Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

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

In September 2013 the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court ruled that those born to undocumented foreigners would not be able to maintain citizenship, mainly impacting Dominicans of Haitian descent. The deadline to formalize one’s legal status passed in June, with many thousands left unable to do so because of a lack of documentation. Already nearly 40,000 have “voluntarily” self-deported to Haiti, fearing a looming crackdown in the country many of them have never left. At a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) Wednesday, Haitian foreign minister Lener Renauld accused the Dominicans of leaving Haitians at the border “like dogs.”

But just three months after the court’s ruling, before the world’s attention turned to the island of Hispaniola and the humanitarian crisis on the border, the Dominican Republic hired a D.C.-based lobbying firm to assist with “consolidating and strengthening the image of the Dominican State in the eyes of the [sic] international public opinion,” according to documents filed as part of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

The documents show that the Dominican Republic paid the lobbying firm Steptoe & Johnson over $820,000 between January and August of 2014. The relationship appears to be ongoing however, and it is likely that those costs have only increased with the spotlight now firmly on the Dominican Republic and the firm bringing in hourly rates of around $1,000.

DR Lobby 1

Image: Talking points distributed by Steptoe & Johnson to congressional and executive offices

Lobbyists for Steptoe & Johnson distributed copies of talking points (image above) to congressional and executive offices, describing the migration policy as “modern and transparent” and as a means of protecting the “fundamental rights” of everyone living in the Dominican Republic. Between January and May 2014, the lobbyists met with the offices of at least 24 members of congress, including key players on the foreign affairs committee. In addition to interactions with congress, the contract between the Dominican Republic and Steptoe & Johnson describes a number of other actions, including placement of “interviews, features, opinion pieces in U.S. mainstream media.”

DR lobby 2

Image: Section of job description in contract between Steptoe & Johnson and the Dominican Republic

At the Organization of American States meeting Wednesday, Haiti asked for international support in coming to a solution to the crisis. A mission from the OAS is set to travel to Hispaniola this weekend. While other Caribbean nations have been vocal in defense of Haiti and have criticized the Dominican Republic’s actions, much of the rest of the hemisphere has remained on the sidelines. The U.S., noted that it was “monitoring the situation closely” and providing funding to civil society groups working in the border area. In private meetings, U.S. officials have stated that their silence is not an indication of how serious they are taking this, but they have preferred to work behind the scenes with the two countries so far.

At the meeting the Dominican Republic’s representative to the OAS accused Haiti of leading a “misinformation campaign” designed to hide the facts. But while he said there were no deportations currently happening, Wade McMullen, an attorney at the Robert F.Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, told the Miami Herald that, “Deportations, forcible removals are happening on a consistent and ongoing basis… None of the things the Dominican government said they were going to do…are happening.” The lobbying contract also notes that Steptoe & Johnson is responsible for “writing of texts” for press releases, speeches and “arguments.”

Who’s really running the misinformation campaign? And how much is it costing?

In September 2013 the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court ruled that those born to undocumented foreigners would not be able to maintain citizenship, mainly impacting Dominicans of Haitian descent. The deadline to formalize one’s legal status passed in June, with many thousands left unable to do so because of a lack of documentation. Already nearly 40,000 have “voluntarily” self-deported to Haiti, fearing a looming crackdown in the country many of them have never left. At a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) Wednesday, Haitian foreign minister Lener Renauld accused the Dominicans of leaving Haitians at the border “like dogs.”

But just three months after the court’s ruling, before the world’s attention turned to the island of Hispaniola and the humanitarian crisis on the border, the Dominican Republic hired a D.C.-based lobbying firm to assist with “consolidating and strengthening the image of the Dominican State in the eyes of the [sic] international public opinion,” according to documents filed as part of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

The documents show that the Dominican Republic paid the lobbying firm Steptoe & Johnson over $820,000 between January and August of 2014. The relationship appears to be ongoing however, and it is likely that those costs have only increased with the spotlight now firmly on the Dominican Republic and the firm bringing in hourly rates of around $1,000.

DR Lobby 1

Image: Talking points distributed by Steptoe & Johnson to congressional and executive offices

Lobbyists for Steptoe & Johnson distributed copies of talking points (image above) to congressional and executive offices, describing the migration policy as “modern and transparent” and as a means of protecting the “fundamental rights” of everyone living in the Dominican Republic. Between January and May 2014, the lobbyists met with the offices of at least 24 members of congress, including key players on the foreign affairs committee. In addition to interactions with congress, the contract between the Dominican Republic and Steptoe & Johnson describes a number of other actions, including placement of “interviews, features, opinion pieces in U.S. mainstream media.”

DR lobby 2

Image: Section of job description in contract between Steptoe & Johnson and the Dominican Republic

At the Organization of American States meeting Wednesday, Haiti asked for international support in coming to a solution to the crisis. A mission from the OAS is set to travel to Hispaniola this weekend. While other Caribbean nations have been vocal in defense of Haiti and have criticized the Dominican Republic’s actions, much of the rest of the hemisphere has remained on the sidelines. The U.S., noted that it was “monitoring the situation closely” and providing funding to civil society groups working in the border area. In private meetings, U.S. officials have stated that their silence is not an indication of how serious they are taking this, but they have preferred to work behind the scenes with the two countries so far.

At the meeting the Dominican Republic’s representative to the OAS accused Haiti of leading a “misinformation campaign” designed to hide the facts. But while he said there were no deportations currently happening, Wade McMullen, an attorney at the Robert F.Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, told the Miami Herald that, “Deportations, forcible removals are happening on a consistent and ongoing basis… None of the things the Dominican government said they were going to do…are happening.” The lobbying contract also notes that Steptoe & Johnson is responsible for “writing of texts” for press releases, speeches and “arguments.”

Who’s really running the misinformation campaign? And how much is it costing?

Democrats and Republicans may not see eye to eye on much these days, but one thing a number of them do strongly agree on is the need for greater accountability and transparency around U.S. assistance to Haiti. Last year, Republican representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Ed Royce joined senior Democrats from the Senate and the House of Representatives in supporting the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act (APHA), a bill originally introduced by progressive California Democrat Barbara Lee. In a rare display of constructive bipartisanship, the bill was quickly passed by both houses of Congress last July and signed into law by President Obama in early August. 

Now, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are again working to try to ensure that the APHA is properly implemented.  In a July 6 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, 12 House representatives called for the APHA to be implemented “in accordance with both the spirit and the letter of the legislation” and requested that the State Department make a number of significant improvements to the APHA-mandated annual reports on the “status of post-earthquake recovery and development efforts in Haiti.”

The letter cannot be easily ignored by the State Department. It is signed by some of the most senior members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, including its chair, Ed Royce (R-Calif.); its ranking member, Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.); and other top-ranking members like Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.) and Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.).  It is also signed by nearly every Congressional Black Caucus member who is focused on Haiti, including Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) and Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.).

The annual report that the congressional members want to see improved is the centerpiece of the Assessing Progress Act. It includes reporting requirements designed to provide policymakers and the public with a clear picture of exactly how U.S. funds are used in Haiti aid programs and what progress is being made toward meeting pre-defined objectives and benchmarks. Having written extensively about the glaring lack of transparency around U.S. aid programs, we were supportive of the passage of the APHA and pleased to see that its reporting requirements took into account a number of our recommendations.

When the State Department’s first report was made public in January of this year, we noted that it provided a lot of useful information for researchers to work with but that often the information provided was incomplete and that there were “instances where State’s reporting may formally comply with the letter of the law, but not with its clear intent of providing lawmakers and the public with a better idea of the concrete results of U.S. Haiti assistance.”

The lawmakers who signed the July 6 letter to Kerry appear to agree with this assessment. They first lay out a global request:  that future reports “be presented and delivered in a cohesive and readily accessible document, so that Members of Congress, their staffs, and any interested party may review them without impediment.”

Later in the letter, the lawmakers provide more specific requests:

In terms of report content, we would request that future reports provide further details in the list of projects, including project milestones achieved to date, and projects’ relation to the benchmarks and goals outlined elsewhere in the report and attachments. Furthermore, in order to have a clearer picture of aid implementation at the subprime level, the following information about subprime awardees should be provided: location of contractor, funds received (both obligated and disbursed), and a description of the specific task assigned to the subprime awardee. The information on the sub-awardees country of origin is especially important, as it allows members of Congress and the public to better evaluate the involvement of local businesses and organizations in the recovery effort.

And also:

We would request that future reports incorporate any updates or adjustments made to the three-year strategy [a separate document that is also mandated by APHA], as well as ample discussion of aid programs aimed at improvement of Haitian governance and democracy. In the name of transparency, we would also request that you consider providing a translation of the main report text into Haitian Kreyol to allow for review by Haitians.

The next APHA report is due by the end of 2015, leaving the State Department with nearly six months to implement these congressional requests.  If State takes these requests seriously – and they should if they value their relations with all of the key lawmakers working on Haiti policy – we will soon have a much clearer picture of where U.S. money is going in Haiti.

Democrats and Republicans may not see eye to eye on much these days, but one thing a number of them do strongly agree on is the need for greater accountability and transparency around U.S. assistance to Haiti. Last year, Republican representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Ed Royce joined senior Democrats from the Senate and the House of Representatives in supporting the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act (APHA), a bill originally introduced by progressive California Democrat Barbara Lee. In a rare display of constructive bipartisanship, the bill was quickly passed by both houses of Congress last July and signed into law by President Obama in early August. 

