitian government. Then again, in this case the UN simply welcomed a judicial investigation.

Given its mandate to support anticorruption efforts and strengthen the judicial system, and its creation under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, the mission was within its rights to make those comments, argued university professor James Boyard.

The UN did not express an opinion on the content of the Petrocaribe dossier, and given the current state of Haiti’s judicial system, the likelihood of the current case leading to any meaningful accountability is slim. The statement posed little threat to those implicated in the dossier (who, if they believe they are innocent, should be welcoming an investigation into the allegations rather than letting the dossier be used by politicians for political reasons).

The Government’s Reaction

The first response to the UN statement came from Haitian foreign minister Antonio Rodrigue. Reuters reported that Rodrigue “said in a statement on Tuesday that Page had exceeded her authority and that her comments reflect an ‘attitude harmful to the political and institutional stability acquired during the past few years.’”

The Haitian government, rather than address the allegations in the Petrocaribe dossier, has doubled down on this response. “The country is fighting to defend its image,” President Moïse said. “People have to speak well of the country,” he added. (The Haitian government recently hired an international PR firm to help with “media relations services.”)

Moïse responded by recalling the Haitian ambassador to the UN and summoning Page to explain her comments. Page has since left the country to travel to New York ? a move the government characterized as punishment for her comments.

Last Friday, government spokesperson Lucien Jura told the press that Moïse had spoken with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who Jura claimed distanced the UN from Page’s statement. But journalist Jacqueline Charles noted that she had been told Page’s travel had been scheduled for weeks. The UN has not provided any clarity on the situation.

Reuters put Page’s press release into the context of international bodies leading corruption fights throughout Latin America, and the pushback those efforts have faced:

The case is the latest example of governments across the Americas – including Guatemala and Honduras – chafing at criticisms by U.N. bodies, which have highlighted lackluster efforts to tackle corruption, human rights abuses or impunity.

Jocelyne Colas, the director general of the Episcopal Justice and Peace Commission (JILAP), told the press that the government’s response showed that they had no desire to “curb the phenomenon of corruption in the country.” Colas said: “There must be light in this case. We do not have the right to close our eyes.”

There is also a certain amount of hypocrisy in the reaction of the Moïse administration and their apparent nationalist response to the comments from the UN. As Haitian author Edwidge Danticat has noted, Moïse’s “two heavily contested election cycles are often touted as a [UN] success.” In other words, Moïse (and the ruling party to which he belongs), in many ways owe their own political success to the international actors they are now criticizing.

The Fallout

Since he assumed office last February, Moïse has seemingly been at odds with at least some members of the ever-influential international community in Haiti. The Miami Herald reported that in January, Moïse “irked the country’s foreign diplomatic corps when, according to several sources, he demanded that foreign donors support his campaign promises or take their aid elsewhere.”

The Inter-American Development Bank, one of Haiti’s largest donors, is providing financing for Moïse’s flagship government program ? his “Caravan for Change.” But Moïse has failed to secure public support for his controversial decision to reinstate the Haitian military. The UN ? which has spent more than a decade training and funding the Haitian police ? was publicly opposed to the decision.

In early February, Moïse took his criticism public, telling Bloomberg:

Right now in Haiti, the money of foreign taxpayers, your money, is being wasted … Every year we receive $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion in aid, or more. However, it’s all consumed in a state of disorder that constitutes public international development aid.

It may be difficult to view the latest disagreement between Page and the Haitian government as anything other than a continuation of this conflict ? but it remains very much unclear to what extent there really is any conflict, or if both sides are simply posturing in order to save face in public.

Though the Moïse administration did not respond as forcefully as many had hoped to Trump’s comments about Haiti, the administration has been very outspoken about the revelation of the Oxfam sexual abuse scandal and what lessons should be learned about foreign aid more broadly. In a Washington Post opinion piece, Moïse wrote:

The general paradigm of aid and power in Haiti, as elsewhere in the developing world, is not a balanced one. Our government is often sidestepped by aid agencies that refuse oversight as they pursue their own development and humanitarian agendas in our country. The level and direction of aid, and its implementation, is controlled by donor forces with little or no input from Haiti’s government or other local stakeholders.

Moïse is not incorrect in criticizing the way foreign aid is administered in Haiti ? and elsewhere (as has been pointed out innumerable times on this blog). This blog has long been an advocate of greater donor coordination with the Haitian government and of directing funds directly to the Haitian government as opposed to high-priced foreign “experts” that often lack any local understanding. But it is next to impossible to imagine a world in which donors simply give funding directly to the Haitian government, given its history of corruption.

This is why the battle over the Petrocaribe dossier is so important. If the Moïse administration wants to be in the lead with donors, then the first step must be to clean house. It’s not just donors who are wary of the government ? recent surveys have shown corruption to be high atop Haitian citizens’ list of priorities.

Unfortunately, the fallout from the UN statement appears to be having the opposite effect. The government has deftly deflected attention from the underlying corruption allegations, instead shifting focus to the intervention ? and nefarious practices ? of the international community. There is plenty there worthy of criticism, but the sins of one’s enemies do not absolve one’s own.

And it appears the reaction will have real implications on the ground. Last week, the Haitian government reportedly canceled its participation in a high-level retreat, coordinated by the UN, to address the ongoing cholera epidemic in Haiti. Moïse was scheduled to give the keynote address ? until the press release from Page. (The Haitian government has since said that the retreat was postponed.)

In all likelihood, the relationship between the UN and the Haitian government will be just fine. Both, in fact, depend upon the other for their successes. But both can use the situation to their advantage.

The public conflict allows the UN to garner some sympathy from the political opposition, which has long criticized the UN mission as an infringement upon Haiti’s sovereignty and for supporting the elite of the country (including the current administration). Moïse and his administration can point to their response as evidence of their standing up against the international forces that have taken advantage of Haiti for centuries ? all while ignoring the corruption allegations.

The UN may have no moral standing to question the Haitian justice system, but that doesn’t absolve the Haitian government. Unless, and until, corruption is seriously addressed in Haiti, the faulty aid paradigm that the Moïse administration has criticized will assuredly continue.

Since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the US government has disbursed some $4.4 billion in foreign assistance to the tiny Caribbean nation. At least $1.5 billion was disbursed for immediate humanitarian assistance, while just under $3 billion has gone toward recovery, reconstruction, and development. Since many of the funds have gone toward longer-term reconstruction, there remains some $700 million in undisbursed funding ? in addition to annual allocations.

In our 2013 report “Breaking Open the Black Box,” we found:

Over three years have passed since Haiti’s earthquake and, despite USAID’s stated commitment to greater transparency and accountability, the question “where has the money gone?” echoes throughout the country. It remains unclear how exactly the billions of dollars that the U.S. has spent on assistance to Haiti have been used and whether this funding has had a sustainable impact. With few exceptions, Haitians and U.S. taxpayers are unable to verify how U.S. aid funds are being used on the ground in Haiti. USAID and its implementing partners have generally failed to make public the basic data identifying where funds go and how they are spent.

In response to that report, and others from USAID’s own inspector general and from the Government Accountability Office, the US Congress passed bipartisan legislation (the 2014 Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, or APHA) requiring greater reporting requirements from State and USAID.

These additional reporting requirements, which include information on subcontractors, as well as benchmarks and goals, represent a significant step in the right direction regarding transparency around US foreign assistance. However, limitations remain.

A joint review published in December 2016 by CEPR and the Haiti Advocacy Working Group found that the reports on US assistance in Haiti contain “omissions and deficiencies, including incomplete data, a failure to link projects and outcomes, and a failure to adequately identify mistakes and lessons learned.”

These weaknesses notwithstanding, the congressionally mandated APHA reports provide the most complete picture available of US assistance programs, whether in Haiti or anywhere else in the world, and remain useful especially for organizations on the ground looking to investigate or follow up on specific US-financed programs.

But a recent review of contract and grant information from USASpending.gov shows that USAID, and US foreign assistance generally, is still plagued by many of the same problems that have been evident for years. While USAID has drastically changed its rhetoric about partnering with local organizations and involving local stakeholders in the development of new programs, it does not appear to have made significant changes to its system of allocation of USAID funds. And now, what progress has been made appears threatened.

Some Progress with Local Partners, But the Beltway Bandits are Still on Top

The majority of US assistance to Haiti is through USAID. Since 2010, USAID has disbursed at least $2.13 billion in contracts and grants for Haiti-related work. Overall, just $48.6 million has gone directly to Haitian organizations or firms ? just over 2 percent. Comparatively, more than $1.2 billion has gone to firms located in DC, Maryland, or Virginia ? more than 56 percent, as can be seen in Figure 1. The difference is even starker when looking just at contracts: 65 percent went to Beltway firms, compared to 1.9 percent for Haitian firms.

Figure 1. USAID Awards by Location of Recipient (Percent of Total)
Haiti 2018 USAID bylocation
Source: USASpending.gov and authors’ calculations

USAID has made it a priority to involve more local firms and civil society organizations ? holding informational sessions, meetings with stakeholders, etc. While there has been some slight improvement in the amount of funds going directly to Haitian organizations since 2010, the trend has more recently reversed direction.

In 2016, USAID assistance to Haiti was lower than in any year since the earthquake, totaling $140 million. However it was also the year when the greatest amount of USAID funds was allocated directly to Haitian organizations ? more than $15 million. This is primarily due to an increase in Haitian recipients of USAID grants. After totaling just $2.5 million from 2010 to 2014, Haitian grantees received more than $22 million in 2015–2016. A significant portion of this, nearly $6 million, went to Papyrus, a local management company, in order to increase the capacity of local organizations to partner with USAID.

In 2017, however, funds awarded to Haitian organizations were reduced drastically. Only one new grant was initiated with a local partner last year, totaling just $700,000. Though it remains too early to tell if this will continue into 2018, the decrease would appear to be consistent with the Trump administration’s stated “America first” policy.

Though more than $3 million was awarded to Haitian firms in 2017 (via contracts, as opposed to grants), the vast majority of this went to firms conducting evaluations of other USAID projects. Of the $20 million awarded thus far in 2018 by USAID, only $70,000 has gone to Haitian firms.

