Originally: Building Up Haiti
Building Up Haiti
Regarding unrest in Haiti [“Briefly,” News, Dec, 28]: Unlike in the United States. there was no public debate preceding the revolution in 1791 or following the Haiti’s Declaration of Independence on Jan. 1, 1804. There was no opportunity to establish basic guidelines for the new nation; divergent interests between former slave owners and slaves were never discussed in depth.
This absence of a consensual framework has affected national life by creating chronic political instability for 200 years of independent national life.
It is only recently that the Group of 184, a civil society coalition of entrepreneurs, workers, farmers, etc., is trying to facilitate a national debate leading to a basic consensus as to what type of nation Haiti will be. That such an effort was sparked primarily by members of the elite in Haiti is natural and well in keeping with the role and responsibilities of the owning classes of societies to find the means to ensure social peace so that they can enjoy their property. The fact that there are so many social sectors integrated into this debate testify to the difference between the 18th and the 21st centuries, and underline the desire for a viable societal consensus.
The United States can help Haiti in nation building by using its clout to pressure the current regime to respect the Constitution and allow freedom of speech and assembly, and to stop using armed gangs to terrorize dissenters. Nation building is not infrastructure, periodic elections supervised by foreigners, or such. Nation building is the development of a basic set of values shared by all who live in a given territory and share a common language or culture.
Once such a consensus is reached, the rest will follow. In that regard, we urge the United States and other international partners to help Haiti become a nation by supporting the Group of 184 in its quest for a consensual framework for our country.
Jean D. Vernet II
Editor’s note: The writers are members of Initiatives Democratiques, a Haitian civil-society group.