Now, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are again working to try to ensure that the APHA is properly implemented.  In a July 6 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, 12 House representatives called for the APHA to be implemented “in accordance with both the spirit and the letter of the legislation” and requested that the State Department make a number of significant improvements to the APHA-mandated annual reports on the “status of post-earthquake recovery and development efforts in Haiti.”

The letter cannot be easily ignored by the State Department. It is signed by some of the most senior members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, including its chair, Ed Royce (R-Calif.); its ranking member, Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.); and other top-ranking members like Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.) and Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.).  It is also signed by nearly every Congressional Black Caucus member who is focused on Haiti, including Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) and Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.).

The annual report that the congressional members want to see improved is the centerpiece of the Assessing Progress Act. It includes reporting requirements designed to provide policymakers and the public with a clear picture of exactly how U.S. funds are used in Haiti aid programs and what progress is being made toward meeting pre-defined objectives and benchmarks. Having written extensively about the glaring lack of transparency around U.S. aid programs, we were supportive of the passage of the APHA and pleased to see that its reporting requirements took into account a number of our recommendations.

When the State Department’s first report was made public in January of this year, we noted that it provided a lot of useful information for researchers to work with but that often the information provided was incomplete and that there were “instances where State’s reporting may formally comply with the letter of the law, but not with its clear intent of providing lawmakers and the public with a better idea of the concrete results of U.S. Haiti assistance.”

The lawmakers who signed the July 6 letter to Kerry appear to agree with this assessment. They first lay out a global request:  that future reports “be presented and delivered in a cohesive and readily accessible document, so that Members of Congress, their staffs, and any interested party may review them without impediment.”

Later in the letter, the lawmakers provide more specific requests:

In terms of report content, we would request that future reports provide further details in the list of projects, including project milestones achieved to date, and projects’ relation to the benchmarks and goals outlined elsewhere in the report and attachments. Furthermore, in order to have a clearer picture of aid implementation at the subprime level, the following information about subprime awardees should be provided: location of contractor, funds received (both obligated and disbursed), and a description of the specific task assigned to the subprime awardee. The information on the sub-awardees country of origin is especially important, as it allows members of Congress and the public to better evaluate the involvement of local businesses and organizations in the recovery effort.

And also:

We would request that future reports incorporate any updates or adjustments made to the three-year strategy [a separate document that is also mandated by APHA], as well as ample discussion of aid programs aimed at improvement of Haitian governance and democracy. In the name of transparency, we would also request that you consider providing a translation of the main report text into Haitian Kreyol to allow for review by Haitians.

The next APHA report is due by the end of 2015, leaving the State Department with nearly six months to implement these congressional requests.  If State takes these requests seriously – and they should if they value their relations with all of the key lawmakers working on Haiti policy – we will soon have a much clearer picture of where U.S. money is going in Haiti.

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti. 

On Sunday, July 5, an employee of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), Wikenson Bazile, was shot and killed in the busy Delmas 32 neighborhood. Bazile worked in the office of Jaccéus Joseph, the representative of human rights groups to the CEP. The spokesperson for the CEP, Frantz Bernadin, told Alterpresse on July 6, “We have no interpretation of what happened, we leave the judiciary and the police to do their job and we wait for the results of the investigation [in order] to have more information.”

The electoral advisor, Joseph, however was quick to point out that it was likely an assassination attempt. Joseph explained that there was no indication that Bazile had been robbed, and also pointed to threats he has received. “Taking into account the threats which I am the object of and assassination attempts during my presence in the CEP, I do not take this action lightly,” Joseph told the Nouvelliste, while adding that he would leave it to the police to do its job. Jaccéus Joseph stated that he believed the threats were a result of the neutrality shown by the electoral council.

In a radio interview last week, another CEP member, Nehemy Joseph, alleged that a group of disqualified candidates paid $5,000 USD to “a few assassins whose mission was to kill [CEP member] Jaccéus Joseph, myself and other councilors.” The allegation was quickly denied by Jonas Coffy, a representative of the group, who alleged that Nehemy Joseph had solicited bribes from excluded candidates for their reinstatement.

In May, Professor Emmanual Gouthier, Vice Director at the Ministry of the Interior was shot and killed. Gouthier was tasked with investigating potential candidates. There has been no further information released on the status of the investigation.

Today, the U.N. Special Representative to the Secretary General and head of the U.N. troop contingent in Haiti, Sandra Honoré, condemned the killing of Bazile and called on the police to conduct a prompt investigation into the circumstances. Honoré reiterated a call for all Haitians to reject violence, especially during the electoral period. 

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti. 

On Sunday, July 5, an employee of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), Wikenson Bazile, was shot and killed in the busy Delmas 32 neighborhood. Bazile worked in the office of Jaccéus Joseph, the representative of human rights groups to the CEP. The spokesperson for the CEP, Frantz Bernadin, told Alterpresse on July 6, “We have no interpretation of what happened, we leave the judiciary and the police to do their job and we wait for the results of the investigation [in order] to have more information.”

The electoral advisor, Joseph, however was quick to point out that it was likely an assassination attempt. Joseph explained that there was no indication that Bazile had been robbed, and also pointed to threats he has received. “Taking into account the threats which I am the object of and assassination attempts during my presence in the CEP, I do not take this action lightly,” Joseph told the Nouvelliste, while adding that he would leave it to the police to do its job. Jaccéus Joseph stated that he believed the threats were a result of the neutrality shown by the electoral council.

In a radio interview last week, another CEP member, Nehemy Joseph, alleged that a group of disqualified candidates paid $5,000 USD to “a few assassins whose mission was to kill [CEP member] Jaccéus Joseph, myself and other councilors.” The allegation was quickly denied by Jonas Coffy, a representative of the group, who alleged that Nehemy Joseph had solicited bribes from excluded candidates for their reinstatement.

In May, Professor Emmanual Gouthier, Vice Director at the Ministry of the Interior was shot and killed. Gouthier was tasked with investigating potential candidates. There has been no further information released on the status of the investigation.

Today, the U.N. Special Representative to the Secretary General and head of the U.N. troop contingent in Haiti, Sandra Honoré, condemned the killing of Bazile and called on the police to conduct a prompt investigation into the circumstances. Honoré reiterated a call for all Haitians to reject violence, especially during the electoral period. 

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti. 

The Organization of American States (OAS) signed an accord with the Haitian government to send international observers to monitor elections in 2015. In 2010, the OAS election observation mission was considered highly controversial due to its role in certifying the presidential elections. Haitian Foreign Minister Lener Renauld believes this accord “reaffirms the determination of President Martelly . . . to support the electoral calendar,” and indicates the commitment of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to administer elections on schedule. Nevertheless, there has been considerable speculation and doubt over whether elections will be administered on time.

Presidential candidates Jacky Lumarque and Francois Levelt were disqualified by the CEP over the weekend. Lumarque, running under the VERITE party of former President René Préval, was disqualified for failing to have a décharge. Levelt, running under the Party for the Haitian Diaspora for Haiti, was disqualified after prior felony convictions came to light. Earlier in the week, a coalition of 17 political parties sent an open letter to the CEP urging for Lumarque’s disqualification due to his failure to secure a décharge, and calling on the CEP not to engage in double standards. Although CEP President Pierre Louis Opont previously stated that the presidential candidate list was final, he later said the CEP would continue to review the eligibility of presidential candidates.

The CEP put out an informational video on enhancing women’s political participation in the upcoming local elections. The one-minute video, currently broadcast on local television and radio, calls on political parties to include more female candidates and party representatives. The Haitian constitution and Electoral decree both mandate a 30% quota for women in public office, though the current rate of female representation is around 5%.


Former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe criticized the CEP for the unjustified exclusion of political candidates. On Wednesday, June 17, Lamothe issued a strongly worded statement alleging that the electoral process has been “forever tainted” by the CEP’s arbitrary exclusion of candidates. Although Lamothe was disqualified for the same reason as many other candidates, he has nevertheless called on the international community to “understand the kind of elections that will transpire in Haiti if nothing is done to restore my candidacy. It has allowed and even seemingly encouraged this process to unfold; it now should also play a role in redirecting the course before once again Haiti faces major political turmoil.”

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti. 

The Organization of American States (OAS) signed an accord with the Haitian government to send international observers to monitor elections in 2015. In 2010, the OAS election observation mission was considered highly controversial due to its role in certifying the presidential elections. Haitian Foreign Minister Lener Renauld believes this accord “reaffirms the determination of President Martelly . . . to support the electoral calendar,” and indicates the commitment of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to administer elections on schedule. Nevertheless, there has been considerable speculation and doubt over whether elections will be administered on time.

Presidential candidates Jacky Lumarque and Francois Levelt were disqualified by the CEP over the weekend. Lumarque, running under the VERITE party of former President René Préval, was disqualified for failing to have a décharge. Levelt, running under the Party for the Haitian Diaspora for Haiti, was disqualified after prior felony convictions came to light. Earlier in the week, a coalition of 17 political parties sent an open letter to the CEP urging for Lumarque’s disqualification due to his failure to secure a décharge, and calling on the CEP not to engage in double standards. Although CEP President Pierre Louis Opont previously stated that the presidential candidate list was final, he later said the CEP would continue to review the eligibility of presidential candidates.

