Issues & Analysis
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HAITI, DEVELOPMENT: America’s Neo-Colonial Mandate: The Clinton Plan for Haiti.

globalresearch.ca, by Dady Chery, September 07, 2015, original

When news of Haiti died down in the mainstream media two months after the earthquake, things had not cooled down: quite the contrary, they had just started to simmer. A highly controversial State of Emergency Law had already been drafted and presented to Haiti’s Lower House for a vote.

This was a law to allow an Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), led by former US President William J. Clinton, to run the country for an 18-month State of Emergency. Haiti’s Lower House, a large majority of which belonged to President René Préval’s party, INITE, met for a vote on March 8, 2010. That meeting of the Members of Parliament (MP) was extremely contentious. Outside, a small group of protestors urged the legislators to vote no. At least 20 legislators walked out, hoping to break the quorum, and they declared the law to be unconstitutional. Others stayed and voted against the law at the start of the meeting, hoping to stall the proceedings. One legislator proposed an amendment that would have allowed a senatorial commission to oversee the IHRC. All their efforts failed. The deal had been made from the start. Forty-three MPs voted yes, 6 voted no, and 8 abstained.

How did all this come to pass? First, the Préval-led government had come from elections that had excluded Fanmi Lavalas and 14 other political parties. So this government was highly unrepresentative. Second, the most vocal opposition to the IHRC and the State of Emergency Law had come from those who had supported previous dictatorships. The great majority of the population categorically rejected this group, which demanded that the Haitian Armed Forces (Forces Armées d’Haiti, FAd’H) be re-established, MINUSTAH departs, and the Haitian Constitution and UN Charter be respected.

Their calls of protest fell on the deaf ears of a population well acquainted with their brutality. Finally, Préval’s government was considered to be a great embarrassment. Among other things, it had failed to account for its expenses during the first three months of 2010. Préval himself had campaigned for the State of Emergency Law, although the stated reason for this law was a need to circumvent the State’s corruption. In typical style, he had insisted that everyone dirties their hands along with him and the law be voted on by the entire Parliament. When criticized about dragging the country into the depths of dependency and handicapping the next administration, he shrugged and lapsed into absurdities like Haiti is “a weak state” but still “possesses its sovereignty.”

With the Lower House in the bag, the next obstacle was the Senate. During an April 8, 2010 meeting, the senators voted no to the State of Emergency Law and the IHRC. In advance of another vote on April 13, Préval held a press conference at which he pleaded with the senators not to “miss this chance.” Several demanded to know why he needed the Parliament to ratify a commission with a majority of foreigners.

They pointed out that he could take full responsibility for his miserable commission and establish it by presidential decree. Others, like Acluche Louis Jeune declared: “the president wants to dissolve the Parliament to give the occupier a free hand.” The April 13 vote was successfully blocked by the lack of a quorum. The Haitian Senate then numbered 25 because of two earthquake deaths. It needed a quorum of 16, but only 15 senators participated; two of those senators had showed up merely to snub the meeting.

Enter Michelle Obama on April 14, 2010. What did she do during her surprise visit to Haiti, besides draw fishes and compare them to the more advanced art of the Haitian elementary-school children? What inducements or threats did she bring to the Senate on behalf of the US? Might her statement of the innocent-sounding proverb “Little by little, the bird makes its nest” have been a sign that a deal was made for the occupation?

A late-night parliamentary session the next day did the trick. With barely a quorum of 16 senators, 13 voted for the State of Emergency Law, with all but one of the yes votes coming from INITE. One senator voted against the law, 2 abstained, and 9 stayed away from the meeting altogether. It was extraordinary that even this highly unrepresentative government had put up such a fight for sovereignty. Haiti would not be an easy conquest.

In the IHRC, which was Bill Clinton’s wet dream of a government and was to be led by him, a majority of foreigners had hoped to administer Haiti.

FOURTEEN INDIVIDUALS WOULD REPRESENT FOREIGN INTERESTS

Nine representatives who are major donors. They would be chosen by an IHRC administrative council. This was a strictly pay-to-play affair. To get a seat, a country or institution had to donate at least $100 million over a two-year period or erase debts worth at least $200 million. The original list of these donors included the US, European Union, France, Canada, Brazil, Venezuela, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), United Nations, and World Bank.

One representative of Caricom.
One representative of the Organization of American States (OAS).
One representative for all the other donors without a seat.
One representative of the non-governmental organizations (NGO) in Haiti.
One representative of the Haitian diaspora.

SEVEN UNELECTED INDIVIDUALS WOULD REPRESENT HAITI

Three representatives of the Haitian government, nominated respectively by the executive, judiciary, and local authorities. Jean-Max Bellerive, who was chosen by Clinton for this group, got a laughable equal billing with him. In October 2009, Bellerive had been foisted by the US on Préval as Prime Minister. President Préval himself would not actually be a member but would have symbolic veto rights.

One MP, to be chosen from a list submitted by the political parties in the Lower House.

One senator, to be chosen from a list submitted by the political parties in the Senate.

One union representative, designated by the union syndicates.

One business representative, nominated by the business community.

There is much to be learned from this affair about the leaders of supposed democratic countries. This is how they would run everything if they could. Consider the World Trade Organization (WTO). Watch closely and pray against natural disasters. The next pay-for-play commission might well be for your state or country.

Though the IHRC boasted of its plans to restore urban centers and build homes throughout Haiti, its real mission, also stated quite explicitly, was to proceed with privatizations, in particular the privatization of the sea and air ports of Port-au-Prince. The plans for sweatshops were there too, though not as explicit. Indeed, even as homeless Haitians were being bused one hour away to a desert to live, presumably because there was no room for them in the city, ground was being broken in town for new factories. The IHRC would additionally grant opportunities to foreign companies to invest in agriculture and tourism, which were euphemisms for land grab.

After much controversy in April 2010 about the 11 articles under which Bill Clinton’s IHRC would operate in the country, three new articles were appended to the organization’s charter without oversight. In Article 12, the IHRC gave itself the “full power to deliver proprietary titles and licenses for the construction of hospitals, power companies, ports, and other projects of economic development.” In a clear sign of power reversal, the Article called on Haiti’s ministries to work with the IHRC to accelerate its high-priority projects.

At the conclusion of its 18-month term, the IHRC would become an “Agency for the Development of Haiti,” with an indefinite mandate. So any democratically elected government in the future would find itself at the helm of an island nation, but without control of its ports, and therefore without the means to tax its imports and exports. Much of the country’s lands would be in foreign hands. The only way to raise revenue would be to go begging for aid funds. This had gone on for some time, but it would become institutionalized.

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HAITI, DEVELOPMENT: The Clintons’ Haiti Screw-Up, As Told By Hillary’s Emails

politico.com, by Jonathan M. Katz, September 2, 2015, original
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It’s hard to find anyone these days who looks back on the U.S.-led response to the January 12, 2010, Haiti earthquake as a success, but it wasn’t always that way. Right after the disaster, even as neighborhoods lay in rubble, their people sweltering under tarps, the consensus—outside Haiti—was that America’s “compassionate invasion” (as TIME Magazine called it) had been “largely a success” (Los Angeles Times), offering further proof that “in critical moments of the history of mankind … the United States is, in fact, the indispensable nation” (Expresso, Portugal).

As the latest release of Hillary Clinton’s personal emails by the U.S. State Department Monday revealed, that perception was not an accident. “We waged a very successful campaign against the negative stories concerning our involvement in Haiti,” Judith McHale, the under-secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, wrote on February 26, 2010. A few weeks before, the public affairs chief had emailed newspaper quotations praising U.S. efforts in Haiti to Secretary Clinton with the note “Our Posts at work.” Clinton applauded. “That’s the result of your leadership and a new model of engagement w our own people,” she replied. “Onward!”

But one person even closer to the secretary of state was singing a different tune—very, very quietly. On February 22, after a four-day visit to the quake zone, Chelsea Clinton authored a seven-page memo which she addressed to “Dad, Mom,” and copied their chief aides. That informal report tells acontinuing story of the unique brands of power and intelligence wielded by the Clinton family in Haiti and around the world—and of the uniquely Clinton ways they often undermine themselves.

First off, there was the secrecy. The memo—by a Clinton, with a master’s in public health from Columbia University, pursuing a doctorate in international relations from Oxford and with a prominent role at her family’s foundation—would have obliterated the public narrative of helpful outsiders saving grateful earthquake survivors that her mother’s State Department was working so hard to promote. Instead, like so much of the inner workings of the Clintons’ vast network, it was kept secret, released only in an ongoing dump of some 35,000 emails from Hillary’s private server, in response to a Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit wrapped up in the politics of the 2016 presidential election.

Chelsea Clinton was blunt in her report, confident the recipients would respect her request in the memo’s introduction to remain an “invisible soldier.” She had first come to the quake zone six days after the disaster with her father and then-fiancé, Mark Mezvinsky. Now she was returning with the medical aid group Partners in Health, whose co-founder, Dr. Paul Farmer, was her father’s deputy in his Office of the UN Special Envoy for Haiti. What she saw profoundly disturbed her.

Five weeks after the earthquake, international responders were still in relief mode: U.S. soldiers roamed Port-au-Prince streets on alert for signs of social breakdown, while aid groups held daily coordination meetings inside a heavily guarded UN compound ordinary Haitian couldn’t enter. But Haitians had long since moved on into their own recovery mode, many in displacement camps they had set up themselves, as responders who rarely even spoke the language, Kreyòl, worked around them, oblivious to their efforts.

“The incompetence is mind numbing,” she told her parents. “The UN people I encountered were frequently out of touch … anachronistic in their thinking at best and arrogant and incompetent at worst.” “There is NO accountability in the UN system or international humanitarian system.” The weak Haitian government, which had lost buildings and staff in the disaster, had something of a plan, she noted. Yet because it had failed to articulate its wishes quickly enough, foreigners rushed forward with a “proliferation of ad hoc efforts by the UN and INGOs [international nongovernmental organizations] to ‘help,’ some of which have helped … some of which have hurt … and some which have not happened at all.”

The former first daughter recognized something that scores of other foreigners had missed: that Haitians were not just sitting around waiting for others to do the work. “Haitians in the settlements are very much organizing themselves … Fairly nuanced settlement governance structures have already developed,” she wrote, giving the example of camp home to 40,000 displaced quake survivors who had established a governing committee and a series of sub-committees overseeing security, sanitation, women’s needs and other issues.

“They wanted to help themselves, and they wanted reliability and accountability from their partners,” Chelsea Clinton wrote. But that help was not coming. The aid groups had ignored requests for T-shirts, flashlights and pay for the security committee, and the U.S. military had apparently passed on the committee’s back-up plan that they provide security themselves. “The settlements’ governing bodies—as they shared with me—are beginning to experience UN/INGO fatigue given how often they articulate their needs, willingness to work—and how little is coming their way.”

That analysis went beyond what some observers have taken years to understand, and many others still haven’t: that disaster survivors are best positioned to take charge of their own recovery, yet often get pushed aside by outside authorities who think, wrongly, that they know better. Her report also had more than an echo of the philosophy of her Partners in Health tour guides. More than five years later, her candor and force of insight impress experts. “I am struck by the direct tone and the level of detail,” says Vijaya Ramachandran, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.

Jonathan M. Katz won the James Foley/Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism for his coverage of the 2010 Haiti earthquake and cholera epidemic, and the Overseas Press Club of America’s Cornelius Ryan Award for his book, The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. He reported on the Clintons in Haiti for POLITICO on a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Follow him on Twitter @KatzOnEarth.

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Afghanistan: What Now for China’s Afghanistan Strategy?

thediplomat.com, by Andrew Small, September 01, 2015, original

Despite the blow to peace talks with the Taliban, China is unlikely to change its approach to Afghanistan or Pakistan.

Men sit amid debris of their properties at the site a truck bomb blast in Kabul, August 7, 2015. Image Credit: REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

Along with advances in northern Afghanistan by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — the principal host for Uyghur militants in the region — and the Taliban’s own battlefield successes, the strategic situation for China appears to be moving in an adverse direction. Beijing’s longstanding concern that Afghanistan might become a safe haven for “East Turkestan terrorists” is now coupled with worries about the dangers that instability there could pose to Beijing’s various Silk Road economic schemes, particularly in Central Asia and Pakistan. Despite speculation that these might be imperiled by China’s current economic frailty, this multi-trillion-dollarbonanza for Chinese industry is, if anything, only rendered more important.

An inevitable question, therefore, is whether Beijing can be expected to lean on its all-weather friend, Pakistan, to take action against the Taliban. For all that the Afghan government would like China to step up its direct bilateraleconomic and security support, it is Beijing’s leverage over Islamabad thatthey see as its most valuable asset. China played an important role in encouraging Pakistan to bring a reluctant Taliban to the table for the peace talks in Murree. And since the Kabul attacks, the Afghan government has sought Chinese assistance in pressing Pakistan to take the actions demanded in its “non-paper”, such as denying sanctuary and passage to Taliban fighters.

Beijing is well aware that Ghani’s Pakistan opening left him out on apolitical limb. In the absence of deliverables, relations between Islamabad and Kabul are heading into a phase that risks being characterized by “freeze, deep freeze, or hostility,” in Ghani’s words. China has sympathy for the Afghan government’s position, and is certainly concerned to help keep its relationship with Pakistan from breaking down further. But while Kabul’s previous efforts to leverage Beijing’s position of influence in Islamabad were relatively successful, it is now running into the limits of what China is willing to do.

Beijing is cautious about its own relationship with the Taliban. In meetings with its representatives, China has sought to persuade them that a peace deal will be in their interests, but also to keep the two sides’ longstanding ties in good working order. Beijing continues to see the Taliban as a political force that it needs to deal with, and is wary about turning them into enemies. Encouraging Pakistan to twist arms to get the Taliban into peace talks was one thing — any perception that they were pushing Pakistan to take more decisive action against the group would be quite another. Thebacklash China faced after it was blamed for instigating the Pakistani government’s assault on the Red Mosque in 2007 is a cautionary tale that still resonates with Chinese officials.

