The Human Right to Food in Haiti: Report of an International Fact-finding Mission page – 12

Rights & Democracy and Groupe de Recherche et d’Appui au Milieu Rural (GRAMIR)

International Cooperation

States parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international cooperation based on free consent.

(ICESCR, article 11.1 on the right to an adequate standard of living, including food)

The CESCR recommends in its General Comment 2, that development agencies recognize the “intimate relationship…between development activities and efforts to promote respect for human rights.”89 The FAO Guidelines, referring to Article 56 of the UN Charter, urge the international community to take action in support of national efforts to implement the human right to food. Unfortunately, however, the international community in Haiti did not demonstrate a commitment to or an interest in the possible value-added of the human rights framework for development of hunger eradication strategies.

Mission members recognize and welcome the willingness of some donor agencies and some financial partners to contribute to food security programming in Haiti. Nevertheless, the delegation was discouraged by poor coordination between international actors and by the short-term nature of their interventions. Such weaknesses limit the ability of the state to implement the sustainable responses required to fulfil the human right to food for the people of Haiti.

The international community must also understand that it has extra-territorial obligations with respect to the human rights impacts of its activities in Haiti. While the issue of extra-territorial obligations remains controversial within international law, nevertheless there is a growing consensus that treaty obligations are not limited to domestic application and that in an era of economic globalization, human rights responsibilities of the state extend beyond national borders.90

Fulfilling any human right requires planning, programs for implementation and budget allocation. However Haiti receives approximately 75% of its investment budget from the international community. This support comes with a series of conditions that often inform sector allocation of resources. Much of the structural change that successive Haitian governments have undertaken in return for political and financial support during recent decades included progressive withdrawal from sectors responsible for economic and social rights. The international community has a responsibility to ensure that the conditions it negotiates with Haiti do not negatively affect the ability of the state to implement its human rights obligations. As one senior Haitian official told the mission delegation, “We are at the mercy of the donors.”

Haiti has no war, no ethnic conflict, covers barely 28,000 km2, and has lots of donors — so why are we in a struggle for our survival?

A government official

Failure to place international cooperation within a human rights framework

During the mission, the latest version of the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for Haiti was languishing in a drafting process. According to a representative of the UN office for human rights in Port-au-Prince, finalization of the text had been derailed by the recent fall of government which had also delayed final approval of the PRSP. The UNDAF and the PRSP have been drafted in tandem to be mutually supporting, according to statements made during the interview. Members of the mission were told that the soon-to-be-adopted UNDAF emphasizes human rights as the appropriate framework for development policy, as it does in most other countries. If implemented, this approach could discourage continued emphasis on humanitarian or “charity” responses to issues such as hunger, healthcare and education and encourage longer term state-led solutions for secure and equitable access to economic and social rights.

There are distinct advantages offered to donors when they adopt a human rights framework as a governance tool for development assistance. First, human rights obligations define state priorities and provide guidance on a range of flexible approaches for implementation. They also offer a comprehensive approach for assessment and measurement of related development outcomes. Use of that approach would harmonize the often-contradictory web of benchmarks and targets accompanying individual donor contributions. The UN human rights system provides an established multilateral monitoring system that encourages local ownership of development processes as well as consultation between state and civil society. Finally, human rights underpin democratic processes by defining the relationship between state and citizen.

Despite these advantages, a government representative explained that more than 80% of foreign aid by-passes the state. Programs are executed by NGOs or out-sourced to the private sector. They do not transfer capacity to the state and are not linked to national policies designed to respond to human rights obligations. Although there has been some improvement in recent years, some government officials expressed concern that the complex reporting requirements and lack of harmonization between donors hampers effectiveness. Furthermore, control of the project design and identification of expected outcomes remain in the hands of the donor and its executing agency.

In one example, the mission met with administrators of a small project near Aquin. The project was funded through an initiative of the World Bank. The project objective is to support development of the voluntary sector through financial assistance and technical support.91 Even though the government has made efforts through the work of the CNSA to identify vulnerable communities, the project used the information only to identify the district it would service. Furthermore, the project applies a specific policy approach when selecting beneficiaries — one that limits support to the voluntary sector and denies it to local cooperatives and grassroots organizations.

In Haiti, the international community has devoted its considerable resources towards institution building, infrastructure, and maintaining public security. Such activities are important in Haiti but do not adequately address the causes of food insecurity in the country. Moreover, much of the policy guidance that accompanies development assistance appears to promote additional liberalization of Haiti’s already wide-open economy, without taking any responsibility for concurrent negative impacts on enjoyment of the right to food.92

Lack of coordination among donors and between donors and Haitian government

Government representatives met by members of the mission were quick to decry the lack of coordination among its donors. They explained that lack of coordination resulted in multiple program assessment demands placed on the government and a kind of “flag-waving” approach to individual projects. Members of the mission also observed this dynamic when interviewing donor country representatives. For example, the initiative led by the Ministry of Agriculture via the CNSA to develop a national food security policy was dismissed by certain donors apparently because it was not an initiative they had funded.

Implementation of the newly-drafted PRSP provides another illustration. Members of the mission were told during an interview with a government official, that the PRSP was developed following an extensive, multi-year collaboration between donors, financial institutions and the Government of Haiti. Once adopted, they understood that its provisions would offer the defining governance framework for the country. In reality however, once the PRSP was finalized, individual donor countries cited their own overseas development assistance priorities as a reason for leaving some parts of the PRSP unfunded while selecting others for funding support. This left members of the Haitian government frustrated with the process and still unable to implement a comprehensive response to governance and development challenges.

Furthermore, although the members of the mission observed that some donors and several UN agencies collaborate on a regular basis with various Haitian ministries, there does not seem to be any organized or coordinated long term effort aimed at reinforcing the state’s capacity to provide basic public services for its population. Even within Port-au-Prince, it was unclear to the members of mission how much coordination actually went on between international donors and particularly between UN agencies. It was surprising to learn, for example, that the human rights office of the MINUSTAH (staffed by 50 people) was interested in monitoring economic and social rights but said it could not because it had no expertise in the area. Other UN agencies including the FAO, WFP, UNICEF, UNESCO and the PAHO/ WHO have offices in Port-au-Prince and clearly could provide the needed expertise if asked to do so.



89- See

90- An international consortium of human rights experts is currently drafting a set of principles to better understand the scope of extra-territorial obligations. Contact FIAN International,

91- The voluntary sector in Haiti was created in the 1960’s mainly by foreign NGOs and international development agencies and now competes with grassroots associations for aid resources.

92- For example, on July 14, 2008 a coalition of Haitian civil society groups

wrote to parliamentarians expressing concern about the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union. According to the coalition, the agreement will undermine efforts to enable national food security strategies.