Dispatch 10 February 13, 2010
Listening to the Voice of Haitians Living Abroad Above the Rumble of the Earthquake
The voice of Haitians living abroad has to be heard over the rumble of the earthquake. But the international community has had a chronic selective deafness toward
a) The collective desire and growing commitment to have a role in Haiti’s future. In 2005, the Florida Governor’s Haiti Advisory Group composed of Haitians living abroad recommended critically urgent actions, notably in disaster preparedness. As recently as August 2009, in Miami, more than three hundred and fifty (350) leaders and representatives again agreed on urgent matters, including restoration of the environment and decentralization for sustainable development and disaster prevention.
b) The increasing professionalism and achievements of Haitians living abroad in science and technology, medicine, justice and enforcement, social and political action, education and media, business development and skilled trades. In southern Florida alone, the are four Haitian-Americans candidates for the United States Congress all of whom has risen from local and state political responsibilities. Haitian physicians and nurses from all over the world have been among the first responders to the earthquake victims.
c) The reasoned priorities and guidelines for making a transition from an authoritarian society to a modern democratic state in the midst of growing population and dwindling resources. The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program of the Haitian Resource Development Foundation (HRDF) and the Lakou-Permaculture education and training program of The Haitian League are two examples well-designed for this difficult transition.
d) Haitians living abroad – as individuals, enterprises and organizations – are the most logical as well as qualified candidates for formulating, receiving, implementing and evaluating foreign aid to Haiti. For instance, there are hundreds of Haitian Hometown Associations with personal, sustaining connections among Haitians living abroad and their communities back home. This is more extensive than any non-Haitian networks, and for development purposes, it may be more effective.
Given all this, the world communities of governments, banks, investors, charitable donors and others cannot and should not continue to ignore, obstruct and exclude the participation of Haitians living abroad. The only questions that remain are:
- How quickly can Haitians living abroad be brought into the picture?
- At what range of programs, level of funding and duration can they assume leading roles?
- What is the comparative advantage of Haitian-driven, administered and/or monitored foreign aid?
HRDF acknowledges the generous offer of the Organization of the American States (OAS) to gather Haitian leaders abroad to make a strategy for Haiti’s future. We note that not even the United Nations Office of Special Envoy to Haiti has yet invited such participation after its year of existence. But what good is any strategy making without the means of implementation? In so many words: “Where is the beef?”
Assuming that the world community is willing to listen to the voices of Haitians living abroad and recognizes their years of substantial initiatives, resolutions and readiness, the next step is entrusting them with meaningful tasks. Admittedly, the recommendation of the Florida Governor’s Haiti Advisory Group and the resolutions of the Diaspora Unity Congress were made prior to the horrendous earthquake. But, they can be adjusted and accelerated to meet the needs of environmental refugees and reconstruction. We think there is no need, nor time in one-and-a-half days, for creating a new strategy or a new federation. Responders, victims and Haitians living abroad, all share the same basic questions that must be answered – Who will be saved? Where will they live? What will they do for work? And, will they be better off than before the earthquake?