March 4, 2014
The Research and Advocacy program of JUSTAPAZ [the Christian Center for Justice, Peace, and Nonviolent Action] and CEDECOL [the Peace Commission of the Evangelical Council of Colombia] have just released the eighth edition of A Prophetic Call, an annual report that documents human rights violations against Protestant and evangelical church members, leaders and pastors in Colombia. This report brings to life and provides a record and analysis of the abuses that Colombians within the church face due to the ongoing armed conflict in the country.
This year’s report summarizing violations for 2012 includes 42 cases mostly involving displacements and threats, being conducted by neo-paramilitary and by FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] the largest guerrilla group in the country. These stories are collected by trained regional teams, and then categorized and entered into a central database, where they can be subjected to statistical analysis. The research and advocacy program that documents these stories also runs peacebuilding training for churches, spiritual accompaniment for victims, legal aid, and political advocacy.
A Prophetic Call provides a national contextual analysis of Colombia, the cases documented, as well as a quantitative analysis of the demographics of victims, their locations, the identity of the perpetrators, and the most frequent types of violations. The report shares formal statements, experiences, and peacebuilding proposals from Protestant and evangelical churches.
Finally, the report recommends a number of action points. This year’s recommendations include:
- That the Colombian government give priority to social programs and reduce military spending
- That the United States government continue to redirect military aid towards socio-economic aid and peace initiatives
- That new anti-narcotics policies be adopted that reduce coercive strategies in favor of a renewed focus on addiction, demand for drugs, and arms trafficking
- That new methods be developed for comprehensive protection that include nonviolent strategies
It is important to share these stories that are being recorded and shed light on our brothers and sisters sufferings. As the report explains, “Historical memory has been a key element in helping Christians to better understand their faith and social responsibilities as bearers of hope.”
Read the Full Report Here.
Take action for peace in Colombia and participate in the Days of Prayer and Action.
February 25, 2014
Theo Sitther reflects on Haiti’s history in the latest Third Way Cafe.
Haiti faces a deeply rooted problem, which pre-dates the 2010 earthquake, of systemic economic injustice and inequality. Decades of economic policies, largely imposed by the international community, have crippled Haiti’s ability to build a society that thrives and prospers.
Read the article here.
December 18, 2013
This year, the MCC Washington Office has asked for your support in urging Congress to pass the “Assessing Progress in Haiti Act.” This legislation would help increase transparency and accountability of U.S. aid efforts in Haiti by requiring Congress to receive comprehensive updates from the State Department on how the funds are being spent. These updates and reports will give Congress more thorough oversight to the disaster reconstruction process.
On December 12, the “Assessing Progress in Haiti Act” (H.R. 3509) passed the House. This bipartisan legislation was sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and is similar to previous legislation on aid transparency in Haiti.
“The Haitian people have continued to demonstrate resiliency, strength, and bravery despite the tragic events that have occurred. It is beyond time that in turn, Congress supports Haiti by ensuring that relief and reconstruction funds are effectively spent to maximize their long term impact. We need to make certain that the people of Haiti are on the road to recovery and not forgotten,” said Congresswoman Lee prior to the passing of the bill.
Thank you to everyone who contacted their Representative and urged them to support the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act. The bill now moves to the Senate.
November 14, 2013
Read about Haiti in the latest Mennonite World Review by Theo Sitther. Learn more about changes needed within U.S. aid efforts in Haiti to truly work alongside and empower the people there.
MCC’s partners in Haiti call for a development approach that prioritizes the most vulnerable and holistically addresses the population’s needs. For example, the 300,000 people living in tents deserve to have one of their most basic human needs — dignified housing — met. More resources should be devoted to such needs.
The U.S. and other international actors in Haiti should be more transparent and consultative with Haitian civil society when carrying out development projects. When Haitians themselves are in control and at the center of the rebuilding process, U.S. aid efforts will be far more effective.
October 25, 2013
On October 24th, 2013, Representatives James McGovern and Frank Wolf co-chaired a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Hearing on Colombia. The hearing focused on several topics, including the issues of labor rights and victims’ rights in the context of the on-going peace process happening in Colombia. Several expert panelists spoke on these topics and discussed both the successes and the work that needs to be done when it comes to addressing human rights violations in Colombia.
The evidence and research presented by these panelists is very clear on the point that human rights violations are being committed against Colombians, who often have little support in receiving the justice they deserve. For instance, despite the Colombian government creating the “Law on Victims’ Rights and Land Restitution”, only 1% of the 5.8 million Colombians registered under the law have had their cases reviewed an been able to return to their homes. The “Labor Action Plan“, an agreement between the United States and Colombia that protects workers’ rights, has been largely ineffective due to lack of enforcement and workers continue to be deprived of their rights and have their leaders threatened. There is hope, however, that the peace process will help bring justice to these victims.
