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 March, three Pakistani MINUSTAH troops were found guilty, sentenced to one year in prison and repatriated for the rape of a 14-year old Haitian boy. Although the trial was held on Haitian soil, it was a “military justice procedure…undertaken in accordance with the national laws of Pakistan,” according to the UN. Additionally, Reuters reported at the time that “Haitian government authorities were given no advance notice of the military tribunal.” Had the troops faced a Haitian court, their sentences would likely have been much longer. Had the troops had to face Haitian justice they may also have had to respond to further allegations that the Pakistani UN Mission tried to cover-up the crime, going so far as to kidnap the victim.

While some Haitian media and blogs picked up the story at the time, little has been written about the attempted cover-up.  Independent journalist Kathie Klarreich, who recently traveled to Gonaïves where the crime took place, mentioned the cover-up in a larger piece about MINUSTAH scandals for the Christian Science Monitor. Klarreich has now provided new details to HRRW on what happened, raising even more questions about the level of impunity for UN troops in Haiti and just how widespread these abuses are. While the Haitian police have witnesses and evidence tying MINUSTAH to the cover-up of rape, the UN has apparently not been cooperative and has failed to adequately investigate and hold accountable those responsible.

What Happened

The UN first disclosed the case in January, announcing that an investigative team would be heading to Haiti. In February, as the circumstances around the case became clearer, Senator Youri Latortue took to the airwaves to call for the lifting of immunity for MINUSTAH and to denounce the apparent cover-up that was executed by the Pakistani contingent. After witnesses of the abuse went to local police, the 14-year-old boy was kidnapped and taken to a MINUSTAH base in Cap- Haïtien with the “objective to prevent the continuation of the investigation” according to Latortue. On January 26, 2012, police arrested Vladimir Alexandre, a local Haitian, for being an accomplice to the kidnapping. Another alleged accomplice is still at large. While the “military tribunal” was conducted behind closed doors and the guilty members of MINUSTAH whisked out of the country, the local case in the city of Gonaïves has gone nowhere.

Alexandre, speaking with Klarreich, defended himself, telling her, “All I did was show them where he [the victim] lived. I don’t know anything about taking him anywhere,” adding that he didn’t receive anything from the soldiers in return. But Klarreich said that what he told her directly contradicts what he had told police when they arrested him.  According to a copy of his testimony which Klarreich read, Alexandre admitted that he knew the boy, that he’d been in contact with the Pakistani MINUSTAH troops, and that he and the other accomplice had agreed to remove the boy from the area. He also admits that the Pakistanis came to his home bearing gifts for his mother – $100 Haitian Gourdes ($12 US) and a sack of rice.

Alexandre remains in the police station jail, held in a room with 111 other prisoners. The Gonaïves police chief told Klarreich that according to Haitian law, Alexandre could be held for up to two months but if no charges were brought then legally he should be allowed to go free.  “I am not here to judge,” the police chief said, “but rather to make sure that the justice system works. Let’s remove the obstacles and finish this case.” The local officials in charge of the case continue to seek answers, while the lawyers for the victim continue to seek compensation from the United Nations.


Military Tribunal Covers-Up the Cover-Up

This case was different than some of the other high-profile MINUSTAH abuse cases in that this time it involved members of a Formed Police Unit (FPU) rather than military personnel. Unlike cases involving military, the United Nations can investigate misconduct of FPU’s, 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.”

In the case of the Pakistani FPU, the unit commander was accused by Latortue of complicity in the boy’s kidnapping. Although HRRW can’t confirm that the specific commander that Latortue accused was the person responsible for disciplinary action, the possible involvement of higher-ups within the Pakistani unit would clearly compromise any sense of impartiality.

In early February, the Haitian government wrote a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, requesting he lift immunity, enabling those accused of rape of being tried in a Haitian court.  The Haitian Senate followed suit by unanimously approving a resolution requesting the same. However UNSG Ban Ki-moon did not fulfill the request, despite the fact that it appears he had the power to do so. According to UN Department of Peacekeeping Policy:

As “Experts on Mission”, members of FPUs are inter alia “…immune from personal arrest or detention” and are immune from legal process of any kind “in respect of words spoken or written and acts done by them in the course of the performance of their mission”. However, the Secretary-General has “…the right and the duty to waive the immunity of any expert in any case where, in his opinion, the immunity would impede the course of justice and it can be waived without prejudice to the interests of the United Nations”.

Rather than lift immunity and let the details of the case become public, the tribunal was held behind closed doors. Le Nouvelliste reported in May that the local authorities in Gonaïves investigating the case, and even the victim’s family only learned of the tribunal through the media. While the three rapists have been repatriated and are serving short jail sentences, the MINUSTAH accomplices in the cover-up have not been held responsible. In responding to Klarreich’s piece in the Christian Science Monitor, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in Haiti, Mariano Fernández Amunátegui addressed the sexual abuse allegations:

I will not evade the cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, against which the United Nations are committed to enforce its zero tolerance policy. They are outrageous and totally unacceptable, and they are severely punished. Impunity does not prevail.

Yet, while the UN has sought to portray this and other acts of sexual abuse as simple cases of “a few bad apples”, the possible involvement of higher level MINUSTAH officials and multiple bases to cover-up a rape should raise serious questions about the commitment to accountability and “zero tolerance” on the part of the UN.

In March, three Pakistani MINUSTAH troops were found guilty, sentenced to one year in prison and repatriated for the rape of a 14-year old Haitian boy. Although the trial was held on Haitian soil, it was a “military justice procedure…undertaken in accordance with the national laws of Pakistan,” according to the UN. Additionally, Reuters reported at the time that “Haitian government authorities were given no advance notice of the military tribunal.” Had the troops faced a Haitian court, their sentences would likely have been much longer. Had the troops had to face Haitian justice they may also have had to respond to further allegations that the Pakistani UN Mission tried to cover-up the crime, going so far as to kidnap the victim.

While some Haitian media and blogs picked up the story at the time, little has been written about the attempted cover-up.  Independent journalist Kathie Klarreich, who recently traveled to Gonaïves where the crime took place, mentioned the cover-up in a larger piece about MINUSTAH scandals for the Christian Science Monitor. Klarreich has now provided new details to HRRW on what happened, raising even more questions about the level of impunity for UN troops in Haiti and just how widespread these abuses are. While the Haitian police have witnesses and evidence tying MINUSTAH to the cover-up of rape, the UN has apparently not been cooperative and has failed to adequately investigate and hold accountable those responsible.

What Happened

The UN first disclosed the case in January, announcing that an investigative team would be heading to Haiti. In February, as the circumstances around the case became clearer, Senator Youri Latortue took to the airwaves to call for the lifting of immunity for MINUSTAH and to denounce the apparent cover-up that was executed by the Pakistani contingent. After witnesses of the abuse went to local police, the 14-year-old boy was kidnapped and taken to a MINUSTAH base in Cap- Haïtien with the “objective to prevent the continuation of the investigation” according to Latortue. On January 26, 2012, police arrested Vladimir Alexandre, a local Haitian, for being an accomplice to the kidnapping. Another alleged accomplice is still at large. While the “military tribunal” was conducted behind closed doors and the guilty members of MINUSTAH whisked out of the country, the local case in the city of Gonaïves has gone nowhere.

Alexandre, speaking with Klarreich, defended himself, telling her, “All I did was show them where he [the victim] lived. I don’t know anything about taking him anywhere,” adding that he didn’t receive anything from the soldiers in return. But Klarreich said that what he told her directly contradicts what he had told police when they arrested him.  According to a copy of his testimony which Klarreich read, Alexandre admitted that he knew the boy, that he’d been in contact with the Pakistani MINUSTAH troops, and that he and the other accomplice had agreed to remove the boy from the area. He also admits that the Pakistanis came to his home bearing gifts for his mother – $100 Haitian Gourdes ($12 US) and a sack of rice.

Alexandre remains in the police station jail, held in a room with 111 other prisoners. The Gonaïves police chief told Klarreich that according to Haitian law, Alexandre could be held for up to two months but if no charges were brought then legally he should be allowed to go free.  “I am not here to judge,” the police chief said, “but rather to make sure that the justice system works. Let’s remove the obstacles and finish this case.” The local officials in charge of the case continue to seek answers, while the lawyers for the victim continue to seek compensation from the United Nations.


Military Tribunal Covers-Up the Cover-Up

This case was different than some of the other high-profile MINUSTAH abuse cases in that this time it involved members of a Formed Police Unit (FPU) rather than military personnel. Unlike cases involving military, the United Nations can investigate misconduct of FPU’s, 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.”

In the case of the Pakistani FPU, the unit commander was accused by Latortue of complicity in the boy’s kidnapping. Although HRRW can’t confirm that the specific commander that Latortue accused was the person responsible for disciplinary action, the possible involvement of higher-ups within the Pakistani unit would clearly compromise any sense of impartiality.

In early February, the Haitian government wrote a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, requesting he lift immunity, enabling those accused of rape of being tried in a Haitian court.  The Haitian Senate followed suit by unanimously approving a resolution requesting the same. However UNSG Ban Ki-moon did not fulfill the request, despite the fact that it appears he had the power to do so. According to UN Department of Peacekeeping Policy:

As “Experts on Mission”, members of FPUs are inter alia “…immune from personal arrest or detention” and are immune from legal process of any kind “in respect of words spoken or written and acts done by them in the course of the performance of their mission”. However, the Secretary-General has “…the right and the duty to waive the immunity of any expert in any case where, in his opinion, the immunity would impede the course of justice and it can be waived without prejudice to the interests of the United Nations”.

Rather than lift immunity and let the details of the case become public, the tribunal was held behind closed doors. Le Nouvelliste reported in May that the local authorities in Gonaïves investigating the case, and even the victim’s family only learned of the tribunal through the media. While the three rapists have been repatriated and are serving short jail sentences, the MINUSTAH accomplices in the cover-up have not been held responsible. In responding to Klarreich’s piece in the Christian Science Monitor, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in Haiti, Mariano Fernández Amunátegui addressed the sexual abuse allegations:

I will not evade the cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, against which the United Nations are committed to enforce its zero tolerance policy. They are outrageous and totally unacceptable, and they are severely punished. Impunity does not prevail.

Yet, while the UN has sought to portray this and other acts of sexual abuse as simple cases of “a few bad apples”, the possible involvement of higher level MINUSTAH officials and multiple bases to cover-up a rape should raise serious questions about the commitment to accountability and “zero tolerance” on the part of the UN.

Vijaya Ramachandran and Julie Walz of the Center for Global Development recently reported on their trip to Haiti, where they further examined aid accountability and the ongoing reconstruction effort, the themes of their recent policy paper which we have previously described.

Among the problems that Ramachandran and Walz noted were:

International NGOs have frequent staff turnover and very high costs.  In the aftermath of the quake, we learned that senior staff came and went, some staying as little as a few weeks.  A new arrival meant starting all over again, often with an individual who had little knowledge of Haiti and no knowledge of Creole (or even French).   The cost of maintaining expatriate staff in Haiti is very high.  According to the Miami Herald, it can cost upwards of $200,000 annually in housing and other benefits to keep a senior-level manager in Haiti. Some of our interviewees explained how NGOs and foreign workers are exempt from Haitian taxes and often do not follow Haitian registration requirements.  Donors have spent billions of dollars trying to repair Haiti’s broken infrastructure, largely with their own goods and labor.  In the meantime, most Haitians in Port-au-Prince spend their day trying to sell a few vegetables or fruit or other goods on the sidewalk, which in most cases, does not generate enough money to feed themselves or their families.

