Pursuing Human Rights in Haiti: An IJDH Summer Intern’s Perspective, by Emma Christman (A23)

by VManve
Aug 11

The first weeks of my remote summer internship at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) have been both interesting and rewarding. Based in Marshfield, Massachusetts, IJDH is a non-profit organization that does advocacy and litigation in support of human rights causes in Haiti. IJDH works closely with its Haitian partner organization, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) to develop locally led solutions to human rights issues. IJDH works on a variety of issue areas, including democracy, governance, judicial function, women’s rights, worker’s rights, and more. Through my work this summer, I am getting an insider perspective on the day-to-day work that human rights advocates conduct.

One of my first tasks as an IJDH intern has been to educate myself on the history and political context of Haiti. After delving into literature about French colonialism and U.S.intervention in Haiti, I was better able to understand the country’s current governance crisis in connection with past destabilizations by foreign actors. Furthermore, I was shocked to learn that United Nations Peacekeeping forces bear responsibility for Haiti’s cholera outbreak and widespread sexual abuse following the 2010 earthquake. While in my classes I have been taught about the UN’s role in preventing war and upholding human rights, understanding the abuses the UN is responsible for in Haiti has led me to view all international institutions with a more critical eye.

Writing daily news briefings (called “Brèf laprès jodi a” in Creole) has helped me stay up to date on events in Haiti while practicing my language skills. Each afternoon, I track developments related to governance, crime, migration, and US policy to send out as a newsletter for the IJDH team the next morning. I read local Haitian papers in French to gather information and share the most important developments in English. In addition to my work on the newsletter, I have also spent time drafting content for IJDH social media and working on communications.

My first three weeks of work at IJDH have gone by in a blink. Despite the time I have spent reading about Haitian history, I now know that I have barely scratched the surface of the country’s complex legacies of colonialism. I have also realized that Haitian news and issues largely escape the notice of Americans without a personal connection to the country. While some recent journalism like the New York Times’ Ransom series is bringing popular attention to Haiti, it is clear that greater awareness of issues impacting Haiti and the Caribbean is needed in the long term.

As the summer continues, I feel confident that I will continue to expand my knowledge of Haiti and my understanding of human rights issues.


Photo credit: Elena Heredero, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons