Could Haiti finally be re-empowered?


The last time I was in Haiti, I wrote about a technology company there making a living selling the rarest of building materials — rubberized concrete.

Its product was acquired by a biotech company across the boarder in New York, and the Haitian company was even thinking of franchising the product.

In recent months, like my counterparts back in Haiti, I’ve had the opportunity to look beyond the headlines. But it’s difficult to overlook the consequences of the country’s increasingly violent and unstable politics and governance. I only hope my travels have inspired you to continue your commitment to helping the people of Haiti.

In recent years, the Caribbean island nation has undergone a particularly dramatic political upheaval. In January 2017, a second military coup resulted in the removal of the elected president, Rene Preval. Mr. Preval resigned and left Haiti, unannounced, before the military moved in to install Jovenel Moïse. While Mr. Moïse has promised to restore democracy, the relatively new political regime in Haiti has been beset by violent protests and political tension. The country’s ongoing political crisis is also estimated to have caused massive damage to the Haitian economy and to the livelihoods of more than 1.3 million citizens.

Journalist Warren Fernandez was shot and killed at a car wash in the coastal town of La Gonave in early February. Fernandez was reporting on the ongoing political crisis in Haiti

The Huffington Post’s Warren Fernandez was murdered and his widow was wounded in La Gonave, Haiti, early Sunday morning while traveling to a car wash.

My recent stays at the embassy and at my NGO, a place called Emmanuel Soin, offered an opportunity to “understand” the situation there. That involves following a line of questioning from our Belgian colleagues at the embassy, and a three-part cycle of bureaucratic questions from our Haitian partners that take months and sometimes years to resolve.

Nearing the end of this sequence of questions, a Haitian bureaucrat remarked: “We are not in politics, we are in civil service.”

Since former President Michel Martelly was ousted in a series of military coups and during the current political period, Haiti has known instability.

The same resources that prevent Haiti from leveraging global sales could be used to provide relief to earthquake survivors, for instance.

Unfortunately, such resources have not been forthcoming, notwithstanding support from a national $1.4 billion donor fund, and the 2015 UN Peacebuilding Fund for Haiti.

I requested, and received, a list of project proposals submitted by organizations that received funding from Haiti’s Peacebuilding Fund. Six years later, these have not yet been implemented.

To regain this investment, Haiti needs political reform and smart governance. To receive a true impact investment of this magnitude, Haitian leadership will need to prioritize the needs of disadvantaged communities, step up engagement and manage the price of approval for significant investments. Only when those improvements are recognized will the country return to legitimate leadership.

During my stay in Haiti, I’ve met with Mina Fréchette, the new managing director for Albright Stonebridge Group, the company I work for, as well as Haitian politicians and civil society officials. None of them appear able to instill much confidence in the political class, and none have delivered.

We get the message: political upheaval is crippling the economy, and corruption and impunity exist at the highest levels.

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