October 1, 2015— Hope for Haiti’s struggling forests and rural communities has arrived with “Haiti Takes Root”—a landmark climate change initiative dedicated to the reforestation and development of Haiti. Announced this week, Haiti Takes Root will be led by a new Haitian Conservation Corps made up of local leaders, farmers, agriculture experts, and Haitian citizens of all ages. This corps will respond to climate change issues, build national resilience, leverage information technology, and improve education on climate issues.
Haiti Takes Root also heralds a unique partnership between The Government of The Republic of Haiti, The Government of The French Republic, The Parker Foundation and the J/P Haitian Relief Organization (J/P HRO). Global law firm Reed Smith LLP is pleased to represent J/P HRO pro bono in this unique international collaboration, which the firm works on simultaneously in Haiti, France and the United States.
“Haiti and its people face deep vulnerabilities from rapid deforestation and soil degradation,” said New York-based Reed Smith pro bono counsel and Human Rights Team leader, Jayne E. Fleming, who leads the firm's representation of J/P HRO along with partner Bradley S. Schmarak in Chicago. “Haiti Takes Root is designed to put the future of Haiti’s forests in hands of the Haitian people, develop capacity for agricultural and reforestation projects, and address the underlying poverty and social issues that lead to deforestation.”
Crafted within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Haiti Takes Root will focus on the most effective and socially responsible ways to restore and reforest Haiti. Goals of the initiative include improving the quality of soil and vegetation, increasing tree canopy cover, promoting the use of sustainable agro-forestry and renewable energy, and strengthening the overall preservation and protection of forests through alleviation of poverty and development of alternative livelihoods for indigenous communities.
On Monday, September 28, French President, François Hollande; Haiti's Foreign Minister, Lener Renaud; and Sean Penn, CEO of J/P HRO, met in New York City to sign a Letter of Intent formally launching this unique international collaboration. The signing took place at a morning press conference held at The Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations.
Among those also attending the signing were: Madame Ségolène Royal, France’s Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy; as well as further representatives of the signatory governments, The Parker Foundation, J/P HRO, and Reed Smith.
Attending the signing from Reed Smith, were Christopher K. Walters, senior pro bono counsel and leader of the firm’s pro bono program; as well as Paris-based partner Daniel Kadar, who led the French side of the deal, participated in negotiations between the French Government and J/P HRO, and drafted the Letter of Intent with Paris litigation associate Ron Shalit.
“In addition to helping the people of Haiti obtain a sustainable future, this initiative is a central component of the French Government’s platform at this year’s international climate change conference,” explained Kadar.
The framework of Haiti Takes Root will be finalized at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), to be held in Paris from November 30 to December 11, and for which the Reed Smith team is busily preparing.
Reed Smith’s J/P HRO team draws upon a wide range of legal experience in the United States and European Union. In addition to Fleming, who serves as J/P HRO’s chief outside counsel, and Schmarak, who is handling the corporate aspects of the agreement, Reed Smith’s Environmental team leader, Todd O. Maiden in San Francisco, and Pittsburgh-based Energy & Natural Resources counsel Jennifer A. Smokelin are both working on climate change aspects of the final contract.
“This project is a good example of how Reed Smith has the bandwidth and global platform to rapidly negotiate and forge cross-border multilateral agreements of this depth,” said Walters. “Moreover, it is truly extraordinary as an example of what we can achieve when we all work together.”
Over the last five years, J/P HRO has quickly become one of the finest and most reputable charities in Haiti, saving countless lives and bringing medical aid and housing to the poorest people in Port au Prince.
Reed Smith has a long pro bono track record helping Haiti’s most critically at-risk communities. For the past five years, Fleming and other Reed Smith lawyers worked in partnership with the United Nations’ Refugee Agency, UNHCR, to ensure that rape victims in Haiti had safe shelter, access to medical care, and access to justice.
By becoming a partner of UNHCR on the ground in Haiti, Reed Smith has played a key role in identifying and protecting women and girls at the highest risk of rape or repeat violence. Reed Smith also has worked closely in partnership with two of the oldest women’s organizations in Haiti, building their capacity and learning from their experience.
Reed Smith was also the first legal team to file applications for humanitarian parole based on sexual violence with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Reed Smith is further the only law firm that partnered with UNHCR to evacuate victims of sexual violence to Canada.
Reed Smith’s representation of J/P HRO arose from mutual interests on the ground in Haiti. The firm needed medical care for its displaced clients, and J/P HRO runs medical clinics. Likewise, J/P HRO needed to find help for a cancer victim, and Reed Smith’s Haiti team had the bandwidth to help evacuate the patient to the United States for treatment.
Reed Smith’s pro bono work for J/P HRO is wide-ranging in substance and geography. Lawyers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, Paris, and Abu Dhabi have all contributed in significant ways. Work includes the handling of grant reviews in Washington, D.C.; international tax and fundraising matters in Paris; as well as IP, contract and nonprofit law matters throughout the United States.
For further information, see:
Reed Smith Cedes Center Stage to Sean Penn at Reforestation Press Conference
The American Lawyer (subscription required), Sep 28, 2015
About Reed Smith
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