Haiti Policy Statement for the Obama Team
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: A New US-Haiti Partnership is essential. Below is the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network (HLLN)'s policy statement. It outlines what Haitian-Americans are working to change in collaboration with the new US Congress and President Obama so to implement a more effective foreign polity with Haiti that centers on promoting sustainable development, self-sufficiency, and a sovereign, prosperous and stable Haiti.
The issue for development of the Southern Hemispheric nations are very similar. As in Africa, Haiti has been ravaged by neocolonialism and its attendant power grabs through the tools of endless debt to the former colonial powers, their plundering of Africa's and Haiti's resources, unfair trade that promotes famine and dependency. The U.S. Congress and new U.S. president should support the institutionalization of the rule of law, support human rights, workers rights, food sovereignty, and stop promoting global corporate interests that promote coup d'etat, instability, financial colonialism and containment-in-poverty. Ideology of all sorts, including "democracy," "neo-liberalism," "free trade", "globalization" and/or all such "privatization" - schemes ought not to be more important than the welfare of humanity, peaceful co-existence, environmental protection and the future survival of humanity and planet earth.
Haitian-Americans proposal for Action/Resolution:
1. Grant TPS to Haitians.
Stop the United States' unequal immigration treatment of Haitian refugees, grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and work permits to Haitian nationals in the US with a specification to stop all deportations until Haiti has recovered from the ravages of hurricanes, floods and instability. Haitians in the United States should receive equal treatment and protection under all the immigration laws. Four tropical storms and hurricanes battered Haiti during last year's harvest season, killing almost 1,000 people nationwide, decimating Haiti's agriculture and causing $1 billion in damage to irrigation, bridges and roads. Haiti qualifies for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and should be granted this disaster relief.
But, the U.S. has never granted Haitians TPS, which permits short-term residency to nationals from countries that are enduring political or environmental turbulence. In 2002 the Bush administration renewed TPS for Nicaraguan and Honduran immigrants owing to Hurricane Mitch in 1998. At this point, Haiti is in much worse shape than Central Americans were at the time. The damage in Haiti is worst than three times the damage left after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. In Haiti, mudslides still cover entire towns. Houses are flooded. Schools have collapsed on children and people are starving. It's inhumane to deport Haitian back to Haiti under these devastating conditions, where they will find no home, no employment, no food, no personal safety and security.
2. End the UN military occupation
The U.N. troops in Haiti are paid $601.58 million per year and have been in Haiti for four years. That is $50.13 million per month, $1.64 million per day. Yet, during the recent floods and hurricane season in Haiti, the Haitian President had to call for international help from the international community. Wasn't that help already in Haiti, to the tune of 9,000 U.N. - MINUSTAH- troops already cashing in $1.64 million per day? Why are they there, if incapable of providing emergency help? If they had not one amphibious unit, temporary bridge, caravan of trucks or equipment to reach Haitians in distress, what use are they to the people of Haiti? Are their war tanks, heavy artillery, guns and military presence in Haiti making Haitians more secure, more safe, more free, more prosperous, better nourished, educated and healthier than before they landed four years ago? No.
End the UN military occupation. Haiti needs development/infrastructure assistance, poverty reduction assistance, tractors not tanks and guns. Community policing, not war soldiers.
3. Cancel immediately and without conditions all Haiti debt to international financial institutions, including old Duvalier-dictatorship debts.
Haiti is suffering famine, the repercussions of the 2004 US-supported coup d'etat and the ravages of the greatest natural disaster in remembered history, three times greater than the Katrina damage. Yet, instead of using its resources to provide relief for its people, Haiti is forced to pay out in excess of one million dollars, per month, to foreign banks.
4. Began reciprocal trade. Stop failed policies and effectively trading through USAID, churches and predator NGOs. A great portion of food aid from such entities do not reach the intended beneficiaries in Haiti and, end up for sale in the marketplace. Start fair trading with Haiti and supporting grassroots, indigenous Haiti capacity building organizations. USAID denies Haitian sovereignty and progress by blocking, declining, subverting any direct assistance to empower the Haitian government while engineering so that the majority of Haiti's national budget (provided by the international community as a consequence the 2004 Bush/USAID regime change) is currently managed by its approved non-governmental organizations. For instance, some 800 NGOs control part of the budget, thoroughly undermining the state's ability to deal with the famine and food crisis.
Direct that the U.S. re-orientate its resource allocation to Haiti to trade with the Haitian government, not, in effect, with the U.S. Agency of International Development ("USAID"), foreign NGO's, churches and charities in the name of Haitians. For this US foreign policy effectively forms a shadow government enchaining Haiti that undermines Haiti’s sovereignty, emboldens and empowers NGOs with no public responsibility or accountability to Haitians or Haiti’s long term well-being.
