Haiti News and Views

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ON HAITI: Haiti Rises-A Time for Solidarity

22 February 2016, Nia Imara and Robert Roth – Haiti Action Committee
“Reflecting on struggles everywhere, we came to the conclusion that a people can’t be sovereign if they don’t have the right to vote. No people can retain their dignity if their vote does not count.”From a Statement Issued by 68 Haitian Grassroots Organizations, Jan 22, 2016

The voice of Haiti’s popular movement at this critical period in the country’s history has never been clearer.  For the past several months, since the discredited legislative and presidential elections of last August and October, mass, vibrant protests for the right to a free and fair vote and against foreign intervention have been a relentless force, in the face of heavily-armed and well-financed adversaries and mounting repression. The influx of articles and editorials in recent weeks by leading U.S. media outlets depicts the situation in Haiti as a confused, incomprehensible, morass of violence and dysfunction, with all sides being equally unreasonable in their demands. This misleading portrayal of Haitian politics and culture—indeed, of Haitian people—by American mainstream media is not new. Rather, it is a continuation of a historical pattern of obfuscating the underlying reasons for the grievances of Haiti’s mass movement, which has consistently denounced foreign intervention and the suppression of Haiti’s sovereignty.

The popular revolt in Haiti has forced the postponement of the January 24 presidential run-off election, to the dismay of the U.S. State Department and the current Haitian government of Michel Martelly, whose handpicked candidate had been declared the frontrunner.  And now, on February 7, it has forced the end of the rule of Martelly himself, who has had to step down rather than oversee the next stage of the electoral process.

These are major victories for the people’s movement in Haiti. But already there are signs that the next round will be just as difficult as the fight has been already.  The popular movement has made it clear that they have no interest in a top-down solution that excludes the participation and voices of the tens of thousands of Haitians who have risked their lives nearly every day in the fight for democracy.  They have raised the fundamental question: How can elections proceed to a second round if the first round was hopelessly illegitimate? How can elections move forward without a thorough investigation and repair of the fraud that already took place?  These are the critical issues being fought over today as Haitians celebrate the end of the Martelly dictatorship.

Background to the Revolt: Twelve Years Since the Coup, Twelve Years of Occupation

The revolt in Haiti has not emerged overnight. It is now almost twelve years since the U.S.-orchestrated coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and removed over 8,000 elected officials, and exiled, jailed, raped and murdered thousands of supporters of the Fanmi Lavalas Party.  The coup was enforced by a United Nations military occupation that still exists today.  It has been five years since Michel Martelly, a supporter of the brutal Duvalier dictatorships and their death squads, was selected as president; only 17% of eligible Haitian voters turned out in an election that excluded the most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas. Hillary Clinton, then the U.S. Secretary of State, flew to Haiti to dictate to Haitian officials that Martelly be placed in the election runoff after initial results had left him only in third place. His U.S.-backed reign has featured one corruption scandal after another, intimidation of the judicial system, the return of death squads, torture of political prisoners, selling off of oil and mineral rights to foreign corporations, and rule by decree.

Haitians have had enough of this.  As they watched this latest election being stolen and a Martelly minion emerge as the leading vote getter, they took to the streets by the tens of thousands. As they saw ballot boxes burned and “observers” with 900,000 government-issued credentials vote over and over again, they declared the election an “electoral coup.” As they were turned away from one polling place after another, and told that they were not eligible to vote, they declared fraud.

While they joined the demonstrators in the streets, Fanmi Lavalas and its presidential candidate, Dr. Maryse Narcisse also filed a petition with the National Office of Electoral Litigation to challenge the results. All major opposition condemned the fraudulent elections and announced a boycott of the scheduled presidential run-off on January 24.  As the demonstrations grew in size and scope, the Haitian government responded with increasing violence.  Police fired into peaceful protests, and beat and tear-gassed those in the streets.  Much of this has been met with silence by the international media.

When it comes to Haiti, the United States’ homegrown illness—racism—is cast outward.  Just as the voting rights of Black people have been abused throughout American history, the US Government, through financial and diplomatic coercion, abuses the voting rights of Haitians.  Just as the basic human rights of Black people—decent education, housing, healthcare, physical safety—are regularly undermined here, the US Government has directly and indirectly made efforts to extinguish fundamental civil and human rights in Haiti.  Just as the State of Michigan forced the majority Black population of Flint to drink contaminated water while the EPA did nothing, so did United Nations troops dump their excrement into Haiti’s water supply with impunity, bringing cholera to the country with no reparations.  The U.S. Government—from the Bush Administrations, to the Clinton and Obama Administrations—have routinely demonstrated, as a matter of policy, that Black lives matter in Haiti as little as they do in America.

The State Department: Talking Democracy, Promoting Fraud

The U.S. role throughout the electoral crisis is as predictable as it was after the 2010 earthquake, when the State Department sent then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to handpick a well-known misogynist and supporter of the Duvalier dictatorship, Michel Martelly, for president.  With one hand, the U.S. State Department denounces the “violence” surrounding the elections, while the other hand has never ceased stoking the fires of electoral fraud and corruption.  With one face, the US State Department encourages fair, free elections and discourages voter intimidation; with the other, it upholds electoral fraud and threatens the leadership of Haiti’s most popular movement.

The U.S. State Department has been the chief promoter of both the Martelly government and the fraudulent elections that Haitians have called an “electoral coup.”  It has maintained its pro-Martelly stance despite the reports of independent human rights investigators that Martelly’s PHTK Party intimidated voters, stole ballots, burned ballot boxes and attempted to terrorize voters and suppress voter turnout in both the August 9 and October 25 legislative and presidential elections.

Now that the popular movement has finally brought these fraudulent elections to a temporary halt, the State Department has made its displeasure even more clear. On January 24, it issued a warning to demonstrators in Haiti against “electoral intimidation, destruction of property, and violence,” saying this runs “counter to Haiti’s democratic principles.”  This is the same racist and paternalistic tone it has always used in Haiti—from the time of Haiti’s Revolution, to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934, to the two coups that overthrew the democratically elected Aristide administrations in 1991 and 2004. This from the same State Department that was silent when peaceful protesters were killed, tear-gassed, beaten or arrested, or when Martelly’s agents terrorized voters and burned down polling places.

Hidden From The Headlines: Fanmi Lavalas and Dr. Maryse Narcisse

In addition, there has been near-silence about the remarkable campaign run by Fanmi Lavalas and its presidential candidate, Dr. Maryse Narcisse. A medical doctor and long-time Lavalas militant, Dr. Narcisse helped establish health clinics in rural communities. At the time of the 1991 coup, like many Aristide supporters, she went into the streets to protest the military and was briefly forced into hiding. When President Aristide was reelected in 2000, she joined his administration.  Exiled after the 2004 coup, she returned in 2006 to help rebuild Lavalas and continues to serve as Aristide’s spokesperson.  Day after day throughout this campaign, she has been in the streets with the people. Her campaign has emphasized “dignity”—that the Haitian people cannot be bought or sold, that, as President Aristide has said, “If we don’t protect our dignity, our dignity will escape us.”

The progressive achievements and agenda of Lavalas—setting up health clinics in poor urban and rural communities, advancing the fight against HIV/AIDS, promoting equality for women, literacy education for all Haitians, living wage employment, taxing the rich, and abolishing the Haitian Army—have made it the party of the poor majority in Haiti.  The organized collective of dozens of grassroots organizations that compose Fanmi Lavalas make it much different from the elite political parties we are familiar with in the U.S.  Fanmi Lavalas grew out of a nationwide mass movement to force out the American-backed dictator, Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, and to instill truly participatory democracy after years of rule by the elite and foreign intervention.  In 1986, after decades of sacrifice and struggle against repressive regimes, Haitians succeeded in forcing out Duvalier and bringing about the nation’s first democratic elections.  It was a hard-fought, hard-won victory when the great majority voted into presidential office Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1990.

Since then, the US organized two coup d’états against the Aristide administration, which again received an overwhelming mandate in 2000.  Following each coup—in 1991 and 2004—the US Government helped to install a military occupation to suppress resistance, namely, Lavalas.  In 1991, the US lent its support to paramilitary groups, many of whom were part of the Duvalier military—since disbanded by Lavalas—and the Haitian police.  In 2004, the US, with the support of France and Canada, threw its full weight behind the United Nations, which, in Haiti, is an occupying force, not a peacekeeping mission. Over the last 12 years, that occupation, known as MINUSTAH, has overseen the attempt to destroy Haiti’s popular movement.

Lavalas still has a target on its back. In an article published by Reuters on January 26, 2016 an unnamed Congressional source told the news agency that, “The Obama Administration would be worried if he [Aristide] were playing an important role. They’re not thrilled with Aristide’s forces coming back.”  This should be no surprise, given the leading role Lavalas has played in the democratic movement.  After all, in 2011, it was President Obama who made a phone call to South African President Jacob Zuma, warning him not to allow President Aristide and his family to board a South African plane and come back to Haiti. When Aristide returned, he was greeted by thousands of people at the airport and then at his home.  Once again, Haitians—and in this case the people of South Africa—did not obey.

What Next? A Time For Solidarity

During this campaign, Dr. Narcisse emerged as a formidable candidate.  If there is a full investigation of the last bogus election, as Lavalas and grassroots organizations are demanding, the abundance of popular support for Dr. Narcisse is certain to manifest in the ballot box.  If she ends up winning, she would be the first elected woman president in Haiti’s history.

That will only be possible if a transparent and credible process takes place over these next months.  The “electoral coup,” after all, stole votes from candidates who represented popular organizations and parties. Any new election that repeats this process will be a new form of theft. With U.S. officials already decrying the “violence” of demonstrators and warning against new protests, and reports circulating of “solutions” that leave out the representatives of the very grassroots organizations and parties that have been at the forefront of the fight for free and fair elections, this is a moment for vigilance in Haiti.  In their recent statement, 68 grassroots organizations in Haiti state their position very clearly:

We say NO, WE WILL NOT OBEY ILLEGITIMATE OFFICIALS. Self-defense is a legitimate universal law. Civil-Disobedience is an accepted universal right when a people confronts an illegal regime. The right to elect a government is universally accepted as a way for people to protect its existence. Today, confronted by the danger presented by local and international colonialists, the Haitian people have started a RESISTANCE FOR EXISTENCE movement. They ask for people to people solidarity from everywhere on the planet.”

We should heed their call.

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Nia Imara is a member of Haiti Action Committee, a San Francisco Bay Area based organization.

Robert Roth is a co-founder of the Haiti Action Committee, and teaches high school in San Francisco.  The website of HAC is www.haitisolidarity.net

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ON HAITI: Persistent drought threatens millions with hunger in Haiti – U.N.

news.trust.org, 1 min read, original

By Anastasia Moloney

BOGOTA, Feb 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Around 3.6 million people in Haiti are struggling to feed themselves as three consecutive years of drought have ruined harvests and raised food prices, worsening hunger among the poor, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) has said.

The poorest country in the Americas, Haiti cannot produce enough food for its 10.4 million people in normal times, and hundreds of thousands of Haitians rely on international food aid to survive.

Acute water shortages caused by prolonged drought, made worse by the El Nino weather phenomenon, have cut food supplies and hit subsistence farmers hard. Three out of four Haitians live on less than $2 a day.

“Without rain for the 2016 spring season, farmers will lose their fourth consecutive harvest on which they normally depend to feed their families,” Wendy Bigham, WFP’s deputy country director in Haiti, said in a statement late on Tuesday.

The main 2015 harvest fell below average, with losses of up to 70 percent in some places, the WFP said. “In some areas of Haiti, up to 70 percent of the population is facing hunger.”

A recent study by the Haitian government and the U.N. Children’s agency (UNICEF) found that “malnutrition rates are above emergency levels in several communes,” the WFP said.

The food crisis comes at a time of political uncertainty and social unrest after Michel Martelly stepped down as president last week without an elected successor, leaving a deeply divided country in the hands of a disputed interim government.

Nearly 500,000 schoolchildren across Haiti rely on school meals provided by the WFP for their daily meal, and school meals make up the largest food safety net in the country.

The WFP has distributed food aid, including rice, sugar, oil and salt, to 120,000 people in drought-hit areas since November.

It says it will expand its programe by providing food and cash to one million Haitians facing hunger to help them cope with rising food prices.

The agency provides 200,000 Haitians with cash in exchange for work on watershed management and soil conservation projects to improve agriculture.

The drought has gripped other parts of the Caribbean and Central America, particularly parts of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

The current El Nino, which began in early 2015, is one of the strongest on record and has also caused widespread crop losses in countries ranging from Ethiopia to Papua New Guinea.

(Reporting by Anastasia Moloney, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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ON HAITI: Haiti Has a President

newyorker.com, Feb. 17, 2016, 5 min read, original

What is going on in Haiti? Anyone hoping to follow its political twists and turns from abroad may be forgiven for feeling confused: the politics of the Caribbean republic of more than ten million—the western hemisphere’s poorest nation, and the only one in the Americas patrolled by U.N. peacekeepers—are both fiendishly complex and almost wholly dysfunctional.

After an entire week in which Haiti had no President, the country’s lawmakers held a special session that dragged on for twelve hours and ended, early Sunday morning, with sixty-two-year-old Jocelerme Privert, a former Senate leader and opponent of former President Michel Martelly, being chosen to fill the role on an interim basis. Privert will govern until April 24th, when new Presidential elections are to be held. If all goes according to plan—which is not at all certain—the winner will assume office three weeks later.

Haiti’s latest crisis came to a head on February 7th, when President Michel Martelly left office after serving five rocky years at its helm. In his leave-taking ceremony, he said: “I now declare Haiti officially to have a power vacuum.” It was a characteristically blunt quip from a man who, throughout his Presidency, spoke his mind, and invariably caused offense. Before his own turn in politics, Martelly was best known asSweet Micky, a ribald performer of a lively brand of dance music known as compas. He won office in disputed elections held after the devastating January, 2010, earthquake, which killed over two hundred thousand Haitians and destroyed thousands of buildings in the capital of Port-au-Prince.

Coming out of a long history of dictatorships, Haiti’s current constitution prohibits its Presidents from serving more than one consecutive term, and so, although he certainly did not wish to, Martelly was obliged to step down. In the first electoral runoff, last October, his anointed successor, Jovenal Moïse, a banana exporter who campaigned as the Banana Man, came out ahead. A second round of voting was postponed twice, and finally scheduled for January 24th, but Moïse’s chief rival, a veteran Martelly opponent named Jude Célestin, vociferously denounced the October polls as having been rigged and demanded that new elections be held.

Célestin gained the support of several other parties’ candidates, and their followers began holding angry street demonstrations to voice his demands. Thanks to the mounting threats of violence on the streets of Port-au-Prince, Célestin’s gambit to thwart the second round was, in the end, successful. Two days before polls were to open, Haiti’s electoral commission called it off indefinitely. (Somewhat ironically, Célestin lost his place in the second round of the 2011 election to Martelly, after inspectors from the Organization of American States determined that many of Célestin’s first-round votes had been fraudulently obtained.)

A few days before the second round was due to take place, Martelly, whom I profiled recently for the magazine, called to talk about his hopes and fears. He was clearly worried about the political confrontation brewing with Célestin. He denied the accusations of fraud and vote rigging, and said that the opposition politicians were trying to force the cancellation of the second round so that an interim government, one that they could control, would be installed. He said that their plan would “bring chaos to Haiti,” and that was an outcome that had to be avoided at all costs. He saw it as his job, he said, to “reassure everyone and keep the country safe.”

Things didn’t go as Martelly wished. On February 7th, there was no new President to succeed him, and he was forced to strike a last-minute deal with Haiti’s parlimentary leaders to form an interim government pending new elections—precisely the scenario he said he feared.

Martelly, a clever man who appeared to have learned how to game the Haitian system, seems to have been outfoxed by his opponents. His critics accused him of all manner of nefariousness—from protecting traffickers to enriching himself with bribes and kickbacks—and even his staunchest defenders, which included American officials, conceded privately that some of the charges might be true. In fact, very few Haitians involved in politics are free of allegations of criminal behavior. Widespread public suspicion of malfeasance on the part of Haiti’s public servants has become the norm. With Martelly’s exit from power, on the thirtieth anniversary of the end of the Duvalier family dictatorship, Haiti remains a deeply corrupt and unequal place.

