Originally: Opening of the Haiti Democracy Project
The Haiti Democracy Project was officially launched Tuesday, November 19, 2002 at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. The inaugural brought together over 120 guests and participants from the Haitian-American community of the Washington area, New York and Miami, along with members of the U.S. academic and foreign-policy communities.
James Morrell, executive director of the Haiti Democracy Project, formerly research director at the Center for International Policy, welcomed the participants and introduced the distinguished group of panelists. OAS assistant secretary-general Luigi Einaudi opened the talks with dire predictions that Haiti was fast approaching a point where diplomatic means would no longer contribute to solve the crisis. According to Einaudi, those concerned about Haiti should at this time be gathering for a ?wake.” The rapidly deteriorating economic situation, the inability of the main protagonists to advance the negotiating process and the increasing protest demonstrations throughout the country made for a very bleak future.
U.S. ambassador to the OAS Roger Noriega lamented the fact that throughout its history, the Haitian people had been consistently let down by a political class that subsisted on its conflicts. He pointed out that it was the responsibility of the international community to apply to Haiti the same democratic standards as other countries of this hemisphere. Ambassador Noriega insisted on the need to ensure that the Haitians get the democratic elections that they deserve: ?We have to get them that opportunity as they will not participate in a farce.? He promised that the United States would pronounce itself very clearly on Haiti as it had given democracy a bad name in the past with confusing statements.
The next speaker, former U.S. ambassador to Haiti Timothy Carney, deplored the lack of a real policy debate in the United States on Haiti. He welcomed the HDP initiative as an opportunity to provoke a debate on what to do in Haiti in contrast to a policy that only really consisted of ?keeping the Haitian refugees from the beaches of Miami.? Ambassador Carney criticized the Congressional Black Caucus “for producing the most astonishing nonsense on Haiti.? He was echoed by former Haitian ambassador to Washington Jean Casimir. Quick-fix approaches, e.g., Aristide plus Cedras divided by two or Fanmi Lavalas plus Convergence divided by two, amount to zero, in Casimir’s words, and are doomed to failure in Haiti.
The other speakers, Amb. Orlando Marville, former chief of the OAS electoral mission in Haiti; Georges Fauriol, vice-president of the International Republican Institute; and Professor Robert Maguire all addressed Haiti?s chaotic politics and the failure of the international community?s approach in dealing with Haiti. Fauriol stressed the importance for HDP to go forward with honesty, discipline and perseverance.
Among the distinguished guests one could observe Peter Hakim and Daniel Erikson of the Inter-American Dialogue; Dan Whitman, former USIA director in Haiti; Vicky Butler; Dr. Edouard Hazel; Stanley Lucas of IRI; Dr. Joseph Baptiste of the National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians (NOAH), Jocelyn McCalla, founder and former executive director of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights; Joe Trincellito of ICITAP; Joan Higbee of the Library of Congress; Lionel Desgranges; Olivier Nadal; Harold R. Charles; Mary Ellen Gilroy, director of the Office of Caribbean Affairs, State Department; Steve Horblitt of Creative Associates; Yves Savain of Fondation Nouvelle Haiti; Patricio Gajardo of the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES); Francois Guillaume and Patrick Augustin of the Ligue des Jeunes Cadres Haitiens d? Outre-Mer (LIJECH); Ira Lowenthal; and Marjorie Valbrun of the Wall Street Journal.
Following the launch ceremony, HDP?s founding members met again with a half dozen international experts including Ambs. Laurence Pezzulo and Ernest Preeg, Professor Henry Carey of Georgia State University, Mary Ellen Gilroy and Clinton L. Doggett of the State Department and USAID respectively, Ira Lowenthal, Dr. Paultre Desrosiers and others for a policy seminar at the Brookings Institution on Wednesday, November 20. The discussions focused on recommendations the project could make to the U.S. government for a policy more supportive of the rights of the Haitians.
The Haiti Democracy Project is a nonprofit thinktank. The project will focus on achievement of a more proactive and effective U.S. policy toward Haiti. HDP is engaged in active consultations with civil-society organizations in and out of of Haiti. It is an independent organization created and supported by U.S., Haitian-American and Haitian individuals.
Haiti Democracy Project, 2303 17th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20009.
Tel: (202) 588-8700 website: http:/haitipolicy.org.