International Crisis Group: Build Peace by Engaging the Diaspora
The International Crisis Group, an NGO with expertise on preventing and responding to emergencies, has released a report entitled "Peacebuilding Haiti: Including Haitians from Abroad" The report argues that the Haitian government needs to implement a long term disaspora policy with the support of the international community. With the Diaspora being over three million strong and possessing skills, connections, and resources that would be useful in the reconstruction of the country, we could not agree more. Seeting aside one day a year for the Diaspora is not enough - we need ongoing engagement.
The proposal is for the government to assemble a Diaspora Task Force, with a one year mandate, to develop such a plan. The Task Force would have participation from Haitian officials, political parties, civil society, and Diaspora representatives. Sounds reasonable, but it woud take a large Task Force to represent the diversity of the Diaspora in Montreal, Miami, Boston, New York, Paris, and the Dominican Republic.
The report notes that this is unlikely to happen without empowering the Ministry of Haitians Living Abroad (Ministere des Haitiens Vivant a l'Etranger.) You can see the website by clicking here - it is a shame that their is not an option for viewing the page in Kreyol, the primary official language of Haiti.
In the event that this Task Force is created, we suggest communicating clearly and consistently to Haitians in Haiti and Haitians abroad the purpose and
mandate of the group. Draft plans should be posted on the web (in Kreyol, please) to give the Diaspora abroad an opportunity to participate virtually.
Interesting, the report notes that Haitian expatriates have contributed an estimated $1.65 billion for remittances in 2006. This represents 35% of the GDP. Despite this, they cannot vote when abroad - unlike the Salavadoran diaspora whose government has taken great pains to engage their very sizeable Diaspora. The bad news is Haiti is behind the curve, the good news is that the solution is simple and only requires the will to implement.
Dual citizenship and diaspora representation in the government would require reforming the consitution. In the often turbulent political environment, this will take courage on Preval's part and will give his opponents and opening. But it should be done nonetheless and it could be a lasting legacy on his part.
Perhaps my favorite recommendation is to open up competition for public service/administration positions to the Diaspora. There is management and leadership experience in the Diaspora and, if an individual wants to give back to their country, they should have an opportunity to do so. All of us know that for Haiti to progress the government must become more accountable and effective - this is one way to do so.
However, many of these leaders and managers have families, and even if they want to come back, they will not do so if they cant guarantee the safety of their families. For this reason, the report also advises the government regularly share information with the Diaspora on the security situation - including sharing crime statistics including kidnappings. Were positions available in other cities besides Port au Prince, this would also help.
The report also covers the efforts of President Preval to encourage investment by Diaspora. I was not aware of this but in 2007, a Center for the Facilitation of Investments (CFI) was created to be a one shop stop for Diaspora who want to invest. It notes low staffing levels, but holds out hope that the CFI could be beneficial given appropriate resources. No website that I could find. But clearly this is needed. The reports cites instances of potential Diaspora investors becoming frustrated with corruption and a lack of support who decided to invest in the Dominican Republic instead. This should not happen.
The report is concise, practical, and lists concrete steps the Haitian government, Haitians abroad, and the international community. We feel the recommendations are sound and would go a long way into engaging Haiti's Diaspora in the country's development. Haiti needs their assistance terribly.
Finally, the point person at the International Crisis Group for Haiti and other Latin American and Carribean counties is Markus Schultze-Kraft.
Welcome your thoughts.