The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Rights Groups Urge Respect for Human Rights in Delivering Aid to Haiti

Call for Transparency and Consultation with the Haitian People and Government


In the wake of the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, six prominent
rights groups issued a statement today calling for relief efforts to be
grounded in human rights principles, transparency, and respect for the
human dignity of all Haitians. The groups-the Center for
Constitutional Rights (CCR), the Center for Human Rights and Global
Justice (CHRGJ), the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
(IJDH), Partners In Health/Zanmi Lasante, the Robert F. Kennedy Center
for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center), and TransAfrica Forum
-warned that failure to do so could aggravate the already disastrous impacts of the earthquake.

"There is no doubt that Haiti's hungry, thirsty, injured, and sick
urgently need all the assistance the international community can
provide, but it is critical that the underlying goal of improving human
rights drives the distribution of every dollar of aid given to Haiti,"
said Loune Viaud, Director of Strategic Planning and Operations at
Zanmi Lasante. "The only way to avoid escalation of this crisis is for
international aid to take a long-term view and strive to rebuild a
stronger Haiti-one that includes a government that can ensure the basic
human rights of all Haitians and a nation that is empowered to demand
those rights."

The groups cited past relief efforts in Haiti that were uncoordinated,
unpredictable, and lacked community participation, often leading to
increased suffering. They called on the international community to
seize on this opportunity to advance human rights and sustainability in
the ravaged country.

"The magnitude of the catastrophe is not entirely a result of natural
disaster but rather, a history of deliberate impoverishment and
disempowerment of the Haitian people through a series of misguided
polices," said Brian Concannon Jr., Director of IJDH. "Lack of donor
accountability and continued aid volatility will only guarantee even
greater suffering."

In their statement, the groups call on the international community to
employ a rights- based approach at all stages of the relief effort,
from planning to implementation and monitoring by:

  • Following the UN's Guiding Principles on Internal
    Displacement, which include the right to assistance from the government
    and the right to return;
  • Complying with the Paris
    Principles on Aid Effectiveness, which aim to ensure aid harmonization,
    alignment, and management for results with monitorable indicators;
  • Recognizing
    the human rights context that existed prior to the earthquakes and take
    steps to ensure that humanitarian and development efforts do not
    exacerbate or reinforce the marginalization of vulnerable groups such
    as women, children, and the landless;
  • Ensuring that relief
    is coordinated and provided in a transparent process, including through
    shared needs assessments and a high level of coordination with the
    government of Haiti itself; and,
  • Empowering all strata of
    the Haitian population to participate in decision-making at each level
    of the aid and development process, from the initial needs assessment
    to project planning, implementation, and evaluation.

"All too often, aid has been slow to arrive, uncoordinated, and
planned with no input from the people most affected-that legacy must
and can end today," said Monika Kalra Varma, Director of the RFK
Center. "We have an opportunity to break with the past and ensure that
assistance is given in a way that strengthens Haitians' fundamental
rights to food, water, and health. The Haitian people deserve no less."

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