The CEP put out an informational video on enhancing women’s political participation in the upcoming local elections. The one-minute video, currently broadcast on local television and radio, calls on political parties to include more female candidates and party representatives. The Haitian constitution and Electoral decree both mandate a 30% quota for women in public office, though the current rate of female representation is around 5%.


Former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe criticized the CEP for the unjustified exclusion of political candidates. On Wednesday, June 17, Lamothe issued a strongly worded statement alleging that the electoral process has been “forever tainted” by the CEP’s arbitrary exclusion of candidates. Although Lamothe was disqualified for the same reason as many other candidates, he has nevertheless called on the international community to “understand the kind of elections that will transpire in Haiti if nothing is done to restore my candidacy. It has allowed and even seemingly encouraged this process to unfold; it now should also play a role in redirecting the course before once again Haiti faces major political turmoil.”

In February, USAID suspended Thor Construction, one of two contractors responsible for designing and building 750 houses in Haiti’s north, in Caracol. In March, the second contractor, CEEPCO, was also suspended. As previous HRRW reporting revealed, the houses were found to be of poor quality, with numerous structural deficiencies including the use of substandard concrete. USAID is currently investigating and putting together a potential legal case against the contractors; however, they continue to downplay the problems and their own role in them.

HRRW has obtained an internal assessment of the Caracol-EKAM housing development, performed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers last year. The report directly contradicts USAID’s public comments on the housing development.

On its website, USAID has a “fact sheet” on the project, explaining: “To address natural disaster concerns, the 750 houses are designed to International Building Code earthquake and hurricane safety standards, and constructed with reinforced concrete masonry.” The webpage says it was updated in February 2015, nearly a year after USAID first began investigating. There is no mention of any problems with the houses in the “fact sheet.”

Turning to the Army Corp of Engineers report, it makes clear that from the very beginning, International Building Codes were ignored. The report “found no evidence that a formal internal or external review” of the housing design was conducted and further, that “the project was designed with inconsistent application of code and latest design criteria,” despite the contract mandating compliance with the International Building Code. The lack of any oversight provided at this crucial early stage is a clear indictment of USAID’s own role in the project’s failure.

USACE Summary Caracol EKAM
Summary of Findings from US Army Corp of Engineers Technical Assessment

USAID also maintains that the houses are built with “reinforced concrete masonry” and are built to hurricane and earthquake safety standards. Not so fast, says the Army Corp of Engineers: “The project was constructed with significant variances from the contract plans and specifications. These variances could result in major damage from a hurricane or seismic event and excessive maintenance requirements if left uncorrected.”

And as for the reinforced masonry? “Seismic design of the housing units is deficient for construction within an area with high seismic activity. The design does not provide special reinforced masonry shearwalls as required for seismic design classification,” the report found, adding: “Combined with a lack of masonry joint reinforcement, omitted by the contractor, the walls are vulnerable to shear failure and step cracking in a seismic event.” A later report also obtained by HRRW, and prepared as part of USAID’s legal case against the suspended contractors, points out that the concrete used in the masonry is far below the required strength.

Caracol Concrete
Image from internal USAID document, showing sub-standard concrete used.

The U.S. responded to Haiti’s earthquake, in which poorly constructed homes contribured to hundreds of thousands of deaths, by committing to facilitate the construction of 15,000 permanent homes in Haiti for $50 million. In the end, they’ve built just over 900 and costs have doubled. But worst of all, 750 of those 900 houses aren’t even built to withstand the next earthquake. In the meantime, residents of the houses are paying monthly rent and after five years will take over ownership of the houses, but what quality of houses are they being asked to pay for? And is USAID being upfront with the community about the extent of the problems?

The Army Corp of Engineers report is available here

In February, USAID suspended Thor Construction, one of two contractors responsible for designing and building 750 houses in Haiti’s north, in Caracol. In March, the second contractor, CEEPCO, was also suspended. As previous HRRW reporting revealed, the houses were found to be of poor quality, with numerous structural deficiencies including the use of substandard concrete. USAID is currently investigating and putting together a potential legal case against the contractors; however, they continue to downplay the problems and their own role in them.

HRRW has obtained an internal assessment of the Caracol-EKAM housing development, performed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers last year. The report directly contradicts USAID’s public comments on the housing development.

On its website, USAID has a “fact sheet” on the project, explaining: “To address natural disaster concerns, the 750 houses are designed to International Building Code earthquake and hurricane safety standards, and constructed with reinforced concrete masonry.” The webpage says it was updated in February 2015, nearly a year after USAID first began investigating. There is no mention of any problems with the houses in the “fact sheet.”

Turning to the Army Corp of Engineers report, it makes clear that from the very beginning, International Building Codes were ignored. The report “found no evidence that a formal internal or external review” of the housing design was conducted and further, that “the project was designed with inconsistent application of code and latest design criteria,” despite the contract mandating compliance with the International Building Code. The lack of any oversight provided at this crucial early stage is a clear indictment of USAID’s own role in the project’s failure.

USACE Summary Caracol EKAM
Summary of Findings from US Army Corp of Engineers Technical Assessment

USAID also maintains that the houses are built with “reinforced concrete masonry” and are built to hurricane and earthquake safety standards. Not so fast, says the Army Corp of Engineers: “The project was constructed with significant variances from the contract plans and specifications. These variances could result in major damage from a hurricane or seismic event and excessive maintenance requirements if left uncorrected.”

And as for the reinforced masonry? “Seismic design of the housing units is deficient for construction within an area with high seismic activity. The design does not provide special reinforced masonry shearwalls as required for seismic design classification,” the report found, adding: “Combined with a lack of masonry joint reinforcement, omitted by the contractor, the walls are vulnerable to shear failure and step cracking in a seismic event.” A later report also obtained by HRRW, and prepared as part of USAID’s legal case against the suspended contractors, points out that the concrete used in the masonry is far below the required strength.

Caracol Concrete
Image from internal USAID document, showing sub-standard concrete used.

The U.S. responded to Haiti’s earthquake, in which poorly constructed homes contribured to hundreds of thousands of deaths, by committing to facilitate the construction of 15,000 permanent homes in Haiti for $50 million. In the end, they’ve built just over 900 and costs have doubled. But worst of all, 750 of those 900 houses aren’t even built to withstand the next earthquake. In the meantime, residents of the houses are paying monthly rent and after five years will take over ownership of the houses, but what quality of houses are they being asked to pay for? And is USAID being upfront with the community about the extent of the problems?

The Army Corp of Engineers report is available here

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti. 

On Friday, the CEP published the final list of approved presidential candidates for the upcoming election scheduled to take place October 25, 2015. Of an initial 70 candidates, the CEP accepted 58. Among those excluded from the race was former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe as well as former government ministers Thierry Mayard Paul and Josefina Gauthier. Among the 12 excluded candidates, 9 were excluded for lacking the proper discharge certificate. Radio Kiskeya provides a brief biographical description of each of the 58 candidates, while Le Nouvelliste provides a description of what they describe as the 12 leading candidates. Both Le National and Le Nouvelliste discuss the potential for political alliances in the run-up to elections. Le National points out that the “Lavalas movement is well represented” by a number of candidates but risks splitting the vote if they do not reach some sort of alliance. 

The “Core Group” released a statement on Friday welcoming the CEP’s publication of the list of presidential candidates. The statement reads in part: “The publication of the list of presidential candidates constitutes an important step in the implementation of the electoral process. The ‘Core Group’ reiterates its full support to the work of the Council and the ongoing organization of elections. The Group invites all stakeholders to continue to participate constructively in the 2015 electoral process. The ‘Core Group’ salutes the efforts of the Government of the Republic towards the continued strengthening of democracy in Haiti. The members of the Core Group emphasize the importance of building on the current momentum and supporting the CEP, the Government and people of Haiti, including the political parties, in the conduct of fair, transparent and inclusive elections in a climate of serenity.”

Many political parties are still questioning the electoral schedule provided by the CEP, reports Alterpresse. Legislative elections scheduled for August 9, despite assurances from the CEP that they will be held on time, are being questioned by leaders of Fusion, OPL and MOPOD among others. Secretary General of Fusion, Ramon Pradel, told Alterpresse that, “we do not believe that the elections will take place on that date,” due to logistical questions that have yet to be worked out. Fusion and OPL have 97 and 93 candidates in the legislative race respectively, while MOPOD has 23. A key issue has been a significant funding shortfall in the electoral budget, but U.S. Haiti Special Coordinator Tom Adams stated over the weekend that the U.S. would increase their financial contribution. Adams has previously publically expressed his opinion that the August election should be delayed and incorporated into the October 25 presidential election as a way to save money, a position which is supported by many political parties in Haiti.  

