Two? That's actually right. I hate when someone does that. You're
supposed to say 300. That's not where you get 200,000 dying, in those
spectacular building collapses. You get to 200,000 by people dying in
neighborhoods like this, which is a neighborhood on the hillside. It was
illegal to build there, and as Ian mentioned in the introduction, it
was zoning codes that were not enforced. There were building codes that
were not enforced.
If you walked around there before the earthquake hit, you would have
been shocked walking around them. They were super-steep. You were on
steps the whole time. You could see the buildings crumble before your
eyes, because they were made without enough cement. They were built by
people who didn't have any training. And just on a regular day, they
were crumbling, and it was clear that if there was any kind of stress on
these that they would fail. Most of the people were thinking that it
would fail because of a flood, because there hadn't been an earthquake
in Haiti in a long time, so what people were thinking about was
flooding. And in fact, neighborhoods like that were collapsing in small
amounts under floods, but when the earthquake happened, they just
One of the things that was actually interesting,
when I first went to Haiti after the earthquake, I had seen a lot of
pictures like that. And I was, I guess, as well as you can be, prepared
to see this kind of thing. What I wasn't prepared for was how many
buildings were actually not damaged. And it's clear that without having
US-quality workmanship, you can build buildings that can survive
earthquakes. But those clearly were not.
Another way of showing
what happened was if you look at the earthquake in Chile that happened
just a couple weeks after the Haiti earthquake. This is an
oversimplification, because a lot depends on what's the ground made of,
where is its bedrock, how deep it is, and things like that. But the
Chilean earthquake was about 500 times stronger than the Haiti
earthquake, and Haiti suffered about 230 times more deaths. And the big
difference in that was that Chile, although not a fabulously rich
country, did have enough resources to have some earthquake codes and the
buildings more or less comply with that.
And so a lot of this,
you can look at a scene like this and you can say it was a problem of
building design. But it's also a problem of failure to enforce the law.
thing is this wasn't a surprise. The fact that these areas crumbled was
not a surprise to the people who lived in there. They knew they were
moving their families into very dangerous places, but they had no
choice. And part of the reason why they had no choice, the basic reason
was money, but the reason why they were poor, in part, was a historic
and pretty systematic inability to enforce their own basic rights.
were not able to enforce contract rights. This happened to me all the
time in Haiti. I'd have market-women come up to me and talk about how
they had been slowly building enough money to kind of pull themselves
and their families a little bit out of poverty, and then they would lose
the money because their suppliers or a customer would end up screwing
them and taking the money. They weren't able to access courts,
especially if they were women, but also because they were poor. And so
they couldn't enforce the contracts, so they basically had to sit out
and take that loss and then continue in the cycle of poverty.
thing with employment rights. People aren't able to work their way out
of poverty because employers are allowed to not pay the extremely small
minimum wages. They're able to be fired illegally. They're able to be
taken advantage of in a whole bunch of ways, and they don't have any
Especially for women, child support and
alimony is almost completely unenforceable. A middle-class or wealthy
woman would have the resources to do that. It would be much harder for
her to get to court than a middle-class or wealthy man, but she could do
it. But a poor woman, which is the majority of Haitian women--the vast
majority--have no ability to get to court to enforce these kinds of
rights. And they and their children are then condemned to the cycle of
poverty. And the right to education. Over half of primary-school-age
kids in Haiti, before the earthquake, were not attending school because
they couldn't afford it.
There's certainly plenty of blame to go
around Haiti for this situation. But I think, also, if we're going to
look honestly at Haiti's problems, we need to look in the mirror a
little bit and see which of our policies have contributed to this
Just a few highlights. In 1804, Haiti became
independent, the second independent country in our hemisphere. The first
independent country in the hemisphere, one of the founding documents,
the Declaration of Independence, said a lot of really good things about
all men being created equal and endowed with basic rights like liberty.
We didn't really mean that completely. We meant the "men" part. We
didn't mean the "all" part. And just like we didn't allow women the
right to vote, we obviously didn't allow the large percentage of our
population that was slaves to participate.
And because of that,
because of our own limitations in how much we were implementing our
espoused principles, we could not accept the fact that Haiti was an
independent, successful country, and so we did our best to keep it from
being independent or successful. We didn't recognize Haiti until 1865.
