Human right to food denied in Haiti: Preliminary findings of the fact-finding mission

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI - May 31, 2008

  • An international fact-finding mission on the human right to food said today that hunger and malnutrition are pervasive in Haiti, in both rural areas and urban centers. Insufficient access to food is a chronic problem and risks escalating into a humanitarian crisis. The current situation results from structural weaknesses of the state and failure of the international community to support agricultural development in Haiti. The human right to food is enshrined in Haiti's constitution, requiring the state to take concrete and immediate steps to resolve the problem.

The mission, which was co-organized by Rights & Democracy and la Groupe de recherche et d'Appui au Milieu Rural (GRAMIR), began its field work on May 26 and visited communities affected by hunger in three municipalities: Lascahobas; Côtes de fer; and Aquin. The mission also visited several suburban areas of Port-au-Prince: Jalousie; Cite de Dieu; Cite L'Eternel; Descayette. Meetings were held with representatives of the state (government ministries and parliamentarians), donor agencies, international financial institutions and civil society organizations.

The mission observed that although the state faces numerous challenges, it has taken steps to address the problem of hunger in the country. The mission welcomes efforts made by the Coordination Nationale de la Sécurité Alimentaire (CSNA) to coordinate assistance programs, to monitor food security and to issue regular reports on the situation. The mission especially welcomes the initiative taken by the CSNA to draft a national food security strategy and it calls upon the state to reinforce the legal and institutional status of the CSNA.

The mission urges the Government of Haiti, in cooperation with its international partners, to take immediate steps to address structural causes of hunger and malnutrition in order to avert further escalation of the problem and associated threats to long term stability in the country.

Specific obstacles to realization of the human right to food, as observed by the mission, include:

- Social exclusion aggravated by lack of intervention targeting of vulnerable groups, in particular those accumulating vulnerabilities such as poverty, illness and age;

- Economic policies encouraged by international financial institutions, that have had a negative impact on agricultural production and encouraged external food dependency in the form of food imports, private transfers of food and food aid;

- Lack of an institutional framework and state investment in rural areas to support access to productive resources such as land, seeds, water for irrigation and credit;

- Insufficient provision of basic social services in rural areas - for example, education, healthcare, and sanitation facilities - which has contributed to an increase in poverty and migration to urban centers;

- Absence of coherent policies for development of employment opportunities in urban centers that would enable people to live their lives in dignity;

- Absence of consumer protection regulation in the interest of accessibility, affordability, and safety of food in Haiti.

Mission members recognize the efforts of peasant farmers to develop coping strategies to deal with extreme poverty and welcome their efforts to participate and be equal actors in efforts to find solutions to the problems associated with lack of food. The members of the mission also recognize that some civil society organizations and financial partners have made valuable contributions towards food security in Haiti. Nevertheless, the delegation remains concerned that there is inadequate coordination between international actors and lack of knowledge about use of the human rights framework. The realization of the human right to food is essential to democracy and development in the country.

Members of the Mission:

Priscilla Claeys, Université de Louvain (UCL) and Special Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Belgium

Daniel Henrys, Groupe de Recherche et d'Échanges Technologiques, GRET

Danièle Magloire, Droits et démocratie, Haïti

Ernst Mathurin, Groupe de recherche et d'Appui au Milieu Rural, GRAMIR

Gérald Mathurin, Coordination Régionale des Organisations du Sud-est, CROSS

Carole Samdup, Rights & Democracy, Canada

Yasmine Shamsie, Wilfred Laurier University, Canada

Ray Vander Zaag, Canadian Mennonite University, Canada

Léa Winter, University of Geneva, Switzerland.