Following his exclusion from the race, former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe has continued an international campaign to build support for his inclusion. Lamothe released a statement on Friday saying: “this list clearly shows that the CEP is transforming the 2015 elections into an unfair selection based on political motives, with the goal of provoking social strife and instability in the country.” Lamothe had announced a press conference for this morning with fellow excluded candidates Edwin Zenny and Anthony “Ti Tony” Bennet, however neither Bennet nor Lamothe showed up. Lamothe’s advisors have previously pledged to use “popular power” to ensure his inclusion in the race.  After the publication of the final list, however, CEP president Pierre Louis Opont declared that there would be no changes made

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio stepped into the electoral fray after introducing an amendment to the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act which would require the State Department to report on Haiti’s elections and if any candidates are excluded for “political reasons.” An e-mailed statement reads, in part: Senator Rubio “believes that it is important that the Haitian people have the opportunity to freely and fairly choose their leaders…The Senator is pleased that the State Department will now be required to continue to update Congress on the status of Haiti’s elections to help ensure that the Haitian government is responsive to the needs of its citizens.” The amendment was promoted on social media by Lamothe’s campaign in the run up to the CEP’s final decision, but an advisor told the Miami Herald that while they supported the amendment, they did not lobby for it. The advisor, Damian Merlo, told the Herald that the State Department “cannot just stand on the sidelines and claim this is a ‘Haitian issue.’ Free and fair elections do not seem to be shaping up in Haiti if Lamothe is left out of race, and U.S. interests are also at stake.”

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti. 

On Friday, the CEP published the final list of approved presidential candidates for the upcoming election scheduled to take place October 25, 2015. Of an initial 70 candidates, the CEP accepted 58. Among those excluded from the race was former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe as well as former government ministers Thierry Mayard Paul and Josefina Gauthier. Among the 12 excluded candidates, 9 were excluded for lacking the proper discharge certificate. Radio Kiskeya provides a brief biographical description of each of the 58 candidates, while Le Nouvelliste provides a description of what they describe as the 12 leading candidates. Both Le National and Le Nouvelliste discuss the potential for political alliances in the run-up to elections. Le National points out that the “Lavalas movement is well represented” by a number of candidates but risks splitting the vote if they do not reach some sort of alliance. 

The “Core Group” released a statement on Friday welcoming the CEP’s publication of the list of presidential candidates. The statement reads in part: “The publication of the list of presidential candidates constitutes an important step in the implementation of the electoral process. The ‘Core Group’ reiterates its full support to the work of the Council and the ongoing organization of elections. The Group invites all stakeholders to continue to participate constructively in the 2015 electoral process. The ‘Core Group’ salutes the efforts of the Government of the Republic towards the continued strengthening of democracy in Haiti. The members of the Core Group emphasize the importance of building on the current momentum and supporting the CEP, the Government and people of Haiti, including the political parties, in the conduct of fair, transparent and inclusive elections in a climate of serenity.”

Many political parties are still questioning the electoral schedule provided by the CEP, reports Alterpresse. Legislative elections scheduled for August 9, despite assurances from the CEP that they will be held on time, are being questioned by leaders of Fusion, OPL and MOPOD among others. Secretary General of Fusion, Ramon Pradel, told Alterpresse that, “we do not believe that the elections will take place on that date,” due to logistical questions that have yet to be worked out. Fusion and OPL have 97 and 93 candidates in the legislative race respectively, while MOPOD has 23. A key issue has been a significant funding shortfall in the electoral budget, but U.S. Haiti Special Coordinator Tom Adams stated over the weekend that the U.S. would increase their financial contribution. Adams has previously publically expressed his opinion that the August election should be delayed and incorporated into the October 25 presidential election as a way to save money, a position which is supported by many political parties in Haiti.  

Following his exclusion from the race, former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe has continued an international campaign to build support for his inclusion. Lamothe released a statement on Friday saying: “this list clearly shows that the CEP is transforming the 2015 elections into an unfair selection based on political motives, with the goal of provoking social strife and instability in the country.” Lamothe had announced a press conference for this morning with fellow excluded candidates Edwin Zenny and Anthony “Ti Tony” Bennet, however neither Bennet nor Lamothe showed up. Lamothe’s advisors have previously pledged to use “popular power” to ensure his inclusion in the race.  After the publication of the final list, however, CEP president Pierre Louis Opont declared that there would be no changes made

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio stepped into the electoral fray after introducing an amendment to the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act which would require the State Department to report on Haiti’s elections and if any candidates are excluded for “political reasons.” An e-mailed statement reads, in part: Senator Rubio “believes that it is important that the Haitian people have the opportunity to freely and fairly choose their leaders…The Senator is pleased that the State Department will now be required to continue to update Congress on the status of Haiti’s elections to help ensure that the Haitian government is responsive to the needs of its citizens.” The amendment was promoted on social media by Lamothe’s campaign in the run up to the CEP’s final decision, but an advisor told the Miami Herald that while they supported the amendment, they did not lobby for it. The advisor, Damian Merlo, told the Herald that the State Department “cannot just stand on the sidelines and claim this is a ‘Haitian issue.’ Free and fair elections do not seem to be shaping up in Haiti if Lamothe is left out of race, and U.S. interests are also at stake.”

Caracol Flood houses
Image of flooding at Caracol EKAM Shelter site from internal USAID document. Caption reads: “Site flooding due to improper drainage”

Despite USAID allocating some $1.7 billion for the reconstruction effort in Haiti, its projects have exhibited varying levels of success and face serious sustainability challenges, according to a report [PDF] released yesterday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO analyzed 23 USAID projects across all eight sectors of USAID’s portfolio. Each program was allocated at least $10 million. The GAO report found that because of delays, USAID has extended its Haiti strategy for three more years, through 2018.

According to USAID officials, the factors leading to cost overruns, delays and poor results were a “lack of staff with relevant expertise, unrealistic initial plans, challenges encountered with some implementing partners, and delayed or revised decisions from the Haitian government.”

The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles reports:

The release of the report by the GAO, which works for Congress, came a day ahead of a visit to Haiti by U.S. congressional staffers from the House Foreign Affairs committee. Led by Eddy Acevedo, senior policy advisor to U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the delegation plans to visit some of the projects, including empty housing plots, where work stalled because the agencies that were supposed to build the homes on behalf of USAID pulled out.

The GAO report found that five of USAID’s six major infrastructure projects had to reduce planned outcomes and “encountered delays in 4 of these activities.” Non-infrastructure activities also faced delays and reduced outcomes, but to a lesser extent. The various delays have led USAID to extend its time frame for Haiti work by three years, through 2018.

Though results varied across sectors, the GAO report revealed that in the 17 non-infrastructure projects analyzed, not a single one met or exceeded all of its performance indicators. In the case of infrastructure projects, the results were even worse. The auditors report that during a site visit to the Caracol EKAM shelter program:

we observed unresolved concerns such as blocked drainage pipes and ditches that led to flooding in the settlement after heavy rains, and blocked and crushed sewage pipes. We also observed open water catchment tanks adjacent to some houses that had become breeding areas for mosquitoes.

The report notes that the original plan was to prepare 15,000 lots and build 4,000 homes, but that “The mission had reduced the planned number of plots to 2,013, or by 87 percent, with 906 of the houses to be built by USAID, a reduction of 77 percent.” Meanwhile, costs per house increased, for an original plan of $8,000, on average, to over $24,000 by September 2014. Unmentioned in the GAO report, however, is that the two contractors responsible for the program have been suspended from receiving further government contracts and are under a legal investigation for using shoddy materials and disregarding contractual obligations.

But above and beyond the missed timelines and reduced outcomes, perhaps the most damning part of the GAO report focuses on USAID policies around the sustainability of its projects.

It was not until December 2014 that USAID began to conduct “detailed sustainability analysis” of infrastructure activities, despite having already spent hundreds of millions of dollars. Further, USAID officials told the report’s authors that they did not intend to begin such analyses of non-infrastructure activities until 2018. The report continues:

As a result, USAID/Haiti will continue to obligate funding to new noninfrastructure activities despite a lack of detailed information about—and, consequently, with limited ability to address—risks to these activities’ sustainability. As an example of sustainability challenges to noninfrastructure activities in the health and disabilities sector, according to USAID officials, 90 percent of the Haitian health ministry’s budget goes to salaries, leaving the ministry with little funding to take over the provision of health services that USAID/Haiti currently supplies.

Further, the GAO notes that per agency guidelines, USAID missions are required to “complete what is known as a 611(e) certification, attesting to the host country’s capability to effectively maintain and utilize any capital assistance project whose estimated costs exceed $1 million.” The report continues:

However, partly as a result of the lack of agency-wide guidance, USAID/Haiti officials have not completed a 611(e) certification for every activity that might require it and have provided inconsistently detailed information in the completed certifications. Consequently, the agency may not be in full compliance with the 611(e) requirement, and agency officials may lack access to information about risks to the sustainability of large infrastructure activities.

The report provides some examples where this has directly impacted the sustainability of projects. For example, USAID built a power plant for the Caracol industrial park and surrounding communities, but “because of the low rates negotiated with tenants” of the park, the plant is not generating enough revenue to cover operating expenses. In another case, the Haitian government committed to funding operations costs of the State University Hospital in Port-au-Prince after it underwent renovations on the condition that operating costs did not increase. However, the report found that costs were “projected to be significantly more expensive,” and as a result it was unclear how the government would be able to finance it.