That's obviously significant. That was done just after we emancipated
our own slaves. So as we got closer to implementing our own ideals, that
allowed us to implement our ideals with respect to Haiti a little bit
More recently, in 2000, we didn't like Haiti's government's
economic policy. And it's kind of interesting because the policies that
we were trying to get Haiti's government to implement are policies that,
in many ways, have been discredited in the last couple years in our own
government, of keeping government small and keeping government out of
regulating business and regulating society. At that time, that was our
orthodoxy, and we were not willing to accept that Haiti was taking a
So we imposed a development-assistance embargo. We
stopped all our own aid to the Haitian government, and we got other
organizations to stop theirs as well, including some of that was
illegal. For instance, we stopped the Inter-American Development Bank
from giving a loan that by the bank's own charter was disbursable. And
the bank's own charter is that politics aren't allowed to interfere with
development work, but we overrode the bank's own charter and said,
"You've got to stop this loan, " which the bank complied with.
were also some of our trade policies. And President Clinton made what I
thought was a very courageous admission in testimony before the Senate
in March of this year, where he mentioned that some of his policies were
more helpful to Arkansas farmers than they were to Haitian farmers. One
of the things that he was talking about was forcing Haiti to drop its
rice tariffs, and the tariffs were there to protect Haiti's farmers
against US competition. And obviously, US agriculture is highly
efficient. It's highly mechanized. But it's always highly subsidized, in
ways that the Haitian government never could do. And so, when you've
got this mechanized, efficient, subsidized rice coming in to the Haitian
market, it put farmers out of business. And where did the farmers go
when they got put out of business? To the city, where they had no jobs,
so they had to live where they could, which was up on those hillsides
I think the rights-based approach is important for
a bunch of reasons. And for me, the most important is it transforms
that picture that Ian was talking about, of the hurt family in front of
the destroyed house, because there's a couple of ways we can react to
that. One of them is that this is a bad thing that happened. And I think
that that is probably the easiest way to do it, and probably the most
Just an example. How many people have read something about
Haiti in the last week? OK, actually a lot. You guys are ruining all my
lines. In the last call, no one said that. Two people said in the last
week, and I think three people had said in the last month, and then
everybody said they had read stuff in January, February, March, and
Except for this room, the attention on Haiti seems to be
dying. And I think it's because people, they have donor fatigue,
news-consumer fatigue, all sorts of fatigue. And part of that is you
keep reading about very bad things happening. And you feel powerless,
you feel the situation can't change, so you keep your sympathy with the
Haitian people but you put your attention elsewhere. And I think that
the rights-based approach is a very powerful way of transforming that
kind of dynamic of Haiti being a place where bad things happen to a
place where good things can happen.
The first people that can be
transformed are poor Haitians themselves. It's very different perceiving
yourself and being perceived as a victim of these bad things happening,
of impersonal forces, versus someone whose rights have been violated.
And if you've got a right that's been violated, that gives you something
to do: you can go try to get that right enforced. And it becomes
extremely empowering. We see this all the time. I'll give you some
examples later in the talk.
It's also empowering for the
duty-bearers. That's Haiti's president, PrÃ©val. And Haiti's government
is obviously the number-one duty-bearer with respect to the people in
Haiti, but the international community is as well. And I think that
President Clinton was courageously assuming the duty when he talked
about the problems with some of the US trade policies, although he did
assume that when he was no longer able to do anything about it.
then the third are UN troops. For the last seven years in Haiti, six
years, there's been a UN peacekeeping force. And in many ways, the
United Nations, and also a lot of nonprofit groups, are doing some of
the work that a government ordinarily does, and that does impose on them
some responsibility towards the people that they're there to protect.
perhaps the most powerful transformation by the rights-based approach
is to us. The first us is as consumers of media. It's very different, if
we look at things that are coming across, by the Internet or by the
newspaper, if we look at it as "These are bad things" versus "These are
rights that we can do something about."
It affects us as citizens.
The United States has an enormous amount of influence on what goes on
in Haiti. We provide a large percentage of Haiti's budget. We're very
frequently sending soldiers down to Haiti. We're Haiti's second-largest
trading partner. We're the largest destination for Haitian refugees, and
the largest Haitian diaspora group is in the United States. And all
that gives us quite a bit of power as citizens, and if we can get our
government to have a much more constructive policy towards Haiti, things
will improve in Haiti.
We can also engage in Haiti, using the
rights-based approach, based on our skills. That's a picture of a couple
US lawyers who were down there working on Haiti. Almost everybody knows
someone who went down to Haiti, as a nurse, as a doctor, as an
engineer. It was actually pretty impressive, in the months that
followed, how generous Americans were with their time and their skills.
And there's just a huge amount of skills that can be put to use for
Haiti, both in Haiti but also in the United States, and there's lots of
work that we can do from the comfort of our homes that will support
rights in Haiti.
