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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Kolbe: Political and Social Marginalization Behind Increases in Crime Print

In early March, social scientists Athena Kolbe and Robert Muggah released a study, backed by Canada’s International Development Research Centre and the Igarapé Institute of Brazil, showing increasing crime rates in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Based on household surveys, the authors found that “[f]or the first time since 2007, the incidence of violent crime and victimization has shown a consistent increase”. While the homicide rate in Haiti’s capital is lower than in many other Caribbean cities, the authors note the current rate in Haiti makes it one of the highest recorded rates since the post-coup period of 2004. At the same time, the authors found a reversal in citizens’ support for the Haitian National Police.

In an interview with HRRW, Kolbe, a clinical social worker affiliated with the University of Michigan, explains the social context of the current study and explores some of the causes and implications of the results. Kolbe finds that most of the victims of violence and criminal activities were residents of low-income neighborhoods where the population has experienced “social and political marginalization.” The ending of aid programs has also had a “profound impact on the people who need the services the most.” Kolbe notes that the bypassing of the Haitian government by NGOs and donor governments has created a situation where these entities and not the Haitian state “provide basic social and municipal services.” With a government that cannot guarantee its citizens access to services, Kolbe notes that “simply increasing the number of police on the street isn’t going to solve Haiti’s crime problem.” What is needed is to “focus efforts on improving the conditions in society that create the climate where crime is a viable option.”

Read more for the full interview:

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USAID-Funded Parliament Building Still Vacant 4 Months After “Inauguration” Print

Jacob Kushner and Jean Pharés Jérôme of Global Post report today on the high-profile USAID project to build a temporary building for Haiti’s parliament. Although the $1.9 million building was “inaugurated” in November 2011, Kushner and Jérôme report that:

But more than four months later, that location remains vacant. The building is scattered with woodwork trimmings and debris from a costly ongoing renovation paid for by the Haitian treasury because legislators say the United States never finished the job. And critics in Haiti charge that the unfinished work and empty building stand as a powerful metaphor for much of what is wrong with USAID’s approach to development in Haiti: that it lacks coordination with and input from the Haitians themselves about how best to undertake reconstruction projects.

The building remains nothing more than a “shell” and the Haitian government has already spent $770,000 in renovations and will have to spend much more before it is actually usable. Cholzer Chancy of Haiti’s Chamber of Deputies told Global Post, “It may cost more for us to renovate it than for them to build it in the first place.”

U.S. Embassy spokesman Jon Piechowski defended the project, saying:

“We explained to them what could be done, we consulted with them on that, and they approved the project,” he said. “We answer to the American people and we need to be good stewards of their tax money, and I think we’ve done that in this case.”

The authors continue:

But to the half a million Haitians who remain displaced to tents and shacks since the earthquake, the $2 million US aid dollars spent on an empty building and the hundreds of thousands more taken from the Haitian Treasury to renovate it seem inexcusable.

“All the time, I hear on the radio that American money is going here or there,” said Acelus Saint Louis, a 45-year-old who lives in a tent with his wife and two children. “But I don’t see it. This could lift us up, but instead it’s just wasted.”
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Two Die as Fire Sweeps Through Camp Lycèe Toussaint Print

By Mark Snyder and Ellie Happel

At two in the morning on Monday March 12th, 2012, the tents of Camp Lycèe Toussaint in downtown Port-au-Prince became engulfed in flames.  Within an hour, 96 of the approximately 120 emergency shelters, home to some of Haiti’s internally displaced, burned to the ground.  Although most of the camp residents escaped without serious injury, the families lost the few belongings they had accumulated in the two years and two months since the earthquake.  Camp residents reported that they did not have water to extinguish the fire.  For months, five Red Cross water tanks have sat empty at the entrance to the camp.

The cause of the fire remains unknown. Neither the Government of Haiti nor the International Organization for Migration (IOM), responsible for camp management, has released an official statement about the fire.

Community members reported that a twelve-year old boy died in the fire.  His brother died in the hospital.  Their mother remains in critical condition.  Many people in the camp reported suffering burns.

By Monday afternoon, camp residents reported that they had yet to receive a visit from a local or national government representative. Residents said that IOM staff came to the camp for "only some minutes" and added that they "told us nothing." 

Community organizers arrived at the site to remind the victims of the fire that they were not helpless: the Haitian Constitution and international conventions grant specific rights to the internally displaced and place a duty on the government to respect and fulfill these rights.  As the organizers spoke, a small group of residents grew larger and the conversation became more animated.  Residents decided to hold a spontaneous protest to call attention to their situation.  Within a half hour, the residents found a bullhorn and a driver willing to use his minibus and charred shelter to block the road.  They rallied their displaced neighbors to block the side street that borders the camp.

