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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Food Aid Reform Becomes More Urgent as Food Insecurity and Malnutrition Increase Print
Tuesday, 11 June 2013 09:20

The Associated Press’ Trenton Daniel takes a look at high levels of malnutrition and food insecurity in Haiti, reporting that

Three years after an earthquake killed hundreds of thousands and the U.S. promised that Haiti would "build back better," hunger is worse than ever. Despite billions of dollars from around the world pledged toward rebuilding efforts, the country's food problems underscore just how vulnerable its 10 million people remain.

In 1997 some 1.2 million Haitians didn't have enough food to eat. A decade later the number had more than doubled. Today, that figure is 6.7 million, or a staggering 67 percent of the population that goes without food some days, can't afford a balanced diet or has limited access to food, according to surveys by the government's National Coordination of Food Security. As many as 1.5 million of those face malnutrition and other hunger-related problems.

The AP article follows the release last week of a USAID-sponsored “Famine Early Warning System Network” report that warns that

The early depletion of food supplies from bad harvests, the growing dependence for poor households on market, and a reduction in agricultural employment opportunities have contributed to the increasingly widespread acute food insecurity throughout the country. Many municipalities are currently in Crisis

Late rains, seed shortages (driving up seed prices), and withering crops that were planted early are factors contributing to climbing food prices, the report states.

Daniel surveys some of the government’s responses to the challenge. One of the more hopeful efforts to tackle hunger in Haiti that Daniel describes is the Petrocaribe-funded program “Aba Grangou”:

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Haiti's Former President Préval Has Credible Charges that UN Tried to Remove Him Print
Monday, 13 May 2013 12:53

Writing in the Toronto Star, Catherine Porter reports on revelations from former Haitian President René Préval in Raoul Peck’s documentary film Fatal Assistance that UN head Edmond Mulet tried to remove him from the country on election day in November 2010:

“I got a phone call from Mr. (Edmond) Mulet, who was head of MINUSTAH, saying: ‘Mr. President, this is a political problem. We need to get you on a plane and evacuate you,’” Préval says in the documentary, Fatal Assistance. “I said: ‘Bring your plane, collect me from the palace, handcuff me, everyone will see that it’s a kidnapping.’”       

The comments from Préval echo those made at the time by Organization of American States special representative Ricardo Seitenfus, who told BBC Brasil in January 2011 that Mulet and other representatives of the “core group” of donor countries, “suggested that President Rene Préval should leave the country and we should think of an airplane for that. I heard it and was appalled.” The forced departure of Préval wouldn’t have been the first time a Haitian president was spirited out of the country, as former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was flown out of Haiti in 2004 on a U.S. airplane and taken to the Central African Republic in what he described as a “kidnapping” and “coup d’etat.” There is no doubt that it was a coup d’etat – the New York Times, among others, documented the U.S. role in bringing about the coup.  And Aristide’s charges that it was a kidnapping are credible and backed up by witnesses.

In response, Edmond Mulet told the Star, “I never said that, he [Préval] never answered that,” adding “I was worried if he didn’t stop the fraud and rioting, a revolution would force him to leave. I didn’t have the capability, the power or the interest of putting him on a plane.”

The first round of voting for president in November 2010 was plagued by irregularities. A CEPR statistical analysis found that some three-quarters of Haitians did not vote, over 12 percent of votes were never even received by the electoral authorities and that more than 8 percent of tally sheets contained irregularities. Perhaps most importantly, Haiti’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas, was excluded from the election. At the time, 45 Democratic members of Congress wrote to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warning that political party “exclusion[s] will undermine both Haitians' right to vote and the resulting government's ability to govern.” These warnings fell on deaf ears, but diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks reveal the international community’s thinking at the time. At an early December 2009 meeting, Haiti’s largest donors concluded that “the international community has too much invested in Haiti’s democracy to walk away from the upcoming elections, despite its imperfections.”