We repeatedly heard stories about the unintended economic and social consequences of the influx of foreign workers.  Housing costs in certain areas have skyrocketed – rentals easily go for over $30,000 per year, with some houses being rented for a lot more. Restaurants and supermarkets in certain areas of Petion-ville cater exclusively to foreign tastes, and prices of basic goods have been driven up to a level that even middle-class Haitians cannot afford.

And:

[I]nternational NGOs have set up programs and carried out construction projects that are often at odds with local needs, and sometimes harmful in the longer-term.  The United Nations Logistics Center, near the airport, was virtually inaccessible to Haitians in the period immediately following the quake.  The brand new U.S. embassy, housing the largest USAID mission in the world, is like a fortress, complete with a perimeter of sandbags and armed guards.  A lack of communication often means mistakes are made, for instance we learned of a housing project constructed by an NGO over a watershed for Port-au-Prince, in violation of environmental guidelines and the Government of Haiti’s own rules.

(See the full post here.)

But as we have described in earlier posts, it is not only NGO’s that carry out ill-planned construction projects. As Haiti Grassroots Watch details in a new investigative report, the Haitian government appears to be channeling PetroCaribe funds into a massive housing development, apparently to be adjacent to a planned industrial park. HGW’s contacted various authorities in an effort to get answers to questions about the project, such as

What is the exact number of lodgings to be built? What is the total budget? When will the construction be completed? Under what conditions was the contract signed, and by whom? What firm is executing the project, and what firm is overseeing the project? Does the project fit with the government’s new housing policy? Who is or are the landowner(s) and how much money did he or they receive?

Are the houses meant to be “public” housing for the victims of the January 2010 earthquake?

Or – like the housing being built in the north near the new industrial park in Caracol – are they “private,” meant for the eventual workers at another industrial park, planned by the government? Or maybe for the workers that will work at a third set of factories, planned for the private “integrated economic zone” of Corail, more commonly known as “NABATEC”?

Is the “public” subsidizing the “private” by making it cheaper and easier for foreign corporations to set up factories where they can hire workers for the lowest salary in the hemisphere?

But HGW describes their inquiries into the Morne à Cabri housing project being met with obstruction and obfuscation by an array of authorities. For example

The Supreme Court of Accounts and of Administrative Litigations (CSCCA in French) is supposed to give  advice on all the contracts, accords and convention that the government signs. But on two visits, a journalist was rebuked.

“You don’t have the right to that information. Who are you to ask me about the contracts? A state agency? A company?” were among the rude and hostile responses.

The HGW team summarized the cold response thus:

Haitian officials have decided to keep their mouths shut about the circumstances that led to the country’s largest housing project, even though that silence is a flagrant violation of Article 40 of the Haitian Constitution, which states:

“The State is obligated to publicize via the written, spoken and televised media, in Creole and French, the laws, orders, decrees, international accords, treaties, conventions, and all that concerns the life of the nation, except for information that would put in jeopardy national security.”

But

The list of authorities and entities refusing to speak – or at least, to speak about the contract – is long.

Vijaya Ramachandran and Julie Walz of the Center for Global Development recently reported on their trip to Haiti, where they further examined aid accountability and the ongoing reconstruction effort, the themes of their recent policy paper which we have previously described.

Among the problems that Ramachandran and Walz noted were:

International NGOs have frequent staff turnover and very high costs.  In the aftermath of the quake, we learned that senior staff came and went, some staying as little as a few weeks.  A new arrival meant starting all over again, often with an individual who had little knowledge of Haiti and no knowledge of Creole (or even French).   The cost of maintaining expatriate staff in Haiti is very high.  According to the Miami Herald, it can cost upwards of $200,000 annually in housing and other benefits to keep a senior-level manager in Haiti. Some of our interviewees explained how NGOs and foreign workers are exempt from Haitian taxes and often do not follow Haitian registration requirements.  Donors have spent billions of dollars trying to repair Haiti’s broken infrastructure, largely with their own goods and labor.  In the meantime, most Haitians in Port-au-Prince spend their day trying to sell a few vegetables or fruit or other goods on the sidewalk, which in most cases, does not generate enough money to feed themselves or their families.

We repeatedly heard stories about the unintended economic and social consequences of the influx of foreign workers.  Housing costs in certain areas have skyrocketed – rentals easily go for over $30,000 per year, with some houses being rented for a lot more. Restaurants and supermarkets in certain areas of Petion-ville cater exclusively to foreign tastes, and prices of basic goods have been driven up to a level that even middle-class Haitians cannot afford.

And:

[I]nternational NGOs have set up programs and carried out construction projects that are often at odds with local needs, and sometimes harmful in the longer-term.  The United Nations Logistics Center, near the airport, was virtually inaccessible to Haitians in the period immediately following the quake.  The brand new U.S. embassy, housing the largest USAID mission in the world, is like a fortress, complete with a perimeter of sandbags and armed guards.  A lack of communication often means mistakes are made, for instance we learned of a housing project constructed by an NGO over a watershed for Port-au-Prince, in violation of environmental guidelines and the Government of Haiti’s own rules.

(See the full post here.)

But as we have described in earlier posts, it is not only NGO’s that carry out ill-planned construction projects. As Haiti Grassroots Watch details in a new investigative report, the Haitian government appears to be channeling PetroCaribe funds into a massive housing development, apparently to be adjacent to a planned industrial park. HGW’s contacted various authorities in an effort to get answers to questions about the project, such as

What is the exact number of lodgings to be built? What is the total budget? When will the construction be completed? Under what conditions was the contract signed, and by whom? What firm is executing the project, and what firm is overseeing the project? Does the project fit with the government’s new housing policy? Who is or are the landowner(s) and how much money did he or they receive?

Are the houses meant to be “public” housing for the victims of the January 2010 earthquake?

Or – like the housing being built in the north near the new industrial park in Caracol – are they “private,” meant for the eventual workers at another industrial park, planned by the government? Or maybe for the workers that will work at a third set of factories, planned for the private “integrated economic zone” of Corail, more commonly known as “NABATEC”?

Is the “public” subsidizing the “private” by making it cheaper and easier for foreign corporations to set up factories where they can hire workers for the lowest salary in the hemisphere?

But HGW describes their inquiries into the Morne à Cabri housing project being met with obstruction and obfuscation by an array of authorities. For example

The Supreme Court of Accounts and of Administrative Litigations (CSCCA in French) is supposed to give  advice on all the contracts, accords and convention that the government signs. But on two visits, a journalist was rebuked.

“You don’t have the right to that information. Who are you to ask me about the contracts? A state agency? A company?” were among the rude and hostile responses.

The HGW team summarized the cold response thus:

Haitian officials have decided to keep their mouths shut about the circumstances that led to the country’s largest housing project, even though that silence is a flagrant violation of Article 40 of the Haitian Constitution, which states:

“The State is obligated to publicize via the written, spoken and televised media, in Creole and French, the laws, orders, decrees, international accords, treaties, conventions, and all that concerns the life of the nation, except for information that would put in jeopardy national security.”

But

The list of authorities and entities refusing to speak – or at least, to speak about the contract – is long.

This is the second installment looking at the New York Times in depth investigation into the Caracol industrial park. For part one, click here.

Jobs at What Cost?

Sontag reports that while concerns over Sae-A’s labor practices were consistently brought to the attention of officials, the project continued to go forward without a comprehensive review:

Before the Haiti deal was sealed, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. urged American and international officials to reconsider, given what it described in a detailed memo as Sae-A’s egregious antiunion repression, including “acts of violence and intimidation” in Guatemala, where Homero Fuentes, who monitors factories for American retailers, calls Sae-A “one of the major labor violators.”

The five-page memo “accused Sae-A of using bribes, death threats and imprisonment to prevent and break up unions.” Sontag describes the allegations against Sae-A in some detail, and notes that while “Gail W. Strickler… the assistant United States trade representative for textiles, says she considered Sae-A ‘an exemplary corporate citizen,’” meanwhile “Scott Nova, executive director of the Workers Rights Consortium, calls the company ‘a big player in a dirty industry with a track record that suggests a degree of ruthlessness even worse than the norm.’”

Of course, labor rights violations in the garment sector in Haiti are nothing new. In fact, on the same day that U.S., Haitian and development bank officials inaugurated the Caracol park, an investigation by Better Work Haiti found “evidence of violations of freedom of association” at other Haitian textile factories.  The most recent Better Work Haiti report, which “uncovered a higher number of violations in the areas of core labour standards than what [was] observed in the previous assessments”, is available here. 11 of 20 factories were found to be non-compliant in at least one of the core labor standards.

“American officials said Sae-A would be closely monitored in Haiti because of trade legislation requiring stringent scrutiny through an American-financed inspection program.”  As part of the legislation providing duty free access to the U.S. market, the U.S., together with the Better Work Haiti program, provides oversight as well as training to employers, employees and Haitian government officials on labor rights issues. But as Yannick Etienne of the Haitian workers’ rights group Batay Ouvriye tells Sontag, ‘“it remains to be seen” whether the inspection program will have “any teeth.”’

Every two years, the U.S. must identify which producers are in compliance with core labor standards and Haitian labor law. The most recent report, which was published in the last month, notes that, “While this is USTR’s fourth report, this is the first reporting period that [non-compliant] producers have been identified.” Yet, giving credence to Etienne’s concerns, this does not mean that the three producers identified as non-compliant on core labor standards will miss out on duty-free access to the U.S. market. As long as the producer shows an effort to improve and work with the U.S. to correct the problems, they will face no sanctions.

One resident of Caracol, who went to Nicaragua to participate in a Sae-A apprenticeship came back so disillusioned he told the New York Times that as soon as he found other work, he would quit his job with Sae-A:

“The way the Koreans treat the Nicaraguan workers is awful,” Mr. Joseph said. “They just treat them like nothing. Just: ‘Do your job. If you don’t do it, I’ll call somebody else to do it.’ ”

Sae-A Chasing Lower Costs

Sae-A made it clear to their employees in Guatemala that if their costs went up, they would pack up and move elsewhere:

According to the formal minutes of a labor-management meeting, a Sae-A executive accused union leaders of saddling the company with expenses that would force the factory’s closing. “It should be made clear,” the executive said, “that the members of the board of directors would simply go to work in another country and the real losers would be the workers.”

Following continued confrontation with the union, the factory closed in 2011, yet as Sontag points out much of their production had already shifted to Nicaragua, another beneficiary of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). And, as Mr Garwood, the Sae-A advisor pointed out, once trade preferences for Nicaragua expire in 2014, “a lot of product orders now going to factories in Nicaragua can go through the Haiti operation.” Which, as independent journalist Tate Watkins points out, begs the question:

With so much of the project’s costs being borne by USAID and IDB and dependent upon favorable tax and tariff deals in both Haiti and the U.S., you can’t help but wonder whether the company’s product orders will still be going “through the Haiti operation” in 10 years.

Of course, while labor rights, environmental degradation and social concerns may have been side-tracked in the race to push forward the flagship reconstruction project, the program’s backers were aware of the risks. IDB manager José Agustín Aguerre tells Sontag:

“But to be honest, in a country like Haiti, maquiladoras are a good opportunity, a quick employment generator. Yes, it’s low-paying, yes, it’s unstable, yes, maybe tomorrow there will a better opportunity for firms elsewhere and they will just leave. But everyone thought this was a risk worth taking.”

But Etienne, Sontag writes, worries that “Caracol will undermine the nearby Codevi industrial park, the only unionized garment operation in the country.

This is the second installment looking at the New York Times in depth investigation into the Caracol industrial park. For part one, click here.

Jobs at What Cost?

