Issues & Analysis
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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, Development: Bringing drones down to earth

irinnews.org

By Caterina Pino and Obinna Anyadike

KATHMANDU, 12 May 2015 (IRIN) – Disaster coverage now seems incomplete without amazing drone footage of the damage, accompanied by effusive media reports on the technological wizardry of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and their humanitarian application. But is that really the story? Here’s a look at the evolution needed for them to better fulfill their potential.Right tool for the job?

The advantage of UAVs is that they are a fraction of the cost of manned aircraft and the smallest can fit into the hand luggage of a humanitarian response team. They provide very high resolution imagery and can carry an array of sensors. “They provide extra information in the phase where you need a quick overview,” explained Arjan Stam, overall leader of international Urban Search-and-Rescue units in Nepal.

But misconceptions remain, including within the humanitarian community, over what UAVs can achieve. “People who have not seen UAVs often think of the military versions that can fly a long way and carry heavy payloads,” said Andrej Verity of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Commonly used micro-UAVs, like the quadcopter DJI Phantom, has a flight time of under 25 minutes and doesn’t fly in high winds and bad weather. There are larger, more capable UAVs, but drones are far from always the answer. In many circumstances old-fashioned helicopters, manned aircraft and people doing assessments on foot are better options.

“If we prioritise using the cool new toys instead of choosing the collection platform that meets needs and constraints, we risk being less useful than we could be and probably slower,” said John Crowley of UN Global Pulse. “[UAVs] can be amazing assets when they fit into a larger system that makes it safe, secure and legal to use them – [that requires] trained people, clear policies, and established protocols.”

UAVs in disaster response are largely privately operated. There are currently 10 UAV teams in Nepal, from Canada’s Global Medic to California-based Team Rubicon, whose philanthropic partner is US intelligence-linked data mining firm Palantir. Encouraging adherence to standard operating procedures and maximising the humanitarian value of these diverse teams has historically proven a challenge.

Coordination conundrum

“Disaster responders in an emergency are generally too overwhelmed to lead on innovative methods,” Crowley told IRIN. “A disaster is rarely the time to introduce unfamiliar tools with lots of elements that require coordinated action between several organisations.”

Keeping on the right side of the law can be the first challenge. While some countries have UAV legislation in place to cover safety, privacy, national security and insurance liability, many do not. Where no regulations exists, UAV flights are either cleared with national authorities on an ad-hoc emergency basis, or are flown without permission – a reality that has a host of implications.

Then there is the glaring gap in the humanitarian response structure to facilitate UAV use. OCHA serves as the secretariat for critical coordination mechanisms like the Inter-Agency Standing Committee and the UN’s rapid-response Disaster Assessment and Coordination system and International Search and Rescue Advisory Group. But it has no formal oversight role as far as UAV operations are concerned, and has been cautious in claiming a mandate.

Who can we talk to?

In the Philippines, during Cyclone Haiyan in 2013, there was little coordination or clarity over how UAVs were to be used. OCHA then worked with the authorities on recognizing the value of UAVs and including them in national disaster response plans. But in 2014, when Cyclone Hagupit arrived, there was only an ad-hoc link between UAV operators, the humanitarian community and the government.

In the wake of Cyclone Pam that tore through the Pacific islands of Vanuatu earlier this year, a World Bank project used the volunteer Humanitarian UAV Network (UAViators) to provide damage assessment imagery. There was better engagement with the government and military on basics like flight path clearance and notification to local communities, but the arrangement was still informal.

In Nepal, UAViators has taken the lead in engaging with the civil aviation authorities and the police, but it lacks institutional clout. For drones to be better established, the founder of UAViators, Patrick Meier, argues what is required is “strong backing or leadership from an established humanitarian organisation that is able and willing to mediate with appropriate ministries.”

In a Skype conversation with IRIN, he added: “The UN has not designated a formal focal point for UAV flights who can serve as liaison with [government]…. This is a big problem, as UAV teams need formal letters confirming that they are part of the humanitarian response. Also, we need this focal point to serve as initial liaison with ATC [air traffic control] and the military. In sum: [it is a] major institutional gap here.”

But in a disaster, where aid agencies and government officials are scrambling to respond and capacity is stretched so thin, should the appointment of a focal person to work with UAV operators always be a priority?

Sharing is caring

The purpose of UAV imagery is to help better shape the humanitarian response.

To get proper value out of UAVs “we need to make sure that we’re as clear as possible on where imagery needs are greatest, where the gaps in coverage may be, and how those imagery needs are going to be connected directly with practical relief efforts,” Andrew Schroeder, director of research and analysis at Direct Relief, a medical aid charity, told IRIN.

“We need an easy way for people and organisations to express where and why they need imagery so that priorities can be established quickly and those with skills and access to the technology can be appropriately tasked. We need to make sure that we’re sharing data effectively and adhering to open standards,” said Schroeder, who chairs the UAV working group at Nethope, an NGO consortium.But the reality is that people can be averse to sharing. This can be due to legal and political considerations, with some humanitarian organisations leery of associating too closely with private UAV teams, or data hoarding by the drone operators.

Data is power

“Some UAV teams have not (yet) expressed an interest in sharing their imagery. Some have not provided information about where they’re flying,” Skyped Meier. “Of course, they are incredibly busy. And besides, they are not required to share.… [W]ithout strong public backing from established humanitarian groups, there is little the network can do.”

“Data is power, and people perceive it that way,” said Nama Budhathoki, the head of Kathmandu Living Labs. His team of volunteers is working with OpenStreetMap, a crowd-sourced geographic information system (GIS), to map the impact of the Nepal quake.

A significant impediment to working with UAV imagery is the size of the data files, which in the case of a country like Nepal, with low internet bandwidth, impacts on the speed with which data can be analysed.

“Aerial imagery typically constitute large files, which means they take longer to upload, and with unreliable or low bandwidth it can take multiple repeat attempts to upload just one mosaic [GIS maps are composed of a multitude of data mosaics],” said Meier.

“Figuring out file transfers from the field… this is a huge problem… and getting it out of disaster zones is really not easy. We need to treat the logistics for this as seriously as the damage assessment,” Robert Banick, a GIS expert at the Assessment Capacities Project, told IRIN.

Build local capacity

“I think we’re so excited about the possibilities of UAVs and so challenged by making it work that we’re not giving full attention to the data analysis,” he added.

Kathmandu Living Labs is trying to reduce the dependence on external analysis by using local mappers, who have the additional advantage of a “better sense of location and geography,” said Budhathoki.

His goal is not only to build sustainability in GIS, but also to develop a local “UAV capacity with Nepal.” It’s a project that Meier and UAViators are collaborating on.

Reducing the need for external assistance by assisting national authorities and local NGOs build their capacity in high disaster risk countries like Nepal would be a step forward.

Caterina Pino works with German Technical Cooperation in Turkey. She has worked for OCHA’s Regional Office for Eastern Africa, and  the Somalia country office. In her last OCHA assignment, Caterina advised the Philippines government on how to include civilian UAV capacity in their disaster preparedness and response plans. Obinna Anyadike is IRIN’s Editor-at-Large.

