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ELAW Staff Scientist Heidi Weiskel recently traveled to Haiti to help partners at L’Association Haitienne de Droit de l’Environnement (AHDEN) work with communities in and around Caracol, one of the towns near a new marine protected area (MPA), Les Trois Baies.

MPAs have the potential to benefit local communities and help safeguard Haiti’s vital natural treasures for generations to come, if managed properly.

Community members at the workshop

Community members at the workshop

ELAW partners at AHDEN brought together 35 community members − mostly fishermen, salt producers, and farmers − for a two-day workshop. Jean André Victor, President of AHDEN, opened the meeting and set the stage for increasing community involvement in the MPA process.

Heidi talked about MPAs and how the community can be involved in plans for the region and creating the Trois Baies MPA management plan.

Some of the participants were skeptical about becoming involved, and Jean André responded eloquently about the importance of civil society engagement, the strength of community, and the fundamental right to participate. By the end of Jean André’s presentation, community members had clearly opened up to the idea of becoming involved in the MPA process.

Jean André helped the community members organize and create a strategy for engaging with groups with a stake in the MPA. Going forward, ELAW will provide scientific and legal tools as needed to help the community become more involved in the MPA process.

Many thanks to the Waitt Foundation and the Clinton Foundation for making ELAW’s work to protect critical marine ecosystems in Haiti possible!

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

ELAW is teaming up with longtime partner L’Association Haitienne de Droit de l’Environnement (AHDEN) to support creating a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Haiti’s Caracol Bay and to promote a new, holistic approach to the sustainable use and conservation of marine biodiversity.

The Bay is home to thriving coral reefs and Haiti’s largest mangrove forest, which together sustain important fisheries in the northern part of the country. The Bay is also home to endangered species such as the leatherback sea turtle.

An MPA in Caracol Bay has the potential to benefit local communities and help safeguard Haiti’s vital natural treasures for generations to come.

ELAW has been working in the Caribbean for many years, building local capacity to protect communities and the environment.  In Haiti, ELAW works closely with Jean André Victor, a well-respected leader in the environmental movement and President of AHDEN.  Jean André came to Eugene for an ELAW Fellowship in 2010 and was featured in the Eugene Weekly.

For more information about MPAs, visit MPAtlas.org, which features a global interactive map and information about MPAs around the world.

Many thanks to the Waitt Foundation and the Clinton Foundation for making ELAW’s work to protect critical marine ecosystems in Haiti possible!

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

It is “that” time of the year again around the ELAW office.  The buzz is starting to build. Next week is the University of Oregon School of Law’s Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC). The conference is organized by students at the school, not ELAW, though sometimes we get credit for it.  This year we will celebrate the 30th Anniversary of conference and the 100th Anniversary of David Brower’s birth. We will also remember the tragic loss of the beloved Svitlana Kravchenko.

ELAW Fellow Rolès Théard

Yesterday we welcomed our first international visitor for this year’s PIELC – Rolès Théard, a founder of l’Association Haitienne de Droit de l’Environnement (AHDEN).   Rolès will join partners from Russia and Mongolia to talk about the impacts of mining on a panel during the PIELC.  We’ll also be welcoming lawyers from Guatemala, Madagascar, and Indonesia over the week ahead.  I am thrilled to be working with Rolès this week and looking forward to welcoming the rest of the gang next week.  If you’re going to be in town for the PIELC – please look for ELAW’s table in the busy halls of the law school!

We hope to see you in Eugene!

Jen Gleason
Staff Attorney

In February, I had the pleasure of traveling to Haiti for ELAW.

AHDEN Members

I went to work with friends and partners at l’Association Haitienne de Droit de l’Environnement (AHDEN).  Haiti has faced enormous challenges in recent years, but the commitment and enthusiasm of our Haitian partners left me inspired and hopeful.

During the first few days, I participated with AHDEN members in a meeting hosted by the MacArthur Foundation, which brought together its grantees who will be working in Haiti over the next three years to see how we could support each others’ efforts, build synergies, and ensure that we’re all successful in our work in Haiti.  The meeting was fantastic, largely due to the inspiring conservation work that people are doing in Haiti.  ELAW and AHDEN learned about the legal needs of organizations working to conserve key biodiversity areas in Haiti and looking for alternative livelihoods for people dependent on exploiting natural resources to put food on their tables.

