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Appel important d’un groupe d’ONGs européennes

Le 13 Juin 2006 un groupe important d’ONGs européennes comprenant : Haiti Advocacy Platform Ireland / Haiti Support Group, Christian Aid, Oxfam GB, Cafod, Tearfund, Concern Worldwide, Sciaf, Trocaire a lancé un vibrant appel aux Chefs d’État de la CARICOM pour une ré-intégration d’Haïti dans le processus régional. Cet appel insiste sur la nécessité de nouveaux mécanismes de coopération sur la question de la sécurité, le renforcement des institutions démocratiques, l’investissement et l’accès aux marchés des pays de la Caraïbe pour les produits haïtiens, l’éducation, l’énergie, la dégradation environnementale. Le document préconise aussi une nouvelle approche quant à la question du Tarif externe commun (TEC). Ce document qui émet des suggestions interessantes ne présente aucune critique des mécanismes qui orientent le SME de la CARICOM dans une perspective d’intégration soumise aux lois inexorables du marché capitaliste. Il ne prend pas non plus de distance critique quant au rôle de la MINUSTAH dans la crise haïtienne. Cependant Nous vous invitons à lire cet intéressante prise de position, à appuyer quelques unes des revendications présentées et à inclure ses principales conclusions dans votre stratégie de plaidoyer concernant les relations de notre pays avec la CARICOM

We welcome the granting of full and final accession of Haiti to membership of CARICOM, and the fact that election of a President and parliament opens the way for the re-engagement of Haiti with the other Caribbean states. Haiti has suffered from a long and dire political and economic crisis, and there is now a rare opportunity for Caribbean neighbours to support progressive and constructive change in Haiti.

We believe that this opportunity should not be squandered and call on the CARICOM Secretariat and CARICOM member states to commit to a specific package of support for the country. With this in mind, we present the following recommendations on areas where we believe CARICOM could provide support to Haiti:

1. Improving security and stability

After several years of increasingly violent, politically-motivated conflicts, and a surge of violent crime in the capital, Port-au-Prince, it is essential to try and preserve a much improved security situation in the provinces, and since the end of January 2006 in the capital, Port-au-Prince. The new Haitian government and the UN stabilisation mission, the MINUSTAH, need every possible assistance in their efforts to combine reduced gang violence with the rapid implementation of high-profile interventions to benefit the inhabitants of the capital’s worst urban districts. At the same time, action is needed to disarm and dismantle urban and rural armed gangs through a re-focused Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme, and to make more rapid progress with the professionalisation and strengthening of the Haitian National Police (HNP).

An important part of the international effort to help stabilise the situation in Haiti is the provision of UN police officers to the MINUSTAH with the specific tasks of training, coaching and accompanying officers of the HNP. The current strength of the MINUSTAH (as of 31 March 2006) was 8,903 uniformed personnel, composed of 7,151 troops and 1,752 police. There is a clear need to re-orientate the composition of the MINUSTAH, reducing the number of troops and increasing the number of police personnel (UNPOL). CARICOM member states could make a very useful contribution to the success of the MINUSTAH by contributing police officers to the UNPOL. French and/or Creole-speaking police officers would be particularly useful.

The riot at the National Penitentiary on the day of President Preval’s inauguration underscores the need to resolve the problems of ‘political’ prisoners, and prisoners detained without charge or trial. At present, these problems continue to generate political tensions and undermine respect for the rule of law. Should the new government decide to address these problems by creating a commission to review the most pressing cases, CARICOM member states could provide the commission with advisors, legal assistance, and – if requested – some specialists to sit on the commission.

2. Strengthening democracy and institution-building

Election observers from a number of CARICOM member states participated in the Mission for Monitoring Haitian Elections (IMMHE) in February and April when elections produced a President and a National Assembly (Parliament). However elections for municipal councils and for the territorial collectivities have not yet been held. These elections are important parts of the democratic structure in Haiti, particularly to make the decentralisation of political power a reality. In the context of an inevitable decrease in international interest in observing the electoral process in Haiti, CARICOM member states could consider increasing their participation for these forthcoming elections.

The National Assembly in Haiti has rarely played a full role in line with the powers accorded to it in the Haitian Constitution. Now, after more than two years without any parliament at all, an entirely new set of members for both the upper and lower houses have been elected. Few of these members have any experience of parliamentary norms and structures. CARICOM member states could explore ways to pass on their own institutional experience and knowledge, and the personal experience and knowledge of their own members of parliament to members of the new Haitian parliament. One way would be to arrange bilateral exchange visits by delegations of members of parliament.

3. Offering special market access arrangements

On 1 January this year, the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) came into being with six countries (Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago). Haiti, like some other CARICOM states, is not yet ready to participate in the single market. However, there are a variety of ways in which Haiti could economically benefit from its membership of CARICOM.

As part of a package of support for Haiti, it would be beneficial if CARICOM markets which are more developed than Haiti consider offering duty and quota free access for key Haitian goods. This is particularly important to support Haiti’s agricultural sector that has declined dramatically since Haiti lowered agricultural tariffs in 1995. Since then imports have replaced national food production and traditional agricultural exports have been in steady decline.