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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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Media: Open Letter to The Media, re: Nepal Earthquake

From AidSpeak

Aid workers, you know how this goes. In approximately one year, the media is going too be all up in our grill.

Why? Because after a gazillion dollars in aid, Kathmandu will still not look like Singapore; some people will still be living in tents (as opposed to two-storey modular homes with Direct TV and WiFi); foreigners will have been seen going to meetings in white Land Cruisers; and, well, frankly no one was “accountable” or “transparent.” At least a few journalists will jump-start stagnating careers by writing books stridently critical of the aid industry (The Big Drone That Flew By, etc.) and at least two will claim to have been “the only foreign correspondent in Kathmandu at the time of the earthquake.” (They’ll refer to themselves as “earthquake survivors” in their bios and interviews.)

At the one year anniversary, major networks will run specials on “where the money went” or “did aid really help Nepal?” Of course, a bunch of new INGOs (some started up by failed climbers) specifically focused on the earthquake will be interviewed and featured at length. They’ll make outrageous (and impossible to verify) claims about how they cut through red tape and outwitted the aid system to deliver life-saving assistance to those who most desperately needed it.  (I’ll never understand why the go-to response by everyone who feels that the aid industry is an inefficient bureaucracy seems to be to start their own NGO, thus adding to the net amount of bureaucracy in the world. But obviously I digress.) They’ll use words like “bloated” to describe NGO salary structures, and point to the fact that aid workers took R&R as proof that everyone in the aid system is hopelessly self-interested.

At some point during year one there will be a celebrity visit that goes wildly/hilariously amuck: Someone (my money’s on Ian Birrel) will latch onto that as proof that “aid doesn’t work”, and do a lot of strident tweeting about it. Wonks from think tanks or universities that end in “ord,” who’ve never implemented anything even remotely close to a relief response, will give soundbites about the importance of innovation, humanitarian UAVs, and big data. Maybe Richard Engel or Ann Curry will fly in and have scripted heart-to-heart interviews with survivors, after which they’ll gaze into the camera and offer pithy one-line analyses in their best weary/soulful voices.

Yes, those of us in the aid industry know this is coming. It happens every time, it’s annoying as hell, and it sucks up precious overhead to deal with it on top of everything else. So maybe let’s just nip some of that in the bud right now.

Media, you’re on notice:

If you want to say that the aid industry was not accountable in Nepal, then articulate the baseline and the standard now. What is our target?

If you want to say that we are not delivering aid fast enough, then do share—what’s the metric that we’re aiming for? At what objectively verifiable rate of delivery will this simply cease to be an issue for you?

If you want to complain that we’re not transparent, then tell us right now what level of transparency, in your expert opinions, is sufficient?

Please do explain right now what state of recovery Kathmandu should be in in one year’s time if we’re doing our jobs properly.

Too many INGOs swarming to Nepal? Okay, how many should there be? Do be specific. Too many foreigners going to too many meetings? Please, what is an optimal, or at least an acceptable foreigner-to-local ratio? And what is the preferred number of meetings per day/week/etc?

This will make all of our jobs (including yours) easier.

Thanks.

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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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Afghanistan: Progress Reported on Women’s issues in Informal Afghan-Taliban Talks

nytimes.com, by Rod Nordland, 

KABUL, Afghanistan — Two days of informal talks between Afghan government and Taliban representatives produced a series of agreements that, while not binding, raised the prospect of advancement in Afghanistan’s long deadlocked peace process, judging from a summary of the talks released by the organizers on Monday.

Both sides agreed that the Taliban should open a political office in Doha,Qatar, which would serve as a place where future negotiations might take place; the government of Afghanistan had previously opposed that. Both agreed that the Constitution of Afghanistan was up for discussion; that had once been a so-called red line for the Afghan government.

The Taliban signaled that they might be willing to drop their demand that all foreign troops, such as the residual American and NATO force of 13,000 trainers and counterterrorism troops, would have to be withdrawn before peace talks could take place.

“In general, the peace process should be speeded up!” read a summary of the talks issued by the Pugwash Conferences, the international organization that hosted them in Qatar on Saturday and Sunday. “Some would welcome the possibility of talks between the Taliban and the government.”

The Taliban also joined with Afghan government figures in committing to education for women, which the Taliban had mostly stamped out during their years in power.

“The value of education for both men and women was underlined by everybody,” the Pugwash summary of the talks said. Pugwash, a Nobel Prize-winning organization that promotes world peace, has hosted several conferences involving indirect talks between the Afghan parties, known as “track two” talks.

This was the first one, however, in which the parties seemed willing to publicize their points of agreement.

While everyone involved emphasized that the talks were among individuals and represented their personal opinions, those present included leading figures from the Taliban ranks, as well as important government officials and allies.

In a separate statement, the Taliban denounced the American role in the country and demanded a withdrawal, but did not appear to make that a precondition for peace talks, as they often have in the past.

“Peace cannot be achieved just in talks and slogans,” the Taliban statement, posted on the group’s website, read. “There is a need for determination and good intentions.” They also appeared to dismiss a role for Pakistan in future talks, criticizing “peace talk offers that are usually made to neighboring countries.”

Pakistan has long allowed the Taliban’s senior leadership to take refuge on its side of the border and has been wary of peace overtures that its government does not control.

“Everybody agreed that foreign forces have to leave Afghanistan soon,” the summary of the talks said. But it added, “Some expressed concern that there should be an agreement among Afghan political forces before the departure of the foreign forces.”

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Afghanistan Reconstruction: Fact vs. Fantasy

John F. Sopko , Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction
Weill Cornell Medical College, New York City , May 5, 2015

Full Speech

Conclusion

For both humanitarian and national-security reasons, the U.S. mission to reconstruct Afghanistan is critical. And with $15 billion currently awaiting disbursement, with billions more to follow, there is both need to improve the effectiveness of the effort, and time to make a difference in the outcome.

We must not kid ourselves about Afghanistan. It will be a long struggle. Defeating a determined insurgency, improving health and education, altering attitudes toward women, reducing corruption, and building governmental competence are not casual, short-term undertakings. Impatience driven by temperament, election cycles, or fiscal-year budgeting can only impede progress.

We can also safely say that the struggle in Afghanistan won’t be shortened, much less won, by official happy talk and cheerleader-style press releases. Improving the likelihood of mission success requires, as a start, accurate, verifiable, and pertinent data-accompanied by a recognition that some key indicators require subjective evaluation by experienced and independent observers in the field. Let me emphasize the independence issue. Poor data and disregard of nonquantitative assessments that is biased by self-interest and turf protection can only lead to unrealistic judgments, unjustified hopes, and outright fantasies with no link to reality.

The 19th-century American humorist Josh Billings said, in the manner of Socrates, “I honestly believe it is better to know nothing than to know what ain’t so.”[28] SIGAR’s clinical examination of American reconstruction operations in Afghanistan has persuaded me that we know a lot more than nothing, but a lot less than we think. Budgeting, planning, oversight, course corrections, and decisions to adjust the targets, duration, and intensity of U.S. efforts there all require reliable information. At the moment, that is all too often a scarce commodity and, accordingly, our programs as we go forward may be based more upon fantasy than reality.

