3 years after Haiti’s devastating earthquake using legal empowerment to build Haiti back better

January 11, 2013

Michele Storms

Hello everyone and thank you so much for coming. We are really pleased to have an opportunity to talk today about a very important topic. It was just three years ago that Haiti was devastated by a very significant earthquake and there was quite a bit of damage to the infrastructure. Many lives were lost. Even worse, many people now still are living in tents and in temporary shelters while the country rebuilds. We are really fortunate today to have two people to share with us about what is happening there and also about may be ways in which you can know more and become engaged.
Nicole Phillips is a lawyer from the Institute for Justice and democracy in Haiti. And she is here on the far right. We are happy that she is here on campus actually doing a number of things today and there is a film that is being showed later that I'm sure she'll tell you how to have the chance to see that. We have the link on our flyer as well. But she has been passionate about human rights for many years and left her practice with a San Francisco Bay Area firm in 2010 two work with the Institute for Justice and democracy in Haiti because of the terrible human rights problems that were arising out of the earthquake. She has done quite a lot of work in human rights. Her practice in her law firm related to labor and employee issues. And has many years of experience and a great deal of passion for this topic.
We are also fortunate to have with us one of our own who is Herve Bijou who got in LLM here just last year at the University of Washington Law school and also that his legal education in Haiti. He is a native of that country. Some of the really amazing things that he did in his life and in his practice was he actually cofounded what is we could liken to a clinical program here in the United States which didn't exist in his law school specifically to represent low income people and very specifically to deal with people who are in prison. So it was dealing with present conditions and situations of those people deal with who have been incarcerated there and really also suffer a number of human rights abuses.
So these are two people who are very committed to human rights. The Institute for Justice and democracy in Haiti, I know they'll tell you more about that, they do quite a lot of amazing work and I just want to mention also one of our graduates Nina Joanna from 2010 worked for a little more than a year with the rape accountability and prevention project which had a tremendous impact on the lives of women and girls. In those tents and shelters there's a lot of sexual violence that takes place, sadly.
So this organization and its lawyers and its volunteers have done so much and so I don't want to take any more time please welcome her speakers.

Herve Bijou

Thank you all for coming. My name is Herve Bijou. In my presentation is about specifically the expectation of the victims after the earthquake in Haiti regarding the health provided by the UN mission in Haiti. And the response of the international community. So we are going to go very quickly because we don't have enough time.
So here's an outline of what I am going to be talking about you guys can read it I'm not going to go through it. I'm going to start by saying that for many humanitarian crises whether natural or man-made disasters are a source of great suffering. Those who do not lose their lives upon the initial impact lose it due to subsequent causes such as others, lack of care and in the way other medical care or other. The main thing that we need to retain from this presentation is that we mainly are going to be talking about humanitarian aid and I wanted to make a quick difference here between humanitarian aid and development aid. Humanitarian aid is an aid that is material, logistical assistance which means that they do the best, international organizations or NGOs or any entity that comes in to help basically provide the type of first aid if I can say to the people who really need it: food and shelter, clothing versus development aid which has to do with more to support the economy of the country during any moment or other in their history to boost their economy.
A little background about Haiti. Haiti is or was one of the richest French colonies back then and Haiti became the world's first black led Republic, the first independent Caribbean state, and America's second independent state after the United States. However with a history of political instability and violence, dictatorship, international boycott Haiti is known for being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. In a report published in 2010 the World Bank stated that over half the local population lives in extreme poverty. This statement is translated that half of 10 million people living with less than a dollar per day, US dollar per day and almost 80% living with less than a dollar per day. So here are some statistics about... I'm sorry here I'm going to backtrack here and talk very briefly about vulnerability to natural disasters these statistics are for natural disasters. For millions of women and men and children in Haiti is there situation meeting who they are and where they live and how they make a living and not the natural disaster threat per se that will determine whether they survive natural disaster. In most cases it's invulnerability to threats such as natural disasters like floods and earthquake and stem from poverty local instability, corruption and social grade. According to a European Community humanitarian aid office 2010 report on Haiti in a six-year period from 2001 to 2007 tropical cyclones and flood left the country with over 18,000 dead and over hundred 32,000 people homeless in approximately a good number of people affected by natural disaster. So basically Haiti is exposed to not only political instability but also to any type of natural disaster that may happen if any of this happen a lot of people will suffer basically because they don't have the infrastructures in place the government is not strong enough. Although they may have a system in place to respond to natural disasters in most cases the people really need the help don't get that type of help and the government doesn't have the proper means to deliver the type of help. So here we are going to skip ahead to talk about the legal framework that matters in this presentation. We are going to be focusing mainly on the Gen. assembly resolution 46 182 and the guideline of the national Red Cross and the local framework for action regarding humanitarian aid and how to provide the type of humanitarian aid to people who really need it.