But it is not just fear of getting on the wrong side of the Taliban that is holding China back. The ISI’s current attempts to help consolidate the position of the Taliban’s new leader, Mullah Mansour, are fully in line with China’s view of its own interests. Beijing does not want to see the Taliban fractured, operating under the control of opponents of reconciliation talks, or actively hostile to Pakistan. China sees the maintenance of a relatively coherent Taliban movement as a necessary evil if a political deal in Afghanistan is ever going to be reached, and if its own arrangements with the group are to remain intact. The internal tensions that have roiled the Taliban in recent weeks are partly a product of their involvement in the Murree talks, and Pakistani pressure to bring them to the table. Havingdelivered on its promise to get them in the room, Beijing is now likely to leave the ISI with the time and space to deal with the resulting fallout.

Mullah Mansour may never have Mullah Omar’s authority, but if the Taliban can be broadly unified behind a figure close to the Pakistanis and willing to approve peace talks — in principle, if not currently in practice — this is about the most that China could currently hope for. Conversely, a scenario in which the Pakistani government decided to turn on the Afghan Taliban (not that this is on the cards) would pose serious risks for the security situation in Pakistan, and likely make China itself into a target too. Beijing has already gone through eight years of this experience with the Pakistani Taliban. And with the rise of forces such as the Islamic State that areexplicitly hostile to China, a cohesive Taliban under Pakistan’s continued influence looks like a safer bet.

In the end, despite the serious hits that the prospects for peace have taken in recent weeks, China still believes that a negotiated political settlement in Afghanistan is the only viable solution. Beijing will expect Pakistan, in due course, to do its part to facilitate it. If the Afghan government were facing an immediate, existential security crisis, China’s stance might look different but, although the Afghan National Security Forces have faced a worryingly high attrition rate this year, they continue to hold their own, and there is no looming prospect of the Taliban “victory” that Beijing would certainly not want to see. For now then, China is trying to hold together its existing strategy in Afghanistan rather than embarking on a new one. However unpalatable it might seem in Kabul as civilian casualties reach record highs, that will mean Beijing giving the Pakistanis time, not turning the screw on them.

Andrew Small is a transatlantic fellow with the German Marshall Fund’s Asia program and the author of the book The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics.

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Afghanistan: Rising to the Afghanistan Challenge

thediplomat.com, by Timur Urazayev for The Diplomat, September 04, 2015, original

To date, 2015 has sadly been dominathediplomat_2015-09-04_00-27-47-386x257ted by conflicts and suffering. Early in the year, violence in Gaza and Ukraine brought images of destruction to our screens and shook the foundations of international relations and stability. The violent threat posed by Daesh (known as ISIS), Boko Haram (allied to Daesh), and other terrorist groups has destabilized large parts of Eurasia and Africa. Civil wars in Libya and Yemen have cast a dark shadow over the lives and hopes of their citizens and risk widening the conflicts.

The rise of violence in forms of extremism and terrorism represents the greatest threat to global peace and stability. The split of previous national regimes in Libya and Iraq has undermined the entire situation in the Middle East. Syria seems to be next in this paradigm. Without a determined response, there is a real possibility that these countries will be permanently torn apart and Daesh will become a platform for exporting violence, extremism and instability across the entire region and beyond.

As the international community battles against this danger, Afghanistan serves as a sobering reminder of what happens if you ignore the threat. It is also why, despite all the challenges elsewhere, the world should combine its efforts in the political, social and cultural realms to prevent a recurrence of old errors.

Afghanistan today, thanks to the sacrifices of its people and the support of the international community, is unrecognizable from its past under the Taliban. But despite real achievements in recent years and political progress since the presidential elections last year, the country continues to be plagued by threats such as illegal drug production, trans-boundary crimes, and internal insurgency. Moreover, the rise of Daesh and terrorist attacks by the Taliban along with economic hardship tear at the fabric of the nation. Afghanistan also remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with depressingly high levels of child mortality and illiteracy.

We all share a common interesting in building the capacity of the Afghan statehood, strengthening appropriate institutions, including the Afghan National Security Forces, and giving Afghans the opportunity to create a secure, stable and prosperous future. Without this commitment, there is a real risk that the country could descend again into outright chaos and that instability and violence will increasingly spill over its borders. No nation, not even Kazakhstan where extremists have failed to gain a foothold in our moderate and tolerant society, is immune from this threat. That is why it is in all our interests to work together to help Afghanistan.

As part of our contribution, Kazakhstan is already stepping up direct economic and humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. This includes funding the restoration of the Talukan-Kunduz-Shirkhan-Bandar road and construction of schools and hospitals across the country.

We are continuing to finance the education and training of 1,000 young Afghanis for civil professions in Kazakh colleges and Universities. Essential items like vegetable oil, warm clothes, beds, tents, bedding and dishes are being provided to the Afghan people every time a natural disaster happens. We are encouraging Kazakh businesses to enter the Afghan market, and vice versa, to promote trade and economic cooperation. Kazakhstan also intends in the near future to streamline its aid to neighbors and friends under our own official development program, provisionally labeled KazAID.

Together with our regional neighbors, we are also discussing how we can do more to help rebuild Afghanistan as well as improve collective security against terrorism and the drugs trade, which has created crime and misery far beyond Afghanistan’s borders.

Improving regional economic connectivity is key to this goal. Afghanistan can benefit enormously from the new opportunities presented thanks to the modern road, rail and energy links being put in place. The positive impact of this “New Silk Road” will be felt far beyond Afghanistan or Central Asia. Rich in energy and natural wealth and strategically positioned between Europe and the fast-growing economies of the east, improved connections can provide a much-needed boost to global growth.

We cannot halt the powerful forces that are changing our world. But through increased cooperation with our partners in the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the UN, they can be channeled for the benefit of all. We have also offered Almaty as a new regional base to host the UN’s efforts and disaster management facilities for the needs of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s people are depending on the international community to pull together to help them. If we do not turn good intentions into positive action, the country risks again descending into chaos. We cannot fail this challenge.

Timur Urazayev is Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

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Afghanistan tackles hidden mental health epidemic

theguardian.com, by Sune Engel Rasmussen, Sept. 2, 2015, original
Dr Fareshta Quedees, project manager at the International Psychosocial Organisation in Kabul, at a training session for counsellors. Photograph: Sune Engel Rasmussen

Mohammad Qassem had been chained to a wall for 13 days. Locked in a tiny concrete cell with his hands and feet shackled, he had 27 days left before he would be declared healthy.

During that period, the keeper of the holy shrine where Qassem was held would feed him only tea, bread and black pepper, ostensibly to rid him of what his family said was insanity. Qassem, a former soldier who spoke hoarsely, with bursts of laughter, said he just had a hashish addiction. “When I don’t smoke hashish I want to kill all foreigners,” he roared, to giggles from a crowd of onlookers from the nearby village who had gathered at the cell entrance.

Related: Afghanistan growing more receptive on women’s rights, says British ambassador

For generations, the Mia Ali Baba Shrine, in a rural part of Nangarhar province, has been renowned for allegedly curing mental illnesses with forced asceticism and spiritual cleansing. “We leave everything to God,” said the shrine keeper, Mia Saheb. “The Earth and the sky have been made by God. God takes care of the patients.”

Qassem, meanwhile, showed off wounds where the chains had gnawed into his wrists. “They need to take me to the doctor instead of putting me in prison here,” he said. “They made me crazier by bringing me here.”

Fourteen years of violence have created a hidden epidemic inAfghanistan of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other war-induced illnesses. It is one of the most enduring damages wrought by the war – one few people understand, and fewer can treat. But a small army of therapists now seeks to change that. And they are led by a woman.

“We are in a vicious cycle of violence and trauma,” said Dr Fareshta Quedees, project manager at the International Psychosocial Organisation (Ipso) in Kabul and the driving force behind training 280 psychosocial counsellors who work across the country.

Half of the counsellors are women, a rare ratio for any profession in Afghanistan, and an acknowledgment that wives and families also suffer from trauma, despite often being removed from the frontline. Domestic violence, for instance, is rampant in Afghanistan, and is often unleashed by trauma.

“Women don’t necessarily face trauma directly but traumatised men are more violent, and that increases family conflicts,” said Fariba Amin from the provincial hospital in Zabul, who, along with dozens of fellow counsellors, had come to Kabul for a five-day training course.

A man chained beneath a tree, as treatment for his mental illness, on the compounds of Mia Ali Baba Shrine in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. Photograph: Rahmat Gul/AP

For women, she said, counselling is a rare chance to confide in someone. Afghan women are rarely asked about their hopes and dreams, let alone what burdens them. “That someone sits down and listens to the woman is a treatment in itself,” said Amin.

A UN-sponsored survey found that in 2005, 16.5% of Afghans suffered from mental disorders. The problem is likely to have grown since then.

The Afghan government has made tackling mental illness a priority and developed a national mental health strategy. All provincial hospitals now offer counselling. Counselling is free, and even available online.

Quedees, 35, discovered psychosocial counselling in 2004, while in medical school, during a stint as a translator for a foreign NGO. She found the therapy resonating with ideas she had harboured herself but never articulated. “I was the sort of person who always talked a lot about my feelings, and I remember my friends made fun of me,” she said with a smile.

But Quedees’s counsellors are working against long-held traditions and a culture of stigmatisation of the mentally ill. Faced with mental disorder, many resort to drugs or superstitious practices that often cause more harm than good.

Critics claim the treatment at shrines like Mia Ali Baba is a hoax, which sedates patients suffering from hunger and maltreatment rather than curing them. Still, locals maintain a strong belief in their healing powers. One of them, Nasibullah Subara, said the treatment had helped his nephew.

“Before, he didn’t sleep. He had a short temper and bothered his family. But now he doesn’t have those problems,” Subara said. The $20 cost of the treatment at the shrine is cheaper than medicine or a trip to the nearest hospital. As a result, the shrine’s 16 cells are often full.

Modern therapy is also at odds with the sense of privacy so paramount in Afghan culture. “Many people don’t like the concept of counselling. It is not appropriate in our culture to share intimate matters and family secrets,” said Fatma Dauladzai, a counsellor from Paktia province.

But while the idea of counselling has yet to take firm root, women, especially, are growing more receptive.

Wahid Nurzad, a male counsellor from Herat, recalled a group session for people who had experienced domestic violence, where one 35-year-old woman suddenly started crying: “When these tears of mine are falling, I feel lighter,” she had said. “I forget the suffering I have gone through.”

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Haiti, Development: Chelsea Clinton, “Incompetence of the Haitian relief effort”

businessinsider.com, by Allan Smith, Insider, 

An email from Chelsea Clinton addressed to “Dad” and “Mom” became one of the more interesting nuggets within former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s State Department email release Monday.

In the 2010 email discussing the Haitian relief efforts following a massive earthquake, Chelsea wrote she was “profoundly disturbed” and “the incompetence was mind-numbing.”

Although the date of the message is not known, the seven-page memo ripping into the United Nations’ handling of the relief effort was written some time after Chelsea had spent four days in Haiti working as a part of the relief effort.

“If we do not quickly change the organization, management, accountability and delivery paradigm on the ground, we could quite conceivably confront tens of thousands of children’s deaths by diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid and other water-related diseases in the near future,” she wrote.

President Barack Obama had announced in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake that Bill Clinton, along with George W. Bush, would be tasked with leading the fundraising effort in conjunction with the United Nations.

At the time, Hillary made a visit to Haiti and assured Haitians that the US would assist in any way possible.

“We will be here today, tomorrow and for the time ahead,” she said.

Americans citizens donated $1.4 billion to recovery efforts in Haiti in the year following the earthquake, and the US government allocated $4 billion for the stricken country,according to NBC. The United Nations said that $13.4 billion had been set aside to spend on Haiti through 2020.

You can read the memo in its entirety here.

Read the original article on INSIDER. Copyright 2015. Follow INSIDER on Twitter.

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Afghanistan: Ahmed Rashid: Ghani is running out of options in Afghanistan

bbc.com,
Viewpoint, Ahmed Rashid, September 1, 2015

Image caption A wave of Taliban attacks and offensives have left the country reeling in recent weeks

Afghanistan is in dire crisis as the Taliban battle a weak government, and peace talks with the militants are put on hold, writes guest columnist Ahmed Rashid.

The Taliban have captured most of Helmand province, including for several days a strategic district headquarters, Musa Qala. They are growing stronger in the north and east holding more territory than ever before and mounting ferocious attacks in Kabul in which some 100 people have been killed in the past few weeks.

Talks between Afghanistan and the Taliban and Pakistan are at an impasse following the recent announcement of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar in 2013. Afghan criticism of Pakistan for allegedly not reining in the Taliban is increasing daily.

President Ashraf Ghani’s approval rating has fallen from 50 percentage points to 38, while his partner in power Abdullah Abdullah’s ratings are even lower, according to Tolo news. The government is paralysed, apparently incapable of still filling empty slots in the cabinet, while key projects such as identity cards and electoral reforms are on hold and mired in controversy.

Image caption President Ghani’s popularity ratings are apparently in steep decline at the moment

The government has failed to tackle corruption or bolster the economy. There is large-scale capital flight, especially to the Gulf where many Afghans have bought houses. Afghans constitute the third largest group of migrants after Syrians and Iraqis trying to escape into Europe by land and sea.

The international community is delaying or withholding vital financial contributions to a government that has long run out of money. Some government salaries have not been paid for months.

Afghanistan’s army is heroically struggling to contain the Taliban and hanging on to district capitals but is incapable of going on the offensive or regaining lost territory. Officers are struggling to contain sizeable desertions from the army and police by refusing home leave. The casualty rates are the worst ever and according to US officers, “unsustainable”. The remaining US and Nato forces are expected to leave at the end of the year.