While U.S. officials pointed to the Haitian government’s lack of capacity as the main threat to sustainability, programs to help build that capacity also largely failed, according to the report. Another fact, not mentioned in the report, is that U.S. government aid, like aid from most other donors, almost completely bypasses the Haitian government and Haitian organizations, missing a key opportunity to help build that internal capacity. Instead, over 50 cents on each dollar that USAID spends goes right back to the Washington beltway, to contractors located in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

“GAO has found that inadequate staffing at USAID has slowed progress and that greater sustainability planning is needed. A sustainable, long-term strategy, with Haitians in the lead, is essential to put Haiti on a path to enhanced economic development,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), one of the congressional requesters of the GAO report. 

Caracol Flood houses
Image of flooding at Caracol EKAM Shelter site from internal USAID document. Caption reads: “Site flooding due to improper drainage”

Despite USAID allocating some $1.7 billion for the reconstruction effort in Haiti, its projects have exhibited varying levels of success and face serious sustainability challenges, according to a report [PDF] released yesterday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO analyzed 23 USAID projects across all eight sectors of USAID’s portfolio. Each program was allocated at least $10 million. The GAO report found that because of delays, USAID has extended its Haiti strategy for three more years, through 2018.

According to USAID officials, the factors leading to cost overruns, delays and poor results were a “lack of staff with relevant expertise, unrealistic initial plans, challenges encountered with some implementing partners, and delayed or revised decisions from the Haitian government.”

The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles reports:

The release of the report by the GAO, which works for Congress, came a day ahead of a visit to Haiti by U.S. congressional staffers from the House Foreign Affairs committee. Led by Eddy Acevedo, senior policy advisor to U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the delegation plans to visit some of the projects, including empty housing plots, where work stalled because the agencies that were supposed to build the homes on behalf of USAID pulled out.

The GAO report found that five of USAID’s six major infrastructure projects had to reduce planned outcomes and “encountered delays in 4 of these activities.” Non-infrastructure activities also faced delays and reduced outcomes, but to a lesser extent. The various delays have led USAID to extend its time frame for Haiti work by three years, through 2018.

Though results varied across sectors, the GAO report revealed that in the 17 non-infrastructure projects analyzed, not a single one met or exceeded all of its performance indicators. In the case of infrastructure projects, the results were even worse. The auditors report that during a site visit to the Caracol EKAM shelter program:

we observed unresolved concerns such as blocked drainage pipes and ditches that led to flooding in the settlement after heavy rains, and blocked and crushed sewage pipes. We also observed open water catchment tanks adjacent to some houses that had become breeding areas for mosquitoes.

The report notes that the original plan was to prepare 15,000 lots and build 4,000 homes, but that “The mission had reduced the planned number of plots to 2,013, or by 87 percent, with 906 of the houses to be built by USAID, a reduction of 77 percent.” Meanwhile, costs per house increased, for an original plan of $8,000, on average, to over $24,000 by September 2014. Unmentioned in the GAO report, however, is that the two contractors responsible for the program have been suspended from receiving further government contracts and are under a legal investigation for using shoddy materials and disregarding contractual obligations.

But above and beyond the missed timelines and reduced outcomes, perhaps the most damning part of the GAO report focuses on USAID policies around the sustainability of its projects.

It was not until December 2014 that USAID began to conduct “detailed sustainability analysis” of infrastructure activities, despite having already spent hundreds of millions of dollars. Further, USAID officials told the report’s authors that they did not intend to begin such analyses of non-infrastructure activities until 2018. The report continues:

As a result, USAID/Haiti will continue to obligate funding to new noninfrastructure activities despite a lack of detailed information about—and, consequently, with limited ability to address—risks to these activities’ sustainability. As an example of sustainability challenges to noninfrastructure activities in the health and disabilities sector, according to USAID officials, 90 percent of the Haitian health ministry’s budget goes to salaries, leaving the ministry with little funding to take over the provision of health services that USAID/Haiti currently supplies.

Further, the GAO notes that per agency guidelines, USAID missions are required to “complete what is known as a 611(e) certification, attesting to the host country’s capability to effectively maintain and utilize any capital assistance project whose estimated costs exceed $1 million.” The report continues:

However, partly as a result of the lack of agency-wide guidance, USAID/Haiti officials have not completed a 611(e) certification for every activity that might require it and have provided inconsistently detailed information in the completed certifications. Consequently, the agency may not be in full compliance with the 611(e) requirement, and agency officials may lack access to information about risks to the sustainability of large infrastructure activities.

The report provides some examples where this has directly impacted the sustainability of projects. For example, USAID built a power plant for the Caracol industrial park and surrounding communities, but “because of the low rates negotiated with tenants” of the park, the plant is not generating enough revenue to cover operating expenses. In another case, the Haitian government committed to funding operations costs of the State University Hospital in Port-au-Prince after it underwent renovations on the condition that operating costs did not increase. However, the report found that costs were “projected to be significantly more expensive,” and as a result it was unclear how the government would be able to finance it.

While U.S. officials pointed to the Haitian government’s lack of capacity as the main threat to sustainability, programs to help build that capacity also largely failed, according to the report. Another fact, not mentioned in the report, is that U.S. government aid, like aid from most other donors, almost completely bypasses the Haitian government and Haitian organizations, missing a key opportunity to help build that internal capacity. Instead, over 50 cents on each dollar that USAID spends goes right back to the Washington beltway, to contractors located in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

“GAO has found that inadequate staffing at USAID has slowed progress and that greater sustainability planning is needed. A sustainable, long-term strategy, with Haitians in the lead, is essential to put Haiti on a path to enhanced economic development,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), one of the congressional requesters of the GAO report. 

(Updated June 4, 2015, 11:34 a.m. to include references to NPR’s report.)

ProPublica’s Justin Elliott and NPR’s Laura Sullivan have published damning new exposés on the American Red Cross’ work in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake (ProPublica’s here; NPR’s here). The reporting not only validates much of the criticism previously leveled at the ARC for its questionable priorities, slow pace of spending and short list of accomplishments; it offers some stunning new revelations – some of them coming from internal ARC communications.

One of the clearest failures is embodied in the ProPublica article’s headline. While the ARC itself says that it spent 35 percent of its funds raised for Haiti on shelter, and that it “has helped 132,000 Haitians to live in safer conditions—ranging from providing temporary homes and rental subsidies to repaired and new homes,” it has, ProPublica and NPR report, delivered only six new, permanent houses.

The article begins:

In late 2011, the Red Cross launched a multimillion-dollar project to transform the desperately poor [neighborhood of Campeche], which was hit hard by the earthquake that struck Haiti the year before. The main focus of the program — called LAMIKA, an acronym in Creole for “A Better Life in My Neighborhood” — was building hundreds of permanent homes.

Today, not one home has been built. Many residents live in shacks made of rusty sheet metal, without access to drinkable water, electricity or basic sanitation. When it rains, their homes flood and residents bail out mud and water.

The Red Cross received an outpouring of donations after the quake, nearly half a billion dollars.

The group has publicly celebrated its work. But in fact, the Red Cross has repeatedly failed on the ground in Haiti. Confidential memos, emails from worried top officers, and accounts of a dozen frustrated and disappointed insiders show the charity has broken promises, squandered donations, and made dubious claims of success.

The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people. But the actual number of permanent homes the group has built in all of Haiti: six.

After the earthquake, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern unveiled ambitious plans to “develop brand-new communities.” None has ever been built.

Through interviews with former government officials, community leaders, and former ARC staff, the report examines a number of questionable practices, including the broad and vague numbers with which the ARC has trumpeted its accomplishments in Haiti as the years have gone by (see our past scrutiny of these numbers here and here):

… the Red Cross said it has helped “more than 4.5 million” individual Haitians “get back on their feet.”

It has not provided details to back up the claim. And Jean-Max Bellerive, Haiti’s prime minister at the time of the earthquake, doubts the figure, pointing out the country’s entire population is only about 10 million.

“No, no,” Bellerive said of the Red Cross’ claim, “it’s not possible.”

Later on the report states:

There is reason to doubt the Red Cross’ claims that it helped 4.5 million Haitians. An internal evaluation found that in some areas, the Red Cross reported helping more people than even lived in the communities. In other cases, the figures were low, and in others double-counting went uncorrected.

The 130,000 people the Red Cross mentioned? Sullivan reports:

“For the American Red Cross and the Red Cross in general, shelter has been a priority,” says [General Counsel and Chief International Officer David] Meltzer, adding that the Red Cross has “provided homes for more than 130,000 Haitians.

“If you go to [those] people and ask them where they are living today, they will tell you ‘I am living in my home,’ ” he says.

But if you go in search of those tens of thousands of new permanent homes in Haiti, you won’t find them.

After several emails, the Red Cross acknowledged that the “130,000 Haitians” figure is made up of people who went to a seminar on how to fix their own homes, people who received temporary rental assistance, and thousands of people who received temporary shelters — which start to disintegrate after three to five years.

Worse, as Sullivan reports, the Red Cross’ failure to deliver on housing came after ARC CEO Gail McGovern 

went to a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington and said that a fifth of the money the charity raised would go to “provide tens of thousands of people with permanent homes … where we develop brand-new communities … including water and sanitation.”

