Carlo Dade testimonial

In Canada, Carlo Dade works with Haitian immigrants and participated in a meeting with members of the community and of the Canadian government to discuss post-earthquake development in Haiti.

Email conversation on February 3, 2010, between Margarita Mooney and Carlo Dade who now works at the Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL). In 2001 and 2002, Dade worked with Margarita Mooney at the Inter-American Foundation, a U.S. international development agency. There, he was the Haiti Program Officer. Dade and Mooney worked together with Haitian diaspora organizations who invest in development projects in Haiti. In January 2010, Dade attended a meeting of the Haitian community of Canada in Montreal with representatives of the Canadian government to discuss earthquake relief and development in Haiti.

MM: What resources can the diaspora offer that are most important to the earthquake relief and development in Haiti?

CD: Money. US$1.65 billion [the annual amount of remittances sent to Haiti] is crucial to keeping people from starvation, malnutrition, or under-nutrition; it also keeps kids in schools. Lack of "insurance" as we understand it means that people in Haiti will be turning to relatives abroad to assist in recovering assets and rebuilding. Now is the time for the U.S., Canada, and the Bahamas to look at tax credits for those sending money home. This will be difficult in a time of rising deficits and spending/income constraints in those countries, but it should be on the table for discussion.

Advocacy. This is more important in the U.S. where Haitians are a much more significant political force than in Canada, where they are more geographically dispersed. This is difficult, as community foundations in the U.S. are not too keen to finance political advocacy but there are groups that do this and a special outreach could be made to Haitian organizations—and it's not as if the Haitians would be the first diaspora to pressure the U.S. government on issues related to their homeland. Haitians should also seek alliances with successful diaspora groups for advice, support; a bit of "help us now and we'll help you later on an issue important to you" horse trading.

Human resources. Haiti is going to need technocrats, like accountants, engineers, project managers, and financial experts, so as much as those resources are available in the community they need to be tapped. Getting signed up to work with the U.N. or become a volunteer or consultant takes all of 10 minutes. www.registerwithcanadem.com is a group funded by the Canadian government to get more people into U.N. consultancies, volunteering, etc. It is open to non-Canadians as well. We really need to see a flood of Haitian Creole speakers register.

MM: What would help the diaspora sustain its commitment and involvement in Haiti?

CD: In no particular order, first, a formal consultation process by the U.N. and key actors with regular briefings spread around the country. Video conferencing is a good idea. The diaspora wants less of the bureaucratic, overly formal “dog and pony shows” of which the international community, government and diplomats are fond. Second, co-funding for their development and relief work. Hometown Associations (HTAs) are first responders, they are getting the brunt of requests for help and assistance and will be long term partners with communities in Haiti. They need more money and support. Donors and governments have shied away because of huge transaction costs. It’s time to bite the bullet. You will also need funding to U.S. community foundations to work with the Haitian HTAs on institutional strengthening and financial management. You have a good model with what the Canadian International Development Agency did with the Regroupment des organismes Canado-Haïtiens pour le développment in Montreal [Association of Haitian-Canadian Organizations for Development]. Finally, the diaspora wants to participate more in U.N. secondments (when one organization sends its employees to do their job in another location for some period of time, such as a year or two, while receiving salary from their home employer) and consultancies. As mentioned above that is already taken care of, www.registerwithcanadem.com.

MM: Which sectors of the economy or in which areas of development can the diaspora most likely make an impact?

CD: Education needs a massive overhaul, such as a national curriculum and testing. The diaspora has some skills in this regard and could help, but I’m not sure how much. Medicine, yes doctors and nurses. But this is a case where culture may be outweighed by practical skills. It may be better for a Haitian-American doctor to send money to pay for two or three Cuban doctors rather than she or he going down her/himself. At times we need a bit of a reality check on what the diaspora can do. What are really needed are technocrats, engineers, accountants, financial managers and project managers. It has always been my impression that these skill sets are not well represented. Interpreters may be another area where the diaspora can help.

USAID uses secondments as people who work for one organization are leased out to another sometimes for years at a time

MM: Would you recommend a match funding program, whereby governments match dollars sent by the diaspora to particular projects? Why or why not?

CD: Yes, this is highly effective at keeping these groups involved. The criticism of matching fund programs is that the small scale and idiosyncrasy of projects renders them sub-optimal on efficiency and effectiveness. I'd argue that this is too narrow an interpretation of the raison d'etre and benefits of such projects. The goals with these sorts of projects are much broader and nuanced than just building a well or digging a latrine; you want to keep the diaspora engaged and connected. There is also self interest. Donors have risk exposure in these communities. If you have a large diaspora population from a particular village you're going to have a lot of people traveling back and forth and eventually emigrating. So improving, health, education and security in these communities is also in your own self interest. If your diaspora goes home to visit, this way they won’t get sick. When people from that community come to visit your country, they won’t make you sick. Given family reunification provisions of immigration policies, you’re eventually going to see people from these communities immigrating to your country, so it is in your interest that they are healthy and have a decent education. The easiest way to figure out which communities need your attention is to let them self-identify. This rationale is more important in the U.S. The USAID annual report says it all—"aid in the national interest"—which is a not so subtle hint as to what's important and how to sell an aid project. It’s also in Canada’s interest because of the family reunification provisions of its immigration policies.

MM: How could the various groups of the diaspora collaborate and make their collective efforts stronger?

CD: Other than advocacy, collective action is difficult because diaspora groups are tied more to community or profession than to the country. I'd argue that the diaspora needs to focus on advocacy and stop the internal bickering among diaspora groups. Hopefully the scale and scope of the earthquake are sinking in and people are focused on dealing with the issues at hand. There must be a rigor, almost ruthlessness in focusing only the most critical and urgent issues. If it's not going to immediately or near-term materially improve living conditions in Haiti then drop it.

CD: [writing rhetorically] Hey, Carlo, got any other ideas?

Why yes, stoves for cooking with something other than charcoal. Now is the time to stick a shiv into [do away with once and for all] the charcoal industry and get movement on reforestation. You're going to have one or two million people in camps. While there, ban the use of charcoal. Fires in camps are a hazard anyway and you'll have communal kitchens. While people are in the camps train them on the use of small stoves. When people leave camp give them a stove (gratis as part of relocation package) and tickets for free gas (or possibly some other fuel like Bill Clinton’s idea to use paper briquettes) for a year or two along with a promise of a set price for gas for the next 5 or 10 years. You'll have to fix the price so it is cheaper than charcoal. Reach out to the charcoal industry with offers to set people up in business of supplying gas and stoves. Get the Dominicans to produce the stoves with a strong and enforceable agreement that they shift production to joint ventures in Haiti. As these joint ventures come on line sell subsidized stoves to the rest of the population. This is really the only way you're going to tackle the deforestation problem in Haiti. And solving Haiti’s deforestation problem is in Dominican self interest as well, as Dominicans and Haitians are cutting more forests along the Dominican side of the border. But I'm curious as to how much this idea would cost. It would be an interesting exercise for an economist to calculate the cost of such a program, like buying the stoves and paying for the gas. You wouldn't get the entire population, most urban and small towns that are easy to supply, like Anse d'Hinault, but you could get a significant chunk of the population to stop using charcoal, which would mean any investments in reforestation might actually have a chance of success. This approach is kind of like the "war" on drugs; you're never going to have any success until you deal with demand.

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