Haiti: Working Together at Last

This week in New York, the global community has been brought together -- both at the UN general assembly and at the Clinton Global Initiative -- to focus attention on the many important issues being played out on the world stage. My beloved Haiti will be one of the topics of discussion at both forums. The country remains devastated by the massive earthquake that occurred some nine months ago. But conditions in Haiti were dismal even before the quake: My people were hungry, undereducated, unemployed and confronting grim realities. The quake only served to make a bad situation virtually unbearable.

As horrific as it was, the earthquake in Haiti provided a chance to begin the reconstruction process anew. And the gatherings in New York reinforce the urgency of the need to focus the world's attention on Haiti; rebuilding its cities, replanting its forests and allowing us to reclaim out national identify.

I'll be attending CGI's special session this year on the crisis in Haiti, eager to hear any plans to pragmatically and tactically address the major obstacles paralyzing the country. In the interim, I've done my best to put to paper my thoughts about the country's most urgent needs.


We need to provide teens with vocational training and practical education, so the next generation (and all that come after) will be workforce ready. The study of languages can translate into hospitality and tourism services, mathematics can become the basis for accounting and bookkeeping careers and science supports a future in such fields as electrical work, plumbing, even sanitation.

In addition to training in schools, we need to provide broadcasts of weekly educational and cultural programs to inner-city neighborhoods. This programming will keep the national dialogue consistent, inform the people of current events and lay the foundation for a culture and entertainment industry.


We also need to foster investment and partnership opportunities by revitalizing basic cottage industries that focus on the manufacture of indigenous garments, crafts and other intuitive produit manufacturé. This will open the door for continued job training, help to support women in the workplace and create an equal-opportunity environment from which all Haitians can benefit.


It is essential to collaborate with NGOs. We must provide transparency as to where their funds are being spent, but in addition, I would encourage programs that leverage NGOs for job training and skill building.

NGOs should also be encouraged to hire Haitians for jobs or internships. In this way, these organizations will become invested in Haiti in ways deeper than a mere financial sense. And vice-versa -- Haitians can learn about the operations of organizations that have provided support to the country. The goal, ultimately, is to create a modern civil service, whose employees would have invaluable experience in the field.


Haiti was once green and fertile (we grew sugar, bananas and more); we need to return to our former farming glory. We could look to our Israeli brothers, who developed reforestation plans based on kibbutz-style cooperatives -- or to any group with expertise in this area -- to advise us on how best to make this vision a reality.

With new tree coverage, Haiti could sell carbon credits to industrialized nations. Tied to this kibbutz landscape, we would look to attract a fast-growing sector of world travel: "voluntourism." These vacationers who want to invest in the future of a nation and believe in sustainability would find Haiti a fulfilling journey.

It is also true that Haiti's natural resources are a large untapped source of income and job creation. Mining to extract bauxite, copper, calcium carbonate and gold, as well as marble can add tremendous revenue to Haiti's national coffers. And future efforts to lay the groundwork for hydropower and commercial fisheries can help further efforts to grow those industries with an eye towards protecting the environment.


Developing the technology to support a national budget system that is transparent and up-to-date is key to the success of any Haitian administration. The technology could also serve as a monetary tracking system to ensure that goods are delivered in a timely and cost-effective way. I'd also like to see tech solutions applied to urban flow issues that are major challenges to daily life -- and have been since even before the earthquake.


We must establish basic human rights for all men, women and children in Haiti. Child slavery and kidnappings should be eradicated all together, and we should stringently prosecute all violent crimes, especially the attacks against women that often go unpunished and all too often unreported in Haiti today.

Land ownership disputes must be dealt with swiftly, in order to allow home construction to begin. The building of permanent housing on disputed land should proceed; retroactive payments made according to government pricing guides to be effected immediately.

The plague of national corruption has turned Haiti into a casino -- the people are betting against the house. It's a long-term problem to be faced with open eyes, accountability and action.


The government must provide assistance to start-up businesses. We need to find solutions that capture the Haitian inventiveness and innovation that has kept us alive through so many troubled years. I propose coordinating with micro-lending organizations that have seen great success in Africa and India.

With the goodwill of the people and our international partners, we Haitians can achieve our main goal: to ensure that our children, who will live with our decisions and inherit the success -- or failure--we leave behind, have a legacy of hope and opportunity. This is Haiti's debt that must be repaid in full.
Though I am no longer a candidate for office, I still desperately love my people and my country. Hopefully, the forums in New York will help to make meaningful progress in each of these areas. If I were President, these seven topics would serve as the core of the Haitian Reconstruction Experience.