Half-Hour for Haiti: Debt Relief for HaitiUpdate: Thank you for all the suggestions on improving our website. We’ve made some changes already, and hope to make the rest in the next week. Unfortunately, our recent efforts to free more political prisoners have not yet succeeded. Interim President Alexandre declined our requests to free the prisoners to celebrate Haiti’s Constitution Day. But the lawyers of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux in Haiti are still fighting, and believe that our public advocacy combined with their courtroom work may soon produce good news.
Upcoming Event: The Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network is organizing an International Solidarity Day With Haiti on May 18, 2006 (Haiti’s Flag Day). Over 100 organizations have sponsored the event so far, but more sponsors, and local organizers, are needed.
Birthday: Wednesday April 5 will mark a year of weekly action alerts from the Half-Hour for Haiti program. Thanks to your persistence the program has made a difference on the ground in Haiti, and in building the Haiti solidarity movement. We’ve helped free 20 political prisoners, changed the way that the UN and Organization of American States report on Haiti, and demonstrated to Haitian grassroots activists that there are people in wealthy countries looking out for them. The action alerts keep thousands of grassroots activists throughout the world informed and engaged in Haiti Solidarity work. So pat yourself on the back. But no resting on our laurels…. (see IJDH’s Making Our Country Safe for Democracy in Haiti).
This Week’s Action: Assuming Haiti makes a democratic transition soon, we will have to adjust our focus to put more emphasis on social and economic human rights. A good place to start is with Haiti’s debt with International Financial Institutions. Most of the debt is for loans that went to unelected dictatorships, but it is the elected governments that will have to pay the money back (see Odious Debt: Who Pays For Aid?).
This week, the Inter-American Development Bank is meeting in Brazil to discuss debt relief. The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns issued a Call for the Cancellation of Haiti’s Debt , asking for letters to John Snow, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, urging the U.S. to support 100% debt cancellation by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). The U.S. Congressional Hispanic Caucus urged Mr. Snow to back “definitive cancellation” of the IADB debt for Latin America’s poorest countries, including Haiti.
The IADB got off to a good start yesterday, naming a special committee to explore options for debt relief by the end of 2006, and the U.S. Treasury Department is supporting this initiative. But debt relief can mean a lot of things, many of them very damaging to the economies, people and land of poor countries. We need to ensure that the IADB’s program erases Haiti’s debt without conditions that prevent Haiti’s elected officials from using government resources to provide essential services like education, sanitation and healthcare. So please heed Maryknoll’s call for letters to U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow. A sample letter is below (as always, feel free to customize it), his fax number is (202) 622-6415.
Mr. John Snow
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20220
Dear Secretary Snow:
I am writing to thank you for advocating debt relief at this week’s Inter-American Development Bank’s Annual Meeting in Brazil. I consider the naming of a committee to explore debt relief for Haiti and four other countries to be a strong step in the right direction towards eliminating the grinding poverty of those countries.
It is important that the debt relief plan that is implemented erases Haiti’s debt without compromising the government’s ability to provide essential government services like education, sanitation and healthcare to the population. Accordingly, I urge you to insist on a plan that includes 100% debt cancellation for Haiti without conditions that exacerbate poverty and environmental destruction.
For more information about the Half-Hour for Haiti Program, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, or human rights in Haiti, see www.ijdh.org. To receive Half-Hour for Haiti Action Alerts once per week, send an email to email@example.com.