SIGAR will press on in the years ahead to carry out its assignment of pinning down facts; calling out fluff, felonies, and fantasies; and recommending improvements. We welcome your interest and support in that mission, as I welcome your comments and questions. Thank you.

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Afghanistan: Meet the Afghan Photographers Telling Their Country’s Stories

Original article found on: TIME

Laurence Butet-Roch on May 1, 2015

With the strengthening of Taliban’s hold on Afghanistan in the 1990s, came the end of a long photographic tradition. At the turn of the 20th century, the ruling royal family practiced photography as a hobby, and a serious one at that. Habibullah Khan, the Emir from 1901 to 1919, set up a studio in the palace while organizing competitions and exhibitions. Decades later, box cameras had made their way into the streets, popularizing the postcard-format family portrait. Yet, today, an entire generation is left without pictures of their youth, let alone a visual history of their nation.

“A country without photographs, is a country without identity,” says Najibullah Musafer, a photojournalist who took great risks to document his homeland despite the prohibition. After seeing b-roll from Afghanistan that challenged their perceptions of the war-torn region, Alexandria Bombach and Mo Scarpelli, two American filmmakers, felt it necessary to connect with storytellers from the area committed to sharing more nuanced accounts of their country. Their curiosity prompted the documentary Frame by Frame.

The cast is composed of photographers that distinguish themselves not only by the compelling nature of their work, but also by their enthralling personalities. Beside wholehearted and wise Musafer, considered the grandfather of modern photojournalism in the country, there’s the trailblazing, industrious and thoughtful Farzana Wahidy, her calm and astute husband Massoud Hossaini, winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 2012, and Wakil Kohsar, the soulful up-and-comer.

“At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be part of a movie,” says Wahidy. “At the time, I was trying to keep a low profile, mainly for security reasons and so that I could continue to do my work with as few hurdles as possible. But when I saw that they were going ahead with it, and with three men, I felt it was my duty to be in it.” The documentary makes clear how difficult it can be for her to gain access, especially given that photographing women, which she’s specialized in, remains highly taboo.

As the camera follows the quartet in their daily lives, and as they share stories from their past — the very stories that inform their gaze and shape their voice — a larger layered narrative emerges; that of a disrupted nation.

“Originally, we thought it would be a short film,” says Bombach. “But, as we were conducting the interviews, the complexity of what was happening, of what each photographer was going through, the heaviness of their past and how that affects how they shoot now, it became clear that it needed to be a feature length that would use human narratives to give a much better sense of what’s been going on in the past thirty years.”

Take Kohsar. As he shares memories from his childhood – fleeing Panjshir and seeking refuge in Iran – the plight of Afghan refugees under the Taliban regime comes to light. The footage of him working offers glimpses of issues such as the prevalence of drug addiction and of political disillusion. And, his struggle with an official who suggest that he takes a staged photograph of voters getting their election card – rather than allowing him in – is telling of a country where misinformation is widespread.

“I hope that an audience gets to see what it means to be a storyteller, to be seeking truth when people are putting barriers in front of you, to uphold your responsibility to your craft no matter what’s thrown your way and to seek beauty and justice through photography,” says Scarpelli, who was greatly inspired by how much humanity is bursting from each and every one of the protagonists’ images.

Frame by frame, these four photojournalists, as well as their colleagues, are building an indispensable visual history of these tumultuous times. “Afghanistan is in a very particular and uncertain place right now. Everyone is holding their breath,” says Scarpelli, echoing Hosseini’s worries, expressed in the documentary, that the world might forget Afghanistan again. Frame by frame, the movie reminds us why we should not.

Frame by Frame‘s international premieres is this week at Toronto’s Hot Docs film festival.

Laurence Butet-Roch is a freelance writer, photo editor and photographer based in Toronto, Canada. She is a member of the Boreal Collective.

Original article found on: TIME

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Hiati: Haiti’s Unsteady Land

Originally found on: Pulitzer Center

By: Jacob Kushner on December 4, 2014

Unstable land is what caused the January 2010 earthquake that killed some 300,000 people and displaced 1.5 million more in Haiti. Five years on, land conflict is what’s stalling Haiti’s progress.

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Lack of clarity around Haiti’s land laws is a major barrier to building — or rebuilding — Haiti. These barriers keep poor families from finding a place to live or farm, and they prevent wealthy ones from opening businesses that would employ the former. Acquiring land is too expensive for most Haitians, and often too complex, with multiple people claiming ownership and no system to sort that out. Ten percent of the land in Haiti is owned by the government, but the government isn’t entirely sure which ten percent. Only five percent of Haiti’s total land is accounted for in official registries, according to the United Nations, and many records were lost in the earthquake.

Today, critical investment projects such as industrial trade zones and tourist resorts remain stymied due to land disputes.Now, as Haiti turns to manufacturing and tourism to build the country’s economic future, Haitians themselves are caught in the middle. On the small island of Ile a Vache, a new airport threatens to displace hundreds of rightful landowners in the name of tourism. And in the country’s north, a free-trade zone that overtook 600 acres of fertile farmland has failed to attract more than a few companies to fill the space.

Five years after the earthquake, Haiti’s leaders have a vision. But with limited assistance by the US and other foreign donors allocated to fix Haiti’s underlying land catastrophe, will Haiti’s grand scheme fail and leave ordinary Haitians landless?

Originally found on: Pulitzer Center

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On the Media: Reframing the Message

Original article found on: DEEEP

Reframing the Message” is an EU-supported training and communication project implemented by three organizations in three European countries. The participating organizations are Wilde Ganzen from the Netherlands, Divoké Husy from Czech Republic and CISU – Civil Society in Development from Denmark. The three organizations’ joint application was approved by the EU in the autumn of 2012.

The project aims to strengthen the communication on development for the civil society organizations of these three countries so it reflects the structural causes of poverty in a balanced manner. The object is to produce reliable and respectful communication that will affect the citizen’s commitment to development cooperation.

“Reframing the Message” serves as best practice example on how to work ‘hands on’ with civil society organizations and their communication. It is a practical take on the various initiatives such as DEEEP4 that aims to challenge and change the existing paradigm on development.
During the two-years-project period we have found great inspiration from DARE Forum’s DEEEP project.

What paradigm was challenged? The old aid and charity paradigm which reproduces an unequal balance of power with a strong giver to a grateful receiver: the main storyline is roughly that the developing countries and their populations are perceived as poor dependent wretches with no ability to change their own way of life.

What new paradigm was developed? While civil society organisations have, through “Reframing the Message”, rejected the old paradigm, defining a new paradigm has proved more difficult.
However, a new European focus on the Global South as strong and independent communicators and storytellers has arisen. Organisations have started to listen to these voices and a new paradigm could potentially emerge from a global dialogue between citizens.

What did we learn? Across three participating countries we learned that we can address change from a practical point of view and start bottom-up with each CSO and their communication.

What is the next step? As the project expires in spring 2015, next step is not discussing what should be “reframed” but instead uniting across organizations and countries to engage citizens in global matters – like DEEEP4 works to do.

