Human rights work with impact: led by those whose rights have been infringed; supported and amplified by a network of committed attorneys, activists, journalists, and students. This article uses our cholera advocacy work as a case study of how human rights work that empowers grassroots leaders can really make an impact on the system. Fran Quigley, author of How Human Rights Can Build Haiti, describes how we have used a “Cholera Justice Network” to build momentum for justice for Haiti’s cholera victims.
Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.
Activists and law in Haiti: multi-level human rights campaigns to find justice
Fran Quigley, openGlobalRights
October 22, 2014
Chris Jochnick recently posed a critically important question when he asked if courts, activists and lawyers really can make a difference on poverty. And I think we can safely say yes. Right now, a partnership between the Haitian human rights organization Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, known as BAI, and their US-based partner, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti(IJDH) is the driving force behind a remarkable multi-level, multi-forum, multinational campaign to obtain justice for the victims of the October 2010 Haitian cholera epidemic.
Importantly, the campaign did not begin in a lawyer’s office or in the headquarters of an NGO. It was launched in the streets of Haiti. The Haitian people have a proud legacy of grassroots activism that dates back to history’s only successful slave rebellion and the subsequent ouster of dictators like Jean-Claude Duvalier. So, within days of the October 2010 outbreak, Haitiansorganized and demonstrated by the thousands outside of UN bases in the country, insisting on jistis ak reparasyon—justice and reparations—for the devastation they experienced.
And yes, there is litigation against the UN on behalf of thousands of cholera victims. Oral arguments are set to be heard on October 23rd in the case ofGeorges et al. vs. United Nations et al. The litigation is important, but it does not overshadow the other components of the advocacy. In fact, the cholera case is only one piece of the broad human rights agenda pursued by the BAI and IJDH. The partnership also led the effort to prosecute the former dictator Duvalier for his human rights crimes, was a key part of the coalition responding to post-earthquake rape crisis, and consistently pushes for free and fair elections in Haiti.
My recent book about this partnership, How Human Rights Can Build Haiti, illustrates how human rights advocacy—to the extent that it embraces economic and social rights and keeps a laser focus on empowering grassroots leadership—can truly build Haiti. And it can help build a better life for the rest of the world’s poor as well.
Click HERE for the full text.