Some of the structural problems with the ARC’s reconstruction work in Haiti have not only happened with the Red Cross; indeed, they may be the rule rather than the exception. “Lacking the expertise to mount its own projects, the Red Cross ended up giving much of the money to other groups to do the work,” the ProPublica report states. “Those groups took out a piece of every dollar to cover overhead and management.”

Such practices are routine for USAID contracting in Haiti and elsewhere, as we have described in detail. That the money trail becomes more difficult to follow as contracts are subcontracted, and sometimes subcontracted again, is not a phenomenon unique to the Red Cross. But, as we have asked previously, how can the ARC be sure there is only 9 percent overhead when it contracts out its work? In fact, there is good reason to believe it is far higher, as ProPublica and NPR report:

Beyond all that, the Red Cross also spends another piece of each dollar for what it describes as “program costs incurred by the American Red Cross in managing” the projects done by other groups.

The American Red Cross’ management and other costs consumed an additional 24 percent of the money on one project, according to the group’s statements and internal documents. The actual work, upgrading shelters, was done by the Swiss and Spanish Red Cross societies.

Like other groups, the ARC found its efforts to provide housing hampered by the lack of credible land titles (although ProPublica and NPR note that these groups “also ultimately built 9,000 homes compared to the Red Cross’ six”). Less forgivable, as ProPublica and NPR describe, the ARC (and other organizations and agencies) hampered their own progress by employing few Kreyol-speakers and even fewer Haitians, and generated negative feelings in targeted communities. Again, this is a problem that plagued relief efforts overall. In the aftermath of the earthquake, coordination meetings were generally held in English and most Haitians were unable to participate.

The ARC deserves the scrutiny that ProPublica, NPR, Film @ 11, NBC Nightly News, and others have focused on it because of its status as the largest NGO operating in Haiti and its position as the go-to charity for Americans after the quake, due in good part to the media and “Michelle Obama, the NFL and a long list of celebrities,” as ProPublica and NPR note. “Inside the Red Cross, the Haiti disaster was seen as ‘a spectacular fundraising opportunity,’ recalled one former official who helped organize the effort.”

ProPublica and NPR detail how the ARC was left with millions of dollars after a $30 million housing project with USAID “collapse[d],” supposedly due to trouble accessing land titles, “and other issues.” NPR reports that the Red Cross found itself

struggling with how to spend housing money. McGovern wrote an email to her senior staff in November 2013 saying that a particular housing project was “going bust.” “We still are holding $20 million of contingency,” she writes in an email. “Any ideas on how to spend the rest of this? (Besides the wonderful helicopter idea?) Can we fund Conrad’s hospital? Or more to [Partners in Health]? Any more shelter projects?”

Red Cross officials wouldn’t say what she meant by the helicopter idea, but it’s a common reference in economics to giving money away — as in, throwing it out of a helicopter.

That the ARC was unsure how to spend tens of millions of dollars in Haiti is perhaps the most shocking revelation in the ProPublica and NPR reporting. The ongoing urgent needs in Haiti were – and are – well known. From at least 2011, it was clear what strategies might be effectively employed to eliminate cholera from Haiti, yet at the beginning of 2013, the cholera epidemic remained a humanitarian emergency (as it does now), with the New York Times and other outlets urging spending for its eradication. Sanitation and access to clean drinking water were – and are – related, urgent project areas where the ARC could have channeled some of its newfound resources. By January 2013, however, the ARC had spent 4 percent of its Haiti-related funds on cholera, and 12 percent on water and sanitation, according to its own accounting. (Of these, some projects had been “very behind schedule” or “crippled by ‘“internal issues that go unaddressed,’” ProPublica and NPR explain.) The ARC itself seems to have been aware that its cholera fighting efforts were woefully inadequate. NPR notes that “[then-director of the Haiti program, Judith] St. Fort summed up [a] 2011 memo: ‘To maintain the status quo, will only yield the same failed results.'”

The ARC took upon itself an outsized role after the Haiti quake; it had a responsibility to use the funds it raised sustainably and efficiently, delivering the maximum good per dollar that it could, while prioritizing Haitian involvement at every level. Instead, the tragedy of the Haiti earthquake seems to have become a way for the ARC to make a $100 million budget deficit vanish while offering plenty of overhead expenses for an array of projects, many never completed. Sadly, while many of the problems identified by ProPublica and NPR are shown to be “of its own making,” the lack of results, exclusion of Haitian voices and reliance on foreign expertise are symptoms of the aid industry’s problems writ large.

(Updated June 4, 2015, 11:34 a.m. to include references to NPR’s report.)

ProPublica’s Justin Elliott and NPR’s Laura Sullivan have published damning new exposés on the American Red Cross’ work in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake (ProPublica’s here; NPR’s here). The reporting not only validates much of the criticism previously leveled at the ARC for its questionable priorities, slow pace of spending and short list of accomplishments; it offers some stunning new revelations – some of them coming from internal ARC communications.

One of the clearest failures is embodied in the ProPublica article’s headline. While the ARC itself says that it spent 35 percent of its funds raised for Haiti on shelter, and that it “has helped 132,000 Haitians to live in safer conditions—ranging from providing temporary homes and rental subsidies to repaired and new homes,” it has, ProPublica and NPR report, delivered only six new, permanent houses.

The article begins:

In late 2011, the Red Cross launched a multimillion-dollar project to transform the desperately poor [neighborhood of Campeche], which was hit hard by the earthquake that struck Haiti the year before. The main focus of the program — called LAMIKA, an acronym in Creole for “A Better Life in My Neighborhood” — was building hundreds of permanent homes.

Today, not one home has been built. Many residents live in shacks made of rusty sheet metal, without access to drinkable water, electricity or basic sanitation. When it rains, their homes flood and residents bail out mud and water.

The Red Cross received an outpouring of donations after the quake, nearly half a billion dollars.

The group has publicly celebrated its work. But in fact, the Red Cross has repeatedly failed on the ground in Haiti. Confidential memos, emails from worried top officers, and accounts of a dozen frustrated and disappointed insiders show the charity has broken promises, squandered donations, and made dubious claims of success.

The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people. But the actual number of permanent homes the group has built in all of Haiti: six.

After the earthquake, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern unveiled ambitious plans to “develop brand-new communities.” None has ever been built.

Through interviews with former government officials, community leaders, and former ARC staff, the report examines a number of questionable practices, including the broad and vague numbers with which the ARC has trumpeted its accomplishments in Haiti as the years have gone by (see our past scrutiny of these numbers here and here):

… the Red Cross said it has helped “more than 4.5 million” individual Haitians “get back on their feet.”

It has not provided details to back up the claim. And Jean-Max Bellerive, Haiti’s prime minister at the time of the earthquake, doubts the figure, pointing out the country’s entire population is only about 10 million.

“No, no,” Bellerive said of the Red Cross’ claim, “it’s not possible.”

Later on the report states:

There is reason to doubt the Red Cross’ claims that it helped 4.5 million Haitians. An internal evaluation found that in some areas, the Red Cross reported helping more people than even lived in the communities. In other cases, the figures were low, and in others double-counting went uncorrected.

The 130,000 people the Red Cross mentioned? Sullivan reports:

“For the American Red Cross and the Red Cross in general, shelter has been a priority,” says [General Counsel and Chief International Officer David] Meltzer, adding that the Red Cross has “provided homes for more than 130,000 Haitians.

“If you go to [those] people and ask them where they are living today, they will tell you ‘I am living in my home,’ ” he says.

But if you go in search of those tens of thousands of new permanent homes in Haiti, you won’t find them.

After several emails, the Red Cross acknowledged that the “130,000 Haitians” figure is made up of people who went to a seminar on how to fix their own homes, people who received temporary rental assistance, and thousands of people who received temporary shelters — which start to disintegrate after three to five years.

Worse, as Sullivan reports, the Red Cross’ failure to deliver on housing came after ARC CEO Gail McGovern 

went to a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington and said that a fifth of the money the charity raised would go to “provide tens of thousands of people with permanent homes … where we develop brand-new communities … including water and sanitation.”

Some of the structural problems with the ARC’s reconstruction work in Haiti have not only happened with the Red Cross; indeed, they may be the rule rather than the exception. “Lacking the expertise to mount its own projects, the Red Cross ended up giving much of the money to other groups to do the work,” the ProPublica report states. “Those groups took out a piece of every dollar to cover overhead and management.”

Such practices are routine for USAID contracting in Haiti and elsewhere, as we have described in detail. That the money trail becomes more difficult to follow as contracts are subcontracted, and sometimes subcontracted again, is not a phenomenon unique to the Red Cross. But, as we have asked previously, how can the ARC be sure there is only 9 percent overhead when it contracts out its work? In fact, there is good reason to believe it is far higher, as ProPublica and NPR report:

Beyond all that, the Red Cross also spends another piece of each dollar for what it describes as “program costs incurred by the American Red Cross in managing” the projects done by other groups.

The American Red Cross’ management and other costs consumed an additional 24 percent of the money on one project, according to the group’s statements and internal documents. The actual work, upgrading shelters, was done by the Swiss and Spanish Red Cross societies.

