Event Announcement: Grassroots Haiti Activist to MN

April 9, 2014

“Self-Appointed Saviors”

The world has imposed solution after solution on Haiti.

Woodrow Wilson sent the US Marines to occupy Haiti from 1915-1934, allegedly to “reintroduce stability.” But when they finally relinquished control of Haiti’s finances in the 1950s, Haiti had accumulated tens of millions in international debt.

In the 1980s, international agencies informed Haitian farmers that they would replace their native Creole pigs, because the local breed was sick. Unfortunately, the new pigs, fresh off the farms of Iowa, were unaccustomed to conditions in Haiti and died off – thereby eliminating the “primary savings account” for many farmers.

In the meantime, corporations and western governments pressured Haiti to abandon agriculture in favor of textile-led growth. Clinton later apologized, calling these policies a “devil’s bargain” that sold out Haiti’s farmers over false promises of growth through textile manufacturing. But no one has claimed responsibility for the most damaging consequence: the demise of the farming sparked a mass migration to the Port-au-Prince, where hastily constructed slums afforded no protection against the earthquake that claimed ~300,000 lives.

Doomed to repeat the past?

Since the earthquake, the international community has doubled down on its failed model of imposing solutions from without.

In the year after the earthquake, less than 1% of relief and recovery funds went to the Haitian government, Haitian companies, or Haitian NGOs. Instead, the world chose to fund a consortium of contractors who make a living off disasters. If there were any questions about the (in)effectiveness of this approach, they were answered when one high-profile project triggered protests and threats that farmers would burn the “aid” they received.

An Alternative: Beverly Bell and Grassroots Advocacy

This background explains why we’re so excited to host Beverly Bell in Minnesota April 21-23. Beverly Bell sees hope for Haiti’s future in the efforts of Haitian grassroots organizers and social movements. She has 3 decades of experience working with these types of organizations in pursuit of just economies; democratic participation; and rights for women other marginalized peoples.

Beverly Bell with Book

Beverly Bell and her new book, Fault Lines.

 

If history is any indication, then she has the right formula. All the major milestones in Haitian history – from the successful slave revolt that made it the first free republic in 1804 to the democratic groundswell that toppled a dictator and ushered Haiti’s first democratic leader into power – have been achieved through the struggle of the Haitian citizenry. At best, the international community has stood in the way. At worst – and much more often – it has actively undermined Haiti’s progress.

Fault Lines: An Important Post-Quake Account

Beverly Bell will speak about her recent book, Fault Lines: Views Across Haiti’s Divide. The book illustrates how the earthquake compounded pre-existing socio-economic injustices in Haiti. It sheds light on how the exploitative doctrine of “disaster capitalism” has driven the international response to the quake. And perhaps most importantly, it highlights the work grassroots actors are undertaking to resist this influence and define a future based on domestic priorities, rather than imported (and imposed) ones.

As the coordinator of Other Worlds Are Possible, Beverly Bell works not just to educate, but also to generate support for alternative movements and models of engagement.

Schedule

Beverly Bell will be appearing at St. Olaf, Carleton, University of Minnesota, and Macalester. Her public speaking schedule is as follows:

Northfield – Monday, April 21

St. Olaf:
     “Other Worlds Are Possible”
4:00 PM, BC143 (2nd floor of Buntrock)

Carleton:
     “Charity vs. Justice: Challenging the Global Engagement Model”
7:00 PM, Athenaeum (Carleton Library)

Minneapolis - Tuesday, April 22

Common Roots:
“Food Justice in Haiti: Monsanto, USAID, and Alternative Agriculture Models

     12:00 PM, Meeting Room

University of Minnesota:
Disaster Capitalism: Lessons from Haiti”
     4:30 PM, Blegen 155

Macalester:
    “Disaster Capitalism: Lessons from Haiti”
     7:30 PM, Neill Hall 401

 

For more information about Northfield events, contact Paul Miller (thehaitiman@msn.com)

For more information about the U of M event, contact Natalie Miller (mill5118@umn.edu)

For more information about Minneapolis events or other opportunities to connect with Beverly Bell, contact Nathan Yaffe (nathan.yaffe@gmail.com)


The Anniversary of President Aristide’s Overthrow

February 29, 2012

This is a personal reflection from Paul Miller, the director of the Haiti Justice Alliance.

