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Homepage > Regions / Countries > Latin America & Caribbean > Haiti > Peacebuilding in Haiti: Including Haitians from Abroad

Peacebuilding in Haiti: Including Haitians from Abroad

Latin America/Caribbean Report N°24 14 Dec 2007


The UN mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) will not stay forever and, in any case, cannot be made responsible for solving Haiti’s manifold and deep-seated problems. The absence of adequate professional staff, sufficient financial resources and efficient management at all levels of government has delayed structural reforms and economic and social programs. The country needs institutional strengthening prior to its transition from President René Préval to his successor after the elections in 2011 – also the likely outside limit for MINUSTAH’s mandate. Otherwise, political polarisation along traditional cleavages will reappear, as will the risk of conflict. Training civil servants and increasing their salaries are important but insufficient to produce the advances Haitians are demanding. A serious and sustained initiative to include three million Haitians living abroad could overcome historic nationalistic mistrust of outsiders, bring a missing middle class within reach and help Haiti escape its “fragile state” status.

Most Haitians abroad live in the U.S. and Canada. Their remittances to family in Haiti reached an estimated $1.65 billion in 2006 and now account for 35 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). This direct subsidy to family incomes should not lessen the state’s willingness to develop sustainable financing for basic public services. Instead, its impact should be maximised through better access to credit and finance, and greater remittances literacy. Savings and other resources should also be leveraged through incentives programs, hometown associations (HTAs), professional organisations and diaspora investment funds. The Haitian government should facilitate greater coordination and partnerships to redirect some funds to local, departmental and national development initiatives.

Members of the diaspora are Haiti’s first customers and investors in tourism, small business and mining but they prefer to conduct business informally, waiting for more security, greater confidence in the government and an improved investment climate. At the same time, they are becoming aware of their potential power as lobbies in their host countries and as transnational networks and actors in Haitian politics. Their economic contribution should be reflected in the political system by allowing dual citizenship and diaspora representation in parliament. These changes will require, after broad consultations and negotiations, at least constitutional amendment and possibly a new constitution before the 2011 elections. Measures to facilitate voting in Haitian consulates are also needed.

The diaspora is ready to help but it needs government assistance to remove formal and informal barriers to expanded engagement. A reverse brain drain would bring several hundred skilled and professional expatriates back and greatly expand the nation’s management capacity. Yet to realise those benefits the government must clearly communicate to key sectors and the public the reasons for encouraging returns. President Préval should personally launch a ten-year diaspora policy with full international support. A plan designed in collaboration with the diaspora, parliament and civil society that targets specific objectives and transparently addresses the downside risks of expanded diaspora involvement will help pave the way for a smooth transition at the end of his term.


To President Préval and the Government of Haiti:

1.  Set up a one-year mandated commission comprising Haitians from abroad, parliamentarians, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the business sector, with a sufficient budget to organise three diaspora-wide consultative workshops to debate and design a ten-year diaspora policy and assess potential risks of the reforms proposed.

2.  Consult with political forces countrywide and parliament on the quickest ways of achieving constitutional and other reforms that will include the diaspora in the 2011 presidential election process by allowing dual citizenship, permitting diaspora representation in parliament and facilitating voting abroad.

3.  Increase the high-level staff and budget of the Ministry of Haitians Living Abroad (MHLA) to better reflect the diaspora’s economic weight and open half these new positions to well-qualified Haitians from abroad.

4.  Pursue large-scale recruitment programs in public administration, equally open to well-qualified Haitians inside and outside the country, to promote transfer of knowledge by immediately bringing several hundred Haitians from abroad for periods of up to ten years, perhaps starting with one- to three-year commitments, coupled with sound communication and compensatory policies to avoid tensions inside state institutions.

5.  Maximise use of remittances through better access to financial services and credit and finance literacy programs, and intensify efforts to improve the investment climate in terms of infrastructure, property protection and economic security.

6.  Set up a diaspora development fund together with hometown associations (HTAs) and international donors and coordinated with the Local Government Management and Development Fund (FGDCT, Fonds des Gestion et de Développement des Collectivités Territoriales).

7.  Set up an interministerial task force to prepare a law on labour force migration and negotiate bilateral agreements to better control migrations flows with countries hosting the largest Haitian populations.

8.  Publish regular electronic and radio security bulletins with accurate statistical crime data for Port-au-Prince and the regions directed at Haitians abroad seeking up-to-date information on security risks.

To the Haitian Parliament:

9.  Debate and build parliamentary consensus regarding a long-term diaspora policy and the need for constitutional reform, a law on labour migration and an increased budget for the MHLA.

10.  Consider constitutional amendments or other constitutional reform procedures to allow dual citizenship and diaspora representation in the parliament, as well as other measures to facilitate voting abroad.

To the International Community, including the U.S., Canada, the European Union (EU), International Financial Institutions and Other Major Donors:

11.  Establish diaspora liaison centres and criteria favouring the employment of Haitian expatriates in foreign aid programs and develop public administration staffing programs in coordination with the Haitian government.

12.  Support diaspora networks and NGOs operating in their territories and in Haiti by helping them plan, finance and implement development and investment projects in Haiti in coordination with the MHLA and other relevant public and private entities.

13.  Support a Haitian diaspora development fund designed to finance local development projects.

To the Haitian Diaspora, Hometown Associations (HTAs) and Transnational Networks:

14.  Pressure the Haitian government on voting abroad, dual nationality and representation in the parliament, as part of constitutional and other reform.

15.  In the U.S. and Canada, encourage the development of a Haitian “community” lobby to create stronger political cohesion within the diaspora and promote better understanding of Haiti’s challenges among policy-makers in those countries to increase their engagement in Haiti.

To the Organization of American States (OAS), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the Governments of the Dominican Republic and Haiti:

16.  Revitalise the functioning of the bilateral commission with, if needed, more assertive mediation from the OAS or the IOM, to manage migration issues between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Port-au-Prince/Brussels, 14 December 2007

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