In today’s Washington Post, Ban Ki-moon tells the world that Haiti needs renewal, not restoration. Renewal is what the international community wants for Haiti — new ports, new factories, new hotels, new government, etc. But, the people of Haiti want a restoration of their democratically-elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, kidnapped by the US in 2004. Haitians want a restoration of the programs started by Aristide that put them on a tangible course of progress: literacy, improved healthcare, doubling the minimum wage, improved housing, etc.
Haitians know that “renewal” means nothing for them. Haitians know that for renewal to take place it means “clearing” the capital of its overwhelminly poor population so that reconstruction can begin. This “clearing” will be a simple process in which Haitians will either die in the homeless camps as the Spring rains, lack of sanitation, and criminally inadequate shelter collide or they will be sent to the provinces which lack food, infrastructure, and jobs, where they will continue to live in dire poverty.
The UN “peacekepers” invaded Haiti in June 2004 as a proxy army for the US to keep a lid on a coup that had NO popular support. The UN occupation continues to this day and in the past six years it has committed a variety of attacks on the population including massacres on entire neighborhoods. Yet, in spite of these abuses, the people of Haiti have demonstrated regularly for the return of Aristide. The most important by-product of the earthquake on January 12 is that it gives the “renewers” the excuse to rid Port-au-Prince of its poor, hungry, demonstrating, Aristide-loving population. As the poor are dispersed throughout the countryside so goes opposition to the imperialist plan for the country. Game, set, match — it all falls into place.
Nothing new here, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The US continues to use the UN to manage its manipulation of the people of Haiti. The people know they will not get anything restored out of the donors’ meeting this week and anything renewed will be for the donors’ benefit, not theirs. Haitians know that Jean-Bertrand Aristide was the best break they ever had. The US took him away and they haven’t had a break since.
Monday, March 29, 2010
The Petionville Golf Club sits on a hillside overlooking Port-au-Prince and the sea. These days, its once-groomed fairways are home to nearly 50,000 people, among the 1.2 million displaced by the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January. They are crowded together in tents or tarpaulin lean-tos provided by the United Nations or international relief agencies.
On Wednesday, world leaders gather at U.N. headquarters in New York for a critical donors conference — a tangible expression of solidarity with the Haitian government and its people. Haitian President René Préval calls it a “rendezvous with history,” a compact to build what he calls “a new Haiti,” a Haiti transformed. It is a mission to offer (and deliver) hope.
For weeks, experts have been assessing the needs and costs of the disaster. In tandem, Haiti’s president and government have worked out a strategic national “action plan” to guide recovery and development. It is a visionary document.
Touring his devastated capital with U.N. special envoy Bill Clinton, one top Haitian official pointed out the ruined national parliament and presidential palace. “We don’t want to restore them,” he said of the collapsed colonial-style landmarks. He spoke of replacing them with something modern and more suited to Haiti’s ambitions for itself as a self-reliant developing nation with genuine hope for a fresh start and prosperous future.
That is our challenge in New York — not to rebuild but to “build back better,” to create a new Haiti. Under the plan, an Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission would channel nearly $4 billion into specific projects and programs during the next 18 months. Over the next 10 years, reconstruction needs will total an estimated $11.5 billion.
Clearly, this assistance must be well-spent and well-coordinated. It must provide for continuing emergency relief: food, sanitation and, most urgently at this moment, shelter. So far we have provided 1 million people (roughly three-quarters of those in need) with tents and tarpaulins. We will distribute 300,000 more in the next few weeks. We now have a number of major sites around Port-au-Prince where we can relocate people from areas vulnerable to flooding when the rainy season begins in earnest. Meanwhile, the U.N. mission is taking all measures to maintain security and, in particular, ensure that women and children in the camps can be safe from sexual violence.
As we move from emergency aid to longer-term reconstruction, let us recognize that we cannot accept business as usual. What we envision today is nothing less than a wholesale national renewal.
In partnership with the international community, Haiti’s leaders are committing to a new social contract with their people. That means fully democratic government, grounded in sound economic and social policies that address extreme poverty and deep-rooted disparities of wealth. It also means fair and free elections, conducted with U.N. help, preferably by the end of this year.
This social contract must empower women — as heads of households providing for their families, as entrepreneurs developing businesses, as advocates for the vulnerable, with full rights as decision makers in evolving democratic institutions and civic action organizations. It must offer new opportunities for economic advancement — above all, jobs. The U.N. cash-for-work program should be a model. At the end of the day, only Haitians can build Haiti back better.
Haiti’s leaders are well aware that this new partnership requires a commitment to good governance, transparency and mutual accountability — between the government and the governed, between the public and private sectors, between Haiti and the international community. It requires fresh approaches to long-standing problems. Among them: the future of Haiti’s overcrowded capital. If Haiti is to flourish, social infrastructure and economic development must be dispersed from Port-au-Prince to regions and cities throughout the country. That is why Haiti’s national plan contains ample provision for environmental recovery, land reform, and new investment in fisheries and agriculture.
During the coming days, the world’s leaders will rise to stand by Haiti — a solidarity to be measured in years, long after the initial shock of disaster has passed. I am confident that, together, we can set Haiti on the road to a very different future.
The work of building that promised tomorrow begins today in places such as the Petionville camp, most immediately by moving tens of thousands of people to safety. Ultimately, we must offer something far less tangible but infinitely more sustaining: hope. For Haiti, real hope begins this Wednesday.
The writer is secretary general of the United Nations.