Sontag reports that while concerns over Sae-A’s labor practices were consistently brought to the attention of officials, the project continued to go forward without a comprehensive review:

Before the Haiti deal was sealed, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. urged American and international officials to reconsider, given what it described in a detailed memo as Sae-A’s egregious antiunion repression, including “acts of violence and intimidation” in Guatemala, where Homero Fuentes, who monitors factories for American retailers, calls Sae-A “one of the major labor violators.”

The five-page memo “accused Sae-A of using bribes, death threats and imprisonment to prevent and break up unions.” Sontag describes the allegations against Sae-A in some detail, and notes that while “Gail W. Strickler… the assistant United States trade representative for textiles, says she considered Sae-A ‘an exemplary corporate citizen,’” meanwhile “Scott Nova, executive director of the Workers Rights Consortium, calls the company ‘a big player in a dirty industry with a track record that suggests a degree of ruthlessness even worse than the norm.’”

Of course, labor rights violations in the garment sector in Haiti are nothing new. In fact, on the same day that U.S., Haitian and development bank officials inaugurated the Caracol park, an investigation by Better Work Haiti found “evidence of violations of freedom of association” at other Haitian textile factories.  The most recent Better Work Haiti report, which “uncovered a higher number of violations in the areas of core labour standards than what [was] observed in the previous assessments”, is available here. 11 of 20 factories were found to be non-compliant in at least one of the core labor standards.

“American officials said Sae-A would be closely monitored in Haiti because of trade legislation requiring stringent scrutiny through an American-financed inspection program.”  As part of the legislation providing duty free access to the U.S. market, the U.S., together with the Better Work Haiti program, provides oversight as well as training to employers, employees and Haitian government officials on labor rights issues. But as Yannick Etienne of the Haitian workers’ rights group Batay Ouvriye tells Sontag, ‘“it remains to be seen” whether the inspection program will have “any teeth.”’

Every two years, the U.S. must identify which producers are in compliance with core labor standards and Haitian labor law. The most recent report, which was published in the last month, notes that, “While this is USTR’s fourth report, this is the first reporting period that [non-compliant] producers have been identified.” Yet, giving credence to Etienne’s concerns, this does not mean that the three producers identified as non-compliant on core labor standards will miss out on duty-free access to the U.S. market. As long as the producer shows an effort to improve and work with the U.S. to correct the problems, they will face no sanctions.

One resident of Caracol, who went to Nicaragua to participate in a Sae-A apprenticeship came back so disillusioned he told the New York Times that as soon as he found other work, he would quit his job with Sae-A:

“The way the Koreans treat the Nicaraguan workers is awful,” Mr. Joseph said. “They just treat them like nothing. Just: ‘Do your job. If you don’t do it, I’ll call somebody else to do it.’ ”

Sae-A Chasing Lower Costs

Sae-A made it clear to their employees in Guatemala that if their costs went up, they would pack up and move elsewhere:

According to the formal minutes of a labor-management meeting, a Sae-A executive accused union leaders of saddling the company with expenses that would force the factory’s closing. “It should be made clear,” the executive said, “that the members of the board of directors would simply go to work in another country and the real losers would be the workers.”

Following continued confrontation with the union, the factory closed in 2011, yet as Sontag points out much of their production had already shifted to Nicaragua, another beneficiary of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). And, as Mr Garwood, the Sae-A advisor pointed out, once trade preferences for Nicaragua expire in 2014, “a lot of product orders now going to factories in Nicaragua can go through the Haiti operation.” Which, as independent journalist Tate Watkins points out, begs the question:

With so much of the project’s costs being borne by USAID and IDB and dependent upon favorable tax and tariff deals in both Haiti and the U.S., you can’t help but wonder whether the company’s product orders will still be going “through the Haiti operation” in 10 years.

Of course, while labor rights, environmental degradation and social concerns may have been side-tracked in the race to push forward the flagship reconstruction project, the program’s backers were aware of the risks. IDB manager José Agustín Aguerre tells Sontag:

“But to be honest, in a country like Haiti, maquiladoras are a good opportunity, a quick employment generator. Yes, it’s low-paying, yes, it’s unstable, yes, maybe tomorrow there will a better opportunity for firms elsewhere and they will just leave. But everyone thought this was a risk worth taking.”

But Etienne, Sontag writes, worries that “Caracol will undermine the nearby Codevi industrial park, the only unionized garment operation in the country.

The first of two installments looking at the New York Times in depth investigation into the Caracol industrial park. Part two will be posted shortly.

Deborah Sontag, writing in today’s New York Times, takes a detailed look at the new Caracol industrial park being built in northeastern Haiti, finding that in their rush to show reconstruction progress the plan’s backers have overlooked labor and environmental concerns. Sontag writes:

Two and a half years after the earthquake, Haiti remains mired in a humanitarian crisis, with 390,000 people languishing in tents. Yet the showcase project of the reconstruction effort is this: an industrial park that will create jobs and housing in an area undamaged by the temblor, a venture that risks benefiting foreign companies more than Haiti itself.

The park, whose main tenant Sae-A expects to generate some 20,000 jobs over the next six years, has been made possible by generous subsidies from the U.S. and Haitian governments and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Sae-A officials were invited to the U.S. embassy in Seoul to meet with Secretary of State Clinton in 2010. One concern the company had at the time was “uncertainty about whether Haiti’s minimum wage for textile workers, scheduled to increase to $5 from $3.75 a day this October, would continue to rise.” Wikileaks cables later revealed that the U.S. embassy in Haiti, along with some multinational companies had “aggressively moved to block a minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers,” according to The Nation.  While the minimum wage has increased, 18 out of 20 factories monitored by the Better Work Haiti program were found to be non-compliant on the minimum wage in their most recent assessment published in April.

Despite the “obstacles,” and convinced by legislation providing tariff-free access to the U.S. market, Sae-A officials were soon heading to sign an agreement — but not in Haiti, in Washington:

By late summer, they were flying with their investment plan to Washington for a meeting with Mrs. Clinton and other international officials in a historic treaty-signing room on the State Department’s seventh floor.

While Sae-A originally estimated the project would create 3,000-4,000 jobs, American and international officials wanted more:

“We would say, ‘We could probably do a factory with about 3,000 to 4,000 people.’ They’re like, ‘Wow. What would you need to make it bigger?’ I [Lon Garwood, senior advisor to Sae-A] said, ‘If we could get a loan for the machines, we could probably double that.’ They said, ‘What about 10,000?’ We said, ‘If we didn’t have to worry about purchasing the land, if we didn’t have to build the factory shells, then we could double it again.’ That’s where the 20,000 jobs figure came from.”

In the end, the land was provided free of charge by the Haitian government (evicting some 350 farmers in the process), the IDB agreed to provide $100 million to finance the building, while the U.S. would contribute $124 million for a power plant, housing and a port. Sae-A, which reported $1.1 billion in export business last year, only needs to invest $39.2 million. The $124 million provided by the U.S. is over a quarter of the money the U.S. earmarked for reconstruction. 

Yet, despite billions in donor pledges, and billions more in private donations, reconstruction has lagged far behind expectations. Sontag writes:

“I think there was emotion within State that we haven’t done anything effective in Haiti,” said Cathy Feingold, international development director for the A.F.L.-C.I.O. “There was a guilty sense that we have to do something, anything. But doing it this way is not going to be helpful to Haitians. It’s got to be done so there are living wages and the environment is healthy.”

Environmental, Social Concerns Overlooked

As HRRW, and others have written about before, there are a number of environmental and labor concerns that have surrounded the Caracol park in controversy since its inception.  For starters, the designated site, in addition to being home to 350 farming families, sits in a bay known for its mangroves, coral reefs and a number of endangered species. As Sontag notes, prior to the earthquake “environmentalists had designated Caracol Bay to become the country’s first marine protected area.”

Never the less, as Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW) previously reported, the consultants contracted to select possible sites recommended Caracol, at first.  After the fact, the same consultancy admitted that “the study process and the section of sites was not accompanied by extensive environmental, hydrologic or topographic research.” HGW reports that Koios went on to suggest either moving the location or cancelling the project outright.

It wasn’t just the consultants who were alarmed. Sontag writes:

The United States Treasury Department had concerns, too. Because an environmental impact study was not done properly or far enough in advance, the Treasury, which represents the United States on the development bank board, took the unusual step of abstaining from the vote that approved the $55 million grant to build the park.

One person who was not consulted about the location was the mayor of Caracol, Landry Colas:

“I would have chosen another site, given that this one was already occupied by people earning a living,” he said. “But I’m no expert.”

Colas added, “Foreigners know more about what’s going on in Caracol than I do.”

Another concern is if the Caracol area will be able to handle the influx of people expected. What many fear is that with thousands of people migrating to an area without adequate infrastructure, the conditions which led to the formation of Cite Soleil in the Duvalier era will be repeated. Jacqueline Charlies, writing for the Miami Herald, reported:

“When you look at the social problems that Cité Soleil poses today, you have to ask, did it have to be that way?” said Michèle Oriol, executive secretary of Haiti’s Inter-ministerial Commission on Territorial Planning, which has objected to the park’s location, and that of a U.S.-financed housing development just off the main commercial corridor.

As part of the Caracol project, the U.S. government has signed contracts to build some 750 houses in the Caracol area, costing some $20 million. In comparison, as Sontag points out, the U.S. embassy in Haiti is building 86-100 townhouses complete with recreation facilities for up to $100 million. Additionally, the houses, while larger than originally planned due to community input, have been criticized as well.  Sontag writes:

Described by American officials as a cost-efficient use of space, the Caracol housing project is criticized as “extremely dense and monotonous” and “violating numerous principles inherent to sound urban design” by Greg Higgins, an architect who wrote a scathing peer review.

Part two, detailing concerns about labor rights with Sae-A and other garment manufacturing companies in Haiti will be available shortly.

The first of two installments looking at the New York Times in depth investigation into the Caracol industrial park. Part two will be posted shortly.

Deborah Sontag, writing in today’s New York Times, takes a detailed look at the new Caracol industrial park being built in northeastern Haiti, finding that in their rush to show reconstruction progress the plan’s backers have overlooked labor and environmental concerns. Sontag writes:

Two and a half years after the earthquake, Haiti remains mired in a humanitarian crisis, with 390,000 people languishing in tents. Yet the showcase project of the reconstruction effort is this: an industrial park that will create jobs and housing in an area undamaged by the temblor, a venture that risks benefiting foreign companies more than Haiti itself.

The park, whose main tenant Sae-A expects to generate some 20,000 jobs over the next six years, has been made possible by generous subsidies from the U.S. and Haitian governments and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Sae-A officials were invited to the U.S. embassy in Seoul to meet with Secretary of State Clinton in 2010. One concern the company had at the time was “uncertainty about whether Haiti’s minimum wage for textile workers, scheduled to increase to $5 from $3.75 a day this October, would continue to rise.” Wikileaks cables later revealed that the U.S. embassy in Haiti, along with some multinational companies had “aggressively moved to block a minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers,” according to The Nation.  While the minimum wage has increased, 18 out of 20 factories monitored by the Better Work Haiti program were found to be non-compliant on the minimum wage in their most recent assessment published in April.

Despite the “obstacles,” and convinced by legislation providing tariff-free access to the U.S. market, Sae-A officials were soon heading to sign an agreement — but not in Haiti, in Washington:

By late summer, they were flying with their investment plan to Washington for a meeting with Mrs. Clinton and other international officials in a historic treaty-signing room on the State Department’s seventh floor.

While Sae-A originally estimated the project would create 3,000-4,000 jobs, American and international officials wanted more:

“We would say, ‘We could probably do a factory with about 3,000 to 4,000 people.’ They’re like, ‘Wow. What would you need to make it bigger?’ I [Lon Garwood, senior advisor to Sae-A] said, ‘If we could get a loan for the machines, we could probably double that.’ They said, ‘What about 10,000?’ We said, ‘If we didn’t have to worry about purchasing the land, if we didn’t have to build the factory shells, then we could double it again.’ That’s where the 20,000 jobs figure came from.”

In the end, the land was provided free of charge by the Haitian government (evicting some 350 farmers in the process), the IDB agreed to provide $100 million to finance the building, while the U.S. would contribute $124 million for a power plant, housing and a port. Sae-A, which reported $1.1 billion in export business last year, only needs to invest $39.2 million. The $124 million provided by the U.S. is over a quarter of the money the U.S. earmarked for reconstruction. 

Yet, despite billions in donor pledges, and billions more in private donations, reconstruction has lagged far behind expectations. Sontag writes:

“I think there was emotion within State that we haven’t done anything effective in Haiti,” said Cathy Feingold, international development director for the A.F.L.-C.I.O. “There was a guilty sense that we have to do something, anything. But doing it this way is not going to be helpful to Haitians. It’s got to be done so there are living wages and the environment is healthy.”

Environmental, Social Concerns Overlooked

As HRRW, and others have written about before, there are a number of environmental and labor concerns that have surrounded the Caracol park in controversy since its inception.  For starters, the designated site, in addition to being home to 350 farming families, sits in a bay known for its mangroves, coral reefs and a number of endangered species. As Sontag notes, prior to the earthquake “environmentalists had designated Caracol Bay to become the country’s first marine protected area.”

Never the less, as Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW) previously reported, the consultants contracted to select possible sites recommended Caracol, at first.  After the fact, the same consultancy admitted that “the study process and the section of sites was not accompanied by extensive environmental, hydrologic or topographic research.” HGW reports that Koios went on to suggest either moving the location or cancelling the project outright.

It wasn’t just the consultants who were alarmed. Sontag writes:

The United States Treasury Department had concerns, too. Because an environmental impact study was not done properly or far enough in advance, the Treasury, which represents the United States on the development bank board, took the unusual step of abstaining from the vote that approved the $55 million grant to build the park.

One person who was not consulted about the location was the mayor of Caracol, Landry Colas:

“I would have chosen another site, given that this one was already occupied by people earning a living,” he said. “But I’m no expert.”

Colas added, “Foreigners know more about what’s going on in Caracol than I do.”

Another concern is if the Caracol area will be able to handle the influx of people expected. What many fear is that with thousands of people migrating to an area without adequate infrastructure, the conditions which led to the formation of Cite Soleil in the Duvalier era will be repeated. Jacqueline Charlies, writing for the Miami Herald, reported:

“When you look at the social problems that Cité Soleil poses today, you have to ask, did it have to be that way?” said Michèle Oriol, executive secretary of Haiti’s Inter-ministerial Commission on Territorial Planning, which has objected to the park’s location, and that of a U.S.-financed housing development just off the main commercial corridor.

As part of the Caracol project, the U.S. government has signed contracts to build some 750 houses in the Caracol area, costing some $20 million. In comparison, as Sontag points out, the U.S. embassy in Haiti is building 86-100 townhouses complete with recreation facilities for up to $100 million. Additionally, the houses, while larger than originally planned due to community input, have been criticized as well.  Sontag writes:

Described by American officials as a cost-efficient use of space, the Caracol housing project is criticized as “extremely dense and monotonous” and “violating numerous principles inherent to sound urban design” by Greg Higgins, an architect who wrote a scathing peer review.

Part two, detailing concerns about labor rights with Sae-A and other garment manufacturing companies in Haiti will be available shortly.

Last week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced a drop in Haiti’s internally displaced persons (IDP) population to below 400,000. AP reports:

The reduction in the camp population is attributed to a combination of forced removals, rental subsidies and voluntary departures, but it is not clear where the bulk of the people have gone or if their living arrangements are better than the camp conditions.

While previous reports of IDP population decreases were held up uncritically as signs of progress, this time IOM spokesperson Leonard Doyle provided a more nuanced response. While the government-backed relocation efforts have only reached a small portion of the IDP population, Doyle notes that “As for the rest we don’t know [where they ended up],” adding, “[a] lot of these people we know have pitched tents on the side of the mountains.” Indeed, a simple look at the available numbers suggests that many of those that have left the IDP camps monitored by the IOM have not found adequate shelter.

The IOM touts a 75 percent reduction in the camp population since July 2010, amounting to a decrease of over 1.1 million people. Yet as of April 2012, only 12,000 rental subsidies were given out, 13,000 houses were repaired and just fewer than 5,000 new homes were constructed. In total, these three solutions account for only about 12 percent of the reduction in IDP population. Additionally, about 108,000 transitional shelters have been built, which would account for an additional 42 percent. However this likely overstates the effects of the transitional shelter, as it is estimated that only about 40 percent of transitional shelters actually went to IDPs.

Figure I compares the number of households exiting the camps with the number of new housing solutions completed. As can be seen, the majority of the IDP population decrease occurred when shelter implementation was far too low to absorb all the people exiting the camps. This backs up previous studies which have shown that forced evictions and declining services were the primary drivers of the reduction in IDP population.

Figure I.
HousingAbsorption
Graph: CEPR, Author’s Calculation Source: E-Shelter and CCCM Cluster

It is important to note that Figure I likely overstates the absorption capacity of the new shelter solutions because it includes transitional shelters, which as mentioned earlier went to IDP households only about 40 percent of the time.  The gray line represents the accumulated shelter solutions using the estimate of 40 percent of transitional shelters actually going to IDPs.

It is clear that about 50 percent, and perhaps significantly more of the reduction in IDP population, was due to other factors (forced evictions, poor services, voluntary departure, etc.) and didn’t result from the provision of new shelter or rental subsidies. Also noteworthy is that in recent months, the rate of decline in the camp population is more closely alligned with the increase in the provision of rental subsidies, house repairs and new house construction. The durability of these solutions is still questionable however. Many have complained that rental subsidies don’t offer adequate funds to secure safe housing as families move back into damaged buildings. It also only provides rent for a short time, after which the family may be back out on the street, this time as an uncounted IDP like so many others.

At the same time, the threat of forced evictions remains constant. As Kevin Edmonds of NACLA points out, a recent Amnesty International report warned, “increasingly, displaced Haitians have reported tactics being used to coerce them into leaving the camps they have inhabited since the 2010 earthquake, including cash bribes and threats by plain-clothed security forces or armed groups.” Recently, Haitian grassroots groups have been advocating for a more comprehensive housing plan from the Government of Haiti and have taken to the streets to protest the continued forced evictions. This week, parallel to the efforts of local Haitian groups, international civil society and human rights organizations are calling on the government of Haiti:

to immediately halt all forced evictions and ensure that camps for internally displaced people, on private or public land, are not destroyed or closed until public or affordable housing is available.

Haitians have spent over two years in horrific conditions and are asking for homes. We urge you to designate land for housing, make construction materials available and affordable, create one centralized government housing institution to coordinate and implement a social housing plan, and allocate the funds necessary to realize this plan.

We stand with those who are bouke viv anba tant—tired of living in camps – and we will stand with them until they have homes.

Despite the clear downsides of what IDP rights advocate Mark Snyder has called the “race to zero”, which prioritizes clearing camps over creating durable housing solutions, it seems the policy is set to continue. As IOM Director General William Lacy Swing stated last week after visiting Haiti, “we need to get across the finish line by closing as many camps as possible.” But unless adequate alternatives exist, the “race to zero” runs the risk of displacing already vulnerable families for a second time.  

Last week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced a drop in Haiti’s internally displaced persons (IDP) population to below 400,000. AP reports:

The reduction in the camp population is attributed to a combination of forced removals, rental subsidies and voluntary departures, but it is not clear where the bulk of the people have gone or if their living arrangements are better than the camp conditions.

While previous reports of IDP population decreases were held up uncritically as signs of progress, this time IOM spokesperson Leonard Doyle provided a more nuanced response. While the government-backed relocation efforts have only reached a small portion of the IDP population, Doyle notes that “As for the rest we don’t know [where they ended up],” adding, “[a] lot of these people we know have pitched tents on the side of the mountains.” Indeed, a simple look at the available numbers suggests that many of those that have left the IDP camps monitored by the IOM have not found adequate shelter.

The IOM touts a 75 percent reduction in the camp population since July 2010, amounting to a decrease of over 1.1 million people. Yet as of April 2012, only 12,000 rental subsidies were given out, 13,000 houses were repaired and just fewer than 5,000 new homes were constructed. In total, these three solutions account for only about 12 percent of the reduction in IDP population. Additionally, about 108,000 transitional shelters have been built, which would account for an additional 42 percent. However this likely overstates the effects of the transitional shelter, as it is estimated that only about 40 percent of transitional shelters actually went to IDPs.

Figure I compares the number of households exiting the camps with the number of new housing solutions completed. As can be seen, the majority of the IDP population decrease occurred when shelter implementation was far too low to absorb all the people exiting the camps. This backs up previous studies which have shown that forced evictions and declining services were the primary drivers of the reduction in IDP population.

Figure I.
HousingAbsorption
Graph: CEPR, Author’s Calculation Source: E-Shelter and CCCM Cluster

It is important to note that Figure I likely overstates the absorption capacity of the new shelter solutions because it includes transitional shelters, which as mentioned earlier went to IDP households only about 40 percent of the time.  The gray line represents the accumulated shelter solutions using the estimate of 40 percent of transitional shelters actually going to IDPs.

It is clear that about 50 percent, and perhaps significantly more of the reduction in IDP population, was due to other factors (forced evictions, poor services, voluntary departure, etc.) and didn’t result from the provision of new shelter or rental subsidies. Also noteworthy is that in recent months, the rate of decline in the camp population is more closely alligned with the increase in the provision of rental subsidies, house repairs and new house construction. The durability of these solutions is still questionable however. Many have complained that rental subsidies don’t offer adequate funds to secure safe housing as families move back into damaged buildings. It also only provides rent for a short time, after which the family may be back out on the street, this time as an uncounted IDP like so many others.

At the same time, the threat of forced evictions remains constant. As Kevin Edmonds of NACLA points out, a recent Amnesty International report warned, “increasingly, displaced Haitians have reported tactics being used to coerce them into leaving the camps they have inhabited since the 2010 earthquake, including cash bribes and threats by plain-clothed security forces or armed groups.” Recently, Haitian grassroots groups have been advocating for a more comprehensive housing plan from the Government of Haiti and have taken to the streets to protest the continued forced evictions. This week, parallel to the efforts of local Haitian groups, international civil society and human rights organizations are calling on the government of Haiti:

to immediately halt all forced evictions and ensure that camps for internally displaced people, on private or public land, are not destroyed or closed until public or affordable housing is available.

Haitians have spent over two years in horrific conditions and are asking for homes. We urge you to designate land for housing, make construction materials available and affordable, create one centralized government housing institution to coordinate and implement a social housing plan, and allocate the funds necessary to realize this plan.

We stand with those who are bouke viv anba tant—tired of living in camps – and we will stand with them until they have homes.

Despite the clear downsides of what IDP rights advocate Mark Snyder has called the “race to zero”, which prioritizes clearing camps over creating durable housing solutions, it seems the policy is set to continue. As IOM Director General William Lacy Swing stated last week after visiting Haiti, “we need to get across the finish line by closing as many camps as possible.” But unless adequate alternatives exist, the “race to zero” runs the risk of displacing already vulnerable families for a second time.  

