Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

UN Special Rapporteur Demands Just Response to Cholera Victims

In an August 2016 report to the United Nations General Assembly, Special Rapporteur Philip Alston criticized the UN’s response to the cholera epidemic in Haiti as “morally unconscionable, legally indefensible and politically self-defeating. It is also entirely unnecessary.” When the UN later announced that it would soon release a new plan for eliminating cholera from Haiti, Alston wrote a letter to follow up, commending the UN for the new approach but also suggesting ways to make sure it was truly just. The Deputy Secretary-General wrote back the following week with further details on the new plan, including “a package of material assistance and support to Haitians most directly affected by cholera.” Parts of both letters are included below.

Special Rapporteur Alston also spoke at the United Nations General Assembly regarding cholera on October 25. He again emphasized the importance of a just response.

Read the press release about that HERE.


Letter from Philip Alston to the Deputy Secretary-General

October 5, 2016

Dear Deputy Secretary-General,

I am writing in response to your letter of 19 August 2016 concerning the United Nations new approach to the issue of responsibility for the cholera epidemic in Haiti. As you now, I consider the steps that have been taken in recent weeks by the Secretary-General and yourself to be extremely important and very welcome. The commends made by the Secretary-General both in his speech to the General Assembly on 20 September 2016 and in his meeting with President Obama on the same day clearly indicate a willingness to address the question of the United Nations’ responsibility in a way that has been absent until now.

Click HERE for the full letter.

Letter from the Deputy Secretary-General to Philip Alston

12 October 2016

Dear Mr. Alston, Dear Philip,

Thank you for your letter dated 5 October 2016, on the cholera epidemic in Haiti. I appreciate your commitment to the issue and your positive words on the new approach of the United Nations to the epidemic.

In our view, the legal position of the United Nations does not constrain the Secretary-General’s new approach to the issue of cholera in Haiti. Now is it correct to see our approach as an act of charity. It is based on a  sense of responsibility to assist the people of Haiti and on an acknowledgment of the shortcomings of the Organization’s own involvement in the past.

Click HERE for the full letter.

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