It would therefore appear that the small progress USAID achieved in partnering directly with local organizations is being reversed under the new US administration.

A key impediment to more fully understanding how USAID funds are administered in Haiti has been the lack of information on subawardees. However greater compliance with APHA reporting requirements over the past few years has produced a significant amount of data at the subaward level. Overall, via the USASpending.gov database, subaward data is available for about 50 prime contracts or grants totaling more than $500 million.

Through those prime contracts, more than $175 million has been awarded to subs, but only about $50 million has gone to local organizations. So, while looking only at prime awardees does understate the full extent of local participation, it is clear that the vast majority of USAID funds don’t go further than the prime awardee, and of those funds that go to subs, less than a third go to Haitian firms.

Among the top ten prime awardees, nine are US-based organizations and one is a UN entity, as can be seen in Table 1.

Table 1. Top Ten Recipients of USAID Funding Since Earthquake
Haiti USAID 2018 top10
Source: USASpending.gov and authors’ calculations

And while there have been changes in USAID recipients over the years, the two largest, Chemonics and Development Alternatives Incorporated (DAI) continue to dominate in Haiti. Since 2016, more than 40 percent of all USAID contract funding has gone to just these two Beltway firms.

US Priorities and Recent Developments: Case Studies

Knowing who received the money is important but it is also worth looking at what types of projects the US has funded in Haiti. Of these, the largest share went toward Health & Disabilities ($1.18 billion), followed by Governance and Rule of Law ($470 million), Food Security ($339 million) and Shelter ($196 million).

Digging deeper, the US has designated four “pillars” of its foreign assistance in Haiti: Infrastructure and Energy; Food and Economic Security; Health and Other Basic Services; and Governance and Rule of Law. Responding to congressional requirements, the State Department now provides objectives and status updates on each “pillar.” Again, there is significant information missing from these reports, but they still have useful data, particularly for groups on the ground.

Next let’s examine examples of recent US contracts and grants in some of these priority areas.

Housing (Pillar A: Infrastructure and Energy)

After the earthquake, the US had an ambitious plan to build thousands of new homes in Haiti. Following drastic cost overruns and changing demands, the US shifted away from building new houses. Instead, the US has provided technical assistance to build the capacity of the housing sector, and with partners is working to provide housing finance. To date, “with USAID financing of $482,000, partner financing institutions have committed over $10 million for loans, with $3.1 million already disbursed for 451 loans,” the State Department reported in August 2017.

But USAID is also continuing to spend millions to make up for its previously failed attempts at new housing construction.

In 2015, two US companies were barred from receiving additional contracts over faulty construction practices at the Caracol EKAM housing site. Studies revealed the companies had used substandard concrete and had overbilled USAID.

In October 2014, USAID awarded a no-bid contract to Tetra Tech (one of the largest US contractors in the country) to determine the extent of the problems with the Caracol EKAM houses and to oversee the repairs. A year later, another US company, DFS Construction, was awarded a contract to repair the houses. The work is ongoing in 2018.

The two contracts for Tetra Tech and DFS have totaled more than $20 million, $4 million of which was awarded in just the last two months of 2017. While USAID has moved on from building new homes, they are still spending millions of dollars correcting previous mistakes.

Ports (Pillar A: Infrastructure and Energy)

Initially, the US had planned on creating a new port in Fort Liberté near the flagship reconstruction development project, the Caracol Industrial Park. The port was one of the many subsidies used to attract a South Korean garment industry firm to the park. USAID spent more than $4 million on feasibility studies for the new port; however, the plans quickly fell apart. The Government Accountability Office determined USAID lacked expertise in the area, underestimated the time it would take to build a new port, and overestimated private sector interest in the project.

In the last few years, the US has shifted course and is now supporting the rehabilitation of the port in Cap-Haïtien, also in the North.

The US is working with the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and the Haitian government to create a public-private partnership to manage the port. It is expected that a firm will be selected soon.

In late 2015, USAID awarded Nathan Associates (based in Virginia) a contract to enhance the regulatory environment of the port. The ongoing work has thus far cost nearly $7.5 million. Around the same time, AECOM, another US firm, was given more than $1 million for urgent repairs to the port. USAID also awarded more than $3 million to the World Bank and more than $7 million to the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in support of the project. Finally, at the end of 2016, USAID awarded yet another US firm, the Louis Berger Group, nearly $6 million to perform construction management services for the port’s rehabilitation.

All told, USAID has distributed at least $30 million in support of the port project.

Food Security (Pillar B: Food and Economic Security)

US support for food security in Haiti has predominantly focused on the Feed the Future program, which began just before the earthquake with the WINNER program. Implemented by Chemonics and completed in 2015, WINNER’s total cost was more than $145 million. (The program was the subject of a scathing report by Oxfam International in 2013.)

In 2013, USAID initiated a new Feed the Future program, this time implemented by DAI in the northern part of the country. This program is ongoing and has thus far cost more than $77 million. In its most recent report, the State Department notes that the Feed the Future/North program “is successfully increasing the incomes of thousands of Haitian farmers” despite recent problems due to drought.

A USAID Inspector General (OIG) report from 2015 casts doubt on this finding, however. The program was meant to work with local organizations to increase output; however, the OIG report found that the program was “not achieving these goals.” Most troubling was the failure of DAI to develop the capacity of local organizations, as the program intended. The OIG report points out one of the main impediments of getting Haitian organizations ready to receive USAID funding directly:

[L]ocal organizations also did not have any incentive to become eligible for direct USAID funding. Meeting the Agency’s eligibility criteria was tough and often required significant time and resources. For example, many organizations needed to improve their workspaces and hire additional employees, like accountants, to meet the requirements for separation of duties and internal controls. Many organizations could not afford to do this before first receiving USAID funding—but they could not receive USAID funding until they made the required changes.

While DAI received $77 million from USAID, the data indicates that only about 7 percent of this, or a little over $5 million, went to Haitian firms in the form of subcontracts. Without transitioning responsibilities over to local organizations, however, the sustainability of any advances remains in serious question.

Still, the Feed the Future program continues. In 2015, USAID initiated yet another project, this time aimed at the West Department. Once again, the contract was awarded to Chemonics, which has already received nearly $25 million for the program.

Elections (Pillar D: Governance and Rule of Law)

A primary aspect of US funding in the Governance and Rule of Law pillar concerns elections. Since the earthquake, USAID has spent more than $1 million on election-specific advisors hired by USAID. During the contested election of 2015, the US spent more than $30 million on elections, though as HRRW reported at the time, much of that went to US-based or international organizations in support of the elections, not toward the election itself.

When an independent commission recommended redoing those 2015 elections due to massive irregularities, the US pulled about $1.7 million in funding from the UN-administered “basket fund” used to support elections. Overall, the US awarded $3 million to the Organization of American States for its observation mission, $8 million to the “basket fund,” more than $12 million to UNOPS for election logistics, and $16 million to IFES and the National Democratic Institute.

The electoral process is now over, but USAID has continued to allocate funding toward elections. The priority now is to help create a permanent electoral council to oversee elections (provisional electoral councils have managed each of Haiti’s elections since its return to democracy).

In January 2017, before current president Jovenel Moïse had even assumed office, USAID hired an election advisor on a two-year contract for more than $300,000.

In June of the same year, USAID awarded a $6.75-million grant to the Consortium for Election and Political Process Strengthening. The consortium had already received nearly $25 million since the earthquake, despite questionable progress on the electoral front.

But there is a significant difference with the consortium now that a Republican holds the presidency in the US. The consortium is composed of two organizations. One, IFES, remains the same. The other, however, has changed. Whereas money previously was awarded to the National Democratic Institute (NDI) through the consortium, in 2017 NDI was replaced by the International Republican Institute (IRI). 

Since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the US government has disbursed some $4.4 billion in foreign assistance to the tiny Caribbean nation. At least $1.5 billion was disbursed for immediate humanitarian assistance, while just under $3 billion has gone toward recovery, reconstruction, and development. Since many of the funds have gone toward longer-term reconstruction, there remains some $700 million in undisbursed funding ? in addition to annual allocations.

In our 2013 report “Breaking Open the Black Box,” we found:

Over three years have passed since Haiti’s earthquake and, despite USAID’s stated commitment to greater transparency and accountability, the question “where has the money gone?” echoes throughout the country. It remains unclear how exactly the billions of dollars that the U.S. has spent on assistance to Haiti have been used and whether this funding has had a sustainable impact. With few exceptions, Haitians and U.S. taxpayers are unable to verify how U.S. aid funds are being used on the ground in Haiti. USAID and its implementing partners have generally failed to make public the basic data identifying where funds go and how they are spent.

In response to that report, and others from USAID’s own inspector general and from the Government Accountability Office, the US Congress passed bipartisan legislation (the 2014 Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, or APHA) requiring greater reporting requirements from State and USAID.

These additional reporting requirements, which include information on subcontractors, as well as benchmarks and goals, represent a significant step in the right direction regarding transparency around US foreign assistance. However, limitations remain.

A joint review published in December 2016 by CEPR and the Haiti Advocacy Working Group found that the reports on US assistance in Haiti contain “omissions and deficiencies, including incomplete data, a failure to link projects and outcomes, and a failure to adequately identify mistakes and lessons learned.”

These weaknesses notwithstanding, the congressionally mandated APHA reports provide the most complete picture available of US assistance programs, whether in Haiti or anywhere else in the world, and remain useful especially for organizations on the ground looking to investigate or follow up on specific US-financed programs.

But a recent review of contract and grant information from USASpending.gov shows that USAID, and US foreign assistance generally, is still plagued by many of the same problems that have been evident for years. While USAID has drastically changed its rhetoric about partnering with local organizations and involving local stakeholders in the development of new programs, it does not appear to have made significant changes to its system of allocation of USAID funds. And now, what progress has been made appears threatened.

Some Progress with Local Partners, But the Beltway Bandits are Still on Top

The majority of US assistance to Haiti is through USAID. Since 2010, USAID has disbursed at least $2.13 billion in contracts and grants for Haiti-related work. Overall, just $48.6 million has gone directly to Haitian organizations or firms ? just over 2 percent. Comparatively, more than $1.2 billion has gone to firms located in DC, Maryland, or Virginia ? more than 56 percent, as can be seen in Figure 1. The difference is even starker when looking just at contracts: 65 percent went to Beltway firms, compared to 1.9 percent for Haitian firms.

