International Donors' Conference at the UN:
For $ 10 billion of promises, Haiti surrenders its sovereignty
Par Kim Ives                                                                       1 of 3

The Donors Conference meeting in the Trusteeship Council. Over 150 nations and international organizations pledged $5.3 billion in aid to Haiti over the next 18 months

It was fitting that the Mar. 31 “International Donors Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti” was held in the Trusteeship Council at the United Nations headquarters in New York. At the event, Haitian President René Préval in effect turned over the keys to Haiti to a consortium of foreign banks and governments, which will decide how (to use the conference’s principal slogan) to “build back better” the country devastated by the Jan. 12 earthquake.

This “better” Haiti envisions some 25,000 farmers providing Coca-Cola with mangos for a new Odwalla brand drink, 100,000 workers assembling clothing and electronics for the U.S. market in sweatshops under HOPE II legislation, and thousands more finding jobs as guides, waiters, cleaners and drivers when Haiti becomes a new tourist destination.

Haiti could be the first all wireless nation in the Caribbean,” gushed UN Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton, who along with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, led the day-long meeting of over 150 nations and international institutions. Clinton got the idea for a “wireless nation,” not surprisingly, from Brad Horwitz, the CEO of Trilogy, the parent company of Voilà, Haiti’s second largest cell-phone network.

Although a U.S. businessman, Horwitz was, fittingly, one of the two representatives who spoke for Haiti’s private sector at the Donors Conference. “Urgent measures to rebuild Haiti are only sustainable if they become the foundation for an expanded and vibrant private sector,” Horwitz told the conference.”We need you to view the private sector as your partner… to understand how public funds can be leveraged by private dollars.”

“Of course, what’s good for business is good for the country,” quipped one journalist listening to the speech. The other private sector spokesman was Reginald Boulos, the president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Haiti (CHIC), who fiercely opposed last year’s union and student led campaign to raise Haiti’s minimum wage to $5 a day, convincing Préval to keep it at $3 a day. He also was a key supporter of both the 1991 and 2004 coups d’état against former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, now exiled in South Africa

In counterpoint, the only voice Aristide’s popular base had at the conference was in the street outside the UN, where about 50 Haitians picketed from noon to 6 p.m. in Ralph Bunche park to call for an end to the UN and US military occupation of Haiti, now over six years old, and to protest the Haitian people’s exclusion from reconstruction deliberations. (New York’s December 12th Movement also had a picket at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on 47th Street).

“No to neocolonialism,” read a sign held up by Jocelyn Gay, a member of the Committee to Support the Haitian People’s Struggle (KAKOLA), which organized the picket with the Lavalas Family’s New York Chapter and the International Support Haiti Network (ISHN). “No to the Economic Exploitation Disguised as Reform. MINUSTAH [UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti], out of Haiti!"

The exclusion of Haiti’s popular sector was masked by the inclusion of other “sectors” in the Donors Conference, although their presentations were purely for show, with no bearing on the plans which had already been drawn up. Joseph Baptiste, chairman and founder of the National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians (NOAH), and Marie Fleur, a Massachusetts state representative, spoke on behalf of the “Haitian Diaspora Forum.” Moise Charles Pierre, Chairman of the Haitian National Federation of Mayors and Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay spoke on behalf of the “Local Government Conference.” Non-governmental organizations had three spokespeople: Sam Worthington for the North American ones, Benedict Hermelin for the European ones, and Colette Lespinasse of GARR, for the Haitian ones. Even the “MINUSTAH Conference” had two speakers.

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Haïti Liberté  Vol. 3 No. 38 • Du 7 au 13 Avril 2010