Update on Haiti and yesterday's conference in Canada

January 26, 2010

The earthquake in Haiti caused unimaginable destruction and grief for a country that was already the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. The Obama Administration has responded to the crisis with a strong expression of support to the Haitian government, and to Haitian people residing both in the US and in Haiti. This was demonstrated by the grant of temporary protected status (TPS) to Haitians in the US on January 15th. As a follow-up to this, we’re asking everyone to join us in calling on the US government to suspend the current US interdiction at sea policy, also known as the “shout test,” because it is not an effective method of identifying individuals at risk of persecution or trafficking. Under refugee and international human rights law and standards, all individuals have the right to seek protection from persecution and other human rights abuses. When boats are interdicted at sea, the US can ensure compliance with its obligations by conducting meaningful individualized review of requests for protection in a place of safety.

Yesterday, Secretary of State Clinton participated in a 1-day meeting in Montreal, Canada along with representatives of the NGO-community, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Haitian Prime Minister Jean Max-Bellerive, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, representatives from the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, the European Union, and many others to start talking about the development of a strategy to re-build Haiti.

This one-day meeting is a first-step toward a much larger reconstruction conference on Haiti, which will be taking place in the coming months. The US confirmed that they will host a conference to discuss Haitian aid in early March at the United Nations.

We strongly urge that a human rights framework be incorporated into all plans and during all phases of the relief effort and the reconstruction of Haiti including:

  • Suspension of the US government’s current interdiction at sea policy, to be replaced by a procedure that ensures an effective method of identifying individuals at risk of persecution or other human rights abuses;
  • Protection of children from abuse, exploitation and trafficking;
  • Protection of the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs);
  • Protection of women and girls from gender-based violence, including sexual violence;
  • Ensure that the Haitian authorities are able to the rule of law and establish adequate security including the establishment of a functional justice system ;
  • Clarify the role of international forces in Haiti, and establish transparent accountability measures for these forces; and
  • Cancel Haiti’s foreign debt absent any conditions that would have a negative human rights impact.