AHDEN and INSAPROMA members

After the meeting of MacArthur Foundation grantees, we welcomed ELAW partners from the Dominican Republic who came to help AHDEN with its inaugural public event.  INSAPROMA’s President Euren Cuevas and Director Jorge Verez traveled all day by bus to share experience strengthening and enforcing environmental law in the DR with their colleagues in Haiti.

On February 11, 2011, l’Association Haitienne de Droit de l’Environnement (AHDEN) and the Faculte de Droit et des Sciences Economiques (FDSE) hosted the Colloque International sur la Promotion du Droit de l’Environnement en Haiti. The event was advertised as a place to discuss environmental law as an instrument in the national reconstruction and as a tool for sustainable development in Haiti.  The all-day workshop went from 8:30 am until 7:30 pm, and nearly all of the 108 registered participants remained with us to the end of the very long day.

It was a phenomenal event with informative speakers and a highly engaged audience.  Representatives from many government agencies, university professors, students, aid organizations, and local NGOs came to discuss environmental law in Haiti.  People were thrilled to hear about the establishment of AHDEN and the role it will play in shaping Haiti’s environmental policy and contributing to the country’s reconstruction.

The colloquium consisted of five panels.  The first described environmental problems in Haiti from a technical perspective.  A panelist from the Ministry of the Environment described recent studies, including one showing high levels of pollution in breast milk.  One of the panelists focused on problems related to land registration.  Land registration is clearly an important issue in Haiti, as it came up in each of the five panels and was the focus of at least half the questions posed to panelists.  This was also an issue discussed frequently in the meeting of MacArthur Foundation grantees, where grantees working on conservation noted a need for clarity regarding land ownership.

I joined INSAPROMA’s President Euren Cuevas and Director Jorge Verez on a panel where we described environmental law in our respective countries and described citizens in the DR and around the world successfully using law to protect the environment.

Many speakers explained environmental law in Haiti, including AHDEN President Jean André Victor during the last session.  Earlier in the day, he distributed the index to his compilation of Haitian environmental laws, which served as a list of existing laws.  He then used his position as the final speaker of the day to respond to questions that had been raised throughout the colloquium by providing specific legal answers, historical context, and other relevant information.

One speaker described the need to give environmental law a life beyond the textbook in Haiti.  She happily acknowledged that AHDEN was filling two of the needed components she identified – advocacy and education.

Jean André Victor (AHDEN) talks with reporters

AHDEN’s President, Jean André Victor, was absolutely mobbed by reporters from television and radio stations and newspapers.  Many of the reporters stayed for much of the morning and filmed or recorded several sessions, including AHDEN presenting a guide that ELAW recently published (and an AHDEN member translated) to help communities and NGOs prevent mining abuses.

I was thrilled by the interest in the colloquium and the energized, active participation by everyone in the room.  The level of enthusiasm for the work and the amazing discussions following each panel were truly inspiring and gave me incredible hope for what AHDEN can accomplish in Haiti — even as I sat in the city center of Port au Prince, surrounded by constant reminders of just how hard things are in Haiti right now.

On my return home ELAW launched a website for AHDEN where we will gather presentations from the colloquium and publish other material relevant to AHDEN and environmental law in Haiti: http://www.ahden.org Check out the site and know that AHDEN is making history – it is helping shape environmental protection in Haiti while educating and involving Haitians in the decision-making processes.

Jen Gleason
ELAW Staff Attorney

My name is Eric Robinson, and I am an ELAW volunteer! I grew up here in Eugene, and now I’m a sophomore at Williams College in Williamstown, MA where I study Math and Psychology. Williams has a one-month January term after winter break and before spring semester when students relax with one class called Winter Study. Williams offers a huge variety of classes during Winter Study, and students are encouraged to take an enjoyable class outside of their major. Last Winter Study I stayed on campus, but was left with my fifth choice class, “ECON 15: Stock Market.” So, this year I planned ahead and got to spend my January interning at ELAW.

