Event Announcement: Grassroots Haiti Activist to MN

April 9, 2014

“Self-Appointed Saviors”

The world has imposed solution after solution on Haiti.

Woodrow Wilson sent the US Marines to occupy Haiti from 1915-1934, allegedly to “reintroduce stability.” But when they finally relinquished control of Haiti’s finances in the 1950s, Haiti had accumulated tens of millions in international debt.

In the 1980s, international agencies informed Haitian farmers that they would replace their native Creole pigs, because the local breed was sick. Unfortunately, the new pigs, fresh off the farms of Iowa, were unaccustomed to conditions in Haiti and died off – thereby eliminating the “primary savings account” for many farmers.

In the meantime, corporations and western governments pressured Haiti to abandon agriculture in favor of textile-led growth. Clinton later apologized, calling these policies a “devil’s bargain” that sold out Haiti’s farmers over false promises of growth through textile manufacturing. But no one has claimed responsibility for the most damaging consequence: the demise of the farming sparked a mass migration to the Port-au-Prince, where hastily constructed slums afforded no protection against the earthquake that claimed ~300,000 lives.

Doomed to repeat the past?

Since the earthquake, the international community has doubled down on its failed model of imposing solutions from without.

In the year after the earthquake, less than 1% of relief and recovery funds went to the Haitian government, Haitian companies, or Haitian NGOs. Instead, the world chose to fund a consortium of contractors who make a living off disasters. If there were any questions about the (in)effectiveness of this approach, they were answered when one high-profile project triggered protests and threats that farmers would burn the “aid” they received.

An Alternative: Beverly Bell and Grassroots Advocacy

This background explains why we’re so excited to host Beverly Bell in Minnesota April 21-23. Beverly Bell sees hope for Haiti’s future in the efforts of Haitian grassroots organizers and social movements. She has 3 decades of experience working with these types of organizations in pursuit of just economies; democratic participation; and rights for women other marginalized peoples.

Beverly Bell with Book

Beverly Bell and her new book, Fault Lines.

 

If history is any indication, then she has the right formula. All the major milestones in Haitian history – from the successful slave revolt that made it the first free republic in 1804 to the democratic groundswell that toppled a dictator and ushered Haiti’s first democratic leader into power – have been achieved through the struggle of the Haitian citizenry. At best, the international community has stood in the way. At worst – and much more often – it has actively undermined Haiti’s progress.

Fault Lines: An Important Post-Quake Account

Beverly Bell will speak about her recent book, Fault Lines: Views Across Haiti’s Divide. The book illustrates how the earthquake compounded pre-existing socio-economic injustices in Haiti. It sheds light on how the exploitative doctrine of “disaster capitalism” has driven the international response to the quake. And perhaps most importantly, it highlights the work grassroots actors are undertaking to resist this influence and define a future based on domestic priorities, rather than imported (and imposed) ones.

As the coordinator of Other Worlds Are Possible, Beverly Bell works not just to educate, but also to generate support for alternative movements and models of engagement.

Schedule

Beverly Bell will be appearing at St. Olaf, Carleton, University of Minnesota, and Macalester. Her public speaking schedule is as follows:

Northfield – Monday, April 21

St. Olaf:
     “Other Worlds Are Possible”
4:00 PM, BC143 (2nd floor of Buntrock)

Carleton:
     “Charity vs. Justice: Challenging the Global Engagement Model”
7:00 PM, Athenaeum (Carleton Library)

Minneapolis - Tuesday, April 22

Common Roots:
“Food Justice in Haiti: Monsanto, USAID, and Alternative Agriculture Models

     12:00 PM, Meeting Room

University of Minnesota:
Disaster Capitalism: Lessons from Haiti”
     4:30 PM, Blegen 155

Macalester:
    “Disaster Capitalism: Lessons from Haiti”
     7:30 PM, Neill Hall 401

 

For more information about Northfield events, contact Paul Miller (thehaitiman@msn.com)

For more information about the U of M event, contact Natalie Miller (mill5118@umn.edu)

For more information about Minneapolis events or other opportunities to connect with Beverly Bell, contact Nathan Yaffe (nathan.yaffe@gmail.com)


Event Announcement: Haiti Human Rights Reformer to MN

March 30, 2012

Haiti’s central challenges revolve around rights violations. On one level, political and business elites abuse the rights of Haiti’s poor majority. On another, the international community routinely ignores Haiti’s rights as a sovereign state. These mutually reinforcing dynamics have consistently exacerbated poverty and inequality in the country.

