Law in Contemporary Society

I. Introduction

II. Facts

III. Probelm

IV. Solution

V. Conclusion


A couple of weeks ago I received an email about an event at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) entitled, Haiti: A Future Beyond Peacekeeping? Although the event intrigued me, it was the same day as the highly anticipated EIP orientation for 1Ls. For about 15 minutes, I weighed the pros and cons of both events. If I did not go to EIP, I would risk missing crucial information and being highly confused next fall when the process began. On the other hand, the SIPA event would be beneficial to me, because I will be interning this summer in Haiti with an NGO doing human rights work. Ultimately I decided to attend the SIPA event, since the EIP handouts would probably be available at career services. Plus, the SIPA event was serving Haitian food, EIP was not. When I arrived at the event, I knew I had made the right choice. The panelists included Haitian journalist Michele Montas and Principal Deputy Special Representative Secretary-General of MINSUTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) Luiz Carlos da Costa, among others. Members of the panel testified to the challenges facing Haiti. While the speakers tried to conclude on a positive note, there was nothing but grim projections about Haiti’s future. One panelist even raised the question whether Haiti was a failed state. As I sat there I wondered, “Is Haiti a failed state? And what can be done to improve the living conditions of the people?” A possible solution to some of Haiti’s problems, in my belief, is the Diaspora community.

The Facts:

The US Census Bureau estimates that over 500,000 persons of Haitian descent live in the United States. Success for Haitian immigrants has not been an easy feat due to racism, xenophobia, and other cultural and socio-economic factors. It goes without saying that Haitians are not the wealthiest immigrant group, and they struggle to adjust to life in the United States. Haitian immigrants often find themselves confined to menial labor despite their educational background. Despite these obstacles, many Haitians have excelled in varying capacities and possess skills of value to the island. I think the key to improving some of the problems that overwhelm Haiti rests on direct engagement by the Diaspora community to bring about meaningful change to Haiti’s social, political and economic infrastructure in order to lift it out of poverty.

The Problem:

Presently many concerned Haitians with an interest in Haiti are too afraid to travel to the island. Haitians feels that due to the lack of security and the inability of the government to enforce its laws, visiting Haiti is not an option. This view is reinforced by the U.S. Department of State’s website, which warns U.S. citizens against travel to Haiti due to the “chronic danger of violent crime, especially kidnapping.” My family and I left Haiti in 1990 when I was four years old, and while my parents have gone back on rare occasions, neither I nor my siblings have returned. This year, after being away for nineteen years, I decided to intern with an NGO in Haiti through the Human Rights Institute. Since making the decision to go to Haiti, my parents and relatives are constantly trying to dissuade me from going. The fear is that because I am a foreigner, I am particularly vulnerable. As an American citizen, the presumption will be that I am rich and maybe, comparatively speaking, I am (despite having no job and mounting loans). My thick American accent and other idiosyncrasies will make it glaringly obvious that I am not native. I think concerns like this deter many Haitians from going to Haiti. In fact, a Haitian friend a few years older than I, who also has not returned to Haiti, revealed spending her honeymoon in the Dominican Republican, but did not travel to the other side of the island due to safety issues. While the safety concerns in Haiti are serious and should not be trivialized, I think Haitians need to push beyond these fears in order to effect change on the island. Relying solely on the international community or even the Haitian government to solve Haiti’s problems has not proven to be an effective solution in the past. Corruption by governing officials and exploitive policies by the international community has devastated Haiti.

The Solution

The Haitian Diaspora is a very important resource for Haiti. Haitians abroad collectively contribute over a billion dollars annually to Haiti’s economy. This exceeds the amount of aid Haiti receives from foreign nations. The contribution comes from Haitians working in the United States who send their earnings to relatives and friends in Haiti. The financial support is extremely beneficial to the recipients, who would otherwise be unable to obtain basic necessities. While this aid is beneficial, it has not led to nation-wide development. I think the Diaspora community needs to have a more direct relationship with Haiti to solve the issues. I’m not advocating that Haitians relocate or abandon their homes and ties to the United States, but the Diaspora must have a physical presence on the island. Simply visiting the island would benefit Haiti in many ways. It could generate tourist activities that would create jobs and stimulate the economy. The Diaspora community would also transfer some of the knowledge and valuable skills acquired abroad to the population so that Haitians could improve the country while using these skills to benefit themselves and their families. Lastly, visits to the island, would provide the Diaspora community with a better understanding of the problems facing the island. The Diaspora community would be better situated to assist the country and advocate on its behalf.


While a few visits may not eradicate all of Haiti’s problems, I think it is a step in the right direction. Haitians need to invest directly in the country’s well being. Otherwise Haiti’s future will continue to depend on the whim of those who do not necessarily have its best interest in mind.

-- ShirleyBoutin - 25 May 2009


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r2 - 07 Jan 2010 - 23:00:29 - IanSullivan
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