According to the New York Times, about 4,100 Afghan soldiers and police have been killed and another 7,800 wounded in the first six months of this year. That is 50% more than the same period last year. Meanwhile warlordism is back with a vengeance as leading figures from the 1980s jihad (holy war), including Vice President Rashid Dostum, Balkh province Governor Atta Mohammed Nur and others raise militia armies across the country.

The country’s best hope in years – opening talks with the Taliban – has been stymied by the leaking of Mullah Omar’s death. Pakistan and some Taliban leaders tried to keep it secret for unknown reasons until the news broke after the first meeting between the Taliban and Afghan officials in Pakistan on 7 July.

Image caption Peace talks have been suspended since Mullah Mansour (right) replaced Mullah Omar

Mullah Omar’s death has created a struggle for power within the Taliban and there is a growing conviction amongst many ordinary Afghans that Pakistan is trying to install its chosen favourite, Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour, as the new Taliban leader.

It also became clear that Jalaluddin Haqqani, a leading jihadi figure wanted for terrorism by the US and a major Taliban operative also died a year ago.

This lack of transparency has destroyed the trust between Afghanistan and Pakistan. In his opening address to the Taliban, Mullah Mansour took a belligerent stance, dismissing talks about peace as “enemy propaganda”. Before that he was seen as a moderate figure.

Meanwhile in Kabul, new anti-Ghani groupings are emerging, especially among those who resent the president surrounding himself with fellow Ghilzai Pashtuns.

In conversations with many Afghans over the last few months there seems to be a growing consensus that Afghanistan’s internal sovereignty is at stake and that the national unity government has not worked. Many feel constitutional changes are urgently needed in order to prevent the disintegration of the country, a coup by one or more warlords or a section of the army, or a power grab by disgruntled politicians.

One popular solution being hotly debated by Afghan intellectuals and politicians is for President Ghani to call an emergency loya jirga that would choose an interim government and president for a period of no more than a few months. Such a grand assembly would then initiate debate and pass constitutional and electoral reforms, as President Ghani and Mr Abdullah had promised to do when they were installed as joint power holders in the national unity government.

Image caption Afghan security forces are battling a resurgent Taliban after Nato combat troops withdrew

These reforms would introduce constitutional amendments to make the country a parliamentary democracy – something that the non-Pashtun groups and many urban Afghans have been demanding since 2001. These reforms could be coupled with a renewed attempt to bring the Taliban into talks or even encourage them to take part in the loya jirga debate. The Taliban have made it clear that they also want changes to the constitution.

Finally after the passage of new electoral laws that would eliminate vote rigging, and the issuance of new ID cards, the interim government would oversee fresh parliamentary elections. The newly elected parliament would then choose a new prime minister to lead the country and a president as head of state, after which the interim government would resign.

Ambitious and difficult though such a path may be, many Afghans are convinced that ultimately Mr Ghani has no choice but to radically shake up the system. If he takes such a risk then who knows – he may remerge as the winner once again.

Ahmed Rashid

  • Ahmed Rashid is a Pakistani journalist and author based in Lahore
  • His latest book is Pakistan on the Brink – The Future of America, Pakistan and Afghanistan
  • Earlier works include Descent into Chaos and Taliban, first published in 2000, which became a bestseller
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Afghanistan: What Could Mullah Mohammad Omar’s Death Mean for the Taliban Talks?

newyorker.com, BY , July 19, 2015

Since he fled Kandahar on the back of a motorcycle, in December, 2001, Mullah Mohammad Omar, whom the Taliban he led called “Amir al-Mu’minin,” Commander of the Faithful, never appeared in public. If he was trying to elude pursuers, he succeeded: no one took up the U.S. on its offer of ten million dollars, under the Rewards for Justice Program, for information leading to his location or capture. He communicated publicly with his followers and the world only through statements issued twice a year, on the festivals of Eid al-Fitr, at the end of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, at the end of the Hajj. Whether or not Mullah Omar wrote or approved these statements himself, they constituted the most authoritative statements of Taliban policy. The most recent statement, a few days before this year’s Eid al-Fitr, which fell on July 17th, attracted even more than the usual attention, as it endorsed negotiations to end the conflict in Afghanistan. Such talks had seemed to start at a meeting in Murree, Pakistan, between delegations of the Afghan government and the Taliban, on July 7th. But then, on July 29th, news filtered out from multiple sources that Mullah Omar had died more than two years earlier. So who was negotiating with the Afghan government and under what authority?The U.S. held intermittent meetings with the Taliban Political Commission from November, 2010, to January, 2012. Mullah Omar had reportedly authorized this political commission to carry out both international and domestic outreach when it was founded, in 2008. The Taliban suspended the talks in March, 2012, after U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales killed sixteen people in their beds, including nine children, in the Panjwai District of Kandahar Province, home to many in the Taliban leadership. An attempt to open an office for the political commission in Doha, Qatar, on June 18, 2013, and restart negotiations failed. When the Taliban displayed symbols of their deposed government at the inauguration, the United States asked Qatar to close it. The commission remained in Doha, however, working unofficially.

Along with the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP), Jim Dobbins, I met with Mohammed Umer Daudzai, then the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, on June 25, 2013. (I had been senior adviser to the SRAP since the late Richard Holbrooke, the first to hold the office, brought me on board, in 2009.) With the Qatar office closed, Daudzai offered some ideas on how to continue the search for a political settlement. A man with a trim beard and a mischievous sense of humor, he recounted his efforts to persuade the Pakistani military to arrange a meeting between the Afghan government and Taliban leaders in Pakistan.  The Pakistanis, he said, claimed they did not control the Taliban. Daudzai prodded them, saying that was too simple—There are some Taliban you don’t control at all and who hate you. There are some you can influence, even if they don’t trust you. And there are some Taliban you do control. At least, Daudzai asked, organize a meeting between the Afghan government and some Taliban you control. That seems to be what Pakistan did on July 7, 2015.

Ashraf Ghani was inaugurated as the second president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on September 29, 2014, after a disputed election that was resolved only when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry brokered a power-sharing agreement between Ghani and his competitor, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. Ghani, who had left Kabul to study at the American University of Beirut and then Columbia University, where he earned a doctorate in anthropology, was a co-author of the book “Fixing Failed States,” which drew on his experience working at the World Bank and as a special adviser to the United Nations.

Ghani approached the challenge of peacemaking in Afghanistan as, first, an issue between states. “The problem, fundamentally, is not about peace with Taliban,” Ghani told an audience in Washington, D.C., in March, 2015. “The problem is fundamentally about peace between Pakistan and Afghanistan.” He immediately set about shaping the environment for negotiations with Pakistan.

Ghani’s first two official visits were to the two countries with the most influence in Pakistan, having provided financial and technical assistance to the country’s nuclear-weapons program. Less than a month after his inauguration, he went to Saudi Arabia, which had been waging an internal war against Al Qaeda for ten years and sought to weaken it further by encouraging the Taliban to renounce its alliance. A few days later, he touched down in China, where the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region had been the site of terrorist attacks connected to a separatist movement, some of whose fighters received training in Pakistan and Afghanistan. China had subsequently come to regard the stability of Afghanistan as crucial to its internal security, as well as its economic future. The first wave of Chinese growth was based on labor-intensive exports from the Pacific coastal region, but as it slowed the leadership sought to invest in the central and western regions of the country, including Xinjiang. These landlocked areas could not develop without direct access to energy and raw materials, through routes that instability in Afghanistan or Pakistan could disrupt. At the end of the summit between Ghani and Xi Jinping, in October, 2014, China pledged to support an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” peace and reconciliation process.

Two weeks later, Ghani visited Pakistan, where he told Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif that it was time to end “thirteen years of undeclared hostilities.” He offered to address all the concerns the Pakistan military had about Afghanistan. Ghani would withdraw a request his predecessor had made for heavy weapons from India, and he proposed unprecedented transparency and cooperation between the two states’ military and intelligence agencies. He ordered the Afghan Army into battle against elements of the Pakistani Taliban that had taken refuge in Afghanistan, and he agreed to a long-standing Pakistani request for Afghanistan to send officer cadets to be trained at the Pakistan Military Academy, in Abbottabad. He also proposed establishing jointly operated border checkpoints, to promote the regulated movement of people and goods.

These concessions went far beyond what Afghanistan’s public, with its visceral distrust of and anger at the Pakistani military, was prepared for. As Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Karzai has said, “People in Afghanistan believe that whoever launches attacks on the security forces, kills tribal elders, and burns schools has roots in Pakistan and they view this as an undeclared war.” Ghani needed equal concessions from Pakistan, including military and intelligence operations to blunt the Taliban’s planned spring offensive and put pressure on the group to negotiate directly with the Afghan government.

But the Taliban leadership avoided and delayed answering Pakistan’s request to enter into direct talks with the Afghan government. Its consistent position had been that it would enter into talks with “other Afghans,” including the government, only after completing confidence-building measures with the United States, including the official opening of the political office and the removal of the Taliban from lists like Rewards for Justice. Instead of complying with Pakistan, on April 24th of this year the Taliban announced its largest spring offensive ever, with no apparent opposition from Pakistan. Former President Hamid Karzai called Ghani’s proposed memorandum of understanding on intelligence cooperation with Pakistan “an atrocious betrayal of the people of Afghanistan.” Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, and Army Chief General Raheel Sharif rushed to Kabul on May 12th in an attempt to halt the rapid deterioration of relations.

Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (I.S.I.) hastily did what Ambassador Umer Daudzai of Afghanistan had proposed back in 2013: it flew three former Taliban leaders under its control to Urumqi, China, the capital of Xinjiang. The three—Mullah Abdul Jalil, Mullah Mohammad Hassan Rahmani, and Mullah Abdul Razaq—had formerly served as deputy minister of foreign affairs, governor of Kandahar, and minister of the interior, respectively, but they had no connections to the Taliban Political Commission and no current influence in the Taliban hierarchy. On May 19th and 20th, with observers from the I.S.I. and China’s Ministry of State Security present, they met a delegation from Kabul. The Taliban were quick to disavow the meeting, posting an official statement on their Web siterejecting “rumors” that a “delegation of Islamic Emirate met with representatives of Kabul administration’s fake peace council in Urumqi city of China.”

Even as the I.S.I. put increasing pressure on the Taliban leadership in Pakistan to meet with the Afghan government, the Taliban’s official Pakistan-based spokesman reasserted, on June 24th, that the political office in Doha “is responsible for handling all the internal and external political activities related to the Islamic Emirate.” But the Taliban’s deputy leader, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansur, eventually felt the weight of Pakistan’s pressure and authorized senior Taliban leaders to meet with an official Afghan delegation, on July 7th, at the Golf Club, in the resort town of Murree, outside of Islamabad. The Afghan delegation was led by Haji Din Muhammad, a senior member of the High Peace Council. The Taliban present were Mullah Abbas Akhund, who headed the delegation, Abdul Latif Mansur, and Ibrahim Haqqani. Abbas and Latif Mansur were reputed to have belonged to the Taliban’s liaison committee with the I.S.I., while Haqqani represented a part of the Taliban that Admiral Michael Mullen, the American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had called “a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency” in Congressional testimony on September 22, 2011. No member of the Taliban political office attended. The meeting was chaired by a Pakistani diplomat, with observers from the top ranks of the I.S.I. and mid-level observers from the U.S. and China.

According to the Afghan and Pakistani governments, the two sides agreed on the need for confidence-building measures, and scheduled another meeting for after Ramadan. China, the U.S., and the U.N. described the meeting as a breakthrough, the first direct meeting between “authorized” delegations of the Afghan government and the Taliban. The Taliban spokesman based in Pakistan did not comment. Instead, the day after the meeting, the Taliban announced that the Political Commission had been granted “full capacity and agency powers” over negotiations. The commission then issued a tweet stating that it alone was authorized for talks, and had not met with representatives of the “Kabul administration.” In an interview with the pro-Taliban Pashto-language Web site Nun.Asia (Asia Today), the commission’s spokesperson, Naim Wardak, said that the Taliban delegates had participated in the talks as “hostages” of Pakistan. On July 9th, an article was published on the Taliban Web site, only to disappear four hours later. “When the dust settles,” it said, “the much hailed talks between Taliban officials and Ghani-administration officials in Islamabad will be revealed as nothing more than Pakistan delivering a few individuals from the Islamic Emirate to speak in their personal capacity.” The Political Office, too, wanted negotiations, but on the Taliban’s terms, and without the involvement of Pakistan.

For the first time the Taliban, founded to end factionalism, were speaking with multiple voices, some manipulated by Pakistan more obviously than ever. Since only the hidden Mullah Omar could settle which was the true voice of the Taliban, the question of his authority became pressing. Some Taliban leaders, notably Akhtar Muhammad Mansur’s rival Zakir, whom he dismissed as military chief in April, 2014, had for years contested Mansur’s claim to lead in the name of Mullah Omar. On July 1st, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which had long recognized Mullah Omar as its amir, issued a public statement asserting that Mullah Omar was dead and shifting its allegiance to the Islamic State. On July 23rd a Taliban splinter group, Fidai Mahaz, posted on Facebook that Mullah Omar had been killed by Akhtar Muhammad Mansur and Taliban finance chief Gul Agha Ishaqzai in 2013. Several Afghan researchers and journalists reported that “a majority of Quetta Shura members have demanded that Mansour should take their representatives to meet Mullah Omar,” to quell doubts about whether he is alive and in command; on July 29th, multiple reports from Afghanistan and Pakistan claimed that he died in a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, in 2013. The Quetta Shura reportedly was meeting to choose a successor, but it is questionable whether any successor, especially one chosen in Pakistan while the leadership is under such pressure from the I.S.I, would be accepted as legitimate.

Amid these controversies, Afghanistan and Pakistan appear to have tussled about the venue of the next meeting. A spokesperson for the Afghan High Peace Council announced that the next round of talks will take place on July 30th or 31st, probably in China, but ultimately Pakistan announced that it will be in Pakistan, on Friday, July 31st. Holding the talks outside Pakistan would make it much more likely that members of the Political Commission would attend, making the Taliban delegation more credible. That might be needed to deliver Ghani’s main objective, some kind of reduction in violence, such as a ceasefire. A ceasefire, even of limited duration, would enable Ghani to show Afghanistan’s war-weary but skeptical population that they will benefit from his concessions. The credibility of the delegation would make less difference if, as many Afghans think, the I.S.I., and not the Taliban leadership, controls Taliban military operations. In that case, Pakistan could deliver a cease-fire itself with the face-saving appearance of an agreement.

The death of Mullah Omar may allow Pakistan to put leaders it controls more fully in charge of the Taliban. It may also cause the Taliban to splinter. Some may stop fighting and enter the system, while others may join even more extremist groups, such as the Islamic State, and fight the governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. If the two governments cannot gain the willing participation of most of the Taliban in the peace process, Kabul may demand that Islamabad use force to shut down whatever part of the Taliban’s military machine it does not control directly. But the Pakistani Army, which is already overstretched by its posture toward India, and by battles against the Pakistani Taliban, Baloch nationalists, and armed gangs in Karachi, will be reluctant to take on a battle-hardened Afghan group, some of whose members it hopes to use as future agents of influence.

These issues may at least temporarily draw the attention of high-level U.S. decision-makers back to Afghanistan, where they will find that they now need to coöperate closely with China. Till now, Washington has seemed stuck in 2009, entirely obsessed with troop numbers and timetables. U.S. mid-level officials have assisted and supported these talks, but at the highest levels the Administration still seems to view a settlement in Afghanistan as an exit strategy from an area where our interest is declining in step with our troop numbers. If the death of Mullah Omar draws high-level attention back to Afghanistan, Washington might realize that it is impossible to execute a “pivot to Asia” without continuing engagement in Afghanistan.

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Haiti: Avoiding a Democratic Disaster in Haiti

foreignpolicy.com

With no natural disasters or political violence afflicting Haiti for the past several years, it would be easy to assume that the country has finally achieved the level of relative stability that international donors and millions of Haitians have sought since the toppling of the Duvalier dynasty in 1986. Yet this perceived calm is belied by troubling signs that all is not well, as Haiti prepares for the first of up to three rounds of contentious elections.

On July 15, the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, chaired by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), held a hearing on the run-up to the elections, with the State Department’s point man on Haiti, Thomas Adams. Adams admitted the elections were significantly underfunded. That made his rather sanguine attitude towards the whole process all the more surprising. With the first round of elections scheduled for August 9, hesuggested that there is a “fairly good chance” they will go on as scheduled.

But even as the Obama administration and the donor community focus primarily on the mechanics — voter education and registration, security, integrity of vote-counting — they are skirting important questions about just how free and fair the contest will actually be.

A shocking New York Times article from this past March, for instance, raised a range of concerns about establishing a level electoral playing field in Haiti, red flags that appear to have escaped notice in Washington. The piece detailed a disturbing turn of events under President Michel Martelly, the former musician elected president to much fanfare in 2011. The article revealed a president ruling by decree (due to the expiration of the terms of most of those in parliament), and depicted a government where power is being concentrated “in the hands of a man who,” according to his critics, “is a prisoner of his past, surrounded by a network of friends and aides who have been arrested on charges including rape, murder, drug trafficking and kidnapping.” Defending Martelly, his allies say he is “loyal to a fault, and that he will stand beside old friends no matter what trouble they find themselves in. The president, aides said, wants the best for Haiti but is easily influenced by relatives known for ties to drug trafficking and friends who abuse their proximity to power.”

That is hardly conducive to holding credible, transparent elections. And the cracks are showing already.

The most conspicuous evidence to date of manipulation of the process has been the arbitrary exclusion of several well-known, would-be candidates for presidential elections to be held in October, including former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, university president Jacky Lumarque, and former Sen. Rudolph Boulos. The pretext for their exclusion is a Haitian electoral law that requires any candidate who previously held public office to receive a “discharge petition” from Parliament, certifying that the individual did not misuse public funds while in office. However, with no sitting congress to issue such discharges, the process has become opaque. Some candidates have received approval to run for office, and others have not. This has led to suspicions that the process is being manipulated to favor some candidates over others.

Pierre Esperance, the head of Haiti’s largest human rights group, recentlytold the Miami Herald: “It gives you the impression that it’s a political decision rather than something based on legal grounds.” And the Washington-based Haiti Democracy Project’s James Morrell has written: “By the time the commission is through, there will be little left for the voters to do on election day. Most of the choices will already have been made for them.”

Yet the State Department has shown no great urgency to address concerns that democracy in Haiti is being undermined. Sen. Rubio has responded with legislation that conditions the release of U.S. assistance to Haiti on the State Department’s reporting on whether the upcoming elections are free and fair, and on possible “attempts to disqualify candidates” from office for “political reasons.”

No one is doing the Haitian people any favors by tip-toeing around issues such as transparency and rule of law — it’s called the soft bigotry of low expectations. By failing to pressure Haitian authorities to ensure voters have a full range of candidates from which to choose in their upcoming elections, many well-meaning people who truly care for the country will only serve to bring on the kind of political strife and instability that everyone wants to avoid.

Photo Credit: Hector Ratamal/AFP

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Afghanistan: It’s Not the Taliban — It’s the Islamic State

foreignpolicy.com, July 20, 2015
KABUL — Earlier this year, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani persuaded U.S. President Barack Obama to slow the pace of a planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from his country by citing the need to prevent a resurgence of the Taliban.

But Ghani is now offering a new rationale for keeping American forces in Afghanistan, suggesting that the Islamic State — which has begun to make its presence felt with bombings mainly in the country’s east — poses a potential threat that must be confronted before it spreads.

In recent talks with U.S. military commanders, Ghani has referred to the Islamic State as an emerging danger. And he has tentatively outlined an idea that Afghanistan — with its battle-hardened security forces — could serve as a key long-term partner to stem the Islamic State in the region, American military officers told reporters Sunday.

By invoking the specter of the Islamic State jihadis, Ghani is providing both U.S. military commanders and Republican lawmakers who oppose the troop pullout with fresh political ammunition.

Opponents of the withdrawal have warned that leaving Afghanistan could produce a repeat of the disastrous experience in Iraq, where the U.S.-trained Iraqi Army suffered a humiliating rout at the hands of the Islamic State only a few years after American forces left the country.

Ghani floated the idea of his country serving as a bulwark against the jihadi group when he met with the U.S. military’s top officer, Gen. Martin Dempsey, who flew to Kabul on Sunday for talks.

“It’s [Ghani’s] view that, ‘Hey, look, I’m a willing partner in an area where you may not have willing partners,’” Dempsey told reporters traveling with him.

Ghani believes Afghanistan could support counterterrorism operations with the United States as part of “a South Asia hub, not just focused on Afghanistan but on the kind of threats that exist elsewhere in the region,” Dempsey said.

The concept was worth exploring, Dempsey said, as it recognized that the Islamic State presented a danger that transcended borders and could only be defeated through a “transregional” network of allies.

President Obama pledged in May last year to bring all 9,800 U.S. troops home from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, arguing that Afghan security forces will be ready to stand on their own after a 15-year American military presence.

Obama then agreed in March to slow the pace of the troop drawdown after American commanders and Ghani appealed to the White House for a more flexible timeline.

But Ghani’s latest tack could force the White House to revisit its public explanations for the planned troop exit, which have been focused on the state of Afghan forces and the nature of the threat posed by the Taliban.

Instead of trying to rally support for a war that has been largely forgotten in NATO countries, Ghani’s reference to the menace of the Islamic State plays on the growing fears of Western governments about the daunting challenge presented by the group.

Since his election last year, Ghani has been welcomed with open arms by the Obama administration after years of frustration with his mercurial predecessor, Hamid Karzai. The new president, a U.S.-educated economist who worked at the World Bank, is viewed by Washington as a key figure capable of steering Afghanistan toward a stable future.

The president’s decision to allow the U.S. contingent to remain at nearly 10,000 troops this year was meant to give Ghani some breathing room as he tackled a host of challenges — from widespread corruption to a dysfunction economy — after his inauguration in September.

White House officials have yet to cite the Islamic State’s nascent activity in Afghanistan as a reason to change course, saying that Obama still plans to pull out American forces before the end of his presidency, except for a small contingent of several hundred troops that would be attached to the U.S. embassy.

However, a senior Obama administration official told Foreign Policy that the United States is aware of the presence of “[Islamic State]-affiliated militants in Afghanistan, and we are monitoring closely to see whether their emergence will have a meaningful impact on the threat environment in the region.”

Ghani’s warnings about the Islamic State could open him up to accusations that he is hyping up the security risk merely to obtain an extension of the U.S. military mission. But the commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Campbell, told reporters at a briefing Sunday that he takes the threat from the jihadis seriously.

Campbell, who advocated successfully along with Ghani for slowing down the tempo of the drawdown several months ago, is due to issue a recommendation to U.S. military leaders and the president about troop levels later this year.

Campbell said he would take Ghani’s views — and the threat posed by the Islamic State — into account as he draws up his assessment. And he raised the possibility that a proposed civilian-led NATO mission now under discussion could require a U.S. military contribution.

Ghani has discussed the security situation and the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan with Obama via video conference, Campbell said.

“He told the president he knows the promises [Obama] made to the American people, and he doesn’t want to violate that, but conditions here have changed,” Campbell said, recounting Ghani’s remarks.

Ghani envisages Afghanistan forging a cooperative military relationship with the United States based on combating regional terrorism threats, Campbell said.

U.S. officials are still struggling to obtain a clear picture of the Islamic State in Afghanistan, which is much smaller than the entrenched Taliban insurgency. While concerned about the group’s presence, officials are not yet ready to say the Islamic State has gained a major foothold.

Having seized large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria last year in brutal campaigns marked by atrocities, the Islamic State announced its presence in Afghanistan in January, and it remains unclear how much of a danger the group poses to the country.

Campbell, echoing the view of U.S. intelligence agencies, said most of the militants declaring allegiance to Islamic State are former Pakistani Taliban insurgents who have “rebranded” themselves after becoming disaffected with the Afghan Taliban.

The Pakistani Taliban’s shift in allegiance to the Islamic State comes just as Afghan Taliban leaders entered into a round of peace talks with Kabul this month for the first time. The peace overtures had angered Pakistani Taliban militants, who favor an aggressive campaign of violence against the Afghan government, according to U.S. military officers.

Suicide bombings and other attacks linked to the Islamic State have occurred mainly in the provinces of Nangarhar, Faryab, and Helmand, with fighting breaking out in some cases between the Afghan Taliban and Islamic State militants, Campbell said.

The Islamic State jihadis “are not an existential threat to Afghanistan at this point,” Campbell told reporters. “Could they become that down the road? I don’t know.”

The contingent of U.S. troops still in Afghanistan is primarily focused on advising the country’s security forces and providing logistical help as well as intelligence from surveillance aircraft. About 3,000 U.S. Special Forces and other troops continue to carry out counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda and — more recently — Islamic State militants. A U.S. drone strike took out the purported leader of the group in eastern Afghanistan earlier this month.

It remains an open question how the Afghan army and police will fare once American troops depart from the country.

On the battlefield, the Afghans — particularly police units — are suffering heavy losses. Casualties have soared 60 percent compared to last year, with 4,700 killed and 7,800 wounded so far this year, according to figures from the U.S. military.

The Afghan president has said the country’s security forces are holding their own against the Taliban. But starting with a visit to Washington in March, Ghani has voiced growing alarm over the Islamic State, blaming a number of deadly attacks on the group.

Ghani has warned that the jihadis are spreading their tentacles into the country and will only be defeated by a concerted international front.

Speaking to a crowd in April in the northeastern town of Faizabad, Ghani said: “If we don’t stand on the same line united, these people are going to destroy us.”

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bbc.com, July 17, 2015

The young people sent back to Afghanistan

Many unaccompanied children who have fled Afghanistan and had their asylum claim rejected in the UK are given until they are 18 before being sent back. For the past seven months the BBC has followed some of these young men. They face life in an unfamiliar and dangerous country, write Chris Rogers and Sue Clayton.

Najib makes his way nervously through the streets of Kabul. At 20, he is alone in one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

On every corner heavily armed solders guard communities and government buildings. It is a city on the edge – there has been a surge of Taliban attacks in Kabul in recent weeks. “You can see it’s dangerous,” he says as army helicopters fly low across the city skyline, “It is getting worse here. There are bombs and explosions everywhere.”

As an Afghan, you might expect Najib to be used to the Taliban violence, but the city is as strange to him as it would be to any foreigner.

Najib in Kabul

He spent much of his childhood in the UK. Originally from Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, when his father and brother went missing his mother arranged for him to be got out of the country by agents. He spent months on the journey including walking through the mountains between Pakistan and Iran.

But Najib was deported by the Home Office back to his country of birth two years ago.

“I don’t belong here, I wasn’t educated here and I don’t know the culture. Britain is my home,” he says in a strong Midlands accent. Najib still sports a hairstyle that wouldn’t be out of place on David Beckham and is wearing a trendy shirt, jeans and trainers.

He couldn’t look more British, but he says that is a problem. “The Taliban attack the West here, people who work for the British government or even people who just come from Britain and America, It is dangerous here.”

He looks on at the hopelessness around him – dozens of war widows are begging for money and food on their knees, while gangs of young Afghan men scrape a living offering their labour on street corners. There is 40% unemployment in a country struggling to recover from an endless war, and Najib wants out.

“I will leave Afghanistan and go to another country as a refugee,” he says. “There is nothing for me here. Even if I get sent back I will just keep trying to leave Afghanistan.”