President Jean Bertrand Aristide

I remember very well where I was when I learned that President Aristide had left Haiti in the early morning hours of February 29, 2004.  It was my “where were you when you heard JFK was shot” moment, although I have that memory, too.  It was at Caribou Coffee in Woodbury, Minnesota and my friend, who had traveled with me to Haiti in December of 2003, 3 months earlier, informed me that news reports were saying that Aristide had left Haiti.  “Left Haiti?  No way,” was my first thought. I didn’t think that Aristide would ever abdicate his presidential term in Haiti by his own choice after the 1991 coup against him and his 1994 return. Stunned and devastated would accurately describe how I received this most depressing news.

The facts would come to show that my instincts were right.  President Aristide had no intention of leaving Haiti on that night or on any night during the remaining time of his presidency.  Clearly he did not leave that night of his own volition.  You can choose to believe whatever you want to believe about US actions on this or any other given day.  However, if you choose to value the truth, then you must accept that the facts show that Jean Bertrand Aristide was removed by US force/s as yet another coup d’état took place in Haiti.  The only evidence offered of an alternative scenario are self-serving statements from those at the top of our government, chiefly George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and the sycophantic Colin Powell.

It’s not ancient history, like a lot of our nefarious actions towards Haiti.  It was 8 years ago.  Monday it was announced that President Aristide is being investigated for drug violations. Our hypocrisy really knows no bounds.  What a coincidence that once again we are asked to question Aristide’s integrity and ethics rather than to be reminded that a US-sponsored coup undermined Haiti’s hope for democracy and stability on this day, 8 short years ago.


Weekly News Round-Up: Human Rights and International Investment

December 10, 2011

Human Rights in Haiti

Yesterday was the UN-sponsored International Day of Human Rights – a day laden with irony for the people of Haiti. The occasion sparked protests, writing, and petitions from Haitian activists.

Pairs well with: Haitians protesting in St. Marc, Haiti, to demand respect for their human rights in front of a UN sign bearing the mission’s name, MINUSTAH (left). A boy at the protest holding a sign that says, “Haitians have rights like everyone!” (right).

Photo credit: @gaetantguevara

Also pairs well with: This piece from Etant Dupain covering the protests: “It is a contradiction for the UN to celebrate their International Day for Human Rights while members of the mission are violating human rights in Haiti.”

Action Alert: Our partner group, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, began a petition asking the UN to honor cholera victims’ human rights in honor of human rights day. Consider signing here.

More International Forums on Reconstruction

After last week’s Invest in Haiti forum (critiqued here), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Haiti Reconstruction Forum took place in Miami on Thursday. The goal of the event was similar: promoting investment in Haiti.

Pairs well with: Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald reporter, live-tweeted the event. Her coverage was the only source for details of what was discussed at the forum, including:

    1. the announcement of a potential IDB-financed “portable school” project;
    2. praise for the industrial park;
    3. more support for the hotel industry ;
    4. an IDB-supported $700 million agriculture plan.

Also pairs well with: Carlson Hotels visited Haiti on the day of the forum to look into starting a hotel to rival the new, 173-room hotel built by Marriott. It appears that the international community plan for Haiti’s economy has distilled itself into the two T’s: Textiles and Tourism.


Weekly Links Round-Up: Haiti’s Economic Future, MINUSTAH Poll, and More!

December 2, 2011

Invest In Haiti: The Future of the Haitian Economy

President Martelly plans to create 500,000 jobs in three years. Some of these will come from a new Marriott hotel being planned in downtown Port-au-Prince, but he intends even more to come from a new industrial park in Caracol, Haiti.

