Below is a PRI article about the Petrochallengers - a (mostly) younger generation of activists who, rather than just changing heads of state, want to reform the underlying systems that prevent accountability, transparency, and justice. Corruption is so pervasive in Haiti that it is all too easy to become numb to it - but the misuse/outright theft of over a billion dollars in PetroCaribe funds was the last straw . These funds could have produced the roads, hospitals, schools, and environmental programming Haiti needed to get back on the right track. Without bringing those responsible to account, it remains business as usual. While they may not think of themselves as revolutionaries, bringing about a government that invests in its own people would be nothing short of revolutionary.
Given ongoing political instability, it is easy to lose sight of long-term development issues in Haiti like deforestation. Agriculture, with the food and rural jobs it provides, depends in part on strategically reversing environmental degradation. There are many challenges in doing so - electrifying major cities from which the demand for wood charcoal comes, creating alternative fuel sources that are accessible and less expensive the charcoal, creating more jobs from protecting the environment than from exploiting it, and of course, education. North Haiti Christian University (NHCU) is one instiution with programs to promote agriculture and protect the environment. A short BBC article by Gemma Handy about NHCU is linked and below.
Over a million people have participated in protests this month. The Carnival in Port au Prince was cancelled. Instability strains access to heath care and other basic services. Haitians are tired of unchecked corruption when life remains a daily struggle for many. Whether this government remains or is replaced, Haiti's future depends upon improving its institutions and improving accountability. As Athena Kolbe and Robert Mugga points out, it is difficult to imagine this happening without increasing the participation of women in local, regional, and national politics. It is women, after all, who are holding the country together. A new way of governing also depends upon involving youth and other civic groups to hold their government accountable, partner with it whenever possible, and to organise when it is not. The full article which appeared in NPR is linked and below.
While protests are nothing new in haiti, the scale of the ongoing demonstrations againt corruption and economic hardship are the largest in recent memory. Unfortunately, the instability is negatively affecting operations at hospitals. Even prior to the protests, many Haitian health care facilities lacked the medicines and equipment necessary to treat the sick. It doesn't have to be like this and protestors understand that there will not be a better future until corruption is brought under control. Below is recent article by CNN writer Sam Kiley about the impact on on health care facilities, staff, and patients.
The cessation of Temporary Protected Status, which in reality often lasts many years, would result in the deportation of 200,000 Haitians, Nicaraguans, El Salvador, and Sudanese who together have more than 200,000 children born in the United States. Deportations would separate families and create unneccesary suffering. It would also have negative economic consequences for companies like Butterball Tukey who depend upon an immigrant workforce. This is hard, dirty, and difficult work that would be hard to fill otherwise. Policies can be be sound from both a humanitarian and economic perspective at the same time - deporting hard-working people and separating them from their families when their labor is very much needed would be neither.
Haitians are, without a doubt, hard workers. Most just want opportunities, security, and for their familiies to have good lives. Opportunity can be hard to come by in Haiti although some have found it in Tijuana. In fact, the Mayor of Tijuana has praised Haitians for their work ethic and ability to integrate. Given a chance, Haitians will prove themselves - whether in Miami, Montreal, or Tijuana. The full article by Associated Press writer Julie Watson follows.
Haiti it a tough country to be a child, but especially one without family. Insitutionalising children is rarely the right answer, especially in a country where oversight of orphanages is lax. The better option is to provide children with the option of living, even temporarily, with a foster family. At long last, Haiti is developing a national network of foster families so children don't wind up in orphanages, on the street or worse. Haiti is early in this process but it it still represents real progress. Participating famiies are not paid - they quite literally do it out of the goodness of their hearts. The full article by AP journalist David Crary follows.
At the insistence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Haitian government had agreed to cut government subsidies on fuel which would have caused prices to increase by over half. Life is expensive enough in Haiti due to a lack of economic growth and dependency on imports. To reduce subsidies would have made life even costly when many struggle just to get by. The situation was very tense but has since calmed. Still, the IMF has yet again hurt Haiti by failing to promote policies that are pro-poor. The full article by Time journalist Billy Perrigo follows.
Haitian women are holding the country together - yet are vulnerable to gender-based violence and other abuses. According to USAID, one out of every three Haitian women between the ages of 15 - 49 has experienced gender-based violence. In this era of #MeToo, women are increasingly choosing to be voices for change instead of suffering in silence. Haitian comedian Gaëlle Bien-Aimé is a brave Haitian comedian who has shared her experience as a rape survivor and became a human rights activitist. Through her performances, her outreach, and her example she encourages other survivors to do the same. Most about this inspiring activist in the full article below.
The U.S State Department has released the 2017 Human Rights Reports. While not without controversy this year, these reports are valuable for tracking to the extent to which partner countries protect human rights - including for women, children, and minorities. As in previous years, Haiti's weak justice remains a major challenges. Conditions in prisons remain poor and journalism remains a dangerous business. However, they have been some modest successes including the Haitian National Police becoming increasingly professional. The full report follows.