Originally: Bridges to the Policy-makers

On February 22, rather early in the morning, in atrocious weather, past snowbanks, over 125 members of the Haitian-American community and their friends came out for the first of “Bridges to the Policy-makers.”  We met with:


Meg Gilroy, chief, Caribbean desk, State Department. She took a number of questions from the audience.

She also heard  Michel Soukar from Haiti and

Judge Claudy Gassant.

Many interests impact on the making of policy. No one public meeting is likely to change it. However, exposed to the depth of concern in the Washington-area Haitian community, particularly the skepticism expressed that the OAS process would bear fruit, Gilroy returned to the State Department with new awareness of the alarm Haitians feel about the deteriorating conditions in their homeland. Having been unequivocally told that the policy was not working, she took that perspective into account because it was based on evidence. She was impressed by the audience’s call for a severely realistic view of the regime’s performance under resolutions 806 and 822 and its low opinion of the OAS effort.

These impressions went into the policy process which led to the decision to send a high-level U.S. and Caribbean mission to Haiti in late March with a ten-day deadline for meaningful action. Gilroy took part in this mission and coordinated the State Department effort. The leaders of this delegation were highly critical and skeptical of what they saw in Haiti. This has contributed to a reassessment of U.S. policy, which should be clarified at the upcoming OAS meeting of April 30.

The Haiti Democracy Project is grateful to the dedicated audience and volunteers who made the February 22 opening event in this series a distinct success under difficult conditions. Through this State Department official, a bridge was indeed built to the policy-making process. The voice of the Haitian-American community was heard. It was a factor, only one among many, yet a factor, in the process.

With our meeting with Rep. Chris van Hollen, a liberal Democrat from western Montgomery County, we now move to the next stage: mobilizing the natural liberal support for human rights in Haiti–a support which has not been there for the reasons described by Ambassadory Timothy Carney at the project’s opening.

This meeting will be a crucial occasion for the Haitian-American community to speak out and further insert itself into the Washington decision-making process.