Haiti: Human rights must be at the core of relief efforts and reconstruction
Two weeks after an earthquake brought great loss of lives and material destruction to parts of Haiti, the international community maintains its mobilization in bringing much needed relief and humanitarian assistance to the Haitian people. The UN Security Council held a special session on the humanitarian crisis following the earthquake in Haiti and today the Canadian government held the first international conference to lay out the initial response for reconstruction. Further meetings are expected to be held, including by the UN Human Rights Council and other international bodies.
The challenges that lay ahead are many. Amnesty International takes this opportunity to express its concerns amid the humanitarian crisis that unfolds in Haiti and stresses that protecting human rights is essential for effective relief and a sustainable recovery. Efforts and activities to address human rights issues must start during the relief phase and be at the core of the reconstruction effort.
Human rights are most in jeopardy in situations of crisis and emergency, therefore it is critical that all the actors take all the appropriate measures aimed at preventing human rights violations and ensuring respect for and fulfilment of human rights as expressed in international human rights instruments.
The situation on the ground is such that Haitians are not only facing one of the most serious humanitarian crises that has ever afflicted a nation but they are also confronted with a human rights crisis.
The loss of tens of thousands of lives cannot be attributed only to the forces of nature. The endemic poverty that afflicts most of the population has contributed significantly to the extensive devastation. In encouraging and supporting reconstruction in Haiti, it is essential that the international community does not recreate the same factors that put people at risk of human rights violations and perpetuate inequalities and poverty.
Relief and reconstruction efforts in Haiti must be based on the respect and promotion of all human rights. The authorities in Haiti and the international donor community must ensure that the necessary international cooperation and assistance for Haiti is consistent with human rights standards. As such, it must be provided in ways that ensure non-discrimination; that adequately prioritise fulfilling at least minimum essential levels of food, water, sanitation, education, health and housing for all; and that focus on those most in need. In addition, the Haiti authorities and donor states must act with due diligence to ensure that relief and development assistance does not result in, or contribute to, human rights violations and that there are effective mechanisms for the meaningful participation of all affected communities, including the most marginalized, in the relief and development assistance efforts.
During the distribution of relief assistance and the early stages of the reconstruction phase, Amnesty International raises the following concerns and urges all actors to address them without delay and comprehensively:
- Protection of Children's rights from abuse, exploitation and trafficking
- Protecting the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs)
- Protection of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls from gender-based violence, including sexual violence
- Security and law enforcement
- Cancellation of Haiti’s foreign debt
Download Amnesty's full statement (PDF)
Accountability of international forces