Margaret Satterthwaite (English, Kreyol): firstname.lastname@example.org; 4453-7122
Ellie Happel (English, Kreyol, Spanish): email@example.com; 4688-9976
HAITIAN COMMUNITIES EXCLUDED WHILE THE GOLD MINING SECTOR DEVELOPS
Declaration of Professor Margaret Satterthwaite, Director, Global Justice Clinic
July 11, 2014, Port-au-Prince–I am Professor Margaret Satterthwaite and I am the Director of the Global Justice Clinic. The Global Justice Clinic is a program of New York University School of Law. The Clinic works against global inequality and challenges human rights violations. I have personally worked to support Haitians in their struggle for justice since 1995. Since 2003, the Clinic has supported the struggle for the right to water and food and against violence against women in Haiti. In January 2013, the Clinic began working alongside the Collective for Mining Justice (Kolectif Jistis Min or KJM), which is dedicated to supporting Haitian communities to defend their interests as mining companies explore for gold in Haiti.
The Global Justice Clinic has visited several communities in the North, Northwest and Northeast departments where U.S. and Canadian-based companies hold permits to explore for gold. We have also examined the role of the World Bank in Haiti’s mining sector. Today we stand with the Collective for Mining Justice to ask the Haitian government, companies, and the World Bank to stop excluding the Haitian people from their discussions and the decisions they are making about mining. We ask them to provide the people of Haiti with quality information about mining activities and the environmental and social risks that mining poses.
The Global Justice Clinic has witnessed instances in several countries where mining companies from the US and Canada have failed to respect human rights in their operations. Although no open pit mines have yet been constructed in Haiti, our community visits to northern Haiti have uncovered numerous human rights violations, especially in relation to the right to participation. For example, people in communities where the companies have explored for gold have complained that both the Government and the companies do not consult with them. Many farmers said that they saw a picket on their land, they saw helicopters in the sky, and they saw big trucks entering their neighborhoods—and that this is how they learned that the government gave the companies permission to search for mineral resources under the soil. In the Northwest, several hundred subsistence farmers have signed an agreement with a mining company that gives the company the right to use their land. From our interviews, it has become clear that many farmers did not understand what this agreement said when they signed it. The contract, which many signed with a fingerprint, says that the company has the right to enter their property, the right to work on their land, and even the right to destroy their earth. Many farmers told GJC that the company did not provide them with a full explanation of the agreement.
With the assistance of the World Bank, the Haitian government is preparing a new mining law to replace the current law, written in 1976. Unfortunately, until now the process to write the new law has happened behind closed doors, where Haitian officials and World Bank experts work without the participation of the people. GJC’s visits to communities where mining activities are taking place have found that farmers have very little awareness about the law reform process. A French version of the draft law has recently been shared with some organizations based in Port-au-Prince, but to date no Kreyol version has been distributed. The Haitian government’s Economic and Social Development Council (Conseil de Développement Économique et Social) has had a meeting with civil society in Port au Prince but not in the mining-affected communities. The GJC is concerned that the people who will be most affected by mining were not sitting at the table.
The right to participate in decision-making processes—especially decisions relating to development projects—is well protected under human rights law, and is enshrined in the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Haitian Government therefore has the responsibility to ensure that its people are empowered to make decisions that affect their lives and the lives of their children. It is the responsibility of the State to protect the right to participation when other actors threaten that right. Further, World Bank rules and policies and industry standards in the mining sector require key actors to consult people affected—and potentially affected by—mining activity.
We cannot sit and watch this situation as though it is a soccer game. Instead, the Global Justice Clinic is actively monitoring international actors to ensure that they respect the rights of the Haitian people. We also support the Haitian people as they insist that the Haitian government protect their right to participate in decisions about mining. “Development” does not mean anything if it is not driven by the people.
This statement does not purport to represent the views of NYU School of Law, if any.