On June 5, Ministers of Defense and Foreign Relations from South American countries met in Asunción, Paraguay  to discuss the future of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti – or  MINUSTAH. Ten of the twelve countries in the regional group known as UNASUR – the Union of South American Nations – contribute troops to MINUSTAH and make up nearly 50 percent of the entire force. As we have described in other posts, there has been quite a bit of debate regarding  MINUSTAH in troop-contributing countries, especially Brazil, the largest contributor.

Since last summer, there has also been a wave of civil society opposition to the ongoing presence of foreign military troops in Haiti, as attested by separate letters addressed to Latin American presidents and the UN Secretary General and signed by prominent intellectuals and human rights defenders from throughout Latin America. This opposition has been bolstered by a string of recent sexual abuse cases, including more than one involving troops from UNASUR member country Uruguay, as well as the overwhelming evidence suggesting that MINUSTAH bears responsibility for introducing cholera into Haiti.

As the Telesur correspondent in Paraguay, Amanda Huerta explained, there were two competing positions among UNASUR countries: those that favored a rapid reduction of troops and a shift in focus to reconstruction and humanitarian activities and those who favored maintaining current troop levels until 2014. The final declaration on MINUSTAH noted the need to develop a policy of sustained cooperation which “respects the sovereignty and the self-determination of the Haitian people”. Further, ministers agreed to form a working group “for the purposes of elaborating a scheme on the strategy, form, conditions, stages, and timeline of a Plan of Reduction of Contingents of the Military Component of the Mission.” Given the large role South American countries play in MINUSTAH (an importance clearly recognized by the United States), any decision made on reducing troops would have a tremendous impact on MINUSTAH’s future in Haiti.

While the UNASUR declaration was welcomed by civil society groups, many urged the South American nations to go further.  Argentinean Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, together with many other human rights advocates and groups, sent an open letter to the ministers of UNASUR countries calling for:

The non-renewal of the MINUSTAH mission when its current mandate expires on October 15;

The formal recognition of MINUSTAH’s culpability for the introduction of cholera and the corresponding reparations to the affected persons and communities;

The immediate re-conversion of the segment of the budget now dedicated to the maintenance of MINUSTAH (approximately US$800 million annually) to social investment without further debt, to support reforestation, to insure universal access to potable water and sanitation facilities, and to create health and public education infrastructure.

The letter added:

The Haitian Senate unanimously approved the withdrawal of MINUSTAH one year ago, and Haitian social and human rights organizations and the public in general are expressing with ever greater vehemence their rejection of this custodial presence. It is time for the Member States of UNASUR to hear those voices and assume their historic and current debt towards that country and its people, the precursor and fellow supporter of the struggles for freedom throughout our entire region.

Indeed, public opinion polls have shown that the vast majority of Haitians have a negative opinion of MINUSTAH and express a desire for the mission to leave. A survey published in February 2012 of Port-au-Prince residents found that only 24.2 percent of respondents considered that MINUSTAH’s presence was “a good thing” and a majority indicated that, for the most part, they didn’t feel more secure when in close proximity to a U.N. soldier.  To the question “when should MINUSTAH leave the country?”, 72.2 percent of those who expressed an opinion thought that MINUSTAH should leave either now, within six months or within a year.  Only 5.9 percent stated that they thought MINUSTAH should not leave.

On June 5, Ministers of Defense and Foreign Relations from South American countries met in Asunción, Paraguay  to discuss the future of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti – or  MINUSTAH. Ten of the twelve countries in the regional group known as UNASUR – the Union of South American Nations – contribute troops to MINUSTAH and make up nearly 50 percent of the entire force. As we have described in other posts, there has been quite a bit of debate regarding  MINUSTAH in troop-contributing countries, especially Brazil, the largest contributor.

Since last summer, there has also been a wave of civil society opposition to the ongoing presence of foreign military troops in Haiti, as attested by separate letters addressed to Latin American presidents and the UN Secretary General and signed by prominent intellectuals and human rights defenders from throughout Latin America. This opposition has been bolstered by a string of recent sexual abuse cases, including more than one involving troops from UNASUR member country Uruguay, as well as the overwhelming evidence suggesting that MINUSTAH bears responsibility for introducing cholera into Haiti.

As the Telesur correspondent in Paraguay, Amanda Huerta explained, there were two competing positions among UNASUR countries: those that favored a rapid reduction of troops and a shift in focus to reconstruction and humanitarian activities and those who favored maintaining current troop levels until 2014. The final declaration on MINUSTAH noted the need to develop a policy of sustained cooperation which “respects the sovereignty and the self-determination of the Haitian people”. Further, ministers agreed to form a working group “for the purposes of elaborating a scheme on the strategy, form, conditions, stages, and timeline of a Plan of Reduction of Contingents of the Military Component of the Mission.” Given the large role South American countries play in MINUSTAH (an importance clearly recognized by the United States), any decision made on reducing troops would have a tremendous impact on MINUSTAH’s future in Haiti.

While the UNASUR declaration was welcomed by civil society groups, many urged the South American nations to go further.  Argentinean Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, together with many other human rights advocates and groups, sent an open letter to the ministers of UNASUR countries calling for:

The non-renewal of the MINUSTAH mission when its current mandate expires on October 15;

The formal recognition of MINUSTAH’s culpability for the introduction of cholera and the corresponding reparations to the affected persons and communities;

The immediate re-conversion of the segment of the budget now dedicated to the maintenance of MINUSTAH (approximately US$800 million annually) to social investment without further debt, to support reforestation, to insure universal access to potable water and sanitation facilities, and to create health and public education infrastructure.

The letter added:

The Haitian Senate unanimously approved the withdrawal of MINUSTAH one year ago, and Haitian social and human rights organizations and the public in general are expressing with ever greater vehemence their rejection of this custodial presence. It is time for the Member States of UNASUR to hear those voices and assume their historic and current debt towards that country and its people, the precursor and fellow supporter of the struggles for freedom throughout our entire region.

Indeed, public opinion polls have shown that the vast majority of Haitians have a negative opinion of MINUSTAH and express a desire for the mission to leave. A survey published in February 2012 of Port-au-Prince residents found that only 24.2 percent of respondents considered that MINUSTAH’s presence was “a good thing” and a majority indicated that, for the most part, they didn’t feel more secure when in close proximity to a U.N. soldier.  To the question “when should MINUSTAH leave the country?”, 72.2 percent of those who expressed an opinion thought that MINUSTAH should leave either now, within six months or within a year.  Only 5.9 percent stated that they thought MINUSTAH should not leave.

A piece yesterday on the Christian Science Monitor‘s website, written by investigative journalist Kathie Klarreich, discusses the increasing unpopularity of UN troops in Haiti in the wake of multiple sexual abuse incidents and the introduction of cholera in late 2010.  As the article explains, the negative feelings that these scandals have stirred up among Haitians are compounded by the general lack of accountability of foreign soldiers and police personnel that are part of the UN Stabilization Mission for Haiti, or MINUSTAH.

The Monitor highlights two recent sexual abuse cases involving MINUSTAH personnel, both of which we’ve documented on the Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch blog: the rape of an 18 year-old boy by Uruguayan soldiers in Port Salud last year and the rape of a fourteen year-old boy by Pakistani police officers.  In both these cases, after the scandals became public, the alleged rapists have faced judicial pursuits in their countries of origin, though the Pakistani officers only received a one-year sentence, and the trial of the Uruguayan soldiers has moved forward at a snail’s pace.

But there’s no indication that other abuse incidents involving MINUSTAH have resulted in judicial pursuits of any kind.  The Monitor mentions the case of “more than 100 Sri Lankan troops expelled in 2007 on suspicion of sexual exploitation of Haitian women and girls.” But, writes Klarreich:

“no information about what happened to those Sri Lankan peacekeepers was ever made public by either the UN or Sri Lanka.  Member states are not required to divulge the outcome of their internal inquiries.”

In a report that focuses on the case of the Port Salut rape case, Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network, lists a number of other cases of human rights abuses allegedly committed by MINUSTAH agents since 2005 that – as far as we know – haven’t been properly investigated or prosecuted.

But, as the Monitor underscores, “perhaps most damaging to MINUSTAH’s reputation has been the death of more than 7000 people from cholera, and the infection of half a million others nationwide.”  The UN has failed to acknowledge responsibility for the epidemic, despite overwhelming evidence indicating UN responsibility. Meanwhile, Haiti’s leading human rights lawyers – the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux – and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti have filed a multimillion dollar claim against the U.N. on behalf of 5000 victims of cholera. Klarreich writes:

“No one contacted at the UN would comment on the cholera lawsuit, saying only that its legal counsel was reviewing the claim and that an independent panel concluded it was not possible to determine the cause of the outbreak. This contradicts claims by five scientific studies, more than a dozen scientists, and a statement by former President Bill Clinton indicting the Nepalese as the source of the virus.”

Interestingly, Klarreich reports that UN spokesperson Silvie Van den Wildenberg has recognized that the damage the abuse cases and cholera “have to done to MINUSTAH is irreparable”:

“What happened is ying and yang,” says Van den Wildenberg. “It is the opposite of why we are here, to defend the highest values and ideals and this is killing our credibility worldwide…. We will always wear the scar.” She says MINUSTAH and the UN are very sorry for what happened but their apologies are “not being heard anymore.”

Yet, despite these expressions of regret, MINUSTAH and the UN have in reality failed to offer the Haitian people, and particularly the victims of abuses and cholera, a formal apology.  Were the UN to officially recognize their responsibility for these abuses and offer apologies, it would be a useful first step toward the accountability of MINUSTAH in Haiti.

Beyond the recent scandals that have occurred around cholera and sexual abuses, it’s important to remember that MINUSTAH has, from its inception, been widely viewed throughout Haiti as a foreign army of occupation with little or no legitimacy.  UN troops first arrived in the country in mid-2004, during the turmoil surrounding the coup that forced elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide into exile earlier that year.  As the Gerard Latortue regime oversaw a brutal repression of pro-Aristide groups in popular neighborhoods, MINUSTAH soldiers stood by and even allegedly participated in acts of repression as well.  Most notable is the July 6, 2005 assault on Cité Soleil which resulted in dozens of civilians killed or injured, including women and infants. Declassified cables from the U.S. Embassy noted that MINUSTAH soldiers had fired an astonishing 22,000 shots in 7 hours.

As Klarreich’s piece makes clear, the anger and bitterness towards this prolonged and unjustified foreign military presence is reaching a boiling point throughout Haiti. 

A piece yesterday on the Christian Science Monitor‘s website, written by investigative journalist Kathie Klarreich, discusses the increasing unpopularity of UN troops in Haiti in the wake of multiple sexual abuse incidents and the introduction of cholera in late 2010.  As the article explains, the negative feelings that these scandals have stirred up among Haitians are compounded by the general lack of accountability of foreign soldiers and police personnel that are part of the UN Stabilization Mission for Haiti, or MINUSTAH.

The Monitor highlights two recent sexual abuse cases involving MINUSTAH personnel, both of which we’ve documented on the Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch blog: the rape of an 18 year-old boy by Uruguayan soldiers in Port Salud last year and the rape of a fourteen year-old boy by Pakistani police officers.  In both these cases, after the scandals became public, the alleged rapists have faced judicial pursuits in their countries of origin, though the Pakistani officers only received a one-year sentence, and the trial of the Uruguayan soldiers has moved forward at a snail’s pace.

But there’s no indication that other abuse incidents involving MINUSTAH have resulted in judicial pursuits of any kind.  The Monitor mentions the case of “more than 100 Sri Lankan troops expelled in 2007 on suspicion of sexual exploitation of Haitian women and girls.” But, writes Klarreich:

“no information about what happened to those Sri Lankan peacekeepers was ever made public by either the UN or Sri Lanka.  Member states are not required to divulge the outcome of their internal inquiries.”

In a report that focuses on the case of the Port Salut rape case, Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network, lists a number of other cases of human rights abuses allegedly committed by MINUSTAH agents since 2005 that – as far as we know – haven’t been properly investigated or prosecuted.

But, as the Monitor underscores, “perhaps most damaging to MINUSTAH’s reputation has been the death of more than 7000 people from cholera, and the infection of half a million others nationwide.”  The UN has failed to acknowledge responsibility for the epidemic, despite overwhelming evidence indicating UN responsibility. Meanwhile, Haiti’s leading human rights lawyers – the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux – and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti have filed a multimillion dollar claim against the U.N. on behalf of 5000 victims of cholera. Klarreich writes:

“No one contacted at the UN would comment on the cholera lawsuit, saying only that its legal counsel was reviewing the claim and that an independent panel concluded it was not possible to determine the cause of the outbreak. This contradicts claims by five scientific studies, more than a dozen scientists, and a statement by former President Bill Clinton indicting the Nepalese as the source of the virus.”

Interestingly, Klarreich reports that UN spokesperson Silvie Van den Wildenberg has recognized that the damage the abuse cases and cholera “have to done to MINUSTAH is irreparable”:

“What happened is ying and yang,” says Van den Wildenberg. “It is the opposite of why we are here, to defend the highest values and ideals and this is killing our credibility worldwide…. We will always wear the scar.” She says MINUSTAH and the UN are very sorry for what happened but their apologies are “not being heard anymore.”

Yet, despite these expressions of regret, MINUSTAH and the UN have in reality failed to offer the Haitian people, and particularly the victims of abuses and cholera, a formal apology.  Were the UN to officially recognize their responsibility for these abuses and offer apologies, it would be a useful first step toward the accountability of MINUSTAH in Haiti.

Beyond the recent scandals that have occurred around cholera and sexual abuses, it’s important to remember that MINUSTAH has, from its inception, been widely viewed throughout Haiti as a foreign army of occupation with little or no legitimacy.  UN troops first arrived in the country in mid-2004, during the turmoil surrounding the coup that forced elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide into exile earlier that year.  As the Gerard Latortue regime oversaw a brutal repression of pro-Aristide groups in popular neighborhoods, MINUSTAH soldiers stood by and even allegedly participated in acts of repression as well.  Most notable is the July 6, 2005 assault on Cité Soleil which resulted in dozens of civilians killed or injured, including women and infants. Declassified cables from the U.S. Embassy noted that MINUSTAH soldiers had fired an astonishing 22,000 shots in 7 hours.

As Klarreich’s piece makes clear, the anger and bitterness towards this prolonged and unjustified foreign military presence is reaching a boiling point throughout Haiti. 

The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles reports on the planned Caracol Industrial Park in Haiti today, noting that while the project’s funders tout it as “the most visible symbol of post-quake progress”, it remains a source of controversy. Charles writes:

Desperate for any good news after the devastating January 2010 earthquake, the Haitian government signed off on the 600-acre industrial park in this remote rural village without preparing for how the region should eventually look — or absorb the promised jobs. Only now is a zoning plan being developed, but residents and Haiti watchers wonder if it’s coming too late.

Their anxiety is fueled by Haiti’s historically weak institutions and the rush by the international community and Haiti’s leaders to show progress. It is also a reflection of the challenges of working in Haiti where there is continuous friction between need-to-spend foreign aid agencies, which are often perceived as arrogant, and a weak central government.

As a result, Haiti analysts say, projects are often haphazardly started with too little preliminary planning, lopsided consultation and inadequate environmental impact studies.

“The international community has been under immense pressure to show movement and this is the closest they’ve come to have something significantly positive to say about Haiti, investments and jobs,” said Carlo Dade, a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa’s School of International Development and Global Studies. “But on the other hand, this is really one case where there is no excuse for not getting it done right.”

A major issue is what the effect will be of an estimated influx of 300,000 people into the area, where town populations range from 1,500 to 25,000. Charles reports:

“When you look at the social problems that Cité Soleil poses today, you have to ask, did it have to be that way?” said Michèle Oriol, executive secretary of Haiti’s Inter-ministerial Commission on Territorial Planning, which has objected to the park’s location, and that of a U.S.-financed housing development just off the main commercial corridor.

Alex Dupuy, Haiti-born sociology professor at Wesleyan University, comments:

“It’s about tapping a source of cheap labor…They did the same thing in Port-au-Prince, which had people leaving the countryside because of the free-trade policies that have devastated the Haitian agriculture sector. So the fear that the region will be flooded is very real.”

Dupuy adds that the push to support the garment manufacturing industry “has absolutely nothing to do with creating a sustainable growth economy in Haiti.”


Environmental Concerns

Charles also notes that the plan has come under fire from environmentalists, who “point out that an IDB consultant’s report noted there wasn’t enough time to evaluate the potential impact of the garment dyeing on the nearby ecosystem.” Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW), which conducted an in depth investigation of the Caracol plan, has previously reported on the environmental concerns. A U.S.-based consultancy, Koios Associates, was hired to help choose the site and originally had ranked Caracol as one of the better suited sites. Yet, after the fact, the same consultancy admitted that “the study process and the section of sites was not accompanied by extensive environmental, hydrologic or topographic research.” HGW reports that Koios went on to suggest either moving the location or cancelling the project outright. Despite this and other environmental concerns discussed in greater detail by HGW, the project has continued.

What Types of Jobs?

Another investigation by HGW looked into what types of jobs will be created by the garment industry and if, as President Martelly says, “This model of investment will allow Haitians to feel proud.” The HGW investigation found that wages were actually lower now than under the Duvalier dictatorship and that over half of a worker’s daily wage is spent on lunch and transportation costs to and from work. HGW’s investigative reporters interviewed a factory worker named Evelyn Pierre-Paul, who:

hasn’t been able to save up a year’s rent yet. Twenty-three months after the catastrophe that killed hundreds of thousands, she and her children are still living under a tent in one of the capital’s hundreds of squalid refugee camps.

Pierre-Paul’s average daily take-home wage is actually more than Haiti’s minimum factory wage of 150 gourdes, or 3.75 dollars, a day. She earns about 236 gourdes, or 5.90 dollars a day. But that doesn’t cover even one-quarter of what would be considered a family’s most basic expenses.

HGW also notes that:

A recent study by the U.S.-based Solidarity Center, which is linked to the AFL-CIO trade union federation, determined that a “living wage” for a worker with two children is 749 dollars a month – almost five times the average monthly wage.

Pierre-Paul’s wage – about 150 dollars a month – is far from “living”. She can’t afford to send all her children to school. She can’t even afford to move out of the squalid camp.

Labor rights are also a serious issue in the garment industry. On the same day that officials from the U.S., IDB and Haitian government laid the cornerstone of the future industrial park, an investigation by Better Work Haiti found “evidence of violations of freedom of association” at other Haitian textile factories. Until September 2011 there was only one union in the garment industry and none in Port-au-Prince. Workers however organized the first sector-wide union (SOTA) this past fall, obtaining registration from the Haitian Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs on September 16. Over the next two weeks, six of seven members of the new executive committee were fired. The most recent Better Work Haiti report, which “uncovered a higher number of violations in the areas of core labour standards than what [was] observed in the previous assessments”, is available here.

Ansel Herz, an independent journalist who has previously reported on this issue, spoke with Yasmine Shamsie, a Canadian scholar who has advocated for a different approach to the garment industry in Haiti. Shamsie notes that the new industrial park was “not conditional on allowing unions to organise that space”. Herz continues:

Her 2010 report for the Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum called for a “high-road approach” to the Haitian apparel industry’s expansion, including unionising workers and providing welfare programmes to raise their living standards.

She said she didn’t understand the “lack of interest” in that strategy from international donors. “To be frank, it’s a no-brainer,” Shamsie said. “You say you want to create employment and reduce poverty – then give workers the tools to advocate for better than poverty wages.”

For further background, an Al Jazeera video report last year looked at the garment factories in Haiti. In the video, Sebastian Walker speaks with Yannick Etienne, a member of the worker rights organization Batay Ouvriye, who tells Walker that the factories lead to, “the reproduction of poverty.” Also, for more background information, The Real News Network aired a three part series with Didier Dominique, another member of Batay Ouvriye. The report examined working conditions in the factories, and the ability of workers to unionize.

The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles reports on the planned Caracol Industrial Park in Haiti today, noting that while the project’s funders tout it as “the most visible symbol of post-quake progress”, it remains a source of controversy. Charles writes:

Desperate for any good news after the devastating January 2010 earthquake, the Haitian government signed off on the 600-acre industrial park in this remote rural village without preparing for how the region should eventually look — or absorb the promised jobs. Only now is a zoning plan being developed, but residents and Haiti watchers wonder if it’s coming too late.

Their anxiety is fueled by Haiti’s historically weak institutions and the rush by the international community and Haiti’s leaders to show progress. It is also a reflection of the challenges of working in Haiti where there is continuous friction between need-to-spend foreign aid agencies, which are often perceived as arrogant, and a weak central government.

As a result, Haiti analysts say, projects are often haphazardly started with too little preliminary planning, lopsided consultation and inadequate environmental impact studies.

“The international community has been under immense pressure to show movement and this is the closest they’ve come to have something significantly positive to say about Haiti, investments and jobs,” said Carlo Dade, a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa’s School of International Development and Global Studies. “But on the other hand, this is really one case where there is no excuse for not getting it done right.”

A major issue is what the effect will be of an estimated influx of 300,000 people into the area, where town populations range from 1,500 to 25,000. Charles reports:

“When you look at the social problems that Cité Soleil poses today, you have to ask, did it have to be that way?” said Michèle Oriol, executive secretary of Haiti’s Inter-ministerial Commission on Territorial Planning, which has objected to the park’s location, and that of a U.S.-financed housing development just off the main commercial corridor.

Alex Dupuy, Haiti-born sociology professor at Wesleyan University, comments:

“It’s about tapping a source of cheap labor…They did the same thing in Port-au-Prince, which had people leaving the countryside because of the free-trade policies that have devastated the Haitian agriculture sector. So the fear that the region will be flooded is very real.”

Dupuy adds that the push to support the garment manufacturing industry “has absolutely nothing to do with creating a sustainable growth economy in Haiti.”


Environmental Concerns

Charles also notes that the plan has come under fire from environmentalists, who “point out that an IDB consultant’s report noted there wasn’t enough time to evaluate the potential impact of the garment dyeing on the nearby ecosystem.” Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW), which conducted an in depth investigation of the Caracol plan, has previously reported on the environmental concerns. A U.S.-based consultancy, Koios Associates, was hired to help choose the site and originally had ranked Caracol as one of the better suited sites. Yet, after the fact, the same consultancy admitted that “the study process and the section of sites was not accompanied by extensive environmental, hydrologic or topographic research.” HGW reports that Koios went on to suggest either moving the location or cancelling the project outright. Despite this and other environmental concerns discussed in greater detail by HGW, the project has continued.

What Types of Jobs?

Another investigation by HGW looked into what types of jobs will be created by the garment industry and if, as President Martelly says, “This model of investment will allow Haitians to feel proud.” The HGW investigation found that wages were actually lower now than under the Duvalier dictatorship and that over half of a worker’s daily wage is spent on lunch and transportation costs to and from work. HGW’s investigative reporters interviewed a factory worker named Evelyn Pierre-Paul, who:

hasn’t been able to save up a year’s rent yet. Twenty-three months after the catastrophe that killed hundreds of thousands, she and her children are still living under a tent in one of the capital’s hundreds of squalid refugee camps.

Pierre-Paul’s average daily take-home wage is actually more than Haiti’s minimum factory wage of 150 gourdes, or 3.75 dollars, a day. She earns about 236 gourdes, or 5.90 dollars a day. But that doesn’t cover even one-quarter of what would be considered a family’s most basic expenses.

HGW also notes that:

A recent study by the U.S.-based Solidarity Center, which is linked to the AFL-CIO trade union federation, determined that a “living wage” for a worker with two children is 749 dollars a month – almost five times the average monthly wage.

Pierre-Paul’s wage – about 150 dollars a month – is far from “living”. She can’t afford to send all her children to school. She can’t even afford to move out of the squalid camp.

Labor rights are also a serious issue in the garment industry. On the same day that officials from the U.S., IDB and Haitian government laid the cornerstone of the future industrial park, an investigation by Better Work Haiti found “evidence of violations of freedom of association” at other Haitian textile factories. Until September 2011 there was only one union in the garment industry and none in Port-au-Prince. Workers however organized the first sector-wide union (SOTA) this past fall, obtaining registration from the Haitian Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs on September 16. Over the next two weeks, six of seven members of the new executive committee were fired. The most recent Better Work Haiti report, which “uncovered a higher number of violations in the areas of core labour standards than what [was] observed in the previous assessments”, is available here.

Ansel Herz, an independent journalist who has previously reported on this issue, spoke with Yasmine Shamsie, a Canadian scholar who has advocated for a different approach to the garment industry in Haiti. Shamsie notes that the new industrial park was “not conditional on allowing unions to organise that space”. Herz continues:

Her 2010 report for the Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum called for a “high-road approach” to the Haitian apparel industry’s expansion, including unionising workers and providing welfare programmes to raise their living standards.

She said she didn’t understand the “lack of interest” in that strategy from international donors. “To be frank, it’s a no-brainer,” Shamsie said. “You say you want to create employment and reduce poverty – then give workers the tools to advocate for better than poverty wages.”

For further background, an Al Jazeera video report last year looked at the garment factories in Haiti. In the video, Sebastian Walker speaks with Yannick Etienne, a member of the worker rights organization Batay Ouvriye, who tells Walker that the factories lead to, “the reproduction of poverty.” Also, for more background information, The Real News Network aired a three part series with Didier Dominique, another member of Batay Ouvriye. The report examined working conditions in the factories, and the ability of workers to unionize.

As previously mentioned, a release from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) this week makes an important call for renewed efforts to combat cholera as infections rise with the rainy season. But further on, the release states that “[OCHA’s Director of Operations John] Ging also visited the Champs de Mars camp for internally displaced people (IDPs), where the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is supporting voluntary return of IDPs.”

But the movement of IDPs out of such camps is often not “voluntary.” This has been the case in Champs de Mars as in many other IDP camps. Stuart Neatby wrote in an article for Canada’s Embassy magazine last month:

Port-au-Prince’s Champ de Mars camp, the most visible of the hundreds of remaining camps of Haitians rendered homeless by the 2010 earthquake, saw its first set of forced evictions on April 4.

The tent camp in Haiti’s capital city fills the central plaza across the street from the collapsed National Palace, a key government building that used to house the office of Haiti’s president.

About 21 camp residents, including [Narcysse] Lud, woke up on March 29 to find their names on a notice warning that their makeshift shelters would be torn down. They were told they had three days to pick up all of their belongings and clear out of the camp.

The International Organization for Migration, which had maintained a census of camp residents, claimed that those to be evicted had not been within the camp during the last head count. As a result, the IOM said, the residents had no claim to stay in Champ de Mars, and the eviction was legal.

Days later, residents could only watch as local municipal workers dismantled and carted away the bits of tarp, plywood, and corrugated sheet metal that had served as their homes. Haitian National Police members, UN soldiers, and UN police officials oversaw the evictions.

Neatby notes further on that “Evicted residents interviewed had a variety of reasons for not being in the camp that night, ranging from hospital stays to visits to family.” (A response from the IOM’s Leonard Doyle is posted below the text of the article on Embassy’s website.)

Ging’s comments are especially troubling as the residents of at least two camps – Grace Village in Carrefour, and Camp Mormon in Delmas – are currently under threat of forced eviction. Amnesty International, which describes forced evictions in its 2011 human rights report on Haiti, issued an alert on May 21 that states:

Residents of Camp Mormon in the municipality of Delmas in Port-au-Prince are at imminent risk of forced eviction. Camp residents told Amnesty International delegates that at 3 am on 14 May, approximately 20 men, including local municipal officials, entered the camp and warned them that they would be forcibly evicted in 15 days time if they did not vacate the land. Some of the men were armed and they opened fire on a group of camp residents, four of whom sustained injuries whilst trying to run for cover. Prior to this incident, residents of Camp Mormon have received numerous threats of eviction and of violence if they did not comply. On 8 February, local municipal officials accompanied by armed men threatened to burn down the camp and shoot residents if they did not leave. Camp residents have filed complaints at the Prosecutor’s Office in relation to both these incidents.

No court order for the eviction or any other legal notice has ever been presented and there has been no adequate consultation with the families or any offer of provision of alternative housing. The residents of Camp Mormon live in improvised shelters, and the camp has poor sanitary conditions and no running water. The camp’s population includes a number of women who are pregnant or have recently given birth, and the majority of families are headed by women.

The alert also states that residents of neighboring Camp Mozayik were already forcibly evicted this month:

At around 4pm on 4 May, all 126 families who lived in neighbouring Camp Mozayik were forcibly evicted by local municipal authorities, without any due process and without being offered any alternative accommodation. Amnesty International is seriously concerned that the same fate awaits the families of Camp Mormon.

(Camp Mozayik was located across the street from a development site where the Arcotec company is planning a 10-story commercial property with an underground parking garage — the “Genesis Project”.)

This alert came only days after Amnesty International, IJDH, BAI, and others raised the alarm about the imminent threat to residents of Camp Grace. Amnesty’s alert May 15 (PDF) read:

Residents at Grace Village camp, in the Carrefour area of Metropolitan Port-au-Prince are at imminent risk of forced eviction. At least 30 families have already been forcibly evicted, after their shelters and belongings were destroyed during the night of 28 April. They were forced to leave their properties without any due process and without being offered any alternative accommodation.

On 14 May, when Amnesty International delegates visited the camp, at least 40 more shelters had been marked for demolition. There is no court order to legalise the imminent eviction and the affected families have not been consulted or offered alternative housing.

Since the camp was established after the 2010 earthquake, a man claiming to be the landowner has opposed the distribution of humanitarian assistance to inhabitants. In the camp there is a total lack of drinking water, sanitation services and waste disposal. As a result, two children are currently undergoing treatment for cholera in hospital.

The landowner strictly restricts the freedom of movement of the camp inhabitants by imposing a night-time curfew and forcing all adult residents to carry an entry permit issued by him. Camp residents told Amnesty International that security guards regularly threaten and beat residents, and sexually harass women and that police officers from Carrefour district support the landowner in terrorising Grace Village residents. The judicial authorities have been informed about the acts of violence but until now they have failed to ensure the protection of the camp inhabitants.

Ging’s release adds: “Out of the 1.5 million people displaced by the 2010 earthquake, nearly 1.1 million Haitians have now returned home.”

But the idea that IDPs often have suitable homes to which they can return is a frequent myth, one that is harmful to IDPs but convenient for the Haitian government and other authorities, and the IOM – all of whom want the camps cleared.

As anthropologist Mark Schuller, film maker Michele Mitchell, and many other researchers, NGOs and agencies have shown, conditions in the great majority of camps are deplorable. Far from remaining in camps in order to take advantage of services, many camp residents do not receive any services at all. OCHA reported in February that only 3 percent of households in IDP camps were receiving water from NGOs, with almost half of the water tested being “of poor quality”. After conducting surveys, Schuller found that “30 percent of the camps didn’t have a toilet.” Of those that did, they might have “5,000 people with six toilets between them,” as Michele Mitchell says she discovered in making her film.

IDP rights advocate Mark Snyder suggests the lack of service provision is sometimes a deliberate policy choice. He sums up IOM and their partners’ position as “we don’t want to make it too comfortable for the people in the camps or they will never leave.” NGO’s such as CARE have cited (PDF) “minimiz[ing] the incentive to remain in the camps” in scaling back services. In this way IOM, Haitian authorities, NGOs, UN agencies, and other members of the Shelter Cluster blur the line between what is “voluntary” and what is “coerced.” “Try living in a tent for a day,” IOM spokesperson Leonard Doyle is quoted as saying in Neatby’s article. “Who wouldn’t want to move out of there in a hurry?”

Perhaps it has been frustrating for the IOM and others seeking to clear the camps that so many IDPs continue to stay in the camps even when conditions are so wretched, but it is probably the IDPs who are more unhappy.

As previously mentioned, a release from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) this week makes an important call for renewed efforts to combat cholera as infections rise with the rainy season. But further on, the release states that “[OCHA’s Director of Operations John] Ging also visited the Champs de Mars camp for internally displaced people (IDPs), where the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is supporting voluntary return of IDPs.”

But the movement of IDPs out of such camps is often not “voluntary.” This has been the case in Champs de Mars as in many other IDP camps. Stuart Neatby wrote in an article for Canada’s Embassy magazine last month:

Port-au-Prince’s Champ de Mars camp, the most visible of the hundreds of remaining camps of Haitians rendered homeless by the 2010 earthquake, saw its first set of forced evictions on April 4.

The tent camp in Haiti’s capital city fills the central plaza across the street from the collapsed National Palace, a key government building that used to house the office of Haiti’s president.

About 21 camp residents, including [Narcysse] Lud, woke up on March 29 to find their names on a notice warning that their makeshift shelters would be torn down. They were told they had three days to pick up all of their belongings and clear out of the camp.

The International Organization for Migration, which had maintained a census of camp residents, claimed that those to be evicted had not been within the camp during the last head count. As a result, the IOM said, the residents had no claim to stay in Champ de Mars, and the eviction was legal.

Days later, residents could only watch as local municipal workers dismantled and carted away the bits of tarp, plywood, and corrugated sheet metal that had served as their homes. Haitian National Police members, UN soldiers, and UN police officials oversaw the evictions.

Neatby notes further on that “Evicted residents interviewed had a variety of reasons for not being in the camp that night, ranging from hospital stays to visits to family.” (A response from the IOM’s Leonard Doyle is posted below the text of the article on Embassy’s website.)

Ging’s comments are especially troubling as the residents of at least two camps – Grace Village in Carrefour, and Camp Mormon in Delmas – are currently under threat of forced eviction. Amnesty International, which describes forced evictions in its 2011 human rights report on Haiti, issued an alert on May 21 that states:

Residents of Camp Mormon in the municipality of Delmas in Port-au-Prince are at imminent risk of forced eviction. Camp residents told Amnesty International delegates that at 3 am on 14 May, approximately 20 men, including local municipal officials, entered the camp and warned them that they would be forcibly evicted in 15 days time if they did not vacate the land. Some of the men were armed and they opened fire on a group of camp residents, four of whom sustained injuries whilst trying to run for cover. Prior to this incident, residents of Camp Mormon have received numerous threats of eviction and of violence if they did not comply. On 8 February, local municipal officials accompanied by armed men threatened to burn down the camp and shoot residents if they did not leave. Camp residents have filed complaints at the Prosecutor’s Office in relation to both these incidents.