Figure 1. USAID Awards by Location of Recipient (Percent of Total)
Haiti 2018 USAID bylocation
Source: USASpending.gov and authors’ calculations

USAID has made it a priority to involve more local firms and civil society organizations ? holding informational sessions, meetings with stakeholders, etc. While there has been some slight improvement in the amount of funds going directly to Haitian organizations since 2010, the trend has more recently reversed direction.

In 2016, USAID assistance to Haiti was lower than in any year since the earthquake, totaling $140 million. However it was also the year when the greatest amount of USAID funds was allocated directly to Haitian organizations ? more than $15 million. This is primarily due to an increase in Haitian recipients of USAID grants. After totaling just $2.5 million from 2010 to 2014, Haitian grantees received more than $22 million in 2015–2016. A significant portion of this, nearly $6 million, went to Papyrus, a local management company, in order to increase the capacity of local organizations to partner with USAID.

In 2017, however, funds awarded to Haitian organizations were reduced drastically. Only one new grant was initiated with a local partner last year, totaling just $700,000. Though it remains too early to tell if this will continue into 2018, the decrease would appear to be consistent with the Trump administration’s stated “America first” policy.

Though more than $3 million was awarded to Haitian firms in 2017 (via contracts, as opposed to grants), the vast majority of this went to firms conducting evaluations of other USAID projects. Of the $20 million awarded thus far in 2018 by USAID, only $70,000 has gone to Haitian firms.

It would therefore appear that the small progress USAID achieved in partnering directly with local organizations is being reversed under the new US administration.

A key impediment to more fully understanding how USAID funds are administered in Haiti has been the lack of information on subawardees. However greater compliance with APHA reporting requirements over the past few years has produced a significant amount of data at the subaward level. Overall, via the USASpending.gov database, subaward data is available for about 50 prime contracts or grants totaling more than $500 million.

Through those prime contracts, more than $175 million has been awarded to subs, but only about $50 million has gone to local organizations. So, while looking only at prime awardees does understate the full extent of local participation, it is clear that the vast majority of USAID funds don’t go further than the prime awardee, and of those funds that go to subs, less than a third go to Haitian firms.

Among the top ten prime awardees, nine are US-based organizations and one is a UN entity, as can be seen in Table 1.

Table 1. Top Ten Recipients of USAID Funding Since Earthquake
Haiti USAID 2018 top10
Source: USASpending.gov and authors’ calculations

And while there have been changes in USAID recipients over the years, the two largest, Chemonics and Development Alternatives Incorporated (DAI) continue to dominate in Haiti. Since 2016, more than 40 percent of all USAID contract funding has gone to just these two Beltway firms.

US Priorities and Recent Developments: Case Studies

Knowing who received the money is important but it is also worth looking at what types of projects the US has funded in Haiti. Of these, the largest share went toward Health & Disabilities ($1.18 billion), followed by Governance and Rule of Law ($470 million), Food Security ($339 million) and Shelter ($196 million).

Digging deeper, the US has designated four “pillars” of its foreign assistance in Haiti: Infrastructure and Energy; Food and Economic Security; Health and Other Basic Services; and Governance and Rule of Law. Responding to congressional requirements, the State Department now provides objectives and status updates on each “pillar.” Again, there is significant information missing from these reports, but they still have useful data, particularly for groups on the ground.

Next let’s examine examples of recent US contracts and grants in some of these priority areas.

Housing (Pillar A: Infrastructure and Energy)

After the earthquake, the US had an ambitious plan to build thousands of new homes in Haiti. Following drastic cost overruns and changing demands, the US shifted away from building new houses. Instead, the US has provided technical assistance to build the capacity of the housing sector, and with partners is working to provide housing finance. To date, “with USAID financing of $482,000, partner financing institutions have committed over $10 million for loans, with $3.1 million already disbursed for 451 loans,” the State Department reported in August 2017.

But USAID is also continuing to spend millions to make up for its previously failed attempts at new housing construction.

In 2015, two US companies were barred from receiving additional contracts over faulty construction practices at the Caracol EKAM housing site. Studies revealed the companies had used substandard concrete and had overbilled USAID.

In October 2014, USAID awarded a no-bid contract to Tetra Tech (one of the largest US contractors in the country) to determine the extent of the problems with the Caracol EKAM houses and to oversee the repairs. A year later, another US company, DFS Construction, was awarded a contract to repair the houses. The work is ongoing in 2018.

The two contracts for Tetra Tech and DFS have totaled more than $20 million, $4 million of which was awarded in just the last two months of 2017. While USAID has moved on from building new homes, they are still spending millions of dollars correcting previous mistakes.

Ports (Pillar A: Infrastructure and Energy)

Initially, the US had planned on creating a new port in Fort Liberté near the flagship reconstruction development project, the Caracol Industrial Park. The port was one of the many subsidies used to attract a South Korean garment industry firm to the park. USAID spent more than $4 million on feasibility studies for the new port; however, the plans quickly fell apart. The Government Accountability Office determined USAID lacked expertise in the area, underestimated the time it would take to build a new port, and overestimated private sector interest in the project.

In the last few years, the US has shifted course and is now supporting the rehabilitation of the port in Cap-Haïtien, also in the North.

The US is working with the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and the Haitian government to create a public-private partnership to manage the port. It is expected that a firm will be selected soon.

In late 2015, USAID awarded Nathan Associates (based in Virginia) a contract to enhance the regulatory environment of the port. The ongoing work has thus far cost nearly $7.5 million. Around the same time, AECOM, another US firm, was given more than $1 million for urgent repairs to the port. USAID also awarded more than $3 million to the World Bank and more than $7 million to the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in support of the project. Finally, at the end of 2016, USAID awarded yet another US firm, the Louis Berger Group, nearly $6 million to perform construction management services for the port’s rehabilitation.

All told, USAID has distributed at least $30 million in support of the port project.

Food Security (Pillar B: Food and Economic Security)

US support for food security in Haiti has predominantly focused on the Feed the Future program, which began just before the earthquake with the WINNER program. Implemented by Chemonics and completed in 2015, WINNER’s total cost was more than $145 million. (The program was the subject of a scathing report by Oxfam International in 2013.)

In 2013, USAID initiated a new Feed the Future program, this time implemented by DAI in the northern part of the country. This program is ongoing and has thus far cost more than $77 million. In its most recent report, the State Department notes that the Feed the Future/North program “is successfully increasing the incomes of thousands of Haitian farmers” despite recent problems due to drought.

A USAID Inspector General (OIG) report from 2015 casts doubt on this finding, however. The program was meant to work with local organizations to increase output; however, the OIG report found that the program was “not achieving these goals.” Most troubling was the failure of DAI to develop the capacity of local organizations, as the program intended. The OIG report points out one of the main impediments of getting Haitian organizations ready to receive USAID funding directly:

[L]ocal organizations also did not have any incentive to become eligible for direct USAID funding. Meeting the Agency’s eligibility criteria was tough and often required significant time and resources. For example, many organizations needed to improve their workspaces and hire additional employees, like accountants, to meet the requirements for separation of duties and internal controls. Many organizations could not afford to do this before first receiving USAID funding—but they could not receive USAID funding until they made the required changes.

While DAI received $77 million from USAID, the data indicates that only about 7 percent of this, or a little over $5 million, went to Haitian firms in the form of subcontracts. Without transitioning responsibilities over to local organizations, however, the sustainability of any advances remains in serious question.

Still, the Feed the Future program continues. In 2015, USAID initiated yet another project, this time aimed at the West Department. Once again, the contract was awarded to Chemonics, which has already received nearly $25 million for the program.

Elections (Pillar D: Governance and Rule of Law)

A primary aspect of US funding in the Governance and Rule of Law pillar concerns elections. Since the earthquake, USAID has spent more than $1 million on election-specific advisors hired by USAID. During the contested election of 2015, the US spent more than $30 million on elections, though as HRRW reported at the time, much of that went to US-based or international organizations in support of the elections, not toward the election itself.

When an independent commission recommended redoing those 2015 elections due to massive irregularities, the US pulled about $1.7 million in funding from the UN-administered “basket fund” used to support elections. Overall, the US awarded $3 million to the Organization of American States for its observation mission, $8 million to the “basket fund,” more than $12 million to UNOPS for election logistics, and $16 million to IFES and the National Democratic Institute.

The electoral process is now over, but USAID has continued to allocate funding toward elections. The priority now is to help create a permanent electoral council to oversee elections (provisional electoral councils have managed each of Haiti’s elections since its return to democracy).

In January 2017, before current president Jovenel Moïse had even assumed office, USAID hired an election advisor on a two-year contract for more than $300,000.

In June of the same year, USAID awarded a $6.75-million grant to the Consortium for Election and Political Process Strengthening. The consortium had already received nearly $25 million since the earthquake, despite questionable progress on the electoral front.

But there is a significant difference with the consortium now that a Republican holds the presidency in the US. The consortium is composed of two organizations. One, IFES, remains the same. The other, however, has changed. Whereas money previously was awarded to the National Democratic Institute (NDI) through the consortium, in 2017 NDI was replaced by the International Republican Institute (IRI). 

The UN has confirmed to CEPR and The Intercept for the first time that its mission in Haiti helped plan a raid in November 2017 that resulted in a massacre by police of civilians, though it distanced itself from the civilian deaths.

HRRW’s Jake Johnston did investigative work on the ground in the neighborhood of Grand Ravine days after the raid. Read his investigative article for The Intercept, and see his photos, here.

The UN has confirmed to CEPR and The Intercept for the first time that its mission in Haiti helped plan a raid in November 2017 that resulted in a massacre by police of civilians, though it distanced itself from the civilian deaths.

HRRW’s Jake Johnston did investigative work on the ground in the neighborhood of Grand Ravine days after the raid. Read his investigative article for The Intercept, and see his photos, here.

