Trenton Daniel of the Miami Herald describes below the speech given by Bill Clinton at the second annual Haiti Diaspora Unity Congress. During the speech, he encouraged the Diaspora to stay engaged and announced a number of new initiatives. For example, he noted that the Soros Economic Development Fund has created a Haiti Invest project, through which an initial 25 million dollars will be spent on promoting investment in agricuture, energy, housing, and tourism. Clinton is an asset to Haiti, but as one participant emphasized, the Haitian Diaspora must now step up.
Kerry Kennedy of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Justice and Human Rights recently completed an advocacy mission to the Dominican Republic. The racism against those with darker skin can be so intense that travelling there feels like going back in time. Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent are routinely denied citizenship, making them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. While meeting with government officials, Kennedy urged them to work with local human rights defenders such as Sonia Pierre, who despite winning the 2006 RFK Human Rights Award, has been treated not as a hero, but a threat. Her trip summary is copied blow.
The United States Institute of Peace is a nonpartisan, independent think tank (or at least as independent as possible given that it was established and funded by Congress.) Its goals are to help prevent and resolve violent international conflicts, promote post-conflict stability and development, and increase conflict management capacity, tools, and intellectual capital worldwide. The Institute has a Haiti Working Group, which meets monthly and is open to anyone interested in Haiti. The Group periodically publishes papers or organizes Haiti related events. Last week, the Working Group held a panel called The End of Poverty in Haiti.
The devastation to Gonaives brought with it a sense of déjà vu for Haiti watchers. We’ve been here before - the damage from Tropical Storm Jeanne was massive. Then as now, there were serious humanitarian needs that donors, non-governmental, and international organizations struggled mightily to meet. Then as now, there were a steady flow of politicians and celebrities. Other disasters happened elsewhere and Haiti again fell of the radar. The long term steps needed to ensure the survival of the city were not taken. Will things be different this time or will a preventable tragedy happen yet again?