BAI and IJDH advocacy at the Third Session of the UN Permanent Forum on People of African Descent

BAI and IJDH continued our efforts to bring Haiti’s fight for restitution and democracy free from foreign interference to the international stage at the Third Session of the United Nations (UN) Permanent Forum on People of African Descent, held from April 16 to 19, 2024, at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland. You can watch videos of the Session here.

Although the BAI lawyers were unable to attend the Session in person, Haitian and diaspora civil society was well represented in Geneva. From left to right: Jacques Letang, Jocelyn McCalla, Michèle Voltaire Marcelin, Pascale Solages, Jennie-Laure Sully, Frantz André, Monique Clesca, Jemima Pierre, Eric Pierre, Michelle Austin Pamies, Yvens Rumbold, Dr. Marie Lemy, and Erik Crew.

The BAI lawyers were ultimately unable to participate in the Session in person due to the profoundly discriminatory nature of global travel barriers and acute insecurity in Haiti, despite significant efforts by IJDH and others. Nevertheless, we were still able to use this opportunity to build global solidarity with our advocacy: the BAI and Haitian partners Mouvement de Liberté, d’Égalité des Haïtiens pour la Fraternité (MOLEGHAF), Étude et action pour les droits de l’homme (EADH), Sant Karl Levêque (SKL), and Ensemble des Citoyens Compétents à la Recherche de l’Egalité des Droits de l’Homme en Haïti (ECCREDHH) put together an Eight Point Framework Document for pursuing restitution for the illegal “Independence Debt” extorted by France, which IJDH Senior Staff Attorney Sasha Filippova submitted to the Forum on their behalf. 

Our advocacy was part of a broader effort by Haitian civil society leaders at the Session to explain how Haiti’s catastrophic crises are the result of two centuries of racist policies by foreign powers that have prevented Haitians from establishing a stable, prosperous country. Interventions by Haitians – including that of BAI Managing Attorney Mario Joseph, delivered to the Forum on his behalf by Haitian-Canadian activist Frantz André (watch it below) – drew standing ovations. Non-Haitians in attendance and members of the Forum also highlighted Haiti’s significance within the broader reparations movement, with Forum member Gaynel Curry stating that “we cannot talk about sustainable development without reparations, and we cannot talk about reparations without talking about Haiti.”

As of April 19, over 200 Haitian, diaspora, and allied organizations and individuals have signed onto the Framework for restitution proposed by the BAI and its Haitian partners. See the full list of signatories here.

The Framework is grounded in Haiti’s well-established legal right to restitution for the Independence Debt and proposes a long-term repayment plan focusing on areas of socio-economic development most impacted by the debt. In submitting the Framework to the Forum, the BAI and its Haitian partners hope to solicit the Forum’s support not just for long overdue monetary reparations, but also for Haitians’ efforts to reclaim their democracy from the former slaveholding powers that continue to undermine Haiti’s sovereignty and stability. Haiti’s restitution claim can accelerate the global reparations movement’s journey toward justice, but only if Haitians have a democratic government willing to assert the claim on their behalf. Mr. Joseph’s related intervention was a powerful call to action for supporters of the global reparations movement to come together behind Haitian democracy: “Haiti holds the key to reparations for all people injured by slavery. But we Haitians need your help to reach the lock.” 


As recorded by Mario Joseph in Kreyòl:

As read to the Forum by Mr. André in French:

Watch on United Nations Web TV as read by Mr. André in English (beginning at 01:58:00)

You can read the full statement in English and French.


Jacques Letang, President of the Haitian Bar Federation:

Jennie-Laure Sully, Haitian-Canadian activist

Guerline Jozef, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance

Watch Monique Clesca, a member of the Commission for the Search for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis, and Jemima Pierre, Co-Coordinator of the Black Alliance for Peace Haiti/Americas Team, on United Nations Web TV (beginning at 01:33:28)

Watch Jocelyn McCalla, Senior Policy Advisor with the Haitian-American Foundation for Democracy, on United Nations Web TV (beginning at 01:56:41).