At least one person died, one remains missing, and more than a dozen were injured by the passage of Hurricane Irma off the northern coast of Haiti last week. As of September 11, nearly 6,500 Haitians remain in emergency shelters, according to the United Nations. Preliminary figures suggest that flooding impacted 22 communes, completely destroying 466 houses and badly damaging more than 2,000 more. As veteran AFP correspondent Amelie Baron noted on Twitter, “These are the damages of a hurricane passing hundreds of kilometers away from [the] Haitian coast.”

Compared to some other Caribbean nations, the damage to Haiti’s infrastructure pales. But as Jacqueline Charles reported for the Miami Herald, looks can be deceiving:

Though Haiti was spared a direct hit from Irma and the fallout is nowhere near the magnitude of Matthew’s 546 dead and $2.8 billion in washed-out roads, collapsed bridges and destroyed crops, the frustration and fears for some in its path are no less.

“We didn’t have people who died, but homes and farms were destroyed,” Esperance said. “Just because you don’t see a lot of damages, it doesn’t mean that we haven’t been left deeper in misery.”

Charles reported that “entire banana fields lay in ruin” across Haiti’s northern coast. “It took everything,” one local farmer said. As Charles points out, even before Hurricane Irma, Haiti was facing an extreme situation of food insecurity. Last October Hurricane Matthew swept across the southern peninsula, devastating crops and livelihoods and leaving some 800,000 in need of emergency food assistance. Even before Matthew, the World Food Program reported that Haiti was facing its worst food security situation in 15 years. Charles writes:

As recently as February, the food insecurity unit classified the northwest as being in an economic and food security crisis. As a result, [Action Against Hunger’s country director Mathieu] Nabot said, the focus has to be not just on the emergency response but on supporting farmers over the long term, to help strengthen their economic security and ability to cope with shocks.

Unfortunately, it appears as though little donor ? or Haitian government ? money went to supporting long-term agricultural development after last year’s storm. Less than 50 percent of the UN’s $56 million appeal for food security and agricultural support was ever provided by donors ? and the overwhelming majority of that was short-term emergency food assistance.

Of course, it’s not just the donor community that must do more to support Haitian farmers. Elected on a platform of agrarian development, Haitian president Jovenel Moïse has done little to address the problem since taking office nine months ago. Rumors of the commercial demise of Moïse’s banana plantation, Agritrans ? which was used to bolster his agricultural credentials during election season ? hasn’t helped, nor did putting scarce resources into a caravan across the country. And last week, just hours before Irma’s outer bands began lashing the coast, the Haitian parliament began discussion on this year’s budget. Peasant organizations held a press conference to denounce the fact that just 6.9 percent is allocated to agriculture.

With the increasing likelihood of extreme weather events ? and Haiti’s obvious vulnerability to such events ? many began advocating for donors and the government to take seriously the threat of climate change. According to the 2017 Climate Change Vulnerability Index, Haiti is the third-most vulnerable country in the world. As Mark Schuller and Jessica Hsu note, it’s time to start talking about climate justice ? not just climate change:

Climate justice explicitly confronts basic inequalities: the world’s biggest polluters are not those directly affected by climate change. The big polluters are also the biggest “winners” in this economic system. It is no coincidence that higher climate vulnerability communities are largely communities of color and disenfranchised communities within the Global South.

To achieve climate justice requires making sure that communities most directly affected are directly involved in discussions, as well as solutions.

Like in many places in the world, peasant communities in Haiti have waged an ongoing struggle against corporate/private interests which seek to maintain control over natural resources, exploit cheap labor, and increase profit. These peasant communities are on the frontlines which may offer approaches to cool the planet, rather than the proposed solutions that bar those most affected by climate change from the discussions.           

Yet the response to Matthew last year, write Schuller and Hsu, was “mostly forgotten, ignored and underfunded.” Weeks, maybe even months, of talk about disaster preparedness, supporting local communities, and sustainable agriculture slowly faded into the background. Just 0.5 percent of this year’s budget is allocated to the Ministry of the Environment. What is needed, argue Schuller and Hsu, is to look to those on the ground already fighting for change in their communities:

Grassroots organizations in Torbeck are doing what they can. Jean Molin of the Lafrisilien Peasants Association denounced that “the government never once came and checked on us,” while Oscar Romero TKL’s Rachelle Moïse critiqued “paternalistic” foreign agencies for “failing to address our needs with their top-down, pre-determined aid.” While their food security continues to be precarious, those living off footpaths in the mountains ? who can still be found living in caves ? fare much worse, with little to no hope of receiving aid or relief.

These are the stories that must be illuminated when we talk about the warming climate, justice, and human rights.

To silence these stories makes us complicit, not just dumb, in the devaluing of human life and the ongoing destruction of our environment.

 

 

 

At least one person died, one remains missing, and more than a dozen were injured by the passage of Hurricane Irma off the northern coast of Haiti last week. As of September 11, nearly 6,500 Haitians remain in emergency shelters, according to the United Nations. Preliminary figures suggest that flooding impacted 22 communes, completely destroying 466 houses and badly damaging more than 2,000 more. As veteran AFP correspondent Amelie Baron noted on Twitter, “These are the damages of a hurricane passing hundreds of kilometers away from [the] Haitian coast.”

Compared to some other Caribbean nations, the damage to Haiti’s infrastructure pales. But as Jacqueline Charles reported for the Miami Herald, looks can be deceiving:

Though Haiti was spared a direct hit from Irma and the fallout is nowhere near the magnitude of Matthew’s 546 dead and $2.8 billion in washed-out roads, collapsed bridges and destroyed crops, the frustration and fears for some in its path are no less.

“We didn’t have people who died, but homes and farms were destroyed,” Esperance said. “Just because you don’t see a lot of damages, it doesn’t mean that we haven’t been left deeper in misery.”

Charles reported that “entire banana fields lay in ruin” across Haiti’s northern coast. “It took everything,” one local farmer said. As Charles points out, even before Hurricane Irma, Haiti was facing an extreme situation of food insecurity. Last October Hurricane Matthew swept across the southern peninsula, devastating crops and livelihoods and leaving some 800,000 in need of emergency food assistance. Even before Matthew, the World Food Program reported that Haiti was facing its worst food security situation in 15 years. Charles writes:

As recently as February, the food insecurity unit classified the northwest as being in an economic and food security crisis. As a result, [Action Against Hunger’s country director Mathieu] Nabot said, the focus has to be not just on the emergency response but on supporting farmers over the long term, to help strengthen their economic security and ability to cope with shocks.

Unfortunately, it appears as though little donor ? or Haitian government ? money went to supporting long-term agricultural development after last year’s storm. Less than 50 percent of the UN’s $56 million appeal for food security and agricultural support was ever provided by donors ? and the overwhelming majority of that was short-term emergency food assistance.

Of course, it’s not just the donor community that must do more to support Haitian farmers. Elected on a platform of agrarian development, Haitian president Jovenel Moïse has done little to address the problem since taking office nine months ago. Rumors of the commercial demise of Moïse’s banana plantation, Agritrans ? which was used to bolster his agricultural credentials during election season ? hasn’t helped, nor did putting scarce resources into a caravan across the country. And last week, just hours before Irma’s outer bands began lashing the coast, the Haitian parliament began discussion on this year’s budget. Peasant organizations held a press conference to denounce the fact that just 6.9 percent is allocated to agriculture.

With the increasing likelihood of extreme weather events ? and Haiti’s obvious vulnerability to such events ? many began advocating for donors and the government to take seriously the threat of climate change. According to the 2017 Climate Change Vulnerability Index, Haiti is the third-most vulnerable country in the world. As Mark Schuller and Jessica Hsu note, it’s time to start talking about climate justice ? not just climate change:

Climate justice explicitly confronts basic inequalities: the world’s biggest polluters are not those directly affected by climate change. The big polluters are also the biggest “winners” in this economic system. It is no coincidence that higher climate vulnerability communities are largely communities of color and disenfranchised communities within the Global South.

To achieve climate justice requires making sure that communities most directly affected are directly involved in discussions, as well as solutions.

Like in many places in the world, peasant communities in Haiti have waged an ongoing struggle against corporate/private interests which seek to maintain control over natural resources, exploit cheap labor, and increase profit. These peasant communities are on the frontlines which may offer approaches to cool the planet, rather than the proposed solutions that bar those most affected by climate change from the discussions.           

Yet the response to Matthew last year, write Schuller and Hsu, was “mostly forgotten, ignored and underfunded.” Weeks, maybe even months, of talk about disaster preparedness, supporting local communities, and sustainable agriculture slowly faded into the background. Just 0.5 percent of this year’s budget is allocated to the Ministry of the Environment. What is needed, argue Schuller and Hsu, is to look to those on the ground already fighting for change in their communities:

Grassroots organizations in Torbeck are doing what they can. Jean Molin of the Lafrisilien Peasants Association denounced that “the government never once came and checked on us,” while Oscar Romero TKL’s Rachelle Moïse critiqued “paternalistic” foreign agencies for “failing to address our needs with their top-down, pre-determined aid.” While their food security continues to be precarious, those living off footpaths in the mountains ? who can still be found living in caves ? fare much worse, with little to no hope of receiving aid or relief.

These are the stories that must be illuminated when we talk about the warming climate, justice, and human rights.

To silence these stories makes us complicit, not just dumb, in the devaluing of human life and the ongoing destruction of our environment.

 

 

 

CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston published the following article at World Politics Review: 

The UN’s Legacy in Haiti: Stability, but for Whom?

After 13 years and more than $7 billion, the “touristas” — as the United Nations soldiers that currently occupy Haiti are commonly referred to — will finally be heading home. Well, sort of. While thousands of troops are expected to depart in October, the UN has authorized a new, smaller mission composed of police that will focus on justice and strengthening the rule of law. But the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known by its French acronym, MINUSTAH, is not just thousands of foreign soldiers “keeping the peace.” It is the latest and most visible manifestation of the international community’s habit of intervening in Haiti, a habit that is unlikely to change. 

World powers have always had a difficult time accepting Haitian sovereignty. When a slave revolt delivered Haiti independence from France in 1804, gunboat diplomacy ensured the liberated inhabitants would pay for their freedom. For the next 150 years, Haiti paid France a ransom for its continued independence. In the early twentieth century, a new hegemonic power held sway, with US Marines occupying the country for more than 20 years. 