And finally, we can take a rights-based approach
to our generosity. Over half of American families gave money to Haiti,
which was an incredibly generous outpouring of money, but the effect of
that has not really been realized. I'll just give you one example. We
put out a report, three weeks ago, based on a survey in the camps, a
survey we did in July. Among the questions they asked was they asked the
families, in the last week, had you gone without food? And 70 percent
of families said that someone in their family had gone a full day
without food in the last week. 50 percent of the families with kids had
said a kid had gone a whole day without food in the last week. And
that's an obviously distressing discrepancy between the great generosity
of Americans and others and the continuing violations of pretty serious
rights in Haiti.
We can take a rights-based approach to our
generosity. And I think that, obviously, we need to respond to what our
heart is telling us, but we can also get our head involved and, if we're
writing a check, take a look at what the organization does. There's all
sorts of ways of evaluating effectiveness, and I urge you to think of
one of those ways is whether or not they do take a rights-based approach
and they do lead towards the long term empowerment of the Haitian
people and the long term respect for rights.
Ian talked a little
bit about the Raboteau case. And this was pre-earthquake, so it's a
little bit off-topic, but I think it shows some of the opportunities for
justice as a transformative force in Haitian society, and also some of
Raboteau is a poor area. It's basically on a
salt flat in the city of GonaÃ¯ves, which is a poor city. And it's a
place where people had nothing to lose. There's been a bunch of
dictatorships in Haiti. One of them was from 1991 to 1994. And towards
the end of that, Raboteau was the last place that was still resisting
the dictatorship, and it was because people there really had nothing to
And on April 22nd of 1994, the army and its paramilitary
allies decided that they wanted to finish with Raboteau as being the
last bastion of resistance. So they came in before dawn and started
busting doors in and harassing people, and their plan was to get the
young men who were the backbone of the resistance to flee, and then
they'd shoot them when they were fleeing, which is what happened. A
bunch of people got killed. In fact, nobody knows exactly how many
because a lot were buried in shallow graves. A lot were swept out to
sea, because they ran towards the sea, and some were killed in the
water. It wasn't thousands. My guess is it was probably somewhere
between 18 and 30, probably closer to 18.
But the victims, they
very courageously started fighting for justice, literally the day after
the massacre. They got a local justice of the peace to come in to tell
their stories, which was almost foolhardy by the justice of the peace
and the victims because then there was an official record, and if the
army had wanted to, they could've just grabbed that and gone back and
finished the job. They didn't, though. When democracy was restored about
six months after the massacre, the victims of Raboteau did whatever
they could to advance their cause for justice. They wrote songs. They
did demonstrations. They did press conferences. They'd sit outside
judges' houses and justice officials' houses, until they really got
their case to trial.
It took six years, and it wasn't until 2000
that there was a trial, but it was actually a great trial. One of the
things that was exciting to me and shows the transformative power of
justice efforts in Haiti is that the trial that happened in 2000 was
beyond our wildest dreams in 1996, when my office started working on it.
At the time, we thought we could get the trial done in six months,
which was delusional. But the trial that we thought we could get in six
months was nowhere near, wasn't a 10th as good, as the trial that
eventually happened in 2000. So, in some sense, those four years of
banging our head against the walls actually did pay off with a very good
Amnesty International, the UN, any human-rights group that
observed it said it was fair to victims and defendants alike, which was
a great achievement for Haiti's justice system. Certainly, everybody's
aware of stories of dysfunction in Haiti. The justice system is probably
about the worst, the most dysfunctional part of the Haitian government.
But through some pressure and through some specialized programs, it
actually was made to work. And it completely re-calibrated everybody's
expectations. Now people in the justice system knew they could do a
high-quality proceeding, and more important, citizens knew what they
could expect from the justice system.
One of the highlights, for
me, of the trial was we used to, people we were working with on other
cases, take them down to watch a couple days of the trial. And there was
this one guy, Jean-Louis, he was a victim of another massacre, and he'd
always say, "Brian, I want justice. I want justice." And I'd say,
"Yeah, we're working. Jean-Louis, we're going to get you justice." And
then, on the way back from watching the Raboteau trial, he said, "Brian,
I want justice." I said, "Yeah, yeah, I know." He said, "No, no, I
really want justice. And I want..." And he listed all the things we had
in the trial: forensic anthropological evidence, the documentary, all
these things that had never been introduced, that had not been used much
in the Haitian justice. All of a sudden he had a clear idea of what
high-quality justice meant, and that's something that you're never going
to erase that from people's minds.
We ended up convicting 17.
