|Letter from the Director|
December 2010Dear Friend,There is no denying that 2010 has been a hard year for Haiti, especially the poor. We say “at leastnow things cannot get any worse,” but then an earthquake is followed by a hurricane, then a cholera epidemic, and just last weekend, deeply flawed elections. So we ask, “is Haiti cursed? ”A “curse” is actually an easy way out for us, because we cannot do anything about a curse. Haiti’s problem is not a curse, but extreme vulnerability to the same environmental stresses that hit other countries.
The U.S. has cholera cases most years, but they are quickly contained by clean water, plumbing and basic healthcare. Haiti has one cholera outbreak and it rages out of control killing thousands. An 8.8.magnitude earthquake in Chile killed 800, while a 7.0 earthquake in Haiti killed 200,000.
Haiti’s extreme vulnerability is the result of policies, set in Port-au-Prince, Washington DC and elsewhere that prevent poor Haitians from exercising their basic human rights. These rights include civil rights like the right to vote in fair elections, the right to be free from illegal imprisonment and the right to enforce contracts, as well as economic and social rights like the right to shelter, education and clean water. Our ability to enforce these same rights ensures we have food to eat and a roof over our head at night.
We have the power to change the policies that generate Haiti’s vulnerability, using the privileges we enjoy from living in powerful countries – our skills, our votes and our money.
IJDH and our Haitian partner, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), address the root causes of Haiti’s vulnerability by fighting those policies, in Haiti and wherever decisions about Haitians human rights are made. In Haiti, we provide organizations and individuals the legal and organizational support they need to transform the unjust structures that keep them poor and vulnerable. Outside Haiti, we apply pressure on policymakers and provide the information and analysis that true friends of Haiti — legislators, lawyers, students, activists, citizens, journalists and human rights groups – need to help the Haitians’ fight.
The enclosed report highlights the concrete, sustainable progress we have made in helping Haitians enforce their rights, despite this year’s challenges. Thousands of earthquake refugees have fought off illegal eviction. Rape victims are standing up to their assailants, and winning. Unjustly held prisoners are returning to their families. Along the way, marginalized people are finding their voices, organizations are getting stronger and public interest lawyers are honing their skills.
We have had a lot of help- over 100 volunteers contributed their time and skills this year, from lawyer Nicole Phillips volunteering full-time since April to short-term helpers analyzing report data or translating press releases. Thousands of people have signed our petitions, written letters or called their elected representatives to urge more just policies for Haiti. Most of all, the financial support we receive from our donors like you keeps us fighting on the front lines, every day.
Thank you for making our work possible in 2010.
We are confident that we can build on this year’s successes to make 2011 a better year for Haiti, but we will need your help. Please consider investing in a more secure and stable future for Haiti by supporting the work of IJDH and the BAI.
On behalf of everyone at IJDH and the BAI- our staff, Board of Directors and volunteers, thank you!
Brian Concannon Jr.,
Director, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH)
P.S.: We wish you a happy and fulfilling holiday season, and look forward to having you on our team as we fight for a more just 2011 for Haiti.