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8084: communique from the Haiti Emergency Working Conference (fwd)

From: Stuart M Leiderman <leidermn@cisunix.unh.edu>

conference summary received from Prof. Marc Prou, Haitian Studies
Program, University of Massachusetts, Boston <marc.prou@umb.edu>

videotapes available upon request to <leidermn@hypatia.unh.edu

- - - - - - -

The Future of Democracy and Development in Haiti
An Emergency Working Conference

May 11-12, 2001 University of Massachusetts, Boston


Discussions Reveal Glimmer of Hope for Resolution of Crisis in Haiti

For Immediate Release - May 17, 2001

May 11-12, 2001 more than fifty selected participants gathered at the
University of Massachusetts, Boston at the invitation of the Haiti Support
Project, Haitian Studies Association and the Africana and Haitian Studies
Programs at the university for crucial discussions on the political impasse
and deteriorating economic situation in Haiti. The goal of the conference
was to engage in a serious dialogue about the debilitating political crisis
and to explore ways and means of facilitating movement towards a  political
settlement. The conference was also designed to examine concrete social,
economic/business, humanitarian and material support models and proposed
initiatives which might be useful in assisting Haiti to strengthen its
social service delivery systems and economic/business infra-structure.

The conveners of the Emergency Conference and the participants were pleased
that the government of  President Jean Bertand Aristide and the Democratic
Convergence sent representatives to this important conference. Leslie
Voltaire, Minister for Haitians Living Abroad was the official
representative of the government. The Democratic Convergence was
represented by Irvelt Chery and Father Jean Freud both of whom are also
members of OPL. Congressman John Conyers, Ranking Member of the House
Judiciary Committee and Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressman
William Delahunt and Patrick Murphy, Political Officer for the Haiti Desk
at the U.S. State Department also attended as Resource People. Congressman
Donald Payne also sent a staff representative, Ms. Alexandrine DeBianchi.

During the Opening Plenary, Dr. Marc Prou, of the Haitian Studies
Association and Moderator for the session, took note of the historical
significance of the conference and urged the participants to listen
attentively and to be respectful of each other;

Dr. Winston Langley, the Associate Provost welcomed the participants and
reiterated the Universitie's academic interest and commitment to the
Caribbean, particularly Haitian Studies. He urged the participants to take
advantage of the emergency conference to lay the foundation for a real
dialogue toward a fruitful resolution of the political crisis in Haiti;

 Dr. Jemadari Kamara, Director of the Africana and Haitian Studies Programs
and a Convener/Host of the Conference, urged the participants to seize the
moment to conduct a civil and serious dialogue to come to grips with the
political and economic crisis in Haiti;

Patrick Murphy presented a clear statement of U.S. interest in and current
policy towards Haiti. He stated that the U.S. has a demonstrated interest
in assisting Haiti to build a viable Democracy as  reflected by the
hundreds of millions of dollars in aide invested in Haiti since 1995. The
U.S. is also interested in preventing a large scale influx of illegal
immigrants and in stopping the flow of drugs to the U.S.  through Haiti.
However, the U.S. is unwilling to resume aide to the government of Haiti
until it addresses the flaws in the May 21 election and takes other steps
to insure democracy as reflected in the eight points presented in President
Clinton's letter to President Aristide;

Congressman Delahunt delivered an impassioned plea for all parties to come
together to solve the political crisis in the interest of the long
suffering Haiti people. He indicated that there are other members of
Congress who may not have large numbers of Haitians or African Americans in
their districts, who nonetheless would support Haiti when the political
crisis is resolved;

Congressman Conyers applauded the fact that both sides sent representatives
to the conference and suggested that this signaled an earnest desire by the
parties to resolve the political crisis. He further suggested that the
emergency conference, with both parties present in the company of committed
friends of Haiti, could well achieve historic results in terms of pointing
the way to a resolution of the political crisis;

Dr. Ron Daniels of the Haiti Support Project took note of Haiti's historic
role as the first Black Republic in this hemisphere and the difficulty of
building a democracy against the backdrop of the persistent intervention of
foreign powers. Therefore, Haiti has never been allowed to achieve its full
potential as a nation. Referencing the African proverb which states that
"when two elephants fight, the grass suffers,"  he appealed to all sides to
make a serious commitment to break the political impasse in order to
relieve the horrendous suffering of the masses of the Haitian poor and
working people. He noted that a political agreement did not mean that the
parties should bury their political differences but rather establish a
framework within which the parties can continue to argue through their
differences and contest for power even after a political accord is reached;

Minister Leslie Voltaire brought greetings from President Aristide and
assured the participants that the present government is committed to
dialogue and negotiations to resolve the political crisis, citing recent
calls by President Aristide for all sides, the Democratic Convergence,
Civil Society and the government to come together for discussions about how
to end the impasse. President Aristide has agreed to the eight points in
Clinton's letter and is moving to implement them.