Two hundred years after Haitian independence, when the UN Security Council created MINUSTAH, it also mandated the formation of the “Core Group,” which included MINUSTAH’s leadership as well as diplomatic representatives from foreign governments and multilateral organizations. Since its creation, the group has influenced — subtly and not so subtly — Haiti’s internal affairs, with the backing of a heavily armed military force.

Read the rest here at World Politics Review.

CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston published the following article at World Politics Review: 

The UN’s Legacy in Haiti: Stability, but for Whom?

After 13 years and more than $7 billion, the “touristas” — as the United Nations soldiers that currently occupy Haiti are commonly referred to — will finally be heading home. Well, sort of. While thousands of troops are expected to depart in October, the UN has authorized a new, smaller mission composed of police that will focus on justice and strengthening the rule of law. But the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known by its French acronym, MINUSTAH, is not just thousands of foreign soldiers “keeping the peace.” It is the latest and most visible manifestation of the international community’s habit of intervening in Haiti, a habit that is unlikely to change. 

World powers have always had a difficult time accepting Haitian sovereignty. When a slave revolt delivered Haiti independence from France in 1804, gunboat diplomacy ensured the liberated inhabitants would pay for their freedom. For the next 150 years, Haiti paid France a ransom for its continued independence. In the early twentieth century, a new hegemonic power held sway, with US Marines occupying the country for more than 20 years. 

Two hundred years after Haitian independence, when the UN Security Council created MINUSTAH, it also mandated the formation of the “Core Group,” which included MINUSTAH’s leadership as well as diplomatic representatives from foreign governments and multilateral organizations. Since its creation, the group has influenced — subtly and not so subtly — Haiti’s internal affairs, with the backing of a heavily armed military force.

Read the rest here at World Politics Review.

Last week US President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. The president immediately came under heavy criticism, accused of obstructing justice, as the FBI is currently investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Two weeks earlier, in Haiti, President Jovenel Moïse fired the director of the country’s financial crimes unit (UCREF). During last year’s elections in Haiti, UCREF produced an investigative report on Moïse, raising questions of possible money laundering. No charges have been brought, but the investigation appeared to be ongoing. 

While Trump’s moves have spurred increasing calls for impeachment ? or at the very least an independent investigation ? in Haiti, the move occurred with scant international attention. Local human rights groups, however, have sounded the alarm. Unlike in the US, where the president actually has the power to fire the head of the FBI, it appears as though the Haitian president had no such legal authority to fire the head of the UCREF.

The UCREF has been the recipient of millions of dollars in international support for years, much of which was from the United States. UCREF, however, has failed to produce many measurable successes. In 2016, the State Department reported:

The country’s financial intelligence unit (FIU), the UCREF, has continued to build its internal capabilities and to do effective casework. The UCREF has fifteen open cases but has not forwarded any cases to the judiciary in 2015. Continued issues in the judicial sector mean the UCREF’s progress is not yet reflected in conviction rates.

In recent years, Haiti has come under pressure from the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) to make improvements to its safeguards against money laundering. If improvements are not made, CFATF has threatened to recommend member states impose restrictions on banking transactions with Haiti. Moïse took office in February 2017 already under a cloud of suspicion for his own alleged involvement in money laundering, and the hollowing out of UCREF’s independence will likely only exacerbate this, with potentially serious economic consequences.

In early May, the Haitian Parliament approved a new law on UCREF. Previously, UCREF’s director general was selected in a process directed by five representatives from independent bodies. The new law reportedly gives the president the ability to approve three of the five representatives, granting the executive de facto control over the entity. 

But Moïse didn’t even wait for the new law’s approval to act. On April 19, he replaced UCREF Director Sonel Jean-François, just one year into a three-year term. A replacement, reportedly picked by Moïse, was supposed to be installed last week, but that process has been postponed indefinitely.

Maxime Rony of the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations told the media that Moïse’s barely four-month presidency was based on a “governance of revenge,” noting that, in addition to the new law on UCREF, one of the first acts of the new Parliament ? controlled by Moïse’s allies ? was to pass a harsh defamation law. Haiti’s largest newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, wrote that since the UCREF report was released last year, its director had been “in the sights” of Moïse and his political allies.

Pierre Esperance of the National Human Rights Defense Network pointed out that the law governing the UCREF outlines a clear process for selecting a new director general, and that Moïse’s decision was “contrary to the law,” and “an extremely serious matter.” 

Some Parliamentarians, even some previously close to Moïse, have raised their voices in opposition, but there appears to be little serious resistance to Moïse’s agenda within Parliament. Elected in a process tainted by violence and fraud ? and without safeguards against candidates with criminal records ? many within Haiti’s Parliament are themselves the subject of money laundering and drug trafficking allegations.

One of Parliament’s first acts was approving a resolution condemning the transfer of notorious paramilitary, and recently elected senator, Guy Philippe to the US to face drug trafficking and money laundering charges. In a blow to those in Parliament who defended Philippe as the target of a witch hunt, Philippe has since pled guilty and awaits sentencing. Moïse openly campaigned with Philippe during his run for the presidency. 

In another move decried by the human rights community, the Haitian government has ended regular UN human rights monitoring of the country. Though the government initially pledged to replace the UN human rights expert with a domestic entity, there is no indication that will actually occur.

Together with the law on defamation and the erosion of UCREF’s independence, the Haitian Parliament has acted swiftly to protect themselves ? and the president ? from needed oversight.

Currently, a number of key posts, including director general of UCREF, remain vacant. Le Nouvelliste reports that unease from the international community over Moïse’s consolidation of power may be a factor in the ongoing delay.

It is likely there is at least some level of international concern with Moïse’s recent moves. But with Trump taking a page out of Haiti’s presidential playbook, Moïse will be able to quickly (and correctly) point out the hypocrisy of the US or its allies criticizing his actions.

Last week US President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. The president immediately came under heavy criticism, accused of obstructing justice, as the FBI is currently investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Two weeks earlier, in Haiti, President Jovenel Moïse fired the director of the country’s financial crimes unit (UCREF). During last year’s elections in Haiti, UCREF produced an investigative report on Moïse, raising questions of possible money laundering. No charges have been brought, but the investigation appeared to be ongoing. 

While Trump’s moves have spurred increasing calls for impeachment ? or at the very least an independent investigation ? in Haiti, the move occurred with scant international attention. Local human rights groups, however, have sounded the alarm. Unlike in the US, where the president actually has the power to fire the head of the FBI, it appears as though the Haitian president had no such legal authority to fire the head of the UCREF.

The UCREF has been the recipient of millions of dollars in international support for years, much of which was from the United States. UCREF, however, has failed to produce many measurable successes. In 2016, the State Department reported:

The country’s financial intelligence unit (FIU), the UCREF, has continued to build its internal capabilities and to do effective casework. The UCREF has fifteen open cases but has not forwarded any cases to the judiciary in 2015. Continued issues in the judicial sector mean the UCREF’s progress is not yet reflected in conviction rates.

In recent years, Haiti has come under pressure from the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) to make improvements to its safeguards against money laundering. If improvements are not made, CFATF has threatened to recommend member states impose restrictions on banking transactions with Haiti. Moïse took office in February 2017 already under a cloud of suspicion for his own alleged involvement in money laundering, and the hollowing out of UCREF’s independence will likely only exacerbate this, with potentially serious economic consequences.

In early May, the Haitian Parliament approved a new law on UCREF. Previously, UCREF’s director general was selected in a process directed by five representatives from independent bodies. The new law reportedly gives the president the ability to approve three of the five representatives, granting the executive de facto control over the entity. 

But Moïse didn’t even wait for the new law’s approval to act. On April 19, he replaced UCREF Director Sonel Jean-François, just one year into a three-year term. A replacement, reportedly picked by Moïse, was supposed to be installed last week, but that process has been postponed indefinitely.

Maxime Rony of the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations told the media that Moïse’s barely four-month presidency was based on a “governance of revenge,” noting that, in addition to the new law on UCREF, one of the first acts of the new Parliament ? controlled by Moïse’s allies ? was to pass a harsh defamation law. Haiti’s largest newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, wrote that since the UCREF report was released last year, its director had been “in the sights” of Moïse and his political allies.

Pierre Esperance of the National Human Rights Defense Network pointed out that the law governing the UCREF outlines a clear process for selecting a new director general, and that Moïse’s decision was “contrary to the law,” and “an extremely serious matter.” 

Some Parliamentarians, even some previously close to Moïse, have raised their voices in opposition, but there appears to be little serious resistance to Moïse’s agenda within Parliament. Elected in a process tainted by violence and fraud ? and without safeguards against candidates with criminal records ? many within Haiti’s Parliament are themselves the subject of money laundering and drug trafficking allegations.

One of Parliament’s first acts was approving a resolution condemning the transfer of notorious paramilitary, and recently elected senator, Guy Philippe to the US to face drug trafficking and money laundering charges. In a blow to those in Parliament who defended Philippe as the target of a witch hunt, Philippe has since pled guilty and awaits sentencing. Moïse openly campaigned with Philippe during his run for the presidency. 

In another move decried by the human rights community, the Haitian government has ended regular UN human rights monitoring of the country. Though the government initially pledged to replace the UN human rights expert with a domestic entity, there is no indication that will actually occur.

Together with the law on defamation and the erosion of UCREF’s independence, the Haitian Parliament has acted swiftly to protect themselves ? and the president ? from needed oversight.

Currently, a number of key posts, including director general of UCREF, remain vacant. Le Nouvelliste reports that unease from the international community over Moïse’s consolidation of power may be a factor in the ongoing delay.

It is likely there is at least some level of international concern with Moïse’s recent moves. But with Trump taking a page out of Haiti’s presidential playbook, Moïse will be able to quickly (and correctly) point out the hypocrisy of the US or its allies criticizing his actions.