As for Martelly himself, not only was he denied the chance to exit gracefully, with a successor in place (“If there is continuity, I can come back,” he told me before the election), but Haiti’s annual Carnival was postponed because of the crisis, and he was unable to end his Presidency by joining in the festivities, and to “boom it out,” as he said he wished to do.

Even before leaving office, however, Martelly signalled his return to his old persona of Sweet Micky by releasing a new song, with salacious lyrics that taunted some of his media critics, including a prominent Haitian radio journalist and human-rights activist, Liliane Pierre-Paul. The song is called “Give them the Banana.”

At Jocelerme Privert’s swearing-in ceremony on Sunday, few of Martelly’s allies were on hand. Instead, the celebrating crowd was dominated by his rivals in Fanmi Lavalas (“The Flood”), a left-wing party that was founded by Haiti’s two-time former President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Privert’s political mentor. Whatever else he is, Privert is certainly a change in style from Martelly, who so despised Aristide that he once famously offered to “kill [him] and stick a dick up his ass.” At his inauguration, Privert struck a dutifully conciliatory tone: “We should welcome the peaceful and inclusive nature of this new step in resolving the crisis. Our patience has been severely tested this past few days, but our tolerance has been reinforced,” he said. My Presidency should be part of the logic of the need to return to constitutional normality.”

If only the Presidential election were the end of Haiti’s problems. Last week, the U.N. World Food Program (W.F.P.) warned that 1.5 million Haitians are at risk from severe malnutrition; the number has doubled since September, due to a combination of prolonged drought, the climate phenomenon known as El Niño—and, of course, the conditions of extreme poverty in which the vast majority of the population lives. It is Haiti’s worst food crisis in fifteen years. In some parts of the countryside, farmers have experienced crop failures of as much as seventy per cent, and in one of the worst affected areas scores of children have starved to death. The W.F.P. has launched an appeal for eighty-four million dollars to help stave off the crisis.

If the past is anything to go on, the U.N. will only manage to raise part of that money. After the catastrophic 2010 earthquake, foreign governments and international donor agencies made pledges of over thirteen billion dollars, of which less than six hundred and fifty millionreached the Haitian government. Even before the earthquake and the inadequate aid allocations, however, Haiti was in a state of chaos, and in so many ways that it had become difficult, even for relief experts, to see how to fix it. Whoever becomes the nation’s next President will become, in effect, the caretaker of a large slum.

During our several encounters in Port-au-Prince, Martelly was rueful about his own lack of achievements. He had decided, however, that the ultimate solution to Haiti was an ambitious program to educate its people. Nearly half of all Haitians are illiterate, and that, he said, had to change. “We need to have another Haiti in twenty years. Look at Cuba, it’s got all those qualified people. We’re living the opposite experience.”

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HAITI: For US in Haiti, black votes don’t matter

america.aljazeera.com, by Mark Weisbrot @Markweisbrot, 3 min read, original

Journalists are taught in school to avoid euphemisms. When someone dies, they write that she “died” instead of “passed away.” But one euphemism that has become a fixture in U.S. news reporting is “the international community.” This is generally a substitute for the U.S. government, with or without some input from some of its allies.

Perhaps this is nowhere more true than in Haiti, where Washington has long exercised a veto over the country’s most important decisions. But last week the “international community” suffered a rare defeat when Haitians rejected Washington’s plans for a deeply flawed presidential runoff election to take place on Sunday, Jan. 24.

How did this happen? Basically, Haitians managed to put Washington in the situation of having to maintain that a runoff election with only one candidate, businessman Jovenel Moïse, would be legitimate, or postpone the election. As late as last Thursday, just three days before the election, U.S. officials were insisting that they would go forward even if the second candidate, engineer Jude Célestin, refused to participate. But he stuck to his boycott, and they backed down.

Célestin was also the candidate who finished second in the first round of Haiti’s 2010 presidential elections. But the “international community” had a different choice, and brought in an “expert” mission under the auspices of the Organization of American States to examine the results. Without a recount or even a statistical test of a ballot sample, it reversed the first-round results, eliminating Célestin and putting musician and businessman Michel Martelly into the runoff. Martelly went on to win the election and become president. Approaching the end of his five-year term, he is supporting Moïse as his replacement.

In last week’s events, it was not just the work of one person that forced Washington to back down. There were serious street demonstrations, condemnations from human rights organizations, religious leaders, business groups and the refusal of seven other presidential candidates from the first round to accept another episode of illegitimate elections. They had plenty of arguments and evidence on their side. In the first round of the presidential election, held on Oct. 25, local observers found massive irregularities and evidence of fraud. More than 900,000 observer credentials were distributed to political party representatives — effectively allowing them to vote multiple times. International reporters witnessed these passes being sold on the black market. In an election where only about 1.6 million people (26 percent of the electorate) voted, the legitimacy of the vote became doubtful.

Today’s electoral turmoil shows how much continuity there is with Haiti’s awful history.

It was even tougher to accept the election results after a commission appointed by Martelly found that only 8 percent of tally sheets that they examined were free from irregularities. The opposition did not all have the same demands but they wanted a new electoral council to lead the process and some reforms to make sure that the second round would be credible. Many observers have also demanded a serious examination of the first-round ballots to see if there was any basis for accepting the results.

No date for new elections has yet been set, and it remainsto be seen what will happen when Martelly’s term expires on Feb. 7.

The current fight for legitimate elections in Haiti is another episode of a long struggle for democracy that goes back to the U.S.-backed dictatorships of François and Jean-Claude Duvalier (1957-1986) and the overthrow of the country’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in 1991 and again in 2004 (with decisive support from Washington). And even further back, it is rooted in Haiti’s many conflicts with “the international community” since the country’s founding in 1804 from a slave rebellion, including its occupation by U.S. Marines from 1915 to 1934.

Today’s electoral turmoil shows how much continuity there is with this awful history. In a sense, the country remains occupied today by United Nations troops who were brought in not to help with reconstruction after the 2010 earthquake — as many people mistakenly believe — but six years earlier, to “keep order” after the constitutional government was overthrown, its officials jailed or forced into exile, and thousands of supporters killed.

It would be remiss not to mention the institutional racism that allows for such continuity. This is most painfully obvious in the response of “the international community” to a problem that they themselves created just five years ago: the cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 10,000 Haitians and infected hundreds of thousands more. Cholera had not been present in Haiti until some UN troops — not “aid workers” as some people allegeddumped their human feces into the country’s water supply in 2010. Yet they refuse to come up with the money that would be necessary to provide clean water and resolve the problem, even though they have spent much more than this on maintaining their military presence in the country.

It is hard to see such twisted priorities as other than a statement that “Black lives don’t matter.” As with the elections, and USAID reconstruction funds of which only 1.6 percent went to Haitian organizations and companies, it seems that even in dealing with a deadly disease caused by these foreign governments’ own gross negligence, power and control over the country are the first priorities.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.

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HAITI: Haiti Since the Earthquake

newyorker.com, by Jon Lee Anderson, original

Is the struggling country’s flamboyant President a savior or a rogue?

A few months ago, a crowd of curious onlookers gathered on a newly built highway overpass in downtown Port-au-Prince. It was a humid afternoon, too hot to linger outside, but Haiti’s President, Michel Martelly, was scheduled to appear, and any appearance by Martelly was bound to be entertaining. Before being elected President, in 2011, Martelly was Sweet Micky, an extroverted singer of the ebullient dance music called konpa. A popular and bawdy showman, he appears in one typical video clip in a night club, dancing for the camera in a red bra and a yellow sarong. At one point, he feigns masturbating a giant phallus, then hoists an imaginary breast and licks it.

At the overpass, jeeploads of riot police fanned out, and workmen set up a red carpet and a lectern with the Presidential seal on it. Martelly was coming to inaugurate the Delmas Viaduct, a four-lane bridge over a deep gully at the base of Delmas, a densely populated hillside neighborhood. As the crowd grew, a rara band, a squad of dreadlocked teen-agers, showed up to blow horns and beat drums. Martelly, who is fifty-four, arrived in a pink-and-white checked shirt worn untucked over black jeans. His shaved head gleaming, he cut a casually hip figure amid an entourage of plainclothes bodyguards and officials in suits. At the microphone, he spoke in guttural Creole, a French patois that is Haiti’s primary language. “This viaduct proves once again that together we can achieve great and beautiful things,” he said. “More than a dream, more than a project, this viaduct is now one of the symbols of Port-au-Prince.”

Martelly’s Presidency has been predicated on rebuilding. He took office a year after the January, 2010, earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, killing perhaps two hundred thousand people and leaving millions homeless. The disaster drew the world’s attention to Haiti’s long struggle—and, to some extent, offered a chance for a fresh start. In a survey of American voters, more than half reported donating to help repair the country; Bill Clinton, whose family foundation is deeply involved in Haiti, announced the hope that it could “build back better.” But Delmas, like much of Port-au-Prince, has been at best partly repaired. Even as the new overpass was unveiled, tens of thousands of residents were still displaced. As Martelly finishes his term in office, Haiti remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Some sixty per cent of its ten million citizens live in poverty. Nearly half are illiterate, and only one in four has access to a toilet.

Read the full New Yorker Article

 

 

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ON DEVELOPMENT: The Negative Effects on Haiti of Too Much Foreign Aid

dailysignal.com, Commentary: James M. Roberts, Dec. 18, 2015, original
In Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, the wheels of economic progress grind forward slowly. In the case of a newly-rehabilitated flour mill in Port-au-Prince, however, those grinding gears can actually be seen and heard.For a nation struggling with hungry citizens thereopening of the Moulins d’Haiti (LMH) flour mill isn’t small potatoes. The mill was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake, and rebuilt at a cost exceeding $75 million by a consortium that includes U.S. companies, Seaboard Corp., and Continental Grain Co.

Now, in the years since the reopening of the mill, the price of flour has stabilized and supply has increased, meaning more, cheaper flour available to Haitians.

Meanwhile, Haiti struggles with the insidious and negative effects of what could fairly be labelled as “over-aid” from its developed friends, especially the United States. Since 2010, hundreds of millions of dollars and dozens of metric tons of food have poured into Haiti from the U.S. in an effort stave off life-threatening hunger in the disaster-weary nation.

However, as early as 2010 the Haitian government called for an end to current food aid. Despite the unpopularity of this in Haiti, this appeal has been echoed by outside organizations. Haitian farmers growing staple foods already face disadvantages in cost versus imports ofsubsidized rice from the U.S., and the massive quantities of food distributed by aid organizations have not made it any easier for Haiti to learn to support itself again.

So what are the bright spots in a situation that seems rife with complications?

First, the new LMH mill, which is nearly 25 percent more efficient than its predecessor. Despite difficult and possibly unfair competition from the Dominican Republic, the LMH mill is a true step towards solving the Haitian hunger problem.

A second bright spot can be found in an unassuming little Haitian fruit—the Francique mango—which is a Haitian delicacy as suitable for export as it is for helping to bridge the gap between the caloric deficits that many Haitians face daily.

Non-profits, in a refreshing move away from the “over-aid” model, are working with farmers to increasedomestic production and to expand overseas markets for the product. Some farmers have tripled production and last year it was found that, for the first time, Whole Foods was able to import over 50 percent more mangoes to U.S. supermarkets than it had originally planned.

Lastly, a shift can be observed in the aid model through which Haiti has been simultaneously supported but also stifled during the previous years.

Institutions such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank have instituted projects to develop the infrastructure and the capacity for Haitians to achieve sustainable long term, private-sector-led economic growth through the production of value-added and marketable products.

Nobel laureate, Harvard economist, and philosopher Amartya Sen once wrote: “the challenge is to respond to the plight of the hopelessly impoverished without neglecting to insist that help come in useful and productive forms.”

For our Haitian friends, that help must be multi-dimensional and not create the dependency that accompanies traditional foreign aid models.

To paraphrase the old Chinese axiom, Haitians must learn how to fish and not just be given cans of tuna.

The deeper truth is that most Haitians do know how to fish (in fact, many who escape that country’s deeply corrupt business environment become successful entrepreneurs). But back at home they need access to a boat – which for Haitians means securing greater property rights and rule of law at home while gaining greater access to world markets.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of James M. Roberts

James M. Roberts is the Research Fellow in Freedom and Growth at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for International Trade and Economics. Roberts’ primary responsibility is to produce the Index of Economic Freedom, an influential annual analysis of the economic climate of countries throughout the world.

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HAITI: Will Washington Greenlight Another Coup in Haiti?

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(Photo: Haiti Innovation / Flickr)

In October, Haitians went to the polls in a critical election for nearly 5,000 political positions, including the presidency. The preliminary results named Jovenèl Moïse, a member of outgoing President Michel Martelly’s party, as the frontrunner — though by a small enough margin that a runoff vote is planned for December 27th.

Unfortunately, evidence of overwhelming fraud discredits these results. If the putsch is successful, Haiti could have yet another U.S.-backed president with a weak democratic mandate.

The United States has a long legacy of destructive intervention in Haiti — whether through direct military occupation, support for heinous dictators, facilitation of coups d’état, or manipulation of the electoral process.

The election of Martelly in 2010 was a case in point, illustrating the lengths that the United States — along with the Washington-dominated Organization of American States — is willing to go to ensure that only politicians who comply with the policy dictates of elite interests hold power in the western hemisphere’s poorest country. The flaws in that election were profound: The most popular political party was prohibited from participating, and there was widespread disenfranchisementand fraud.

After the 2010 vote, an OAS panel of international experts,lobbied by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself, intervened to move Martelly onto runoff elections, despite a lack of votes and an abundance of Haitian and international outcry. OAS Special Representative Ricardo Seitenfus described the maneuvers even then as a “silent coup d’état.”

Martelly went on to serve as a puppet for the interests of the international and Haitian elite, notably through his “Haiti is Open for Business” program, which promotes multinational investment in high-stakes extraction and development. Much of the land seized for these purposes has been taken from small farmers and other desperately resource-poor people.

The U.S. has provided Martelly enthusiastic support, with Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. UN ambassador Samantha Power, and U.S. ambassador to Haiti Pamela White all offering statements of support in moments of crisis. Yet Martelly’s government failed to hold even one of the numerous constitutionally mandated elections for parliamentary and local offices. Martelly’s unwillingness to organize votes led to the dissolution of parliament after every member’s term expired in January 2015, allowing him to rule by presidential decree ever since.

While the October elections were praised by the international press as comparatively calm, they were plagued with the same manipulation of years past. In addition to other forms of fraud and vote theft, out of the 1.6 million votes cast, over 900,000were entered not by normal citizen voters, but by people withpasses awarded by political party representatives. The Center for Economic and Policy Research reported that these passes were sold to the highest bidder for anywhere between $2 and $30.

The preliminary results of the presidential candidates that will move onto December’s runoff elections were released on November 4th. The only candidate that did not denounce the results was the first-place winner Jovenèl Moïse, the government’s preferred candidate and a key player in Haiti’s growing agribusiness industry with a large financial backing. Seven others have called for an investigation, and the Haitian people have regularly taken to the streets to protest yet another vote being stolen.

Nevertheless, the U.S. and OAS are standing by the declared results and have both released statements of support for the integrity of the elections.

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HAITI, DEVELOPMENT: Ignoring the plight of the poor in Haiti

bostonglobe.com, Commentary by Louise C. Ivers, original

Haitian human rights activists and victims of cholera rallied last month in front of the of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Port-au-Prince.

As Haitianstake to the streets to protest the results of their recent presidential election, a quieter but more deadly battle continues throughout the country against the world’s largest cholera outbreak.

The toll is enormous, particularly for the poor. Although cholera is entirely preventable and completely treatable, five years after the disease appeared in Haiti for the first time in recorded history, 9,041 deaths have been registered, and more than 750,000 have been sickened in its grip. The real numbers are likely much higher.

By its nature, the disease is an inequitable attacker, a disease of poverty — it tends to strike hardest where access to toilets is limited or nonexistent, and where clean water is beyond financial reach. In the absence of public water systems, for many of Haiti’s poorest people, buying water purification tablets can only be done at the expense of buying food, or soap, or medicine, or school supplies. These are impossible choices. But unfortunately attention has waned to the point where progress has stalled, with devastating consequences. In 2014, more cases of cholera per population were registered in Haiti than in any other country reporting to the World Health Organization.