There were 22 defendants on trial. We convicted 17. And we also
convicted, mostly in absentia, all the members of the high command. This
was a guy named Carl DorÃ©lien, who was in Miami. Most of the high
command had gone to Miami. Some of them had gone to Central America. But
we kept after, and working with the Department of Homeland Security, we
ended up getting three of the high-command people deported back to
Haiti to face charges, including one, a major general, who's still the
highest-ranked officer ever deported from the United States on
human-rights grounds. And it's quite an achievement for a justice system
like Haiti's to be able to achieve that.
Another good thing that
happened out of the case was, this is Jean SÃ©nat Fleury. He was the
investigating judge on the case. And people like him, the case was a
mechanism for them to increase their ability to do their jobs. He got
some special training. When we started the case, he wasn't around. He
was a low-level judge. We were trying to get good judges, we couldn't
find them, and they were basically manufactured while we were working on
So he had gotten some special training in France. He
had gotten some more experience in the Haitian justice system. And then
he got appointed to our case, and he got some additional help from the
United Nations and some other sources to be able to do this case well,
and all of a sudden he was a very accomplished judge. His role was to
write something called an ordinance, which is analogous to a US
indictment, and it's still the best document ever produced by the
Haitian justice system.
The bad news of the Raboteau case is that
the case happened in 2000. In 2004, there was a coup d'Ã©tat, which was
engineered in large part by our tax dollars. Our president didn't like
Haiti's president, and so Haiti's president was put on one of the planes
that was used for the torture-rendition program. They just detoured it
to Guantanamo Bay, took off from Guantanamo Bay, went to Haiti. The
president was forced on it. The plane landed in a couple other places.
It was an unmarked plane and had filed a false flight plan and ended up
in the Central African Republic with Haiti's president.
followed was the jails were emptied out, including everybody he had ever
put in jail. Jean was forced off the bench. The prosecutor in the case
had his house burnt down and his law office destroyed. The chief judge
in the case was beat up. One of our clients, who was one of the
witnesses, he was brought into the police station and a gun was put to
his head and he was killed. Three other of our clients had their houses
burnt down with everything they owned in them.
And so it was a
great loss, certainly, to me, but thousands of times more for the people
who were the victims of this and who had fought so hard for justice.
But they kept fighting. Democracy came back to Haiti in 2006, and they
went right back to fighting it. Some people, like Jean, just decided he
had enough. And he now lives in Boston, which I think is sad. It's a sad
brain drain on Haiti. But that's Marie-Jeanne, and she kept fighting.
of the things that we did was we teamed up with the Center for Justice
and Accountability, which is an organization in San Francisco that goes
after human-rights abusers that have found refuge in the United States
and files civil suits against them. We actually filed civil suits
against Carl DorÃ©lien because, when he was in hiding in Florida, he won
the Florida lottery. He won, I forgot how much. I think it was $6
million. That's what I said. When that happened, I said, "There's no
justice in the world." It happened in maybe 1997, three years before we
did the trial. But we ended up working with CJA. We ended up attaching
his lottery ticket.
And Marie-Jeanne is smiling because that's on a
bench outside of the federal courthouse in Miami, and Marie-Jeanne, to
her, going to Port-au-Prince was a huge deal. She was a very local
person, didn't speak a word of French, never mind English, had never
been to much besides poor areas of Port-au-Prince and the poor areas of
GonaÃ¯ves, where she lived. But she very courageously made the trip to
Miami, testified in a federal courtroom, which must have been incredibly
intimidating, but she managed to get the testimony done. And we ended
up getting a large verdict against Colonel DorÃ©lien.
for the Raboteau victims was $430,000. To me, one of the inspiring parts
of it is, because of the legal technicalities, Marie-Jeanne had the
right to every penny of that $430,000. She split it 100 ways. So she got
1-100th of it, so she got $4,000, when she could have had 430, and that
kind of shows the solidarity and how Haitians conceptualize their fight
for justice as a collective one. And then that's my colleague, Mario
Joseph. He took the check, Marie-Jeanne signed the check over to Mario,
and then he ended up writing checks out to all the other 99 victims.
kind of lost Jean. He's in Boston now. That's FrÃ©not Cajuste, the guy
who had his law office burnt down and he was kicked out of being a
prosecutor. When democracy came back in, he got back into the public
service, and at that time he was the chief judge of a new courthouse
they had just opened. He's now with the appeals court, so he's
continuing to use the skills he developed in the Raboteau case for other
I'd like to tell a little bit the story of Eramithe Delva.
She's emblematic of some of the same fights for justice, and both the
ups and downs of it. I first came into contact with Eramithe probably
around 1996 or '97. During the dictatorship that went from '91 to '94,
when the Raboteau massacre happened, another thing happened was
large-scale political rapes, and Eramithe was a victim of one of those.