When the protestors lit a tire in the road, the Haitian National Police (PNH) arrived within minutes.  They extinguished the low flame and aggressively broke up the protest.  On two occasions officers leveled their assault rifles and shotguns on the crowd, forcing them to disperse. One of these incidences was recorded on video, just after the PNH officer rushed into the camp with his weapon drawn and chased a young boy who yelled of the injustice of the situation. The boy ran from the officer and disappeared through an opening in an earthquake-damaged building. Additional armed officers arrived and charged into the crowd with assault rifles, shotguns, and a teargas gun.

Camp residents commented that their entire camp can burn along with their children, and the Haitian Government does nothing.  But when residents burn a tire in the street, the police respond.

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MINUSTAH Officers Found Guilty of Rape – But Get Just One Year in Prison Print

The UN announced today that three Pakistani officers were found guilty of sexual exploitation and abuse. Although the UN did not discuss many specifics, Reuters reported earlier that two members of the UN stabilization mission (MINUSTAH) had “been sentenced to a year in prison for raping a 14-year-old Haitian boy.” Reuters also notes that:

It was the first time that members of the U.N. military on deployment in Haiti have been tried and sentenced within its borders.

The Haitian government had previously requested the lifting of immunity for the Pakistani officers and the Senate passed a resolution requesting they be tried in Haitian courts.  Yet, while the trial was held in Haiti, it was a “military justice procedure…undertaken in accordance with the national laws of Pakistan.” Those found guilty will serve their sentence in Pakistan. As Reuters reports, “Haitian government authorities were given no advance notice of the military tribunal.” Had the Pakistani police officers been tried in a Haitian court they likely would have faced much harsher penalties. Haiti’s Justice Minister, Michel Brunache told Reuters it was a “small” step, adding:

"We expected more from the U.N. and the Pakistani government, but now we want to focus on the proper reparation that the victim deserves."

The case is but the latest in a long string of sexual abuse cases involving MINUSTAH personnel. In 2007 over 100 Sri Lankan MINUSTAH soldiers were repatriated (PDF) after allegations of “transactional sex with underage girls”. To this date no information on if they were ever prosecuted has been made public. More recently, five Uruguayan MINUSTAH troops were repatriated and jailed after a cell phone video showing them sexual assaulting a young Haitian man was reported by the press. The soldiers have since been released from jail and the trial has stalled.

This case, however, differs from the Sri Lanka and Uruguay cases in that the abuse involved members of a Formed Police Unit rather than military personnel. Of the 11,241 MINUSTAH personnel in Haiti, 3,542 are police. The UN announced the case in January, noting a significant difference from previous cases of sexual abuse my MINUSTAH troops:

However, unlike cases involving UN military contingent personnel, investigations into allegations involving UN police fall under the responsibility of the United Nations.  For this reason, a team was dispatched to Haiti, on 21 January 2012, to investigate these allegations with the utmost determination

Despite the UN’s “zero tolerance” policy on sexual abuse, they have few means to actually ensure legal prosecution of troops as the responsibility for investigating and prosecuting abuses falls on the troop contributing country. In the case of Formed Police Units (PDF), the UN has the power to investigate, but “responsibility for disciplinary action in these units rests with the commanders of the national units, who must keep the Head of Mission fully informed in all disciplinary matters.” Although Pakistan was responsible for the disciplinary action, it is unclear if it was prompted by the UN investigation. It seems likely, however, that because the guilty officers were police rather than soldiers, the UN had a greater ability to influence the case and actually enforce their “zero tolerance” policy. Still, the circumstances in which the Pakistani officers’ abuses were investigated and prosecuted remain murky at best.  The UN could take an important step toward fostering an environment of transparency and accountability by releasing their internal investigation into the rape committed by the Pakistani police officers, and clarifying their role in the prosecution. 

 
Gender Action: IFI’s Fail to Adequately Address Gender Based Violence in Post-Quake Investments Print

To mark International Women’s Day, HRRW is highlighting recent research concerning issues relating to women’s rights in Haiti.

Gender Action released a report this week analyzing the extent to which the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) address gender-based violence (GBV) in their post-earthquake loans. Gender Action applies their Essential Gender Analysis Checklist to five different projects implemented by the two international financial institutions. The report finds that:

[N]either the World Bank nor the IDB adequately address GBV within other critical post-earthquake investments. Sadly, this lack of attention to GBV is hardly surprising: according to Interaction, an alliance of international non-governmental organizations, “the humanitarian community continues to see women’s protection as a second-tier concern in crises, particularly natural disasters, and is slow to address GBV at the onset of an emergency” (Interaction, 2010). This case study underscores the urgent need for the World Bank and IDB to strengthen their own gender policies and explicitly address GBV across all sectors.

The report does salute the World Bank for a recent grant to combat GBV in Haiti, which was the result of advocacy efforts on the part of Gender Action and other groups.

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