Those of us with incomes of more than one dollar a day are rarely affected by cholera, and the pharmaceutical industry sees little opportunity for profit in this market. Recent studies on the role of an oral cholera vaccine, Shanchol, have confirmed that it is safe, feasible, and effective in preventing cholera in Haiti (and in other countries), yet the vaccine’s manufacturer (Shantha Biotechnics, a Sanofi company) decreased production of the vaccine in 2015, instead of increasing it as they had promised to do. Epidemic cholera was eliminated from Europe and North America a century ago by investments in safe public water and sanitation systems, yet access to potable water has actually decreased in Haiti over the last 25 years, and only 19 percent of rural Haitians have access to basic sanitation. These collective failures have resulted in a protracted humanitarian crisis.

Colleagues in the Haitian government, nongovernmental organizations, and bilateral and multilateral agencies have the knowledge and the technical know-how to eliminate transmission of cholera in Haiti, and in doing so could save thousands of lives. However, they lack the funds and the vaccine needed to implement solutions. A 10-year plan to eliminate cholera from Haiti includes a call for major investments in water and sanitation, as well as in health care, hygiene education, and vaccination. Yet, the plan is still largely underfunded. The United Nations remains officially silent on the fact that members of its peacekeeping force inadvertently started the outbreak, and has not provided the kind of financial input toward solving the problem that is commensurate with the organization’s culpability.

The human and financial costs of this cholera outbreak are unacceptable. That cholera continues ravaging poor communities in Haiti and around the world is a shame on our society — one that we can and must do something about.

Louise C. Ivers is an infectious disease physician, senior health and policy advisor for Partners In Health and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Ivers served as clinical director for PIH in Haiti from 2008-2010 and chief of mission from 2010-2012.

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HAITI, DEVELOPMENT: Could a Superfood Help Save Haiti’s Forests? [No!]

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Haiti is the most impoverished country in the northern hemisphere, and trees, or the lack thereof, are part of the problem.

After centuries of agricultural exploitation and the population’s demand for charcoal and fuel wood, 98 percent of Haiti’s landscape is deforested, leaving the country vulnerable to environmental disasters. In 2008, four storms in quick succession resulted in flooding responsible for 800 deaths and $1 billion in damage. The massive earthquake that same year killed more than 220,000 people.

Numerous studies have supported the link between deforestation and poverty in the country. One hundred thousand children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition, less than half of households have access to safe water, and one-third of the women and children are anemic. Everyone from conservationists to actor Sean Penn sees trees as the answer. The question is, which trees?

Some believe the answer could be moringa, a native of the Himalayan foothills in northwestern India and the latest imported ingredient anointed with “It Superfood” status (see also: quinoa, acai, chia). The tree—called variously “the miracle tree,” “tree of life,” “mother’s best friend,” and the “never die tree”—can shoot from seed to 15-foot stature in the span of a year; flourishes in hot, dry subtropical climates; and can be put to use from root to pod. Nutritionally, moringa has more calcium than milk, more vitamin C than oranges, more vitamin A than carrots, more iron than spinach, more potassium than bananas, and just as much protein as eggs.

Could two of Haiti’s problems—deforestation and poverty—be solved by moringa?  It’s a potential solution floated by Oakland-based social enterprise company Kuli Kuli, in a partnership with the Clinton Foundation and a Haitian nonprofit, theSmallholder Farmers Alliance, to develop a new moringa supply chain in Haiti. That chain would result in Kuli Kuli’s newest product, a Soul Cycle–appropriate cousin to 5 Hour Energy called Moringa Green Energy Shots, to be sold nationwide at Whole Foods.

Chef José Andrés is in on the action, too. His nonprofit organization, World Central Kitchen, is working to improve nutrition in Haiti and other developing nations using moringa and is also promoting recipe competition on Instagram, using the hashtag #MoringaInspired.

Kuli Kuli has succeeded with this model before. In Ghana, the planting of 60,000 moringa trees has provided a sustainable livelihood for 500 women farmers for the past three years and enabled Kuli Kuli to launch its Moringa Superfood Bars in stores in the U.S. Kuli Kuli pays 30 percent over the market price, and it prepays for harvests to ensure that the crop remains sustainable.

But while its nutrition benefits are irrefutable, is mass-planting moringa the right reforestation tactic for Haiti? S. Blair Hedges, director of the Center for Biodiversity at Temple University, doesn’t think so.

“Although it is true that [Moringa oleifera] has benefits for humans (food, medicine), the major claim made, that Haiti would benefit by reforestation with this species, is misleading,” Hedges, whose work preserving Haitian flora and fauna has led to the discovery of several new species of Haitian frogs, wrote in an email.

“Moringa has been grown in Haiti for over 50 years and so is far from being an invasive species,” Kuli Kuli CEO Lisa Curtis told TakePart. “We’re not bringing anything new to the country; we’re simply working with smallholder women farmers to help them plant more moringa trees and develop an export market for value-added moringa powder.” The trees, she added, would be grown alongside limes, coffee, and other vegetable crops.

“It would put money in someone’s pocket but would not solve Haiti’s environmental problems or protect Haiti’s rich biodiversity,” Hedges said. That, he added, would require a more local solution.

“A forest full of native Haitian species would do much better in stopping erosion, protecting water resources, and providing food, shelter, and energy for the Haitian people,” he continued.

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HAITI: Election – The Polls, Candidates, and Issues in the Presidential Election

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With Haiti’s plethora of presidential candidates, polls show some aspirants rising to the top, though the frontrunner remains unclear. Two polls give different results of voters’ first choice among 54 candidates. The likeliest scenario? No candidate will get more than 50 percent of the vote on Election Day, October 25, and a runoff will take place December 27.

Who’s Leading the Polls?

A cellphone poll by Florida-based Integrated Communications and Research gives governing-party candidate Jovenel Moïse a 7.7 percentage-point lead over second-place candidate Jude Célestin. Meanwhile, an in-person poll by the Research Office in Computer Science and Economic and Social Development (known locally as BRIDES) puts Célestin ahead of Moïse by 18.4 points. That said, the surveys do agree on the third-place candidate: Senator Moïse Jean-Charles.

Who Are the Top 5 Candidates?

This election marks a second run for president by Jude Célestin of the Alternative League for Progress and Haitian Emancipation party, or LAPEH. Célestin ran in 2011 under the Unity Party of then-President René Préval, but dropped out when the Organization of American States contested the first-round of voting results, which originally put Célestin ahead of Michel Martelly, who eventually became president. With a Swiss education in mechanical engineering, Célestin took a job in the government’s road construction agency in 1997, becoming director in 2006 under Préval. Célestin is running on a campaign platform to boost job creation and fight government corruption. He has also voiced support for harmonious relations with the Dominican Republic.

Jovenel Moïse is the presidential candidate representing the current ruling Haitian Tèt Kale Party, or PHTK. Moïse is promisingto further the Martelly administration’s efforts on education and tourism. As head of Agritrans, Haiti’s first agricultural free zone dedicated to exporting bananas, Moïse is also a proponent of creating jobs and increasing exports through the agricultural sector. “In terms of arable land, we have nothing to envy of other producers at the level of the Caribbean,” he said. This summer, Haiti’s Departmental Electoral Office of Litigation (BCED) consideredaccusations that Moïse used a portion of Agritrans funds to finance his electoral campaign, but ultimately approved his candidacy in June. The presidential bid is Moïse’s first political race.

Presidential candidate and former Senator Moïse Jean-Charles has long been one of the Martelly government’s most vocal critics. Hefirst entered the Senate in 2009 as a representative of the country’s North department, where he served on the Foreign Affairs, Natural Resources and Rural Development, Finance, and Agricultural committees. He also won three terms as Milot mayor from 1994 to 2004. Though Jean-Charles represents the Pitit Desalin party, he was a mayor under the banner of Fanmi Lavalas—the party of Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

His campaign platform focuses on accelerating Haiti’s low growth rate and combating extreme poverty by investing in agriculture. Meanwhile, he’ll change the way funds from Venezuela’s Petrocaribe are distributed so that they are used for infrastructure projects, science and technology education, and police officers. He has also repeatedly called for the withdrawal of the UN’s Stabilization Mission in Haiti. Like Jovenel Moïse, Jean-Charlesfaced scrutiny from the BCED into his campaign finances.

Maryse Narcisse of Fanmi Lavalas is the only female presidential candidate in the race to rank among the five most popular candidates. A human rights advocate and a medical doctor who helped open clinics across Haitian communities, Narcisse has experienced a fair dose of political turbulence in her life. After Aristide’s 2004 overthrow and exile in South Africa, Narcisse sought asylum in Miami. Both returned to Haiti in 2007 and Aristide named Narcisse the official party spokesperson. Later that year, a group of armed men kidnapped Narcisse and a fellow party member, allegedly for political reasons. She was released three days later. Today, her campaign platform focuses on rule of law, education, and increasing national production, especially through the strengthening of small and medium businesses. Narcisse served in public office as general director for the Health Ministry during Aristide’s second administration, and has worked for the Permanent Mission of Haiti to the UN. The doctor also worked for the United States Agency for International Development, a point on her résumé that at least one other candidate has used against her, given controversy over international aid in Haiti.

Lawyer Jean-Henry Céant of the Renmen Ayiti (“Love Haiti”) party ran for 2010 and registered as one of the leading candidates per some polls at the time, enjoying Fanmi Lavalas support as Aristide’s notary. His campaign focuses on four constituencies: the Haitian diaspora, farmers, women, and young people. At a rally at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Céant called for amending the country’s 1987 constitution to include the Haitians living outside the country in political matters.

What Are Voters’ Top Concerns?

Without a doubt, Haitians are the most concerned about the economic situation in their country. Economic growth slowed from 4.2 percent in 2013 to 2.7 percent in 2014, affected, in part, by a devastating drought that slashed agricultural production. Though Haiti reduced the share of its population living in extreme povertyfrom 31 percent in 2000 to 24 percent in 2012, it remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. In 2011, the unemployment rate hit 40.6 percent, and stands at about 50 percent in urban areas,according to the UN’s World Food Program.

While health and water access are not such prominent voter issues, they nonetheless present challenges. A 2010 cholera outbreak, which killed 8,592 people and infected more than 700,000 through August 2014, continues to affect Haitians. Less than 50 percent of households have access to clean water. Haiti is also still recovering from a devastating 2010 earthquake, with damages amounting to some $8 billion in a country with a GDP of $8.7 billion and nearly 80,000 Haitians still living in tent cities five years later.

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HAITI – Pre-election violence flaring up in Haiti slum – Cite Soleil

By DAVID McFADDEN and EVENS SANON, Associated Press, 10/19/2015

In this Oct. 17, 2015 photo, presidential candidate Moise Jean Charles, of the Platform Pitit Dessalines political party, is carried by supporters as he campaigns in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This year’s unprecedented three rounds of balloting will pick Haiti’s next president, two-thirds of the Senate, the entire Chamber of Deputies and local offices. The Oct. 25 vote is expected to clear the sprawling presidential field for a runoff Dec. 27 between the top two finishers. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Deadly pre-election violence has flared up in and around Haiti’s most notorious slum and resulted in the killings of two pregnant women and at least 13 other people in the densely-populated district of shacks, community organizers and politicians said Monday.

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Official numbers of the slain around the mazelike network of Cite Soleil were hard to pin down. Spokespeople with the Haitian National Police and the U.N. mission in Haiti did not respond to Monday phone calls or said they did not immediately have specifics.

But Esau Bouchard, a government-appointed mayor in Cite Soleil, said at least 10 people were killed within the district’s boundaries over the last few days and others that he described as gangsters were gunned down in shootouts with police in an outskirts community known as Wharf Jeremie. He told Radio Solidarite that the violence appeared to be politically motivated.

According to Bouchard, authorities were trying to capture gang members creating mayhem “so we can create a secure climate for elections to happen” in the deeply impoverished ghetto of a few hundred thousand people. Some 2,000 people fled their homes out of fear starting Friday, but he said that a measure of order was gradually being restored.

The deadly violence in the long-troubled community on the edge of Port-au-Prince comes days ahead of national elections on Sunday when Haitians will vote in the first-round of presidential balloting and decide numerous legislative and local races. About a month ago, police said two officers were slain by gangsters in Cite Soleil.

Musician and social activist Gueldy Rene, who is from the Bwa Nef neighborhood where much of the violence was centered over the weekend, told The Associated Press that politically-aligned gangs were feuding over money distributed by political teams looking to dominate Sunday’s balloting in the vote-heavy district.

“This is Haiti politics. Some politician gives out money and now gangs are killing people over that money,” he said, complaining that police and U.N. troops were “sitting around listening to gunshots” at the height of the violence rather than trying to stop the bloodshed.

Jessica Hsu, country director for Haiti Communitere, a nonprofit that works with Cite Soleil residents, said the area’s struggling inhabitants were again being used as “pawns by politicians” engaged in electoral turf wars.

“In the context of Haitian elections, this is what happens every time here,” said Hsu, whose group has been working in Haiti since the country’s devastating 2010 earthquake.

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David McFadden on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dmcfadd

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HAITI, DEVELOPMENT – To find success in Haiti’s recovery, go local

devex.com, by Catherine Cheney21 September 2015, original
A roadside market in Haiti.  Photo by: Catherine Cheney / Devex

The release of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails surfaced a commanding perspective on U.S. development policy from a self-described “invisible soldier.” Chelsea Clinton, the former (and potentially future) first daughter and an emerging force at theClinton Foundation, pulled no punches in her assessment of the post-earthquake response in Haiti five years ago.

“To say I was profoundly disturbed by what I saw — and didn’t see — would be an understatement,” Chelsea wrote in a 2010 email to her parents, who have taken a special interest in the country ever since they honeymooned there. “Haitians want to help themselves and want the international community to help them help themselves.”

Her letter, written after four days in Haiti with Paul Farmer andPartners in Health, dives into the details of dysfunction she witnessed. She calls the United Nations and international NGO workers she came across, “anachronistic in their thinking at best and arrogant and incompetent at worst.”

Over the past five years, the media has continued to expose the large scale failure of aid to the country, asking just how the American Red Cross spent $500 million in donations for disaster relief, and exposing the role Nepalese U.N. peacekeepers played in causing the 2010 cholera epidemic that followed the earthquake.

“I guess while you’re there I’d challenge the assumption that the fundamental dynamic is outsiders trying to solve Haitian problems,” Jonathan Katz, author of “The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster,” wrote Devex during a trip to Haiti with Chelsea Clinton and a delegation of supporters in July. “More often, we are the problem. I’d look outside the development world completely and try to understand how Haitians manage to survive and deal with their own problems in spite of us — Clintons and all.”

On site visits and long drives between Port-au-Prince and the Central Plateau, Clinton Foundation staff members repeated the mantra that they are trying to work themselves out of a job. But their involvement in Haiti’s reconstruction is not likely to end anytime soon. The Clinton Global Initiative’s Haiti Action Network has made 100 Commitments to Action valued at $500 million when fully funded and implemented. Fortunately, as organizations like the Clinton Foundation have transitioned from disaster response to capacity building, they have sought to learn from past mistakes and built on their strengths.

From disaster response to job creation

“Problems really can be solved here, and we see them being solved,”Chelsea Clinton told Devex after visiting with women entrepreneurs in the Central Plateau, one of several stops on a tour highlighting the Clinton Foundation’s work with Haitian women. The view from the press bus windows put human faces to Haiti’s myriad challenges. The country is often called the “Republic of NGOs” because of the way the aid industry has become more powerful than the government itself. It is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, and in many places poverty and illiteracy seem more abundant than clean water and electricity.

But this makes the signs of resilience all the more powerful. While it was certainly in the Clinton Foundation staff’s interest that delegates and reporters see signs of progress, this trip did seem to leave Clinton more encouraged than disturbed. Some of her optimism about the role the international development community can play in Haiti seems to have returned in the interim between that first trip with Paul Farmer and her most recent one. Partnership with Haitians is what makes the difference in Clinton’s view.

“There are so many reasons to be optimistic,” she told Devex, adding that constant doom and gloom journalism reporting is “disrespectful to the amazing work that’s being done in Haiti by Haitians to solve their own challenges.”

Chelsea Clinton talks to Devex reporter Catherine Cheney about reasons for optimism in Haiti.Sabine Toussaint, senior program manager for the Clinton Foundation in Haiti, explained that the Clinton Foundation has returned to its original focus on sustainable job creation in Haiti after going into emergency relief mode following the earthquake.