These imperfections proved even greater than anticipated. Based on the pervasiveness of the irregularities and the close results, we concluded at the time that “it is impossible to determine who should advance to a second round” and that if “there is a second round, it will be based on arbitrary assumptions and/or exclusions.”

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Cholera Victims’ Lawyers to Seek Billions in Damages if UN Continues to Deny Responsibility Print
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 16:45

Lawyers seeking justice on behalf of thousands of cholera victims announced their next steps after the U.N. rebuffed their claim in February, citing immunity. Saying that they were offering the U.N. its “last opportunity to accept its legal responsibility,” attorneys with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) announced in a press conference today (video here) that the U.N.’s response opens doors to trying the case in national courts, and that they will pursue this option if the U.N does not reply with “an appropriate response” in the next 60 days. The BBC’s Mark Doyle reported that “The lawyers say they will file claims for $100,000 (£64,000) for the families of those who have died and $50,000 (£32,000) for every one of the hundreds of thousands who have fallen sick,” which would total billions of dollars.

The attorneys described the U.N.’s rationale for rejecting the claim as being on “flimsy grounds.” They also placed the case in a broader context of impunity for abuse, which has included sexual assaults by U.N. troops and officers, and extrajudicial shootings in Haiti and other countries where U.N. troops have been stationed.

Attorney and IJDH board member Ira Kurzban slammed the U.N.’s justification of dumping of sewage into rivers as a matter of “policy,” even though this would clearly go against U.N. principles. Kurzban also noted that the U.N.’s failure to establish a standing claims commission that would allow Haitians to seek redress for U.N. wrongs goes against its responsibility to the world.

Also speaking at the press conference, Dr. Jean Ford Figaro, MD, MPH, and Health Education Coordinator at Boston Medical Center detailed various recommendations that the U.N.’s own Independent Panel of Experts have made that have yet to be implemented. Among these are the screening of U.N. troops, the distribution of prophylaxis, and on-site treatment of human waste. Figaro cited a new Physicians for Haiti paper that states that all three of these “recommendations could be implemented at either no or minimal cost to the UN.” In its paper, Physicians for Haiti also notes, “Two year later, the UN has not responded publicly to the [Panel’s] report, made public any proceedings from the task force, or made any of the changes in its medical or sanitation protocols recommended by the report.”

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Congresswoman Lee Re-Introduces Bill to “Assess Progress” of U.S. Haiti Assistance Print
Wednesday, 01 May 2013 15:30

On April 25th, Representative Barbara Lee of California introduced H.R. 1749, the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, which would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to produce a detailed and comprehensive report on U.S. aid programs to Haiti since the January 2010 earthquake.  The bill, which has 24 original co-sponsors, reflects the growing concern in Congress about the lack of tangible progress in U.S. post-quake relief and reconstruction efforts, and the lack of transparency around how U.S. aid money is being used.

An earlier version of this bill was passed in the House of Representatives in May of 2011 and later was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but never made it to a vote on the Senate floor.  The legislation has been significantly revised and, whereas the old bill (which can be viewed here) had general reporting requirements, the new bill (which can be viewed here) has very specific and probing reporting language that should help shed light on how USAID funds are being used on the ground in Haiti.  Among other things, the legislation calls for:

·         An assessment of the “amounts obligated and expended on United States Government programs and activities since January 2010 (…) including award data [read: financial data] on the use of implementing partners at both prime and subprime levels, and disbursement data from prime and subprime implementing partners.”

·         A description of “goals and quantitative and qualitative indicators to evaluate the progress, or lack of achievement of such goals…”

·         An “assessment of the manner in which the Department of State and USAID are working with Haitian ministries and local authorities, including the extent to which the Government of Haiti has been consulted on the establishment of goals and timeframes and on the design and implementation of new programs…”

·         An “assessment of how consideration for vulnerable populations, including IDPs (Internally Displaced Populations), women, children, orphans, and persons with disabilities, have been incorporated in the design and implementation of new programs and infrastructure”

·         An “assessment of how agriculture and infrastructure programs are impacting food security and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Haiti”

Last month CEPR published a report titled “Breaking Open the Black Box” describing the lack of transparency of U.S. aid programs in Haiti, particularly at the contracting level, and recommended USAID reporting requirements similar to those found in H.R.1749.  The report noted that the effectiveness of U.S. aid to Haiti has been questioned by the GAO, the USAID Inspector General and other government watchdogs. 

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A Tale of Two Trials: Duvalier vs. Ríos Montt Print
Monday, 29 April 2013 14:57

Over the last decade the fight for accountability in Latin America for crimes committed by past dictatorships has seen a tremendous number of successes. In Peru, Alberto Fujimori is in jail. In Argentina dozens of defendants have been convicted in just the last year. But two ongoing cases continue to drag on, Efraín Ríos Montt in Guatemala and Jean-Claude Duvalier in Haiti. Both Ríos Montt and Duvalier enjoyed support of all kinds from the U.S. government, but the U.S.’s response to the cases illustrates the ongoing hypocrisy of the U.S. in the region.

In Guatemala, as numerous media outlets have described it, Ríos Montt is “the first former head of state in the Americas to stand trial for genocide in a national court.” While the case was recently suspended, after a week of legal maneuvers, it appears that it may be set to resume this week.  After the trial was suspended on April 18, investigative journalist Allan Nairn reported that “Guatemalan army associates had threatened the lives of case judges and prosecutors and that the case had been annulled after intervention by Guatemala’s president, General Otto Pérez Molina.” Nairn, who investigated atrocities in Guatemala in the ‘80s – including Pérez Molina’s involvement in them -- was supposed to testify at the trial.

But less than a week later, the U.S. sent Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen J. Rapp to Guatemala to “meet with U.S. Government and Embassy officials, local victims groups, and other international officials.” Last Friday, as the trial continued to be suspended, State Department Acting Deputy Spokesperson  Patrick Ventrell stated:

So we urge the Government of Guatemala to ensure that this legal case is conducted in accordance with Guatemala’s domestic and international legal obligations, and we expect the process and outcome will advance the rule of law.

The statement from the State Department came the same day that Rapp concluded his trip to Guatemala. Over the weekend, president Pérez Molina also seemed to partially walk back his previous statements criticizing the trial, calling the trial “historic” and pledging to not personally intervene.

In Haiti, on the other hand, the U.S. has been entirely absent.

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Accused of Sexual Abuse, MINUSTAH Officer Flees Haiti Print
Tuesday, 23 April 2013 11:36

In February, the United Nations confirmed that a Canadian serving with the United Nations Police contingent of MINUSTAH had been accused of sexually and physically assaulting a Haitian woman. Yesterday, Marie Rosy Kesner Auguste Ducena, a lawyer with the Haitian National Human Rights Defense Network, told CBC news that, though the victim reported the assault to police, “nothing will happen... Women who will go to complain, you will see that maybe somebody will take the complaint and will say to her you will be called after. But in fact, the case will just be closed.” CBC notes that the “day after the incident, the man boarded a flight back to Canada, where he remains.”

This is but the latest in a series of sexual abuse allegations leveled against MINUSTAH personnel in Haiti. According to U.N. data, since 2007 there have been 70 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation against MINUSTAH members, but as CBC news points out, “not one has ended up in a Haitian court.”

The lack of accountability of U.N. military and police personnel in Haiti has “undermined” the organizations reputation and its ability to carry out its mandate, according to Mark Schneider of the International Crisis Group (ICG). "The UN should ensure that in the agreement with the troop-contributing countries, that there is an understanding of what will happen if an abuse occurs — that there will be a full investigation, and that there will be appropriate action taken," Schneider added.

