Prioritise the poor majority


British agencies urge UK to help prioritise the needs of the vast majority of Haitians – Haiti Support Group press release, 7 July 2004

A group of British organisations working in support of development and democracy in Haiti have written to the Department for International Development (DfID) to ask the UK government to help address the needs of poor people in Haiti.

The letter calls on the UK to uses its influence at an important international donors’ conference on Haiti hosted by the World Bank to be held on 19 July in Washington DC.

The five organisations – ActionAid, the Catholic Institute for International Relations, Christian Aid, the Haiti Support Group and Plan UK – are concerned about the absence of any serious consultation with civil society organisations representing the vast majority of Haitians during the drafting of proposals that the Haitian government will take to the conference.

The organisations fear that the opportunity to implement development policies that truly address the root causes of poverty in Haiti – including the marginalisation of the poor majority from political and economic decision-making – will be missed. The letter warns that “without valid participation it is likely that development programmes will once again fail for lack of relevance to the majority of the population.”

In this context, the organisations’ letter draws DfID’s attention to some of the most important proposals put forward by civil society organisations in Haiti over the last decade. These include:

  • International aid policy should focus on sustainable development that includes the production of locally consumed food and other consumer goods, rather than on taking advantage of Haiti’s relatively cheap labour, as has been the case in the past;
  • Economic policies must recognise the need for integrated rural development programmes that support peasant associations, and include a land reform programme that distributes state lands. These are needed to increase food production in order to strengthen food self-sufficiency;
  • Immediate and substantial increases should be made to spending on health and education. There is also an urgent need for resources to be put into environmental regeneration;
  • Youth participation should be taken seriously. The 3.8 million who are currently under 18 are going to be the economic drivers of Haiti for years to come. These young people need the opportunity to participate in shaping their country’s future;
  • Haiti’s foreign debt should be cancelled, on the grounds that the country’s poor should not be made to pay for the excesses of past governments that have behaved irresponsibly or immorally.

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