Saturday, January 30, 2010

U.N. Update on Relief Operations in Haiti

Haiti (From a press release from the United Nations)

The emergency relief operation in Haiti continues to make progress on a daily basis although considerable logistical restraints have meant large numbers of people suffering from the impact of the devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake have not yet received the aid they need, the United Nations humanitarian chief said today.

“We have a long way to go before we can feel satisfied about that,” the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York.

For the most part potable water is being shipped to the people who need it, but there are major concerns over the distribution of food, said Mr. Holmes, who is also the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has been working night and day to reach around 600,000 people to date with the equivalent of 16 million meals, an effort which will be considerably scaled up to reach 2 million people in the next two weeks through food distribution sites.

“This will involve the distribution of some 10 million kilos of rice to over 400,000 households, which is the equivalent of 2 million people. This is just in the Port-au-Prince area,” he said, referring to the capital.

Food deliveries are also slated to be trucked directly to around 400 orphanages and hospitals altogether over the 14 day period, he added.

Mr. Holmes noted that the initial phase for Haitians in need of emergency surgical operations is largely over, but concerns remain over those who have undergone surgery and who need intensive care. “They don’t have homes to go to in many cases and that’s something being addressed.”

Current estimates of 2,000 amputee cases in Haiti as a result of injuries sustained in the 12 January earthquake are likely to rise, Paul Garwood of the World Health Organization (WHO) told a press briefing in Geneva earlier in the day.

“Clearly there would be a longer-term problem about how to cope with the large number of amputees in terms of artificial limbs and rehabilitation, but that’s a slightly longer-term issue, but one [that] we’re very conscious of as well,” said Mr. Holmes.

He said that rather than create large camps for displaced persons, the focus is to help provide shelter to where people have fled in the capital and other large cities, stressing that there are some 500 informal settlements scattered around Port-au-Prince alone.

The UN is making sure people have either tents, or other materials, including plastic sheeting, tarpaulins and wood to help create temporary shelters. Some people are starting from scratch on open ground and many are living on the land by their destroyed houses.

“In this context, sanitation is a particular concern at the moment,” said Mr. Holmes. “There is a need to provide sanitation particularly to these informal camps around Port-au-Prince and elsewhere.”

In addition, Mr. Holmes underscored the need to boost child protection. “This is a huge concern at the moment with so many children involved, so many orphaned and separated or otherwise isolated and the risks to them from unauthorized attempts to get them out of the country.”

At the press briefing in Geneva, Veronique Taveau of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that security is being strengthened in hospitals, orphanages, at the border crossing with the Dominican Republic and at the airport, and the UN mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is conducting investigations into alleged kidnappings of children.

Mr. Holmes noted that the $575 million UN flash appeal for Haiti launched three days after the quake is 82 per cent funded, Mr. Holmes announced, expressing some concern that certain areas – including early recovery, the cash-for-work scheme, agriculture and nutrition – remain under-funded.

Although only around $3 million of the $41 million of the cash-for-work programme has been funded to date, Mr. Holmes said the funding will increase shortly. “At the moment 12,500 are already employed under this UNDP [UN Development Programme] cash-for-work scheme. That should reach 20,000 by the end of the weekend and the aim is to eventually reach 200,000 people.”

January 30, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Early Bird Registration for the ASIL Annual Meeting Ends Friday!

ASIL - 80 Percent The full program for the 104th Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law just went live on the ASIL website.  Click here to see that.  Early bird registration for the meeting ends on Friday!

Hat tip to Sheila Ward.


January 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

WTO to Establish Chairs at 14 Developing Country Universities

Yesterday, the World Trade Organization announced that it has selected 14 universities in developing countries to receive financial resources to support teaching, research and outreach activities.  The WTO Chairs Program is intended to provide students with a deeper understanding of trade policy issues.  The program also is designed to faciliate fuller participation in the formulation and implementation of trade policy by the beneficiary countries.  The WCP hopes to train the future leaders of those countries to allow them to better understand and participate in global trade.  The universities were selected through a competitive proposal process and include Mexico, China, Chile, Jordan, Nairobi and Vietnam.  A complete list of the programs and chair holders can be found here.   Congratulations to those who were selected!


January 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

United States and Japan Block WTO Review of Bank Bailouts

By Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

Reuters is reporting that at the January 22, 2010 Meeting of the WTO Trade Policy Review Body, the United States and Japan blocked requests by Argentina, Ecuador, Cuba, Brazil, India and China for a future review of trade measures, such as stimulus bailouts in the financial sector. An official at the meeting spoke about what had occurred behind closed doors.

To review the full Reuters article, please click here-

This blocking is to be expected for a number of reasons:

1) If Cuba is asking for the review, the United States is going to respond negatively;

2) Both Japan and the United States have experienced financial meltdowns (so has Argentina - but they are on the requesting side - possibly they come from a place of understanding);

3) Unwinding the bailout funding is not an option - the possible negative recommendations that may be contained in a WTO Report  sends the "What Ifs" into overdrive;

4) The transparent production of information in the course of the analysis is rife with difficulties;

5) Sovereignty - need I say more; and

6) If a WTO Report were to determine that the financial stimulus spending in 2009/2010 was WTO illegal, all hell would break loose and the existence of the WTO as an institution may be threatened.

January 26, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Humanitarian Parole for Haitians

Zelinsky and Kahn HaitiAaron Zelinsky and Jeffrey Kahn argue that the U.S. should extend humanitarian parole to Haitians in need of medical treatment in the U.S. Here's an excerpt from their article:

Earthquake victims should not die when life-saving resources are available a few hours away. DHS should use the humanitarian parole framework and open the door to life-saving treatment for seriously wounded earthquake survivors.