Najib later jumps on to a bus out of Kabul with just a rucksack of belongings. He is heading to the border and plans to make his way back to Britain with the help of traffickers. It’s the same 4,000-mile journey he made as an 11-year-old boy.

Since 2006, 5,500 unaccompanied Afghan children have reached the UK and claimed asylum. More than 80% of those who claimed persecution by the Taliban had their cases rejected.

The military attend an incident in a Kabul street

But rather than send them straight back, the Home Office offers them a temporary life in Britain, usually with a foster family until the age of 18, when they must leave the country voluntarily or be deported.

The vast majority of the Afghan children who come to the UK are male. Families believe their daughters are too vulnerable to be sent alone on the path to Europe.

Najib spent most of his childhood in Southam near Leamington Spa with foster parent Linda.

“It was wrong to send him back, they are just pawns in a political process,” she sobs as she flicks through an album of photos showing Najib’s first day at the local school and the Christmases and birthdays they shared together. “He is a number so that anybody who wants to get political gain can say, ‘We have sent this many people back’.

“How can they justify sending someone to a country they hardly remember when they have made a life for themselves here?”

A necklace given to Linda by Najib

Another former child asylum seeker placed in Linda’s care faces deportation any day now. Faisal, now 19, can appeal against his deportation, but he is taking no chances after seeing what became of Najib. He has been in the UK since he was 14.

In a tower block several miles from his foster home, Faisal is making a bed on the floor of a friend’s flat. He has gone on the run, moving addresses every few days. “I’m so scared the Home Office are going to pick me up,” he says as he heads out on to the balcony, scouring the streets below. “I check for them every 20 to 30 minutes during the night. Early in the morning I’ll leave and go and sleep somewhere else.”

According to research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the Home Office has deported more than 600 failed child asylum seekers to Afghanistan since 2011. Nearly 500 more are earmarked for removal. Yet the government advises its own citizens not to travel to Afghanistan because of the threat of terrorism and kidnapping.

In a statement, the Home Office says it is proud of its history of giving asylum. “Where people establish a genuine need for protection, or a well-founded fear of persecution, refuge will be granted. Every case is carefully considered on its individual merits.”

Refugee campaigners accuse the Home Office of effectively warehousing Afghan children – dismissing their claims of persecution in Afghanistan with the sole intention of deporting them when they become adults – to keep migrant numbers down.

Juliette Wales, of Kent Refugee Network, has tried to help hundreds of young Afghans appeal against their deportation. “It’s tragic to see these kids who believe they are safe, working really hard and going to college, turn 18 years old and turn into the state they turn into, it’s a waste of life.”

Many of the former child asylum seekers we met are convinced they will be killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, but their greatest fear is often losing the life they have made for themselves in Britain.

Nasser in his rented room on the outskirts of Kabul

Nasser, 23, says he enjoyed a typical British upbringing in North London for eight years. He had a girlfriend, a network of friends and had completed his studies.

When we found Nasser in a small, dirty, rented room on the outskirts of Kabul, he had been deported just four days before. “I am not happy here. I feel like I am going crazy here. What am I doing here?” he asks, clearly shell-shocked to be back in a city he hasn’t seen since he was 11.

He says that in the chaos of war he lost touch with his family. “What am I going to do here by myself, alone?” he says.

He is terrified and hasn’t left his room since he arrived. “In this country how am I going to make a life? I can’t go outside. I can’t go outside in case of a bomb by the Taliban, and I am scared something is going to happen. This is our life, and it’s not a life.”

The Home Office does not monitor what becomes of deportees once they arrive in Kabul, but human rights campaigners do. According to a study of 200 failed child asylum seekers, they tend to turn to two options – escape Afghanistan by fleeing back to Europe, or escape reality by taking drugs.

Under a notorious bridge on the River Kabul, where a community of around 300 heroin users live in stream of rubbish and sewage, we find 23-year-old Ahmed. He claims he lived in Manchester for eight years – he’s been back in Kabul living with his mother for 18 months.

“This is not a situation I am proud of. Today I promised my mother this would be the last day I take drugs,” he say. But he admits it’s a promise he has made many times.

Community living under the bridge on the River Kabul

“It eases the pain, this is my escape, I had a life in Manchester, but not here. I pray to God to get me out of this situation.”

His thin, dirty face and soulless eyes suggest months of drug abuse, and he’s not ready to quit escaping reality just yet. He waves goodbye as he makes his way back under the bridge for his next hit.

Chris Rogers reports for Our World: Deported to Afghanistan broadcast on the BBC News Channel on 18 and 19 July at 21:30 GMT. It will also be broadcast on BBC World News on 17 July at 23:30 GMT, 18 July 11:30 and 22:30 and 19 July at 17:30. You can catch up via the BBC iPlayer

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London, England-The Messenger is the Message

THE FOUNDRY A Place for Change

The Messenger is the Message

Michael Sheridan will speak at The Foundry, London (July 7, 12:00-1:00)  about his work to put Afghans and Haitians in charge of the storytelling about their community’s economic and social development issues.

Michael went to Afghanistan in 2009 to make a documentary on effective development from the perspective of Afghan villagers. He trained Afghan women and men in lived-reality documentary filmmaking and they produced ten short films that provide a unique view of Afghans’ daily efforts to address their challenging social and economic conditions. Community Supported Film completed a similar project with Haitians at the end of 2014. The films allow Haitians to report on their country’s social and economic development 5 years after the devastating earthquake.

Michael is a filmmaker and educator whose documentary films address issues of social and economic development and the tipping point between order and chaos.

Tuesday, July 7, 12:00-1:00
The Foundry, 17 Oval Way, London SE11 5RR

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Brighton, England-The Messenger is the Message

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The Messenger is the Message

Michael Sheridan will speak at the Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, England, (July 2, 13:00-14:30) about his work to put Afghans and Haitians in charge of the storytelling about their community’s economic and social development issues.

Michael went to Afghanistan in 2009 to make a documentary on effective development from the perspective of Afghan villagers. He trained Afghan women and men in lived-reality documentary filmmaking and they produced ten short films that provide a unique view of Afghans’ daily efforts to address their challenging social and economic conditions. Community Supported Film completed a similar project with Haitians at the end of 2014. The films allow Haitians to report on their country’s social and economic development 5 years after the devastating earthquake.

Michael is a filmmaker and educator whose documentary films address issues of social and economic development and the tipping point between order and chaos.

Thursday, July 2, 13.00-14.30
Institute of Development Studies
Room 221, University of Sussex, Brighton

Tuesday, July 7, 12:00-13:00
The Foundry, 17 Oval Way, London SE11 5RR

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Why Is the United States Letting Its Military take over its Foreign Aid?

As America blows billions by using its military as a one-size-fits-all solution for emergencies around the world, USAID is understaffed, underfunded, and on the cusp of crisis.

Why Is the United States Letting Its Best Foreign Aid Tool Fall Apart?

Gown shop owner Jill Andrews is probably not who you would have picked to solve one of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) most pressing problems during the Ebola crisis in West Africa. After all, the Baltimore dressmaker typical day is spent helping soon-to-be brides look “a glass of milk,” as she told the Washington Post. But after responding to an email advertising a challenge (complete with prize money) to help USAID update the so-called “moon-suit” – the protective equipment that medical personnel wear to avoid infection while treating Ebola patients — Andrews became part of a team of experts charged with updating the gear for Liberia’s stifling climate. The problem they were facing was that, in the West African heat, medical personnel could only function in these suits for 20 minutes at a time; in addition to which, contaminated suits were clumsy to remove. But with her help, Andrews’s team developed a suit that not only fit better and was easier to take off, but could be worn three times longer.

At a time when the Defense Department was on its way to spending nearly a billion-and-half dollars to respond to the Ebola crisis, the USAID program fixed a critical glitch by dangling prizes of $100,000 to $1 million to folks who could offer creative (and cost-effective) solutions for healthcare workers on the front lines of the Ebola crisis. Meaning that while the soldiers were in the headlines, America’s most effective and inexpensive agency arm for handling crises of this kind was working to much greater effect with much less fanfare. That’s because these civilian development and humanitarian aid professionals prefer to build local capacity instead of dependency. But USAID’s own capacity is on the cusp of crisis: its staff is divided between veterans who are aging out and greenhorns, with too few in the middle. From the standpoint of national capacity, America has a development donut. And it’s a problem that so far has gone all but unnoticed by policymakers or the public.

The U.S. response to Ebola is a good example of why this matters.

Six months after the response was in full sway, the forces of Operation United Assistance, according to the New York Times, wound up treating only 28 patients at two of the 11 units they had built. Given the total military costs, that’s about five million dollars per patient. The emphasis on constructing treatment centers may have made for good media optics, but it turned out to have much less impact than less expensive, more nimble measures USAID and NGOs took on the ground to halt the outbreak, among them public outreach and education. For one-fifth of that single-patient cost, the kind of public-private crowdsourcing initiative to fix a critical wardrobe malfunction, for instance, proved far more effective.

The “Fighting Ebola Grand Challenge,” launched in December 2014, is only one of many under USAID’s new Grand Challenge for Development program, a new business model featuring community-based, public-private approaches to foreign assistance as opposed to more conventional, top-fed, state-building programs. Also last fall, in partnership with Volvo, USAIDlaunched work on 10 academies to provide industrial skills training to hundreds of students each year from Morocco, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, and other countries. This part of the Middle East and North Africa Investment Initiative is aimed at disenfranchised youth, who are most vulnerable to recruitment by dark and illicit networks.

At the same time, with Shell Foundation and Berytech, USAID beganinvesting in job entrepreneurial capitalization designed to create thousands of sustainable jobs through small enterprises in Iraq and Lebanon, both of which are under a heavy burden from the influx of Syrian refugees and the threat of the Islamic State. Then, in April, the agency revealed a multiyear plan to drive down the price of medicines and increase delivery speed, enabling millions more patients to be treated for the same cost. So far, these innovations — which cost in the millions compared to the billions the Pentagon spends to go after the threats emerging from those same problems in the same places — have scored reasonable successes. But the small scale of the wins shrinks in comparison to the challenges.

Part of the problem is money.

Since 2009, USAID has witnessed about a 16 percent real drop in funding while its partner across the Potomac fought a successful campaign to limit decreases to increases, as I reported a couple months back. But cash flow is the lesser matter. Even if USAID were to get all that money back since the 2010 Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development recognizeddevelopment as evenly vital to U.S. national security and a strategic, economic, and moral imperative, USAID’s institutional lack of bandwidth prevents it from playing on par, no matter how compared. When I was a military liaison at USAID during the Haiti earthquake crisis in early 2010, we saw that USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance — America’s lead mechanism for humanitarian response — could keep no more than two dozen of its personnel for a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) there at one time. In only one location alone, it could field no more than the equivalent of an infantry platoon.

The real issue, therefore, is personnel. Over the last two decades, about one-third of USAID’s professional staff, according to the U.S Global Leadership Coalition has gone away, leaving it more or less a contracting office for NGOs, who are fortunately doing much better aid work than before. But there’s only so much even they can do, given their likewise limited economies of scale — which is one reason a leading global power has an international development ministry to begin with.

At a briefing delivered at the National Defense University in April, USAID’s “Human Capital and Talent Management” staff reported that its agency has about 10,000 personnel total worldwide — about the same number of Army Civil Affairs officers, and about half the number in military bands. Just fewer than 4,000 of these, however, are Foreign Service officers or civil servants — the professional core of the agency. The remainder consists of non-American subject matter experts making up approximately 80 percent of overseas staffing, in addition to contractors. About one-third of senior officers in leadership positions at USAID are political appointees, further limiting the agency’s ability to maintain continuity and focus on a line of work that requires a more strategic, anticipatory approach — much like how Wayne Gretzky skated to where the puck was going rather than where it was.

What really limits America’s capacity, however, to foster its long term international standing and national security is a cavity of human capacity right in the middle of the organization. Over 50 percent of the agency’s professional workforce — its institutional memory — are now past retirement age. Over 70 percent of the remainder has less than five years of experience. That means a serious shortage of seasoned staff in a middle management mode – and a dearth of future seasoned senior leaders.

A hiring “surge” after 9/11 peaked at about 280 people in 2010 has since dropped precipitously to about just over 50 per year. At the same time, attrition has been creeping up with generational turnover kicking in, the losses now outstripping the gains for the past two years. USAID has been employing a number of methods to mitigate the impact, including implementation of a five-year “Global Workforce Learning Strategy” to promote better on-the-job training and align skill sets while keeping staff operationally engaged — with only 10 percent of learning taking place in classrooms.

At that same time, USAID has made significant strides in effectiveness, in good part due to far greater legislative scrutiny than goes to the Pentagon. In addition to installing organizational efficiencies and introducing initiatives like the Grand Challenge for Development, Country Directed Collaboration Strategies, and tapping into techies at Harvard College’s “Developers for Development,” a largely private initiative to leverage “social impact technology” for aid, the agency is doing a better job of demonstrating return on investment, as its Annual Performance Reports have shown since 2007. It has even had the temerity to suspend an under-performing contractor. There are still improvements to be made, but despite those so far, Uncle Sam’s development arm is still atrophying.

Not that anyone seems to care.

If the Armed Forces had anything half approaching the intensity of this kind of human resources handicap, the rafters would be rattling on Capitol Hill. Yet, hardly anyone in the nation’s body politic or the media seems to have noticed this crisis. The Obama administration has so far shown less urgency in exhorting Congress to turn things around at USAID than it has in making the much easier sell not to cut defense spending. And for pretty much the same reason: “national security,” suggesting it hasn’t taken to heart the broader understanding of this term it laid out in its own National Security Strategy that says the United States should be less dependent on military power.

Nor has the administration paid much attention to the well-established reality that humanitarian assistance and economic development are not done well by warfighters, as Iraq and Afghanistan showed. Over two years before the Ebola response, a General Accountability Office report spelled out that too many military-led humanitarian relief efforts have proven outright ineffective if not cost-inefficient.