The increasing involvement of the international community and the provision of money and assistance has shown the necessity for a body of regulation. On one hand notwithstanding the international nature of some disasters international law regulating activities with regard to them remains fairly ambivalent. As of the beginning of the 21st-century there are no universal conventions thoroughly governing all of the principal assets of disaster relief including prevention, response and or protection.
I am mentioning this legal framework so you know that this specific type of problem doesn't apply specific to Haiti but in any case if there needs to be a response in a country that needs humanitarian aid the problem that we encounter in Haiti might possibly repeat themselves in other countries that suffer from man-made disasters or natural disasters.
UN leadership and responsibility in coordinating governmental humanitarian assistance: here I put on the slide some of the UN agencies that will come up or really matters in the situations and Haiti. Pursuant to the Gen. assembly resolution 4682 which grants its role of coordinator in the context of humanitarian assistance the UN trust the United Nations stabilization Mission in Haiti minister and the office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs, OSHA with the coordination of the humanitarian relief effort in Haiti. Based on their mandates these organzations are supposed to be either coordinating the effort or providing a framework or a space where if other organizations come to Haiti to help that they have to follow certain guidelines and follow these organizations to operate in Haiti. So what I'm trying to put forward here is that these organizations are mainly in charge of coordinating the effort of providing humanitarian efforts in Haiti not only from any other agency from the US but also from any other NGOs or humanitarian organizations that once or tries to help the Haitian people.
What type of system that they use when they try to do that? So in trying to coordinate providing the effort, trying to put some form of coordination they use the cluster approach. The cluster approach is a type of strategy that puts certain leads to certain organizations such as here for example I can filter any organization that tries to provide any type of agricultural help or anything has to go through FAO and so on. So that's how the UN strategized the coronation Haiti. In any other organization that has to do with one of the specific headlines has to go through the specific organization. If you are trying to provide education, sanitation or hygiene you have to go to UNICEF and so on.
Critique: what happens with this type of strategy is that there are so many people trying to come in to help so it turned out to be a huge chaos. And the organizations that tried to dig the flow of organizations coming in they basically failed because they have no way of controlling these organizations coming in and there were so many they didn't know what to do with them.
The January 12 earthquake triggered one of the largest international humanitarian response operations in history. However, the international committee has been criticized for being in efficient and uncoordinated throughout the humanitarian response phase. In any large, complex emergencies it is challenging enough to try to coordinate the activities of the totality of different agencies working on the ground. But against the backdrop of this confusion of authorities in leadership reports are suggesting that more and more agencies choose to begin to deliver aid on their own. A process which commulatively only aggravated the logistical and planning problem and adds to the confusion that is coming in the early stage of search emergency. A simple example: a week after the initial impact after the earthquake in Haiti donation of money, food, water and fuel and medicine were pouring through the channels of many, many humanitarian agencies. ??? 14:51 for states donation assistance were sent left and right. However due to logistical and planning problems in addition to a poorly organized response those these essentials were piling up at the corpus airport without being distributed. So I'm going to give you a clear image here. You have people dying on the street and when Nate crossed the fence you can see a large amount of help sitting there with US soldiers guarding them and they have no way to reach out to them. People were dying right here at the entrance of the airport and they couldn't have access to a bottle of aspirin if I might say. So that's a pretty clear idea of what was going on back then.
