Stateless persons are not recognized as citizens of any country. They are often vulnerable to exploitation due to a lack of access to health care, education, work, and justice. It is a major problem in the Dominican Republic where the the government has long been reluctant to grant citizenship to Dominicans of Haitian descent. Last week, the Haitian Parliament voted to accede to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, making it the third member state of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the 69th country in the world to do so. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issued a statement praising Haiti for its committment. To become involved, consider joining UNHCR's "I Belong" Campaign to End Statelessness.
The U.S State Department has released 2016 Human Rights Reports. As in previous years, human right challenges in Haiti included weak democratic governance, inufficient respect for the rule of law, a deficient judicial system, and persistent corruption. The good news is that it is clear where the shortcomings are and what the new government must do to improve. There a wide range of partners who want to help including Haitian activists and organizations, other governemnts, and multilateral and non-governmental partners. The 2016 Human Rights Report for Haiti follows.
The Haitian Government has announced a commission to examine the country's prisons, which have long known to be over-crowded and unsafe. Due to Haiti's weak justice system, most prisoners have not been convicted of crimes but are instead being held in pre-trial detention. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other organizations have for many years tried to improve conditions in the prisons but lasting change requires governmental committment, planning, and resources. For more information on Haiti, visit the World Prison Brief. The full article by AP reported David McFadden follows.
The UN Peacekeeping Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has been active in Haiti for more than a decade. During the early years, MINUSTAH was instrumental in countering gang activity and a kidnapping crisis. However, MINUSTAH forces have also been responsible for sexual exploiting and abusing children and the country is still dealing with a cholera epidemic resulting from irresponsible sanitation practices by Nepali peacekeepers. The logical transition would be to continue strengthening Haitian institutions responsible for human rights, justice and rule of law - so MINUSTAH will not be needed in the future. Full Reuters article below.
On February 6, the Haitian Government along with UN and other partners, launched a two year, $291 million response plan to help 2.4 million persons affected by the earthquake recover. The UN notes that the October hurricane was exasperated by pre-existing humanitarian, socio-economic and environmental vulnerabilities and disparities. In other words, these communities had many problems even before the Hurricane struck. The plan incorporates activities to promote the resilience of affected communities so they will be better prepared and better able to respond when the next hurricane comes. This being the Caribbean, there will also be another hurricane. The full response plan can be viewed here.
Anastasia Moloney (Reuters) reports that Haitian police have arrested nine people, Americans and Canadians, in connection with sex trafficking at the Kaliko Beach Club near Port au Prince. In 2016, Haiti was downgraded to the lowest grade (level three) in the 2016 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report meaning that no progress had been made before and that foreign assistance from the United States could be reduced in certain areas. Haiti does have a national TIP action plan but it has yet to be resourced or implemented. The arrests may be a welcome sign that the government is beginning to take TIP more seriously.
Ellen Ward (Concern Worldwide) writes below of the importance of accurate maps for promptly responding to disasters. In developing countries like Haiti, dense urban neighboods and isolated rural areas remain unmapped. The Missing Maps Initiative is an effort to fill in the blanks through crowd-sourcing. Concern and other partners have been involved in mapping neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince such as Bois Neuf, Cite Gerard, Cite Soleil in addition to communities affected by Hurricane Matthew. The Missing Maps Initiative website has resources for interested volunteers to learn how to map buildings and roads in Haiti and elsewhere using OpenStreetMap (supported by the OpenStreetMap Foundation). More information is also available on the Missing Maps Blog.
Below is an article by David McFadden (AP) concerning the 50,000 people who remain in camps seven years after the earthquake. Not everyone in the camps was/is is a victim of the earthquake. Some were victims of abject poverty and the camps were better places to be than the slums where they were living. Ninety six percent of those living in the camps left - either on their own or with assistance from a range of organizations. Solutions remain elusive for those who remain.
To be fair, the Haitian government is trying to demonstrate the leadership that was absent from the 2010 earthquake response. It is setting priorities and specifying what interventions it will and will not accept from the international community. Still, the government is quite fragile and has limited capacity. Some priorities are being determined not based on the needs of the survivors as much as the needs of the government to show that it has changed. New York Times writer Azam Ahmedoct reflects on how the response to the earthquake is shaping the response to Hurricane Matthew below.
Haiti cannot change that it will always be affected by natural disasters. What the Haitian government and civil society can change is the extent to which it plans, prepares, and mitigates natural disasters. Very little of the assistance Haiti receives is devoted to mitigation. Haiti's partners should expect, encourage and support Haiti so that it is ready for the next hurricane, mudslide, drought, earthquake or other disaster. It may be a week or a year away, but it will come. IRIN Migration Writer Kristy Siegfried explores whether Hurricane Matthew might encourage participation, partnerships, and prevention.