In 2014, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux launched a Civic Engagement Program (Programme d’Engagement Civique, PEC) in the Central Plateau of Haiti. In BAI’s experience, the solution to Haiti’s general inability to enforce basic rights is to teach marginalized citizens the skills to allow them to engage effectively with the local, national and international powers that make the decisions which deprive them of their rights. The BAI PEC programs are taught as part of a concrete participative rights-enforcement initiative, which allows for experimentation, learning from successes and failures, and adapting techniques to local conditions.
Through PEC, Haitian citizens discuss issues that are important to them and collaborate to make their voices heard. BAI regularly holds press conferences and supports the organization of peaceful protests, creating opportunities for grassroots Haitian voices to have an impact in the national and international press. IJDH amplifies these voices throughout the Institute’s transnational advocacy networks, connecting the Haitian grassroots advocates with campaigns and advocates abroad. Although in the summer of 2018, many Haitians determined that current conditions required more confrontational tactics, we are convinced that peaceful protests and direct engagement with government officials will be essential in the medium and long terms.
PEC plays a fundamental role in the Cholera Justice Campaign, which is the most successful example of the IJDH/BAI network approach. The initiative has produced concrete results in a difficult climate, and has been recognized in a global public health textbook, in the UN General Assembly, academic articles and in the press.
Over the next year, the network will continue applying pressure in the United States, the United Nations, and elsewhere to force the UN to respect the victims’ rights. Highlights from 2017 and 2018 include:
– A $10 million appropriation for the UN cholera program by the United States Congress, despite Administration opposition;
– Mobilizing pressure within Haiti for a better UN response, including a series of coordinated sermons by Catholic priests in hard-hit areas, generating wide Haitian press coverage, forcing the Haitian government to increase its calls for UN accountability for cholera; and
– Making cholera the dominant issue of a UN Security Council visit to Haiti, despite U.S. insistence that the issue be excluded from the formal agenda.