Ten years after the earthquake, and despite billions of dollars in assistance, hunger is a growing problem in Haiti. Food insecurity has been made worse by political instability and its root cause, corruption. Up to four million people are now facing severe hunger due to the downturn of an already weak economy and inflation. Hunger undermines nutrition, health, education, and stability, and economic development or, in other words, the future. Humanitarian responders like the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) can provide food to the most vulnerable - but they can't fix the underlying problems. This depends upon the Haitian people having an accountable, effective government that represents the interests of the many instead of the few. An article by Jassica Obert in The New Humanitarian about food insecurity in Haiti follows.
Each year, the U.S. State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor is mandated to release country specific human rights reports that address individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 2010 Human Rights Report for Haiti, attached and copied below, indicates much remains to be done. Protecting human rights is a critical element of governance and one which the new administration must take on as institutions and infrastructure are reformed and reconstructed. Protecting human rights will help Haiti become a country that is more fair and just for the whole population, not just the rich and powerful.
The 2010 Haiti Donors’ Conference concluded yesterday. The last such conference was held almost a year ago under very different circumstances. This was very much an international event with Brazil, Canada, the European Union, France, and Spain actively engaged. Over 130 nations, NGOs, and other organizations participated. Fifty nine pledged 9 billion, of which 5 billion will be for 2010 and 2011 – provided that these pledges actually become contributions which is not always the case. As Phillipe Matieu of Oxfam puts it, “…pledges need to turn into concrete progress on the ground. This cannot be a VIP Pageant of half promises.” Below is a summary of what we know about the way ahead as of April 1st.
"Mesi" to Nicholas Kristof for his article below in defense of the Haitian people. Development "experts" and religious "leaders" alike have put forth their own theories, ranging from fatalism to God's will, to explain Haiti's poverty. Friends of Haiti know that Haitians are a strong, proud people who did not deserve what has happened to them. As Kristof writes, " ...the implication of belated seismic revenge on Haitian children seems defamatory of God." Haitians have made it through natural and man-made disasters before this. While Haiti won't be the same, it will recover - the ultimate rebuttal to those who say it cannot.
The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) has been working with the Haitian Government to reform its sorely outdated criminal laws, more suited to the needs of 19th Century France than Haiti at present. For this reason, Haiti's justice system has not been able to address moden crimes which include trafficking in persons, drug trafficking, and violations of human rights. President Preval has initiated a comprehensive reform process with the participation of civil society, the United Nations, and think tanks such as USIP. This process could help bring about a new chapter in Haitian history where criminal laws protect rights instead of violating them, and serve all the people of Haiti, including the poor and vulnerable.
Below is a press release by the World Bank welcoming the Swiss decision to return six million dollars in assets stolen from the Haitian people by Jean Claude Duvalier. Duvalier still has thirty days to appeal although it is unlikely he would succeed. These funds would be used for humanitarian projects in Haiti. While the sum is not large, it shows that Haiti, and the international system of which it is a part, are willing to go after dictators (and ex-dicators) who enrich themselves by impoverishing their own countries.
Haiti made the USA Today. The article begins by noting Preval's annual sppech before a joint session of parliament where he said the country loses badly needed revenue by allowing contraband in while charging exorbitant fees to businesses that import merchandise legally.
Switzerland has been holding US 6.2 million dollars in accounts that were established by Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. Since his exile in 1986, he has been living quite cozily in France though it has been said his ex-wife, made off with most of the funds.