Government of Haiti
The government of Haiti (GOH) sent representatives to attend the events, as well as meet with Haitian grassroots partners and the HAWG during a separate, private meeting on housing. This meeting was a breakthrough for all sides, as the representative for the Haitian senate provided important information on the mechanisms for consultations with the Haitian parliament, particularly the senate, and the ways to access them. Our partners shared openly with the GOH representatives their frustration in accessing their representatives, and in having their voices heard in the reconstruction and development process. They welcomed the presence and participation of the GOH, and outlined concrete steps for future engagement. For many present, it was the first opportunity to discuss the institutionalization of channels through which the GOH and grassroots partners could engage each other more systematically.
Senator Marco Rubio
The meeting with the office of Senator Marco Rubio was a welcomed opportunity to continue the conversation between that office and grassroots partners. The attendees learned that Senator Rubio had submitted questions to Senator Kerry regarding Haiti during his confirmation hearing as Secretary of State. Senator Rubio’s staff reiterated that one of the Senator’s key interests is to help create long-term employment in Haiti. The partners expressed concerns about the current model for economic development in Haiti, which relies on using agricultural land to create ‘free trade zones’ or mining extraction projects, at the expense of agriculture and food security. Senator Rubio’s office welcomed propositions from the partners on how to help Haiti more effectively.
Senator Robert Menendez
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
The Haitian partners and ActionAid met with a representative of the FAO in DC to talk about its strategy in Haiti and to discuss how the FAO can address Haiti’s food security needs and engage more concretely in sustainable agriculture initiatives. The meeting was dynamic and honest, and allowed all parties to talk openly and at length about the opportunities ahead. Although the representative did not work directly on Haiti, it was a great opportunity to share ways for increased communications between Haitian grassroots organizations and the FAO Haiti staff. The next steps include connecting the partners with the FAO leadership in Haiti, and finding ways to involve the FAO in conversations about consultations with grassroots organizations.
Department of State
Grassroots partners, and representatives from ActionAid, AJWS, and other organizations participated in a meeting with staff members of the State Department Haiti Special Coordinators’ office. The meeting was another opportunity to share with the United States government (USG) the partners’ assessment of some of the USG interventions in Haiti. The need for mechanisms for systematic consultations with a wide range of grassroots organizations in Haiti was stressed and received by the USG. The need for a different housing strategy that would benefit the poor received a lot of attention, and concerns about the 350,000 still remaining in camps, as well as the thousands more who have left the camps for similar or worse hazardous conditions were brought to bear. Among the solutions the partners proposed was the need for the formulation of a national housing strategy with the communities involved.
The concerns about the impact of the Caracol Industrial Park on the smallholder farmers in the region, as well as the mixed benefits of the park for its employees (such as the cost of meals and transportation which left little income to the workers) were discussed at length. The USG representatives expressed their interest in seeing the Caracol Industrial Park succeed and help the local communities; they felt that the park was not a perfect endeavor, but that it was in its initial stage and that there were tangible solutions to the current problems the populations faced were being investigated. The partners also brought up the disparity between the USG commitment of $124 million for infrastructure building for the Caracol Industrial Park alone, and any key sectors in Haiti such as agriculture. Grassroots partners and advocacy organizations left the meeting energized by the interest of the USG representatives to delve into the issues they faced in greater detail, to discuss solutions they were considering, and to hear their recommendations on how to best address them and benefit vulnerable Haitian communities.