An overall objective and two specific objectives were formulated for the project:

  • Overall objective: To change the attitude towards development cooperation among the general public through a large number of small and medium sized development organisations and groups that stress the progress made in reaching the MDGs, while depicting the need for structural change.
  • Specific objective 1: Build the capacity of these organisations in order for them to better communicate ‘Best News’ and take stronger action.
  • Specific objective 2: To achieve synergy between the three project partners through exchange of ideas, best practices and joint methodologies.

Components in the project

During the two-years-project period “Reframing the Message” offered the following activities for the participating organisations and to a larger audience:

  • A variety of different trainings, workshops and presentations. On communication strategy, storytelling, social media, smartphone as a monitoring tool, efficient websites and press work – capacity building was a key component in the project.
  • Developing an online communication toolkit in Dutch and English to be used by civil society organisations and their partners in the Global South.
  • A sub-granting pool where organisations were allocated 2,000 euro to test their new skills and approach to communication and fundraising.
  • A competition on communication products and plans in connection with a counselling program with professional communication advisors.
  • Stakeholder meetings every year in each of the three countries.
  • Raising public debate on the subject.
  • Establishing a national network for development education.
  • National actions for the “World’s Best News” campaign.

What went well

All in all the project was a success. Both in matter of project planning across three countries but certainly also in matter of participants, debate and a possible new discourse. This is what we would highlight:

  • Engaging a large number of active citizens from a variety of civil society organizations.
  • Finding a practical and ‘hands on’ approach to telling stories about developing countries.
  • The three project countries working closely with the civil society organizations and developing the project in relation to their context in order to create deeper impact.
  • Starting a buzz and maintaining the discussion on development education amongst practitioners in the three countries.
  • Establishing and using the synergy between three organisations in three countries connecting and challenging each other – also in connection with other international initiatives as DEEEP4 and The Smart CSOs Lab.

Which challenges are still to be faced?

Although we did several attempts to get the larger organisations on board we found it difficult  connecting to the organisations dependent on private fundraising – especially regarding their fundraising campaigns where the hard-hitting argument seemed to be “but photos of starving children is what get people to donate money”. Future challenges will be:

  • Engaging the large international organisations in the discourse.
  • Identifying and developing synergy between fundraising and communication in a constructive way (instead pointing fingers at each other’s shortcomings).
  • Continually to cultivate and support the national and transnational networks initiated by Reframing the Message.

Original article found on: DEEEP

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Review of Owning our Future: Haitian Perspectives in Film at JP Forum

JP Forum

 jamaicaplainforum.org

Jamaica Plain Forum Haitian Perspectives in Film

By Hero Ashman

The US premier of Haitian Perspectives In Film took place at this week’s Jamaica Plain Forum. Six short documentaries made by six newly trained Haitian filmmakers were screened to an audience of more than 100 people. The screening was led by a local organization called Community Supported Film, which had run a five week intensive training course in Haiti in 2014 for Haitian storytellers. The aim of the project was to counteract the singular narrative of Haiti as a country permanently damaged by the 2010 earthquake, and to lift up local voices as they share their important stories. What struck me most about the movies was the capacity and creativity evident in the Haitians’ work – both those making the documentaries and those starring in them.

The dominant portrayal of people within disaster or war torn nations, especially those recovering from wars and natural disasters, is that they are in constant need of outside help. While it is important for an international community to offer help and assistance to countries in need, by purporting a narrative of foreigners coming in to help ‘re-build’, ‘re-construct’ and ‘re-develop’ we ignore the work that is already being done by Haitians, in Haiti, for other Haitians.

One documentary, created by Bichara Villason, filmed a group of construction workers re-building houses for people whose homes had been damaged by the quake. The project manager explained the communal process of identifying who to build for, constructing permanent (rather than temporary) houses and taking the steps to ensure people’s homes were protected by law. The title of this piece was “Owned or Occupied.” The ownership the community had over their work was contrasted with the work done by occupying NGOs: arriving from abroad, building temporary shelter and leaving. This type of work is not covered by mainstream media outside of Haiti because it doesn’t fit with the narrative of helplessness that accompanies many post-earthquake news reports.

For me, the documentaries clearly captured the connection between work and identity. This was demonstrated in the documentary “Threading the Needle”, which told the story of a woman who had started a curtain making business in order to provide for her family. Her work not only brought her a livelihood, but also the ability to reach out to other women in her community by teaching them sewing and business skills. The documentary successfully conveyed the feeling spoken by the woman, that hard work was needed and willingly given to get the country back on its feet. The importance of work was established for individual, community and national identity.

The documentaries were successful in expanding many stories we have of the world: the story of disaster relief, the story of community resilience, the story of who gets to tell the story.  They illustrated brilliantly that there is a huge diversity of work that people do. A community organizer, who was interviewed in the documentary “Ghetto Clean, Ghetto Green,” related the work him and his community were doing to improve life for children in his neighborhood with the Haitian system of Kombit. Kombit refers to a system of collective work undertaken to achieve a common goal; it is based on sharing rather than selling. It is clear that the work done by the Haitian filmmakers and the Haitians in the documentaries was not done merely to earn a living. The work they did utilized their energy, created change and brought them a livelihood based on more than having shelter and food, but included shaping and upholding a community identity.

I think it would benefit us all to remember that work within the home, volunteer work in communities, work with purposes other than profit, is not only crucial to our economy but it is constructive of the creative, generous and productive people we are. The documentaries really brought this point home to me.

You can pre-order the DVD of Haitian Perspectives In Film at CSFilm’s website and explore the site for more information on the films.

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120 at JP Forum Premiere of Owning our Future: Haitian Perspectives in Film

The JP Forum premiere of Owning our Future: Haitian Perspectives in Film was a great success with a packed house of 120 in attendance.

It was particularly exciting to have with us from Haiti, trainee, filmmaker and journalist, Robenson Sanon. Robenson really appreciated the audience’s interest in Haiti and thoughtful questions. This video contains an excerpt from his statement:

I was delighted that the relevance of the training was so clearly articulated by Robeson and in trainee Steeve Colin’s thank you note that I read at the end of the presentation. As Steeve writes:

[The training] gives people like me the chance to change the narrative about my community … And that is a power that I don’t take for granted … So thank you for the knowledge, thank you for the training, and thank you for trusting me with my community’s story.

Many thanks to JP Forum for hosting the event and to Tracy Bindel and Hero Ashman, from the Institute of Policy Research, for coordinating the evening. Hero wrote this insightful blog on the films and presentation:

JP Forum

 jamaicaplainforum.org

Jamaica Plain Forum Haitian Perspectives in Film

By Hero Ashman

The US premier of Haitian Perspectives In Film took place at this week’s Jamaica Plain Forum. Six short documentaries made by six newly trained Haitian filmmakers were screened to an audience of more than 100 people. The screening was led by a local organization called Community Supported Film, which had run a five week intensive training course in Haiti in 2014 for Haitian storytellers. The aim of the project was to counteract the singular narrative of Haiti as a country permanently damaged by the 2010 earthquake, and to lift up local voices as they share their important stories. What struck me most about the movies was the capacity and creativity evident in the Haitians’ work – both those making the documentaries and those starring in them.

