Studies in National and International Development


National and International Development

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UNaccountability: The Legal (and Moral) Responsibility of the United Nations in the Haitian Cholera Epidemic

Adam Houston

University of Ottawa (Faculty of Law)/Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 26th, 2015  Mac Corry D214

Until it was introduced into the country by UN Peacekeepers in 2010, cholera was unknown in Haiti. Since that time, close to 9000 people have died, and over 700,000 more have fallen ill. Despite conclusive evidence of the source of the epidemic, and its own obligations under international law, the UN has declined to compensate victims, to devote adequate resources to eradicating the disease, or even to apologize for the harms caused. By doing so, it refuses to be held to the same standards of good governance and the rule of law it promotes in Haiti and around the world. Without other recourse, victims of the cholera epidemic have initiated litigation against the UN. This litigation raises questions over where the immunity necessary for the UN to effectively function crosses the line into impunity at the expense of the vulnerable populations whose rights the UN is meant to protect, with implications for the legitimacy and sustainability of UN Peacekeeping.

About the speaker:  Adam’s academic and professional interests lie at the intersection of health, human rights and globalization. He has lived and worked in Southern Africa, the South Pacific and all over Canada, with organizations such as Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), the Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation (PIAF), and Avocats sans frontières Canada (ASFC). He holds a JD from the University of Victoria, an MA in Global Development Studies from Queen’s University, and won the Outstanding Student Award in his LL.M (Health Law) from the University of Washington. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Law at the University of Ottawa as CIHR Fellow in Health Law, Ethics & Policy 2015-2016, while also continuing his involvement with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti  (IJDH) in their litigation against the United Nations over the Haitian cholera epidemic.

This talk is co-sponsored by Cultural Studies and SNID