Haitian farmers, producing both traditional and non-traditional export crops would benefit from duty and quota free access and such arrangements could have significant potential to reduce poverty in rural areas. It would also allow Haiti to develop strong regional links whilst phasing in entry to CSME arrangements.

By increasing trade within the region, there is also the potential for CARICOM states to jointly develop standards, improve regional infrastructure and develop joint production projects. It is important that CARICOM consider the development needs of Haiti in this regard and make special efforts to include the country in developing and implementing new initiatives of this kind.

4. Reopening negotiations with Haiti regarding the common external tariff

Haiti is one of the most liberalised economies in the world and generally applies tariffs below CARICOM’s common external tariff arrangements. However, this situation is not necessarily in Haiti’s interest. Agricultural tariff liberalization has meant that imports have replaced national food production to a dramatic degree and Haiti is using 81 per cent of the value of its exports for purchasing imported food. Given Haiti’s increasing trade deficit this is an extremely poor use of resources and an unsustainable strategy over the long term. The Haitian government needs support to pursue an explicit strategy to reduce food imports and replace them with national production.

Given this situation tariff flexibility is very important to Haiti especially in its agricultural sector where a range of products would benefit from a higher tariff, particularly rice. Tariff flexibility, therefore, needs to be maintained with CARICOM support. Any negotiations on the common external tariff and market opening to third countries should bear this in mind and CARICOM should use its negotiating power to ensure that Haiti maintains the flexibilities it needs for sensitive products and is not forced to reduce tariffs further.

5. Promoting investment in Haiti

There is of course a need to attract foreign investment into Haiti. However, it needs to be the type of investment that will bring real benefits to Haitians in the form of employment and linkages with the local economy. This issue is of course of great concern to all Caribbean states, particularly during this process of regional economic integration.

Currently there is an opportunity to develop a Caribbean-wide investment framework that could ensure that the benefits of foreign direct investment are effectively harnessed by host countries. The regional framework could prevent the race to the bottom in incentives and labour standards and could also offer preferential treatment to regional investors. Haiti would benefit from its inclusion in such a framework. It should also retain the right to manage investment in the country by applying its own local content and staffing requirements. CARICOM should develop a region wide investment framework that would provide these benefits to all Caribbean member states, including Haiti.

6. Addressing environmental degradation

One of the most serious challenges that Haitians face is environmental degradation, particularly deforestation and soil erosion. The most immediate danger resulting from this situation is the threat of floods and mudslides as occurred in south-east of the country and in the city of Gonaives in 2004. In the medium term, Haiti’s prospects of moving out of crisis, and into a process of sustainable development, are threatened by disappearing water sources, declining agricultural yields, and creeping desertification. CARICOM can provide assistance to initiatives aiming to halt deforestation and soil erosion by drawing on the specific experience and know-how of individual member states.

7. Energy

Haiti’s electric power supply is heavily dependent on imported petroleum fuel. Existing hydro-electric facilities are becoming less efficient and less reliable as a result of infrequent rain-fall and the soil erosion that ends up as silt in the turbines. Haiti’s chances of economic development are greatly restricted by the ever-increasing difficulties – both financial and practical – of providing a reliable power supply. Yet there are several alternative sources of energy that CARICOM could help Haiti develop. The most obvious is solar power, but CARICOM could also explore ways to help Haiti research and develop ethanol production (in an environmentally sound manner) and wind power. The Caribbean Renewable Energy Development Programme (CREDP) could play a vital role in this field.

8. Educational links and exchanges

The Haitian people’s capacity to address the many serious problems that the country faces is seriously hampered by the twin blights of ‘brain-drain’ and insufficient State funding for public education. The University of the West Indies could make a contribution by establishing links with the State University of Haiti. A first step might be for the University of the West Indies to organise a seminar on Haiti in the Caribbean – perhaps a joint initiative between the two universities as a means to both promote awareness on Haitian issues generally in the wider Caribbean and to build some political momentum.

Summary of call to CARICOM

CARICOM should:

• contribute police officers to UNPOL
• provide any commission which is set up to resolve the issue of political detentions with expertise and legal assistance
• increase their participation in monitoring the forthcoming local government elections
• explore ways to support the new Haitian parliament, including arranging bilateral exchange visits by parliamentarians
• offer duty and quota free access for key Haitian goods which have significant potential to reduce poverty in Haiti
• support Haiti in developing trading standards and infrastructure for regional trade
• ensure that flexibility on tariffs is maintained for Haiti within CARICOM
• develop a Caribbean-wide investment framework, with the inclusion of Haiti, to ensure that the benefits of foreign investment in the region are harnessed for development purposes
• provide assistance to initiatives to halt deforestation
• support Haiti in developing alternative energy sources and include Haiti in the work by the Caribbean Renewable Energy Development Programme
• support the University of the West Indies and the State University of Haiti to develop linkages, including, as a first step, the development of a joint seminar on Haiti in the Caribbean