The dominant portrayal of people within disaster or war torn nations, especially those recovering from wars and natural disasters, is that they are in constant need of outside help. While it is important for an international community to offer help and assistance to countries in need, by purporting a narrative of foreigners coming in to help ‘re-build’, ‘re-construct’ and ‘re-develop’ we ignore the work that is already being done by Haitians, in Haiti, for other Haitians.

One documentary, created by Bichara Villason, filmed a group of construction workers re-building houses for people whose homes had been damaged by the quake. The project manager explained the communal process of identifying who to build for, constructing permanent (rather than temporary) houses and taking the steps to ensure people’s homes were protected by law. The title of this piece was “Owned or Occupied.” The ownership the community had over their work was contrasted with the work done by occupying NGOs: arriving from abroad, building temporary shelter and leaving. This type of work is not covered by mainstream media outside of Haiti because it doesn’t fit with the narrative of helplessness that accompanies many post-earthquake news reports.

For me, the documentaries clearly captured the connection between work and identity. This was demonstrated in the documentary “Threading the Needle”, which told the story of a woman who had started a curtain making business in order to provide for her family. Her work not only brought her a livelihood, but also the ability to reach out to other women in her community by teaching them sewing and business skills. The documentary successfully conveyed the feeling spoken by the woman, that hard work was needed and willingly given to get the country back on its feet. The importance of work was established for individual, community and national identity.

The documentaries were successful in expanding many stories we have of the world: the story of disaster relief, the story of community resilience, the story of who gets to tell the story.  They illustrated brilliantly that there is a huge diversity of work that people do. A community organizer, who was interviewed in the documentary “Ghetto Clean, Ghetto Green,” related the work him and his community were doing to improve life for children in his neighborhood with the Haitian system of Kombit. Kombit refers to a system of collective work undertaken to achieve a common goal; it is based on sharing rather than selling. It is clear that the work done by the Haitian filmmakers and the Haitians in the documentaries was not done merely to earn a living. The work they did utilized their energy, created change and brought them a livelihood based on more than having shelter and food, but included shaping and upholding a community identity.

I think it would benefit us all to remember that work within the home, volunteer work in communities, work with purposes other than profit, is not only crucial to our economy but it is constructive of the creative, generous and productive people we are. The documentaries really brought this point home to me.

You can pre-order the DVD of Haitian Perspectives In Film at CSFilm’s website and explore the site for more information on the films.

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Development Issues: Development Aid Flows to Poorest Countries Still Falling

Original article found at: IPS News Agency

ROME, Apr 8 2015 (IPS) – Development aid flows were stable in 2014, after hitting an all-time high in 2013, but aid to the poorest countries continued to fall, according to new figures released on Apr. 8 by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC).

Net official development assistance (ODA) from DAC members totalled 135.2 billion dollars, level with a record 135.1 billion dollars in 2013, though marking a 0.5 percent decline in real terms. Net ODA as a share of gross national income (GNI) was 0.29 percent, also on a par with 2013.

However, bilateral aid – which equates to roughly two-thirds of total ODA – to the least developed countries fell by 16 percent in real terms to 25 billion dollars, according to provisional DAC data.

The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) is made up mainly of European countries plus the European Union as a member in its own right, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.

Five of the DAC’s 28 member countries – Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom – continued to exceed the United Nations target of keeping ODA at 0.7 percent of GNI, while 13 countries reported a rise in net ODA, with the biggest increases in Finland, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland.

On the other hand, 15 DAC members reported lower ODA, with the biggest declines in Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

“ODA remains crucial for the poorest countries and we must reverse the trend of declining aid to the least developed countries. OECD ministers recently committed to provide more development assistance to the countries most in need. Now we must make sure we deliver on that commitment,” said DAC Chair Erik Solheim.

Reacting to the latest DAC figures for Europe, Oxfam said that “the leadership of a handful of countries is masking the failure of the majority of European governments to deliver on their overseas aid promises”, with aid stagnating, leaving millions of poor people at risk

“In times of ballooning challenges for the world’s poorest, it is striking that European overseas aid has stagnated”, said Hilary Jeune, Oxfam’s EU Policy Advisor.

“This picture would be worse if it were not for the leadership of a handful of countries such as the United Kingdom, Sweden, Luxembourg and Denmark, masking the poor performance of the majority. Wealthy countries, such as France and Austria, have failed to uphold their commitments to the world’s most vulnerable people.”

France has cut its aid budget for the fourth year in a row and Spain’s overseas aid spending is at its lowest level since 1989, said Oxfam. Germany and Finland have made some progress but they are still off track on reaching their commitments, while the Netherlands is no longer contributing 0.7 percent of its GNI.

“European governments first promised to deliver 0.7 percent of their national income to support poor countries when Richard Nixon was President of America and the Beatles were topping the charts,” added Jeune.

“In the 45 years since, only a handful of European Union countries have delivered on this promise. Yet with some one billion people still living in poverty and climate change posing huge new development challenges, the need for overseas aid is greater than ever before.”

Oxfam called on the global community to agree ambitious new development goals and a new deal for tackling climate change this year, including at the third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, in July.

“In Addis, EU Finance Ministers should demonstrate genuine leadership by being the first ones to re-commit to providing 0.7 percent of national income as overseas aid and outline how they will deliver on this promise, including setting a clear timetable.”

Oxfam said that they must also “put new money on the table from their budgets and from new sources like financial transaction taxes and the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme to help poor countries cope with the devastating impacts of climate change.”

Edited by Phil Harris

Original article found at: IPS News Agency

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On the Media: Ebola – media ‘overlooked Africa’s role in combating crisis’

Original article found on: The Guardian

By: Sam Jones on April 7, 2015

African Union says media downplayed Africans’ willingness and ability to deal with Ebola and focused instead on part played by international agencies

A Liberian health worker checks the temperature of students to curb the spread of Ebola in Caldwell, outside the capital Monrovia. Photograph: Ahmed Jallanzo/EPA

A Liberian health worker checks the temperature of students to curb the spread of Ebola in Caldwell, outside the capital Monrovia. Photograph: Ahmed Jallanzo/EPA

Africa’s efforts to tackle the Ebola crisis have been largely overlooked even though Africans have taken the lead in providing frontline staff and shown themselves “better placed to fight infectious diseases in their continent than outsiders”, according to the African Union (AU).

Dr Olawale Maiyegun, director of social affairs at the AU commission, said that despite the fact that Africans had proved both willing and able to deal with Ebola, the focus had been on the work of international agencies and those with the greatest media clout.

“Unfortunately, Africans do not have the international voice of CNN, BBC and France 24, therefore much of our work is overlooked in the western media,” he said. “Most of the assistance provided by the international community is in the areas of finance and infrastructure. In the most critical human resources for health, Africans – including the affected countries – have had to take the lead.”

His comments come six months after Nelson Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel, accused African leaders of failing to do enough to address the health crisis. “Ebola has exposed the extreme weaknesses of our institutions as governments; countries which are affected were found totally unprepared,” she told African business leaders in November last year. “It’s time Africa began to give real value to human life, in other words African human lives.”