“The Clinton foundation is uniquely placed. We are able to be the great convener because we have President Clinton,” she said, elaborating on how the Clinton Foundation gathers stakeholders to support its focus areas in Haiti: building capacity, bringing in investment, and empowering women entrepreneurs. “Just as we assessed ourselves and knew that disaster relief was not our forte, each individual organization should do an assessment of themselves and ask what are our strengths?”

As an operating foundation, most of the money the Clinton Foundation raises for projects around the world is used to operate programs, but given the unique needs for capacity building and job creation in Haiti, the staff there provides targeted grants. Throughout the trip, the foundation staff talked about how they want to support small and medium enterprises in ways that reduce, not grow, their dependence on external support. Take the fair trade manufacturer Caribbean Craft, which was devastated by the earthquake but now employs 400 artisans. There, Clinton Foundation delegates watched as mostly female employees turned recycled materials into artisan products, including papier-mache animal sculptures that Clinton Global Initiative members like West Elm will place in stores and catalogues.

Magalie Dresse, who founded Caribbean Craft, spoke with Devex about the value of the Clinton Foundation approach of supporting local entrepreneurs. “When an NGO gets free access to money, they don’t need to fight for any sales because everything is paid for,” she said, explaining how good intentions can have negative implications. “They can lower the cost of the item where it doesn’t even have any margin on it because it’s covered by a grant. Now you’re killing me as a producer, and I have no chance.”

Later, Yve-Car Momperousse, CEO of the beauty supply company Kreyól Essence, led Clinton Foundation delegates through a castor oil production facility in Mirebalais, Haiti, where women who once worked over open charcoal pits now work in the shade with uniforms and goggles thanks to Clinton Foundation support. “If you take a market based approach to solving these socially complex issues, development can be sustainable,” she said. “There are proven models and clear successes.”

Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods transforms waste into compost after responding to a need voiced by the local community for ecological sanitation. An entire tab of their website is devoted to what makes them different from the many organizations in Haiti tied with another, unproductive, kind of waste. They emphasize their cultural fluency, with 90 percent Haitian staff, and their social business model, with low barriers to entry and multiple sources of revenue.

“The art of the possible has a special meaning in Haiti,” Sally Yearwood, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Caribbean Central American Action, told Devex after joining the Clinton Foundation in Haiti. She wrote a newsletter for her readers reflecting on the trip and how struck she was by the many women she saw building a better future for themselves, their children, and therefore the country as a whole.

With devastation comes disruption

The 7.0-magnitude earthquake killed 300,000 people and left 1.5 million Haitians homeless. But with devastation came disruption — the kind of disruption that breeds new ideas. Many technologists have called Haiti’s earthquake “the big bang of digital disaster relief.”

Patrick Meier, a thought leader on humanitarian technology, captures in his book Digital Humanitarians how digital technologists used tools like text messaging and mobile mapping to aid collaboration. “It wasn’t the technology that caused us to help,” he said later in a talk at the PopTech conference. “What the technology allowed us to do was help manifest that humans want to go and help others who are suffering. So that technology actually made us more human by extending our emotions to actions.”

Following the earthquake, technologists gathered around the world for hackathons, developing new tools for crisis management in front of computer screens and pizza boxes. But hackathons like the one held four days after the earthquake from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. atDevHouse on Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Campus did not involve Haitians, so struggled to create lasting solutions to local needs. Flash forward to February 2013, when Haiti hosted its first hackathon.

Digital Democracy, an organization based in Oakland, California that works with marginalized communities to defend their rights through technology, helped organize the hackathon. It gathered Haitian technical students, members of the Haitian women’s organization KOFAVIV, and a mix of international software developers and designers who experienced for the first time local constraints like slow internet connections.

“This event has brought us back to a piece of Haitian culture, the ‘konbit,’ that we have largely left behind,” Richardson Ciguene, then a student studying databases and programming, said after spending three days building tools in support of a call center for survivors of gender-based violence.

“Konbit is a very significant concept in Haitian culture, and every Haitian knows what konbit means, because that was the way they survived the years after the revolution,” Emily Jacobi, executive director and founder of Digital Democracy, said of the Creole term for gathering, or coming together in solidarity in the face of adversity. “The effective earthquake responses I saw involved Haitians coming together in a konbit fashion.” In the Digital Democracy model of fully transitioning work to its local partners, Ciguene and other students went on to host the first official “Konbit Teknolojik” in June 2013, continuing the hackathon model without the direct involvement of an outside organization.

The disruption extends beyond the digital space. A bulletin from theWorld Health Organization on tuberculosis in the aftermath of the earthquake highlights the little known success story that the earthquake did not devastate basic health programs in Haiti. Given the interplay between HIV and tuberculosis, with HIV positive individuals more likely to get TB, the expectation was that breaks in the supply chain would lead to outbreaks of disease. But because of the dedication and collaboration of health workers, relief agencies, the patients themselves, and the government, the proportion of TB patients with HIV remained stable.

William Heisel, director of global engagement at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, sat down with Devex at the IHME offices in Seattle and showed visualizations of this promising health data on a screen suspended from the ceiling. “Overall, there’s a lot of hope in this paper, which makes me wonder if we’re on the verge of seeing a new phrase emerge as the thing you’re most likely to think of when you hear the word ‘Haiti,’” he wrote in a post responding to the WHO bulletin. “That phrase would be: ‘Rapid response.’”

Lauren Hashiguchi, a policy translation specialist at IHME who worked on the WHO study, first traveled to Haiti as a college undergraduate in 2009. Frustrated by the many unregulated medical missions she saw, she made a promise to herself that she would not return unless she had a master’s degree in public health and the opportunity to work with a Haitian organization. “After the earthquake I was very tempted to go back, but I realized I didn’t have valuable skills,” she told Devex. “I would just be a body in the way of actual aid work.”

When she did return in 2013, it was to work with GHESKIO, a health service and research organization. “External aid will never be rapid response,” Hashiguchi said, calling the best rapid responders people like “the physicians at GHESKIO … who trained in Canada and France and the U.S., who choose to come back to Haiti and work in difficult places and understand the population and their needs.”

Investing in Haiti’s future

One of the reasons GHESKIO has succeeded where other organizations have failed is its partnership with the Haitian government. Next month’s presidential elections in Haiti will be another test for those partnerships, and for the Haitian government’s commitment to leading the reconstruction effort.

“While it is important for Haiti’s international partners to continue to lend generous support to the country’s democratic process, it is equally crucial to recognize the work of the Government of Haiti in ensuring that its institutions can fully take charge of the elections,” Jessica Faieta, UNDP director for Latin America and the Caribbean,said at a gathering at U.N. headquarters.

Some outsiders aiming to do good in Haiti have cited corruption as the reason they circumvent the government. But their critics point to the money they spend on overhead costs. Foreigners driving new SUVs and living in gated neighborhoods are particularly conspicuous next to communities where people cram into decorated tap-tap buses that drive past shacks ready to slide down the hill.

“For too long, aid to Haiti has bypassed the government over a concern of poor governance and corruption,” Jake Johnston, the lead on the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch, relayed to Devex. “Instead billions have been funneled to unaccountable NGOs and private actors. For most Haitians, the high overhead costs and salaries are just as corrupt.”

The parallel public delivery system is part of what has created voter apathy in Haiti. Johnston explained that it is not so much about who wins the election, but what the process is like, and whether the aid community will begin to work through the government and strengthen its capacity to provide services to its population.

Clinton called Haiti a good laboratory for development, and a range of new actors appear to agree, trying new approaches that might build out the list of successes.

TOMS, the shoe brand that has gotten a mix of good and bad press for its “one-for-one” model of aid, recently came under fire again for its “This is Haiti” campaign, which showed a bunch of models lounging and laughing in the Caribbean sun with only a few locals in sight. But TOMS is one of several companies that has invested in the country years after the earthquake, when Haiti’s place in international headlines is less secure.

At the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting, TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie announced that the company would be building a factory there in 2014. It was a major shift in approach, with the company pledging to produce a minimum of one-third of all the shoes it gives in the places where those shoes will be distributed.

Lisa Curtis, the founder and CEO of Kuli Kuli, talked with Devex over an assortment of her products at a coffee shop just beneath her Oakland, California, office. Kuli Kuli sources high quality moringa oleifera from women’s cooperatives in the developing world and sells the superfood in the form of bars, teas and protein powders.

The social enterprise recently announced a partnership with theSmallholder Farmers Alliance and the Clinton Foundation to develop moringa for export in Haiti. Curtis said the organization learned about the importance of working with local partners from its experience launching in Ghana. There, they work with Fair Harvest, an organization that shared the goal of empowering women farmers growing moringa and had just started to try to export the product to the United States.

Anecdotal successes lack the cohesion to reorient Haiti’s narrative around learning, partnership, and innovation. Outsiders can play a helpful role in building and strengthening connections between those who are driving solutions.

After visiting a peanut supply chain enterprise on the Clinton Foundation trip, delegate Alexis Miesen, who leads the social venture of Blue Marble Ice Cream, is planning on using those peanuts for ice cream toppings once her store opens in Port-au-Prince this fall. The Port-au-Prince location will employ survivors of sexual violence in a shop built from repurposed shipping containers outfitted with solar panels, thanks in part to support from the Clinton Foundation.

It was only by partnering with Haitian native Lionel Bernard that Miesen could know the power of opening her shop — Bel Rev — in Fontamara, in the northwest corner of Port-au-Prince. “The shop is being built in front of my house where I grew up in Haiti,” Bernard said in a conversation with Caribbean Life on the decision to build further down the hill in Port-au-Prince, versus higher up where the wealth is. “It’s almost like a little tree growing with so many different branches. That’s the love and the beauty that we’re getting out of it.”

Of course, while anyone familiar with the range of problems and solutions in Haiti acknowledges the need to listen to local needs and work with local partners, there are larger scale roadblocks to proven approaches like local procurement. “What we have seen is a shift in rhetoric, but that has yet to result in significant changes on the ground,” Johnston lamented, acknowledging that there are organizations doing good work, but emphasizing that fractured responses cannot change the big picture. “The problems of the aid industry are systemic and unless the root of the problem is addressed, it’s unlikely there will be a major change in how the industry operates.” Donor dollars are often far removed from the people on the ground who will supposedly benefit from that aid, which is part of the reason for new models of building local capacity.

Robert Maguire, professor of international affairs and director of the Latin American and Hemispheric Studies Program at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, explains how listening is key for successful development work in Haiti.“You go to Haiti and you’ll never go back, or you go to Haiti and you’re hooked,”  Leigh Carter, executive director of Fonkoze USA, the 501(c)3 that raises funds for Haiti’s leading microfinance institution, told Devex of the way the country pulled her in and kept her committed. “I really believe we have to put the future in the hands of Haitians.”

On flights from Haiti to the U.S., Carter said customs officers are constantly asking, “Where did all the money go?”

She finds herself holding up lines telling them the stories that do not make the headlines, the stories that suggest the international community can in fact play a positive role in Haiti.  But, echoing Dresse, Carter lamented the way so many people have started their own NGOs in Haiti rather than supporting community organizations and connecting them to the capacity they need.

“I would recommend people seek out Haitian institutions,” she said. “I don’t want to badmouth the big NGOs. But just because the Red Cross has the resources to go on CNN and accept donations via text doesn’t mean they’re doing the best job. Just be a smart philanthropist.”

The Haiti earthquake taught all those involved that navigating an emergency is as much about preparation as response. Gary Philoctete, senior vice president for Haiti operations and country director for JP/HRO, a relief organization founded by actor Sean Penn in response to the earthquake, said his team is realizing how preparation and contingency needs to be a part of their planning moving forward.

“For example, no matter how nice the house you build someone is, or how quickly you build it, the structure won’t take away the fear of that house falling down in a subsequent disaster, unless you engage the resident in understanding why and how the house is safer,” Philoctete explained to Devex. “Education is what puts a roof over someone’s head in that case, not just construction. Folks in Haiti understand sustainability better than anyone, because the fears can be so immediate. If we’re not planning for the next earthquake, as we build back from the last, our solutions won’t work for the people we serve.”

Clinton articulated it well in that note to mom and dad. Years after the earthquake, Haiti continues to need support, to recover from a recent history of devastation and prepare for what lies ahead. But the best way outsiders can learn from mistakes and build on strengths is by ascribing to a spirit of partnership that’s been there all along — the Haitian spirit of konbit.

This article was updated at 11:28 am.

Conflict in Context is a monthlong global conversation on conflict, transition and recovery hosted by Devex in partnership with Chemonics, Cordaid, Mercy Corps, OSCE andUSAID. We’ll decode the challenges and highlight the opportunities countries face while in crisis and what the development community is doing to respond. Visit the campaign site and join the conversation using#ConflictinContext.

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HAITI, DEVELOPMENT: America’s Neo-Colonial Mandate: The Clinton Plan for Haiti.

globalresearch.ca, by Dady Chery, September 07, 2015, original

When news of Haiti died down in the mainstream media two months after the earthquake, things had not cooled down: quite the contrary, they had just started to simmer. A highly controversial State of Emergency Law had already been drafted and presented to Haiti’s Lower House for a vote.

This was a law to allow an Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), led by former US President William J. Clinton, to run the country for an 18-month State of Emergency. Haiti’s Lower House, a large majority of which belonged to President René Préval’s party, INITE, met for a vote on March 8, 2010. That meeting of the Members of Parliament (MP) was extremely contentious. Outside, a small group of protestors urged the legislators to vote no. At least 20 legislators walked out, hoping to break the quorum, and they declared the law to be unconstitutional. Others stayed and voted against the law at the start of the meeting, hoping to stall the proceedings. One legislator proposed an amendment that would have allowed a senatorial commission to oversee the IHRC. All their efforts failed. The deal had been made from the start. Forty-three MPs voted yes, 6 voted no, and 8 abstained.

How did all this come to pass? First, the Préval-led government had come from elections that had excluded Fanmi Lavalas and 14 other political parties. So this government was highly unrepresentative. Second, the most vocal opposition to the IHRC and the State of Emergency Law had come from those who had supported previous dictatorships. The great majority of the population categorically rejected this group, which demanded that the Haitian Armed Forces (Forces Armées d’Haiti, FAd’H) be re-established, MINUSTAH departs, and the Haitian Constitution and UN Charter be respected.

Their calls of protest fell on the deaf ears of a population well acquainted with their brutality. Finally, Préval’s government was considered to be a great embarrassment. Among other things, it had failed to account for its expenses during the first three months of 2010. Préval himself had campaigned for the State of Emergency Law, although the stated reason for this law was a need to circumvent the State’s corruption. In typical style, he had insisted that everyone dirties their hands along with him and the law be voted on by the entire Parliament. When criticized about dragging the country into the depths of dependency and handicapping the next administration, he shrugged and lapsed into absurdities like Haiti is “a weak state” but still “possesses its sovereignty.”

With the Lower House in the bag, the next obstacle was the Senate. During an April 8, 2010 meeting, the senators voted no to the State of Emergency Law and the IHRC. In advance of another vote on April 13, Préval held a press conference at which he pleaded with the senators not to “miss this chance.” Several demanded to know why he needed the Parliament to ratify a commission with a majority of foreigners.

They pointed out that he could take full responsibility for his miserable commission and establish it by presidential decree. Others, like Acluche Louis Jeune declared: “the president wants to dissolve the Parliament to give the occupier a free hand.” The April 13 vote was successfully blocked by the lack of a quorum. The Haitian Senate then numbered 25 because of two earthquake deaths. It needed a quorum of 16, but only 15 senators participated; two of those senators had showed up merely to snub the meeting.

Enter Michelle Obama on April 14, 2010. What did she do during her surprise visit to Haiti, besides draw fishes and compare them to the more advanced art of the Haitian elementary-school children? What inducements or threats did she bring to the Senate on behalf of the US? Might her statement of the innocent-sounding proverb “Little by little, the bird makes its nest” have been a sign that a deal was made for the occupation?

A late-night parliamentary session the next day did the trick. With barely a quorum of 16 senators, 13 voted for the State of Emergency Law, with all but one of the yes votes coming from INITE. One senator voted against the law, 2 abstained, and 9 stayed away from the meeting altogether. It was extraordinary that even this highly unrepresentative government had put up such a fight for sovereignty. Haiti would not be an easy conquest.

In the IHRC, which was Bill Clinton’s wet dream of a government and was to be led by him, a majority of foreigners had hoped to administer Haiti.

