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Reconstructing Haiti: A great opportunity for co-development reinforcement Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Edy Fils-Aime, Haiti Mar 11, 2010
Globalization , Human Rights , Political Thought   Opinions
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After the earthquake hit the heart of Haiti on January 12th, 2010 international humanitarian aid with long chains of logistics are necessary to save lives and relief people. In the meantime, it must be said that humanitarian aid will not undo previous chronic impoverishment and the deterioration of life conditions without serious reconstruction.

Serious reconstruction refers not only to the reconstruction of public infrastructure (schools, hospitals, bridges, etc.) but also to the reconstruction of the local capacities to take the lead during and after the process. But this is a thorough challenge for the international community: long before the earthquake, Haiti was listed among the ‘’failing states’’. So how can capacities which never previously existed be reconstructed?

A so-called reconstruction without the Haitian people‘s commitment would be futile. Such reconstruction should be developed according to grassroots needs with the national authorities acting proactively. Otherwise reconstruction efforts will result in a nice figurative tower, ready to collapse right after the international community’s departure. Clearly, the lack of local capacity would lead to a dilemma regarding sustainable reconstruction.

In response to this dilemma, some sectors support the idea of putting the country under a technical protectorate, either of the UN or the USA. According to those sectors, the local politic elite would be too corrupt to take the lead in the reconstruction. But, due to technical and historical issues, the protectorate as conceived of is the least likely possibility to be implemented.

The public sector, the private sector, civil society and others keep arguing about all contradictory strategies for the reconstruction of the country, except one: the possibility of mobilizing the strong capacities of Haitian migrants to rebuild Haiti. This is ‘’co-development’’. Haitian migrants, with many skills and experiences gained from their host countries, could contribute to resuscitating or building local economies, social infrastructure and movements. They could restore the government and to enable sustainable development.

Haiti has particular potentialities in terms of co-development. According to the latest report published by the Ministry of Interior on the issue, most of the communities have established formal partnerships for social and economic development with their migrants on the outside. The Haitian migrants already send more funds into Haiti than international public development aid. But for the reconstruction project, the stress would be more on the migrants skills than on their economic capacity.

In Canada, France and the United States, Haitian migrants are well-known for their professional skills (as doctors, professors, engineers, economists, architects, senior researchers, political activists, carpenters, etc.). In addition about 100, 000 Haitians work in construction in the Dominican Republic. Some Haitian migrants have gained skills and experiences that the country critically needs for the reconstruction. Some already hold high responsibilities in governments and in international organizations. The reconstruction of the country would offer great opportunities for the integration of the Diaspora.

Institutional and legal barriers should be modified to ease integration and cooperation. The constitution of 1987 in use in Haiti is one of the instruments which have kept so many Haitian migrants from participating in political decision-making. Article 15 of the constitution strictly forbids Haitians with more than one nationality from taking part in the elections, from running a ministry or from participating in public administration. Article 15 in the constitution eliminates the possibility of migrants with more than nationality becoming the president, a minister, a director, etc. When article 15 is craftily deployed, political crises often rise. Recently senators and deputies have been dismissed and popular presidential candidates have been rejected because of having more than one nationality.

So Diasporan Haitians have always been mistreated. Haiti demands their financial support (which is the fruit of their hard work and professional skills), but keeps barring them from active participation. This treatment of Haitian migrants is unfair: They are Haitians when it comes to backing the local economy (the migrants’ funds were the first to be delivered in Haiti right on the day after the earthquake), but foreigners when it comes to making decisions for the future of the country.

The new potential direction for Haiti is the opportunity to reconsider and reinforce co-development. All the support that Haiti could gain in a protectorate could just as easily be found in effective co-development. This is to say that Haiti could reconstruct itself significantly with minimal international contribution. For this to happen, fundamental changes must take place under prominent local coordination based on local needs and capacities.

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Edy Fils-Aime

I am Edy Fils-Aime, haitian living in Haiti, specialist in Local Development Planning.

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