Toronto Haiti Action Committee

Solidarity. Not Charity. Never Occupation

Toronto Haiti Action Committee - Solidarity. Not Charity. Never Occupation

Outsourcing Haiti

by Jake Johnston. Originally posted at the Boston Review

Across the country from Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, miles of decrepit pot-holed streets give way to a smooth roadway leading up to the gates of the Caracol Industrial Park, but no further. The fishing hamlet of Caracol, from which the park gets its name, lies around the bend down a bumpy dirt road. Four years after the earthquake that destroyed the country on January 12, 2010, the Caracol Industrial Park is the flagship reconstruction project of the international community in Haiti. Signs adorn nearby roads, mostly in English, declaring the region “Open for Business.” In a dusty field, hundreds of empty, brightly colored houses are under construction in neat rows. If all goes as hoped for by the enthusiastic backers of the industrial park, this area could be home to as many as 300,000 additional residents over the next decade.

Paul Collier. Photo Sebastian Derungs

Paul Collier. Photo Sebastian Derungs

The plan for the Caracol Industrial Park project actually predates the 2010 earthquake. In 2009, Oxford University economist Paul Collier released a U.N.–sponsored report outlining a vision for Haiti’s economic future; it encouraged garment manufacturing as the way forward, noting U.S. legislation that gave Haitian textiles duty-free access to the U.S. market as well as “labour costs that are fully competitive with China… [due to] its poverty and relatively unregulated labour market.”

The report, embraced by the U.N. and the U.S., left a mark on many of the post-earthquake planning documents. Among the biggest champions of the plan were the Clintons, who played a crucial role in attracting a global player to Haiti. While on an official trip to South Korea as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton brought company officials from one of the largest South Korean manufacturers to the U.S. embassy to sell them on the idea. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, having just appointed Bill Clinton U.N. special envoy to Haiti, tapped connections in his home country, South Korea.

Continue reading

In the News: Rebuilding in Haiti Lags After Billions in Post-Quake Aid

Originally posted at The New York Times

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A few days after the Jan. 10, 2010, earthquake, Reginald Boulos opened the gates of his destroyed car dealership to some 14,000 displaced people who settled on the expansive property. Seven months later, eager to rebuild his business, he paid the families $400 each to leave Camp Boulos and return to their devastated neighborhoods.

At the time, Dr. Boulos, a physician and business magnate, was much maligned for what was portrayed as bribing the homeless to participate in their own eviction. But eventually, desperate to rid public plazas of squalid camps, the Haitian government and the international authorities adopted his approach themselves: “return cash grants” have become the primary resettlement tool.

This represents a marked deflation of the lofty ambitions that followed the disaster, when the world aspired not only to repair Haiti but to remake it completely. The new pragmatism signals an acknowledgment that despite billions of dollars spent — and billions more allocated for Haiti but unspent — rebuilding has barely begun and 357,785 Haitians still languish in 496 tent camps.

“When you look at things, you say, ‘Hell, almost three years later, where is the reconstruction?’ ” said Michèle Pierre-Louis, a former prime minister of Haiti. “If you ask what went right and what went wrong, the answer is, most everything went wrong. There needs to be some accountability for all that money.”

Continue reading

In the News: Wyclef’s Haiti Charity Is Now Defunct After Mishandling $16M In Donations

by Aly Weisman. Originally posted at the Business Insider

Wyclef Jean’s Yéle Haiti charity, once what the singer said was the country’s “greatest asset and ally” is now defunct and in debt.

The charity’s collapse comes after years of accusations of mishandled funds, which amounted to a reported $16 million following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Continue reading

Housing Statistics

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen a number of articles decrying the housing crisis in Haiti. For my part, I find myself struck by some of the statistics that capture the magnitude of the crisis. These stats were gathered by the Centre for Recherche, de Réflexion, de Formation et d’Action Sociale (CERFAS).

This first graph shows the evolution of camp populations since July, 2010 — about five months after the earthquake.

CERFAS notes that these numbers can be projected to suggest that approximately 311,000 people (or around 74,000 families) will still be living in the camps at the end of 2012.

Continue reading

In the News: The UN’s Cholera Epidemic in Haiti

by Mark Weisbrot
Originally published in CounterPunch

Haitians have had a long and arduous struggle just to achieve the rights that most people in the rest of the hemisphere have enjoyed. From the revolution of Haitian slaves that won independence from the French in 1804, through the U.S. occupation (1915-1934), the Duvalier family dictatorship (1957-1986), and the last 20 years of devastating foreign intervention, the “international community” just hasn’t seen Haitians as having the same basic human rights as people in other countries.

They still don’t, perhaps because Haitians are too poor and black. While the horrific earthquake of January 2010 brought international sympathy and aid – much more pledged than delivered – it didn’t bring a change of attitude toward Haiti.

Continue reading

Under Tents: Taking Action for Haiti’s Homeless

by: Kevin Edmonds
Originally posted July 6, 2012 on NACLA

On July 2, Haitian grassroots organizations and their international allies launched a housing rights campaign called ‘Under Tents’ in response to the failure the Haitian government to “address Haiti’s epidemic of homelessness.” According to Haiti Liberté, the campaign will press for congressional and parliamentary action in the U.S., Canada, and Europe to support the construction of housing for displaced Haitians. Central to the campaign is an online petition addressed to President Martelly, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other senior Haitian and American officials to take action to combat Haiti’s severe housing crisis.

Reading recent headlines however, it would be easy—albeit mistaken—to think that progress was being made on the housing front. On July 26, the International Organization of Migration (IOM) reported that the number of displaced Haitians living in the camps had dropped below 400,000 from a high of nearly 1.5 million in the immediate aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake. What the IOM didn’t tell the public was where the displaced people had gone, and why so many had left the camps.
Continue reading