Others have criticised the AU for waiting 10 months before holding an emergency summit on the outbreak.

However, Maiyegun argued that the AU and the Economic Community of West African States had reacted well to the crisis, with the AU deploying more than 835 African health workers to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea at the peak of the epidemic. “The success of African health workers – including the heroic health workers of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – shows one thing: African health workers are better placed to fight infectious diseases in their continent than outsiders,” he said.

Maiyegun said the AU’s response had been guided by the philosophy that it should not dictate how the the affected countries should run their fight against Ebola. “We put volunteers at the disposal of the governments of the affected countries,” he said. “They told us what to do and we have performed creditably.”

He added: “The people of the affected countries must be given credit for doing a good job. With so many actors in the field, it’s important that it’s not just those with the loudest voices who are credited in the press for bringing Ebola under control.”

Maiyegun said the recent report from the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières‎ (MSF) – which accused the governments of Guinea and Sierra Leone of obstructing the early response and contributing to the loss of life – had shown that everyone involved in managing the crisis needed to reflect on their actions.

“There is no doubt that MSF has played a very important role in the fight against the epidemic and they should be well acknowledged,” he said. “However, MSF also needs to have a comprehensive assessment of its involvement, particularly in its approach and its methods in the fight against Ebola.”

In January and February, lab workers in two Guinean medical centres – one of them run by MSF – put blood samples in the wrong test tubes. The mix-ups led to the release of at least four patients who later tested positive for Ebola, two of whom went on to die. Rather than “pointing accusing fingers at others”, said Maiyegun, the charity should be conducting an internal review.

MSF said it had taken the incident very seriously and worked with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Guinean ministry of health to make sure the situation was contained and lessons learned. “We are relieved that no one else contracted Ebola as a result of coming into contact with a patient who wrongly tested negative and have taken steps to make sure such an incident does not happen again,” said a spokeswoman.

She described the report as an “initial reflection on the past year”, adding: “With our teams still heavily involved in tackling the ongoing outbreak it is difficult to draw definitive conclusions; we do not yet have the necessary distance for a thorough critical review. More in-depth assessments – including of MSF’s own work – will certainly follow.”

Maiyegun counselled against premature talk of an end to the Ebola crisis, describing the race to halt new infections as a “bumpy road”. He said the hundreds of potential new cases discovered following Sierra Leone’s three-day lockdown last weekend underlined the need for continued vigilance.

Maiyegun declined to put a date on an end to the crisis – which has killed more than 10,300 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – pointing out that unpredictability was one of the hallmarks of previous Ebola outbreaks in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“One thing is certain,” he said. “We cannot completely declare one of the three affected countries free of Ebola if the outbreak persists in two other countries.”

According to the latest figures from the WHO, 79 new confirmed cases of Ebola were reported in the week to 22 March – the lowest weekly total in 2015. Guinea reported 45 new cases and Sierra Leone 33. Liberia, which had seen no new cases for three consecutive weeks, confirmed a new one on 20 March.

Original article found on: The Guardian

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Haiti: Five years after earthquake, Haiti’s journalists show resilience amid threats to freedom of the press

Original article found on: Journalism in the Americas 

By Shearon Roberts
01/27/2015

 Ayiti Kale Je news team, with the assistant director in 2013.

Ayiti Kale Je news team, with the assistant director in 2013.

Five years after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, the country’s journalists face threats, harassment, and silencing by government supporters and, on occasion, the president himself. While journalism had an urgent and imperative role in the aftermath of the earthquake, Haitian journalists have maintained a steady criticism of reconstruction efforts and, as a result, have been vilified by authorities.

Haiti’s media landscape had been divided before the earthquake along political lines. The disaster brought media factions together as news organizations faced limited resources, ongoing political-socio-economic crises and a strong adversary in the government of President Michel Martelly.

“The Haitian state does not want freedom of the press that is not in their interest,” said Liliane Pierre-Paul, president of the Association National de Médias Haïtiens (ANMH), Haiti’s largest media organization. “They do no wish to respect transparency. They do no want to have awareness among the population, and they do not approve of our reporting that denounces their behavior in government.”

Pierre-Paul participated in a series of research interviews I have conducted with Haitian journalists since 2013 to highlight how Haiti’s media workers have covered the country’s reconstruction.

As the 2015 anniversary of the earthquake approached, Haitian journalists clarified in follow-up interviews that celebrating reconstruction milestones was news of interest to external news agencies, mainly in the United States and for non-profit organizations operating in Haiti.

Haitians remained concerned with events on the ground, specifically, the political impasse between President Martelly and opposition within the Haitian Senate. The political crisis had less to do with what Martelly’s government had or had not achieved with regards to reconstruction after the earthquake.

Haitian news of the November to December 2014 protests, and January 2015 political crisis, had more to do with the government’s apparent failure to allow Haitians to participate in the democratic process, as Martelly’s administration had failed to organize local elections.

Martelly’s administration had sought to establish legitimacy with the Haitian people by touting reconstruction projects. Yet the president’s government remained fledgling – one that Martelly had assembled in a disruptive earthquake year, with low voter turnout in a disputed election that was decided by external, international observers.

“The word reconstruction is a very interesting word,” said Marcus Garcia, president of the Association des Médias Indépendants d’Haïti (AMIH). “The Haitian people do not think of a reconstruction. No one has asked them their opinion and that is the first question.”

Garcia’s AMIH, which was founded in opposition to the ANMH, joined forces with Pierre-Paul after the 2010 earthquake. Solidarity among Haitian news organizations after the earthquake reinforced the mission of Haitian journalism to advocate on behalf of the Haitian people who, as Haiti’s journalists argue, have been left off the bargaining table in a reconstruction directed by international players, such as the U.S.-led United Nations reconstruction effort in Haiti.

It is why the recent political upheavals have dominated Haitian headlines and more importantly Haitian airwaves, the primary source of news and political mobilization in a country with low French literacy and a strong tradition of Haitian Creole radio broadcasting advocacy journalism.

The re-unification of the ANMH and AMIH since the 2010 earthquake has been further bolstered by an alliance forged with Haiti’s leading alternative and community news media networks. Together, they , signed in 2011.

However, as Kathie Klarreich, a Knight International Journalism Fellow, found in her work with Haitian journalists, the implementation of such ethical standards is often a challenge in Haiti.

In interviews, Haitian journalists said that the economic constraints of rebuilding their homes and accumulating possessions after the earthquake remain a very real challenge. They have also mentioned their need to work multiple jobs and pointed out that many times, international donor and non-profit agencies pay triple their wages, presenting clear conflicts of interest.

The owners of news organizations are aware of such challenges, and have sought to provide additional revenue streams for key journalists who cover the Haitian state or report on foreign organizations in an attempt to reduce conflicts of interest and preserve journalistic integrity.

Haitian news organizations now face a strong competitor in non-governmental agencies who would like to hire journalists with talents, said Max Chauvet, the owner of Le Nouvelliste, Haiti’s oldest newspaper and current paper of record.

