In October, the EU received the Nobel Peace Prize for its work promoting peace, democracy and human rights over the last 60 years.
At an event in Haiti on 10 December (Human Rights Day), the EU promoted Christian Aid’s bi-national scheme on the Haitian/Dominican border as one of its most successful human rights projects.
The Jano Sikse Border Network (JSBN) project is EU-funded. Established in 2001, it is a collaboration of four Christian Aid partners - two from Haiti and two from the Dominican Republic - who work together to safeguard a peaceful culture between both countries.
An island of two halves
Haiti lies on the West side of the island of Hispaniola and is the poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean, with over half its population living in extreme poverty.
The Dominican Republic is on the East side. Although classed as an upper-middle income country, it has one of the world’s most unequal distributions of wealth.
Many Haitians migrate to the Dominican Republic looking for work as a result of poverty. Haitian migrants often work in low-paid jobs that many Dominicans refuse, like agricultural or construction labourers, and are often blamed for the country’s socio-economic problems by conservative groups.
This situation has encouraged widespread racism and discrimination against Haitian migrants and frequent violation of their human rights, especially along the shared border.
Along the border there are many bi-national markets where goods are exchanged and sold.
Lula Bautista, who works for JSBN, discussed their work in these markets at the EU event in Port Au Prince. She explained the main problems that Haitian migrants experience in the markets, including: their goods being confiscated by Dominican officials; having passports and permits taken away from them; and being abused by officials on both sides of the border.
Lula has seen significant human rights improvements since the JSBN employed monitors to constantly watch over the markets, recording events. The progress is also due to JSBN’s success in working with Haitian and Dominican officials, and military personnel along the border to change their attitudes and increase their sensitisation to human rights abuses.
Importantly, the project has trained vulnerable people living on both sides of the border about their rights, so they can identify when their rights are being abused and have the confidence to defend their rights when they are violated.
The work goes on
Despite the successes achieved by the JSBN project, there is much more to do. Racism and discrimination between Haitians and Dominicans is deep and entrenched. JSBN will continue to work with all groups along both sides of the border to promote a culture of respect and peace. However, the governments of both countries also need to take measures to address this issue if true, lasting peace is to be fostered.
Both governments need to improve border management, and the Dominican government must ensure that working Haitian migrants have proper rights and protection.
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Our work in the Dominican Republic
Christian Aid projects in Haiti
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