FOURTEEN INDIVIDUALS WOULD REPRESENT FOREIGN INTERESTS

Nine representatives who are major donors. They would be chosen by an IHRC administrative council. This was a strictly pay-to-play affair. To get a seat, a country or institution had to donate at least $100 million over a two-year period or erase debts worth at least $200 million. The original list of these donors included the US, European Union, France, Canada, Brazil, Venezuela, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), United Nations, and World Bank.

One representative of Caricom.
One representative of the Organization of American States (OAS).
One representative for all the other donors without a seat.
One representative of the non-governmental organizations (NGO) in Haiti.
One representative of the Haitian diaspora.

SEVEN UNELECTED INDIVIDUALS WOULD REPRESENT HAITI

Three representatives of the Haitian government, nominated respectively by the executive, judiciary, and local authorities. Jean-Max Bellerive, who was chosen by Clinton for this group, got a laughable equal billing with him. In October 2009, Bellerive had been foisted by the US on Préval as Prime Minister. President Préval himself would not actually be a member but would have symbolic veto rights.

One MP, to be chosen from a list submitted by the political parties in the Lower House.

One senator, to be chosen from a list submitted by the political parties in the Senate.

One union representative, designated by the union syndicates.

One business representative, nominated by the business community.

There is much to be learned from this affair about the leaders of supposed democratic countries. This is how they would run everything if they could. Consider the World Trade Organization (WTO). Watch closely and pray against natural disasters. The next pay-for-play commission might well be for your state or country.

Though the IHRC boasted of its plans to restore urban centers and build homes throughout Haiti, its real mission, also stated quite explicitly, was to proceed with privatizations, in particular the privatization of the sea and air ports of Port-au-Prince. The plans for sweatshops were there too, though not as explicit. Indeed, even as homeless Haitians were being bused one hour away to a desert to live, presumably because there was no room for them in the city, ground was being broken in town for new factories. The IHRC would additionally grant opportunities to foreign companies to invest in agriculture and tourism, which were euphemisms for land grab.

After much controversy in April 2010 about the 11 articles under which Bill Clinton’s IHRC would operate in the country, three new articles were appended to the organization’s charter without oversight. In Article 12, the IHRC gave itself the “full power to deliver proprietary titles and licenses for the construction of hospitals, power companies, ports, and other projects of economic development.” In a clear sign of power reversal, the Article called on Haiti’s ministries to work with the IHRC to accelerate its high-priority projects.

At the conclusion of its 18-month term, the IHRC would become an “Agency for the Development of Haiti,” with an indefinite mandate. So any democratically elected government in the future would find itself at the helm of an island nation, but without control of its ports, and therefore without the means to tax its imports and exports. Much of the country’s lands would be in foreign hands. The only way to raise revenue would be to go begging for aid funds. This had gone on for some time, but it would become institutionalized.

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HAITI, DEVELOPMENT: The Clintons’ Haiti Screw-Up, As Told By Hillary’s Emails

politico.com, by Jonathan M. Katz, September 2, 2015, original
150902-katz-clintons-gty

It’s hard to find anyone these days who looks back on the U.S.-led response to the January 12, 2010, Haiti earthquake as a success, but it wasn’t always that way. Right after the disaster, even as neighborhoods lay in rubble, their people sweltering under tarps, the consensus—outside Haiti—was that America’s “compassionate invasion” (as TIME Magazine called it) had been “largely a success” (Los Angeles Times), offering further proof that “in critical moments of the history of mankind … the United States is, in fact, the indispensable nation” (Expresso, Portugal).

As the latest release of Hillary Clinton’s personal emails by the U.S. State Department Monday revealed, that perception was not an accident. “We waged a very successful campaign against the negative stories concerning our involvement in Haiti,” Judith McHale, the under-secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, wrote on February 26, 2010. A few weeks before, the public affairs chief had emailed newspaper quotations praising U.S. efforts in Haiti to Secretary Clinton with the note “Our Posts at work.” Clinton applauded. “That’s the result of your leadership and a new model of engagement w our own people,” she replied. “Onward!”

But one person even closer to the secretary of state was singing a different tune—very, very quietly. On February 22, after a four-day visit to the quake zone, Chelsea Clinton authored a seven-page memo which she addressed to “Dad, Mom,” and copied their chief aides. That informal report tells acontinuing story of the unique brands of power and intelligence wielded by the Clinton family in Haiti and around the world—and of the uniquely Clinton ways they often undermine themselves.

First off, there was the secrecy. The memo—by a Clinton, with a master’s in public health from Columbia University, pursuing a doctorate in international relations from Oxford and with a prominent role at her family’s foundation—would have obliterated the public narrative of helpful outsiders saving grateful earthquake survivors that her mother’s State Department was working so hard to promote. Instead, like so much of the inner workings of the Clintons’ vast network, it was kept secret, released only in an ongoing dump of some 35,000 emails from Hillary’s private server, in response to a Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit wrapped up in the politics of the 2016 presidential election.

Chelsea Clinton was blunt in her report, confident the recipients would respect her request in the memo’s introduction to remain an “invisible soldier.” She had first come to the quake zone six days after the disaster with her father and then-fiancé, Mark Mezvinsky. Now she was returning with the medical aid group Partners in Health, whose co-founder, Dr. Paul Farmer, was her father’s deputy in his Office of the UN Special Envoy for Haiti. What she saw profoundly disturbed her.

Five weeks after the earthquake, international responders were still in relief mode: U.S. soldiers roamed Port-au-Prince streets on alert for signs of social breakdown, while aid groups held daily coordination meetings inside a heavily guarded UN compound ordinary Haitian couldn’t enter. But Haitians had long since moved on into their own recovery mode, many in displacement camps they had set up themselves, as responders who rarely even spoke the language, Kreyòl, worked around them, oblivious to their efforts.

“The incompetence is mind numbing,” she told her parents. “The UN people I encountered were frequently out of touch … anachronistic in their thinking at best and arrogant and incompetent at worst.” “There is NO accountability in the UN system or international humanitarian system.” The weak Haitian government, which had lost buildings and staff in the disaster, had something of a plan, she noted. Yet because it had failed to articulate its wishes quickly enough, foreigners rushed forward with a “proliferation of ad hoc efforts by the UN and INGOs [international nongovernmental organizations] to ‘help,’ some of which have helped … some of which have hurt … and some which have not happened at all.”

The former first daughter recognized something that scores of other foreigners had missed: that Haitians were not just sitting around waiting for others to do the work. “Haitians in the settlements are very much organizing themselves … Fairly nuanced settlement governance structures have already developed,” she wrote, giving the example of camp home to 40,000 displaced quake survivors who had established a governing committee and a series of sub-committees overseeing security, sanitation, women’s needs and other issues.

“They wanted to help themselves, and they wanted reliability and accountability from their partners,” Chelsea Clinton wrote. But that help was not coming. The aid groups had ignored requests for T-shirts, flashlights and pay for the security committee, and the U.S. military had apparently passed on the committee’s back-up plan that they provide security themselves. “The settlements’ governing bodies—as they shared with me—are beginning to experience UN/INGO fatigue given how often they articulate their needs, willingness to work—and how little is coming their way.”

That analysis went beyond what some observers have taken years to understand, and many others still haven’t: that disaster survivors are best positioned to take charge of their own recovery, yet often get pushed aside by outside authorities who think, wrongly, that they know better. Her report also had more than an echo of the philosophy of her Partners in Health tour guides. More than five years later, her candor and force of insight impress experts. “I am struck by the direct tone and the level of detail,” says Vijaya Ramachandran, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.

Jonathan M. Katz won the James Foley/Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism for his coverage of the 2010 Haiti earthquake and cholera epidemic, and the Overseas Press Club of America’s Cornelius Ryan Award for his book, The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. He reported on the Clintons in Haiti for POLITICO on a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Follow him on Twitter @KatzOnEarth.

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Haiti, Development: Chelsea Clinton, “Incompetence of the Haitian relief effort”

businessinsider.com, by Allan Smith, Insider, 

An email from Chelsea Clinton addressed to “Dad” and “Mom” became one of the more interesting nuggets within former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s State Department email release Monday.

In the 2010 email discussing the Haitian relief efforts following a massive earthquake, Chelsea wrote she was “profoundly disturbed” and “the incompetence was mind-numbing.”

Although the date of the message is not known, the seven-page memo ripping into the United Nations’ handling of the relief effort was written some time after Chelsea had spent four days in Haiti working as a part of the relief effort.

“If we do not quickly change the organization, management, accountability and delivery paradigm on the ground, we could quite conceivably confront tens of thousands of children’s deaths by diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid and other water-related diseases in the near future,” she wrote.

President Barack Obama had announced in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake that Bill Clinton, along with George W. Bush, would be tasked with leading the fundraising effort in conjunction with the United Nations.

At the time, Hillary made a visit to Haiti and assured Haitians that the US would assist in any way possible.

“We will be here today, tomorrow and for the time ahead,” she said.

Americans citizens donated $1.4 billion to recovery efforts in Haiti in the year following the earthquake, and the US government allocated $4 billion for the stricken country,according to NBC. The United Nations said that $13.4 billion had been set aside to spend on Haiti through 2020.

You can read the memo in its entirety here.

Read the original article on INSIDER. Copyright 2015. Follow INSIDER on Twitter.

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Haiti: Avoiding a Democratic Disaster in Haiti

foreignpolicy.com

With no natural disasters or political violence afflicting Haiti for the past several years, it would be easy to assume that the country has finally achieved the level of relative stability that international donors and millions of Haitians have sought since the toppling of the Duvalier dynasty in 1986. Yet this perceived calm is belied by troubling signs that all is not well, as Haiti prepares for the first of up to three rounds of contentious elections.

On July 15, the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, chaired by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), held a hearing on the run-up to the elections, with the State Department’s point man on Haiti, Thomas Adams. Adams admitted the elections were significantly underfunded. That made his rather sanguine attitude towards the whole process all the more surprising. With the first round of elections scheduled for August 9, hesuggested that there is a “fairly good chance” they will go on as scheduled.

But even as the Obama administration and the donor community focus primarily on the mechanics — voter education and registration, security, integrity of vote-counting — they are skirting important questions about just how free and fair the contest will actually be.

A shocking New York Times article from this past March, for instance, raised a range of concerns about establishing a level electoral playing field in Haiti, red flags that appear to have escaped notice in Washington. The piece detailed a disturbing turn of events under President Michel Martelly, the former musician elected president to much fanfare in 2011. The article revealed a president ruling by decree (due to the expiration of the terms of most of those in parliament), and depicted a government where power is being concentrated “in the hands of a man who,” according to his critics, “is a prisoner of his past, surrounded by a network of friends and aides who have been arrested on charges including rape, murder, drug trafficking and kidnapping.” Defending Martelly, his allies say he is “loyal to a fault, and that he will stand beside old friends no matter what trouble they find themselves in. The president, aides said, wants the best for Haiti but is easily influenced by relatives known for ties to drug trafficking and friends who abuse their proximity to power.”

That is hardly conducive to holding credible, transparent elections. And the cracks are showing already.

The most conspicuous evidence to date of manipulation of the process has been the arbitrary exclusion of several well-known, would-be candidates for presidential elections to be held in October, including former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, university president Jacky Lumarque, and former Sen. Rudolph Boulos. The pretext for their exclusion is a Haitian electoral law that requires any candidate who previously held public office to receive a “discharge petition” from Parliament, certifying that the individual did not misuse public funds while in office. However, with no sitting congress to issue such discharges, the process has become opaque. Some candidates have received approval to run for office, and others have not. This has led to suspicions that the process is being manipulated to favor some candidates over others.

Pierre Esperance, the head of Haiti’s largest human rights group, recentlytold the Miami Herald: “It gives you the impression that it’s a political decision rather than something based on legal grounds.” And the Washington-based Haiti Democracy Project’s James Morrell has written: “By the time the commission is through, there will be little left for the voters to do on election day. Most of the choices will already have been made for them.”

Yet the State Department has shown no great urgency to address concerns that democracy in Haiti is being undermined. Sen. Rubio has responded with legislation that conditions the release of U.S. assistance to Haiti on the State Department’s reporting on whether the upcoming elections are free and fair, and on possible “attempts to disqualify candidates” from office for “political reasons.”

No one is doing the Haitian people any favors by tip-toeing around issues such as transparency and rule of law — it’s called the soft bigotry of low expectations. By failing to pressure Haitian authorities to ensure voters have a full range of candidates from which to choose in their upcoming elections, many well-meaning people who truly care for the country will only serve to bring on the kind of political strife and instability that everyone wants to avoid.

Photo Credit: Hector Ratamal/AFP

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Haiti, Development: Bill and Hillary – The King and Queen of Haiti

By JONATHAN M. KATZ, May 5, 2015, Politico

Sunday, January 30, 2011. Two hundred thousand people occupied
Egypt’s Tahrir Square, defying a military curfew to demand the ouster
of President Hosni Mubarak. Tunisia’s authoritarian leader had just
been overthrown, unleashing a wave of anti-government protests from
Yemen to Syria to Morocco. South Sudan’s provisional president
announced his people had voted overwhelmingly for independence,
clearing the way for the breakup of Africa’s largest country. Yet as
Hillary Clinton rushed to Andrews Air Force Base to catch her battered
government-issue 727, the secretary of state was not headed to Cairo,
Tunis or Juba. She was going to Haiti.

Haiti doesn’t seem like a place that would be central to a U.S.
presidential candidate’s foreign policy. It’s a small country, whose 10.3
million people inhabit the western third of a Caribbean island the size of
South Carolina. They are the poorest people in the hemisphere when
you average their country’s meager $8.5 billion GDP among them, and
would seem poorer still if you ignored the huge share held by the
country’s tiny elite—which controls virtually everything worth
controlling, from the banks and ports, to agriculture and, often, politics.
It is not a major exporter of anything. Even its location, 500 nautical
miles from the Florida Keys, has been of only passing strategic
importance to the United States since a brutal 1915-1934 U.S.
occupation assured no European power would surpass its influence
there.

Yet the world’s most powerful couple have an abiding interest in this
out-of-the-way place; the island where Bill Clinton four decades ago
recommitted himself to politics after an eye-opening journey and an
evening with a Vodou priest. During her tenure at State, Hillary traveled
to Haiti four times, as often as she did Japan, Afghanistan or Russia. Bill
Clinton continues to visit even as her presidential campaign starts up.
He attended the February dedication of Port-au-Prince’s new luxury
Marriott hotel, a trip on which he reaffirmed, once again, that his work
in Haiti represented “one of the great joys of my life.”

Over the past two decades, the once-and-perhaps-future first couple
repeatedly played a key role in Haiti’s politics, helping to pick its
national leaders and driving hundreds of millions of dollars in private
aid, investment and U.S. taxpayer money toward its development.
They’ve brought with them a network of friends and global corporations
that never would’ve been here otherwise. Together, this network of
power and money has left indelible marks on almost every aspect of the
Haitian economy. The island nation, in many ways, represents ground
zero for the confusing and often conflict-ridden intersection of her
State Department, the Clinton family’s foundation and both of their
foreign policies.

“When it’s happening you don’t realize it, [but] after everything is in
place … you see the Clintons at every level,” says former Haitian Prime
Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, who was Clinton’s co-chairman on the
commission charged with rebuilding Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
“Even if they are clever enough to make you think sometimes that you
are the one having the idea.”

The legacy of the Clintons’ efforts here is decidedly mixed, a murky
story filled with big promises and smaller results. Despite the huge
amounts of aid and investment, the sweeping visions they’ve offered of
transformative prosperity—promises delivered by a broad network of
friends they recruited and deals they negotiated—have been tripped up
by realities on the ground.

Five years after the hemisphere’s deadliest single natural disaster,
when both Clintons assumed leading roles in the rebuilding efforts,
little progress has been made on many core problems in Haiti, and the
government that Hillary Clinton helped put in power during that
January 2011 trip—and that both Clintons have backed strongly since—
has proven itself unworthy of that trust. Economic growth is stalling,
and the nation’s politics look headed for a showdown in the next year
that could once again plunge the country into internal strife.

A World Bank study released in December showed that despite modest
declines in extreme poverty—mainly in the capital, Port-au-Prince—
Haiti remains the poorest and most economically depressed country on
the continent, with the richest 20 percent of households accounting for
64 percent of the country’s total income. (The bottom one-fifth of the
population earns less than 1 percent.) The report warned that
impending political instability could quickly reverse the few gains made
since the earthquake.