After 13 years and more than $7 billion spent, the United Nations Security Council voted today to extend the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) mandate for a final six months. By October 2017 the last of the 2,000 plus foreign troops are scheduled to depart Haiti – already down from a high of nearly 9,000 in 2010. But far from representing a complete withdrawal of the controversial mission, the Security Council also approved a successor mission – MINUJUSTH – composed of some 1,000 UN police officers that will stay on with a focus on strengthening the Haitian national police and the country’s justice system.

In an op-ed published in the Miami Herald yesterday, Lauren Carasik, a law professor and human rights expert, outlines the inherent contradictions with this new UN mission, and its focus on increasing access to justice in Haiti:

Nowhere is the United Nations’ lack of accountability more glaring than in Haiti. The U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is responsible for causing a cholera epidemic that has killed thousands and for crimes, including sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA), that have largely gone unpunished.

Against the backdrop of its transgressions in Haiti, the U.N. is voting this week on withdrawing MINUSTAH, a move long demanded by many who deeply resent the harm inflicted by those sent to protect them. The U.N.’s new secretary-general, António Guterres, favors winding down the force in six months and replacing it with a leaner successor mission that will focus on rule of law and police development. Yet Guterres failed to reflect on how the U.N. can purport to strengthen Haiti’s institutions when its own conduct fails to satisfy bedrock principles of democracy, or whether the $346 million annual budget would be better spent repairing the organization’s tarnished cholera legacy instead.

But in its resolution approving the gradual withdrawal of MINUSTAH, cholera is barely mentioned. The resolution simply welcomes the UN’s “New Approach to Cholera in Haiti,” which is currently just 2% funded. As Carasik writes, “despite the anemic reception to his fundraising efforts, the Secretary-General is tabling a move to assess mandatory contributions in the face of stiff resistance from certain member states.” And reports indicate that certain member states also pushed to weaken the cholera-related language in the UNSC resolution. From a report in What’s In Blue:

[T]here were some differences over how much to focus on the humanitarian situation, human rights and peacebuilding and on the Secretary-General’s new approach regarding cholera. It seems that France and the US pushed for a shorter and more streamlined text, and had reservations about including proposed language on cholera, while Brazil and other Latin American countries felt it was important to reflect some of the observations on human rights and humanitarian challenges and the importance of peacebuilding contained in the Secretary-General’s report.

While there was no discussion of cholera at the UNSC today, the US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley did address the ongoing scandal around sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) at the hands of UN troops. This followed numerousmediareports over the last few month documenting far greater levels of SEA than the UN has ever acknowledged. The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles reports on Haley’s comments:

“While this is seen as a success, unfortunately it’s a nightmare for many in Haiti who will never be able to forget, and live with brutal scars,” Haley said about the U.N.’s presence in Haiti before reading from an Associated Press investigation published this week about sexual abuse. “We must acknowledge the abandoned children, 12 to 15 years old, who lived every day with hunger. They were lured by peacekeepers with cookies and snacks. The high price of this food was sexual abuse.”

Yet the resolution simply reiterates a pledge to enforce the UN’s “zero tolerance” policy on SEA and “urges” troop contributing countries to hold its troops accountable. But this lip service to accountability has proven woefully inadequate in the past. As independent human rights investigator Mark Snyder wrote in a report published on this blog last month, the UN’s efforts to combat SEA in Haiti “have failed to interrupt a persistent cycle of exploitation and abuse followed by U.N. statements of regret and reform, and then additional incidents of SEA.”

Carasik concludes:

If the U.N. wants to advance its mission of promoting justice and human rights, it must right its wrongs. No money spent on U.N. work to advance the rule of law in Haiti will have its intended impact unless the organization models the accountability that is necessary to re-establish its credibility. Given the current global uncertainties, the U.N.’s legitimacy is more important than ever.

After 13 years and more than $7 billion spent, the United Nations Security Council voted today to extend the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) mandate for a final six months. By October 2017 the last of the 2,000 plus foreign troops are scheduled to depart Haiti – already down from a high of nearly 9,000 in 2010. But far from representing a complete withdrawal of the controversial mission, the Security Council also approved a successor mission – MINUJUSTH – composed of some 1,000 UN police officers that will stay on with a focus on strengthening the Haitian national police and the country’s justice system.

In an op-ed published in the Miami Herald yesterday, Lauren Carasik, a law professor and human rights expert, outlines the inherent contradictions with this new UN mission, and its focus on increasing access to justice in Haiti:

Nowhere is the United Nations’ lack of accountability more glaring than in Haiti. The U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is responsible for causing a cholera epidemic that has killed thousands and for crimes, including sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA), that have largely gone unpunished.

Against the backdrop of its transgressions in Haiti, the U.N. is voting this week on withdrawing MINUSTAH, a move long demanded by many who deeply resent the harm inflicted by those sent to protect them. The U.N.’s new secretary-general, António Guterres, favors winding down the force in six months and replacing it with a leaner successor mission that will focus on rule of law and police development. Yet Guterres failed to reflect on how the U.N. can purport to strengthen Haiti’s institutions when its own conduct fails to satisfy bedrock principles of democracy, or whether the $346 million annual budget would be better spent repairing the organization’s tarnished cholera legacy instead.

But in its resolution approving the gradual withdrawal of MINUSTAH, cholera is barely mentioned. The resolution simply welcomes the UN’s “New Approach to Cholera in Haiti,” which is currently just 2% funded. As Carasik writes, “despite the anemic reception to his fundraising efforts, the Secretary-General is tabling a move to assess mandatory contributions in the face of stiff resistance from certain member states.” And reports indicate that certain member states also pushed to weaken the cholera-related language in the UNSC resolution. From a report in What’s In Blue:

[T]here were some differences over how much to focus on the humanitarian situation, human rights and peacebuilding and on the Secretary-General’s new approach regarding cholera. It seems that France and the US pushed for a shorter and more streamlined text, and had reservations about including proposed language on cholera, while Brazil and other Latin American countries felt it was important to reflect some of the observations on human rights and humanitarian challenges and the importance of peacebuilding contained in the Secretary-General’s report.

While there was no discussion of cholera at the UNSC today, the US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley did address the ongoing scandal around sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) at the hands of UN troops. This followed numerousmediareports over the last few month documenting far greater levels of SEA than the UN has ever acknowledged. The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles reports on Haley’s comments:

“While this is seen as a success, unfortunately it’s a nightmare for many in Haiti who will never be able to forget, and live with brutal scars,” Haley said about the U.N.’s presence in Haiti before reading from an Associated Press investigation published this week about sexual abuse. “We must acknowledge the abandoned children, 12 to 15 years old, who lived every day with hunger. They were lured by peacekeepers with cookies and snacks. The high price of this food was sexual abuse.”

Yet the resolution simply reiterates a pledge to enforce the UN’s “zero tolerance” policy on SEA and “urges” troop contributing countries to hold its troops accountable. But this lip service to accountability has proven woefully inadequate in the past. As independent human rights investigator Mark Snyder wrote in a report published on this blog last month, the UN’s efforts to combat SEA in Haiti “have failed to interrupt a persistent cycle of exploitation and abuse followed by U.N. statements of regret and reform, and then additional incidents of SEA.”

Carasik concludes:

If the U.N. wants to advance its mission of promoting justice and human rights, it must right its wrongs. No money spent on U.N. work to advance the rule of law in Haiti will have its intended impact unless the organization models the accountability that is necessary to re-establish its credibility. Given the current global uncertainties, the U.N.’s legitimacy is more important than ever.

The following is the introduction to an investigative report conducted by independent researcher Mark Snyder entitled “Sexual Exploitation and Abuse at the Hands of the United Nation’s Stabilization Mission in Haiti.” The full report is available here

Investigative Overview

A preliminary independent investigation conducted in areas close to existing or abandoned bases for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) brings to light the alarming magnitude of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) at the hands of United Nations personnel in Haiti. The purpose of this investigation is to determine if the initial unreported cases brought to the attention of the author were isolated incidents or are instead a result of a systemic problem present in the UN’s mission in Haiti. In consultation with Haitian civil society partners, the following report considers that a further, in-depth investigation into these abuses is vital and urgent.

The results of our investigation strongly suggest that the issue of SEA by United Nations personnel in Haiti is substantial and has been grossly underreported. Using the same methodology in all areas where MINUSTAH bases are or have been located[i], a thorough and in-depth investigation would be expected to identify close to 600 victims who would agree to in-person interviews. This number in itself indicates a victim count that requires immediate attention and significant modifications to current MINUSTAH peacekeeping operations, including with regard to the manner in which UN SEA cases are investigated and reported. These preliminary findings are based on the work of one investigator during 27 days of investigation. Through a network of community contacts in eight areas where there currently is, or where there has been a MINUSTAH base, the investigation identified 42 UN SEA victims who agreed to be interviewed. With a professional investigative team, comprised of individuals with specialized expertise and the resources to cover the entire country, the likely number of documented UN SEA allegations from victims would be expected to be significantly higher.

The UN Conduct and Discipline Unit (CDU), under the Department of Field Services (DFS) documented 75 total allegations of UN SEA countrywide in Haiti[ii] from 2008-2015. In comparison, 40 of the 42 victims interviewed within the limited scope of this independent investigation allegedly suffered sexual exploitation perpetrated by UN personnel during this same time period. Of the remaining two individuals: one stated she was first a victim in 2005, and the exploitation occurred repeatedly until 2015. The other was a victim of a single incident prior to 2008. Only four of the 42 said they had previously reported the SEA in some manner to the UN, suggesting that the magnitude of the problem may be dramatically underestimated by the CDU. The victims we spoke to were not made aware of whether their cases were included in the 75 total allegations documented by the CDU. All four victims stated they were not satisfied with the subsequent investigatory process or its results.

In comparison to the CDU’s 75 total allegations, the estimated total possible victims of SEA – during the years 2008-2015 – based on an extrapolation of the results of our investigation – is 564. Again, this is an estimate derived from the findings of a single investigator and based only on allegations from those who agreed to meet and be interviewed.

The preliminary results of our investigation show that actions taken, such as the creation of the CDU and the extensive efforts with the three pillars of prevention of misconduct, enforcement of UN standards of conduct, and remedial action, do not appear to have been adequate in preventing further SEA perpetrated by MINUSTAH personnel. These efforts have failed to interrupt a persistent cycle of exploitation and abuse followed by UN statements of regret and reform, and then additional incidents of SEA.