Accountability in humanitarian assistance, the social cost of being helped: so the UN presence in Haiti didn't come without its cost. If student they came in and they tried to help with security issues especially around electoral time in Haiti. They tried to help with other issues as well. But their presence in Haiti was very costly to the Haitian people. Mainly sexual abuse report. I describe your what is sexual abuse and I'm not going to go through that because we don't have a lot of time." We need to take away from that is that the UN has a zero tolerance policy for this type of abuses but at the same time they refused to process those cases. Nicole here is going to talk more about it when it comes to the cholera outbreak what was there response to the specific when it comes to offenses that UN personnel have done in international soils such as Haiti and they refuse to be accountable for this type of accusations.
And those types of issues are not new. In 2005 a report issued by Prince Saeed called they'd report detailed progressive abuse and exploitation of women and girls most of which involve trading sex for money, food or jobs. In 2007 more than 100 Sri Lankan soldiers were accused for sexually exploiting young women and girls in Haiti. In 2011 a cell phone video was released showing a group of UN soldiers from Uruguay laughing as they pin down an 18-year-old Haitian boy and sexually assaulting him.
So you will see that if a UN personnel in Haiti, military or civil person will commit a crime in Haitian soil they are submitted to Haitian court. Well I'm going to say that according to the status of forces agreement many did suffer. The peacekeeping mission enjoyed absolute going out of jail waiver of liability card. So in Haitian courts any courts mainly they are not accountable for any crime they commit in Haiti according to this specific agreement. The families that suffered from any type of abuse from UN personnel have no way to sue them or to get damages from what they have suffered.
When something like that happened and what says the international law? Do you think this type of thing should be happening? Well the article 53 of the Vienna convention on loss treaties says that a treaty is void if at the time of its conclusion it is in conflict with a peremptory norm of international law. And that gives the 19:31??? Are generally acknowledged to be subject to universal jurisdiction. And the appropriateness of the minister mandates has been criticized under the use ??? The norm of the/?? Have been described as rules that are fundamental to the international community but however the in reality it is totally different from what international law says.
The rising cost of life. The presence of the UN mission in Haiti has also affected the local communities which means that rent went up. The food cost went up and everything went up. And you have to pay commodities in most places in US dollars. And you cannot just send that in a country where people live with under a dollar a day certain things are definitely going to be out of their reach from now on.
Haitian government leadership and responsibility: under the principle of sovereignty, territorial integrity and some determination… Normally the Haitian government should be the entity coordinating the efforts. In any foreign entities coming into national soil should be submitted to the Haitian government's authority however the government was incapacitated after the initial blow the earthquake and all of the administrative buildings were destroyed and they have no way of functioning properly. So this task and responsibility of coordinating humanitarian aid was left to the UN and other organizations that stepped in to help in any way that they can.
So I am going to skip to recommendation here and say that I propose that, I suggested that instead of the UN coming in and impose certain regulations and policies they should work with the local government, the local communities in an ideal symbiotic model to work together to come up with a better solution. Most of the time the solutions that the UN offers are prefabricated options that may or may not fit the society or the situation they are trying to help. So communicating and coordinating with the local communities is a better alternative than what they have. That's my conclusion and if you want to know more about what I have talked about you can read my paper I think it's available at the Gallagher library. Thank you and Nicole take over.

Nicole Phillips

Hopefully I won't fall into karaoke at some point throughout the presentation. If I do sing along, dance to whatever feels appropriate to you all. Thank you hello it's really nice to be here. It's really a pleasure. Mina lived with us and worked with us in Haiti all of last year and made one of the biggest contributions to our office in Haiti that any foreign lawyer has ever made. She was incredible and I don't just do that because she's a good friend of mine but she truly was an extraordinary lawyer, an extraordinary woman, an extraordinary women's leader.
I want to follow off of Hervé's presentation which I think was great. And I also want to say the newspapers really very good. So to those of you who may want to practice something similar to this in your life I really really recommend at least skimming his paper because it's excellent.
This is the organization that I work for. These are our goals basically try to represent poor people in Haiti. For people in Haiti generally do not have legal options there are not the legal aid's and the public defenders offices that we are somewhat accustomed to in the United States. So that's what our law office has set out to do and we've been functioning like that since 1995.