Like other groups, the ARC found its efforts to provide housing hampered by the lack of credible land titles (although ProPublica and NPR note that these groups “also ultimately built 9,000 homes compared to the Red Cross’ six”). Less forgivable, as ProPublica and NPR describe, the ARC (and other organizations and agencies) hampered their own progress by employing few Kreyol-speakers and even fewer Haitians, and generated negative feelings in targeted communities. Again, this is a problem that plagued relief efforts overall. In the aftermath of the earthquake, coordination meetings were generally held in English and most Haitians were unable to participate.

The ARC deserves the scrutiny that ProPublica, NPR, Film @ 11, NBC Nightly News, and others have focused on it because of its status as the largest NGO operating in Haiti and its position as the go-to charity for Americans after the quake, due in good part to the media and “Michelle Obama, the NFL and a long list of celebrities,” as ProPublica and NPR note. “Inside the Red Cross, the Haiti disaster was seen as ‘a spectacular fundraising opportunity,’ recalled one former official who helped organize the effort.”

ProPublica and NPR detail how the ARC was left with millions of dollars after a $30 million housing project with USAID “collapse[d],” supposedly due to trouble accessing land titles, “and other issues.” NPR reports that the Red Cross found itself

struggling with how to spend housing money. McGovern wrote an email to her senior staff in November 2013 saying that a particular housing project was “going bust.” “We still are holding $20 million of contingency,” she writes in an email. “Any ideas on how to spend the rest of this? (Besides the wonderful helicopter idea?) Can we fund Conrad’s hospital? Or more to [Partners in Health]? Any more shelter projects?”

Red Cross officials wouldn’t say what she meant by the helicopter idea, but it’s a common reference in economics to giving money away — as in, throwing it out of a helicopter.

That the ARC was unsure how to spend tens of millions of dollars in Haiti is perhaps the most shocking revelation in the ProPublica and NPR reporting. The ongoing urgent needs in Haiti were – and are – well known. From at least 2011, it was clear what strategies might be effectively employed to eliminate cholera from Haiti, yet at the beginning of 2013, the cholera epidemic remained a humanitarian emergency (as it does now), with the New York Times and other outlets urging spending for its eradication. Sanitation and access to clean drinking water were – and are – related, urgent project areas where the ARC could have channeled some of its newfound resources. By January 2013, however, the ARC had spent 4 percent of its Haiti-related funds on cholera, and 12 percent on water and sanitation, according to its own accounting. (Of these, some projects had been “very behind schedule” or “crippled by ‘“internal issues that go unaddressed,’” ProPublica and NPR explain.) The ARC itself seems to have been aware that its cholera fighting efforts were woefully inadequate. NPR notes that “[then-director of the Haiti program, Judith] St. Fort summed up [a] 2011 memo: ‘To maintain the status quo, will only yield the same failed results.'”

The ARC took upon itself an outsized role after the Haiti quake; it had a responsibility to use the funds it raised sustainably and efficiently, delivering the maximum good per dollar that it could, while prioritizing Haitian involvement at every level. Instead, the tragedy of the Haiti earthquake seems to have become a way for the ARC to make a $100 million budget deficit vanish while offering plenty of overhead expenses for an array of projects, many never completed. Sadly, while many of the problems identified by ProPublica and NPR are shown to be “of its own making,” the lack of results, exclusion of Haitian voices and reliance on foreign expertise are symptoms of the aid industry’s problems writ large.

Last week, in a conversation with Haitian journalists in Washington, D.C., Thomas Adams, the Haiti special coordinator at the State Department, said the U.S. would be in favor of Haiti holding two elections this year instead of the planned three. The electoral timetable announced in March by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) called for the first round of legislative elections to be held August 9, followed by a first-round presidential election and second round of legislative elections on October 25. Finally, the second round of the presidential election and local elections would be held in late December.

In an interview this past weekend with Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald, Adams explained:

there’s some discussion about going to two rounds of elections instead of three. The pros and cons of that, I think they’ll decide fairly soon whether they want to do that. That would give a little more time to the CEP and it would also save some money if they want to go that route. That is an option.

Moving the first round of the legislative election to the same day as the presidential election would save an estimated $30 million, according to Adams. But while the proposed changes have some support from political parties in Haiti, the CEP has remained steadfast that it is determined to follow the electoral calendar that was announced.

According to Alterpresse, Alix Richard, the vice president of the FUSION party commented that the party had “always sought the election in two stages,” and recommended a discussion between the executive, the CEP and political parties to reach a decision. Both the Patriotic Movement of the Democratic Opposition (MOPOD) – the party of former presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat – and the Organization of People in Struggle (OPL) refused to comment directly on the proposal, saying that they were ready for elections at any time. However Pierre Étienne Saveur, director of OPL, criticized the manner in which Adam’s comments were received. He said that his recommendations would have been better served going through diplomatic channels as opposed to a public statement to the press.

Moise Jean Charles, of the opposition platform Pitit Dessalines, came out in favor of the reduction to two elections. Charles also noted that the change would save the CEP millions of dollars – the electoral body is currently facing a funding shortfall to the tune of over $20 million. Donor countries, including the U.S., have stated that they are ready to provide additional financing, but are waiting for steps to be taken by the Haitian government and electoral council before any disbursements are made.

Jean Charles also noted that holding three rounds of elections would be particularly costly for political parties, putting those close to the government and with access to funding in a stronger position. This echoes comments from political leaders made after the electoral calendar was first announced. Fanmi Lavalas presidential candidate Maryse Narcisse, told LeNouvelliste in February that no political party can handle “the social and material costs of several elections in one year,” while Pierre-Etienne of OPL suggested that having three elections could be a strategy for “bankrupting” the opposition.   

In comments to Le Nouvelliste, CEP member Marie Carmelle Paul Austin was adamant that the original electoral timetable would be followed. “We do not have to change the electoral calendar. It was adopted on the basis of consensus with the political parties and the executive,” she told the paper. Paul Austin also discredited the idea that consolidating the elections would save $30 million, pointing to the rising electoral costs in previous years and to the fact that this year there are elections for president, the legislature and local leaders.

The Club of Madrid, a grouping of former presidents from around the world, visited the country from May 24-26 and at the end of their visit voiced support for sticking to the electoral timetable. While noting that it was up to Haitians to organize the elections, former Chilean president Sebastian Piñera told the press: “All politicians told us that elections would be held on the 9th of August,” adding, “I believe there is no reason not to have the elections in August.”

In the meantime, the list of candidates for legislative elections has been finalized, and following the contestation period a list of presidential candidates will be issued either Thursday or Friday, according to Le Nouvelliste

Last week, in a conversation with Haitian journalists in Washington, D.C., Thomas Adams, the Haiti special coordinator at the State Department, said the U.S. would be in favor of Haiti holding two elections this year instead of the planned three. The electoral timetable announced in March by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) called for the first round of legislative elections to be held August 9, followed by a first-round presidential election and second round of legislative elections on October 25. Finally, the second round of the presidential election and local elections would be held in late December.

In an interview this past weekend with Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald, Adams explained:

there’s some discussion about going to two rounds of elections instead of three. The pros and cons of that, I think they’ll decide fairly soon whether they want to do that. That would give a little more time to the CEP and it would also save some money if they want to go that route. That is an option.

Moving the first round of the legislative election to the same day as the presidential election would save an estimated $30 million, according to Adams. But while the proposed changes have some support from political parties in Haiti, the CEP has remained steadfast that it is determined to follow the electoral calendar that was announced.

According to Alterpresse, Alix Richard, the vice president of the FUSION party commented that the party had “always sought the election in two stages,” and recommended a discussion between the executive, the CEP and political parties to reach a decision. Both the Patriotic Movement of the Democratic Opposition (MOPOD) – the party of former presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat – and the Organization of People in Struggle (OPL) refused to comment directly on the proposal, saying that they were ready for elections at any time. However Pierre Étienne Saveur, director of OPL, criticized the manner in which Adam’s comments were received. He said that his recommendations would have been better served going through diplomatic channels as opposed to a public statement to the press.

Moise Jean Charles, of the opposition platform Pitit Dessalines, came out in favor of the reduction to two elections. Charles also noted that the change would save the CEP millions of dollars – the electoral body is currently facing a funding shortfall to the tune of over $20 million. Donor countries, including the U.S., have stated that they are ready to provide additional financing, but are waiting for steps to be taken by the Haitian government and electoral council before any disbursements are made.

Jean Charles also noted that holding three rounds of elections would be particularly costly for political parties, putting those close to the government and with access to funding in a stronger position. This echoes comments from political leaders made after the electoral calendar was first announced. Fanmi Lavalas presidential candidate Maryse Narcisse, told LeNouvelliste in February that no political party can handle “the social and material costs of several elections in one year,” while Pierre-Etienne of OPL suggested that having three elections could be a strategy for “bankrupting” the opposition.   

In comments to Le Nouvelliste, CEP member Marie Carmelle Paul Austin was adamant that the original electoral timetable would be followed. “We do not have to change the electoral calendar. It was adopted on the basis of consensus with the political parties and the executive,” she told the paper. Paul Austin also discredited the idea that consolidating the elections would save $30 million, pointing to the rising electoral costs in previous years and to the fact that this year there are elections for president, the legislature and local leaders.