Hillary Clinton once hoped that Haiti would be the shining jewel of her
foreign policy. But far from transforming this poorest of countries,
many of the Clintons’ grandest plans and promises remain little more
than small pilot projects—a new set of basketball hoops and a model
elementary school here, a functioning factory there—that have done
little to alter radically the trajectory of the country. Visiting some of
their projects over the course of an April research trip affirmed as much
about their tenuousness as about the limited benefits they’ve provided.
Many of the most notable investments the Clintons helped launch, such
as the new Marriott in the capital, have primarily benefited wealthy
foreigners and island’s ruling elite, who needed little help to begin with.

Even for those who know how Haiti operates, there are many more
questions than answers when one examines the Clintons’ recent work.
Did Hillary Clinton keep her promise when she said, soon after taking
office at State, that “we will demonstrate to ourselves as well as to the
people of Haiti and far beyond that we can, working together, make a
significant difference”?

Five years after her husband pledged to Esquire magazine that he was
“prepared to spend three years” helping Haitians get “the right things
for their country,” what does it mean that the vast majority of Haitians
still haven’t gotten much of anywhere?
***
The Clintons like to cast their relationship with Haiti in personal
terms—invariably starting with their 1975 visit as newlyweds to Portau-
Prince, where they watched Vodou penitents walk on coals and the
country’s then-dictator, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, lay a wreath
at the base of a memorial to Haiti’s founding victory over slavery and the
French empire. But there is more than sentiment at stake.

When Hillary Clinton became secretary of state in 2009, America’s
poorest neighbor was slated to be one of the first beneficiaries of what
she called “the power of proximity.” One of her first directives at State
was to review U.S. policy toward Haiti—“an opportunity,” she would
write in her memoir Hard Choices, “to road-test new approaches to
development that could be applied more broadly around the world.”
That approach had business at its center: Aid would be replaced by
investment, the growth of which would in turn benefit the United
States. Underscoring the importance of the policy, she tasked her chief
of staff—former Clinton White House deputy counsel Cheryl Mills—to
oversee the Haiti review personally.

Clinton had two other tools to make Haiti an even more auspicious
“road test.” Shortly after she was confirmed, her husband accepted
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s offer to serve as his
special envoy for Haiti. As president, Bill Clinton had intensified a
crippling embargo against Haiti’s then-ruling military junta and ordered
the 1994 U.S. invasion to restore the democratically elected president,
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to power. Now he was supposed to finish the
job, spearheading development after a hunger crisis and a series of
damaging hurricanes that had struck in late 2008. Haitians weren’t sure
what to think: Clinton was popular with the masses for returning
Aristide to power and hated by the elites for the same reason. But few
understood his vague new role. Joking that he must be coming back to
lead a new colonial regime, the Haitian press dubbed him Le
Gouverneur.

The other tool was the Clinton Foundation, which was simultaneously
embarking on its own program to boost Haiti’s economy, securing
commitments worth more than $130 million from foreign leaders,
corporate executives and philanthropists to help Haiti “build back
better,” as Clinton put it, from the 2008 storms.

Everything seemed to be falling into place when, on January 12, 2010, a
magnitude-7.0 earthquake ripped through the mountains of Haiti’s
southern peninsula, leveling much of the capital and killing 100,000 to
316,000 people—the deadliest single natural disaster ever recorded in
the hemisphere. The earthquake destroyed the presidential palace,
government ministries, schools, offices and countless homes.

It also threatened to upend the Clinton State Department’s nascent
Haiti policy. Mills’ team had completed its review just a few hours
before the ground shook, concluding in a draft report that Haiti was
poised for an economic renaissance, citing indicators such as marginal
declines in child mortality and upticks in employment in the country’s
garment-assembly industry. Undeterred, in the final, 89-page postquake
version of the report, the State Department team would call the
response to the disaster “a moment for U.S. partnership, leadership and
strategic investment.”

I was the Associated Press correspondent in Haiti at the time. I had been
posted in Port-au-Prince for 2 ½ years when the earthquake shattered
the walls of my house with me inside. That night, suddenly homeless
like millions of others, I moved through the devastated city with my
Haitian friend and colleague, Evens Sanon, taking stock of the
devastation and watching Haitians rescue and comfort one another as
best they could. The living sang prayers of salvation. Everyone was
waiting to see what kind of help would come. I remained in Haiti for
another year to report on the response, watching up close the central
role Hillary and Bill Clinton came to play in the attempt to rebuild.

Four days after the quake, Hillary Clinton was at Port-au-Prince’s
damaged airport, holding meetings with then-Haitian President René
Préval. That same day, Bill Clinton was in the White House Rose Garden
with President Barack Obama, agreeing to lead fundraising efforts on
behalf of the beleaguered country along with former President George
W. Bush. Two days later, on January 18, Bill arrived in the quake zone
with daughter Chelsea and her fiancé, Marc Mezvinsky. In short order,
the Clintons became the most important figures in the response. They
co-moderated a U.N. donors conference at which 150 nations and
organizations pledged $9 billion for Haiti’s recovery. Bill was tapped at
the same meeting to co-chair the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, a
nominally Haitian entity that was supposed to direct the spending. At
every stage of Haiti’s reconstruction—fundraising, oversight and
allocation—a Clinton was now involved.

“I believe, before this earthquake, Haiti had the best chance in my
lifetime to escape its history, a history that Hillary and I have shared a
tiny part of. I still believe that,” Bill Clinton had said in the Rose Garden,
alongside Obama and Bush. “It is still one of the most remarkable,
unique places I have ever been, and they can escape their history and
build a better future if we do our part.”
***
Hillary Clinton never took her eye off Haiti as secretary of state, even
as so many geopolitical hotspots competed for attention. The island
represented a key piece of what Clinton called “economic statecraft”—
her theory that U.S. foreign policy should not simply respond to security
threats but should actively bolster both America’s economy and global
influence through diplomacy, trade and economic development abroad.
By far the most consequential moment was that visit on Sunday,
January 30, 2011. Two months before, just 10 months after the quake,
Haiti had plowed ahead with a presidential election under pressure
from Washington. Donors blamed then-President Préval, a skeptic of
foreign aid and investment, for what had clearly become a glacial mess
of a reconstruction effort. In short, they wanted him out. But the
election was a fiasco. Voting halted five hours early on Election Day as
nearly every candidate threw out accusations of fraud. When the results
showed the candidate of Préval’s party advancing to a runoff anyway,
supporters of the eliminated No. 3 candidate, the Haitian pop star
Michel Martelly—better known by his stage name, “Sweet Micky”—
rioted in protest for days.

Despite all that was happening around the globe that day, the secretary’s
most important mission was to make sure all the parties in Haiti agreed
to put Martelly back into the race—salvaging the election, in her view,
and with it Haiti’s place in U.S. economic statecraft.

Martelly was a left-field candidate, a massively popular singer famous
for taking off his pants during performances. But he was not a political
neophyte. A longtime resident of Miami, he’d been a strong backer of the
now-disbanded Haitian military and an opponent of Aristide. In 2002,
the Washington Post called him a “favorite of the thugs who worked on
behalf of the hated Duvalier family dictatorship before its 1986
collapse.” Martelly was also a businessman and, in contrast to Préval, an
enthusiastic backer of foreign investment in Haiti.

Clinton met with the top three candidates at the U.S. ambassador’s
mansion in the hills above Port-au-Prince. Then she went to the
grounds of the destroyed national palace to confront a recalcitrant
Préval.

“That day I realized why she is a great woman and a great politician,”
former Prime Minister Bellerive, who was at the meeting, told me. “She
said, ‘Look René … I care about you, because you are my only friend
there. … What is happening in the international community is that they
are making you appear as a little crook that wants to control the
elections and put a puppet in the national palace. We cannot accept that.
Because, in a way, you are the father of the democracy. You are the only
president that was elected two times … that never [fled] the country,
that never killed people, that enforced liberty of press. She went into a
story I’ve never heard about what President Préval represented and I
see that guy—vvvvhh—deflate. And he was not anymore in a fight mood.
So my [election files] that I brought were never used. At the end of it,
when we separated, I realized that the fight was over.”

Bill Clinton applauded from a few feet away.

Many in Haiti thought the Clintons’ influence had reached its peak
when, shortly after Martelly took office, he selected one of Bill Clinton’s
top aides, Garry Conille, to be his prime minister. Conille had been Bill
Clinton’s chief of staff at the U.N. Office of the Special Envoy, and many
in the Haitian political elite assumed that the Clintons had imposed him
to keep an eye on the unpredictable new president.

If that was the idea, it failed. Conille lasted just four months. He was
replaced by Laurent Lamothe, Martelly’s longtime business partner,
whom the former pop star had once referred to, lovingly, as a “true
bandit” in a song.

Things have only gotten more discordant since. Haiti has not held a
single election, at any level, in Martelly’s four years in office. Parliament
disbanded late last year when the terms of its members expired, leaving
Martelly to rule by decree. Both the Clintons and the State Department
tried to remain enthusiastic about the Martelly-Lamothe
administration. But when opposition protests broke out last year, even
Bill’s last-ditch endorsement of the prime minister in a Miami Herald
interview could not save him from being forced to resign.

Shortly thereafter, a New York Times article by reporter Frances Robles
spotlighted criminality surrounding the Martelly administration,
including its protection of members of an alleged kidnapping and drug
smuggling ring. A day after the article’s publication, one of the most
prominent allies of the president, Woodley Ethéart, was indicted on
charges of kidnapping and murder—only to be freed within weeks.
I asked Hillary Clinton’s spokesperson, Nick Merrill, whether Martelly’s
track record had changed her opinion about the leader she helped put in
power. “She supports democratic elections, just like she did as
secretary,” Merrill said. He declined further comment.
***
The hardest thing about evaluating the Clintons’ work in Haiti is that
there is so much of it. There’s the Clinton Foundation, which has
directed $36 million to Haiti since 2010, but also the $55 million spent
through the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, and the $500 million in
commitments made through the Clinton Global Initiative’s Haiti Action
Network. On Hillary’s side, there’s her own diplomacy, the State
Department’s Office of the Haiti Special Coordinator, and the U.S.
Embassy in Port-au-Prince, as well as the U.S. Agency for International
Development, whose administrator reported to her.

The amounts of money over which the Clintons and their foundation
had direct control paled beside the $16.3 billion that donors pledged in
all. Even Bill’s U.N. Office of the Special Envoy couldn’t track where all
of that went—and the truth is that still today no one really knows how
much money was spent “rebuilding” Haiti. Many initial pledges never
materialized. A whopping $465 million of the relief money went through
the Pentagon, which spent it on deployment of U.S. troops—20,000 at
the high water mark, many of whom never set foot on Haitian soil. That
money included fuel for ships and planes, helicopter repairs and
inscrutables such as an $18,000 contract for a jungle gym that I found
buried in the U.S. Navy’s Haiti bills. Huge contracts were doled out to
the usual array of major contractors, including a $16.7 million logistics
contract whose partners included Agility Public Warehousing KSC, a
Kuwaiti firm that was supposed to have been blacklisted from doing
business with Washington after a 2009 indictment alleging a conspiracy
to defraud the U.S. government during the Iraq War. (That case is still
pending in U.S. federal court.)

But even looking at money and institutional heft alone barely captures
the reach and influence of the Clintons’ network in Haiti: a vast, diffuse
web of power in all its 21st-century permutations. Take the story of
actor Sean Penn and his unlikely transformation into a Haiti power
player. Penn used his celebrity to establish the aid group J/P HRO in the
weeks after the earthquake, then to forge a friendship with Bill Clinton
—who in turn used his foundation and his own celebrity to help turn J/P
HRO into one of the most powerful NGOs in Haiti. That led to deeper
ties to the newly elected government of Martelly, which named Penn an
ambassador.

When I returned to Haiti in April for nine days, the Clinton Foundation
put me in touch with about a dozen projects it is still running there.
Many surely do excellent work, such as the Haitian medical group
GHESKIO, one of the world’s oldest AIDS clinics, which is now engaged
in a host of medical issues including battling the pernicious cholera
epidemic imported into Haiti by United Nations peacekeepers in 2010.
The Clinton Global Initiative supports coffee growers and peanut
farmers, and has helped the Swiss fragrance supplier Firmenich expand
its access to Haitian limes and vetiver, a key oil in perfumes.
The money given directly by Clinton entities, often a few hundred
thousand dollars, is small change compared to the billions floating
around the humanitarian industry and the corporate world. But the
combination of carefully targeted money and connections is invaluable,
says GHESKIO’s founder, Dr. Jean William Pape: “He’s a catalyst. He
doesn’t give you funds to throw away. He gives you funds to get you
started.”

The Clintons have also had a hand in nearly all the new luxury hotel
projects that have sprung up around the Haitian capital. Denis O’Brien,
the billionaire owner of the major cellphone provider Digicel and
principal investor in the swank $45 million Marriott that just opened in
Port-au-Prince, said Bill Clinton conceived the project. “He said to the
two of us [O’Brien and Marriott CEO Arne Sorensen], ‘Why don’t you
build a hotel?’ And after a bit of a conversation, about half an hour, we
said, ‘We’ll put up the money.’”

One of the Clinton Foundation’s favorite lines is: “Everywhere we go,
we’re trying to work ourselves out of a job.” But at least in the case of
Haiti, it’s hard to see how that would happen. The Clintons themselves
are the only thing linking all of these projects and initiatives.
More than money, in other words, what the Clintons really provide is
access. That dynamic both leaves them open to criticism and makes
people loath to criticize for fear of being left on the outside. “I don’t
want to use names, but I have seen bad businessmen around Mr. Clinton
badmouthing the good businessmen and then the good businessmen,
seeing that, come into the Clinton Foundation. It’s life, it’s like that,”
says Leslie Voltaire, a longtime Haitian politician and government
minister who served as the Préval government’s liaison to Clinton at the
U.N. Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti. “Every businessman looks to
see if they can be next to power.”
***
The Clintons are hardly the first foreigners to try to remake this
island. The ancestors of today’s Haitians were survivors of one of the
most brutal periods of slavery, torture and exploitation the world has
ever known. More than 910,000 kidnapped Africans were taken to what
was then the French colony of Saint-Domingue between 1679 and 1797,
according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database at Emory
University. Their labor on sugar and coffee plantations turned the
colony into France’s most valuable engine of economic growth. That
period ended with the 1791-1804 Haitian Revolution, the only successful
slave revolt in modern history, which created the second-oldest
republic in the Western Hemisphere, behind the United States—and the
first in which all people were free. Haiti’s former French masters,
though, exacted a crippling indemnity in compensation for what they
deemed the lost value of land and bodies.

For the past century, it’s been the Americans, not the French, who
repeatedly reshaped the political landscape here. On July 1, 1915, the
U.S.S. Washington arrived on the north coast of Haiti, nominally in
response to political turmoil on the island. Within weeks, U.S. Marines
had taken the capital, placing the United States in control of Haiti’s
government and finances. Five U.S. presidents oversaw the occupation
of Haiti, waging war against Haitian insurgents, rewriting laws and
ensuring, as Duke University historian Laurent Dubois has written, a
“Haitian government [that] was compatible with American economic
interests and friendly to foreign investments.”

The Marines’ departure in 1934 did not end U.S. involvement in Haiti.
Exactly sixty years later, President Clinton ordered a new American
invasion—Operation Uphold Democracy—to restore exiled President
Aristide, who had been deposed in a 1991 coup. The story of the Clintons
and the first black republic had already been underway for a long time.
Their December 1975 trip as newlyweds is often described by the
Clintons as a seminal journey. It was paid for by a friend, Edwin David
Edwards, a junior executive at Citibank who had just set off a firestorm
by accusing his bank of improper currency transactions in the
Caribbean.

The newly married couple were at a critical juncture in their political
lives. Bill had just lost a congressional race in Arkansas and was giving
up on national politics. It was in Haiti that he decided instead to embark
on a run for Arkansas attorney general—the race that turned out to be
the start of his journey to the White House and, arguably, the beginning
of Hillary’s public life as well. We may never know what moved him. But
an important moment came outside the capital, at the Vodou temple of
Max Beauvoir, a Sorbonne- and City College of New York-educated
houngan, or priest. After a ceremony honoring Ogou—the god of iron,
war and politics—the Clintons and Beauvoir sat all night by the coralstone
peristyle talking about faith and the future, the houngan told me.
“We reached the conclusion that the pursuit of God is the pursuit of
excellence,” he recalls.