I like to start with this slide when I talk about Haiti since January 12, 2010. As we know tomorrow is going to be the third year of the anniversary. And when we talk about Haiti and its oh god all that mother nature has given its and the hurricanes that Herve talked about and the devastating earthquake and hurricane Sandy which is truly terrible: 7.0 earthquake. I lived through these 7.0 earthquake in San Francisco. I lived through these 6.7 or seven points of the rather in Northridge Los Angeles and nothing happened for the most part, very little damage. In Haiti over 200,000 people were killed. A few months later in Chile several times stronger of an earthquake 8.8 only 525 deaths and you know the case of Japan. So this isn't a situation Haiti for the most part when you read about or hear about Haiti in the news for the rest of your life, when you think about how horrible mother nature is to Haiti it's really man-made disasters that have caused this not just mother nature. It's because of the poverty.
This the national Palace in Haiti. Apparently a lot of it has been removed now but still not rebuilt three years later. So today is Michelle mentioned there's about 360,000 people that are still living in internal displacement camps. The conditions in these camps are horrendous. You would not want to your livestock or any animal let alone a child to be living in these camps. And so billions of dollars about $6.4 billion to be precise has been donated right? Probably about half of us, statistically about half of us gave money to some organization in Haiti. The US government there are development agency USAID has given billions of dollars as well as other nations around the world.
How is it possible that so little improvement has happened in Haiti? How is that possible? And I have four main reasons for this. One is that 50% of the money has not arrived. So of the billions that have been pledged 50% of it hasn't even arrived. If it's an NGO they are holding on to it despite the fact that we donated it to help people if it's the government they haven't quite gotten around to sending it yet. Or there's political reasons right? The Canadian government just said they're freezing all future aid. They're not happy seven and a freeze it even though it was promised.
The second reason is lack of infrastructure right? So Haiti was a Herve mentioned the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere prior to the earthquake. So public services that would service here: ambulances, fire trucks, building housing codes that made sure our housing was safe into an earthquake, access to clean water, sanitation, tubing, piping, where does our poop go you know those kind of things we don't even think about. We expect it. In Haiti none of those things are functioning. And one of the big reasons is because their budget has been controlled historically for decades by aid the United States government and other governments and they have put conditionality's on that aid so that it's not spent in the public sector. So the public sector has very little resources and so none of these public services.
The third reason is because of traditional failed economic models. And I won't go too much into that but that is the sweatshops that pay low wage jobs that do not stabilize the economy in Haiti so that 70% of Haitians live either no jobs at all or have some form in the informal economy but barely enough to survive.
The fourth one is what Herve has been talking about. And I want to talk a little bit more about it. That has to do with the lack of investment in Haitian government and in Haitian civil society. So after the earthquake because of the lack of social structure that I mentioned the UN you know billions of dollars were being pledged into Haiti's and so the UN took the role of coordinating the aid that was coming in along with thousands of NGOs from small ones to large ones descended upon Haiti with big SUVs air-conditioned, windows rolled up and said, "how can we help?". Good intentions, I'm going to assume very good intentions and most of those cases-but certainly a lot of money to be made, a lot of salaries to be paid by foreigners.
And so because of the lack of strength of the government, because of lack of infrastructure unlike Japan and Chile they were not able to control the aid coming in and it was the UN that coordinated it. Most of the UN did not speak the Haitian language, Creel which 100% of the population speak. Only 10% speaks French. Few spoke French most everyone spoke English. So when you go to a coordination meeting you would not see Haitian face in most of those meetings that I was at. If you did and you see somebody with a tremendous amount of education which was not necessarily representative of the beneficiaries who were living in the internal displacement camps. So most of the coordination meetings were inaccessible to the average Haitian and were therefore a lot of the aid was wasted, unsustainable, unhelpful, didn't reach patients.
This is a different fire for it but I liked the photo so I want to use this. There is two movies that Michelle mentioned. One movie that Michelle mentioned that it's going to be shown this afternoon and this evening. And that's where did the money go? It's been shown on PBS and to learn more about what I've just been talking about, it's 53 min., it's a really really good movie, the movie director and writers going to be there and she and I are going to be presenting on more about where the money went and some of the issues and so that's going to be this afternoon at the UW at the Foege North which is bioengineering at the global health medical center area here. That's from 2 to 4. And then from 7 to 930 tonight at meaningful movies in Wallingford this movie will also be shown. It was at the international Vancouver film Festival on Friday night and it was a sold-out crowd of a couple hundred people. We were just in Bellingham last night, sold-out crowd again. So this is actually a pretty great opportunity for you all to see this film.