She got together with a bunch of other women who had been similarly
attacked, and they created kind of an underground organization to try to
get people some medical attention and to provide some group moral
support and informal therapy so people could try to survive with what
had been inflicted upon them.
When democracy was restored in 1994,
just like the Raboteau victims were fighting for justice, she was
going, she and, and other groups were trying to fight for justice for
these political rapes. And, and that was actually groundbreaking work.
At that time, the international tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda had
not prosecuted those cases. No one had been prosecuted for, for large
scale, political raves. And, so they're really kind of at the cutting
Their case actually ended up running out of time. when the
2004 coup happened, the, we'd prepared the case. We hadn't yet filed it,
and it was no longer possible after that. But the, the, the 2004 coup
unleashed another series of, of violence, including, including rapes.
Indium, Aramit saw this happening, so she, they organized even tighter
to, and they created an organization called Kofaviv, which opened up a
clinic, provided some, they got some volunteers, psychological
assistance. And they were able to provide some, some counseling to
people and did whatever the could to try to, try to help these women.
democracy was restored again in 2006, they said, OK, we're gonna keep,
keep organizing and they kept building their organization. When the
earthquake happened, they immediately because they'd been such good
organizers. And women were collecting in these camps, especially poor
women. They immediately started organizing.
And a series of, it's a
little bit complicated, the causality of this, but it's generally the
social breakdown that accompanied the earthquake led to a epidemic of
sexual assaults in the camps. And Kofaviv very courageously fought
against this. The police didn't effectively respond for a bunch of
reasons, including that a lot of the police capacity was knocked out by
the earthquake. But also because of some systematic problems of the law
enforcement and justice system never being particularly responsive to
So Aramit was organizing along the camps, and they went
from sort of very local, trying to get a few women together, to broader
meetings of getting coalitions of organizations together to create a
collective response. They did some self-defense. We got them a bunch of
whistles that they distributed to their members with some training. And
they used it as an individual self-defense tool where women could blow
the whistle to do an alarm. It was also a tool for organizing, because
then you'd create signals. You'd get women together and say OK. Here's
the signal if this is, if I'm in trouble to distinguish it from my kid
steals the whistle.
And that ended up becoming a very effective
way. It both showed, it gave the women's groups credit because they were
able to provide something to their potential members. But it was also
an effective organizing tool. We're also able to get, that is Malia, one
of Aramit's colleagues. And she's actually in Geneva. And Malia had
never been out of Haiti, and here she is in the United Nations building
in Geneva testifying before the U.N. Human Rights Council. This was in
June of this year.
And they've taken to the streets. They're
demonstrating. That banner says, it's Kofaviv. It's the women's
commission. The commission of women victims for victims. And what it
says below, it says, we say that we're tired with the rapes on children
and women in the camps. And they've been very effective on just doing
demonstrations on anybody they think needs to get that message. And it's
led to concrete improvements. There's been lights. A little bit better
patrols by both the United Nations and the Haitian police. And actually
just in the last month, we've had eight arrests. And from January
twelfth until the beginning of September, we weren't aware of any
arrests. Anybody that was still in jail for any of these rapes. And just
in the last month, there's been eight. And, you know, that's a drop in
the bucket. But a drop is better than nothing in a bucket, and hopefully
it will lead to a trickle, which will lead to more.
And the other
thing is, even eight is actually, eight arrests helps as deterrents,
because one of the things we're looking to do is to, is when we get at
least a couple drops in the bucket, then we go and publicize that. And
it gets on the radio that the police are making these kinds of arrests.
Which even though there are not enough arrests, the fact that there's a
perception that the arrests are happening will be a deterrent.
story I'd like to tell is of the Barbaran Corps, Barbaran Corps II. And
is the name Barbaran Corps familiar to anybody? OK, rum drinkers. A
great Haitian rum. And so it's got a very positive association, and
unfortunately the Barbaran Corps I and II is somewhat tainting that.
Those are two displaced persons camps near the Barbaran Corps facility.
And there' s no connection between the rum makers and these camps. But
they're pretty grim.
Right behind that kid, is, that's a pool of
water that's, when it hasn't rained in a while, it's a foot deep and
takes up a big part of the camp. And tenants are forced, people are
forced to put their shelters right up against that water. And that
water's got, you know, it's got obviously mosquito larvae. It's got
feces because the sewers run, when the rain comes in, things get washed
from the latrines into that. And it's pretty horrible. And the people
are living in incredibly camped, cramped quarters.
