HSG Facilitates UK/Europe Visit by Leading Haitian Human Rights Lawyer

UK/Europe visit by leading Haitian human rights lawyer: put Haitians in charge of their own development

The second anniversary of the earthquake of 12 January 2010 marked the start of an 18-month HSG campaign to persuade the EU (and other international donors) to change their approach to development aid in Haiti so that he country will be given a chance to take control of its own destiny.

Leading Haitian human rights lawyer Mario Joseph visited London, Scotland and Brussels on a 10-day tour, which ended on 19 January, to provide the analysis and proposals of grassroots civil society in Haiti to the public and to key decision makers.

At a major public event in London, organised by a coalition of UK groups committed to Haiti, including the HSG, Mario called on those present and on people throughout the world to act in true solidarity with Haiti.

In his keynote speech during the “Haiti: Year Zero +2” event on 12 January at TUC Congress House, he said: “Aid will not by itself develop Haiti. We in Haiti understand our own development needs, just as we understood how to liberate ourselves from slavery 200 years ago.”

He explained how the international community imposed the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC) on the Haitian people, dominated by foreign donors and Haitians unrepresentative of the poor majority, which emasculated the capacity of the Haitian government and its people to control the reconstruction of the country.

The failure of this body and the need for the Haitian government to lead development in an accountable way is the theme of the latest Haiti Briefing (No.69 English / French)based on in-depth research and analysis by the HSG of the IHRC’s aims, structure, and performance and contains, we believe, the best concise overview of its work.

An important part of Mario’s visit were meetings with the European institutions in Brussels on 10/11 January. The EU is currently reviewing its overall development policy and will in due course agree new financial aid instruments which will have a significant impact on Haiti.

The visit resulted in a deeper understanding of how EU aid operates in Haiti and will enable Haitian CSOs to make more effective representations to the EU Delegation in Port-au-Prince.

A detailed research on EU-Haiti relations commissioned by HSG, shows that there are realistic prospects for persuading the EU to place a greater emphasis on food security and ultimately food sovereignty.

Mario and HSG lobbied the newly created European External Action Service (EEAS – EU Foreign Office) to effect greater engagement with the politics of development in Haiti to ensure aid governance which allows for greater steer coming from the Haitian government and civil society and which delivers sustainable development for the poor.

Mario also visited Scotland to meet African and pro-Haiti grassroots NGO groups and student activists in Glasgow. He also had a meeting in Edinburgh at the Scottish Parliament with a number of MSPs and at a seminar with Scottish human rights lawyers where he explained his organisation, BAI’s legal action against the UN in relation to the introduction of cholera to Haiti.

On his return to London for the final few days of his trip, he held a similar seminar with the Bar Human Rights Committee. As result of these meetings an informal working group of eminent experts in the law of international organisations will hopefully emerge to find ways to end the current situation which prevents victims of illegal action by UN personnel to obtain adequate compensation.

Finally, Mario formed important links within the British Trade Union movement. On his return to Haiti he will help them link up with grassroots unions there. Such connections will be invaluable in view of the UN development plan for Haiti which is focussed on the exploitation of Haiti’s cheap labour, leading to massive abuses of elementary human rights against factory workers.

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