Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Looking for Haiti in Geneva: Up Close and Personal at the 2011 Universal Periodic Review

by. Emma Rosenberg, Social Justice Chair at UCHI-Irvine, UCHI Newsletter

This October, UC Irvine law student Emma Rosenberg live-tweeted for UCHI from Geneva, representing UCHI as part of the group that would present to the United Nations at the Universal Periodic Review of Haiti. Here she gives her final thoughts on the experience:

“When I first walked into Salle XX on October 10, 2011, the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review was just ending. Haiti was set to be the last country reviewed on October 13th and as it turned out, Haiti would be the only country to fail to send a delegation from their government to the review. We first learned of this news after talking to the representative from Cuba at the end of the October 10th session. When we approached him to lobby for our proposed recommendations for Haiti’s review, he shook his head and laughed as he informed us Haiti was going to be a no-show. My heart sunk in disbelief. We were eventually notified that although Haiti was not sending a delegation, the permanent Haitian mission in Geneva would represent the country. The review would proceed in the delegation’s absence.

The team of attorneys I was working with had plans to bring several Haitians to Geneva, but, like many Haitians who should have been in attendance, they were unable to obtain visas in time for the UPR. Flights and rooms were funded and booked, but unnecessarily complex bureaucracy barricaded the integral presence of Haitian citizens from a process that involved their daily lives. The lawyers on our team from the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and MADRE explained how this palpable absence of Haitians was indicative of a more general and systemic exclusion of Haitian voices from the governmental processes and decisions that directly affect them. While everyone talked about the atrocities and human rights abuses that plague Haiti everyday, those who were actually experiencing these realities and who were in the best position to articulate Haiti’s problems and needs were thousands of miles away.

At Haiti’s review on October 13th, 2011, representatives from different countries spoke passionately of the need to address critical issues facing Haiti today – violence against women and children, the conditions in displacement camps, and extreme poverty – as they sat under the beautifully-colored, high ceiling of Salle XX, where a ham sandwich cost ten Swiss Francs. The dissonance was tangible.

After closing remarks that evening commemorating the end of the UPR, a large reception was held outside Salle XX. People schmoozed, drank wine and ate mini pastries. Nicole Phillips, a staff attorney at IJDH and my supervisor, hurried downstairs immediately after the session ended. She was conducting a conference call to recap the UPR and discuss next steps to implementing the day’s recommendations. I started my work with Nicole on this UPR last semester, and organizations like hers started their work in Haiti long before that. As the doors to Salle XXclosed that Thursday on the Universal Periodic Review, our doors and Haiti’s swung open a little further.”

UCHI’s key partner in Haiti, Aksyon Inivesite pou Devlopman Dirab (Kreyòl for “University Action for Sustainabile Development”), is made up of alumni and trainees from the State University of Haiti. AIDD is a major contributor to the UPR report mentioned above. Please watch this video, shown at the UN hearing, to hear from AIDD about the importance of sovereignty in Haiti today.

According to AIDD’s director, agronomist Nazaire St. Fort, the dissonance felt in Salle XX can be resolved if the United Nations were to use its close involvement in Haiti through MINUSTAH to cultivate a positive force in Haiti’s development, supporting the government of Haiti in addressing human rights abuses and issues of sovereignty. The collaboration between AIDD and UCHI works to build sustainable socio-economic development in Haiti in this same supportive spirit, striving towards sovereignty for the Haitian people in an era of globalization.

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