And you know,
as there, we didn't do a survey in terms of how many people in that
particular camp aren't eating, but it's probably actually worse than the
average of half the families having have their kids go at least one day
a week without food. And so, conditions are pretty grim there. And you
think, if you get there you think, well, nothing could be worse than
living in a camp like this. Except there is. You can get kicked out of
the camp. And that is happening to thousands of camps.
both private landowners and public landowners are saying, we need our
land for other purposes. And they're forcing people out. And our legal
position is that, that is illegal. You cannot kick people out if there's
nowhere else to go. You know, we don't like to demonize the landowners,
because it's really the government's responsibility to create safe tent
cities for safe places and safe transitional housing. But in the
meantime, landowners can't just kick people out. They can't send in the
bulldozers and kick people out.
The Barbaran Corps camp, this
bulldozer is not at the Barbaran Corps camp. The landowner tried to kick
them out in June. They came with a bunch of police officers who say,
you've gotta move out in the next two weeks. And in those two weeks, we
got them some legal help. We sent them some lawyers to, to tell the
police they weren't allowed to do that. To tell the landowners they
could not do that legally.
And we also helped organize people in
the camps. They would physically confront the police and the bulldozers
in an organized and non-violent way. And as a result, that has worked.
And we're still in negotiations among with the landowners. And they've
tried to accommodate, some of what the camp residents are trying to
accommodate, help the landowner out, you know. Move their tents to
places that don't interfere with his use of it.
But what they're
mostly saying is, look. You've got a problem. We've got a problem. We
need to get together and put pressure on the government to make sure we
have good transitional housing. We've got our levers to pull, which is
going out in the street and demonstrating. You know, you're a landowner.
You've got some money. You've got other levers to pull, and you should
pull them. And so they've been take, going out into the street.
been going, this demonstration was targeting the prime minister and
trying to make him personally responsible for the, they're asking them
to intervene for a ban or a moratorium on evictions. And one of the kind
of neat things, this is a banner at a protest against evictions, and
some of them are kind of typical of traditional demonstrations of this
site. And if you look at this, [foreign] is kind of down with the second
hand state. So it's a, you know, a pretty criticism of the government,
and is the type of thing that demonstrations in Haiti have always been
But something that's interesting is that, the middle red
thing is, we've got the right for decent housing under article 22 of the
constitution of 1987. And it's really neat to see the victims being
able to articulate their grievances in those terms. And it puts, it
activates the whole transformative power of rights. First, they're
standing up for a right, which gives them a little bit more persistence
and courage in their efforts. And then it also puts more pressure on the
government, because then they're put on notice that they're violating
the rights if they go through with the evictions.
There's been, as
he'd mentioned, there's been some problems with the earthquake
response. And a lot of those problems can be traced back to violations
of rights in legal problems. And a lot of times, in one of things we
struggle against is the perception that the type of stuff that lawyers
do is secondary. That first, you need to feed people, give them decent
housing, give them basic healthcare. And then you can do things like try
to get the justice system working. And it doesn't work out that way.
of the problems and one of the reasons why you have 1.3 million people
living in these camps is that it is, in fact, a little bit difficult for
both the government and non-governmental actors to find safe housing.
Back, it was probably in March, so just about six weeks or so after the
earthquake, I got a call from Habitat for Humanity. And they said,
"We've got a proven system. We want to build transitional housing in
Haiti. We know how to build the houses. We know how to get things down.
We can do all this. But we don't know that if we build someone a house,
if they're going to be able to own it. We need a way to be sure that if
we put a house on a property that the land underneath it won't be taken
away." And my answer was, "You don't."
There's no way you can be
sure, except in a few situations, that someone else is not going to be
able to steal that land out from under the person. Land titles in Haiti,
most land doesn't even have a formal title to it. And lands that do
have formal titles, often they have conflicting titles, and so there's
no way of saying who really owns the property, or both people have equal
legal footing for saying that they own the property. And that just
creates a huge mess when you're trying to do large-scale transitional
housing or large-scale urban renewal.
Other things is the fact
that the assistance is uneven and inadequate. And I think that if there
had been a rights-based approach to that, you wouldn't have the problem
of large groups of people who are being completely missed by the
Another part where I think a rights-based
approach might help is in the consultation and the coordination of aid.
Every report that has come out about Haiti since the earthquake has said
that the coordination is horrible and that there's lots of things that
could be done much better if things were better coordinated. It was a
call to action in March, but when you start getting into September and
the same things have happened, it's becoming more than inexcusable.
