May 22, 2021

MGA Amplifying the Plight of Haitians at the United Nations

For the last few months, Catholic Sisters, Brothers, priests and their partners in mission in Haiti have been sending deeply concerning reports of the rapidly escalating unrest in Haiti to their representatives at the United Nations. Since sitting Haitian President Jovenel Moïse rebuffed significant pressure from political opposition to leave office in early February, a country that was already in the grips of poverty and health crises, has been unraveling into a state of utter chaos. The Haitian people have been living with the constant threat of random acts of violence – daily kidnappings for ransom, killings, rapes, and other forms of intimidation. They are avoiding traversing the streets –even to attend to daily needs– for fear that they will not return home alive.

With rampant policy corruption, the dissolution of more than two thirds of the parliament, the closure of the judiciary and tribunals, and dictatorial rule by decree, no one is working for the safety and well-being of the Haitian people. The Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince has described the country’s recent trajectory as “a descent into hell.” The notion of holding fair, free, democratic elections in such an environment is unimaginable to those attempting to live and work in the center of the socio-political and economic storm.

With many political agendas at play on the international stage, Haiti’s existential crisis seems an important moment for international actors in government and civil society, to make an earnest effort to hear and learn from the insights and perspectives of those most impacted by the unrest. Over the past weeks, Mercy Global Action has been working with our colleagues representing other communities of Catholic religious at the United Nations to meet with various contacts in Haiti and Latin America at large in order to listen to testimony and get a better grasp of the current situation on the ground and the priorities of the Haitian people at this time. Based on these conversations, as well as various news articles and statements coming out of Haiti these past weeks, we have composed a letter to the Permanent Mission of the United States to the United Nations , as well as nearly identical versions to the Missions of Canada, France, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Ireland. We targeted these countries for a variety of reasons, including their geopolitical influence on Haiti, and/or their positions on the UN Security Council.

The letter calls upon the UN Security Council to convene a hearing that allows testimony of Haitians’ experiences to be heard directly by representatives of UN Member States. The letter also emphasizes that the restoration of public safety is paramount, and a necessary prerequisite to holding any referendum or elections. Civil society and religious leaders have been advocating for Haiti to have a national dialogue on constitutional reform. To achieve sustainable political progress, such a dialogue must bring all sectors to the table and secure a concrete commitment to principles and practices of good governance.  As one of our partners voiced, “Haitians are victimized people who want to be actors.” Their capacity for leadership is strong, and their participation is essential.

In response to the letter, Mercy Global Action, our partners at the UN, and two doctors from Haiti have already met with the government of Canada, and we hope to meet with the other recipients of the letter. We hope to collaborate with Mercy Focus on Haiti and the Justice Team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas to continue our advocacy, especially targeted towards the government of the United States, which has significant geopolitical influence on Haiti. We are also planning on convening our own online hearing to amplify Haitian voices and shine a light on their experience of the present chaos. This event will aim to increase awareness of the situation in Haiti among Religious, media and other members of civil society, and to give Haitian contacts/colleagues a sign of our solidarity and support for them during this crisis. We will publicize this event on our Twitter account (@MIAGlobalAction) as soon as more information becomes available.

Help us take action by sharing the concerns and recommendations raised by our Haitian colleagues with your government:

  1. Condition political/financial support on:
    • an end to violence and kidnappings so that freedom of movement and free participation in elections will be within the realm of possibility;
    • arrangements for/facilitation of a nationwide hearing to guide reform of constitution/governance practices
    • the establishment of a Permanent Electoral Council and arrangements for elections be overseen by independent monitors and meet specific standards for legitimacy
    • the creation of pathways for the campaigning/emergence of leaders from beyond the existing oligarchs
  2. Place sanctions on individuals, not society as a whole
  3. Route all development aid going into Haiti via UN agencies and trusted NGO partners rather than through government
  4. Jointly mediate a national dialogue on constitutional reform and good governance practices in which people from many walks of life are consulted
  5. Revoke foreign visas/citizenship of national leaders to incentivize longer-term, more sustainability-driven vision and approach among leadership who had planned to leave Haiti following their term of service
  6. Revisit international trade agreements/contracts/regulations (or lack thereof) that allow few families in Haiti to hold monopoly over imports and distribution of food and other basic goods upon which all Haitians depend
  7. For the government of the United States only:
    • Adjust/regulate remittance fee structure for personal wire transfers to Haiti
    • Renew TPS for Haitians to prevent deportations during this time of unrest and instability and extending the Employment Authorization Documents of Haitians eligible for TPS beyond October 2021 to ensure they are able to support themselves while residing in the US (may already be in progress; affirm if already happening)
    • Appoint a US Ambassador who is well-versed/experienced in Haiti’s culture, history, languages and well equipped to listen to/work with/support the Haitian people in bringing about their nation’s full potential.

Messages to: Cecilie Kern - Global Policy & Research Advocate MIA-MGA

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