According to the CBC, the current case is complicated by the fact that the Canadian was serving as a UN Police agent. The CBC reports:

Soldiers can be tried in a military court, but under UN rules, civilian staff — including police officers — are immune from criminal prosecution in the country where the alleged offence occurred. Once back in Canada, they cannot be charged for a crime committed abroad.

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Is the IOM Underestimating the Impact of Forced Evictions? Print
Friday, 19 April 2013 15:59

The IOM reported this week that over the last three months, some 27,000 people have left IDP camps, bringing the total amount remaining to around 320,000. The IOM credits the vast majority of this reduction, some 74 percent, on relocation programs – most often a one-year rental subsidy. The report’s “highlights” section says that “Evictions accounted for a 6% decrease in IDP household population.”  Yet the data in the report directly contradicts this. Of a reported reduction of 6,401 households, the IOM says 977 were forced to leave due to evictions, representing over 15 percent of the total reduction.

But even this is most likely an underestimate. Over previous months, there has been “a dramatic new wave of forced evictions,” according to the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). One camp which has been under the threat of eviction, and from which some families have already been evicted, is Camp Gaston Margon. On March 22, Amnesty International released a statement, warning that:

Approximately 650 families living in Gaston Margon displacement camp in the Port-au-Prince municipality of Carrefour are currently under the threat of forced eviction. Already, on 15 February, 150 families were forcibly evicted from the camp by police officers and a group of men carrying machetes and knives who were accompanied by a local justice of the peace. The armed men began destroying the families’ shelters, while some people were still inside, and attacked individuals that attempted to stop them. The police also shot their firearms into the air to intimidate the families. One infant was reported to have suffered injuries when armed men and police damaged a shelter with the child still inside. The men reportedly threatened to burn down the entire camp and to kill the children of families who did not move.

During the previous IOM reporting period, Camp Margon had a population of 3,376. During the most recent reporting period, the population had decreased to 2,327. Given the reports of threats of eviction, and at least a partial eviction, it is clear that this reduction is not simply a case of “spontaneous return,” as the IOM report implicitly states.

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Despite Track Record, U.S. Hires Contractor to Provide Troops to U.N. Haiti Mission Print
Thursday, 11 April 2013 11:12

In a press release yesterday, DynCorp International announced that the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) had awarded the company with a $48.6 million contract. The purpose of the contract is to “recruit and support up to 100 UNPOL and 10 U.N. Corrections Advisors. DI will also provide logistics support to the Haitian National Police (HNP) Academy and each academy class. In addition, DI will supply five high-level French and Haitian Creole speaking subject matter experts to advise senior HNP officials.”

While the press release went out yesterday, the contract was actually awarded to DynCorp a year ago, and the first funding through the award was given to DynCorp in November 2012 in the amount of $12.9 million. DynCorp is one of the largest government contractors, receiving well over $3 billion in 2012.

As the company points out, its previous work in Haiti began in 2008 and involved the training of over 400 police officers. That work, part of the Haiti Stabilization Initiative, also entailed increasing the size of the U.N. military base in Cite Soleil. DynCorp, which continues to receive funds through that task order, has received over $23 million since 2008 for its work in Haiti.

One of the primary tasks of the U.N. military mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is to recruit and train members for the Haitian National Police, so that they could eventually take over for the foreign troops. With this latest contract, DynCorp has gone from training police to take over for MINUSTAH, to simply supplying troops directly to MINUSTAH.

But the awarding of the contract to DynCorp is also problematic given the company’s terrible track record in the same exact program areas where they will now operate in Haiti. 

In Bosnia in the late ‘90s, DynCorp was contracted by the State Department to provide “peacekeepers” for the U.N. police there, just as in Haiti now. One employee, Kathryn Bolkovac, was eventually fired after blowing the whistle to her superiors at DynCorp on the participation of her colleagues in sex trafficking, among other abuses. The case was the basis for the 2011 Hollywood movie, The Whistleblower.