Chauvet, who preceded Pierre-Paul as head of the ANMH, said the presence of hundreds of radio stations, in addition to the newspaper, now must compete for the same share of reduced advertising revenue to support their enterprise and pay their journalists.

The millions of international aid that flows to non-governmental organizations mean that radio stations receive more advertisements from NGOs and that NGOs, in turn, seek out Haitian journalists as employees, Chauvet said.

Haitian news organizations are outnumbered 10 to 1 by NGOs who seek to communicate their agenda across the airwaves, in print and in broadcast ads that read like news articles.

“They have the means that we don’t have, so it is gonna be a tough fight. We can only influence the government,” Chauvet said.

Taking an aggressive tone on coverage of the Haitian government has resulted in a range of retaliation. Haitian journalists indicated they experienced obstruction to information, reports, and interviews. They have been barred from access to press conferences or officials if they report news that has been critical of the Martelly administration or painted the government in a negative light.

Journalists faced a common tactic, where official sources would take weeks or months to even return a call or request for information. Within the same time frame, a foreign journalist would receive an interview with the same Haitian official that a Haitian journalist had requested an interview with weeks before.

Because such barriers to reporting supported facts, the early work of Ayiti Kale Je or Haiti’s Grassroots Watch allowed vital investigative reporting to filter through mainstream media in Haiti.

Ayiti Kale Je emerged as a consortium of alternative and community news networks in August 2010, with collaboration from the faculty and students at the Faculté de Sciences Humaines, at the State University of Haiti. Co-founded by Jane Regan who taught at the university, the initiative produced more than 30 multimedia and multi-lingual investigative projects on the reconstruction with the goal of providing mainstream news organizations the material and jumpstart needed to critically cover the reconstruction.

The Ayiti Kale Je project was unique, because it provided fact-based investigative journalism disseminated by the mainstream media. Non-profit donors also offered funding and Ayiti Kale Je journalists were given the financial support to practice investigative journalism without threatening the news organization’s bottom line.

Max Chauvet, the owner of Le Nouvelliste, pointed out that reports by Ayiti Kale Je provided the entry point for Le Nouvelliste’s journalists to conduct follow-up reporting based on these findings. On some occasions, Le Nouvelliste published the Ayiti Kale Je reports in full, and key radio stations aired broadcast versions of the dossier reports. On each occasion, news media owners would be harassed by the government for doing so. Ayiti Kale Je journalists were ignored at media events by government officials and in one instance had their equipment damaged by administration workers and supporters.

The Ayiti Kale Je project has since changed leadership. Regan, who no longer heads the project, said that unfortunately, no new investigative reports had been produced since January 2014. However, the Ayiti Kale Je project had accomplished a key objective within Haiti’s local journalism landscape, which was to provide fact-based reporting on Haiti’s reconstruction at a time when Haiti’s commercial media lacked the human and financial capital to conduct investigative journalism.

While Le Nouvelliste has the largest staff of journalists, Chauvet pointed out, investigative reporting in Haiti requires the collective support of radio stations, the primary news source for the average Haitian. Radio provided the critical mass needed for Ayiti Kale Je reports to be disseminated in full or in part to the general public. And as Chauvet and Pierre-Paul said, when Haitian media owners act as a unit, they are able to protect press liberties from government retaliation and hold the government accountable.

Both the ANMH and AMIH have jointly released statements on behalf of their membership to address state attempts to hike broadcast license fees for media organizations that air critical reports. Haitian media organizations have also condemned alleged threats on popular radio broadcasters who have either been insulted or denounced publicly by President Martelly, or have been the subject of alleged plots and death threats at the hands of Martelly supporters.

Five years after the disaster, debates and interviews that take place on popular weekend news-talk radio programs now end up on the Senate floor. Although investigative reports are no longer being produced by the media consortium, Haitian media’s critical assessment of the state of the country’s recovery has been documented in editorials, commercial radio news, analytical news reports, and essays.

Haitian journalists have stated in interviews that a lack of access to government data does not impede their ability to pose questions to officials in news reports. In some cases, journalists produce news reports that outline to readers in detail the degree of government obstruction encountered in providing answers to the public as the journalist attempted to cover an issue or event.

“My role on the radio is to denounce corruption in government, to denounce the fact that the real reconstruction itself has not begun,” said Jean Monard Metellus, a Haitian veteran journalist and host of Ranmase, the most listened to radio program in Haiti, aired on Saturdays on Radio Caraïbes FM Haïti.

Metellus reported in October 2013 that after a heated broadcast, he discovered that the nuts to the rear tires of his vehicle has been removed, nearly leading to a fatal accident. Other critics of the Martelly administration have found themselves in similar situations earlier in the year. Journalists have speculated that Martelly supporters are behind the spate of vehicle sabotage attacks.

Such attacks have served to intimidate Haiti’s most prominent journalists, currently covering the Haitian state and the earthquake’s aftermath. Journalistic retaliation in the current context is far less violent and overt than it was under the Duvalier dictatorship. However, the current tactics employed by the Haitian state and its supporters have served to dissuade journalists from critical, advocacy, and investigative journalism that could change the current conditions of ordinary Haitians or the existing political status quo.

“We (the media) are not the actors of a plan, it is not us who are the drivers of politics or the economy,” said Gotson Pierre, the executive director of Média Alternatif, one of Haiti’s leading alternative media organizations that comprised a part of the Ayiti Kale Je consortium’s initial work. “I think that our role is to see that the communication of information is not ignored and we have a responsibility to take this on.”

Shearon Roberts, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of Mass Communication at Xavier University of Louisiana. She has covered news in Haiti, the Caribbean and Latin America as a journalist. In 2013 and 2014 she conducted extensive research in Haiti with Haitian journalists and media owners on the impact of the 2010 earthquake disaster on Haitian media and journalism. All interviews were conducted in French and translated for use in this article.

Original article found on: Journalism in the Americas 

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On the Media: ZEKE Magazine – The Magazine of Global Awareness

ZekeGraphic

A great new magazine is launching very soon. ZEKE, published by the Social Documentary Network, will explore the world through photographs, ideas, and words, by leading documentary photographers from across the globe. The first issue will feature the best work from SDN from the previous year. ZEKE will combine photography with essays about the issues explored by the photographers.

The first issue has feature articles on Water/Scarity, Bangladesh Garment Industry, and Rio/Brazil, as well as interviews and other photography and content of interest to people interested in documentary.

Visit the ZEKE website for more information, and if inspired (which I hope you are) consider purchasing a print or digital copy.

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US Premiere of Haitian Perspectives in Film! Screening and discussion – April 7th, Boston

Haitian-made documentary films go beyond the earthquake devastation and relief efforts to provide unseen local perspectives on the capacity of Haitians and the challenges they face

When: Tuesday April 7th, 2015, 7-9pm

Where: Jamaica Plain Forum
First Church, 6 Eliot Street, Jamaica Plain, Boston, MA Directions and Parking Info

aja

In a climate where mainstream American media typically reports international news from an American perspective with a focus on disaster and crisis, can local stories help us to better understand foreign events, diverse cultures and people’s complex realities?

