Hosted at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, this panel discussion introduced and explored a new Transitions Forum report, 'Escaping the Crisis Trap: New Options for Haiti
', produced in collaboration with the Institute for State Effectiveness (ISE).
Panellists included Anne Applebaum, Director of the Legatum Institute's 'Transitions Forum', and Eric L. Olson, Associate Director of the Wilson Center’s Latin American Program. They were joined by the report’s authors Clare Lockhart, Co-founder and Director of the Institute for State Effectiveness (ISE) and Johanna Mendelson Forman, Senior Associate for the Programme on Crisis, Conflict, and Cooperation at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. The panel also welcomed Hans Tippenhauer, President of the Haiti-based social enterprise Fondation Espoir and Jocelyn McCalla, former Executive Director of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights.
The panel discussion and audience response focused on the lessons from past failed foreign assistance, Haiti’s great assets and real potential, and the opportunity for Haitians and their partners to set a different agenda for the future through a national dialogue.
Citing examples from Afghanistan, South Sudan, Somalia, Kosovo, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, Clare Lockhart sketched a pattern of foreign aid failures through which the disappointing results in Haiti could perhaps be explained. Johanna Mendelson Forman compared the large amount of foreign aid with the small amount of progress in Haiti’s economic development, highlighting that around 20% of Haiti’s GDP is made up of remittances. On potential reasons for the discrepancy, Lockhart pointed to a lack of Haitian ownership over the relief agenda: as foreign aid is channelled into international NGOs, Haitians themselves are left excluded from the priority-setting. Lockhart called for funding initiatives which bypass international intermediaries, citing the success of the National Solidarity Programme in Afghanistan, which allocates block grants directly to the poorest villages and allows them to plan and manage their own development projects.
Looking at Haiti through an “opportunity lens” offered an encouraging forecast. Promising growth sectors include construction, agriculture, mining, telecommunications, and light industry. Haiti’s social capital has the ability to take control of the development process and reduce dependence on foreign aid. The geographical location offers multiple trading opportunities, with minimal regional conflict. Alongside tourist developments set to create more jobs in Port-au-Prince, the development of factories in the North East of Haiti is decentralising the economy. Moreover, Haiti’s vibrant diaspora can offer a different kind of international support, by working with local people to adapt global ideas to the Haitian context. With appropriately directed funding and a renewed sense of the country’s potential, the talent of the Haitian diaspora could become part of Haiti’s future.
The panellists also discussed one of the report’s key recommendations: launching a national dialogue—perhaps better called ‘national conversation’ due to previous politicised ‘national dialogues’—with the citizens of Haiti, especially the youth, about where they want their country to be in 15 to 20 years from now. Mendelson Forman suggested taking advantage of the unprecedented and growing access to young people through social media and mobile phone technology to conduct this conversation. Hans Tippenhauer recommended that the conversation start locally, in a decentralised fashion, and then build upwards from there. Jocelyn McCalla stressed that the dialogue should be transnational, with everybody involved in Haiti, including neighbours and the diaspora. McCalla added that the dialogue should not be led by the government due to the endemic lack of trust in Haiti’s politicians.
With around 70% of the country’s population currently under the age of 30, and with relatively high levels of investment going to secondary and tertiary education, the panel set Haiti’s future firmly in the hands of its own young people, and called upon the next generation of Haitian leaders to build on the country’s potential.
Download 'Escaping the Crisis Trap: New Options for Haiti' [PDF]
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About the Panellists
Anne Applebaum is the Director of the Legatum Institute’s Transitions Forum, a programme which examines the challenges and opportunities of radical political and economic change. She is also a columnist for the Washington Post and Slate, and the author of several books, including Gulag: A History, which won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction as well as other awards. Her most recent book, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1946, won the 2013 Cundill Prize for Historical Literature and was nominated for a national book award in the US. Since 1989, her journalism has frequently focused on the politics of transition in Russia, central Europe and other former communist states, but she has also written extensively about British, American and European politics and international relations.
Clare Lockhart is Co-Founder and Director of ISE which works with a range of countries aiming to make transitions from instability to stability and from poverty to prosperity. In 2001 Ms Lockhart was a member of the UN negotiation team for the Bonn Agreement on Afghanistan and spent several years living in the country as adviser to the UN and Afghan Government. Prior to 2001, she managed a program on institutions at the World Bank. She is a lawyer and member of the Bar of England and Wales and has degrees from Oxford University (Modern History) and Harvard University (MPA, Kennedy School) where she was a Kennedy Memorial Scholar. She is co-author with Dr. Ashraf Ghani of Fixing Failed States (2008) and has authored and co-authored numerous articles on development, institution-building and citizenship.
Johanna Mendelson Forman is Scholar-in-Residence at the American University. She also is a Senior Advisor at the Stimson Center’s Managing across Boundaries Program in Washington, D.C. As co-director of the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project, she has written extensively on security sector reform in conflict states, and economic development in post-war societies. She has held senior positions in the US Government, helping to create the Office of Transition Initiatives at the US Agency for International Development, and working at the World Bank’s first Post Conflict Unit. She was Director of Peace, Security and Human Rights at the United Nations Foundation. She served as senior adviser to the UN Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) 2006-2007.
Jocelyn McCalla served as Executive Director of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights, and of the New Jersey Immigration Policy Network. He is a founder of the Haitian Studies Association and has served on the Board of the National Immigration Forum, the NY Immigration Coalition, and the Advisory Board of Human Rights Watch/Americas. Mr. McCalla has long campaigned in favor of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Haiti, and for the rights of Haitians abroad. He consults regularly with a wide range of leaders, governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations of various ideological persuasions and interests. Mr. McCalla was born in Haiti and resides in the United States.
Hans Tippenhauer is a Management Consultant and Social Entrepreneur based in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He is Co-founder and Executive Vice President of Bati Ayiti S. A., a mining, development and construction company. He is President of Fondation Espoir, a foundation that promotes effective democracy and sustainable development through training, social communication and organisational development. Hans’ socio-political involvement first came through being appointed in 1997 to coordinate a presidential committee on Youth and Entrepreneurship, and later as a radio and TV show host on development topics, as a democracy activist among several youth and civil society movements, and also as special advisor to several ministers and CEOs, to the Prime Minister and most recently to the President of the Republic of Haiti.
Eric L. Olson is the Associate Director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. His research and writing has focused primarily on security issues and the impacts of crime, organised crime, and violence on democracies. He has also written about police reform and judicial institutions as a vehicle for addressing the problem of rapidly expanding crime in the Americas. He has traveled extensively in Mexico, Central America and the Andes.