Pairs Well With: This investigation finding that the garment industry – which will take center stage in the new industrial park – has been fraught with union suppression.

Also Pairs Well With: This Haiti Grassroots Watch investigation highlighting the wage suppression, poor working conditions, and bad track record of “sweatshop-led development” in Haiti.

 

USAID begins construction at the industrial park in Caracol, Haiti.

 

MINUSTAH Poll & Doublespeak

A new poll finds that two-thirds of Haitians want the immediate withdrawal of UN forces.

Pairs Well With: The headline-making line about the UN, however, came from Nigel Fisher, deputy Special Rep of the Secretary General for Haiti. In a press conference this week, he claimed that “only media and elites” want the UN out of the country – just days after the poll’s release.

 

Quick Hits

The US government decided to lift an 18-year arms embargo, which was only intermittently observed while in place.

The World Bank approved a $255 million plan to provide housing and education in Port-au-Prince in response to the disbanding of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission.

 


Links Round-Up: Minister Forced to Resign, Army Put on Hold, And More

November 23, 2011

Breaking News Alert

The Minister of Justice, Josué Pierre-Louis, resigned yesterday under pressure from Haitian parliament. He was charged with participating in the illegal arrest of an opposition party parliamentarian, Arnel Belizaire. Most believe the arrest was retribution for a public spat between Belizaire and the President.

 

Security

President Michel Martelly delayed the re-establishment of the Haitian army pending a ‘civilian commission’ recommendation, due on Jan. 1. Most likely this change occurred because of insufficient funds, or pressure from international actors.

Pairs Well With: The homicide rate in Haiti is not only lower than implied by the media, but is actually well below the average for Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a new study.

Also Pairs Well With: Our post urging everyone to move past the debate over lawlessness in Haiti, which is one of the main justifications for bringing back the army.

 

Economy and Trade

The Ministry of Trade seeks to attract investors, declaring: Haiti is open for business (h/t @moiracathleen).

Pairs Well With: Two articles showing how wage and union suppression have been used to deny the benefits of foreign investment to Haiti’s poor. In other words, investment is great – but only if the right regulations are in place.

The emergence of a vibrant entrepreneurial class in Haiti is one of the best defenses against predatory foreign investment. That’s why it’s exciting to hear that one of our partner groups, the What If? Foundation, is starting a club focused on developing students’ entrepreneurial skills.

Pairs Well With: Haiti’s first annual Global Entrepreneurship Day just concluded, which serves as another positive model of promoting Haitian-driven business ideas, as imposed to foreign-imposed ones.

 

Aid to Haiti

The Center for Economic and Policy Research again picks up on a story that HJA previously covered: the fact that USAID’s reliance on enormous contracts decreases the quality of its aid to Haiti.

Pairs Well With: HJA’s two pieces that focus on the effect of tied aid contracts and “indefinite quantity contracts” (IQCs), which are used because they’re administratively cheap, even though they produce terrible results.


Framing Rule of Law Issues: Beyond “Lawless and Violent”

September 23, 2011

The media loves talking about lawlessness in Haiti (ad infinitum), which often leads to graphic depictions of ubiquitous violence. Many Haiti activists retort that these narratives brim with “unattributed false statement[s].” They point to the testimony of journalists like Sebastian Walker: “Haitians are among the most friendly, peaceful people I’ve ever encountered.”

Those informed by the mainstream media typically conclude that Haiti’s “lawlessness” necessitates more UN troops to impose security, while the justice-minded bemoan the “myth of Haiti’s lawless streets.” At this point, dialogue usually ceases as each side retires with their preferred conclusion.

Framing Rule of Law Issues Effectively

Human rights attorney Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), however, frames rule of law issues in a manner that allows for overcoming this impasse.

Read the rest of this entry »


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