Haiti Advocacy Week raises Haiti profile in Congress. HSG from Haiti Advocacy Week, Washington DC, 30-03-2011
This is an American scale operation – huge. With 13 CSO visitors from Haiti, all invitees of individual HAWG members, plus uncounted Haitian Diaspora representatives and professional interpreters, scores of us assembly at the Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill. Its breakfast, last minute marching orders and get-to-know-you-time as we split into seven teams to meet representatives, senators, IFI officials and their staff in meetings throughout the day. We have specific lobbying agendas on specific issues but the key is keeping Haiti and its people’s needs in the public eye and making sure decisions on aid, reconstruction and development adhere to a Haitian, not western, agenda.
Our visits ranged from the relatively barren ground of Republican representatives on the Appropriations Committees to the friendliness of members of the Black Caucus. But, as ever, the best opportunities with both staff and members were those that came by accident when targets were spotted by chance in security lines, dining in the cafeterias or scurrying down the endless corridors. A buffet reception in the bowels of Rayburn Building that evening yields some star turns from our Haitian visitors. “Why are we not planning a Haiti Advocacy week in Haiti?” asks one. “I never knew you could knock on the doors of legislators and tell them what you really thought,” says another. “And they really listened!” We all leave on a high. Advocacy at work here – making it work in Haiti next.