Sandra Wisner, JD
Sandra Wisner is a senior staff lawyer with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), a U.S. human rights organization, working in partnership with the Haiti-based public interest law firm the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI)
At first glance, the garment workers’ protests sweeping Haiti appear to be the result of a grossly inadequate minimum wage. But listen closely to the organizers and you will see they are rooted in decades of rights violations perpetrated by foreign states’ approach to investment in Haiti. Foreign actors must be held accountable to their legal obligations both for the harm they have caused and to ensure that future investment in Haiti is fair and sustainable.
A series of international economic assistance programs in Haiti has led to a protracted and worsening food crisis in the country, amplifying the country’s vulnerability to starvation and malnutrition, as well as natural disasters, like earthquakes and pandemics. These economic programs, which dealt a crushing blow to the country’s domestic agriculture and left the erstwhile self-sustaining nation vulnerable to chronic food insecurity, have ultimately impeded the ability of Haitian people, and their future generations, to enjoy their right to food, health, education, work, and other fundamental human rights. The lack of responsibility taken by those who imposed these policies—among them, international financial institutions like the World Bank—reveals the need for foreign actor compliance with human rights obligations and remediation. This paper proposes that the food insecurity Haitians face today constitutes a violation of the right to food—a territorial and extraterritorial obligation that foreign actors have pledged themselves, both under the United Nations Charter and other human rights instruments, to promote and respect. As such, this paper outlines the emerging recognition of extraterritorial obligations (“ETOs”) around the globe; suggests available mechanisms at the domestic, regional, and international level for adjudication of cases arising from ETOs; and proposes ETOs’ application to traditional policies and remedies meant to protect individuals from harm and compensate them for harm caused.
In Haiti, UN peacekeeping troops have been tied to sexual exploitation and abuse towards local communities. In pursuit of justice and accountability, BAI has been supporting claims for child support on behalf of children fathered by UN peacekeepers. Our teams at BAI and IJDH are leading the litigation in Haiti and both local and international advocacy to fight for justice and defend the rights of women and children.