Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

As UN Deputy Chief Heads to Haiti, Advocates Urge UN to Keep Promises to Cholera Victims

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Contact: Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (New York and Boston): media@ijdh.org, +1-617-652-0876

Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (Port-au-Prince): sienna@ijdh.org; +509-4875-3444

As UN Deputy Chief Heads to Haiti, Advocates Urge UN to Keep Promises to Cholera Victims

(Boston, Port-au-Prince, November 2, 2017) — Advocates for Haiti’s cholera victims insist that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ announced “new partnership” with Haiti will only help Haiti if accompanied by real action  to raise the $400 million in funds promised by the UN, and a partnership that provides the victims a meaningful opportunity for input. The Secretary-General announced the initiative in a Miami Herald op-ed, ahead of the UN Deputy Secretary-General’s visit to Haiti on Friday, November 3rd.  The Secretary-General notes that a major focus of the trip will be follow-up on the UN’s commitments to a “New Approach to Cholera in Haiti,” launched last year to respond to the UN’s responsibility for introducing the deadly epidemic to Haiti in 2010.

“This visit will be a sincerity test of the new leadership’s commitment to righting the UN’s wrongs in Haiti.  So far, Mr. Guterres’ tenure has been marked by broken promises.  There has been no funding, no consultation with victims, no compensation,” said Attorney Sienna Merope-Synge of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), a human rights group that has led advocacy for victims of cholera and sued the UN in U.S. court over the epidemic.

After six years of denying its responsibility for the cholera outbreak despite overwhelming evidence, then-outgoing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon publicly asked for the Haitian people’s forgiveness on December 1, 2016, and launched the New Approach.  The plan promises $400 million to end cholera transmission and provide material assistance to victims.  After almost a year, the plan is funded at only 3%.

“The UN has spent $7.2 billion on MINUSTAH, a peacekeeping force in a country that hasn’t had a war, and will spend hundreds of millions more on a new peacekeeping mission to supposedly support justice in Haiti, yet it can’t raise more than $10 million to end the cholera it caused. The UN’s priorities so far have been clear,” said Mario Joseph, Av., Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, who leads the fight for justice from Haiti.

Initially, UN leadership recognized the Organization’s collective responsibility to finance the New Approach, and suggested that the plan may be funded through the UN’s budget if voluntary contributions proved insufficient.  But the fund is now near a standstill, due to Mr. Guterres bowing to pressure from the Trump administration and other large member states to not ask for assessed contributions from its members.

In Haiti, cholera victims feel increasingly abandoned by the UN.  Last month, one thousand victims gathered near the now-shuttered UN base where cholera originated to hold a service to commemorate the 7th anniversary of the introduction of the disease that has now killed over 10,000 people.

“It is not up to the wrongdoer to arbitrarily decide what kind of reparation we should receive or how the reparations should be done,” said victim spokesperson Elizane Vilne, speaking at the commemoration ceremony.

When the New Approach was launched, the UN presented two potential approaches to providing remedies for the most impacted: individual assistance and community projects.  The UN also committed to consulting with victims about these options. But in May, the UN stated it would not hold these consultations until it had an assurance of adequate funding from its members. The UN has nonetheless increasingly retreated from individual assistance as an option, with Mr. Guterres misleadingly stating that the plan was never to compensate victims, responding to a press inquiry that the plan “was devised, not as individual support, but community support for the communities impacted.”

“Deciding to move forward only with community projects without even seeking to understand victims’ perspectives and needs is yet another denial of Haitians’ rights and dignity.  It also directly contradicts what victims themselves have expressed is a priority,”  said Beatrice Lindstrom, Staff Attorney at IJDH..

Cholera has had devastating effects on the poor and marginalized in Haiti.  Victims commonly recite facing crippling poverty and incurring significant debts after losing breadwinners to cholera, as well as long-term health impacts that make continued work difficult.  As the Haitian president reminded the General Assembly in September, countless children have been orphaned by cholera and now face precarious futures.

“These families deserve compensation, and above all they deserve to be heard after all these years of being shut out and ignored by the UN. The wrongdoer does not have the right to determine the response, particularly without speaking to victims.” Joseph added.

 

 

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