No doubt there is a key role for the military in disaster relief. DoD’s Joint Humanitarian Assessment Survey Team is working very effectively with the DART, but the military’s role is supporting, not supported in this line of work. It’s not the military’s core competency, although the Universal Joint Task List considers it an important mission.

“Everyone who has done stability operations jobs likes to think they know how to do development,” Blue Glass Development’s Karen Walsh told an audience of military students at the Naval War College in early May, “but I’m willing to bet hardly any of you have ever had any real training or experience in it. There’s no such thing as a Military Occupational Specialty code for development. This has to change if you work in a field with trained professionals.”

The development donut debilitates the ability of the United States to go after the center of gravity — the drivers of conflict and instability rather than the threats emanating from them — of modern people-centric struggles of identity seen in the Middle East and Africa. Governance and civil society closer to communities than capitals also form the locus where the U.S. and it partners can seize an all-too-important strategic opportunity to get at vital gaps in governance and civil society and deny them to extremist groups. The capabilities to address these gaps do not reside in the military — they reside with developers, in and out of government.

Throwing money at problems is almost never an optimal solution.Development, in fact, is not as money-intensive as defense. “We’re smarter about this because we have less money than the military,” Walsh added. Nevertheless, the kind of institutional build-up of the development sector with the same seriousness as to what happened to the defense sector in the 1980s might be in order. But nothing approaching that is in the second Quadrennial Diplomacy & Development Review, as Gordon Adams explainedearlier in this magazine.

Even if Congress were to appropriate all of the recommendations in the State Department’s earlier Diplomacy 3.0 and USAID’s Development Leadership Initiatives, it would amount to only 1,500 more staff at the two agencies — hardly an uptick in their rosters. Both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue as well as the aisle should demand the same kind of rigor the General Accounting Office and many think tanks are devoting to “national security” issues to a systemic and strategic look at the nation’s capability to get at the sources of conflict and instability, as well as create new economic opportunities.

Then they could show USAID the money. The nation’s global developmentbudget this coming fiscal year — covering Development Assistance, Global Health Programs, International Disaster Assistance, Food for Peace, Transition Initiatives, Complex Crises Fund, and organizational administration — will be somewhere around $22-billion, or about half what the Defense Department spends on petroleum, oils, and lubricants for all its equipment. That does not represent a serious investment in something that, as the president put it, demonstrates how America leads with “the example of our values.”

Development has often been seen as something nice-to-do. That has never been true, but less so now than then. It is part of the core business of a country the world continues to rely on but now also more relies on the world, a business linked to peace and prosperity as well as to security. Whether a job for dressmakers or developers, it should not be a boutique industry.

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Owning Our Future- Haitian Perspective films accepted into Jamaican film festival

Owning Our Future films ‘Ghetto Green, Ghetto Clean,’ ‘Threading the Needle’ & ‘Brave The World’ accepted into this year’s GATFFEST Film Festival, June 25-28, Kingston and Montego Bay, Jamaica.  

GATFFEST 2015

On Friday, the Centre for Tourism and Policy Research of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, launched the Greater August Town Film Festival (GATFFEST) 2015 at its Western Jamaica Campus (WJC) in Montego Bay, St James. The film festival is to be held from June 25-28 jointly in Montego Bay and Kingston.

Dubbed “the biggest community film festival in the Caribbean” GATFFEST, which was initiated in 2012 in August Town, St Andrew, serves as a platform to showcase films produced by underserved communities participating in the UWI’s Community Film Project.

Activities during the four-day event include film workshops and screening of local, regional and international short films, along with an awards ceremony. June 26 is slated as Film Day in Montego Bay.

Diverse Cultures

Ian Boxill, professor of management studies and director, Centre for Tourism and Policy Research, indicated that 72 film submissions have been received so far from inside and outside Jamaica. The entries reflect not only the diverse cultures of and entertainment fare from those countries, but their way of life.

“We have a wide cross sections of films from drama to animation, comedy, sci-fi, documentaries … . It is really diverse. Films have been submitted from all continents except Africa , so we have a good variety,” said Professor Boxill.

He expressed optimism that just over 20 students from western Jamaica will be trained in filmmaking at the WJC in the upcoming school year.

Kadeem Wilson, GATFFEST brand ambassador and who plays a central role in the feature film Ghett-a-Life , said while persons such as Usain Bolt and Tessanne Chin have helped the world to be in tune with Brand Jamaica, the principals in the filmmaking industry keep “missing the boat”.

“There are so many projects, film projects, that we have missed the boat so many times in getting it to be shot on Jamaican soil. For example Home Again, which is an entirely Jamaican script and entirely Jamaican, but it was not shot here. It was shot in Trinidad and Tobago. So you understand the concern, the concern is that so many times you have a major project that is authentically Jamaican, it is not being shot here, ” said Wilson.

He said local film industry stakeholders need to bring in experts from overseas to give them insight on how to develop the Hollywood look, improving the cinematography and audio. Wilson said that GATFFEST is a move in the right direction.

“I am very proud of GATTFEST and very happy to be a part of this initiative. It has really shown us that we need to come together and hold our industry in our hand and walk with it and get everyone engaged and involved,” said Wilson.

Acting director of UWI, WJC, Patrick Prendergast, said the community film project has provided the campus with another opportunity to develop the region’s intellectual capacity and empower the youth.

“We are always very delighted to be part of these events. Certainly it helps us to move closer and deeper into these communities,” he said.

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Almost 1,000 civilians killed in Afghanistan conflict during the first 4 months of this year

UN News Center, 8 June 2015 – The conflict in Afghanistan is resulting in thousands of people being killed or wounded, forcing families to leave their homes and seek refuge in neighbouring communities, according to Mark Bowden, the UN Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative in the country.

“As of 30 April, 1,989 Afghans were injured as a result of the conflict and 978 Afghan civilians killed, throughout the country,” Mr. Bowden said on Sunday, noting that the number of wounded at the Emergency Hospital in Kabul illustrates the devastating impact of the conflict.

“The doctors there told me that they are seeing a 50 per cent increase in the number of civilians injured this year compared to the same period last year,” he noted.

Speaking at the Second Independent Media and Civil Society Forum in Kabul, the UN envoy, who is also the deputy head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said the intensifying conflict in 2015 is taxing humanitarian capacities.

“At this period of increased need, it is particularly disturbing to note that humanitarian aid workers are increasingly becoming targets themselves,” he said, while calling attention to the crucial role civil society plays in holding non-state actors accountable for their actions.

“It is through its engagement with the media that civil society can advocate more strongly about the conflict and the resulting humanitarian situation,” he stressed. “The relationship between civil society, media and humanitarian action is strong.”

UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and relevant international and local non-governmental organizations to assist in the full implementation of the fundamental freedoms and human rights provisions of the Afghan Constitution and international treaties to which Afghanistan is a State party, in particular those regarding the full enjoyment by women of their human rights.

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Media, Development: Stories from the soils: an audio series

Stories from the soils: an audio series produced by AMARC, in collaboration with FAO

2015 has been declared the International Year of Soils (IYS) by the 68th UN General Assembly. The IYS aims to be a platform for raising awareness of the importance of soils for food security and essential eco-system functions.

The IYS aims to attain the following objectives:

  • Create full awareness of civil society and decision makers about the fundamental roles of soils for human’s life;
  • Achieve full recognition of the prominent contributions of soils to food security, climate change adaptation and mitigation, essential ecosystem services, poverty alleviation and sustainable development;
  • Promote effective policies and actions for the sustainable management and protection of soil resources;
  • Sensitize decision-makers about the need for robust investment in sustainable soil management activities aiming at healthy soils for different land users and population groups;
  • Catalyze initiatives in connection with the SDG process and Post-2015 agenda;
  • Advocate rapid enhancement of capacities and systems for soil information collection and monitoring at all levels (global, regional and national).

The multiple roles of soils often go unnoticed. Soils don’t have a voice, and few people speak out for them. They are our silent ally in food production.
José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General

An audio series

As part of the International Year of Soils, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) is partnering with the Office for Corporate Communication of theUnited Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to facilitate the production of 80 audio pieces by producers and community radio journalists in an effort to engage discussion, improve public education and encourage the sharing of scientific knowledge on the topic of environment, climate change, food security, agriculture, sustainable development, resilience and economical, cultural and political issues related to soils.

From March to December 2015, two productions a week will be featured on AMARC’s and FAO’s website. This audio series aims to illustrate how different community interact and deal with issues related to soils. AMARC and FAO wishes to share the communities’ voices and help them resonate on an international level.

More information: http://www.amarc.org/?q=node/2121

If you wish to participate or have a question, please contact secretariat@si.amarc.org

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Haitian Film Screening & Discussion, June 19, Cambridge, MA

Fri Jun 19, 2015, 7pm, Free
Mobius, 55 Norfolk Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

CSFilm founder and director Michael Sheridan will present a screening of Owning Our Future – Haitian Perspectives in Film and will discuss how stories told by Haitians themselves can augment our understanding of Haiti’s post-earthquake relief efforts and provide a chance for us to experience Haiti as it is lived by Haitian street vendors, business women, artists, and farmers.

In 2014, Community Supported Film(CSFilm) conducted an intensive 5-week training of 10 Haitian women and men in documentary production. A collection of ten remarkable short films, Owning Our Future – Haitian Perspectives in Film (csfilm.org/films/haitian-perspectives-in-film), was produced during the training.

Going beyond disaster reporting, these films will ensure the experiences and points of view of Haitians are included in the international conversation about what has and has not happened since the 2010 7.0 earthquake – one of the world’s worst disasters. The films will also be used to increase dialogue and influence public policy internationally and in Haiti regarding effective foreign aid and sustainable development.

In a climate where mainstream American media typically reports international news from an American perspective with a focus on disaster and crisis, Community Supported Film (CSFilm) believes that local stories help us to better understand foreign events, diverse cultures and people’s complex realities.

Inspired by the model of Community Supported Agriculture, Community Supported Film applies the principle of investing in people on the ground by supporting the creation of locally-produced films. The resulting products help nourish a deeper understanding of the world that isn’t available in the mainstream media marketplace.

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Thank you! A letter from Haitian filmmaker Steeve Colin

ms

Dear Mr. Michael,

I hope this letter finds you well. This is Steeve Colin, and I wanted to take the time to express my deep thanks for the training you gave on community film-making, and explain why it held a special importance for me.

I was raised in Cite Soleil, Haiti’s largest slum and its most dangerous ghetto. For more than a decade, our community has been plagued by gang violence. In 2004, 2005, and 2006 our community was literally a war zone, with UN soldiers and barricades and helicopters surrounding us. But then, as now, the violence and the gangs were just a small but powerful corner of our community. The vast majority of people in Cite Soleil are good, honest, hard-working people, just trying to make a living for their families. There are even a few among us, like my friend Robi from the documentary, who are actively working for peace, and risking their lives doing it. But despite that, we seem unable to shake the stigma that those few violent years have given to us. Everywhere young men like me go, as soon as we say we come from Cite Soleil, people think we are gangsters. Everyone seems to want that image: politicians and NGOs use images of poverty from the worst slums to ask for money for their budgets, the Haitian media is only interested in coming to Cite Soleil when there is a scandal or violence, and the international media only wants the sensational, Hollywood gangster stories they can find here.

And this narrative has to change – it’s suffocating us. All of the young leaders like Robi, myself, and the men and women I work with in the social movement Konbit Soley Leve feel like we are suffocating under the weight of this single, negative story. It’s not that this story isn’t true – we still have gangsters, and innocent people dying every week. It’s just that it’s not the only story, and for young leaders to bring peace, they have to be able to tell their stories. They have to be able to show that they exist. They have to be recognized.

This is why this training was so important for me – it gave me a chance to tell my community’s story myself. It gave me a chance to share the story of my friend Robi, someone who is fighting for peace. It gives people like me the chance to change the narrative about my community -to make it more complex, deeper, richer. And that is a power that I don’t take for granted, because it is rare that someone from Cite Soleil is given the tools to build our own narratives. So thank you for the knowledge, thank you for the training, and thank you for trusting me with my community’s story.

I know this is not an easy task and that it has its own complexities, but I hope this program grows. I hope that you get to bring this to other marginalized communities around the world, and that you can continue to give others the tools to build their own stories. And I hope that one day you come back to Haiti. I know my country can be challenging, but we somehow keep struggling and keep fighting. I hope you do too.

Sincerely,

ss

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Haiti, Development: Bill and Hillary – The King and Queen of Haiti

By JONATHAN M. KATZ, May 5, 2015, Politico

Sunday, January 30, 2011. Two hundred thousand people occupied
Egypt’s Tahrir Square, defying a military curfew to demand the ouster
of President Hosni Mubarak. Tunisia’s authoritarian leader had just
been overthrown, unleashing a wave of anti-government protests from
Yemen to Syria to Morocco. South Sudan’s provisional president
announced his people had voted overwhelmingly for independence,
clearing the way for the breakup of Africa’s largest country. Yet as
Hillary Clinton rushed to Andrews Air Force Base to catch her battered
government-issue 727, the secretary of state was not headed to Cairo,
Tunis or Juba. She was going to Haiti.

Haiti doesn’t seem like a place that would be central to a U.S.
presidential candidate’s foreign policy. It’s a small country, whose 10.3
million people inhabit the western third of a Caribbean island the size of
South Carolina. They are the poorest people in the hemisphere when
you average their country’s meager $8.5 billion GDP among them, and
would seem poorer still if you ignored the huge share held by the
country’s tiny elite—which controls virtually everything worth
controlling, from the banks and ports, to agriculture and, often, politics.
It is not a major exporter of anything. Even its location, 500 nautical
miles from the Florida Keys, has been of only passing strategic
importance to the United States since a brutal 1915-1934 U.S.
occupation assured no European power would surpass its influence
there.