We think they can. The 10 brand new Haitian-made documentary films do just that. We invite you to join us at their Boston premiere to watch and discuss a selection of them! The event will be held at the Jamaica Plain Forum on Tuesday April 7th at 7pm. Admission is free.

The collection of ten remarkable short films, Haitian Perspectives in Film, was produced by Haitian men and women who participated in an intensive 5-week training conducted by CSFilm in 2014.

CSFilm founder and director Michael Sheridan will present a selection of these films and will discuss how stories told by Haitians themselves can augment our understanding of Haiti’s post-earthquake relief efforts and provide a chance for us to experience Haiti as it is lived by Haitian street vendors, business women, artists, and farmers.

Going beyond disaster reporting, these films will ensure the experiences and points of view of Haitians are included in the international conversation about what has and has not happened since the 7.0 earthquake 5 years ago. The films will also be used to increase dialogue and influence public policy internationally and in Haiti regarding effective foreign aid and sustainable development.

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Visit our Facebook event page for more information!

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Afghanistan: Thirty-Two Photos of the New Afghanistan

Original article found on: Global Voices

By: Aaquib Khan on March 3rd, 2015

Indian photo-journalist Aaquib Khan arrived in the rapidly changing Afghan capital Kabul in 2014. He shares some of his pictures and his insights with us in this post. 

Afghanistan is widely seen as a country torn between bullets and religious bullies, a no woman’s land, a pre-modern place where neither young nor old can have hope for a better future. The image in my mind was no different, until I landed in the country’s capital, Kabul last year.

Though much of the Kabul’s imagery conformed to my understanding of the country, there were many other moments that cameras rarely capture. Old and new, traditions and modernity, are locked in a struggle. Afghans, slowly and steadily, seem to be the winners.

Kabul is a place of hope, aspiration, warmth and hospitality, all of which shine through when Afghans saw my blue passport. ”Oh, you are Indian? I love Indian movies!”

Posters of Indian film stars decorate the country’s music shops. There is a mall named after Delhi’s famous Select City Walk. Alumni of Indian universities in the metropolises as well as small Indian towns bump into you on the fringes of crowded market places.

Afghanistan is far from monolithic. Walking beside burqa-clad women are schoolgirls strolling to school. Young women on their way to university, while CDs and DVDs of Bollywood and Hollywood movies can be heard playing in the background, a far cry from the blanket bans on entertainment of the Taliban period. In the land where the Taliban brought down the Buddhist statues of Bamiyan, mannequins in Kabul’s shop windows don extravagant bridal wears.

Then there are the competing mobile service provider advertisements, FM Radio stations, 24-hour TV Channels, numerous talk shows discussing women’s rights. There are hookah bars, where hookah and coffee is served. No women or alcohol, but plenty of young men dancing to loud music.

Vehicles honk past you and leave you in a trail of dust. Afghans complain of increasing pollution in Kabul. Security personnel man the streets, helicopters hover over pedestrians.

Amid the exuberance, there is apprehension: what will happen when the remnants of the US army finally withdraw? But young Afghans believe their country is gathering strength after decades of weakness and division.

They shout a slogan which translates as: “One Afghanistan. No Tajik, No Hazara, No Pashtun”.

Original article found on: Global Voices

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On the Media: Albert Maysles (1926-2015) Pushed Documentary Filmmaking Forward to the Very End

Original article found on: Slate

By: Charles Loxton

Two men who revolutionized documentary filmmaking: Al Maysles and D.A. Pennebaker. Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images

Two men who revolutionized documentary filmmaking: Al Maysles and D.A. Pennebaker. Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images

In the 1960s, siblings Albert and David Maysles helped pioneer the techniques of cinema verité in a form of documentary film that they liked to call “direct cinema.” Adapting new, portable 16mm cameras so that Albert could shoot picture while David recorded sound, the brothers placed themselves in the heart of the action—on location with Orson Welles in Madrid, on the primary campaign trail with JFK, at Idlewild Airport for the Beatles’ first touchdown in the U.S.

Along with contemporaries D.A. Pennebaker, Ricky Leacock, Robert Drew, and Frederick Wiseman, the Maysles brothers liberated documentary from the presentational format of the newsreel and the talking head. They crafted compelling narratives by capturing real-life drama enacted by real people, from Bible salesmen (in 1969’s Salesman) to the Beales (in 1975’s Grey Gardens) to the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll band.

Direct cinema’s influence on nonfiction filmmaking was so extensive that the style is now virtually indistinguishable from the form itself. But it’s worth remembering that the movement would not have been possible without the technical innovations that made motion picture cameras lightweight enough to be handled deftly by, say, a diminutive psychology teacher from Brookline, Mass., which is what Albert Maysles was when he made his first film.

David Maysles died in 1987, but Albert continued shooting and making movies pretty much until yesterday, when he, too, passed away. I worked in production with Albert at Maysles Films for three years at the turn of the millennium, a time when his passion for the possibilities of nonfiction filmmaking was reignited by another technological revolution: that of the digital camera.

Throughout his career, Albert remained a bit of a techie. Always adapting his gear for the field, he once glued a small circular mirror to an elbowed metal rod, which he then secured with electrician’s tape to the bottom of his old Bach Auricon so he could see what was going on behind him while he was rolling.

I took a look and told him that it didn’t work—the image in the mirror was blurry. He grinned broadly as he replied that he had found a reflective lens that matched his eyeglasses prescription. I’m still not sure if he was having me on.

Early in 2000, Albert got his hands on Sony’s PD150, a very lightweight, truly handheld DV camera capable of recording high-quality picture and sound in a digital format. Yes, he beamed like a kid with a new toy, but he also spoke with the conviction of a visionary when he said that such cameras would usher in a new wave of documentary film by granting shooters unprecedented freedom, access, and opportunity.

Albert Maysles with Morgan Spurlock at Sundance. Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Albert Maysles with Morgan Spurlock at Sundance. Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images

It’s difficult to convey how ludicrous this sounded back then, before we all carried phones that take substantially better pictures than Al’s PD150. For every day’s shooting, we incurred tens of thousands of dollars of film stock and processing fees. We did so because video just looked cheesy. How could a movie have an impact if it had all the visual appeal of the local weather report? If you wanted to make an enduring, serious picture, you had to shoot in film, and you had to find a way to finance it. And before just about everybody else, Albert knew all that was about to change.

Within a year, he was in Rome with his PD150 shooting Martin Scorcese and his crew on the set of Gangs of New York, one part of a series commissioned by the Independent Film Channel titled With the Filmmaker.* It was, I believe, one of the very first programs shot in digital video format to be aired on a serious cable channel.
Before citizen journalists, before YouTube, Albert was giddy over the prospect of more cameras in more hands recording more unexpected moments. Albert’s camerawork features in some of American cinema’s most iconic documentaries because he always kept this eye for action. He understood the documentary cinematographer’s art to be primarily that of the storyteller, and he always believed that what he captured was related, not inconsequentially, to the truth.

*Correction, May 7, 2015: This article originally misstated that Albert Maysles was in Rome shooting Wes Anderson on the set of The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. He was shooting Martin Scorcese on the set of Gangs of New York.

Original article found on: Slate

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