It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light

Mwen se echantiyon yon ras kap boujonnen men ki poko donnen

Si vous voulez vous faire des ennemis essayer de changer les choses

Thursday, April 5, 2007

State Department: Supporting Human Rights and Democracy in Haiti: The U.S. Record 2006

2006Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Haiti is a republic with a constitution that calls for an elected president and a bicameral legislature. After two years of an interim government, relatively peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections took place on February 7 and April 21. Local elections were held on December 3. In the national election voters elected Rene Preval as President and filled 129 parliamentary seats. President Preval and the new parliament took office on May 14. -------------------------------
Despite improvements in the democratic process, the government's human rights record remained poor. The state no longer perpetrates or supports acts of political violence, but the following human rights problems were reported: occasional extrajudicial killings by members of the Haitian National Police acting outside their official capacity; overcrowding and poor sanitation in prisons; occasional arbitrary arrests; prolonged pretrial detention; judicial backlog and a judiciary subject to significant influence by the executive and legislative branches; severe corruption in all branches of government; failure to enforce trade union organizing rights; ineffective measures to prevent violence and societal discrimination against women; child abuse, internal trafficking of children, and child domestic labor; ineffective measures to address killings by members of gangs and other armed groups; and kidnapping, torture, and cruel treatment by gang members and criminals.-----------------------------------------------------------
The U.S. human rights and democracy strategy in the country focused on providing stability and assisting in the reconstruction of democratic processes, including respect for the rule of law. These efforts included securing peaceful national and local elections, reforming the criminal justice system, supporting good governance, assisting human rights organizations, and supporting reconciliation, reconstruction, and social reintegration efforts.--------------------------
The United States sponsored an initiative through the UN Development Program to provide political parties access to office equipment, media advertising, and transportation to remote areas. This assistance was given to political parties that agreed to adhere to democratic practices by signing a governability pact. U.S. officials also trained political party staff on developing sound policies and adequately managing their internal affairs. ---------------------------------------
A U.S. program trained 8,000 party representatives to better represent their constituencies from within government and as members of a peaceful opposition. The United States also supported an elections monitoring program that helped oversee the entire electoral process. By the end of the year the program had trained 1,529 poll watcher trainers from approximately 26 political parties and 144 party monitors. With U.S. funding, the Organization of American States helped more than 3.5 million citizens register to vote. An estimated 63 percent of registered voters participated in the elections ----------------------------------------
In January, before the first round of the presidential elections, the United States sponsored the last of a series of presidential debates among the candidates which was aired widely throughout the country. The United States also continued a successful civic education program and funded seminars, as well as a project that worked with local associations, teachers, and youth on the principles and practices of good governance.-------------------------------------
The United States sponsored a program implemented through the UN Office for Project Services to strengthen the external communication capacity of the country's electoral council during the electoral cycle. The UN office provided assistance for the electoral council to establish a press center within the premises, including a media workspace and a fully equipped press conference room. The project fostered improved relations between the electoral council and the media and facilitated news coverage of the elections.-------------------------
During the year a U.S. program provided technical assistance, equipment, and human rights training to recruits for the national police. A contingent of 50 U.S. civilian police assigned to the UN Mission to Haiti assisted with this program and others to improve security and respect for human rights. Another U.S. program continued the long-term process of improving justice sector functioning, including analysis of the causes of judicial incapacity, delay, and irregular detention. The program helped develop approaches to create an independent judiciary, improve case management; institute control and oversight of justice operations; train judges, clerks and prosecutors; raise the quality of legal education; and reduce excessive pretrial detention. -------------------------------------------------
To strengthen parliamentary activities, the United States initiated a comprehensive institutional strengthening effort with the newly elected parliament, successfully negotiating for the creation of a bicameral commission to provide strategic direction and oversight for the three-year project. The bi-partisan committee developed a long-term plan for improved parliamentary functioning. To promote establishment of decentralized government bodies to meet the country's constitutional requirements, in December the United States contributed funds for the administration of local and municipal elections.--------
U.S. funding produced two documentaries to raise awareness of issues that impact human rights and democracy. One documentary examined growing socioeconomic polarization and insecurity and how they affected persons in all walks of life. The second documentary brought together representatives from civil society to discuss priorities for the newly elected government and to provide guidance on fostering national reconciliation. Both documentaries were broadcast on seven television stations twice a week during the period of July and August 2006. They were also broadcast in the provinces during the same period.
To support media freedom in the country, a U.S. program provided election coverage training for journalists and operators of a network of 40 community radio stations. In addition, seven U.S. training programs, which included components on advocating for greater press freedom, helped journalists improve reporting on the electoral process to provide better information to potential voters. U.S. funding also sponsored an election soap opera that relied heavily on the country's oral storytelling tradition that was broadcast by 40 community radio stations and 12 private radio stations. ------------------------------------------------
During the year a U.S. program sponsored a seminar on ethics in journalism and communication tools for press attaches and journalists. The ambassador's commentary for World Press Freedom Day was published in two newspapers in October, Le Nouvelliste and Le Matin, and other weekly publications. The op-ed piece recognized the country's press corps for their role in furthering democracy. The commentary also noted the sacrifices that the journalists had made, persecuted at the hands of the government and the gangs. U.S. funding also enabled 12 journalists to participate in a Fulbright program on journalism and media freedom in the United States.-----------------------------------------------
To support and strengthen civil society and civic education, a U.S. program created the Civic Forum initiative to provide citizens with knowledge, skills, and encouragement to participate in democratic processes and engage their local officials in areas of common concern. Through this initiative, citizens formed local committees to propose solutions that relied on local resources and increased community participation. By year's end 47 new local Civic Initiative Committees were created to implement numerous improvement initiatives including small gardens, reforestation, sanitation, ravine conservation, road rehabilitation, and provision of potable water.-----------------------------------------
The U.S. also supported programs to reduce corruption including training to strengthen the management capacity and financial systems in key government entities, including the Ministry of Finance, the Superior Court of Accounts, the Commission for Adjudication of Public Contracts, and the Tax Service. U.S. assistance increased government accountability and transparency through a newly integrated financial management system that tracked and monitored government expenditures and financial operations.------------------------
To promote respect for human rights, a U.S. program provided grants and training for local organizations that offered medical and psychological assistance to 500 victims of gang violence. The program provided civil society groups with grants to conduct training on human rights principles, with the result that approximately 50 organizations received direct training to join an assistance network of human rights groups, hospitals, and grassroots associations that supported local communities.----------------------------------------------------
In December, U.S. funding sponsored an essay contest for youth to commemorate the 58th annual International Human Rights Day. Through this funding, 11 students received certificates for their winning submissions on human rights and nonviolence.---------------------------------------------------------
To support the government's efforts to combat the serious problem of internal and external trafficking of children for domestic labor (restaveks), during the year U.S.-funded programs supported a publicity campaign to raise awareness about child slavery, provided services to victims, and coordinated efforts for legislative reform. U.S. funding also provided antitrafficking training for representatives of the Ministries of Justice, Social Affairs, Interior, Education, and Foreign Affairs. The program also briefed members of parliament on trafficking and human rights treaties and trained parliamentary candidates on trafficking issues. The U.S.-supported program provided trafficked children with food, school fees, medical aid, transportation, informal education, shelter, and their return to region of origin. It also repatriated minors trafficked into the Dominican Republic. By year's end the program had provided direct and indirect assistance to approximately 800 children.-------------------------- -------Stanley Lucas -----Executive Director Washington Democracy Project(202) 256-6026 ---------The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men. Plato