Unfortunately, these types of abuses have been all too common in Haiti since the arrival of U.N. troops in 2004. And similar to the situation in Bosnia, there have been only sporadic and piecemeal efforts to hold those responsible, accountable.

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U.S. Food Aid Reform Opposed by Aid’s Intended Recipients: U.S. Special Interests Print
Friday, 05 April 2013 16:09

The New York Times reported yesterday that the Obama administration plans to change the way U.S. food assistance to other countries is conducted. The reforms, according to the Times’ Ron Nixon, would notably focus on local procurement of food rather than shipping U.S.-grown crops overseas. This is something we and other groups have proposed be done to both assist Haitian farmers and food insecure people in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Despite some interest from some congressional offices, the proposal never went anywhere.

Nixon notes that current U.S. food aid practices are unique: “The United States spends about $1.4 billion a year on food aid and is the only major donor country that continues to send food to humanitarian crisis spots, rather than buying food produced locally.” A recent op-ed by the Center for Global Development’s Charles Kenny in Bloomberg Businessweek noted additionally that “The U.S. food aid program… spends roughly an additional $1 billion transporting the crops overseas, in most cases using U.S.-flagged ships.”

U.S. food aid to Haiti is emblematic of the program as a whole. As we have previously noted, in roughly the first year after the 2010 earthquake, USAID signed nine contracts with three shipping companies to send 73,000 metric tons of rice and other commodities in Title II emergency food aid to Haiti, at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of over $18 million dollars.

The Associated Press’ Mary Clare Jalonick reports on other controversial aspects of the U.S. food aid regime:

Particularly controversial is the process of what is called "monetization," or selling the food once it arrives overseas to finance development projects. A 2011 report by the Government Accountability Office found monetization cost the U.S. an extra $219 million over a three years, money that could have been used for other development projects.

Aid groups are split on the point, since some finance their activities through monetization. But major aid groups like Oxfam and CARE say the process can destroy local agriculture by dumping cheap crops on the market at a price too low for local farmers to compete.

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Breaking Open the Black Box: Increasing Aid Transparency and Accountability in Haiti Print
Wednesday, 03 April 2013 12:41

Today, CEPR released a new report authored by Jake Johnston and Alex Main on USAID in Haiti. The paper looks at the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance, what we know about how it is being administered, to what extent it is adhering to the USAID Forward reform agenda and what steps can be taken to ensure more effective and transparent delivery of aid to Haiti. While one can see who the primary awardees are, the lack of more detailed data creates the impression that U.S. foreign assistance goes into a “black box” where it becomes nearly impossible to tell what happens afterwards.

The report notes that the few audits and evaluations of USAID’s programs in Haiti since the earthquake present a “troubling picture of the manner in which U.S. relief and reconstruction efforts have been conducted so far.” Contractors have hired far fewer Haitians than promised, Haitian businesses were largely excluded, goals were not met, there was inadequate supervision of grantees, and USAID had not conducted internal financial reviews of contractors.

The paper makes several recommendations for how to improve transparency and accountability around the $1 billion in outstanding obligated U.S. aid funds for Haiti, as well as around any additional aid funding in the future. These include making data available on subcontractors; ensuring awardee compliance with federal regulations and contract requirements; reducing reliance on large, multi-year contracts that favor traditional partners while increasing direct contracting to Haitian entities; strengthening USAID’s capacity to carry out effective monitoring and evaluation of assistance programs; making all evaluations publically available; ensuring the involvement of local populations; and making all available information on assistance programs accessible to Haitians – including via translations to Haitian Creole.

“Without transparency, not only is it impossible for U.S. taxpayers to know what is being done with their money, but the Haitian government and the Haitian people have little opportunity to ensure that U.S.-funded projects actually assist Haiti in rebuilding and dealing with ongoing urgent humanitarian needs,” paper co-author Alex Main said.

Below are a series of graphs from the report, illustrating what we do know and the limitations of the data available.

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