This past month I’ve helped with a variety of different projects around the ELAW office. I spent much of my time helping Staff Attorney Jen Gleason prepare for a trip to Haiti (where she is working with the  Haitian Environmental Law Association, AHDEN) by translating materials to French and assisting with research requests. Also, I’ve been working on translating pages from the ELAW website into French, updating ELAW’s scientific and legal resources, and updating the website with new translations, such as the Chinese ones that just went up.

Outside of ELAW it’s been a beautiful January in Eugene! It hasn’t rained too much, and there have been quite a few sunny days that lent themselves well to venturing around the city. I’ve spent most of my time hanging out with friends, hiking in the hills around Lane County, and enjoying everything Eugene has to offer, including all the incredible food (Williamstown has ~8,000 people and only a few restaurants).

I head back to Massachusetts on Wednesday the 26th to dive back into school, and it goes without saying that I’ll miss getting to spend time at ELAW and around Eugene. I’ll be back briefly in the summer for jury duty (my 3rd summons in two years!), but for most of the summer and next year I’ll be at the University of Geneva in Switzerland studying psychology.

I would like to say thank you to everyone at ELAW who made my internship possible, and thanks to everyone who helped make it an interesting and productive experience!

Eric Robinson
2011 ELAW Intern

Editor’s note: Eric has been enormously helpful, working independently and always with a positive attitude. He has provided ELAW with hours of solid, timely work. We are thrilled that he has found his experience interesting and beneficial. We wish him luck at Williams and hope that his experience in Geneva is rewarding. Thanks Eric – We will miss you too!

In collaboration with ELAW, the Haitian Environmental Law Association (AHDEN) and the Faculty of Law and Economics (FDSEA) at the State University of Haiti planned an international symposium to promote environmental law. Unfortunately, ELAW staff who were scheduled to land in Port au Prince the same day that Hurricane Tomas was due to hit had to cancel their travel plans.

Camps still exist in and around Port au Prince

Although the international component was canceled, environmental Law is not taught in Haiti, so it was still important for AHDEN to hold workshops.  AHDEN held a four-day seminar, November 9-12.  We were pleased that 75 students and legal professionals participated.  At the workshop, participants formed a brigade of citizens to disseminate health advice to protect our communities from cholera.

In a follow-up symposium on November 21, “The Contribution of Civil Society to the Fight Against Cholera,” AHDEN joined the scientific and technical community in the fight against cholera. We aim to provide free legal assistance to communities seeking environmental justice.

Jean Andre Victor
President
Haitian Environmental Law Association (AHDEN)

Reporter Camilla Mortensen’s cover story in today’s Eugene Weekly describes the history of the challenges that Haiti faces and the work that ELAW Fellow Jean André Victor has been doing and will continue to do after he finishes his fellowship here in Eugene.  And not only that — ELAW’s fabulous intern Chu “Cassie” Chen was featured in this week’s “Happening People!

Here’s an excerpt from the cover story:

“For more than 20 years, Jean André Victor worked as an agronomist in Haiti, trying to solve the riddle of how to fix the centuries of environmental degradation and poverty that has kept Haiti from developing a self sustaining economy and food supply.  But, ‘the main problem is that you can’t solve the degradation of Haiti with projects,’ says Victor.

This spring, at the age of 68, Victor came to Eugene to discuss law and policy with scientists and other attorneys, write the first textbook on environmental law in Haiti and learn English at the University of Oregon’s American English Institute.  He came through the help of the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide….

He will return to Haiti this summer – a country that was struggling even before the devastating January earthquake that killed thousands of Haitians, including Victor’s mother – and try to change his country from within.”  Read the whole story here.

We are inspired by all that Jean André has endured and all he does!  And we are delighted that everybody else now knows what a happenin’ person Cassie is!

Jean Andre Vincent

Jean André Victor

In January, as the earth shook all of Haiti, and especially the capital Port au Prince, Jean André Victor was there, amid the chaos and devastation.  And now, just a few months later, he is in Eugene, amidst the rain and spring flowers.  It is a stark contrast, but a change of scenery that will help him have the time and space to work on writing the first textbook on environmental law in Haiti, practice his English (he’s taking a 10 week course at the American English Institute) and share with and learn from ELAW staff attorneys and scientists.

We are thrilled that he is here and will share more about his experiences and expertise over the next few months.  Welcome Jean André, byenveni!

