Pepper Water and Protests in Haiti

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Pepper Water and Protests in Haiti

Scott Freeman

Tear gas is not uncommon in Port au Prince. Over the past decade, whether it has been protests over food shortages, controlling political demonstrations, or ‘peacekeeping’ actions by the infamous MINUSTAH UN forces, tear gas and other methods of crowd control have been a reality of the political and social landscape in downtown Port-au-Prince. A veteran reporter in Haiti told me that he had developed all sorts of strategies to deal with tear gas, ranging use of lime under his nose to more preventative measures like always having a paint masks handy. Continue reading

The Finger of Blame for Haiti’s Environmental Degradation

The Haiti/Dominican Republic border. Photo:

By Meghan Pierce, Undergraduate Research Assistant

I visited the Library of Congress last Tuesday to listen to a lecture by Dr. Jean-Francois Mouhot, a post-doctoral research fellow based at Georgetown, who is currently conducting a three-year research project on the Environmental History of Saint-Domingue / Haiti (1492-today).

Dr. Mouhot began his talk by displaying a picture of the Haitian-Dominican boarder, brought to prominence by Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth (see above). The photograph reveals sparse, brown soil on Haiti’s side of the border, and flourishing tropical forest on the other. Dr. Mouhot indicated that with this image, Gore, like many others, depicts Haiti as a “cautionary tale” of failed environmental policy.

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The Present State of Haitian Fertility and the International Response

Photo: Johns Hopkins Public Health

By Meghan Pierce, Undergraduate Research Assistant

The right of the individual to decide how many children to have and when to have them has consistently been the guiding principle in international reproductive health standards, according to the World Health Organization.  Since 2010, Haiti’s rising annual birth rate has been increasingly referred to as a “fertility crisis” by international population demographers.

Haiti’s population is expected to reach 15.7 million by 2050, targeting the need for a reproductive health program to decrease the total fertility rate, currently 3.9 children per woman. In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, an influx of international aid arrived to Haiti, with specific funds allocated for family planning initiatives, prioritized because of the ballooning population and dwindling natural resources. However, like many aid programs in Haiti, the funds have been poorly allocated and inefficiently managed. Since 2010, Haiti has been experiencing a “baby boom” in urban areas like Port-au-Prince, due in part to the destruction of infrastructure that once included clinics with contraceptive supplies and counseling. According to the United Nations Population Fund, the Haitian fertility rate has tripled since the disaster.

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“On Common Ground” Opens at the Art Museum of the Americas

By Meghan Pierce, Undergraduate Research Assistant 

On February 13th, the Organization of American States and the Embassies of Haiti and the Dominican Republic held an opening reception for “On Common Ground,” an exhibition featuring emerging artists of Hispaniola, the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The pieces are held at the Art Museum of the Americas, the OAS gallery located at 201 18th Street, NW.

In order to foster AMA’s mission of “promoting the Inter-American agenda through artistic expression by encouraging social change, consensus building, diversity and tolerance,” the exhibit encourages visitors to examine the shared identities and perceptions of Hispaniola’s people.

One’s eyes are immediately drawn to simple black and white signs hung at each room’s entrance, on which questions are posed to the featured artists. For example, when asked “why do you feel your country is misunderstood?” Dominican artist Engel Leonardo replied “lack of responsibility,” while Haitian artist Pascale Monnin answered “the omnipresence of negative stories in the media.” Powerful and thought-provoking, the responses resonate with visitors as they move throughout the rooms.

In addition to Leonardo and Monnin, the gallery also displays the work of Dominican artists Natalia Ortega Gámez, Hulda Guzmán, Gustavo Peña and Julio Valdez, and Haitian artists Killy Patrick Ganthier, Marc Lee Steed, Manuel Mathieu, and Pascale Monnin. Guzmán’s “Fiesta en el Batey” and Peña’s “Swimming Outside the Boundaries” are especially noteworthy, depicting festive scenes with bold colors and brush lines.

The exhibit as a whole has a hopeful, albeit challenging feel. A visitor is at both times reminded of the richness of Hispaniola culture, but cognizant of its history of inter-island violence and political strife. Indeed, the exhibit authenticates the notion of productive dialogue through thoughtful creativity.

A short way off the National Mall, the exhibit will be on display until May 26th.

For more information, visit the AMA website.

"On Common Ground" exhibit at the Art Museum of the Americas, Washington, DC

“On Common Ground” exhibit at the Art Museum of the Americas, Washington, DC


Dr. Bob Maguire on NPR

Dr. Bob Maguire on NPR

Bob Maguire, professor of the practice of international affairs and director of the Latin American and Hemispheric Studies Program at the Elliott School of International Affairs, discussed Haiti on WBEZ 91.5 Chicago’s Worldview. Maguire is also a faculty affiliate in the Elliott School’s Institute of Global and International Studies and its newly forming Western Hemisphere Research and Policy Group.

Listen to the interview here.