 The tone set during the Opening Session appears to have had a positive
effect on the private and public discussions which transpired during the
course of the Conference. In  private conversations and  public sessions
with Minister Voltaire and Father Jean Freud and Irvelt Chery, both sides
seemed eager to find a mutually acceptable framework for a political accord
against the backdrop of pressures from the international community and
growing impatience among various sectors of the population in Haiti; both
sides seemed to be searching for a non-humiliating way out of an extremely
emotion filled and complex political impasse in order to get the country
moving again. It was also clear, however, that overcoming mistrust is a
major obstacle to moving forward. The opposition in particular has
questions about how any accord that might be reached with the government
would be monitored and enforced.

During the Session on The Political Crisis in Haiti: Challenges and
Prospects, both sides stated their positions and concerns. Though it is not
possible to provide a full accounting of the  positions presented, the
following are among the more salient points put forth:

Democratic Convergence advocates a comprehensive agreement to not only
address the short term political crisis but global questions of political
restructuring to reform social and economic systems and the institutions of
public administration. Therefore, Convergence proposes:

1. Real negotiations with a mutually agreed upon point by point agenda.
Negotiations to occur at a neutral location, e.g. a hotel, school or
suitable non-government controlled institution.

2. President Aristide should play an active role in the negotiations

3. Negotiations should lead to an inclusive government with representation
from all sectors including civil society, the intelligentsia and the

4. Parties should agree to an Emergency Plan to address the current
political and economic crisis:
    a. New parliamentary elections
    b. New Electoral Council
    c. Inclusive government as referenced above
    d. Initiation of a structured national dialogue and debate about
       institutions and systems of governance and social and economic

5. There must be an acceptable agreement on security matters.

6. All elections, including parliamentary elections must be supervised by
the international community and any political accord must be monitored and
enforced by the international community.

7. Though Convergence does not view the May 21 election as legitimate, it
is prepared to recognize a President as an outcome of a satisfactory
political accord.

 Minister Leslie Voltaire spoke on behalf of the government and reiterated
President Aristide's willingness to engage in direct negotiations to
address the political and economic crisis. President Aristide is prepared
to adopt a joint strategy for economic development and security and work
for judicial reform. Constitutional Amendments to grant dual citizenship
and to affirm the abolition of the army are high priorities for the
Aristide government. Fanmi Lavalas offers the following proposals to end
the political impasse:

1. Recognition of President Aristide for the full tenure of five years.

2. The creation of a new Electoral Council with three representatives from
Fanmi Lavalas, three from Convergence and three from Civil Society.

3. Elections for all parliamentary seats to be scheduled between January
and November 2002 based on mutual agreement of the parties.

4. A broad based government to include opposition political parties, Civil
Society and technocrats.

Based on private and public conversations/discussions, the Conveners feel
that there is sufficient common ground among the parties to reach a
political accord if the political will exists on both sides to reach an
accommodation. Accordingly, the Conveners, with the involvement and
blessing of Congressman John Conyers and the Congressional Black Caucus,
are prepared to act as informal mediators and intermediaries if all parties
agree that these are useful roles.

During the Session on Social and Economic Development and Material Support
Initiatives, the participants engaged in a serious examination of various
economic/business models, material support and humanitarian assistance

Wayne Thompson, President/CEO of the Oklahoma Health Care Project presented
the concept of  multi-faceted Community Empowerment Centers with components
for education, health care, micro-credit for economic development,
vocational training and community organizing for civic participation, as a
model which might work well in Haiti. The Haiti Support Project is
currently exploring the feasibility of establishing a Community Empowerment
Center in Cite Soleil as a pilot project;

Valerie "Mawiyah" Michaud, Director of Haitian American Ministries and an
associate of Boukman Eksperyans discussed the work of Haitian American
Ministries in mobilizing medical supplies in the U.S. to support a low cost
health care clinic in Haiti;

