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British agencies urge UK to help prioritise the needs of the vast majority of Haitians

By Haiti-Support Group

Submitted to AlterPresse on July 7

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.