Yet the world’s most powerful couple have an abiding interest in this
out-of-the-way place; the island where Bill Clinton four decades ago
recommitted himself to politics after an eye-opening journey and an
evening with a Vodou priest. During her tenure at State, Hillary traveled
to Haiti four times, as often as she did Japan, Afghanistan or Russia. Bill
Clinton continues to visit even as her presidential campaign starts up.
He attended the February dedication of Port-au-Prince’s new luxury
Marriott hotel, a trip on which he reaffirmed, once again, that his work
in Haiti represented “one of the great joys of my life.”

Over the past two decades, the once-and-perhaps-future first couple
repeatedly played a key role in Haiti’s politics, helping to pick its
national leaders and driving hundreds of millions of dollars in private
aid, investment and U.S. taxpayer money toward its development.
They’ve brought with them a network of friends and global corporations
that never would’ve been here otherwise. Together, this network of
power and money has left indelible marks on almost every aspect of the
Haitian economy. The island nation, in many ways, represents ground
zero for the confusing and often conflict-ridden intersection of her
State Department, the Clinton family’s foundation and both of their
foreign policies.

“When it’s happening you don’t realize it, [but] after everything is in
place … you see the Clintons at every level,” says former Haitian Prime
Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, who was Clinton’s co-chairman on the
commission charged with rebuilding Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
“Even if they are clever enough to make you think sometimes that you
are the one having the idea.”

The legacy of the Clintons’ efforts here is decidedly mixed, a murky
story filled with big promises and smaller results. Despite the huge
amounts of aid and investment, the sweeping visions they’ve offered of
transformative prosperity—promises delivered by a broad network of
friends they recruited and deals they negotiated—have been tripped up
by realities on the ground.

Five years after the hemisphere’s deadliest single natural disaster,
when both Clintons assumed leading roles in the rebuilding efforts,
little progress has been made on many core problems in Haiti, and the
government that Hillary Clinton helped put in power during that
January 2011 trip—and that both Clintons have backed strongly since—
has proven itself unworthy of that trust. Economic growth is stalling,
and the nation’s politics look headed for a showdown in the next year
that could once again plunge the country into internal strife.

A World Bank study released in December showed that despite modest
declines in extreme poverty—mainly in the capital, Port-au-Prince—
Haiti remains the poorest and most economically depressed country on
the continent, with the richest 20 percent of households accounting for
64 percent of the country’s total income. (The bottom one-fifth of the
population earns less than 1 percent.) The report warned that
impending political instability could quickly reverse the few gains made
since the earthquake.

Hillary Clinton once hoped that Haiti would be the shining jewel of her
foreign policy. But far from transforming this poorest of countries,
many of the Clintons’ grandest plans and promises remain little more
than small pilot projects—a new set of basketball hoops and a model
elementary school here, a functioning factory there—that have done
little to alter radically the trajectory of the country. Visiting some of
their projects over the course of an April research trip affirmed as much
about their tenuousness as about the limited benefits they’ve provided.
Many of the most notable investments the Clintons helped launch, such
as the new Marriott in the capital, have primarily benefited wealthy
foreigners and island’s ruling elite, who needed little help to begin with.

Even for those who know how Haiti operates, there are many more
questions than answers when one examines the Clintons’ recent work.
Did Hillary Clinton keep her promise when she said, soon after taking
office at State, that “we will demonstrate to ourselves as well as to the
people of Haiti and far beyond that we can, working together, make a
significant difference”?

Five years after her husband pledged to Esquire magazine that he was
“prepared to spend three years” helping Haitians get “the right things
for their country,” what does it mean that the vast majority of Haitians
still haven’t gotten much of anywhere?
***
The Clintons like to cast their relationship with Haiti in personal
terms—invariably starting with their 1975 visit as newlyweds to Portau-
Prince, where they watched Vodou penitents walk on coals and the
country’s then-dictator, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, lay a wreath
at the base of a memorial to Haiti’s founding victory over slavery and the
French empire. But there is more than sentiment at stake.

When Hillary Clinton became secretary of state in 2009, America’s
poorest neighbor was slated to be one of the first beneficiaries of what
she called “the power of proximity.” One of her first directives at State
was to review U.S. policy toward Haiti—“an opportunity,” she would
write in her memoir Hard Choices, “to road-test new approaches to
development that could be applied more broadly around the world.”
That approach had business at its center: Aid would be replaced by
investment, the growth of which would in turn benefit the United
States. Underscoring the importance of the policy, she tasked her chief
of staff—former Clinton White House deputy counsel Cheryl Mills—to
oversee the Haiti review personally.

Clinton had two other tools to make Haiti an even more auspicious
“road test.” Shortly after she was confirmed, her husband accepted
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s offer to serve as his
special envoy for Haiti. As president, Bill Clinton had intensified a
crippling embargo against Haiti’s then-ruling military junta and ordered
the 1994 U.S. invasion to restore the democratically elected president,
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to power. Now he was supposed to finish the
job, spearheading development after a hunger crisis and a series of
damaging hurricanes that had struck in late 2008. Haitians weren’t sure
what to think: Clinton was popular with the masses for returning
Aristide to power and hated by the elites for the same reason. But few
understood his vague new role. Joking that he must be coming back to
lead a new colonial regime, the Haitian press dubbed him Le
Gouverneur.

The other tool was the Clinton Foundation, which was simultaneously
embarking on its own program to boost Haiti’s economy, securing
commitments worth more than $130 million from foreign leaders,
corporate executives and philanthropists to help Haiti “build back
better,” as Clinton put it, from the 2008 storms.

Everything seemed to be falling into place when, on January 12, 2010, a
magnitude-7.0 earthquake ripped through the mountains of Haiti’s
southern peninsula, leveling much of the capital and killing 100,000 to
316,000 people—the deadliest single natural disaster ever recorded in
the hemisphere. The earthquake destroyed the presidential palace,
government ministries, schools, offices and countless homes.

It also threatened to upend the Clinton State Department’s nascent
Haiti policy. Mills’ team had completed its review just a few hours
before the ground shook, concluding in a draft report that Haiti was
poised for an economic renaissance, citing indicators such as marginal
declines in child mortality and upticks in employment in the country’s
garment-assembly industry. Undeterred, in the final, 89-page postquake
version of the report, the State Department team would call the
response to the disaster “a moment for U.S. partnership, leadership and
strategic investment.”

I was the Associated Press correspondent in Haiti at the time. I had been
posted in Port-au-Prince for 2 ½ years when the earthquake shattered
the walls of my house with me inside. That night, suddenly homeless
like millions of others, I moved through the devastated city with my
Haitian friend and colleague, Evens Sanon, taking stock of the
devastation and watching Haitians rescue and comfort one another as
best they could. The living sang prayers of salvation. Everyone was
waiting to see what kind of help would come. I remained in Haiti for
another year to report on the response, watching up close the central
role Hillary and Bill Clinton came to play in the attempt to rebuild.

Four days after the quake, Hillary Clinton was at Port-au-Prince’s
damaged airport, holding meetings with then-Haitian President René
Préval. That same day, Bill Clinton was in the White House Rose Garden
with President Barack Obama, agreeing to lead fundraising efforts on
behalf of the beleaguered country along with former President George
W. Bush. Two days later, on January 18, Bill arrived in the quake zone
with daughter Chelsea and her fiancé, Marc Mezvinsky. In short order,
the Clintons became the most important figures in the response. They
co-moderated a U.N. donors conference at which 150 nations and
organizations pledged $9 billion for Haiti’s recovery. Bill was tapped at
the same meeting to co-chair the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, a
nominally Haitian entity that was supposed to direct the spending. At
every stage of Haiti’s reconstruction—fundraising, oversight and
allocation—a Clinton was now involved.

“I believe, before this earthquake, Haiti had the best chance in my
lifetime to escape its history, a history that Hillary and I have shared a
tiny part of. I still believe that,” Bill Clinton had said in the Rose Garden,
alongside Obama and Bush. “It is still one of the most remarkable,
unique places I have ever been, and they can escape their history and
build a better future if we do our part.”
***
Hillary Clinton never took her eye off Haiti as secretary of state, even
as so many geopolitical hotspots competed for attention. The island
represented a key piece of what Clinton called “economic statecraft”—
her theory that U.S. foreign policy should not simply respond to security
threats but should actively bolster both America’s economy and global
influence through diplomacy, trade and economic development abroad.
By far the most consequential moment was that visit on Sunday,
January 30, 2011. Two months before, just 10 months after the quake,
Haiti had plowed ahead with a presidential election under pressure
from Washington. Donors blamed then-President Préval, a skeptic of
foreign aid and investment, for what had clearly become a glacial mess
of a reconstruction effort. In short, they wanted him out. But the
election was a fiasco. Voting halted five hours early on Election Day as
nearly every candidate threw out accusations of fraud. When the results
showed the candidate of Préval’s party advancing to a runoff anyway,
supporters of the eliminated No. 3 candidate, the Haitian pop star
Michel Martelly—better known by his stage name, “Sweet Micky”—
rioted in protest for days.

Despite all that was happening around the globe that day, the secretary’s
most important mission was to make sure all the parties in Haiti agreed
to put Martelly back into the race—salvaging the election, in her view,
and with it Haiti’s place in U.S. economic statecraft.

Martelly was a left-field candidate, a massively popular singer famous
for taking off his pants during performances. But he was not a political
neophyte. A longtime resident of Miami, he’d been a strong backer of the
now-disbanded Haitian military and an opponent of Aristide. In 2002,
the Washington Post called him a “favorite of the thugs who worked on
behalf of the hated Duvalier family dictatorship before its 1986
collapse.” Martelly was also a businessman and, in contrast to Préval, an
enthusiastic backer of foreign investment in Haiti.

Clinton met with the top three candidates at the U.S. ambassador’s
mansion in the hills above Port-au-Prince. Then she went to the
grounds of the destroyed national palace to confront a recalcitrant
Préval.

“That day I realized why she is a great woman and a great politician,”
former Prime Minister Bellerive, who was at the meeting, told me. “She
said, ‘Look René … I care about you, because you are my only friend
there. … What is happening in the international community is that they
are making you appear as a little crook that wants to control the
elections and put a puppet in the national palace. We cannot accept that.
Because, in a way, you are the father of the democracy. You are the only
president that was elected two times … that never [fled] the country,
that never killed people, that enforced liberty of press. She went into a
story I’ve never heard about what President Préval represented and I
see that guy—vvvvhh—deflate. And he was not anymore in a fight mood.
So my [election files] that I brought were never used. At the end of it,
when we separated, I realized that the fight was over.”

Bill Clinton applauded from a few feet away.

Many in Haiti thought the Clintons’ influence had reached its peak
when, shortly after Martelly took office, he selected one of Bill Clinton’s
top aides, Garry Conille, to be his prime minister. Conille had been Bill
Clinton’s chief of staff at the U.N. Office of the Special Envoy, and many
in the Haitian political elite assumed that the Clintons had imposed him
to keep an eye on the unpredictable new president.

If that was the idea, it failed. Conille lasted just four months. He was
replaced by Laurent Lamothe, Martelly’s longtime business partner,
whom the former pop star had once referred to, lovingly, as a “true
bandit” in a song.

Things have only gotten more discordant since. Haiti has not held a
single election, at any level, in Martelly’s four years in office. Parliament
disbanded late last year when the terms of its members expired, leaving
Martelly to rule by decree. Both the Clintons and the State Department
tried to remain enthusiastic about the Martelly-Lamothe
administration. But when opposition protests broke out last year, even
Bill’s last-ditch endorsement of the prime minister in a Miami Herald
interview could not save him from being forced to resign.

Shortly thereafter, a New York Times article by reporter Frances Robles
spotlighted criminality surrounding the Martelly administration,
including its protection of members of an alleged kidnapping and drug
smuggling ring. A day after the article’s publication, one of the most
prominent allies of the president, Woodley Ethéart, was indicted on
charges of kidnapping and murder—only to be freed within weeks.
I asked Hillary Clinton’s spokesperson, Nick Merrill, whether Martelly’s
track record had changed her opinion about the leader she helped put in
power. “She supports democratic elections, just like she did as
secretary,” Merrill said. He declined further comment.
***
The hardest thing about evaluating the Clintons’ work in Haiti is that
there is so much of it. There’s the Clinton Foundation, which has
directed $36 million to Haiti since 2010, but also the $55 million spent
through the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, and the $500 million in
commitments made through the Clinton Global Initiative’s Haiti Action
Network. On Hillary’s side, there’s her own diplomacy, the State
Department’s Office of the Haiti Special Coordinator, and the U.S.
Embassy in Port-au-Prince, as well as the U.S. Agency for International
Development, whose administrator reported to her.

The amounts of money over which the Clintons and their foundation
had direct control paled beside the $16.3 billion that donors pledged in
all. Even Bill’s U.N. Office of the Special Envoy couldn’t track where all
of that went—and the truth is that still today no one really knows how
much money was spent “rebuilding” Haiti. Many initial pledges never
materialized. A whopping $465 million of the relief money went through
the Pentagon, which spent it on deployment of U.S. troops—20,000 at
the high water mark, many of whom never set foot on Haitian soil. That
money included fuel for ships and planes, helicopter repairs and
inscrutables such as an $18,000 contract for a jungle gym that I found
buried in the U.S. Navy’s Haiti bills. Huge contracts were doled out to
the usual array of major contractors, including a $16.7 million logistics
contract whose partners included Agility Public Warehousing KSC, a
Kuwaiti firm that was supposed to have been blacklisted from doing
business with Washington after a 2009 indictment alleging a conspiracy
to defraud the U.S. government during the Iraq War. (That case is still
pending in U.S. federal court.)

But even looking at money and institutional heft alone barely captures
the reach and influence of the Clintons’ network in Haiti: a vast, diffuse
web of power in all its 21st-century permutations. Take the story of
actor Sean Penn and his unlikely transformation into a Haiti power
player. Penn used his celebrity to establish the aid group J/P HRO in the
weeks after the earthquake, then to forge a friendship with Bill Clinton
—who in turn used his foundation and his own celebrity to help turn J/P
HRO into one of the most powerful NGOs in Haiti. That led to deeper
ties to the newly elected government of Martelly, which named Penn an
ambassador.