What I want to talk about is cholera. Because that is one of the things that Herve did a really good job of talking about was the lack of court nation with the UN and I like to call back for the law students, I like to call that the nonfeasance: what they didn't do enough of. And then there is the other extreme category which is the malfeasance. What did the UN actually do that was wrong, negligent, grossly negligent, reckless? And how they dealt with that, in cholera is a really good, unfortunately a really good example of that.
In about October 2010 all of the sudden thousands of cases of cholera were coming up. So this is about nine months after the earthquake. And it turns out there was a reporter who was able to along with Al Jazeera who was able to document that at the source of one of the largest, the largest river in Haiti the Artibonite, that the UN peacekeeping delegation from Nepal had been dumping fecal waste matter into the river. And there is a series of ways in which this is been happening but essentially they're septic system tanks hadn't been properly maintained so there was leakage but they actually think that when they were filled up they just dump them into a tributary into the river. So a lot of this is recorded and the UN did nothing about it, said nothing about it even though the AP sent out reports, Al Jazeera sent it out, the UN denied it, denied it, denied it.
The other piece of relative evidence is that Nepal had a cholera outbreak shortly before they sent their delegation and genetic testing show that it was the exact same bacterial strain of cholera. So it's pretty clear, it's circumstantial evidence but I think it would meet the standard of clear and convincing evidence that that is where the cholera originated. Haiti had never seen cholera before in any recorded history. It's possible hundred years ago they did but they can't even record that. So this disease took over. To this day there has been about over 600,000 people have gotten cholera which is over 5% of the population and about 8000 people have died of cholera. And because this is Haiti it's not getting the rapid response as it should. So we waited for a year. The evidence is clear the UN sent in after a time of lobbying the UN finally sent in a team to do an analysis and found everything that I just sent. They concluded everything that I just said. They still failed to take responsibility at all. And so we waited for a year and in November of 2011 we filed a lawsuit against them. We have 5000 clients who are all victims of cholera, either their family members died or they themselves were sick with cholera and we launched this lawsuit against the UN. We have alleged negligence, gross negligence, recklessness and gross indifference. We got a letter quickly thereafter that said we are in receipt of your complaints, we are looking into it, and we will respond with in due course.
These are the soldiers, not the actual once but this is really adding insult to injury because MONUSCO the UN peacekeeping troops called MONUSCO have been in Haiti since 2004 after a coup d'état that the United States government financed and helped execute of the democratically elected president Jean Aristide as of the UN came in and most Haitians that I have spoken with think that this is a foreign occupation and there has never been a war in Haiti. It is illegal under chapter 7 and six probably of the UN charter and this is a big point of contention. As Herve mentioned there are a lot of sexual abuses that happened by soldiers and most Haitians do not want them in their country. So to them bringing cholera and to make such a large percentage of their population sick is absolutely indescribable to them.
So a statistic that I just read is that all of the cases of cholera in the world Haiti has 50% of them-even though it's got a population of 10 million. So we having not received any response from the UN we have taken our show to the road. We have five different venues, jurisdictions that we are fighting this on. One of them is through Congress. This is us testifying before a congressional membership. And because of our congressional delegations we've been able to get Congress to write a letter to the UN ambassador to United States set a US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice who I guess her but he now knows. And asked her to get the UN to take a leadership role in providing clean water and sanitation because that's the only reason that cholera exists in Haiti is because of the lack of clean water and sanitation. And so that's what we've asked them to do. And they did. 104 members of Congress sent that letter to her sponsor by John Conyers. So that's one of the forums in which were fighting our legal battle. Another one is that the United Nations. This is sort of like a where's Waldo presentation. We have also, that's my boss Mario Joseph on the left. We went to the UN, we have been doing advocacy in Geneva and New York with country states saying this is what the UN did. Most didn't even know what the UN did they didn't understand the negligence they just thought for Haiti now they've got cholera, god that sucks, they didn't realize that there was actually a tort violation.
