Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Haitian expats without a say in reconstruction

The people who have sent millions of dollars to Haiti, have had little say in how to rebuild the country. We're talking of the people who used to live in Haiti, natives that still send back money to their relatives. In the reconstruction committee, Haitian expats do not have a voting seat.

From the IPS, writer Carla Murphy of The Haitian Times talks about the efforts of the Haitian "diaspora" to get involved.

During the discussions, the Haitian Diaspora played a minor role. Unless members of the community organise, they are destined to remain on the sidelines, even as they continue to send remittances to poverty-stricken families in Haiti.

The diaspora's efforts have been disjointed. For instance, New York University professor Fabienne Doucet belongs to a small group that is petitioning the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission to gain a voting voice for the diaspora.

Time may have run out, however, for Doucet and other Haitians living abroad to lobby for a seat at the proposed commission tasked with overseeing reconstruction and staffing relief and development-related jobs. Currently, the Haitian diaspora has been allotted one of three non-voting seats. Most of the remaining 18 voting seats belong to international donors who have pledged 100 million dollars or more to the reconstruction effort.

The diaspora's token status could become final this week, however, when the Haitian parliament, or what remains of it after the Jan. 12 earthquake, meets to ratify the IHRC, said Jocelyn McCalla, senior advisor in the Bureau of Haiti's Special Envoy to the U.N.

Until this reporter informed her, Doucet did not even know that parliament was scheduled to meet, much less debate the proposed commission.

As of last Tuesday, when Doucet's group first posted the petition to thepetitionsite.com, 80 people had signed on to its cause. And while the site recommends a standard goal of 1,000 signatures, Doucet does not know how many signatures are needed to sway ministers to her cause.

Though she remains hopeful, it would be wrong to say that Doucet, an expert in early childhood education, was not frustrated by the surprise deadline.

"There's this overwhelming sense that [we're] not being included and [we] don't know how to be included," Doucet said, comparing the diaspora to the limb of a disconnected body.

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