When I returned to Haiti in April for nine days, the Clinton Foundation
put me in touch with about a dozen projects it is still running there.
Many surely do excellent work, such as the Haitian medical group
GHESKIO, one of the world’s oldest AIDS clinics, which is now engaged
in a host of medical issues including battling the pernicious cholera
epidemic imported into Haiti by United Nations peacekeepers in 2010.
The Clinton Global Initiative supports coffee growers and peanut
farmers, and has helped the Swiss fragrance supplier Firmenich expand
its access to Haitian limes and vetiver, a key oil in perfumes.
The money given directly by Clinton entities, often a few hundred
thousand dollars, is small change compared to the billions floating
around the humanitarian industry and the corporate world. But the
combination of carefully targeted money and connections is invaluable,
says GHESKIO’s founder, Dr. Jean William Pape: “He’s a catalyst. He
doesn’t give you funds to throw away. He gives you funds to get you
started.”

The Clintons have also had a hand in nearly all the new luxury hotel
projects that have sprung up around the Haitian capital. Denis O’Brien,
the billionaire owner of the major cellphone provider Digicel and
principal investor in the swank $45 million Marriott that just opened in
Port-au-Prince, said Bill Clinton conceived the project. “He said to the
two of us [O’Brien and Marriott CEO Arne Sorensen], ‘Why don’t you
build a hotel?’ And after a bit of a conversation, about half an hour, we
said, ‘We’ll put up the money.’”

One of the Clinton Foundation’s favorite lines is: “Everywhere we go,
we’re trying to work ourselves out of a job.” But at least in the case of
Haiti, it’s hard to see how that would happen. The Clintons themselves
are the only thing linking all of these projects and initiatives.
More than money, in other words, what the Clintons really provide is
access. That dynamic both leaves them open to criticism and makes
people loath to criticize for fear of being left on the outside. “I don’t
want to use names, but I have seen bad businessmen around Mr. Clinton
badmouthing the good businessmen and then the good businessmen,
seeing that, come into the Clinton Foundation. It’s life, it’s like that,”
says Leslie Voltaire, a longtime Haitian politician and government
minister who served as the Préval government’s liaison to Clinton at the
U.N. Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti. “Every businessman looks to
see if they can be next to power.”
***
The Clintons are hardly the first foreigners to try to remake this
island. The ancestors of today’s Haitians were survivors of one of the
most brutal periods of slavery, torture and exploitation the world has
ever known. More than 910,000 kidnapped Africans were taken to what
was then the French colony of Saint-Domingue between 1679 and 1797,
according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database at Emory
University. Their labor on sugar and coffee plantations turned the
colony into France’s most valuable engine of economic growth. That
period ended with the 1791-1804 Haitian Revolution, the only successful
slave revolt in modern history, which created the second-oldest
republic in the Western Hemisphere, behind the United States—and the
first in which all people were free. Haiti’s former French masters,
though, exacted a crippling indemnity in compensation for what they
deemed the lost value of land and bodies.

For the past century, it’s been the Americans, not the French, who
repeatedly reshaped the political landscape here. On July 1, 1915, the
U.S.S. Washington arrived on the north coast of Haiti, nominally in
response to political turmoil on the island. Within weeks, U.S. Marines
had taken the capital, placing the United States in control of Haiti’s
government and finances. Five U.S. presidents oversaw the occupation
of Haiti, waging war against Haitian insurgents, rewriting laws and
ensuring, as Duke University historian Laurent Dubois has written, a
“Haitian government [that] was compatible with American economic
interests and friendly to foreign investments.”

The Marines’ departure in 1934 did not end U.S. involvement in Haiti.
Exactly sixty years later, President Clinton ordered a new American
invasion—Operation Uphold Democracy—to restore exiled President
Aristide, who had been deposed in a 1991 coup. The story of the Clintons
and the first black republic had already been underway for a long time.
Their December 1975 trip as newlyweds is often described by the
Clintons as a seminal journey. It was paid for by a friend, Edwin David
Edwards, a junior executive at Citibank who had just set off a firestorm
by accusing his bank of improper currency transactions in the
Caribbean.

The newly married couple were at a critical juncture in their political
lives. Bill had just lost a congressional race in Arkansas and was giving
up on national politics. It was in Haiti that he decided instead to embark
on a run for Arkansas attorney general—the race that turned out to be
the start of his journey to the White House and, arguably, the beginning
of Hillary’s public life as well. We may never know what moved him. But
an important moment came outside the capital, at the Vodou temple of
Max Beauvoir, a Sorbonne- and City College of New York-educated
houngan, or priest. After a ceremony honoring Ogou—the god of iron,
war and politics—the Clintons and Beauvoir sat all night by the coralstone
peristyle talking about faith and the future, the houngan told me.
“We reached the conclusion that the pursuit of God is the pursuit of
excellence,” he recalls.

When Clinton ran for president in 1992, he blasted the George H.W.
Bush administration for rounding up boats of Haitians fleeing the
military junta that ousted Aristide and for taking too light a hand
countering the junta itself, many of whose leaders had received U.S.
training or money. Ultimately, Clinton’s intervention returned Aristide
to power. But Aristide did not live up to White House expectations. In
the years ahead, U.S. relations worsened, and in 2004 the George W.
Bush administration provided a plane to fly him into exile, touching off
years of instability and lost growth, all capped by the 2010 earthquake.
That last disaster presented another chance for the U.S. to get involved
and another chance for redemption.

Today, driving east from the city of Cap-Haïtien—where the U.S.S
Washington first arrived 100 years ago this summer—out along Haiti’s
north coast, past the banana-tree farms at the foothills of the Massif du
Nord, you enter the hotbed of U.S. post-quake reconstruction. The
agricultural region, a bumpy six-hour drive from Port-au-Prince, was
partly chosen to encourage people to disperse from places devastated by
the 2010 disaster. Development plans for the corridor include expanded
tourist facilities (visitors are expected to flock to the Citadelle
Laferrière, a monumental 19th-century Haitian fortress and UNESCO
World Heritage Site; Royal Caribbean’s lone pier in the country is also
nearby), ports, schools, roads and electrification. American Airlines
recently began flights to Cap-Haïtien.

The linchpin is the $300 million, 600-acre Caracol Industrial Park,
financed by U.S. taxpayer money and Inter-American Development
Bank and geared toward making clothes for export to the United States.
The Clintons were instrumental at nearly every step in its creation. The
development program Bill came to sell as U.N special envoy, written by
Oxford University economist Paul Collier, had garment exports at its
center.

As only he can, Bill Clinton managed to tout the idea as an exciting
departure from Haiti’s past. He successfully lobbied the U.S. Congress to
eliminate tariffs on textiles sewn in Haiti. (The powerful Association
des Industries d’Haiti lobbied, too, paying at least $550,000 to a D.C.
lobbying firm led by Andrew Samet, a former Clinton Labor Department
official, and Ronald Sorini, who was the chief U.S. Trade Representative
negotiator on textiles during the North American Free Trade Agreement
talks.)

Clinton won headlines by apologizing for having maintained as
president the import-substitution policies that destroyed Haiti’s food
sector—policies built on the dangerously misguided theory that factory
jobs obviated the need to produce rice and other food locally. He made a
special point to note that the policy had benefited farmers in his home
state of Arkansas. The message was clear: This time would be different.
And he had grand plans for what the industry could become. Clinton
predicted that with the right support to the garment sector, 100,000 jobs
would be created “in short order.”

Secretary Clinton joined in too: She hired Collier’s research partner in
Haiti, Soros Economic Development Fund consultant Jean-Louis
Warnhoz, as a senior adviser. She and her key aide Cheryl Mills
negotiated an agreement between the Haitian and U.S. governments,
multilateral financiers and the South Korean textile giant Sae-A
Trading Co. Ltd., which makes clothes for Old Navy, Walmart, Kohl’s,
Target and other retailers. The Haitian government provided the land.
To create a “plug and play” environment in a country lacking nearly all
basic services, IADB and USAID invested millions in roads, water
systems, a power plant, executive dormitories and the warehouse-like
“shells” that would house the factories. The Clinton Foundation “helped
to promote Caracol as an investment destination and worked … to
attract new tenants and investments to the park,” says Greg Milne, the
foundation’s director of Haiti programs.

In October 2012, Hillary and Bill Clinton flew down to join President
Martelly at the ribbon-cutting, where she pledged, “Our partnership, I
promise you, will extend far beyond my time as secretary of state. And
so, too, will the personal commitment that my husband and I have to
Haiti.”

If things went as planned, Caracol would be a triumph of the Clintons’
core model: the “public/private partnership”—U.S. taxpayer dollars,
Haitian land and private corporations working together to put cheap
clothes on American shelves and wages in Haitian pockets.

Today’s reality, though, falls far short of the 2012 dream—despite an
incredible financial investment. Far from 100,000 jobs—or even the
60,000 promised within five years of the park’s opening—Caracol
currently employs just 5,479 people full time. That comes out to roughly
$55,000 in investment per job created so far; or, to put it another way,
about 30 times more per job than the average Sae-A worker makes per
year. The park, built on the site of a former U.S. Marine-run slave labor
camp during the 1915-1934 U.S. occupation, has the best-paved roads
and manicured sidewalks in the country, but most of the land remains
vacant.

The park’s boosters respond that the number of employees has doubled
in the past year. One of Haiti’s richest men, Richard Coles, is opening a
new factory to produce for Hanesbrands there. The park’s 10-megawatt
plant is providing electricity to more than 8,000 people in the
surrounding area under a pilot project run by a Beltway-based energy
cooperative, bypassing the weak national electric utility. Mark D’Sa, a
former Gap Inc. sourcing director who now works for the State
Department, laughed at the idea that anyone could evaluate Caracol’s
success or failure after only 2 ½ years. “It’s a half-baked idea that’s still
in the oven,” he says, approvingly.

But the workers have their own complaints, starting with pay. Aselyne
Jean-Gilles, 35, makes the minimum 225 gourdes a day, or about $4.75.
She says she spends $3.19 on food, plus 45 cents each way for a group
taxi that takes her from her home in Cap-Haïtien to a town where she
can catch a free shuttle to work. She does not have children yet. “If you
do, you can’t afford to do anything,” she says.

Inside, Sae-A’s three warehouses are kept reasonably comfortable by
giant fans. A disc jockey plays Haitian kompa music to keep workers
energized. Enormous U.S., Haitian and South Korean flags hang
overhead. Seamstresses sit in forward-facing rows, stitching and
passing forward Mossimo and Old Navy tops under the glow of red signs
that keep track of the daily “meta,” or quota (the signs were imported,
along with middle managers, from older Sae-A factories in Central
America, at least one of which closed as the Haiti project was opening).
Quality checkers stand all day at the end of the row, discarding clothes
unfit for export. “From 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., I stand and stand. I can’t sit
down,” says Tamara Pierre, a 22-year-old quality checker, rubbing her
visibly swollen ankles as she waits for a bus home.

Outside the park’s walls some 336 families say they were forced off the
land to make way for Caracol and were not compensated enough to
make up for the loss of livelihoods. It was good, productive farmland in a
deforested, hungry country—chosen by the park’s planners precisely
because of its access to a good water supply. The farmers’ claims are
hard to prove, in large part because Haitian land law is a mess. Five
years after it became clear that disputes over land tenure were halting
reconstruction after the quake, Haiti still lacks a functioning land
registry.

Park officials say the proper channels were followed and compensation
was more generous than it had to be. But the peasant farmers believe
that once again they were taken advantage of by unaccountable, distant
powers. “Mr. and Mrs. Clinton,” specifies Milostene Castin, an area
farmer and organizer with the community group Je Nan Je, or “Eye to
Eye,” “they have been there since the cornerstone was laid. I think they
have monetary interests and political interests in the park.”

When I mentioned that President Clinton had apologized for harming
Haitian farmers in the past, Castin was unimpressed. “We call on them
to invest in the people, respect human rights and the law,” he says.
To many close observers of Haiti, the Clintons made the same mistake
that has been made for generations. Though striking a populist pose, in
practice they were attracted to power in Haiti, which meant making
alliances and friendships within the Haitian elite. “The strong push
toward Caracol is evidence of this,” says Robert Maguire, an expert on
development in Haiti and the director of The George Washington
University’s Latin American and Hemispheric Studies Program. Their
project responded not as much to the “more inclusive development
priorities pushed for by most Haitians and their government … but
rather to those supported by Haiti’s economic elites, who stood to
benefit the most from them.”

That does not mean that the Haitian elite are all fans of the Clintons. Far
from it. Many still smart over Bill’s decision to reinstate the overthrown
Aristide. Others are resentful of the power and money the Clintons
bring with them in their entourage, including billionaires like O’Brien
(who in turn have no love for the oligarchical power of the Haitian
import-export cartels). But infighting, the maneuvering of power and
political brinkmanship have long been tactics of the Haitian elite.
In a way, some whisper in Port-au-Prince, it’s as if the Clintons have
joined their ranks.
***
The Washington Post recently wrote that “the Clintons’ long
influence in Haiti is hard to overstate.” It’s indeed hard—but not
impossible. While the Clintons and their allies sometimes seem to be
omnipresent, they are not omnipotent. In part, that’s because, as a rule,
things in Haiti do not go as planned.

The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission closed shop in 2011, derided
for ineffectiveness and decisions “not necessarily aligned with Haitian
priorities,” according to the Government Accountability Office. In
December 2010, the IHRC’s Haitian members protested in a letter that
they were being sidelined by Clinton, Bellerive and major donors on the
board, including the U.S. representative to thecommission, Mills. “In
reality, Haitian members of the board have one role: to endorse the
decisions made by the Director and Executive Committee,” they wrote.
Washington was a bigger obstacle. