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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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IHRC Mandate Ends – 18 Months With Little to Show Print
Thursday, 27 October 2011 15:33

As the AP reported last week, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission’s (IHRC) mandate expired on Friday, October 21. The mandate had called for a transition to a Haitian government development authority to take the place of the commission. The date passed with little fanfare and no official statements from the IHRC itself. Reports in the Haitian press indicate that newly designated Prime Minister Gary Conille intends to submit a bill asking for the panel’s extension to Parliament, where some members have already expressed their reluctance to vote for it. Conille is a former advisor to Bill Clinton; Clinton co-chairs the IHRC.

Throughout the relief and reconstruction process, many have pointed out that the Haitian government has largely been bypassed and that Haitians themselves have been left out of the decision making process. In response, donors often point to the IHRC. The United States, for instance, said in January 2011 that “[t]o ensure that the reconstruction is Haitian-led, the U.S. Government coordinates all its recovery assistance through the IHRC.”

For its part the United State seems convinced the panel will be renewed. Although the U.S. government has made no official statement, USAID extended the contract of an undisclosed foreign contractor on September 30. The award description states, “The purpose of this modification is to extend the POP from September 30, 2011 to October 21, 2012 to serve as the disbursing agent of the IHRC; and increment funds in $45,387.00.” Then on October 20, the day before the mandate expired, the same contractor received an additional $20,000. Overall USAID has given more than $500,000 to this contractor to act as a steward of IHRC funds. It is unclear why the US would extend the contract until October 2012 without knowing if the IHRC would even continue to operate.

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Lack of Adequate Housing Plan “Most Glaring Failure of the Past Year” Print
Thursday, 13 October 2011 10:26

Last Thursday, Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald reported on Haitian President Michel Martelly’s plan, announced some time ago, to return inhabitants of six IDP camps back to 16 neighborhoods, known as the 16-6 plan. Charles writes:

For weeks, families like Simin’s have quietly moved out of the camp and into permanent homes as part of a housing initiative launched by Haitian President Michel Martelly. With help from the International Organization for Migration, families are getting $500 in rental subsidies. It’s part of a larger program Martelly launched recently to target the town square and five other Port-au-Prince tent cities hoping to find a permanent solution to reconstruction’s most vexing problem: housing.

The program has won the support of the international community, with U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis recently telling the UN Security Council, that “[t]he use of the neighborhood returns approach, instead of mere camp evictions, is the type of humane approach the United States fully supports.” Yet the plan has already come under serious criticism and rather than limiting evictions, multiple camps in the plan have already been forcibly evicted. Journalist Justin Podur wrote last week that even if the program works, its effectiveness will be limited:

In total, if the program succeeds, it will touch 5000 families, or 4% of the camp population. I spoke to the director of 16-6, Clement Belizaire. So far, 190 families have been resettled from the first camp, Place St. Pierre, in Petionville. Belizaire expects the 1500 families who live in the first two camps, Place St. Pierre and Place Boyer, to be in their neighbourhoods by the end of November. He expects the process to speed up as it progresses. If Belizaire's estimates are extrapolated for all six camps, 4% of Haiti's current camp population will be in housing by March 2012.

Also last week, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the University of San Francisco School of Law released a report criticizing the lack of progress in Martelly’s housing plan. The report points out that, among other faults, two of the six camps in Martelly’s plan have already been forcibly evicted:

In the meantime, one camp was closed in July (Stade Sylvio Cator) and one camp partially closed (Place St. Pierre), both without the protections or benefits promised in the Martelly plan. The families living at Stade Sylvio Cator were unlawfully evicted by the Mayor of Port-au-Prince and Haitian National Police without a court order, as required under Haitian law. The police destroyed residents’ tents and belongings, prompting condemnation from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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Cholera Cases Down, But Are Past Mistakes Being Repeated? Print
Monday, 03 October 2011 10:05

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

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43% of Donor Pledges Disbursed, But Where? To Whom? Print
Thursday, 22 September 2011 11:46

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

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

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

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

Disbursed By Donor Doesn’t Mean Spent on the Ground

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

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

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

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Newly Wikileaked Cables Provide Context to Anti-MINUSTAH Backlash in the Wake of Scandals Print
Wednesday, 14 September 2011 11:38

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

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

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

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With Funding for Cholera Falling Short, Calls for Compensation from MINUSTAH Increase Print
Tuesday, 06 September 2011 16:04

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Explosive New Report Accuses UN Troops of Sexual Assault--Will This Lead to Greater Pressure for Withdrawal? Print
Friday, 02 September 2011 22:44

(updated below)

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

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

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

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

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As US Charge D’Affairs, Clinton Bush Haiti Fund VP Green Lighted Assault on Slum Despite “Inevitable …civilian casualties" Print
Wednesday, 31 August 2011 11:47

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

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

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

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

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

¶6.  (SBU)  The Charge cautioned that such an operation would inevitably cause unintended civilian casualties given the crowded conditions and flimsy construction of tightly packed housing in Cite Soleil.  Therefore, the private sector associations must be willing to quickly assist in the aftermath of such an operation, including providing financial support to families of potential victims.  Boulos agreed.
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U.S. Embassy: “Without a UN-sanctioned …force, we would be getting far less help …in managing Haiti.” Print
Wednesday, 24 August 2011 14:21

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

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

It goes on to state:

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

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

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Illegal Evictions and Violence Are No Solution to Haiti’s Post-Earthquake Housing Problem Print
Monday, 22 August 2011 13:57

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

Mark writes:

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

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

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

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