The Role of the ICRC in Haiti

By Meghan Pierce, Undergraduate Research Assistant

On Thursday, January 31, the congressional office of Representative Sam Farr (Dem-CA), hosted a briefing featuring Patricia Danzi, head of Operation for the Americas at the International Committee of the Red Cross in Latin America. The purpose of the session was to delineate the state of armed conflict and violence in Latin America, and to describe accordingly the role of the International Committee of the Red Cross in peacekeeping.

According to its mission statement, the ICRC is an “independent, neutral organization ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war and armed violence. It takes action in response to emergencies and at the same time promotes respect for international humanitarian law and its implementation in national law.” As the head of Operations for the Americas, Danzi embarked on the arduous challenge of summarizing the status of violence in the hemisphere, which varies greatly by country. It was repeatedly emphasized that recent international homicide rates are in decline, except in Latin America, where the rate is more than double the global average.

Danzia explained the capacity of the ICRC to hold a leadership role in humanitarian issues in the hemisphere, through coordination with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and national chapters of the Red Cross in individual countries, as well as through other supranational organizations, such as the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of American States (OAS).

For the purposes of this Project, it was necessary to inquire about the ICRC’s role, if any, in maintaining order in Haiti. While Danzia emphasized the country’s relatively low levels of homicide and kidnapping, certain social elements that were already problematic have since been exacerbated by the 2010 earthquake. The quality of life for detainees and prisoners is one such areas of concern. According to Danzia, there are approximately 9,000 individuals currently being held in detention, with each allotted approximately 1.5 square feet of space in detention centers. This is not only physically infeasible, because it necessitates such things as rotating sleep schedules, but also results in inadequate supplies of water, food and medical care. Most significantly, it is a violation of international humanitarian law.

For those interested in Haitian development, the status of detention centers is something to watch. For further information on the Red Cross’s initiatives, visit the ICRC website.

A Port-au-Prince Prison. Source: International Committee of the Red Cross in Latin America

A Port-au-Prince Prison. Source: International Committee of the Red Cross in Latin America

Canadian Perspectives on Hemispheric Issues: Governance and Diplomacy

By Meghan Pierce, Undergraduate Research Assistant  

On Tuesday, January 15th, the Latin American and Hemispheric Studies Program of the Elliott School of International Affairs, in collaboration with the Embassy of Canada, hosted the final session of a four-part speaker series entitled “Canadian Perspectives on Hemispheric Issues.” The closing program centered on Governance and Diplomacy issues, with Christian Ranger of the Embassy of Canada and Stephen Baranyi of the University of Ottawa as the featured speakers.

The event commenced with a description of the differentiation between US and Canadian diplomatic backgrounds, with Secretary Ranger pointing to such factors as geographic proximity, economic scale, and global notoriety as indicators of policy effectiveness. He also introduced Canada’s foreign affairs and international trade priorities of 2012, which include an emphasis on economic prosperity and job creation, contribution to effective global governance and international security, and most significantly, the expansion Canada’s engagement in the hemisphere.

Such expansion of engagement raises questions about Canada’s contact with Haiti, which Secretary Ranger described as an “exceptional relationship.” He indicated several fundamental connections that bolster the relationship, the most obvious being French as a shared national language (although the most widely-spoken language in Haiti is Kreyol). He also mentioned the importance of the Haitian immigration to Canada, especially the population of Montreal, one of the most politically significant diasporas in the country. Indeed, the 27th Governor General of Canada, Michaelle Jean, was herself a Haitian refugee in the late 1960s.

The question of Canadian aid to Haiti was also raised, given the recent decision by International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino to temporarily discontinue all new aid projects to the Caribbean nation. The Canadian International Development Agency released a statement relaying that “while the results of specific projects have largely met expectations, progress towards a self-sustaining Haitian society has been limited. Our government has a responsibility to maximize the value of Canadian taxpayer dollars… We remain concerned with the slow progress of development in Haiti, in large part due to weaknesses in their governing institutions…We expect accountability, we expect transparency, and we expect tangible results for those most in need.”

Secretary Ranger pointed to recent belt-tightening in Canada, combined with the new economic policy emphasis, as rationale behind the aid freeze. However, like Fantino, he emphasized that certain pre-existing programs will continue, and that Canada will continue its commitment to Haiti through future projects. However, disputes surrounding the international community’s responsibility to Haiti continue to arise. With regard to his own country’s response, Mr. Fantino decried the fact that Canada has already contributed $1 billion in aid. “Are we going to take care of their problems forever? They also have to take charge of themselves.” (Source: The Globe and Mail)

This frustrated perspective appears to be echoed by other major donors, including the United States. What is more, the influx of ineffective or poorly distributed funds raises concerns of aid dependency. Theoretically, Haiti should be a promising zone for long-term development, given its geographic proximity to US and Canadian markets. However, the aid problem, combined with international perceptions of disarray and political instability in Haiti, means that is an unlikely candidate for significant international investment.