I think, again, a rights-based approach, when you start, what people
are doing is they're looking at institutional objectives, or "This is
the way we've already done it, " and they're looking at kind of the
traditional ways of acting. And that's causing rights violations. And I
think that the rights-based approach is a way for those actors to say,
"OK, we're not here to distribute a certain amount of blue tarps. We're
here to make sure people have their right to housing, and how are we
going to change our work to do that? And that's going to involve
consulting more with Haitians so the distribution is better. It'll
involve consulting with other people who are distributing blue tarps so
we make sure that we cover everything."
And the last one is there
are promises that are made, not kept. The 55 percent of American
families who gave the money, that money has been given, but the vast
majority of the large money, which is government money that's been
promised, has not come. That's always been a problem in Haiti, but it's
particularly bad now with the earthquake. People were particularly
generous in promises. And it seems to be the consensus among people
better educated on this than me, but when there was a donors' conference
in March, the amounts promised, depending on how you count, it's
somewhere between $9 billion and $12 billion. And there seemed to be a
general consensus that that was actually a lot of money and that
probably could pretty much fix the problems of Haiti.
been clear that that money's not coming. I think it's less than a
quarter of the money that was promised in the first year has arrived.
Pretty much, it seems pretty clear that that $9 billion is not going to
come anywhere close to arriving.
Another area that I think is
important from a rights-based approach is the issue of elections.
Haiti's got elections scheduled for November 28th of this year. They're
pretty big elections. It's one-third of the Senate, the entire House of
Deputies, which is like our House of Representatives, and the president.
So a lot is at stake. The senators are going to be in office for six
years, the deputies for four and the president for five. So whoever wins
the elections on November of this year is going to have a pretty
lasting impact on Haiti.
The people who are going to win the
elections are probably not going to be the people who would win a fair
election because the government has done a pretty good job of excluding
most of the competition from those elections. From the legislative part,
14 parties were excluded. Some of those might have been excluded for
good reason, but we don't know because the electoral council never gave a
comprehensive explanation. I know some of those, because I've looked
into some of the exclusions, and informally they gave reasons, and that
those reasons were not at all justified under Haitian law.
they're keeping 14 parties, including Fanmi Lavalas, which is the party
that's won ever election in Haiti that it's ever contested. And the
presidentials, 15 presidential candidates were excluded. Most of the
parties that had been excluded from the legislative didn't even bother
to present candidates at the presidential election, but even among those
who did, almost half were excluded. Some of them, again, were probably
excluded for good reasons. A lot of people heard about Wyclef Jean. And I
think that based on public information, again, there's been no
explanation so I can't say for sure, but it looks to me like Wyclef was
appropriately excluded, because there is a five-year residency
requirement and it seems pretty clear to me that he's been living in New
Jersey, not Haiti, for the last five years. But there are other people
who have much closer cases, and it's pretty clear that their exclusions
were not justified by legal considerations, only by political ones.
so we're really concerned that these elections are going to be not
supported by the Haitian people. The same electoral council, back in
2009, or an almost-same electoral council--most of the members were
there--ran elections and again excluded some parties, and 95 percent of
Haitian voters did not show up. And we're expecting a similar thing,
probably not a 95-percent boycott, but at least 70 to 80 and perhaps
more percent of Haitian voters are going to stay home.
government that comes in, and they're going to be in power for a long
time, and they're also going to have to ask their citizens to make a lot
of sacrifices. They're going to have to ask people living in camps to
move to other camps. They're going to have to make decisions about
whether you spend the money they do have in the cities, where the
earthquake happened, or in the countryside, to keep people from having
to move into the cities where they're vulnerable. They're going to have
to make very difficult decisions among whether you're spending money for
houses, for schools, for agriculture.
And all these are very
difficult decisions, and the only way you can make them effectively and
the only way you can get the cooperation of the people is to either have
the popular trust or to use a lot of force. And it seems pretty clear
to me, and to most of the people we're in contact with in Haiti, that
it's extremely unlikely that the government coming out of these
elections is going to have any popular trust, which leaves the
alternative of using a lot of force to get the people to make the
sacrifices that are needed. I'm extremely worried that Haiti, for the
next five years, is going to enter into a cycle of civil unrest, where
you're going to have some disruptions. You're going to have the
government required to apply force to implement its policies, which will
lead to some retaliation by people, which will lead to greater force,
and which could spiral out of control, and certainly make it very
difficult to do anything in Haiti, especially rebuild after the
The elections concern us because we're paying for
them. The electoral council, they estimate it's about $29 million for
these elections and that two-thirds of that is coming from abroad, a big
percentage of that from either the US or US payments through the UN and
the Organization of American States to the elections.
