By Jean H Charles
The long arm of universal influence of the United States in the areas of economy, culture and politics makes the president of the United States a de facto ruler in most of the countries of the world. The Haitian American community in New York, Florida, New Jersey and Massachusetts rooted heavily for President Obama’s re-election and, as such, this Diaspora is expecting an outcome from the re-elected president.
Jean Hervé Charles LLB, MSW, JD, former Vice-Dean of Students at City College of the City University of New York, is now responsible for policy and public relations for the political platform in power in Haiti, Répons Peyisan. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol
Attributing the voices of those Haitian people who are in the United States and in Haiti, I would mention, amongst others, four expectations from the Haitian people towards President Obama at the dawn of his new mandate.
I - Visit Haiti!
The year 2013 commemorates 150 years-plus of sustained and continuous relationship between the two first republics of the Western Hemisphere, the Republic of the United States and the Republic of Haiti. It was indeed on June 6, 1862, that Abraham Lincoln ended the official international embargo against Haiti that dared to end the global order of slavery as it was practiced throughout the world. He sent Benjamin F Whidden as consul general to the black Republic. Since then there has been some 55 American diplomats accredited to the Haitian government.
Amongst them there was Frederic Douglass, the famous abolitionist, appointed on June 26, 1880. In a speech to an American audience, he said, “There are many reasons why a good understanding should exist between Haiti and the United States. Her proximity; her similar government and her large and increasing commerce with us, should alone make us deeply interested in her welfare, her history, her progress and her possible destiny. Haiti is a rich country.”
It is the same Haiti as seen and described by Frederic Douglass except it is today on its knees.
There was also Clinton E Knox, a black diplomat to whom the dubious role was given to usher the smooth transition of Jean Claude Duvalier after the death of his father, Francois Duvalier. Amongst well remembered diplomats we should add Alvin Adams surnamed Bourik chage as he was summoning the Haitian people to get to work because the donkey had a heavy load on its back.
Last but not least, the present ambassador Mrs Pamela White, whose motto Haiti is too rich to be poor is very motivating and forthcoming. She understands that Haiti can truly become a rich nation if it can get out of its assistance mode to enter into the personal wealth creating mode.
When you should come to Haiti? It will depend on your busy and demanding agenda not only from the citizens of the United States but also from the rest of the world. Haiti has, beside its Independence Day on January 1, two very dear holidays. Flag Day on May 18 and Founder’s Day or the Last battle (Vertieres) Day on November 18. Your visiting Haiti on or around those days will warm the hearts of the Haitian people. It will signify the end of the novo, de facto embargo imposed upon Haiti by President Ronald Reagan when mistakenly he branded the name of Haiti and Haitians as AIDS carriers.
A multitude of tourists from America and the rest of the world are expecting this new dawn to rush in and enjoy the warm hospitality of the Haitian people as well as its stunning vista.
II - Bring the Pote Cole project back to Haiti
I remember fondly the Project Pote Cole that might be the best model ever of development that has been established in Haiti. It was a joint collaboration of the government of Haiti and of the government of the United States under the auspices of the Inter American Agricultural Cooperative Service, an activity of the Institute of International Affairs. Dubbed Four Points and renamed Pote Cole by the people of Haiti.
Indeed up to today any joint collaborative effort in the country is surnamed Pote Cole, meaning hands together. The Project Pote Cole would replace the culture of assistance, waste, corruption and duplication as prevailed in the world of non-profit organisations as it exists today in Haiti. Its core principle was to help the Haitian peasant to help himself with economic incubation and technical assistance.
Of the ten million Haitian people, nine million are either peasants in the countryside or peasants in the slums of Port au Prince and the major cities of the country. They are uneducated and unsophisticated and enduring the weight of social, economic and political exclusion in the country. Salvation for Haiti is to enrich this segment of the population through husbandry, agriculture and art-crafts. A de novo Pote Cole project would do just that.
III - Redirect some of the funding of the marine interdiction project towards a rural stabilization program and send back the boat Hamilton for technical assistance to the project
An agreement was reached under the Preval government for the American navy to patrol the seas off Haiti to discourage and prevent small Haitian boats from reaching the coast of Florida through illegal travel. Through the years, this practice has been flawed at best, a battle a la Sissify at worst. A better approach would be to devote some of the funding of the interdiction at sea for a stabilization project on the ground. The reason young men and women taking the fatal decision to embark into a frail boat to face the fury of the sea is because there is no hope at home. Those same young men could be trained to build yachts that will bring enough revenue at home so an illegal trip would be seen as illusory. The rural villages of Le Borgne, Labadie, Mole St Nicholas where those illegal trips take place would become vibrant sites of enterprise.
The Hamilton was forced to turn back under the Bush government when a group of hooligans initiated a sense of threat to the technicians sent to help Haiti. The Hamilton, with its contingent of engineers, would facilitate the construction or the design of necessary infrastructure in the coastal towns of Haiti.
IV- Incubate the brain-gain project of the Diaspora to facilitate the development of the motherland
In the essay the Diaspora a tool for nation building, I have demonstrated the concept that few countries in the world have succeeded to use its Diaspora for homeland development. The exception to this rule has been the oldest and the newest Diaspora, the Jewish and the South Korean Diasporas. They have culled their energy to impact positively their countries. Even there, it was the influence of their government that made the difference.
The doctrine remains true; it is the incubation of the government that will determine the force de frappe of the Diaspora towards its homeland. The Haitian Diaspora is demonstrating these days, extensive chatting in organizing itself for its own welfare and for the welfare of the country. The Haitian government as usual has demonstrated a restrained involvement that will signal little success for the Diaspora effort.
The Obama government through its State Department could initiate a novel approach that would incubate and empower the Diaspora movement of the different ethnic groups in the United States. This initiative would help the American government to save money in foreign aid, since its contribution will be compounded by the contribution of the Diasporas. It will foster a better relationship between the United States and its foreign partners because less waste and less corruption will be filtered into the aid distribution.
The Haitian Diaspora brain-gain experience could serve as a model that could be scaled out to the other countries of the world. The brain-gain includes the development of a bank of human resources ready and willing to serve the motherland. The financial resources are put at the disposal of the experts while fostering the involvement of the home government. The outcome should be the development of those who are left behind because of homegrown societal taboos or lack of national resources.
It is a win-win project that stops illegal immigration towards the United States, because those who remain at home feel now confident they have a responsible government that hears their concerns. It projects goodwill towards the United States that does not come as a cowboy foreign change agent but it is humble enough to let the Diaspora of each country takes the lead in transforming their own countries for the best, albeit with support and assistance from the United States.
These are simple wishes and expectations that can only bring big rewards to both the United States and Haiti, friends for the last 150 years in spite of 15 years of occupation and 30 years of supporting a family dictatorship.