The current Haitian society calls for a profound change in all constituents. In the name of Christ and his church, we raise up our voices to ask all Haitians to work for the advent of a new society and a new way of governing the country, with a foundation in an orderly state, moral values, and the common good.
The Bishops of Haiti, September 29, 2004
THE GENERAL SITUATION:
Haiti continues to be a nation in crisis, a failed state that has not functioned effectively for years, suffering now the effects of the violence and civil disorder of last year that brought about the coerced resignation of the President in February and the further devastation brought on by Hurricane Jeanne in September. An interim government is in place, charged with preparing for elections this year, aiming for the new President to take office on February 7, 2006.
International forces, initially led by U. S. Marines and now replaced by Brazilian-led UN troops, are maintaining a degree of peace, primarily around the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Vengeance killings are still being reported and rebel groups, both pro- and anti-Aristide still function in many parts of the country. The Haitian Bishops, in a statement last year, noted that “Insecurity persists despite the deployment of foreign troops,” adding that their “mysterious passiveness”—in the face of continued killings—“is causing great frustration and spite.”
THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH:
The bishops of Haiti are striving to find their proper role in helping that society find its way to peace and reconciliation. With the aid of Catholic Relief Services, they have formed an episcopal commission for that purpose. CRS’ Haiti program, one of its largest in the world, is engaged in responding to the bishops’ call to help develop the Church’s role in promoting lasting peace and true reconciliation. In addition, CRS and other major non-governmental organizations are playing their traditional role of providing critically needed supplies of food and medicines throughout the country.
THE ROLE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY:
After the U.S. led invasion of 1994 restoring Aristide to office, an important program of “nation-building” started up, led by the U.S. Under USAID, an Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) was set up. OTI was dedicated to the political development of post-conflict countries. It was a non-traditional development program that provided training and jobs for many, including members of the now-disbanded army. But after two years, no additional funds were provided for “reconstruction” and the program ended in frustration and failure.
Today, there are some 6,700 peace-keepers in this country of over 8 million. Their numbers should be augmented still further and they should not leave until there is genuine security and an effective national police force is in place. This means disarming the numerous armed gangs—both pro- and anti-Aristide—and the para-military groups that entered the country a year ago.
Parts of the international community are preparing programs to assist in Haiti’s reconstruction and development. Until security is achieved and a recognized political structure is in place, most aid so far is emergency humanitarian assistance, although on January 6 the World Bank did release funds for Haiti, the first time since 1996. A long-term commitment by governments as well as NGOs is essential. This time around, international programs helping Haiti cannot hope for lasting success in a two-year framework; they must be committed for the long haul.
TRADE AND HAITI’S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT:
Amid the many international trade agreements moving forward at this time, special concessions must be made for Haiti’s devastated economy to grow. One initiative last fall in the U.S. Congress was S. 2261, the Haiti Economic Recovery Opportunity Act of 2004, introduced by Sens. Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Bob Graham (D-FL). A similar bill, H.R. 1031, was introduced in the House by Reps. Clay Shaw (R-FL) and John Conyers (D-MI) and several other bipartisan cosponsors. The core provisions of the two bills provided that, for a limited period of time, articles of apparel manufactured in Haiti could be imported into the United States free of duty. If enacted, experts estimated that it would create 100,000 direct jobs and eventually another 100,000 associated service jobs in Haiti. Despite unanimous passage in the Senate, the House leadership declined to bring the bill up in the closing days of the last session and it died. We formally endorsed this legislation and hope to press for similar bills in the new Congress. Thus far, none has been offered. In the words of Brazil’s foreign minister, “Haiti has been suffering a tsunami for 200 years.” It is time to end Haiti’s unmerited suffering and enable it to take its rightful place among the democratic nations of the hemisphere.
Encourage Members of Congress to support special trade measures to help the devastated Haitian economy.
Numerous USCCB and CEH statements can be found at: (www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/haiti.shtml).
For further information: Tom Quigley 202.541.3184 (ph); 202.541.3339 (fax); firstname.lastname@example.org.