Randolph Voyard, President of the Haitian Development Bank provided an
update on the progress of the Bank and its numerous projects related to
housing, tourism and loans for business development. Mr. Voyard also
discussed the progress of an ambitious economic venture in Florida City,
Florida which involves a primary partnership between Haitians, African
Americans and Hispanics. The venture will include a major craft pavilion,
convention center, hotel and restaurants. He presented stock certificates
to the Haiti Support Project, the Oklahoma Health Care Project and Dr.
Julius Garvey verifying their investment in and ownership of the venture
via the Caribbean Basin Investment Corporation;

Frederick Kwoba, Executive Director of the US-Africa Business Council,
presented an innovative debt relief proposal called Direct Expatriate
Nationals Investment (DENI). In essence, this proposal would enable foreign
nationals of a country like Haiti to buy back the debt at a rate of 15-20
cents on the dollar. The purchaser would receive a debt voucher which in
turn could be used, in concert with other investors, to buy a government
controlled asset like the electric company in Haiti. One hundred thousand
Haitians investing $1,000 each would buy down the equivalent of
$500,000,000 of Haiti's debt at 20 cents on the dollar;

Randy Echolls, President/CEO of Haiti-Direct, discussed plans for a large
scale telecommunications project beginning with a pilot project in the
Southern region of Haiti. Mr. Echolls discussed opportunities for lucrative
investment in Haiti and described his efforts to persuade major
corporations like Lucent Technologies to invest in Haiti as partners. He
suggested that partnerships, like joint ventures, which mandate that
substantial ownership of key enterprises  remain in Haitian hands is the
best way to approach privatization. Mr. Echolls also recommended that
foreign investors establish business mentoring programs to ensure the
transfer of information and technology to Haitian entrepreneurs and
community developers.

Conference Follow-Up

1. In light of the progress made in discussions with representatives of the
government of Haiti and the Democratic Convergence, with the blessing of
both parties,  the conveners of the Emergency Conference are willing to
assume an ongoing role as unofficial/informal mediators/intermediaries to
work for a mutually agreeable resolution of the current political crisis in
Haiti. Upon resolution of the crisis, the conveners are prepared to play a
major role in forging a united front in support of Haiti with Haitian
Americans, Caribbean Americans, African Americans, friends and allies of
Haiti comprising the core of a broad based multi-partisan,  multi-racial
coalition to press for substantial aide and to influence and monitor U.S.
policy towards Haiti.

2. The Conveners are committed to sponsoring a conference on
economic/business, material support and humanitarian assistance, hosted by
Congressman John Conyers, preferably at Wayne State University in Detroit.
The purpose of this conference will be to identify the widest possible
range of organizations and individuals engaged in various levels of
investment and/or material and humanitarian support to explore the
possibilities of building a massive Haiti solidarity and assistance network.

3. The Conveners will approach Congressman Conyers and the Congressional
Black Caucus Foundation to explore the idea of sponsoring a forum on
democracy and development in Haiti at the Annual Congressional Black Caucus
Weekend  in Washington, D.C. in September. Such a forum could have the
effect of encouraging Haitian Americans to engage in a more sustained
interface with key allies of Haiti within the Congress of the United States.


The Haiti Support Project encourages the participants and invites to the
Emergency Conference on Haiti to join in the Second Annual Benefit Cruise
aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Luxurious Explorer of the Seas with
stops in Nassau, Bahamas, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, V.I., San Juan,
Puerto Rico and Labadee, Haiti where the cruise group with visit the
Citadel. For further information call: 1-800-822-6393.

The State of the Black World Conference will be held in Atlanta, Georgia,
November 28-December 2, 2001. Centered around the theme, "Creating Our 21st
Century," the Conference is expected to attract some 5,000 people of
African descent from around the world for the first great gathering of
Black people in the 21st century. For information call: 1-866-ATL-SOBW or
online at www.tbwt.com/promos/stateoftheblackworld.asp

Expressions of Commendation

The Conveners express their sincere appreciation to the staff and
volunteers of the Africana and Haitian Studies Programs at the University
of Massachusetts, Boston for their tireless work on the Emergency
Conference and to Randy Echolls, President/CEO of Haiti-Direct for
assisting to make the Conference a major success.

Inquiries and Further Information

All inquiries about the conference or requests for further information
should be directed to Carolyn McClair via email at cmprnews@aol.com or via
phone at 212-721-3882.