It is in the best interest of the United States to directly support Haitian democracy, good governance, development, self-reliance and self-sufficiency. This cannot be done if the Haitian government has to compete with foreign funded NGOs and charities who are not elected or accountable to the people of Haiti, but are predatory and promoting dependency and their own organizations' interests for self-perpetuation in Haiti.
To effectively support grassroots, indigenous Haiti capacity building organizations, the US Congress must demand greater fiscal accountability, transparency and quantifiable evidence of sustainable development achievements from reform projects designed, supervised and financed through USAID and their subcontractors, corporate consultants and charity workers using federal funds in Haiti. And, in particular these new Haiti foreign assistance guidelines should ensure, that food and other aid actually reach their intended beneficiaries and not end up for sale in the open market or stay in Washington or used in Haiti mostly on administrative salary, fees and expenses for USAID's political benefactors, shipping companies and nonprofits.
5. Void grossly unfair free trade deals and ineffective initiatives such as - the Caribbean Basin Initiate, "Investment Support""OPIC"), or the Special Export Zones ("SEZ") under the Hope Act which bans trade unions to protect workers' rights, or other such sorts of agreements - pummeling, bullying and beating Haiti into the dust of misery, debt and poverty. And, instead, support Haitian food production and domestic manufacturing, job creation, public works projects, sustainable development and a good working culture that values human rights. After the storm emergency, calibrate food aid so to assist and not further destroy Haiti's food production.
Support post storm rebuilding and reconstruction of environmentally degraded areas (Invest in Haitian-led projects to built flood barriers and better drainage as in La Gonave; support food sovereignty, energy and reforestation such as planting of fruit trees for food, capital building and trade and use of indigenous Haiti plant, such as Jatropha, for biofuel - energy. In the process of providing crisis assistance, the U.S. must promote Haitian self-reliance wherever possible instead of the cycle of dependency. For instance, instead of water purification tablets, add also, whenever possible, the more long term and permanent bio-sand filters' apparatus that will last forever and purify toxic water on a continual, not just to one time basis.)
6. Support the institutionalization of the rule of law.
The U.S. Congress and next U.S. president should support the institutionalization of Haitian laws, not USAID/IRI/NED "democracy enhancement" projects that promote coup d'etat, instability and financial colonialism and containment-in-poverty in Haiti through neo-liberalism - "free trade" , "globalization" and other such "privatization" - schemes.
Every time the United States supports the destabilization of a duly elected government it visits enormous economic pressures and political turmoil upon Haiti. The turmoil and pressures undermine Haitian justice, participatory democracy, self sufficiency, sovereignty, self-determination and promotes insecurity, debt, dependency, foreign domination, injustice, a rise in fleeing refugees and a structural containment in poverty. This instability has widespread and deep and disturbing repercussions. It keeps Haiti underdeveloped, dependent and contained-in-poverty.
7. Encourage Maximum leveraging of Diaspora remittances.
The Haitian Diaspora invests $2 billion dollars per year in Haiti. That investment is destroyed, diluted and undermined when it must be used to bury family members killed in political turmoil, kidnapped in the chaos of anarchy, instability that follows coup d'etats, or to move and help rebuilt the family of a relative or friend traumatized by the UN soldiers' rapes, molestation, arbitrary detention and indefinite incarcerations of their children relatives and friends in Haiti, instead of being used to buy books for their children and relatives to go to school, to buy supplies to carry out a viable family business, seeds to plant next year's harvest, or invest remittances in Haiti's tourism, schools, reforestation, agriculture, road construction, flood barriers, communication, energy, sanitation or health needs. Moreover, when the US deports an income earner to storm-ravaged and famine Haiti, this decreases remittances and further impoverish family members who depended on the remittances from family members abroad. Diaspora remittances are the most effective and direct aid to the Haitian poor in Haiti.
The Obama candidacy promised change and a return to the rule of law and diplomacy as opposed to US pre-emptive strikes, war, terror and torture to attain perceived US foreign policy interests in the world. Candidate Obama promised human rights, workers rights, environmental protection and reciprocal trade. To grant Haitians TPS, end the UN military occupation, assist Haiti with poverty reduction, domestic agricultural investments, community policing, cancel unfair debt to international financial institutions, all would support stability, participatory democracy, stop the flow of refugees and illegal immigration and meet the policy interests of the United States.
For further, information see the complete policy statement at: What Haitian Americans Ask of the New US Congress and President
Marguerite Laurent, Esq.
President, Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network ('HLLN")