The Institute for Justice and Democracy (IJDH) is at the forefront of the fight to help Haitians exercise their rights in pursuit of a better future. It is thus with great pleasure that the Haiti Justice Alliance will host Brian Concannon, director of IJDH, from Apr. 10-12 for a series of exciting events in Minnesota.

This post introduces IJDH’s work on several rights-related issues, highlighting the unique virtues of their approach. Also included is the event schedule for Mr. Concannon’s visit.

The UN’s Cholera Crimes

Most prominent in the headlines of late is IJDH’s joint campaign with its Haitian affiliate, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), to sue the UN on behalf of cholera victims.

The UN mission in Haiti (known by its French acronym, MINUSTAH) failed to properly screen its peacekeepers from Nepal, where an active cholera outbreak was taking place, before sending them to Haiti. Subsequently, it failed to properly dispose of waste from the Nepalese peacekeepers’ camp, allowing fecal matter (which spreads cholera) to be dumped into Haiti’s longest and most important river, the Artibonite.

The UN argues that what “really caused” the outbreak was lack of sanitation, even as it acknowledges a UN soldier introduced the disease. With this defense, it seeks to dodge responsibility for its actions.

However, buying this argument requires a bit of amnesia. Prior to the cholera outbreak, the UN urged foreign actors to exercise additional caution given Haiti’s post-quake vulnerability. Now they’ve changed their tune, using an argument that boils down to: “Haiti’s vulnerability means we’re off the hook no matter how much damage we did.”

In this instance, the damage amounts to more than 7,000 reported deaths and half a million infections, making Haiti home to the world’s largest cholera outbreak. As does any victim of gross, criminal negligence, the people of Haiti deserve compensation. Or at the very least, they have the right to a fair hearing about whether such compensation is merited.

IJDH-BAI is spearheading the effort to overcome UN stonewalling, and provide Haitian cholera victims with a path to justice. If successful, this lawsuit will be the first time the UN itself has been held legally accountable for its actions in a fragile state.

At their core, UN abuses in Haiti (which also include pervasive sexual assault and extra-judicial killings) return to issues of sovereignty. MINUSTAH only came to be under the repressive US-imposed interim regime that followed the 2004 US-backed coup against Haiti’s democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Thus, on one level, the UN cholera lawsuit reasserts Haiti’s sovereign rights in the face of foreign oppression enacted by a peacekeeping force the people of Haiti don’t want in their country in the first place. Mr. Concannon is one of the primary driving forces behind this unique and complex international human rights law case.

Rights of Victims, Rights of the Imprisoned: Holistic Judicial Reform

Through his work with IJDH and BAI, Mr. Concannon is also deeply involved in reforming the judicial system in Haiti. Two examples: improving access to legal services for survivors of sexual assault, and ending the backlog of inmates who have been imprisoned without so much as being formally charged.

The IJDH-BAI approach is a model of grassroots community engagement. In contrast to the top-down methods used by many foreign actors, IJDH-BAI use a “victim-centered approach,” which “com­bines tra­di­tional legal strate­gies with empow­er­ment of vic­tims’ orga­ni­za­tions and polit­i­cal advo­cacy.”

As such, Mr. Concannon is not just an international law expert and an accomplished judicial reformer. He’s also a pioneer when it comes to using law for the direct empowerment of citizens. By helping the people of Haiti exercise their own rights, Mr. Concannon’s work has a lasting impact that overcomes the political vicissitudes of individual institutional reforms.

 

Join Us To Learn From Brian Concannon’s Expertise and Experiences

This introduction only just begins to capture the scope of Mr. Concannon’s work through IJDH and BAI. Other efforts include a high-profile case to prosecute Jean-Claude Duvalier, the former dictator of Haiti, as well as work to secure housing rights for those displaced after the earthquake.

Mr. Concannon’s full schedule of public events can be found by clicking here. Additionally, we will be screening a compelling new documentary that provides background about the effect of the cholera outbreak. This film will air at Carleton on Mon, Apr. 2 at 7:00 PM in the Weitz Center and at St. Olaf on Tue, Apr. 3 at 7:00 PM in Viking Theater.


Reflections on Kim, Rory, and Oprah in Haiti

January 30, 2012
This is a post from the Director of the Haiti Justice Alliance, Paul Miller. Paul’s contribution examines the inherent irony in the do-gooding work of celebrities who have been propelled to fabulous wealth by the structural inequalities that prey upon those they purport to serve. He concludes with an eloquent call for approaching Haiti with dignity rather than with the pity of celebrities.
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The conditions in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti should serve as an indictment of the inherent injustice that exists in a world where the haves have money beyond any possible use other than to mark the number of zeros behind their net worth and the have-nots are subject to the dreadful whims of nature because they are forced to live in the unsafe dregs of the material world.
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It is ironic that some of the leading icons in the world of haves, who should be most looking inward in this structural system that creates winners and losers, are the ones newly offering their empathy to the poor, to-be-pitied children of the have and have-not system where the aftermath of the earthquake is only the latest inhumanity served up to them.
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Read the rest of this entry »

Weekly News Round-Up: Human Rights and International Investment

December 10, 2011

Human Rights in Haiti

Yesterday was the UN-sponsored International Day of Human Rights – a day laden with irony for the people of Haiti. The occasion sparked protests, writing, and petitions from Haitian activists.

Pairs well with: Haitians protesting in St. Marc, Haiti, to demand respect for their human rights in front of a UN sign bearing the mission’s name, MINUSTAH (left). A boy at the protest holding a sign that says, “Haitians have rights like everyone!” (right).

Photo credit: @gaetantguevara

Also pairs well with: This piece from Etant Dupain covering the protests: “It is a contradiction for the UN to celebrate their International Day for Human Rights while members of the mission are violating human rights in Haiti.”

Action Alert: Our partner group, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, began a petition asking the UN to honor cholera victims’ human rights in honor of human rights day. Consider signing here.

More International Forums on Reconstruction

After last week’s Invest in Haiti forum (critiqued here), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Haiti Reconstruction Forum took place in Miami on Thursday. The goal of the event was similar: promoting investment in Haiti.

Pairs well with: Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald reporter, live-tweeted the event. Her coverage was the only source for details of what was discussed at the forum, including:

    1. the announcement of a potential IDB-financed “portable school” project;
    2. praise for the industrial park;
    3. more support for the hotel industry ;
    4. an IDB-supported $700 million agriculture plan.

Also pairs well with: Carlson Hotels visited Haiti on the day of the forum to look into starting a hotel to rival the new, 173-room hotel built by Marriott. It appears that the international community plan for Haiti’s economy has distilled itself into the two T’s: Textiles and Tourism.


Weekly Links Round-Up: Haiti’s Economic Future, MINUSTAH Poll, and More!

December 2, 2011

Invest In Haiti: The Future of the Haitian Economy

President Martelly plans to create 500,000 jobs in three years. Some of these will come from a new Marriott hotel being planned in downtown Port-au-Prince, but he intends even more to come from a new industrial park in Caracol, Haiti.

Pairs Well With: This investigation finding that the garment industry – which will take center stage in the new industrial park – has been fraught with union suppression.

Also Pairs Well With: This Haiti Grassroots Watch investigation highlighting the wage suppression, poor working conditions, and bad track record of “sweatshop-led development” in Haiti.

 

USAID begins construction at the industrial park in Caracol, Haiti.

 

MINUSTAH Poll & Doublespeak

A new poll finds that two-thirds of Haitians want the immediate withdrawal of UN forces.

Pairs Well With: The headline-making line about the UN, however, came from Nigel Fisher, deputy Special Rep of the Secretary General for Haiti. In a press conference this week, he claimed that “only media and elites” want the UN out of the country – just days after the poll’s release.

 

Quick Hits

The US government decided to lift an 18-year arms embargo, which was only intermittently observed while in place.

The World Bank approved a $255 million plan to provide housing and education in Port-au-Prince in response to the disbanding of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission.

 


Links Round-Up: Minister Forced to Resign, Army Put on Hold, And More

November 23, 2011

Breaking News Alert

The Minister of Justice, Josué Pierre-Louis, resigned yesterday under pressure from Haitian parliament. He was charged with participating in the illegal arrest of an opposition party parliamentarian, Arnel Belizaire. Most believe the arrest was retribution for a public spat between Belizaire and the President.

 

Security

President Michel Martelly delayed the re-establishment of the Haitian army pending a ‘civilian commission’ recommendation, due on Jan. 1. Most likely this change occurred because of insufficient funds, or pressure from international actors.

Pairs Well With: The homicide rate in Haiti is not only lower than implied by the media, but is actually well below the average for Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a new study.

Also Pairs Well With: Our post urging everyone to move past the debate over lawlessness in Haiti, which is one of the main justifications for bringing back the army.

 

Economy and Trade

The Ministry of Trade seeks to attract investors, declaring: Haiti is open for business (h/t @moiracathleen).

Pairs Well With: Two articles showing how wage and union suppression have been used to deny the benefits of foreign investment to Haiti’s poor. In other words, investment is great – but only if the right regulations are in place.

The emergence of a vibrant entrepreneurial class in Haiti is one of the best defenses against predatory foreign investment. That’s why it’s exciting to hear that one of our partner groups, the What If? Foundation, is starting a club focused on developing students’ entrepreneurial skills.

Pairs Well With: Haiti’s first annual Global Entrepreneurship Day just concluded, which serves as another positive model of promoting Haitian-driven business ideas, as imposed to foreign-imposed ones.

 

Aid to Haiti

The Center for Economic and Policy Research again picks up on a story that HJA previously covered: the fact that USAID’s reliance on enormous contracts decreases the quality of its aid to Haiti.

Pairs Well With: HJA’s two pieces that focus on the effect of tied aid contracts and “indefinite quantity contracts” (IQCs), which are used because they’re administratively cheap, even though they produce terrible results.


Weekly Links Round-Up

October 13, 2011

Breaking news: President Martelly met with former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide yesterday, as part of a tour of former leaders in which he also visited with former dictator Baby Doc Duvalier and coup leader Prosper Anvil.

20111013-111139.jpg

President Martelly’s third nominee for Prime Minister, Garry Conille, is formally ratified by both houses, ending a political impasse.

Pairs Well With: Account of how Jeff Sachs’ doctrine of “economic shock therapy” – a hallmark of neoliberal economic policy in poor countries – shapes Conille’s economic view.

Also Pairs Well With: Discussion of Conille’s background and professional history. Conille says, “I am not the candidate that the blan [international community] is sending back to Haiti. I am the candidate that Haiti strategically put inside the blan to better understand the blan and to come back and help Haiti.”

Newly ratified Prime Minister Garry Conille. Photo credit: Miami Herald.

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A major project of one of our partner groups, the Aristide Foundation University (UniFA) Medical School, re-opened last week. The Medical School has been closed since the US-backed coup that removed President Aristide in 2004, when US marines began using it as a base.

Pairs Well With: A review of President Martelly’s primary education plan. As one of the few social policy programs he has outlined in any detail, the focus on schooling is significant. Nonetheless, the review points out that with a projected funding gap of $80 million per year, the “sustainability of the program is unclear.”

The Harvard Group published an well-documented review of the recent human rights abuses perpetrated by MINUSTAH, the UN Mission in Haiti.

Pairs Well With: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel penned a powerful sign-on letter demanding that contributing nations of Latin America withdraw their UN troops in Haiti:

It is unconscionable that our countries, which have all experienced foreign aggression, should be among those to trample the sovereignty of a country that has experienced countless brutal interventions since courageously breaking the chains of slavery and colonialism.


Weekly Links Round-Up

September 26, 2011

Haiti’s government is receiving less budget support from international aid in 2011 than before the earthquake in 2009.

Pairs Well With: Congressional testimony from Paul Farmer explaining why aid must empower the Haitian government if it is to be effective.

President Martelly publicly defended MINUSTAH throughout last week. First, he said in an interview he “opposes reducing UN force in Haiti… people are playing politics, trying to ask MINUSTAH to leave because they want to create instability.” Then, speaking at the UN on Friday, he said, “I am aware that unacceptable blunders have marred the prestige of the mission, but the trees should not hide the forest…”

Pairs Well With: This picture of last week’s protest march against MINUSTAH. See the whole Facebook album from AlterPresse.

Sign: "Down with MINUSTAH & Interim Haiti Relief Commission. Compensation for all victims! Collective Mobilization to compensate cholera victims."