So we have been trying to get resolutions passed through the UN working with special repertoires for any of you who have taken international human rights or will take human rights I'm just trying to get you familiar with how do people actually use these mechanisms? This is how we use these mechanisms. We also went to Hollywood. That's Olivia Wilde who was in the TV show house. And producers of the film called baseball in time of cholera which one the Tribeca film Festival. This is about cholera. This is about our lawsuit. It's a 29 min. documentary it's really really really good. It was actually up for an Academy award as well. It didn't get the shortlist unfortunately but you can find it on UN deny.org. It's a really good film about this little boy here.
We have about 5 min. left. One of the things I just wanted to talk about really quickly also is what our role is as foreign lawyers and what the importance of in all of this approval of law. And you can see that what we've been doing is trying to enforce human rights with our legal case right so that becomes clear. But a lot of the work is really focused on aid. I want to read you this quote that I think is really good. There is an article by the Council on foreign relations called injustice for all. And it says, "rule of law aid and development aid are mutually reinforcing as public justice systems in the developing world mature the poor will more fully reap the benefits of the enormous investments in development being made on their behalf". The article also says that without having strong rule of law that all of the development aid essentially is wasteful that 90% of it, they think is going to be thrown out into the ocean without strong rule of law. That's how important it is. And so we as lawyers need to be able to work to help strengthen rule of law but we also have to do it in ways that are empowering right? We don't want to be the UN. We don't want to be about these big NGOs that everybody has been talking about that haven't been consulting with Haitian people, that haven't gotten their products. So there are a ton of lawyers like Herve in Haiti and exactly what they want, know exactly how it should be done and we as foreign lawyers need to figure out ways to support them so that they are the ones that are bringing about change in their legal systems and ending impunity and not the American, no offense, American Bar Association and lawyers from big law firms with their iPhones going down. That hasn't been helpful in Haiti at all and so puts more work on us. We have to figure out creative ways of doing it. But it is really important in order to do that. If you don't shore up rule of law and it's like building a school on sand. You don't have the foundation for to be a sustainable project.
One of our main focuses, this is why this photo appear, and I'll end here. One of our main focuses is do you know your rights trainings for people because as much as, and it's funny we were just having this conversation with a top 10 law school in the United States who wanted to this amazing program of training judges and lawyers... And Mario up there (this is in our office and those are grassroots organizations we work with" he kept saying emphatically five times, six times on this phone conference, "it will not help the lawyers know with the international human rights standards are. They are not applying them not because they don't know. They're not applying them because they don't care about poor people, they don't talk to poor people and that somehow they're motivated. Poor people can pay them so they don't take those cases and there's a bias. Who we need to work with in rule of law reform is not the judiciary. It's not the lawyers. It's those people sitting in that room right now who are living in IDP camps, who are the victims of rape, whose daughters are the victims of rape and nation of their rights so that they can put pressure and change will of law in Haiti will be able to go into courts and fight their rights". So all of our cases that we bring, we have one client who might be a six-year-old unfortunately. And we have a grassroots women's group of thousands of people that we work with with each of our cases and we do press conferences, Simmons, demonstrations, radio interviews. We go to the UN. And that's all the advocacy we do for the capacity building of the grassroots movements and then we went our case that way also. So that's the model that we have and with Mina we wrote a law review article about this that we can provide for you if anybody is interested about this kind of lawyering which is not just legal aid but it's legal empowerment and this is what we think works in poor countries.
So if you want to know more about us the one thing I'll say, that's all of our stuff. You can follow me on twitter to I'm Buddhist lawyer. But please sign our Avaaz petition for cholera. Right now we have a petition on Avaaz which is like that change.org for Europe. We have got over 25,000 signatures. It's just gone viral. Please help it go even more viral. Pass it to everybody you know. It takes less than 1 min. like 30 seconds to sign this. It's a petition to Ban Ki-moon Secretary-General of the UN to bring clean water and infrastructure to Haiti. So by passing this on making this go viral you all will bring clean water to Haiti and save thousands and thousands of lives per year. So please please pass around to anybody you know.
I guess we can open this to questions. We don't have too much time but if folks have questions I can stay for a bit but if folks have questions individually. I know somebody has a question or you all just being shy?

Connect with us:

© Copyright 2015, All Rights Reserved University of Washington School of Law

4293 Memorial Way Northeast, Seattle, WA 98195