The UN has stated in numerous publications that while there has been an approximately 50 percent increase in UN peacekeeping personnel in the world, the number of SEA accusations has been steadily decreasing.[iii] However, within the seemingly disconnected array of the UN’s SEA reporting and response mechanisms[iv], wide concern is expressed by UN personnel about the validity of the official numbers of UN SEA allegations. Many suspect that the numbers and their decline do not accurately reflect the occurrences of exploitation and abuse.[v] The results of this investigation thus far have shown that in Haiti, as UN personnel suspected, this downward trend of accusations is not due to decreased levels of UN SEA, but instead is caused by a reduction in victims’ reporting of these acts.

The reforms and initiatives that have been taken over the years since MINUSTAH’s 2004 inception appear to be inadequate to prevent UN SEA and fail to encourage victims to come forward. For these reasons, we strongly suggests that a professional independent investigation, comprised of individuals with specialized expertise in sexual exploitation and abuse, be undertaken in Haiti at all locations that currently have or have had MINUSTAH bases so to determine the level of sexual exploitiation and abuse by United Nations’ personnel. In order for MINUSTAH to fulfill its mandate of assisting Haiti with the restoration and maintenance of the rule of law and support efforts to “promote and protect human rights, particularly of women and children, in order to ensure individual accountability for human rights abuses and redress for victims”[vi], UN SEA victims must not remain hidden in the shadows. Instead, their existence must be officially recognized, and their voices must be a part of the discussion on the necessary reforms to the UN peacekeeping system.

Introduction

Sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel in Haiti has been extensively documented since MINUSTAH’s founding in 2004.[vii] Notably, two years after the UN openly recognized SEA by UN peacekeepers as a problem[viii] and sanctioned the 2005 UN Zeid report focusing on UN SEA and describing specific actions to be taken to eliminate future abuse[ix], investigations in Haiti uncovered that the mission’s peacekeepers from Sri Lanka were committing extensive sexual exploitation and abuse including rape and transactional sex. This led to a reported 114 soldier repatriations, a move presented as a model for other UN peacekeeping missions. Of those repatriated to Sri Lanka, none of the perpetrators were criminally prosecuted in their home country[x]. In response to the scandal, the UN assured that they remained committed to both to the zero-tolerance policy on SEA and to best practices in peacekeeping.[xi] Other highly visible cases, such as the repeated rape and subsequent kidnapping of a young special-needs boy by peacekeepers in Goniave, Haiti[xii], caused the mission to express outrage and the official response was that the mission would take their responsibility in dealing with abuses by UN personnel extremely seriously.[xiii]

But in reality, immunity from Haitian prosecution for SEA crimes prevails and the United Nations has little more than administrative control over the military contingents and UN Police (UNPOL) that comprise their mission.[xiv] For violations involving military personnel, investigations and criminal prosecutions are left to the troop-contributing countries (TCC). UNPOL and other civilian personnel are investigated by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), but again this leaves the UN with administrative sanctions as their only recourse. Prosecution of crimes is left to the home countries of the officers or civilians.[xv] This reality leaves victims with very few options to seek justice[xvi].

Sexual exploitation and abuse scandals have made their way to the public eye throughout the mission’s tenure, but the true levels of UN SEA and the number of victims remain largely hidden from view. Perpetrators are often militarily armed individuals in significant positions of power in the middle of an extremely vulnerable population. They are from outside of the victims’ known community and are untouchable by the Haitian system of justice or other traditional methods of recourse or of possible support. Fear of reprisal is an understandable concern for victims. Coupled with these barriers and the belief that reporting a case will bring social stigmatization more than real solutions, it is highly unlikely that victims will bring cases forward to officials. SEA victims remain largely in the shadows, which is reflected in UN documents and in “the preoccupation of all (the UN) systems put in place for SEA (which) is more focused on UN personnel than on victims” and their well being[xvii]. The 2013 Secretary General’s appointed team of SEA experts who visited Haiti in 2013, stated, “Overall, there was noted a culture of enforcement avoidance, with managers feeling powerless to enforce anti-SEA rules, a culture of silence around reporting and discussing cases, (…) and little accorded to the rights of the victim.”[xviii]

Instead of providing support, the current UN systems present additional obstacles for SEA victims, many of whom have been subjected to traumatic and extremely violent sexual crimes.


The full report is available here

The following is the introduction to an investigative report conducted by independent researcher Mark Snyder entitled “Sexual Exploitation and Abuse at the Hands of the United Nation’s Stabilization Mission in Haiti.” The full report is available here

Investigative Overview

A preliminary independent investigation conducted in areas close to existing or abandoned bases for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) brings to light the alarming magnitude of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) at the hands of United Nations personnel in Haiti. The purpose of this investigation is to determine if the initial unreported cases brought to the attention of the author were isolated incidents or are instead a result of a systemic problem present in the UN’s mission in Haiti. In consultation with Haitian civil society partners, the following report considers that a further, in-depth investigation into these abuses is vital and urgent.

The results of our investigation strongly suggest that the issue of SEA by United Nations personnel in Haiti is substantial and has been grossly underreported. Using the same methodology in all areas where MINUSTAH bases are or have been located[i], a thorough and in-depth investigation would be expected to identify close to 600 victims who would agree to in-person interviews. This number in itself indicates a victim count that requires immediate attention and significant modifications to current MINUSTAH peacekeeping operations, including with regard to the manner in which UN SEA cases are investigated and reported. These preliminary findings are based on the work of one investigator during 27 days of investigation. Through a network of community contacts in eight areas where there currently is, or where there has been a MINUSTAH base, the investigation identified 42 UN SEA victims who agreed to be interviewed. With a professional investigative team, comprised of individuals with specialized expertise and the resources to cover the entire country, the likely number of documented UN SEA allegations from victims would be expected to be significantly higher.

The UN Conduct and Discipline Unit (CDU), under the Department of Field Services (DFS) documented 75 total allegations of UN SEA countrywide in Haiti[ii] from 2008-2015. In comparison, 40 of the 42 victims interviewed within the limited scope of this independent investigation allegedly suffered sexual exploitation perpetrated by UN personnel during this same time period. Of the remaining two individuals: one stated she was first a victim in 2005, and the exploitation occurred repeatedly until 2015. The other was a victim of a single incident prior to 2008. Only four of the 42 said they had previously reported the SEA in some manner to the UN, suggesting that the magnitude of the problem may be dramatically underestimated by the CDU. The victims we spoke to were not made aware of whether their cases were included in the 75 total allegations documented by the CDU. All four victims stated they were not satisfied with the subsequent investigatory process or its results.

In comparison to the CDU’s 75 total allegations, the estimated total possible victims of SEA – during the years 2008-2015 – based on an extrapolation of the results of our investigation – is 564. Again, this is an estimate derived from the findings of a single investigator and based only on allegations from those who agreed to meet and be interviewed.

The preliminary results of our investigation show that actions taken, such as the creation of the CDU and the extensive efforts with the three pillars of prevention of misconduct, enforcement of UN standards of conduct, and remedial action, do not appear to have been adequate in preventing further SEA perpetrated by MINUSTAH personnel. These efforts have failed to interrupt a persistent cycle of exploitation and abuse followed by UN statements of regret and reform, and then additional incidents of SEA.

The UN has stated in numerous publications that while there has been an approximately 50 percent increase in UN peacekeeping personnel in the world, the number of SEA accusations has been steadily decreasing.[iii] However, within the seemingly disconnected array of the UN’s SEA reporting and response mechanisms[iv], wide concern is expressed by UN personnel about the validity of the official numbers of UN SEA allegations. Many suspect that the numbers and their decline do not accurately reflect the occurrences of exploitation and abuse.[v] The results of this investigation thus far have shown that in Haiti, as UN personnel suspected, this downward trend of accusations is not due to decreased levels of UN SEA, but instead is caused by a reduction in victims’ reporting of these acts.

The reforms and initiatives that have been taken over the years since MINUSTAH’s 2004 inception appear to be inadequate to prevent UN SEA and fail to encourage victims to come forward. For these reasons, we strongly suggests that a professional independent investigation, comprised of individuals with specialized expertise in sexual exploitation and abuse, be undertaken in Haiti at all locations that currently have or have had MINUSTAH bases so to determine the level of sexual exploitiation and abuse by United Nations’ personnel. In order for MINUSTAH to fulfill its mandate of assisting Haiti with the restoration and maintenance of the rule of law and support efforts to “promote and protect human rights, particularly of women and children, in order to ensure individual accountability for human rights abuses and redress for victims”[vi], UN SEA victims must not remain hidden in the shadows. Instead, their existence must be officially recognized, and their voices must be a part of the discussion on the necessary reforms to the UN peacekeeping system.

Introduction

Sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel in Haiti has been extensively documented since MINUSTAH’s founding in 2004.[vii] Notably, two years after the UN openly recognized SEA by UN peacekeepers as a problem[viii] and sanctioned the 2005 UN Zeid report focusing on UN SEA and describing specific actions to be taken to eliminate future abuse[ix], investigations in Haiti uncovered that the mission’s peacekeepers from Sri Lanka were committing extensive sexual exploitation and abuse including rape and transactional sex. This led to a reported 114 soldier repatriations, a move presented as a model for other UN peacekeeping missions. Of those repatriated to Sri Lanka, none of the perpetrators were criminally prosecuted in their home country[x]. In response to the scandal, the UN assured that they remained committed to both to the zero-tolerance policy on SEA and to best practices in peacekeeping.[xi] Other highly visible cases, such as the repeated rape and subsequent kidnapping of a young special-needs boy by peacekeepers in Goniave, Haiti[xii], caused the mission to express outrage and the official response was that the mission would take their responsibility in dealing with abuses by UN personnel extremely seriously.[xiii]

But in reality, immunity from Haitian prosecution for SEA crimes prevails and the United Nations has little more than administrative control over the military contingents and UN Police (UNPOL) that comprise their mission.[xiv] For violations involving military personnel, investigations and criminal prosecutions are left to the troop-contributing countries (TCC). UNPOL and other civilian personnel are investigated by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), but again this leaves the UN with administrative sanctions as their only recourse. Prosecution of crimes is left to the home countries of the officers or civilians.[xv] This reality leaves victims with very few options to seek justice[xvi].