Many panelists called for the United States to support the peace process, and emphasized that the United States was in a position to help the process by making their support clear to the Colombian military. By transitioning the majority of its aid money from military aid to social and development aid, the United States would send a clear statement that the U.S. is willing to support Colombia as they transition from war to peace.
Adam Isacson, Senior Associate for Regional Security Policy, Washington Office on Latin America identified two additional areas in which a change in U.S. policy would help show support for the peace process in Colombia.
- The U.S. should speak more frequently and publicly about its support of the peace process.
- The U.S. needs to be willing to change its drug policy, as Colombia’s drug policies could change as a result of the peace process.
These recommendations call for a major shift in mentality on the part of the United States government, but that shift is necessary if the U.S. wants to play a positive role in Colombia as that country transitions from civil war to peace. Following the hearing, on Tuesday, October 29th, Representative James McGovern and Representative George Miller published a report about the failures of the Labor Action Plan in Colombia, recommending changes to the LAP’s implementation that will hopefully make it more effective and provide real security to Colombian workers. It is these kinds of changes that will need to be made on the part of the United States if they want to help make all the difference to the peace process.
Read more information about the hearing here.
October 23, 2013
This week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced that of the 1.5 million people originally displaced by the 2010 earthquake, less than 200,000 people are still living in displacement camps. This is a an 89% decrease in the number of people living in these camps since July 2010.
However, these numbers do not include the 54,045 people who live in the Canaan, Jerusalem, and Onaville camps. In July 2013, the government Haiti requested that these three displacement camps be removed from the IOM’s official tracking list, stating that they were “new neighborhoods needing urban planning with a long term view,” and did not meet the characteristics of an IDP site. It is important to note that these camps are also located in regions targeted for industrial and tourism development; developments that have been delayed because of the presence of the camps.
A peaceful protest on the 26th anniversary of the Haitian constitution calling for permanent and
affordable solutions to the IDP shelter problem in Port au Prince. 28 March 2013. Photo Credit:
The people living in these three camps, however, do not have the same security of those families that live in a planned neighborhood. Amnesty International reported this week that residents living in these areas are subject to forced evictions by “police officers accompanied by armed men.” Their homes are destroyed, they have been the victims of attacks, and several members of this displaced community have been imprisoned on unfounded charges. No longer officially considered IDPs, residents of these camps won’t have protection or oversight to prevent additional evictions and acts of violence.
In the summer of 2013, MCC published a brief titled “Permanent, Social Housing in Haiti: Recommendations for the US Government.” This brief looks at the lack of housing aid that has been effectively put to use in Haiti to help those living in IDP camps. Despite recognition from the Haitian Reconstruction Fund that there is an obligation to take care of these people, little funding has been appropriated for these specific projects and to help build permanent, safe housing for the residents of these camps.
MCC urges government officials to put an end to these forced evictions, investigate the cases of violence, and work towards a permanent housing solution for all IDPs, whether they are on the official list or not.
October 18, 2013
On Wednesday, October 9th, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on the “Administration of Haiti Reconstruction Funding.” The discussion was based on a report issued June 2013 by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that investigated and reported on the USAID funded Caracol industrial park in northern Haiti. The hearing took place in two parts: the first with a panel from the GAO, represented by Dr. David Gootnick, the primary author of the report and the second with a panel comprised of Haiti Special Coordinator Tom Adams from the State Department and Beth Hogan, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator of USAID.
Dr. Gootnick answered numerous questions from members of Congress about how USAID was utilizing the $651 million appropriated for post-earthquake relief efforts. The primary focus of the hearing was on the Caracol Industrial Park in northern Haiti, which is one of the largest projects that USAID has helped fund with the aid money. U.S. funded portions of the part includes:
- A sea port for exporting goods from the industrial park,
- a power plant for electricity generation for the park,
- And housing for park employees
The GAO report found that USAID had underestimated the costs and timeline of construction. The committee members were most shocked by the “scandalous” lack of oversight regarding housing construction. The initial estimate was for USAID to construct 15,000 homes, however 3 years after the earthquake only 2,649 homes were actually built. Several factors that influenced the increased cost were discussed during the hearing, such as:
- A complicated land tenure system
- Lack of adequate infrastructure like indoor plumbing
- Difficulties with importing materials
- Problems with post-earthquake rubble removal
The hearing made clear that there was a serious, overarching problem with U.S. aid to Haiti: a lack of oversight and accountability. The GAO report made several recommendations to help address the issues of USAID’s reconstruction in Haiti. The most important, and the one that congressional members present at the hearing seemed to agree on, was requiring additional and more accurate reports from USAID, so that their projects could continue with more congressional oversight
Read the GOA Report here and watch the recording of the Hearing here.