Peacebuilding in Haiti: Including Haitians from Abroad
Peacebuilding in Haiti: Including Haitians from Abroad
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  1. Executive Summary
Report / Latin America & Caribbean 2 minutes

Peacebuilding in Haiti: Including Haitians from Abroad

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.

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Executive Summary

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.

Port-au-Prince/Brussels, 14 December 2007

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