From Promise to Poverty: What Went Wrong at Haiti’s Hyped Garment Park

IJDH’s Kristina Fried speaks to Sourcing Journal about the harm of international actors and economic policies in Haiti.

Excerpt below:

Many of Haiti’s problems stem from long-term international meddling, said Kristina Fried, Bertha Justice fellow at the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, a nonprofit based in Boston.

“Foreign companies, states, whatever it may be, come in, they prop up the undemocratic regimes that serve their interests and their agenda without prioritizing or safeguarding the human rights and the needs of the Haitian people,” she said. “And then when those regimes that they’ve propped up foster conditions that create a humanitarian crisis, these same companies, states, whatever, say, ‘O.K., well, we’re going to pull out. Haiti is too unstable. We can’t be here.’”

Fried said that Caracol Industrial Park was established as an almost humanitarian endeavor to rebuild Haiti after the earthquake. In reality, however, it hasn’t given Haitians autonomy over their livelihoods or their economy. Those are in the hands of foreign companies and the international community.

The problem with brands swooping in to workers’ rescue after a factory closes without providing sufficient notice or adequate compensation is that something like that should never have happened in the first place, she said.

“Redress should have been given to those workers immediately,” Fried said. “And a big problem that I see with it is also that these brands come in afterward and it’s almost treated like charity. They say, ‘O.K., we’re going to fix this problem. We’ve listened to you, here’s a bunch of money.’ But it’s not treated as a violation of rights.”

That goes for initiatives like HOPE and HELP, too. “Part of the problem with these trade programs is that they don’t really create long-term growth for Haiti,” she said. “They make it very cheap for American companies to operate here. But they’re not giving any incentive for high-value products to be made in Haiti. And they’re not creating an incentive for companies to help [Haitians] own a larger part of the manufacturing process…[and create] jobs that don’t lead to the widespread labor violations.”

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