Haiti’s environmental crisis may have been overshadowed these last two years by the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake, but the situation only continues to worsen. Deforestation has reached a critical point and despite the existing technologies and alternative fuels that could help to slow environmental degradation and start much needed renewal and environmental protection, the environment still fails to be a priority of national and international funding and investment.
Haiti’s Ministry of the Environment is a fairly young institution. Created in the 1990s, the ministry is referred to as the “step-child” of the other ministries, meaning that in order for funding to be granted to the Ministry of the Environment it must come out of the budget of one of the other pre-existing ministries. Haiti’s environmental law is also quite new and few of the actors and stakeholders who would enforce it are well versed in the ins and outs of the law itself.
In 2008, the Environmental Law Institute began a six-year project to train judges in three Caribbean countries about biodiversity conservation. Let Haiti Live Director Melinda Miles has been working with ELI on the Haiti part of the program since the start. The Dominican Republic and Jamaica are the other two countries in the program that is funded by the MacArthur Foundation.
In March 2012, Let Haiti Live and ELI will be holding the first pilot training program in Haiti. Unlike Jamaica and the DR where the environmental law is well developed and training institutions for judges are poised and ready to integrate biodiversity conservation and environmental law curriculum into their existing programs, Haiti presents a unique challenge.
The short-term goal of the project for Haiti is to hold a pilot training seminar in one municipality to include participants from all levels of the process of enforcing the environmental law to protect the environment, including judges, lawyers, elected officials, police and civil society/non-governmental organizations. Emphasis will be placed on reviewing and understanding the existing Haitian laws on the environment and biodiversity conservation and the international laws that are relevant as well.
The pilot will be conducted in Jacmel, the capital of Haiti’s southeast department. Jacmel was chosen for several reasons: it is at the heart of the biological corridor in Haiti, the mountain range which includes two of the three protected forests in Haiti is partly in the southeast department, and Jacmel is currently one of the focal points in the Government of Haiti’s push for tourism investment.
The long-term goal of the project is to refine the training program and materials so that they can be used as part of the ongoing education of all judges in Haiti, and to replicate the project in other municipalities in Haiti.
By expanding Haitians knowledge of their existing environmental laws, we hope to encourage stakeholders in protecting Haiti’s environment – from law makers to farmers – to feel empowered to use those laws and find new and innovative ways to enforce them.