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Opinion | The Haitian Diaspora should elect representatives to participate in key negotiations on the solutions to Haiti’s Crisis


As the crisis intensifies, there are many voices at the negotiation table, including the former colonial powers. Yet, the diaspora is excluded, despite its importance as a key stakeholder in the country’s future

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After another failed attempt at negotiations between the de facto government of Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the opposition represented by the Montana Accord, the Haitian crisis deepens. As the country struggles to find a sustainable solution that allows all Haitians to thrive, it’s time for the diaspora to play an active role in the negotiation process and provide proposals.

Despite living abroad, as Haitians we hold both responsibilities and rights and are an integral part of Haiti’s population.

The Haitian diaspora can be a crucial resource in promoting economic development, democracy, and stability, as seen in other countries where diaspora participation in the political process has been successful.

But how do we do that without being represented in the talks?

First, it is crucial for us in the diaspora to recognize that the solutions to Haiti’s problems are not exclusive to those living within the country. Indeed, more than two years into the crisis, Haitians on the ground have not been able to take any steps toward a solution. It is time for us in the diaspora to play an active role in the negotiation process and provide our proposals.

Second, the community of Haitians living abroad (aka the diaspora) is an integral part of Haiti’s population and should be included in discussions regarding the country’s future. We can use existing models that have proven to work. For instance, the Jamaican diaspora has successfully elected representatives to speak on their behalf. We can elect representatives to speak on our behalf. These representatives could be elected through a transparent and democratic process, involving Haitians living abroad in different countries.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an op-ed titled, “A Five Points Inclusive Plan for Sustainable Security and Stability in Haiti.”  Point number 4 “Diaspora Support” called on the Haitians living abroad to actively participate in the efforts to resolve the crisis in Haiti.

My call to action was anchored in the firm knowledge and deeply held belief that we — Haitians Living Abroad (HLA) — are a crucial component of Haiti’s national identity, economy, and development. We represent a significant portion of the Haitian population, estimated at more than 3.6 million individuals. However, we have been excluded from participating in the political process in Haiti.

In 2021, the Haitian diaspora sent an estimated $3.8 billion in remittances to Haiti, accounting for 30% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). More than money, we represent Haiti in all spheres from soccer to swimming, to winning prizes in literature and even in a singing competition like The Voice. At every turn, we show up for Haiti and raise our flag with pride. Despite this substantial contribution, our concerns and interests are not represented in the political process. This is not only because of Haitians in Haiti but some in the diaspora believe only those on the ground should have a say because they are the ones living the reality. I stand in stark opposition to that approach.   Instead, I believe we have an equal stake and commitment, and responsibility to find the solutions to Haiti’s challenges together.

As the crisis in Haiti deepens, the opposing parties are unable to find a minimum consensus. It is the height of irony that of the many voices are at the negotiation table, they have included the former colonial powers.

Yet, despite our importance to Haiti’s survival, we are not represented in the discussions about the country’s future. This exclusion means that our voices are not heard, and our interests are not considered when decisions are made. This must change!

We are important stakeholders in Haiti’s future. Because of our experiences and broader vantage point outside of the country, I believe we are uniquely positioned to help tackle the current crisis.   As noted in a report by the Migration Policy Institute, “The Haitian diaspora could serve as a critical resource for the country in promoting economic development, democracy, and stability.” However, for our community to be effective in this role, we must have representatives who are capable and legitimate.

Sadly, no organization or group of organizations or individuals have been able to take that leadership. To overcome this challenge, I propose we elect our representatives to speak on our behalf.

This model has been successfully implemented in other countries, such as Jamaica, where the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council represents the interests of Jamaicans living in the « three major locations which contain the largest Jamaican Diaspora populations. »  The GJDC represents the interests of the various regions and helps to promote dialogue, understanding and cooperation between the Jamaican community abroad and their home country.

Another example is France, where laws allow citizens living abroad to be represented in parliament, providing them with the right to vote in French elections. The Dominican Republic, Haiti’s neighbor to the east, also allows its citizens living abroad to be represented in parliament. Haiti does not have legal and institutional mechanisms. Regardless, the diaspora should undertake the process to ensure it is represented in the current negotiations about Haiti’s future.

A comparative research published by International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) shows there are « 115 states and territories have legal provisions which allow their electors to cast a vote from abroad. »  One of those countries is France whose laws Haiti often copies and the Dominican Republic, our neighbor to the east.

It is time for the Haitian diaspora to elect its representatives to speak on their behalf. The representatives could be elected through a transparent and democratic process, involving Haitians living abroad in different countries. These representatives would advocate for the interests of the diaspora in the negotiations taking place to find a solution to the crisis. They would serve as neutral intermediaries, facilitating dialogue between different actors and promoting a peaceful resolution to the conflict. They can also help to mobilize international support for Haiti, engaging with governments, NGOs, and international organizations.

Moreover, the HLA representatives would contribute to the development of Haiti by channeling the diaspora’s expertise, resources, and networks. They would advocate for the right to vote in Haitian elections, access to key consular services, and protection of our rights in Haiti, such as property rights. The representatives would also help to bridge the gap between Haiti and the Haitian community abroad, promoting dialogue, understanding, and cooperation.

The current crisis in Haiti requires innovative solutions, and the diaspora has the potential to play a significant role in that. Various organizations, such as the Coalition of Haitian Diaspora United, Congress to fortify Haiti, Haitian American Foundation for Democracy, Haitian Diaspora Federation, Haitian Forum for Peace and Sustainable Development, Haitian Lawyers associations, Haiti Path forward, NHAEON, United Front of the Haitian Diaspora, Voa Diaspora, and others together have the necessary expertise and experience to lead the process of electing three representatives to represent the diaspora effectively. To initiate this process, these organizations can work with community leaders, organizations, and other stakeholders to nominate candidates who have the knowledge, skills, and passion to serve the diaspora.

To ensure that the election process is fair, transparent, and credible, the organizations can establish a committee made up of leaders from the community who have a history of leadership and integrity. This committee can oversee the election by verifying voter eligibility, monitoring the electoral process, and certifying the results.

To maximize participation in the election, the process can include online voting platforms and in-person voting stations hosted by community organizations or a combination of both. The election process would be open to all Haitians living abroad and would be managed by registered and reputable organizations within countries with a large representation of Haitians.

The current crisis in Haiti demands bold and innovative solutions, and the diaspora can be part of the solution. As Haitians living abroad, we represent a significant portion of the Haitian population. But we have been systematically excluded from participating in the political process in Haiti. This must change and we must change it. It’s time for us in the Haitian diaspora to recognize our importance and elect representatives to speak on our behalf, just as it has been successfully done in other countries.

This presents a unique opportunity for anchor organizations like NHAEON and other diaspora organizations to initiate that process. By establishing a transparent and fair electoral process, the diaspora can elect representatives who can amplify its voice. This new body would bring new perspectives and ideas to the table and help Haitians abroad to more effectively contribute to Haiti’s growth and progress.

Johnny Celestin

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Johnny Celestin is a political analyst and community advocate. He is a passionate advocate for social justice and change. With over 30 years of experience, he dedicates himself to improving lives across Haiti and the United States through various Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). Currently, Johnny serves on the board of directors for several prominent organizations, including Konbit for Haiti (KfH), the Haitian Center for Leadership and Excellence (CLE), Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL), Defend Haiti's Democracy (DHD), Haiti Policy House (HPH), and the International Black Economic Forum. He is currently Deputy Director in NY City’s Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs). Leveraging his expertise in international development, public service, and non-profit leadership, Johnny champions human rights and equity in all his endeavors.