Supporters of Baby Doc Duvalier crashed Amnesty International’s press conference presenting their report on his human rights abuses, in an attempt to intimidate and silence discussion of his crimes

Pairs Well With: Amnesty’s report, entitled “You Cannot Kill The Truth: The Case Against Jean-Claude Duvalier,” which includes testimony and other evidence demonstrating how widespread Baby Doc’s crimes were.

Concluding Notes:

Garry Conille has been ratified by Haiti’s Parliament, meaning he will become the next Prime Minister, barring a surprise rejection vote from the Senate.

As a concluding note, Sebastian Walker’s reflection on reporting from Haiti is both eloquent and incisive, containing several broader lessons for how to engage with Haiti as either a journalist or an NGO.


Weekly Links Round-Up: Aba MINUSTAH

September 15, 2011

MINUSTAH Protests

“Aba MINUSTAH” means “Down with MINUSTAH” (the UN peacekeeping force in Haiti) in Haitian Creole. Last week’s roundup covered the breaking story of four UN peacekeepers who bound and raped an 18-year old Haitian man. Outrage over this incident has snowballed into a wave of protests, which build on nearly 7 years of discontentment with the UN among many Haitians.

Given the significance of these developments, we devote most of today’s round-up to this issue.

In Haiti: Several hundred protesters marched in the capital (video), and were tear-gassed by the police. @KOFAVIV, a Haitian grassroots women’s group that provides support to victims of sexual violence, reported via Twitter that dozens of tent camp residents were forced from their homes by tear gas fired into the tents.

Picture from Port-au-Prince of tear gas being fired adjacent to tent camps. Photo Credit: Etant Dupain.

In New York: Protesters demonstrated in front of the UN building, demanding reparations for the UN-introduced cholera and for an immediate drawdown of MINUSTAH forces.

In Uruguay: Civil Society groups in Uruguay – the country whose peacekeepers committed the assault against Johnny Jean – also demonstrated for all 1,000 Uruguayan troops to be withdrawn from Haiti.

US Response: Bill Clinton articulated the US response to the protesters, saying, “MINUSTAH has done way more good (audio) than harm here,” and pleading for this not to be interpreted as reflecting poorly on MINUSTAH at large.

Rebuttal: Nicole Phillips of IJDH provides a thorough rebuttal to Clinton (audio) that details both long-standing legal concerns over MINUSTAH’s presence, as well as a number of specific concerns regarding MINUSTAH’s misconduct.

In other news, Martelly and Clinton formed a council to court foreign investors, which is an integral part of their plan to revitalize the low-wage export sector in Haiti.

Finally, for the first time since his return earlier this year, there’s reason to believe former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide will appear in public to deliver a speech. The anticipated location is at the Aristide Foundation for Democracy, which is one of our partner groups.


Weekly Links Round-Up: International Community Disgraces Edition

September 6, 2011

Four Uruguayan UN peacekeepers bind and rape an 18-year old Haitian man, which is caught on tape and released to ABC News.

Pairs Well With: Fascinating account of how two young Haitians swiped the video off a UN soldiers’ phone. It’s interesting not just for background, but also because it shows how the Commissariat immediately dismissed the rape charge until a video was produced.

Also Pairs Well With: Photo from a slideshow detailing both the rape charge and other reports of abuse against the Uruguayan MINUSTAH base in the area. They’ve allegedly dumped waste into local waters and turned a nearby green area into a trash dump (shown below).

MINUSTAH uses a park for waste disposal

Oxfam fires six international staff in Haiti for misconduct, abuse of power and bullying.

Pairs Well With: Opinion piece from a humanitarian aid professional arguing all foreign aid actors should leave Haiti. He points to the fact that conversations surrounding aid are one-sided, characterized by international groups imposing their will on Haitians.

Wrapping up the news about international community misconduct in Haiti is an update about the 3rd nominee for Prime Minister. Given the rejection of the first two nominees, the US “put its foot down” and pressured Haiti to accept Clinton’s chief of staff as the new PM candidate. Barring any surprises, he’s expected to be confirmed.

Finally, IJDH offers a comprehensive update on the status of the Baby Doc prosecution. We wish them the best in this effort, because it would be the biggest human rights prosecution in Haiti since the Raboteau Trial.

Pairs Well With: The August update from the HJA-funded interns about working with IJDH to advance their human rights efforts.


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