March 31, 2010:
UN Conference to Consummate
US Take-Over of Haiti

By Kim Ives

When this article appears on the morning of March 31, the much ballyhooed “International Donors Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti” will be getting underway at UN Headquarters in Manhattan. While demonstrators in the street outside protest the continuing US and UN military occupation of Haiti, now over six years old, and the Haitian people’s exclusion from deliberations on the country’s reconstruction, dignitaries inside like UN Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and Haitian President René Préval will unveil a plan with lots of pomp and ceremony but which boils down to just one thing: Washington’s takeover of the “new” Haiti.

Hyperbole? Unfortunately, no. The lead editorial in the New York Times, which generally articulates the thinking of the US power elite, lays it out clearly: “The plan envisions a multidonor trust fund managed by the World Bank that pools money for big projects and avoids wasteful redundancy. The Haitian Development Authority would approve the projects; outside auditors would oversee the spending.” (Our emphasis added.)

Translation: the World Bank, not Haiti, will run the show, a council of foreigners (with a sprinkling of token Haitians) will rubberstamp directives, and other foreign overseers will supervise the Haitians carrying out the directives. Although lots of international “friends of Haiti” will be involved in this circus, Washington is the ringleader, using handmaidens like Canada and the Dominican Republic. The meetings to prepare the ground for Mar. 31 were held in Montreal on Jan.25 and Santo Domingo on Mar. 15-17.

Préval has generally implemented Washington’s austerity and privatization dictates, making him a US darling and the Haitian people’s bogeyman. However, after the quake, he and his prime-minister made some imprudent complaints about being sidelined while the US and NGOs ham-fi stedly directed relief and reconstruction efforts. Washington put him back in his place by calling him corrupt, a charge Préval called “arrogant.” Despite such outbursts, Préval appears to be behaving again but still promoting the fi ction that he’s deciding things.

“Haiti is an independent government, an independent country and the government must say what must be done,” he told Al Jazeera in a Mar. 29 interview when asked who was in charge in Haiti. “But the government doesn’t have the fi nancial means to do it. So we will have to speak to the donors so that they make available the funds for the government to do what it desires to do.” As for the foreign experts which will dominate in the Haitian Development Authority, he explains that “a lot of our professionals are dead” and “we are leaning on the NGOs to help us to do what we need to do right now.”

The centerpieces of the US, UN, and World Bank plan for Haiti are sweatshops and tourism. Of course there is lip-service paid to the concerns raised by Haitians about revitalizing agriculture and making the country self-suffi cient in food again after 25 years of neo-liberal deconstruction. “Decentralization” is another key theme, but, done a certain way, this can also weaken and circumvent Haiti’s central government, which Washington has sought to do since the Haitian people elected exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1990.

“Raising money for Haiti is all well and good. But which Haiti is getting the money?” asked Vijay Prashad, Director of International Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. “Is the Haiti of structural adjustment, the raft on the Caribbean, fated to being reduced to a factory and a port for Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships? All the efforts thus far seem to suggest that this is the Haiti that is being promised.”

that is being promised.” In articles, radio shows, conferences, demonstrations and graffi ti, the Haitian people have made their opposition to this plan known but “Haitian civil society has been completely bypassed in decision-making regarding the post-earthquake reconstruction process,” wrote Bev Bell of the economic justice group Other Worlds earlier this month. “The Haiti government’s Post-Disaster Needs Assessment, launched February 18, granted one week, March 14-20, for ‘consultation with civil society and the private sector,’ according to the terms of reference. However, the government [had] to approve the draft plan on March 15. Furthermore, the government has failed to invoke even the token discussions, not consulting civil society in any way except informally with some businesspeople and several non-governmental organizations who do not speak for citizens.”

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Haïti Liberté  Vol. 3 No. 37 • Du 31 mars au 6 avril 2010