Haiti and the Kingston Stakeholders Meeting
Ambassador Curtis A. Ward
(20 June 2023) — While many Haitians, those living the day-to-day experiences and the dangers of crime and insecurity and those in the diaspora, were anxious for immediate solutions emerging from the Kingston Stakeholders meeting, and may be disappointed that no agreement was reached, I believe more rational thinkers would have viewed this as an important first step in a confidence building process that would lead to a lasting solution.
The problems besetting Haiti are complex, long-standing, and deeply entrenched in Haiti’s social, economic, and political construct. The internal security architecture is weak, and national institutions of governance have been decimated by years of abuse and neglect. There is no quick fix to Haiti’s problems. The Kingston Stakeholders meeting sought to address three very important issues of governance, security, and elections. All three are interrelated and critical to an overall resolution of Haiti’s problems.
With Haiti’s prime minister Ariel Henry among 50 Haitian participants, including 16 political party leaders attending the Haiti Stakeholders meeting in Kingston, June 11-13, 2023, and including representatives from across civil society and the religious community indicates to me there is a willingness of the antagonists among civil society and political leaders representing disparate views have a desire to find solutions through dialogue. The Kingston Stakeholders’ meeting put them in the same room facing each other and sharing contending views. They were able do so on a level playing field devoid of intimidation and in an enabling environment for dialogue and compromise.
I applaud those who attended and are willing to vest the future of Haiti to this process of meaningful dialogue. They must all recognize that there are no quick fixes to Haiti’s problems and no long-term benefits to be derived by a band-aid approach just to lay claim to an agreement in the short-term merely for political effect. There is no waving of a magic wand to solve Haiti’s problems.
While we all want to see an immediate end to the suffering of the Haitian people, we must also want for them lasting and sustainable peace and security and a country that can unleash its development potential to lift most of the Haitian people out of poverty. Such a solution cannot be imposed on Haiti but must emerge from dialogue among Haitians themselves. The Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) facilitation of this dialogue in a meaningful way is a great starting point.
From what I have learned so far, CARICOM’s Eminent Persons Group (EPG) of the former prime ministers – Dr. Kenny Anthony, Mr. Bruce Golding, and Mr. Perry Christie – understand well their role in this initiative. They are facilitators of dialogue among Haitian stakeholders with contending views who are seeking solutions to Haiti’s intractable problems; Haitians who are wedded to deeply entrenched ideas that may be directly opposed to one another. The EPG must help them reach common ground.
Importantly, there seemed to be agreement on many issues and the gap between contending parties appears to have narrowed. However, disagreement remained on important issues, particularly regarding the future structure of the government and the powers of the presidency and the role of the prime minister, as well as the level of inclusiveness in the current interim government. Prime minister Ariel Henry made a commitment to improve inclusiveness. He should be held to his word with immediate effect. There are questions concerning the Haitian constitution which should be given due consideration. A mechanism for reform should be instituted by the Haitian people according to provisions of the constitution and the process should begin as soon as practicable.
There were a few well-known players in Haitian politics who stayed away from Kingston for different reasons, some concocted. They should rethink their positions and be a part of the collective solution for Haiti. Sitting on the sidelines criticizing is not a viable option. Sideliners who want to see themselves at the center and not a part of the solution send a message to Haitians and well-wishers everywhere that they do not wish to share in any collective solutions for Haiti but rather to own it.
I commend CARICOM for initiating the process of dialogue with the Kingston Stakeholders meeting and expressing commitment to seeing this process through to a satisfactory conclusion. The EPG has undertaken this difficult task with commitment and understanding that it will take more than one meeting to end the political strife in Haiti. They will have understood that many others have tried with little success. And, so far, none of the prior solutions have lasted long enough for the ink to dry on the agreements. The EPG and CARICOM governments will no doubt understand that merely getting a signed agreement, while an important part of the process, is only the beginning of what must be a long-term commitment to Haiti. The nature of the commitment needed must emerge from the dialogue among the stakeholders and recommended by the EPG to CARICOM governments. These governments must be prepared to commit to a long-term engagement with Haiti, particularly in rebuilding of governance structures and rule of law institutions worthy of a democratic nation.
The EPG and CARICOM must realize that, while they may have rekindled hope for a Haitian solution, they cannot afford to lose momentum on this initiative. And, even if there are some push backs from some Haitian players, CARICOM must press on with this process. With the understanding that the next level of consultations will take place in Haiti it will be important to bring on board those who want to be a part of the solution and not spoilers, but for whatever reasons skipped the Kingston stakeholders meeting. The EPG must also find a mechanism for engaging with the Haitian diaspora in this process.
The next meeting should follow soon and be guided by what was learned from the Kingston meeting.
(c) Curtis A. Ward/The Ward Post