Amber with ELAW Staff Attorney Jen Gleason in Haiti

Amber Munger was an ELAW extern and now is working on the ground in Haiti.   She moved to Haiti in Septemer 2008.  Last June,  she participated with ELAW Staff Attorney Jennifer Gleason in  meetings with public interest environmental advocates in Haiti, and has continued to work in Haiti.  She wrote this morning with a report after the earthquake (and is making daily updates to her blog: Rights Based Haiti)

In my thirteen years of working in Haiti, not once before have I seen such massive destruction as we are experiencing now.  Nor have I seen such motivation, determination, compassion, and solidarity among people.  When we entered portoprens after the quake struck, the city had fallen and was continuing to fall as a result of continuous aftershocks.  The streets were full of people sitting together.

Everyone was sitting in the middle of the roads for fear that the houses would continue to fall on them. They were singing.  The whole city was singing.  They were singing songs of solidarity.  They were singing songs of thanks and praise that they were still able to sing and to be together.  These people have lost everything.  The city is now a city of refugees.  But they are putting their voices together to be thankful.

After recovering our loved ones that we could find from the wreckage, we spent the rest of the night assisting others in the street, strategizing and attempting to rest to prepare for the coming days.  The whole night we passed hearing people singing, people screaming and crying when their loved ones died.  People were dying all around.  And
the tremors continued all night.  The hospitals are full and cannot accept more people.  All over PAP there is danger from the destruction.  There are still no cell phone communications or internet available.  Coordinating activities is extremely difficult.

What is needed now is a way to get people out of the city.  I am working with several organizations on a coordinated disaster response that is focusing on reinforcing the countryside so that people can leave portoprens and go back to their families in the province.

Almost everyone in PAP has family in the countryside.  The efforts that I am supporting are helping Haitians to support their family members in leaving PAP and in receiving the care that they need when they leave.

If not organized strategically, this disaster will soon have huge consequences to the food producing regions that depend on PAP to purchase their product and services.  We need to reinforce these areas and set up services in the communes so that people can flee the cities and find the support that they need in the communes.  We need to
support grassroots organizations in the commune by sending them resources to buy food, by sending them medical experts and materials, and provide them with other basic services that will support them in staying in the province and getting their lives together.

I am working with grassroots leaders in zones all over PAP as well as leaders from the provinces to identify strategies to move the people out and to assist the people in PAP who cannot leave in finding food, water, shelter and medical care.  I am helping these leaders to coordinate and to facilitate outside help as well such as foreign doctors and supplies being sent by other countries.  These leaders are identifying the needs in their communities and the network I am working with is coordinating  their needs with the resources that are being sent from outside the country as well as from zone to zone within the country.  I am assisting in the coordination of this effort on the ground in Haiti and Melinda Miles of Konpay is currently handling the logistics and coordination from the US.  I am also partnering with AMURT-Haiti to coordinate emergency food relief in slums in the bourdon area of portoprens.

We need help.  We desperately need money to be sent to use for gas, transport, food, supplies co,ing from the US such as medical supplies and web phones, and to pay Haitians working to help Haitians. Many Haitians are working together without compensation to help one another.  But this is not sustainable over the next month as resources begin to dwindle and people’s needs become desperate.  We need to be able to support their work.   Please send contributions to Konpay and go to their site where they are developing a page on our disaster response efforts where you can donate.  You can find donation information on that page.  You can also visit the Konpay, AMURT-Haiti and Beyond Borders websites to learn more about the work of those partners.

Please help!
Amber Lynn Munger, J.D.
US/Haiti Phone: 1 (828) 348-4624
Haiti Cell:  + (509) 3656-8292
Skype: DixiePea

More info about Amber: Amber Lynn Munger, J.D., is a graduate of the University of Oregon School of Law.  She has been living full time in Haiti since September of 2008 and has worked in conjunction with environmental and human rights oriented non-profits in Haiti since 1997.  She was the Assistant-Coordinator of AMURT-Haiti, a community empowerment organization that began operations in Haiti’s NW Artibonite in 2005 until recently.  She now is working to start her own nonprofit Rights Based Haiti.  To read more about Munger and her work with AMURT-Haiti, see the recent article at the University of North Carolina-Asheville’s student paper, the Blue Banner, which can be found here.

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