When Clinton ran for president in 1992, he blasted the George H.W.
Bush administration for rounding up boats of Haitians fleeing the
military junta that ousted Aristide and for taking too light a hand
countering the junta itself, many of whose leaders had received U.S.
training or money. Ultimately, Clinton’s intervention returned Aristide
to power. But Aristide did not live up to White House expectations. In
the years ahead, U.S. relations worsened, and in 2004 the George W.
Bush administration provided a plane to fly him into exile, touching off
years of instability and lost growth, all capped by the 2010 earthquake.
That last disaster presented another chance for the U.S. to get involved
and another chance for redemption.

Today, driving east from the city of Cap-Haïtien—where the U.S.S
Washington first arrived 100 years ago this summer—out along Haiti’s
north coast, past the banana-tree farms at the foothills of the Massif du
Nord, you enter the hotbed of U.S. post-quake reconstruction. The
agricultural region, a bumpy six-hour drive from Port-au-Prince, was
partly chosen to encourage people to disperse from places devastated by
the 2010 disaster. Development plans for the corridor include expanded
tourist facilities (visitors are expected to flock to the Citadelle
Laferrière, a monumental 19th-century Haitian fortress and UNESCO
World Heritage Site; Royal Caribbean’s lone pier in the country is also
nearby), ports, schools, roads and electrification. American Airlines
recently began flights to Cap-Haïtien.

The linchpin is the $300 million, 600-acre Caracol Industrial Park,
financed by U.S. taxpayer money and Inter-American Development
Bank and geared toward making clothes for export to the United States.
The Clintons were instrumental at nearly every step in its creation. The
development program Bill came to sell as U.N special envoy, written by
Oxford University economist Paul Collier, had garment exports at its
center.

As only he can, Bill Clinton managed to tout the idea as an exciting
departure from Haiti’s past. He successfully lobbied the U.S. Congress to
eliminate tariffs on textiles sewn in Haiti. (The powerful Association
des Industries d’Haiti lobbied, too, paying at least $550,000 to a D.C.
lobbying firm led by Andrew Samet, a former Clinton Labor Department
official, and Ronald Sorini, who was the chief U.S. Trade Representative
negotiator on textiles during the North American Free Trade Agreement
talks.)

Clinton won headlines by apologizing for having maintained as
president the import-substitution policies that destroyed Haiti’s food
sector—policies built on the dangerously misguided theory that factory
jobs obviated the need to produce rice and other food locally. He made a
special point to note that the policy had benefited farmers in his home
state of Arkansas. The message was clear: This time would be different.
And he had grand plans for what the industry could become. Clinton
predicted that with the right support to the garment sector, 100,000 jobs
would be created “in short order.”

Secretary Clinton joined in too: She hired Collier’s research partner in
Haiti, Soros Economic Development Fund consultant Jean-Louis
Warnhoz, as a senior adviser. She and her key aide Cheryl Mills
negotiated an agreement between the Haitian and U.S. governments,
multilateral financiers and the South Korean textile giant Sae-A
Trading Co. Ltd., which makes clothes for Old Navy, Walmart, Kohl’s,
Target and other retailers. The Haitian government provided the land.
To create a “plug and play” environment in a country lacking nearly all
basic services, IADB and USAID invested millions in roads, water
systems, a power plant, executive dormitories and the warehouse-like
“shells” that would house the factories. The Clinton Foundation “helped
to promote Caracol as an investment destination and worked … to
attract new tenants and investments to the park,” says Greg Milne, the
foundation’s director of Haiti programs.

In October 2012, Hillary and Bill Clinton flew down to join President
Martelly at the ribbon-cutting, where she pledged, “Our partnership, I
promise you, will extend far beyond my time as secretary of state. And
so, too, will the personal commitment that my husband and I have to
Haiti.”

If things went as planned, Caracol would be a triumph of the Clintons’
core model: the “public/private partnership”—U.S. taxpayer dollars,
Haitian land and private corporations working together to put cheap
clothes on American shelves and wages in Haitian pockets.

Today’s reality, though, falls far short of the 2012 dream—despite an
incredible financial investment. Far from 100,000 jobs—or even the
60,000 promised within five years of the park’s opening—Caracol
currently employs just 5,479 people full time. That comes out to roughly
$55,000 in investment per job created so far; or, to put it another way,
about 30 times more per job than the average Sae-A worker makes per
year. The park, built on the site of a former U.S. Marine-run slave labor
camp during the 1915-1934 U.S. occupation, has the best-paved roads
and manicured sidewalks in the country, but most of the land remains
vacant.

The park’s boosters respond that the number of employees has doubled
in the past year. One of Haiti’s richest men, Richard Coles, is opening a
new factory to produce for Hanesbrands there. The park’s 10-megawatt
plant is providing electricity to more than 8,000 people in the
surrounding area under a pilot project run by a Beltway-based energy
cooperative, bypassing the weak national electric utility. Mark D’Sa, a
former Gap Inc. sourcing director who now works for the State
Department, laughed at the idea that anyone could evaluate Caracol’s
success or failure after only 2 ½ years. “It’s a half-baked idea that’s still
in the oven,” he says, approvingly.

But the workers have their own complaints, starting with pay. Aselyne
Jean-Gilles, 35, makes the minimum 225 gourdes a day, or about $4.75.
She says she spends $3.19 on food, plus 45 cents each way for a group
taxi that takes her from her home in Cap-Haïtien to a town where she
can catch a free shuttle to work. She does not have children yet. “If you
do, you can’t afford to do anything,” she says.

Inside, Sae-A’s three warehouses are kept reasonably comfortable by
giant fans. A disc jockey plays Haitian kompa music to keep workers
energized. Enormous U.S., Haitian and South Korean flags hang
overhead. Seamstresses sit in forward-facing rows, stitching and
passing forward Mossimo and Old Navy tops under the glow of red signs
that keep track of the daily “meta,” or quota (the signs were imported,
along with middle managers, from older Sae-A factories in Central
America, at least one of which closed as the Haiti project was opening).
Quality checkers stand all day at the end of the row, discarding clothes
unfit for export. “From 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., I stand and stand. I can’t sit
down,” says Tamara Pierre, a 22-year-old quality checker, rubbing her
visibly swollen ankles as she waits for a bus home.

Outside the park’s walls some 336 families say they were forced off the
land to make way for Caracol and were not compensated enough to
make up for the loss of livelihoods. It was good, productive farmland in a
deforested, hungry country—chosen by the park’s planners precisely
because of its access to a good water supply. The farmers’ claims are
hard to prove, in large part because Haitian land law is a mess. Five
years after it became clear that disputes over land tenure were halting
reconstruction after the quake, Haiti still lacks a functioning land
registry.

Park officials say the proper channels were followed and compensation
was more generous than it had to be. But the peasant farmers believe
that once again they were taken advantage of by unaccountable, distant
powers. “Mr. and Mrs. Clinton,” specifies Milostene Castin, an area
farmer and organizer with the community group Je Nan Je, or “Eye to
Eye,” “they have been there since the cornerstone was laid. I think they
have monetary interests and political interests in the park.”

When I mentioned that President Clinton had apologized for harming
Haitian farmers in the past, Castin was unimpressed. “We call on them
to invest in the people, respect human rights and the law,” he says.
To many close observers of Haiti, the Clintons made the same mistake
that has been made for generations. Though striking a populist pose, in
practice they were attracted to power in Haiti, which meant making
alliances and friendships within the Haitian elite. “The strong push
toward Caracol is evidence of this,” says Robert Maguire, an expert on
development in Haiti and the director of The George Washington
University’s Latin American and Hemispheric Studies Program. Their
project responded not as much to the “more inclusive development
priorities pushed for by most Haitians and their government … but
rather to those supported by Haiti’s economic elites, who stood to
benefit the most from them.”

That does not mean that the Haitian elite are all fans of the Clintons. Far
from it. Many still smart over Bill’s decision to reinstate the overthrown
Aristide. Others are resentful of the power and money the Clintons
bring with them in their entourage, including billionaires like O’Brien
(who in turn have no love for the oligarchical power of the Haitian
import-export cartels). But infighting, the maneuvering of power and
political brinkmanship have long been tactics of the Haitian elite.
In a way, some whisper in Port-au-Prince, it’s as if the Clintons have
joined their ranks.
***
The Washington Post recently wrote that “the Clintons’ long
influence in Haiti is hard to overstate.” It’s indeed hard—but not
impossible. While the Clintons and their allies sometimes seem to be
omnipresent, they are not omnipotent. In part, that’s because, as a rule,
things in Haiti do not go as planned.

The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission closed shop in 2011, derided
for ineffectiveness and decisions “not necessarily aligned with Haitian
priorities,” according to the Government Accountability Office. In
December 2010, the IHRC’s Haitian members protested in a letter that
they were being sidelined by Clinton, Bellerive and major donors on the
board, including the U.S. representative to thecommission, Mills. “In
reality, Haitian members of the board have one role: to endorse the
decisions made by the Director and Executive Committee,” they wrote.
Washington was a bigger obstacle. Congress capped the U.S. money it let
the IHRC control at a comparatively tiny $120 million, and the Obama
administration then issued instructions on how the money had to be
spent. “That was the end of the trust fund as it was intended,” a former
senior Haitian commission official told me. (In a recent interview, Bill
Clinton told Town & Country that the IHRC was “incredibly
cumbersome.”)

Other allegations of double-dealing and pocket-lining have been based
on the dubious idea that the Clintons can do as they please in Haiti.
Conservative author Peter Schweizer recently set off a media storm
when he reported that a small mining company with rights to dig in
northern Haiti had Tony Rodham, Hillary’s brother, on its board. On a
sunbaked April morning, I hiked up a narrow path on Morne Bossa, the
mountain 160 miles north of Port-au-Prince where that mine is
supposed to end up. Spectacular countryside surrounded us. In the
distance, across a wide green valley, the Citadelle Laferrière soared atop
a 3,000-foot peak. Our destination inspired less awe: a sawed-off PVC
pipe in a concrete base the size of a shoebox, from which the company—
Victory, Championship, Strategic Mining—occasionally takes samples.
Schweizer’s report triggered a lot of speculation, inside Haiti and out,
that the Clinton network was enriching itself in Haiti, and that lonely
pipe on a remote hill became an object of fascination for the political
press. But the site looked more like another example of overblown
promises than a master scheme. There was no mining equipment
nearby, and judging by the complete lack of activity at VCS Mining’s
nearby office, little sign any would come soon.

VCS CEO Angelo Viard told me Rodham was a financial adviser, not a
member of the board as had been reported, and that he had met him—
through the Clinton Global Initiative—after the Haitian government had
already granted him the right to explore for gold and copper. “Mr.
Rodham … said very clearly, Haiti has been hurt by so many disasters, if
there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know. And we said, ‘Hey,
you might be able to help us with the capital,’ and he was very happy to
do so,” Viard told me. He estimates he needs $60 million to begin
digging, whenever the government might allow it again.

All mining programs in Haiti are on hold while the country’s mining law
is reviewed. VCS’s office, full of dusty bags and wooden boxes of rocks,
have no active staff beside the caretaker, Williamcite Noel, whose main
qualifications seem to be speaking a bit of English and living near the
site.

Many observers I spoke to think Viard is more likely to try and flip the
company than to ever actually start blasting the ground. What role Tony
Rodham might play in the company’s future, or what money he might
make off a future deal, is just as unclear as the mine’s future. Its
potential may never amount to anything, which some argue might
actually be the better outcome for Haiti. An open-pit mine on the site
could create environmental havoc while destroying the gorgeous view
from the Citadelle, harming tourism potential in the years ahead.
Others have questioned a $500,000 donation to the Clinton Foundation
made by the Algerian government after the 2010 earthquake, and a
$900,000 donation by Boeing to support Haitian schools at the same
time Secretary Clinton was lobbying the Russian government to buy
that company’s planes. The foundation has acknowledged it violated an
ethics agreement with the Obama White House by taking the Algerian
donation. Boeing indeed won a major contract, according to the
Washington Post.

But, though tracing the money in Haiti is difficult, there are no solid
indications that the donations went anywhere other than where they
were supposed to go. A Clinton Foundation spokesman says the
Algerian money went into a $16.4 million direct aid fund, which in turn
provided money to groups including Partners in Health, the operating
fund of the IHRC, and Sean Penn’s J/P HRO.

Boeing’s money went to a now-defunct NGO named Architecture for
Humanity, which rebuilt a quake-damaged school in the impoverished
Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Bel-Air. I visited on a recent school day.
While the new building does not scream luxury—there is no library or
computer lab, barely any furniture, and the school building does not get
electricity—it does seem to be a well-put-together piece of construction,
certainly by Haitian standards, where schools collapsed from shoddy
building materials even before the earthquake. The former lead for the
project, Kate Evarts, told me that while she no longer has immediate
access to the books, she thinks that $900,000 sounds about right as a
price tag when considering fees, licenses and the cost of subcontractors. The foundation says some money also went to teacher training.

Following the money in Clinton Foundation projects is often a
challenge. In recent weeks, under media pressure, the foundation has
admitted that its bookkeeping and transparency have been lacking at
times. Last week, after days of questions and press reports about the
Clinton Foundation’s work in various countries, acting CEO Maura
Pally posted a statement explaining the foundation was committed to
transparency: “Yes, we made mistakes, as many organizations of our
size do, but we are acting quickly to remedy them, and have taken steps
to ensure they don’t happen in the future.”

Even poring over documents doesn’t tell you much: In 2013, the most
recent tax year for which disclosures are available, the foundation
raised $295 million overall and spent $223 million—of which it says
$197 million, or 88 percent, went to “program services.” That
intentionally vague term, used universally by NGOs across the aid
world, includes anything that can be justifiably linked to specific
projects including travel, office expenses and salaries.

Clinton Foundation officials told me that, “unlike most organizations
operating in Haiti, the Clinton Foundation and its Haiti program do not
charge overhead expenses or collect an administrative fee for our work.”
It is easy to see how the Clintons’ influence in Haiti—where the power
players are few and the vast majority of people live on less than $2 a day
—can be misunderstood or raise suspicions. There is little transparency
in Haiti. Almost every deal, even a legitimate one, gets made out of sight
—and over the past five years, the Clintons have seemingly had a
representative or friend in all the most important backrooms. That
power discrepancy, along with the Clintons’ fondness for keeping their
cards close to the vest, has led to wild rumors everywhere. Many center
on the Clintons supposedly buying land, the traditional source of wealth
and power. “I’ve heard people say Bill Clinton was trying to buy the
Citadelle!” laughs Michele Oriol, an expert on land rights with a Haitian
government agency.

The complexity and limits of the Clinton model in Haiti can be summed
up in a complex of 750 pastel-colored houses up the road from Caracol.
The residents of Village La Difference are happy to have homes with
electricity and water cisterns. But the settlement has been plagued by
construction problems since the beginning. Two USAID contractors
have been suspended for failures including using shoddy concrete
blocks and failing to separate water and sewage pipes.

The village’s shining feature, however, and its most Clintonian
innovation, is a school. Lekol S&H’s monthly $8,400 budget is funded by
Sae-A. It’s a savvy public relations move that has yielded what is
probably the most dynamic elementary school in the country. The
principal, Jean V. Mirvil, was recruited from P.S. 73 in the Bronx. He and
his teachers, many of whom have completed teaching school (a rarity),
devised a cutting-edge curriculum that emphasizes instruction in
Kreyòl, rather than French, the traditional language of education and
the elites.

Like many of the Clintons’ interventions in Haiti, it is not a direct
project of the foundation but what Mirvil happily referred to as “the
Clinton network.” The Clintons provided contacts ranging from USAID
trainers to the Brooklyn Nets, who donated the basketball hoops out
back. Gold plaques in the hallways and cafeteria bear the hand-scrawled
inscriptions in English: “My best wishes to the children who will be
educated here and congratulations to Sae-A!—Hillary Rodham Clinton.”
(Bill’s scrawl adds, “To the children: Learn a lot!”)