The recovery effort in Haiti is far from over. Enormous humanitarian challenges lie ahead. Ensuring access to food, water, sanitation, and security in Haiti is a monumental undertaking. However, for the most seriously injured, this may not be enough. They will need medical assistance that only U.S. hospitals are ready and willing to provide.

President Obama should cut through the red tape and dispatch a Citizenship and Immigration Services team to Haiti to help extend humanitarian parole to Haitians so that they can get the medical care they desperately need.

Click here to read their full article on the Huffington Post.


January 25, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Haitian Lawyers Association

Haiti The focus on relief efforts in Haiti has been on organizations that can provide immediate medical care and treatment to the thousand of persons injured by the earthquake.  We have posted previously on some of those efforts and organizations to support, and that is where donations are needed most.  Click here for a list of organizatoins and here for a post on one of them in particular (Partners in Health).

But we also look ahead to a time when we can help legal professionals in Haiti.  The Haitian Lawyers Association (based in Miami, Florida) was a bar organization that up to this point was no different than many others who simply give a scholarship fundraising gala every year.  But the Haitian Lawyers Association suddenly found itself as the organization many are turning to for guidance and coordination on everything from representing newly arrived orphans to drop-off and warehouse referrals.

Markenzy Lapointe, an associate attorney with Boies, Schiller & Flexner in Miami, Florida, asks (through the leadership listserve of the American Bar Association Tort and Insurance Practice Section) for donations to help the Haitian Lawyers Association.  For more information, please contact him at the following address or by clicking here:

100 S.E. 2nd Street, Suite 2800
Miami, FL 33131
305.357.8419 Phone
305.357.8519 Fax

For more information on the Haitian Lawyers Association, click here.


January 25, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Scholars at Risk Calls for an Investigation of an Apparent Murder of a Professor in Iran

We received the following press release from Scholars at Risk:

Scholars at Risk is deeply concerned about the apparent murder of Dr. Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, a professor of physics at Tehran University in Iran.  Although complete information is not available, according to reports Dr. Ali-Mohammadi was killed by an explosion outside his home on January 12, 2010.  The motives for the apparent assassination are not clear at this time, although there is speculation centered on Dr. Ali-Mohammadi's role as a researcher in nuclear physics.  Whatever the motives, it is clear that any attack on Dr. Ali-Mohammadi was a violation of internationally recognized human rights, including the “right to life, liberty and security of person” (UDHR Art. 3) and to due process under law (UDHR Arts. 6-12).

The violence and suddenness of the attack add to on-going grave concerns about the ability of scholars and intellectuals to work safely in Iran.  The attack follows months of reports of arrest and detention of academics throughout Iran before and after the June 2009 elections.  Together, these suggest a wider attempt to intimidate intellectuals and to limit academic freedom in Iran-a suggestion we find particularly distressing and unfortunate, given Iran's rich intellectual history and traditional support for the values of scholarship and free inquiry.


Scholars at Risk therefore joins in calling upon the authorities in Iran to launch an immediate investigation into the apparent assassination of Professor Ali-Mohammadi.  Moreover, given the international nature of the academic community and viewing the open assassination of a member of that community as of grave concern to all members, Scholars at Risk urges that appropriate third-party international observers such as from the United Nations or one of the relevant international academic societies be included among the investigation team to ensure impartiality and to provide confidence to the international community in any findings that may result.


Scholars at Risk is an international network of universities and colleges dedicated to promoting academic freedom and to defending the human rights of scholars worldwide.  In especially serious cases, Scholars at Risk calls for action on behalf of scholars who are killed as a result of their work or for those who are suffering serious threats to the exercise of their fundamental human rights. 

January 25, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

International Law Aids Haitian Relief Efforts

As I watch the international community's efforts to provide relief to Haitians after the recent earthquakes, I have been struck by all the ways in which international law is facilitating that work.

Multilateral treaties governing airspace allow coordination of flights bringing aid into Haiti and flights out of Haiti evacuating the ill and orphaned.  These are supplemented by bilateral agreements such as one between the U.S. and Cuba that allows U.S. flights to enter Cuban airspace to facilitate the relief efforts.  Likewise, it was a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Cuba that gave the U.S. control over the oft maligned Guantanamo Bay, which is now being used as a staging area for the relief effort.

The international law of diplomacy allows United Nations and other foreign officials to enter Haiti to assess the damage and needs of the people and coordinate international efforts to provide aid.

International law is increasingly recognizing the concept of humanitarian intervention by States into another State where a national government is unable to fully function and protect and care for its own people.  While such intervention can be controversial in some cases, it is probably essential in Haiti given the scope of the disaster.

The international community has developed guidelines to make the provision of international aid more effective in the form of the Paris Principles on Aid Effectiveness. These principles aim to ensure that the provision of aid is coordinated and harmonized, is transparent and therefore less susceptible to corruption, that stakeholders at every level of society have opportunities to participate, and that the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable are prioritized. 


International refugee law helps to provide a framework for the evacuation and resettlement of refugees.  The United Nations also has developed  Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement to protect the rights of internally displaced persons, which include a right to assistance from the government on a nondiscriminatory basis, a right to be informed of the facts and the whereabouts of missing relatives, and a right to return to Haiti when the situation improves.

With every natural disaster, it seems the international community learns a little more about how best to respond to these tragedies.  While the events in Haiti are heartbreaking, international lawyers can play a positive role by developing international law to improve the coordination of the relief efforts.



January 24, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)