No court order for the eviction or any other legal notice has ever been presented and there has been no adequate consultation with the families or any offer of provision of alternative housing. The residents of Camp Mormon live in improvised shelters, and the camp has poor sanitary conditions and no running water. The camp’s population includes a number of women who are pregnant or have recently given birth, and the majority of families are headed by women.

The alert also states that residents of neighboring Camp Mozayik were already forcibly evicted this month:

At around 4pm on 4 May, all 126 families who lived in neighbouring Camp Mozayik were forcibly evicted by local municipal authorities, without any due process and without being offered any alternative accommodation. Amnesty International is seriously concerned that the same fate awaits the families of Camp Mormon.

(Camp Mozayik was located across the street from a development site where the Arcotec company is planning a 10-story commercial property with an underground parking garage — the “Genesis Project”.)

This alert came only days after Amnesty International, IJDH, BAI, and others raised the alarm about the imminent threat to residents of Camp Grace. Amnesty’s alert May 15 (PDF) read:

Residents at Grace Village camp, in the Carrefour area of Metropolitan Port-au-Prince are at imminent risk of forced eviction. At least 30 families have already been forcibly evicted, after their shelters and belongings were destroyed during the night of 28 April. They were forced to leave their properties without any due process and without being offered any alternative accommodation.

On 14 May, when Amnesty International delegates visited the camp, at least 40 more shelters had been marked for demolition. There is no court order to legalise the imminent eviction and the affected families have not been consulted or offered alternative housing.

Since the camp was established after the 2010 earthquake, a man claiming to be the landowner has opposed the distribution of humanitarian assistance to inhabitants. In the camp there is a total lack of drinking water, sanitation services and waste disposal. As a result, two children are currently undergoing treatment for cholera in hospital.

The landowner strictly restricts the freedom of movement of the camp inhabitants by imposing a night-time curfew and forcing all adult residents to carry an entry permit issued by him. Camp residents told Amnesty International that security guards regularly threaten and beat residents, and sexually harass women and that police officers from Carrefour district support the landowner in terrorising Grace Village residents. The judicial authorities have been informed about the acts of violence but until now they have failed to ensure the protection of the camp inhabitants.

Ging’s release adds: “Out of the 1.5 million people displaced by the 2010 earthquake, nearly 1.1 million Haitians have now returned home.”

But the idea that IDPs often have suitable homes to which they can return is a frequent myth, one that is harmful to IDPs but convenient for the Haitian government and other authorities, and the IOM – all of whom want the camps cleared.

As anthropologist Mark Schuller, film maker Michele Mitchell, and many other researchers, NGOs and agencies have shown, conditions in the great majority of camps are deplorable. Far from remaining in camps in order to take advantage of services, many camp residents do not receive any services at all. OCHA reported in February that only 3 percent of households in IDP camps were receiving water from NGOs, with almost half of the water tested being “of poor quality”. After conducting surveys, Schuller found that “30 percent of the camps didn’t have a toilet.” Of those that did, they might have “5,000 people with six toilets between them,” as Michele Mitchell says she discovered in making her film.

IDP rights advocate Mark Snyder suggests the lack of service provision is sometimes a deliberate policy choice. He sums up IOM and their partners’ position as “we don’t want to make it too comfortable for the people in the camps or they will never leave.” NGO’s such as CARE have cited (PDF) “minimiz[ing] the incentive to remain in the camps” in scaling back services. In this way IOM, Haitian authorities, NGOs, UN agencies, and other members of the Shelter Cluster blur the line between what is “voluntary” and what is “coerced.” “Try living in a tent for a day,” IOM spokesperson Leonard Doyle is quoted as saying in Neatby’s article. “Who wouldn’t want to move out of there in a hurry?”

Perhaps it has been frustrating for the IOM and others seeking to clear the camps that so many IDPs continue to stay in the camps even when conditions are so wretched, but it is probably the IDPs who are more unhappy.

While most major U.S. media attention focuses elsewhere, NGO’s and UN agencies are sounding alarm bells about rising rates of cholera infection. A release today from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) states

Grave concerns were expressed by aid workers that this year’s epidemic, which has already affected 13,000 people, 132 of whom have died, may escalate. Detection and response capacity are significantly reduced this year due to cuts in aid budgets. The OCHA Director stressed the urgency for new and more sustainable approaches by aid agencies and local authorities, and more commitment by donors. “It is unacceptable that lives are being  lost to cholera because last year’s capacity building in the areas of prevention and response were lost due to a lack of funding,” [OCHA’s Director of Operations John] Ging said.

An Inter Press Service article last week, titled “Funding Dries Up Even as Rains Worsen Cholera Deaths” begins

As predicted, the beginning of the rainy season in Haiti brought exponential increases in the numbers of people sickened and killed by cholera.

While the number of new cases in December was about 300 per day nationwide, this week one centre in the capital alone reported receiving 95 cases per day. And the numbers are expected to increase.

“Between the first week of April and the last week of April, the number of new patients increased by three-fold” in the capital, Gaëtan Drossart, head of mission for Doctors Without Borders or Medecins san frontières (MSF), told IPS on May 16. “In April alone, we saw over 1,600 patients at the four cholera centres MSF supports in Port-au- Prince.”

The cholera death toll is up to 7,155, with 543,042 infections over 586 days (and no UN apology so far), according to a new “cholera counter” created by advocacy group Just Foreign Policy.

Inter Press’ Jane Regan also writes that on May 1, OCHA “put the national fatality rate at above three percent, the highest since the beginning of the outbreak. And the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) announced that between 200,000 and 250,000 more people will likely contract the disease during the course of 2012” – a figure also cited in a recent New York Times editorial that said “the U.N. and the international community have a responsibility to meet the crisis head-on,” to the tune of “$800 million to $1.1 billion” to build water and sanitation infrastructure (thus echoing the demands of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, Rep. John Conyers – who is currently circulating a letter in Congress, and so many others).

Regan goes on to note a key factor that this blog, a feature New York Times article, and the Times editorial have all warned about: the scaling back of cholera treatment and prevention, just as incidences rise with the rainy season – which is what happened last year.

Despite the fact that all actors knew this year’s rainy season would bring increased cases, the number of CTCs has dropped precipitously since the outbreak. In January 2011, there were 101 centres nationwide. Today there are only 30.

The number of actors has also dropped.

MSF is one of the handful of large non-governmental organisations (NGOs) still involved in the fight against cholera. The French organisation has fielded about one-third of all cases since the outbreak began, according to their figures.

Many of the NGOs who first heeded the call when the disease struck are today long gone.

Regan reports that the few NGO’s that are left – such as Partners in Health and MSF – work overtime to fill in the gaps.

At

CTCs run by the government, staff and community outreach workers have not been paid in months. For example, at the only CTC for Gonaives, one of Haiti’s largest cities, 12 of 15 employees haven’t been paid in for the past four months.

The budget for Haiti’s ministry of health is very small compared with its neighbours. In 2009, the World Health Organization determined that total spending on health in Haiti per capita was 71 dollars. For the Dominican Republic, the figure was 495 dollars. For Jamaica it is 383, and for Guatemala, 337 dollars.

As the Times editorial notes, the situation is even more dire, as there is a new danger this year:

It gets worse: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report this month that cholera in Haiti was evolving into two strains, suggesting the disease would become much harder to uproot and that people who had already gotten sick and recovered would be vulnerable again.

The CDC report states

Thus, if the Inaba strain becomes established in Haiti, persons who previously were infected with the Ogawa serotype of V. cholerae might be relatively more susceptible to reinfection with the Inaba serotype than with the Ogawa serotype because there tends to be stronger serotype-specific protective immunity.

But so far, even this new danger doesn’t seem to be enough to make fighting cholera in Haiti a cause célèbre. Maybe a viral “Kolera 2012” campaign would do the trick?

While most major U.S. media attention focuses elsewhere, NGO’s and UN agencies are sounding alarm bells about rising rates of cholera infection. A release today from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) states

Grave concerns were expressed by aid workers that this year’s epidemic, which has already affected 13,000 people, 132 of whom have died, may escalate. Detection and response capacity are significantly reduced this year due to cuts in aid budgets. The OCHA Director stressed the urgency for new and more sustainable approaches by aid agencies and local authorities, and more commitment by donors. “It is unacceptable that lives are being  lost to cholera because last year’s capacity building in the areas of prevention and response were lost due to a lack of funding,” [OCHA’s Director of Operations John] Ging said.

An Inter Press Service article last week, titled “Funding Dries Up Even as Rains Worsen Cholera Deaths” begins

As predicted, the beginning of the rainy season in Haiti brought exponential increases in the numbers of people sickened and killed by cholera.

While the number of new cases in December was about 300 per day nationwide, this week one centre in the capital alone reported receiving 95 cases per day. And the numbers are expected to increase.

“Between the first week of April and the last week of April, the number of new patients increased by three-fold” in the capital, Gaëtan Drossart, head of mission for Doctors Without Borders or Medecins san frontières (MSF), told IPS on May 16. “In April alone, we saw over 1,600 patients at the four cholera centres MSF supports in Port-au- Prince.”

The cholera death toll is up to 7,155, with 543,042 infections over 586 days (and no UN apology so far), according to a new “cholera counter” created by advocacy group Just Foreign Policy.

Inter Press’ Jane Regan also writes that on May 1, OCHA “put the national fatality rate at above three percent, the highest since the beginning of the outbreak. And the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) announced that between 200,000 and 250,000 more people will likely contract the disease during the course of 2012” – a figure also cited in a recent New York Times editorial that said “the U.N. and the international community have a responsibility to meet the crisis head-on,” to the tune of “$800 million to $1.1 billion” to build water and sanitation infrastructure (thus echoing the demands of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, Rep. John Conyers – who is currently circulating a letter in Congress, and so many others).

Regan goes on to note a key factor that this blog, a feature New York Times article, and the Times editorial have all warned about: the scaling back of cholera treatment and prevention, just as incidences rise with the rainy season – which is what happened last year.

Despite the fact that all actors knew this year’s rainy season would bring increased cases, the number of CTCs has dropped precipitously since the outbreak. In January 2011, there were 101 centres nationwide. Today there are only 30.

The number of actors has also dropped.

MSF is one of the handful of large non-governmental organisations (NGOs) still involved in the fight against cholera. The French organisation has fielded about one-third of all cases since the outbreak began, according to their figures.

Many of the NGOs who first heeded the call when the disease struck are today long gone.

Regan reports that the few NGO’s that are left – such as Partners in Health and MSF – work overtime to fill in the gaps.

At

CTCs run by the government, staff and community outreach workers have not been paid in months. For example, at the only CTC for Gonaives, one of Haiti’s largest cities, 12 of 15 employees haven’t been paid in for the past four months.

The budget for Haiti’s ministry of health is very small compared with its neighbours. In 2009, the World Health Organization determined that total spending on health in Haiti per capita was 71 dollars. For the Dominican Republic, the figure was 495 dollars. For Jamaica it is 383, and for Guatemala, 337 dollars.

As the Times editorial notes, the situation is even more dire, as there is a new danger this year:

It gets worse: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report this month that cholera in Haiti was evolving into two strains, suggesting the disease would become much harder to uproot and that people who had already gotten sick and recovered would be vulnerable again.

The CDC report states

Thus, if the Inaba strain becomes established in Haiti, persons who previously were infected with the Ogawa serotype of V. cholerae might be relatively more susceptible to reinfection with the Inaba serotype than with the Ogawa serotype because there tends to be stronger serotype-specific protective immunity.

But so far, even this new danger doesn’t seem to be enough to make fighting cholera in Haiti a cause célèbre. Maybe a viral “Kolera 2012” campaign would do the trick?

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