Today, December 10, we celebrate International Human Rights Day and the 30-year anniversary of a Grassroots International partner, the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), and their efforts to advance human rights and social change in Haiti.
Decades of US and other foreign interventions have kept Haiti poor. At home, the Haitian people face political upheaval, increasing food insecurity, violence, and the aftermath of an August 14 earthquake that did more than $1.5 billion USD in damage and left more than 2,248 dead and 12,763 injured. According to local leaders, these challenges have made it increasingly difficult to provide access to relief or empower the population. Yet, citizens are fighting to create opportunity, increase economic stability, and end state corruption, US and UN impunity, and corporate banditry.
POHDH works with people at the local level to advocate within their communities to advance human rights, including teaching how to document offenses and what can be done to address them. They seek to improve monitoring and assistance to victims of violations and to end the culture of injustice.
In 2021, POHDH has used various outreach programs to target groups, improve understanding, and inspire change. This includes continuing to produce four successful radio broadcasts each month entitled “Koze Dwa Moun” or “Words on Human Rights”; quarterly workshops where members discuss rising concerns; monthly conference-debates and distribution of information bulletins; complaint files for victims of abuse and other human rights violations; and research and documentation on the issue of land rights in collaboration with farmers’ organizations and other partner organizations. By monitoring local and international crisis response and keeping a trained eye on governments, corporations, and even non-government organizations, they are working against further land grabbing and environmental destruction.
The need for support continues to grow. According to the latest report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, following the earthquake of August 14, 2021 and the history of illegal land grabbing against small Haitian farmers, more than 4.4 million Haitians are severely food insecure.
POHDH is working to strengthen its participation in advocacy against land grabbing. To accomplish this, POHDH is pushing for the right of access to land in collaboration with local community organizations and other civil society organizations. In addition, and thanks to concerted fundraising efforts, Grassroots International has already been able to distribute $125,000 in earthquake response grants to our partners in Haiti and is in the process of distributing another $75,000 in the coming weeks.
However, without a more democratic government and an end to US state and corporate intervention, there will continue to be limits to Haitians’ advancement. POHDH has been working with various groups to put together the Montana Accord, named for the August 30 meeting of a core group of international interest groups at the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince. This accord sets out a consensus plan for democratic governance based on self-determination and defines a structure of transition to a free and fair elections process. In total, 500 civil society organizations have signed the Montana Accord. On September 30, 4 members of the Bureau de Suivi de l’Accord (BSA), a body set up by the Montana Accord, shared:
“The Haitian people want and are in the process of redefining their own future… We have made it known that Haitian society has decided to take back its destiny and that it is very attached to democracy.”
Haiti at a Crossroads
Now delegates are calling upon the United States to support this new and ambitious deal. To date, the Biden administration has acknowledged the importance of this process and encouraged the continuation of local efforts. But the legacy of harmful intervention remains.
POHDH sees Haiti at a crossroads that requires the full support of all civil society to ensure that Haitian citizens and leaders can find actionable solutions for this multidimensional crisis. Haitian social movements’ resolute determination continues forward against significant challenges. For POHDH and its Haitian partners, their vision of food sovereignty, climate justice, and full realization of human rights for all of Haiti’s people remains the unifying goal. It is time that the citizens of Haiti have the opportunity to repair their communities, build the basis for their independent economy and reduce risks of dependency.
Rebecca Gonser is a volunteer writer for Grassroots International