Sexual exploitation and abuse scandals have made their way to the public eye throughout the mission’s tenure, but the true levels of UN SEA and the number of victims remain largely hidden from view. Perpetrators are often militarily armed individuals in significant positions of power in the middle of an extremely vulnerable population. They are from outside of the victims’ known community and are untouchable by the Haitian system of justice or other traditional methods of recourse or of possible support. Fear of reprisal is an understandable concern for victims. Coupled with these barriers and the belief that reporting a case will bring social stigmatization more than real solutions, it is highly unlikely that victims will bring cases forward to officials. SEA victims remain largely in the shadows, which is reflected in UN documents and in “the preoccupation of all (the UN) systems put in place for SEA (which) is more focused on UN personnel than on victims” and their well being[xvii]. The 2013 Secretary General’s appointed team of SEA experts who visited Haiti in 2013, stated, “Overall, there was noted a culture of enforcement avoidance, with managers feeling powerless to enforce anti-SEA rules, a culture of silence around reporting and discussing cases, (…) and little accorded to the rights of the victim.”[xviii]

Instead of providing support, the current UN systems present additional obstacles for SEA victims, many of whom have been subjected to traumatic and extremely violent sexual crimes.


The full report is available here

Jovenel Moïse will be inaugurated as Haiti’s new president today as the country returns to constitutional order after a one-year extra-constitutional period of interim rule due to electoral delays.  Moïse had previously come in first in an October 2015 election, only to have the results thrown out due to fraud. Rerun in November 2016 under the interim government that replaced former president Michel Martelly, the elections had Moïse securing more than 50 percent of the vote, winning in the first round.

But serious questions continue to dog Moïse as he takes office. Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald reports:

Since his win, Moïse has been on a countrywide tour, celebrating his victory, endorsing candidates for the recently held local elections — and battling money-laundering suspicions.

Moïse has dismissed the suspicions as the work of political opponents. The probe began in 2013 under Martelly’s administration when the anti-financial crimes unit was tipped off about a suspicious bank transaction, the current head of the unit, Sonel Jean-François, has said.

Over the weekend, an investigative judge assigned to the case sent his findings to the government prosecutor, but the judge’s order has not been made public. Government prosecutor Danton Léger has yet to say whether he will dismiss the case, send it back to the judge for further review, or prosecute Moïse.

Should he seek to prosecute Moïse, Haiti could find itself in an even deeper crisis than the one triggered by the annulled October 2015 presidential elections.

In a 7-page letter dated February 6, Leger, the government prosecutor, requested further information on the allegations against Moïse, ensuring it will continue to hang over the new president.

The money laundering allegations, however, are far from the only topic overshadowing Moïse’s inauguration today. A new report on Haiti’s November elections, from international legal observers, has raised questions as to how effective the new administration may be given the historically low turnout. The report’s authors also note that Haiti’s national identity office was hindered by significant problems, affecting the ability of Haitians to vote:

The report notes that despite many improvements in security and electoral administration over the 2015 elections, the 21 percent voter turnout represents the lowest participation rate for a national election in the Western Hemisphere since 1945. “Many Haitians did not vote, not because they did not want to, but because they were unable due to difficulties in obtaining electoral cards, registering to vote and finding their names on outdated electoral lists,” said attorney Nicole Phillips, delegation leader and co-author of the report.

The report documents how many would-be voters were disenfranchised on November 20, due to pervasive errors on electoral lists, difficulties accessing identity cards, and lack of voter education. Haitian electoral authorities also failed to take adequate measures against fraudulent voting. Prior to the election, the head of the National Identification Office (ONI) admitted that 2.4 million activated but undistributed cards had gone missing, which opened the door to fraud via trafficked identity cards.

The report’s authors also note with concern that Moïse could follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, former president Michel Martelly, who surrounded himself with figures from the Duvalier dictatorship and was criticized by human rights groups for his intimidation of journalists and imprisonment of opposition activists. “With a majority in parliament, the temptation for President Moïse to run roughshod over any opposition will be great,” said Brian Concannon, the executive director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which published the report with the National Lawyers Guild and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. “But with the backing of only 9.6 percent of registered voters, the incoming president will face serious limits to his popular mandate.”

The report points out that the collapse in electoral participation has occurred while the international community has made “massive investments” in Haiti’s electoral apparatus:

A decade of elections marked by violence, vote-rigging, disenfranchisement, and repeated foreign interventions have dashed the high hopes of the post-Duvalier years and bred a deep disillusionment with democracy, according to the report. Paradoxically, falling participation rates have occurred alongside massive investments by the international community in Haiti’s electoral apparatus. Brian Concannon Jr … notes, “the millions spent by the United States and other Core Group countries on democracy promotion programs have produced an electoral system that is weaker, less trusted and more exclusionary than what came before.”

The full report can be read here.

With the election of Donald Trump in the United States, observers have been watching for a change in US policy towards Haiti. The US has been seen as backing Moïse and his predecessor Martelly since Hillary Clinton’s intervention in the 2010-2011 elections led to Martelly’s presidency. Yesterday, however, the Trump administration announced a delegation to Haiti for Moïse’s inauguration consisting of Thomas Shannon, Kenneth Merten and current ambassador Peter Mulrean, three Obama-era State Department holdovers. Also accompanying them was Omarosa Manigault, a communications advisor to Trump and former reality TV star.

In an interview last week, Jovenel Moïse told Reuters that he hoped his shared background with Trump as businessmen would help lead to stronger relations between the two countries. “President Trump and I are entrepreneurs, and all an entrepreneur wants is results,” Moïse told Reuters, “and therefore I hope we’ll put everything in place to make sure we deliver for our peoples.”

Jovenel Moïse will be inaugurated as Haiti’s new president today as the country returns to constitutional order after a one-year extra-constitutional period of interim rule due to electoral delays.  Moïse had previously come in first in an October 2015 election, only to have the results thrown out due to fraud. Rerun in November 2016 under the interim government that replaced former president Michel Martelly, the elections had Moïse securing more than 50 percent of the vote, winning in the first round.

But serious questions continue to dog Moïse as he takes office. Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald reports:

Since his win, Moïse has been on a countrywide tour, celebrating his victory, endorsing candidates for the recently held local elections — and battling money-laundering suspicions.

Moïse has dismissed the suspicions as the work of political opponents. The probe began in 2013 under Martelly’s administration when the anti-financial crimes unit was tipped off about a suspicious bank transaction, the current head of the unit, Sonel Jean-François, has said.

Over the weekend, an investigative judge assigned to the case sent his findings to the government prosecutor, but the judge’s order has not been made public. Government prosecutor Danton Léger has yet to say whether he will dismiss the case, send it back to the judge for further review, or prosecute Moïse.

Should he seek to prosecute Moïse, Haiti could find itself in an even deeper crisis than the one triggered by the annulled October 2015 presidential elections.

In a 7-page letter dated February 6, Leger, the government prosecutor, requested further information on the allegations against Moïse, ensuring it will continue to hang over the new president.

The money laundering allegations, however, are far from the only topic overshadowing Moïse’s inauguration today. A new report on Haiti’s November elections, from international legal observers, has raised questions as to how effective the new administration may be given the historically low turnout. The report’s authors also note that Haiti’s national identity office was hindered by significant problems, affecting the ability of Haitians to vote:

The report notes that despite many improvements in security and electoral administration over the 2015 elections, the 21 percent voter turnout represents the lowest participation rate for a national election in the Western Hemisphere since 1945. “Many Haitians did not vote, not because they did not want to, but because they were unable due to difficulties in obtaining electoral cards, registering to vote and finding their names on outdated electoral lists,” said attorney Nicole Phillips, delegation leader and co-author of the report.

The report documents how many would-be voters were disenfranchised on November 20, due to pervasive errors on electoral lists, difficulties accessing identity cards, and lack of voter education. Haitian electoral authorities also failed to take adequate measures against fraudulent voting. Prior to the election, the head of the National Identification Office (ONI) admitted that 2.4 million activated but undistributed cards had gone missing, which opened the door to fraud via trafficked identity cards.

The report’s authors also note with concern that Moïse could follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, former president Michel Martelly, who surrounded himself with figures from the Duvalier dictatorship and was criticized by human rights groups for his intimidation of journalists and imprisonment of opposition activists. “With a majority in parliament, the temptation for President Moïse to run roughshod over any opposition will be great,” said Brian Concannon, the executive director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which published the report with the National Lawyers Guild and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. “But with the backing of only 9.6 percent of registered voters, the incoming president will face serious limits to his popular mandate.”

The report points out that the collapse in electoral participation has occurred while the international community has made “massive investments” in Haiti’s electoral apparatus:

A decade of elections marked by violence, vote-rigging, disenfranchisement, and repeated foreign interventions have dashed the high hopes of the post-Duvalier years and bred a deep disillusionment with democracy, according to the report. Paradoxically, falling participation rates have occurred alongside massive investments by the international community in Haiti’s electoral apparatus. Brian Concannon Jr … notes, “the millions spent by the United States and other Core Group countries on democracy promotion programs have produced an electoral system that is weaker, less trusted and more exclusionary than what came before.”

The full report can be read here.

With the election of Donald Trump in the United States, observers have been watching for a change in US policy towards Haiti. The US has been seen as backing Moïse and his predecessor Martelly since Hillary Clinton’s intervention in the 2010-2011 elections led to Martelly’s presidency. Yesterday, however, the Trump administration announced a delegation to Haiti for Moïse’s inauguration consisting of Thomas Shannon, Kenneth Merten and current ambassador Peter Mulrean, three Obama-era State Department holdovers. Also accompanying them was Omarosa Manigault, a communications advisor to Trump and former reality TV star.

In an interview last week, Jovenel Moïse told Reuters that he hoped his shared background with Trump as businessmen would help lead to stronger relations between the two countries. “President Trump and I are entrepreneurs, and all an entrepreneur wants is results,” Moïse told Reuters, “and therefore I hope we’ll put everything in place to make sure we deliver for our peoples.”

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