But barring an angel investor willing to pay for the program nationwide
for a generation or so, Lekol S&H remains essentially a one-off,
dependent on a single company’s decision to stay and keep paying the
bills. The model is precarious—particularly given the increasingly likely
possibility that Haiti reenters a period of political instability.
***
Haiti’s current political troubles fall short of what might cause real
problems for Hillary Clinton as she touts her foreign policy bona fides
during her White House run. But that could quickly change.
Impatience with President Martelly is growing at all levels, even inside
the State Department. With the falling price of oil and the death of
Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, the seemingly free PetroCaribe money that
has bankrolled Haiti’s meager growth—and the Martelly
administration’s tenuous hold on power—is running out.

With the Martelly administration now able to set up elections on its
own terms, the long-delayed parliament vote is scheduled for August.
New presidential elections are slated for October. Martelly is barred
from running for reelection by the constitution. Both Lamothe and the
president’s wife, Sofia Martelly, are rumored to be exploring runs. No
one knows if the elections will go off on time.

“If the election is not held this year and there is a high level of violence
and turmoil, [the U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti] decides to leave, and
the 82nd Airborne or the Marines have to be sent here to keep order,
then yes, this could affect the U.S. election. It could lead to questioning
the ability of a Democrat in the White House to keep peace and stability
in a country like Haiti,” says Lionel Delatour, a prominent Haitian
businessman with ties to many in the U.S. government and private
sector. “The likelihood of such a series of events to take place is very
remote. But we have surprised the world before.”

The real date to watch is May 15, 2016, when Martelly’s five-year term
ends. If no election is held by then, a transitional government will take
power, there will be a constitutional crisis, or both. That date will fall
almost precisely as Hillary Clinton hopes to wrap up the Democratic
primaries and turn to the general election. Instability in a place where
she and her husband have planted a big flag would hardly help her
campaign.

It’s impossible to say how all this will turn out. From top to bottom, the
Clintons’ work in Haiti is far from over. Many promises remain
unfulfilled; many projects still, as D’Sa put it, “half-baked.” Bill Clinton
still goes there frequently, including a February stop to join Martelly
and O’Brien at the opening of the Port-au-Prince Marriott. His
comments are ever boosterish, but tinged with frustration. “If everyone
knew this country the way Denis and I do, your incomes would be three
times higher than they are, people would be flooding in here every day,
and we wouldn’t have had the problems we do,” the former president
told a group of Haitians, according to the Miami Herald.

If Hillary is successful in her presidential bid, the Clintons will have
another four or even eight years to drive U.S. policy toward this
Caribbean nation—for better or for worse. Perhaps unsure of how Haiti
will fit into the upcoming election, Hillary Clinton has been less
talkative than her husband. Her spokesman declined to comment on
how her experience in Haiti has shaped her foreign policy, saying she
would address that “when the time comes to do so.”

I asked Benel Etienne, a 32-year-old resident of Village La Difference
and construction day laborer at Caracol, if he had a message for the
candidate. “Mrs. Clinton, we hope you became president of your United
States, but at the same we hope you bring change for Haiti, because you
have good diplomatic relations with Haiti,” he told me. When I asked
what kind of change that might be, he smiled and shrugged. Haitians like
him have heard too many promises, and seen too many things, to think
they could really know.

Original URL:
http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/caribbean-haiti-clinton-politics-business

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Media, Haiti: Media’s Multiple Roles in Democracy and Development

USAID, by  on Friday, May 1st 2015

A reporter in Yerevan, Armenia scuffles with a police officer while covering a protest against the demolition of a historic building. / Photolur, IREX

A reporter in Yerevan, Armenia scuffles with a police officer while covering a protest against the demolition of a historic building. / Photolur, IREX

Reading the newspaper while sipping morning coffee and settling into an armchair to watch the evening news have long been iconic images — and for good reason. These sources of information are critical to promoting civil engagement and democracy

Today, in advance of the United Nations General Assembly’s World Press Freedom Day on Sunday, we take a moment to reflect on the vital role that journalists and media play in our daily lives and pay tribute to those who have sacrificed their lives for their profession. Operating around the clock, year-round, the media is expected to provide factual up-to-the minute reporting in addition to deeper analyses of societal issues ranging from democratic governance and free and fair elections to disaster reconstruction and reducing preventable diseases.

USAID Community Radio struggles to keep lines of communication open in a rural, isolated community in Haiti. / Nicole Widdersheim

Over the last 15 years as senior media advisor for USAID’s Center of Excellence for Democracy, Human Rights and Governance, I have observed a recurrent theme of the media as a central hub of information exchange. This seems to be something almost everyone can agree on–ordinary citizens and elites alike, regardless of the issue.

This expectation was recently reiterated in Haiti, when a leading Haitian human rights activist told our USAID delegation that “everything is channeled through the media,” comparing media to a “traffic circle, where all issues must pass.” A former journalist, she understood how the media system in Haiti can be a double-edged sword. While some journalists provide accurate and professional media content, educating the public and promoting progress, others can spread misinformation, increase tensions and even undermine stability.

A man in Myanmar reads a newspaper on the street. / Kim Nguyen van Zoen, Internews

While in Haiti, we visited seven towns, where local focus groups talked about what they liked and disliked about the Haitian media. Individual opinions differed, but we found widespread appreciation for a few specific areas, such as the recent health information campaigns that helped reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, cholera and other illnesses.

However, Haitians across the board also expressed clear frustration with the lack of quality local news; they felt that more coverage of social issues and educational content could help the country develop faster. This kind of media, they reasoned, could help people make better life choices and engage citizens in their country’s government and development. Simply stated: People valued the power of knowledge and believed in media as a translator of information and source of empowerment.

Women radio journalists from  Radio Ibo FM 98.5 read the midday news for the listening public in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. / Nicole Widdersheim

Haitians and international representatives across development sectors agreed. A medical doctor noted that “using community radio for prevention is much more cost effective” than treating diseases that could have been prevented. A specialist working to improve food safety nets added: “The more I work on health issues — including nutrition, the more I realize that the main problems arise from the public’s lack of information.”

USAID Media Officer Mark Koenig treks to the isolated, rural  community radio station, Radyo Vwa Peyizan Abriko / Radio Voice of the People of Abricot. This radio station has received support over the years from USAID and is beloved by the community, not only for sharing news and information, but also for acting in a mediation role and helping in lost and found. / Nicole Widdersheim

Throughout the world, USAID supports programs in over 30 countries to strengthen journalistic professionalism, establish media management skills and promote freer media. USAID programs are helping local media systems deliver critical information in diverse areas of development including agriculture, education, health, growth, environmental protection, resource management, conflict mitigation, election reporting and more. In countries struggling to cope with and recover from conflict, USAID also supports peace-building messaging and civil society monitoring.

As the testimony of Haitians suggested, citizens in all countries can be empowered by local media to address the issues they care about. People everywhere — across all development sectors — need trustworthy information and opportunities for public discourse. Access to information is a basic human right — freedom of press is a key foundation of this right. Today, and every day, we applaud the difficult work that journalists and media do and refocus our efforts on how best to empower media systems across the globe.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Koenig is Senior Advisor for Independent Media Development at USAID’s Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance.
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Development: Don’t rush to Nepal to help. Learn from haiti and read this first

Guardian Newspaper, Monday 27 April 2015 , by 

You may want to help victims of the earthquake, but they don’t need unskilled volunteers or aid they can’t use. Here’s what you can do that won’t get in the way

As someone who has considered Nepal home for many years, the shock on hearing the news of the earthquake that has devastated the country was extreme. I felt pained at being away from home – cut off in rural Cambodia – at a time like this, impotent and powerless.

The quake has left thousands dead, many more injured and even more without shelter. What we also know from tracking events in natural disasters all over the world is that the situation only gets worse in the weeks following the event, as hospitals become overwhelmed, basic supplies become scarce and those living in temporary shelters succumb to exposure and disease. The example fresh in everyone’s minds is the 2010 earthquake in Haiti – a country in a similar economic condition to Nepal and which, despite an enormous influx of international aid, is still recovering from the disaster five years later.

Something that has been much discussed in the international aid community is the lack of coordinated response to the Haiti disaster. Ragtag brigades of well-intentioned do-gooders flooded the country: students, church congregations, individuals who had previously vacationed in the area, all clambering over one another looking for a way to make their mark and do good, but lacking either the skills or coordination to have an impact. Indeed, many ended up slowing down the aid efforts.

There were even reports of teams of doctors who arrived to help but were unable to feed themselves. This wave of unsolicited and poorly planned shipments of untrained people and donated goods was dubbed by some humanitarians “the second disaster”.

One of the biggest problems with relief work is that it is a free-for-all. Anyone who wants to, and who is privileged enough to afford a plane ticket, can pitch up. Unlike doctors or engineers, who need to train for years to gain qualifications that prove they probably know what they’re doing, no such qualification exists for aid workers.

What Nepal needs right now is not another untrained bystander, however much her heart is hurting. Nepal has one international airport for the entire country, which has itself sustained damage. That airport needs to be used for emergency supplies, immediate aid for the victims, and qualified, professional relief workers. My trip back to commiserate with loved ones can wait a few weeks.

Remember that it is not about you. It is not about your love for the country and its people. Your feelings of guilt and helplessness may be difficult to deal with, but you may not be what is needed right now. Do not rush to go there, at least for the next couple of weeks while the country is reeling. The exception to this is if you are a qualified professional with much-needed skills to offer. If you are, join up with an international relief agency that can place you in a position where you are needed most.

Do not donate stuff. Secondhand goods are difficult to distribute in a disaster area and are hardly ever what is actually needed. It is easier, and often in the long run cheaper, for organisations to procure goods themselves and distribute based on need. If you want to give away things you no longer need, sell them and donate the money to the relief fund. Or give them to a local charity shop, which can convert them into cash on your behalf.

Give money. More than your plane ticket or your collection of old T-shirts, what is most needed in Nepal right now is money. Donate what you can, to a reputable relief organisation, and do research to find out where your money will go. If you can, compare a few organisations with aid appeals and ensure that you agree with their approach.

In the short term, handouts are necessary. I have previously questioned this as a method of long-term development. However, in the immediate wake of such devastation, handouts are necessary to give victims the essentials for survival.

In the long term, rebuild sustainably. If in the coming months you want to contribute to the rebuilding efforts and the longer-term development of the country, consider sustainability as a factor. There will be many programmes to repair and rebuild destroyed houses. Nepal is an earthquake-prone country, so the buildings most likely to withstand another quake are not those that are cheapest, or those made by foreign volunteer labourers for “free”.

And if you do decide to go … Please look at the resources we have produced on the Learning Service website before you get on the plane. I am not against volunteering; I am imploring you to wait a while and think carefully about where to use your skills. Volunteering can have a wonderful impact on the world, when done mindfully. But it is not easy or automatically beneficial. Before signing up for a programme, spend time learning about Nepal and the complex nature of its recovery and development, and continue to be open to learning during your time there.

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Haiti: How Not to Report on an Earthquake

A police officer looking on as an excavator digs through rubble in search of bodies in Katmandu, Nepal, on April 27. Credit: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
As of Tuesday morning, exactly three days have passed since a 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook Nepal, killing thousands and leaving millions in need of help. In disaster response, the end of the first 72 hours is often considered an inflection point: the unofficial moment when the most acute phase passes, the odds of finding trapped survivors plunge and the relief effort tends to really pick up steam.

Three days into a crisis, roads and airports are often reopening, and outside responders and journalists are arriving in droves. The decisions made at this time can determine the course of the response. A misstep now can have ramifications lasting years, even decades.

I know this because I lived through a moment of just this sort five years ago, in Haiti. I was in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010, when a powerful quake rippled outward from an epicenter 15 miles from the capital. In 40 seconds, the shock waves, according to some estimates, literally decimated the population, killing 100,000 to 316,000 people in an overcrowded, overbuilt metropolitan area that was home to more than three million. Governments and aid groups mobilized cargo planes and ships, deploying thousands of soldiers, search-and-rescue teams and medical responders. I was the lone correspondent in the country’s lone full-time foreign news bureau when the quake hit, but I wasn’t on my own for long. By the 72-hour mark, hundreds of reporters — if not more — had joined me in town, beaming images and accounts of the destruction around the world.

Time seemed to stop during the earthquake, and only gradually picked up speed in the days that followed. The first night felt as if it would never end. Aftershocks roiled the ground. People were scouring the rubble for loved ones and neighbors, but the quake had hit in the late afternoon, and in a country with little infrastructure and electricity, it was impossible to continue the search once darkness fell. Nearly everyone who could be was outdoors that night, many of them singing and praying, waiting to see if help would come from outside.

It did, though slowly at first. A trickle of aid convoys arrived overland from the Dominican Republic the next morning. A United States military advance team landed at the damaged airport and took over its operations, setting up an emergency air-traffic-control system.

Then, on the third day, the skies filled with planes and the harbor with ships. Soon United Nations peacekeepers and American soldiers were scrambling to hand out food and water. My editors at The Associated Press made sure that my colleagues and I traded shifts covering the search-and-rescue efforts; they wanted to be certain we did not miss out on images of survivors being pulled from the rubble.

The old standby narratives of disaster coverage picked up from there. We watched for panic and desperation to turn to looting and violence. When aid groups began issuing warnings of impending post-disaster disease outbreaks, we repeated them.

Similar story lines are now emerging from Nepal (although, as of this writing, rumors of looting and violence have been confined mainly to social media). But in Haiti, as is often the case, those story lines turned out to be dead wrong. Most embarrassing for a journalist, they were wrong in ways that would have immediately been made clear had we taken the time to ask some basic questions.

Food and water, for example. When I was in Haiti two years later, to research the relief effort for a book, I was shocked to discover that no one could tell me with any precision if there was ever a food or water shortage in the first place. No one among the responders had even contacted the Coordination Nationale de la Sécurité Alimentaire — the Haitian government agency overseeing food security — to find out what might be needed. Indeed, earthquakes tend to inflict the worst damage on cities, not farms — especially in countries that already have limited infrastructure — and Haiti’s urban areas didn’t have any sewers or piped drinking water to begin with.

People indeed lost their homes and incomes, and markets closed. But theWorld Food Program had enough supplies in its Port-au-Prince warehouses — which survived the quake — to feed 300,000 people one full meal for three weeks. There was no acute food or malnutrition crisis after the quake; that much we know. But it seems very likely that the city could have avoided one even without the frenzied aid push.

Our focus on the organized rescue efforts was similarly misplaced. The constant media coverage and well-financed, specialized rescue teams created the impression in many viewers’ minds that large numbers of people were being saved by outside responders. In fact, according to a report by the French Defense Ministry’s Haiti mission, no more than 211 people were saved by all of the international search-and-rescue efforts combined, in a disaster in which hundreds of thousands were trapped.

This isn’t the responders’ fault; they worked as hard and as fast as they could. But disaster experts routinely note that a vast majority of rescues after an earthquake take place within the first 24 hours, and are almost always done by people from the area using their hands or simple tools. By contrast, the first American search-and-rescue team didn’t arrive in Haiti until nearly a full day after the disaster.

As for the notion of post-disaster disease outbreaks, epidemiologists have gone looking for evidence of epidemics resulting from calamities like earthquakes, and they have generally concluded that they don’t happen. (“The news industry is prone to emphasizing more dramatic and simplistic messages, and unjustified warnings will likely continue to be spread on the basis of an approximate assessment of risks,” the authors of a 2006 study wrote in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) If you look closely, news reports tend to cite unspecified “fears” or “threats” of disease, often sourced to nongovernmental organizations like the Red Cross. But those sources are rarely asked to produce any actual evidence.

There is violence after disasters, just as there is violence every day wherever humans live. But taking a hard look back puts the lie to the idea that societies somehow become less cohesive after a natural shock, at a moment when most people are busy trying to put their lives back in order. After Hurricane Sandy, in 2012, crime fell in nearly every category in New York City. (The murder rate in Nepal’s capital, Katmandu, when it was last measured nearly a decade ago, was higher than New York’s but comparable to Chicago’s in recent years.)

There is no way to know for sure if that was true in Port-au-Prince; crime statistics were unreliable before the quake and nonexistent after. The escape of prisoners from the city’s national penitentiary did lead to a series of murders over turf in the slum Cité Soleil, and there were reports of increased sexual violence in the months after the disaster. But there was no widespread civil unrest of the magnitude that would justify keeping 20,000 United States troops on call. Having been there at the time, I recognized the sentiment expressed by Donatella Lorch, a Katmandu-based writer, in The Times this week: “I am buoyed by the generous spirit of [Nepal’s] people. My son and I know that life here will get worse in the days and weeks ahead as fuel and water run low. But we also know we are in this together.”

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