And so, if
we said the US has enough financial power on that, if we said, "No
elections unless you let all the parties in, " the parties would get in.
We have so far chosen not to do so. I think our government believes
that the current government is doing a good job at a lot of things,
especially financial accountability, and that they're good partners with
the US, which I think are important considerations, but I think they're
not as important as listening to what the Haitian people want. And so I
think that we've got a shortsighted policy that we think might be
helpful in the short term, but I'm pretty confident it's going to be
extremely harmful to Haiti, and to the US, in the long term.
one of the things, as an American, there's obviously the moral issues
of whether we should do things, of building Haitian democracy and making
life more dignified for Haitians. But there's also the selfish
financial interests, and the U.S. spends a lot of money sending troops
to Haiti at least every decade. We pay a lot of money dealing with the
refugee flows that are generated by political instability and by
A good percentage of the drugs coming into
the U.S., and I think it's generally around 10 to 15% of the cocaine, at
least the cocaine that comes up on the Atlantic side, passes through
Haiti. The reason why it passes through Haiti is that you've got an
unstable government that's never been able to even build roads to remote
areas, never mind get police there. As a result, it's very easy for
people to bring drugs in.
Let me talk a little bit about what we
can do in our different roles. The first thing that I recommend for
people is to stay informed. This is preaching to the converted, which is
unusual for me, so it's good to see a lot of people here know that you
have to stay informed.
Sometimes you have to look out a little
bit. Obviously, the Haiti stories in major newspapers have gone down. I
think that's a pretty inevitable part of the news cycle, but there are
lots of places where you can get news on Haiti.
I'll give a plug for our website, haitijustice.org,
where we intentionally put stuff up for people who don't have a
gazillion hours to keep in touch with everything on Haiti on the
Internet, but have time once a week or so to look at what the big
The second thing to do after staying informed is
to stay engaged. There are lots of ways to do it. One way that we've
built to channel people who want to help in with the limited time, it's
called the Half-Hour for Haiti program.
Now it's about once a
month we put out an action alert that's educational, it's concrete, and
it's a way of advancing human rights in Haiti. The latest one -- we put
one out a couple weeks ago -- it was on the elections.
Maxine Waters had circulated a letter to her colleagues in the House of
Representatives. It was a letter to Secretary Clinton saying that we
shouldn't support elections that are unfair and are going to cause
bigger problems in Haiti.
We asked people to call their
representatives to ask them to sign, and we'll take credit for all of
them who did, although it's pretty disingenuous. We ended up having 44
members of Congress sign on. It's obviously well short of a majority,
but it was a lot of people who are influential in Haiti policy and a
pretty big deal with a Congress with a lot else going on.
way to stay engaged is to volunteer, and there are lots of ways to do
that. Again, it depends on what your passion is and what your skill set
is. Obviously, we use lawyers, but we have people who can do
PowerPoints. We have statisticians, we have public health people, a
pretty wide variety of people who are able to participate in our
The last is financial support. I recommend when people
ask me how you should contribute financially to Haiti -- obviously, our
organization, like any non-profit, needs financial support. But I
encourage people to see what they're passionate about and what they make
a personal connection to.
But when you're doing that, also take a
good look at the website and at other reports about that organization
to see if they do have an approach that is sustainable and leads to the
long-term development of Haiti.
Let me give you a quick example of
how our volunteers have worked. This was right after the earthquake
when we heard that things in the camps were bad despite all this money
going forward. We were trying to figure how do we document this without
having any money to do it.
We gave questionnaires to three of our
Haitian organizations. They went out, and they did 4,500 censuses. Then
we worked with another organization in the U.S. that went out and did a
more intensive survey of 90 families.
So we had all this
information, and then we needed to put it in a report. We're actually
lawyers, not statisticians. We couldn't do that. We put the call out to
our Facebook page, and we got 25 people. We got professors,
statisticians, public health people who said, "Sure, I'm happy to help."
Put out this great report that I don't even know how it got done, but
it was a great report.
Then we presented it at a hearing at the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. We got it to USAID, to
members of the U.S. Congress, to a guy named Paul Farmer, who is on our
board, who got it to the United Nations, and to other people who are
working on Haiti.
Then we wanted a bigger bang, so we teamed up
with a group called the New Media Advocacy Project. They made a video
about conditions in the camp, which they got volunteer film editors and
volunteer camera people to do that. Then we got the video out to
everybody and, of course, put it on the Internet, and it became a big
So that's it. These are just some of the types of things
that we do, and I'm not going to go through that list. We talked a
little bit about all of them. But I'd just like to thank everybody for
coming and for caring about Haiti, and I look forward to the