To the extent that Haiti now has a democratically-elected government, our goal is to work with, support, and strengthen that government. After decades of brutal dictatorship, political turmoil, and intervention by outside forces (both well-intentioned and otherwise), the present government generally has the support of the Haitian people and of the diaspora. Especially in the wake of the disaster, all parties are seeking to come together and collaborate for the well-being of the people and the nation of Haiti.
At the same it is important to recognize that the Haitian government was seriously impacted by the earthquake, and is itself operating in a recovery mode.
On March 11, the New York Times reported that Haiti’s minister of Haitians abroad, Edwin Paraison, had just arrived in the U.S. for discussions with members of the diaspora.
Why not sooner? Because, said his chief of staff, Jean-Robert Vaval, the government would not buy him a plane ticket. With money scarce, other emergency trips by other officials — to appeal for international aid, for instance — took precedence.
Mr. Paraison’s ministry has 75 employees. Two died in the earthquake on Jan. 12, and 60 are homeless. His headquarters are now rubble. This week, he visited Boston, Miami, Montreal and New York — among the largest centers of Haitians living overseas — for the first time since the disaster. (“For Haitian, Mission Is to Mend Fences With Diaspora and Streamline Aid“)
The web site for the Ministère des Haïtiens Vivant à l’Étranger (MHAVE) is http://mhave.gouv.ht/. We will continue to seek to create a channel for dialog with all stakeholders to support these efforts.
The NYT story also reported on other issues that Paraison faces:
Haitians abroad contribute from $1 billion to $2 billion annually to Haiti, but they cannot vote, a legacy of political chaos and successive governments that did not want to give influence to opponents who had fled the country. Haitian-Americans complain of being told they are “not really Haitian,” and they sometimes find the country corrupt and disorganized. Some in Haiti see their American brethren as arrogant and demanding.
Mr. Paraison tried to do what he could. Diaspora groups, he said with admiration, responded no less quickly than international relief agencies, though they have far fewer resources. He estimated that 1,400 Haitian professionals — doctors, nurses, engineers — traveled to the country in the first six weeks, and those were only the ones the government knew about.
After the earthquake, Haitian-Americans volunteered their services in overwhelming numbers. But many found it difficult to get to Haiti or to figure out how best to help. There are various reasons: Many international relief organizations, while in need of Creole speakers, do not deploy inexperienced volunteers to disaster zones; the many smaller aid groups founded by Haitians abroad lack a unifying organization; and the Haitian government, barely functioning, has offered little help in coordinating would-be volunteers.
Mr. Paraison vowed to restructure the ministry to change that.
The story also referenced Haitian-Americans United for Progress and a proposal by NYU professor Fabienne Douce to create “HaitiCorps, a nonprofit organization, to vet Haitian and non-Haitian professional volunteers and steer them to projects in Haiti that need them.” The HaitiCorps web site is, as of this writing, listed as “under development.” We’ll likely be posting information about both groups under our NGOs section shortly. (Page last updated March 14, 2010.)