The Club of Madrid, a grouping of former presidents from around the world, visited the country from May 24-26 and at the end of their visit voiced support for sticking to the electoral timetable. While noting that it was up to Haitians to organize the elections, former Chilean president Sebastian Piñera told the press: “All politicians told us that elections would be held on the 9th of August,” adding, “I believe there is no reason not to have the elections in August.”

In the meantime, the list of candidates for legislative elections has been finalized, and following the contestation period a list of presidential candidates will be issued either Thursday or Friday, according to Le Nouvelliste

The New York Times reported Monday on the lack of accountability for sexual abuse on the part of U.N. peacekeepers around the world, focusing on recent allegations that French soldiers “forced boys to perform oral sex on them” in the Central African Republic. The article notes that the U.N. “does not have the legal authority to prosecute or punish a country’s soldiers,” and cites a recent internal audit that found that despite the organization’s “zero-tolerance” policy for sexual abuse, its enforcement “is hindered by a complex architecture, prolonged delays, unknown and varying outcomes and severely deficient assistance.”

The Times reports that U.N. officials responded by pointing to the U.N.’s response to a case in Haiti, in which Pakistani troops were accused of abusing an underage boy, as a “model of accountability.” HRRW reported on the case in 2012, pointing out a likely cover-up, and in January journalist Kathie Klarreich expanded:

Take the case of the Pakistani contingent of MINUSTAH. In January 2012, several Pakistani soldiers reported to their commanding officer that contingent members were sexually abusing a mentally handicapped 13-year old boy in the town of Gonaives, some 50 miles north of the Port-au-Prince, since he was eight years old, passing his name from contingent to contingent for five years. Following the chain of command, the Pakistani commander should have reported the abuse to MINUSTAH, but he decided to handle it himself, hoping it seems, that it would disappear, since he was also abusing the boy.

UN police quickly ascertained that the Pakistani military had hired two local boys to take the victim away from the town without his mother’s knowledge or permission. They found the boy unharmed: one of the kidnappers escaped but the second, Alexandre Vladimir, was arrested and jailed. Vladimir admitted that the MINUSTAH commander from Pakistan had asked him to remove the boy from the area, and that the Pakistanis had come to his home bearing gifts for his mother: $12 and a sack of rice.

Collecting evidence can be tricky because of bribes, the reluctance or fear on the part of the victim to talk, evidence tampering or lack of evidence. Had the Pakistanis cooperated, the investigation might have concluded in even less time than the unprecedented 36 days. [The U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services] is often criticized for the length of time it takes to complete an investigation – back then, the average was 19 months. Today it’s 18 months.

Even the Haitian Senate became involved as news of [the victim’s] ordeal spread, passing a resolution requesting the trial be held in Haiti.

A UN internal document obtained by 100Reporters confirmed that the UN had agreed with the Pakistani authorities’ request for the nine Pakistanis charged with the rape and abduction of a Haitian minor to be rotated out of the country, but not before three of the officers were subjected to a court-martial in Haiti. While Vladimir served time in a filthy prison in Gonaives, the Haitians offered to build a separate jail to hold the Pakistanis before their trial. But according to a source with knowledge of the meeting, a dinner between the Pakistanis and the Secretary General for Peacekeeping, Hervé Ladsous, resulted instead in the accused being sent home.

The Pakistanis refused the UN’s request that it dispatch a senior government official to Haiti, and insisted that the court-martial, conducted by members of the national contingent who themselves were implicated in the allegations, be closed to outsiders. It was, the UN said, “[A] military justice procedure…undertaken in accordance with the national laws of Pakistan.”

The UN “also received verbal assurances from the Permanent Representative of Pakistan that he would see that the Government of Pakistan provide compensation to Haitian victims, if any,” according to a confidential UN cable to the Haiti peacekeeping contingent.

Instead of showcasing this investigation, the UN let it fizzle out, away from public view. No public court martial, no compensation for the victim. Pakistani troops continued then, as they do now, to rotate through peacekeeping missions, unperturbed.

Anthony Banbury, the U.N. assistant secretary general for field support, told the Times, “People can always say punishment was too light or whatever, but the system worked as it should.”

If that’s how the system “should” work, then the U.N. has a long way yet to go.  

It is also interesting that U.N. officials would point to anything related to MINUSTAH as a means of showing greater accountability. To begin with, MINUSTAH is at the heart of multiple legal battles over responsibility for introducing the deadly cholera virus into Haiti in 2010, killing nearly 9,000. Further, MINUSTAH has been one of the largest sources of sexual abuse allegations for U.N. troop missions worldwide, accounting for about 25 percent of such allegations in 2013 and 2014. As we have noted in detail, these are not just allegations; some assaults have been documented on video, and the phenomenon of “MINUSTAH babies” has become another, related scandal. Through the first three months of 2015, MINUSTAH accounted for 45 percent of all sexual abuse allegations against U.N. troops worldwide, despite accounting for less than 7 percent of all “peacekeeping” staff as of March 2015 (PDF). 

 

The New York Times reported Monday on the lack of accountability for sexual abuse on the part of U.N. peacekeepers around the world, focusing on recent allegations that French soldiers “forced boys to perform oral sex on them” in the Central African Republic. The article notes that the U.N. “does not have the legal authority to prosecute or punish a country’s soldiers,” and cites a recent internal audit that found that despite the organization’s “zero-tolerance” policy for sexual abuse, its enforcement “is hindered by a complex architecture, prolonged delays, unknown and varying outcomes and severely deficient assistance.”

The Times reports that U.N. officials responded by pointing to the U.N.’s response to a case in Haiti, in which Pakistani troops were accused of abusing an underage boy, as a “model of accountability.” HRRW reported on the case in 2012, pointing out a likely cover-up, and in January journalist Kathie Klarreich expanded:

Take the case of the Pakistani contingent of MINUSTAH. In January 2012, several Pakistani soldiers reported to their commanding officer that contingent members were sexually abusing a mentally handicapped 13-year old boy in the town of Gonaives, some 50 miles north of the Port-au-Prince, since he was eight years old, passing his name from contingent to contingent for five years. Following the chain of command, the Pakistani commander should have reported the abuse to MINUSTAH, but he decided to handle it himself, hoping it seems, that it would disappear, since he was also abusing the boy.

UN police quickly ascertained that the Pakistani military had hired two local boys to take the victim away from the town without his mother’s knowledge or permission. They found the boy unharmed: one of the kidnappers escaped but the second, Alexandre Vladimir, was arrested and jailed. Vladimir admitted that the MINUSTAH commander from Pakistan had asked him to remove the boy from the area, and that the Pakistanis had come to his home bearing gifts for his mother: $12 and a sack of rice.

Collecting evidence can be tricky because of bribes, the reluctance or fear on the part of the victim to talk, evidence tampering or lack of evidence. Had the Pakistanis cooperated, the investigation might have concluded in even less time than the unprecedented 36 days. [The U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services] is often criticized for the length of time it takes to complete an investigation – back then, the average was 19 months. Today it’s 18 months.

Even the Haitian Senate became involved as news of [the victim’s] ordeal spread, passing a resolution requesting the trial be held in Haiti.

A UN internal document obtained by 100Reporters confirmed that the UN had agreed with the Pakistani authorities’ request for the nine Pakistanis charged with the rape and abduction of a Haitian minor to be rotated out of the country, but not before three of the officers were subjected to a court-martial in Haiti. While Vladimir served time in a filthy prison in Gonaives, the Haitians offered to build a separate jail to hold the Pakistanis before their trial. But according to a source with knowledge of the meeting, a dinner between the Pakistanis and the Secretary General for Peacekeeping, Hervé Ladsous, resulted instead in the accused being sent home.

The Pakistanis refused the UN’s request that it dispatch a senior government official to Haiti, and insisted that the court-martial, conducted by members of the national contingent who themselves were implicated in the allegations, be closed to outsiders. It was, the UN said, “[A] military justice procedure…undertaken in accordance with the national laws of Pakistan.”

The UN “also received verbal assurances from the Permanent Representative of Pakistan that he would see that the Government of Pakistan provide compensation to Haitian victims, if any,” according to a confidential UN cable to the Haiti peacekeeping contingent.

Instead of showcasing this investigation, the UN let it fizzle out, away from public view. No public court martial, no compensation for the victim. Pakistani troops continued then, as they do now, to rotate through peacekeeping missions, unperturbed.

Anthony Banbury, the U.N. assistant secretary general for field support, told the Times, “People can always say punishment was too light or whatever, but the system worked as it should.”

If that’s how the system “should” work, then the U.N. has a long way yet to go.  

It is also interesting that U.N. officials would point to anything related to MINUSTAH as a means of showing greater accountability. To begin with, MINUSTAH is at the heart of multiple legal battles over responsibility for introducing the deadly cholera virus into Haiti in 2010, killing nearly 9,000. Further, MINUSTAH has been one of the largest sources of sexual abuse allegations for U.N. troop missions worldwide, accounting for about 25 percent of such allegations in 2013 and 2014. As we have noted in detail, these are not just allegations; some assaults have been documented on video, and the phenomenon of “MINUSTAH babies” has become another, related scandal. Through the first three months of 2015, MINUSTAH accounted for 45 percent of all sexual abuse allegations against U.N. troops worldwide, despite accounting for less than 7 percent of all “peacekeeping” staff as of March 2015 (PDF). 

 

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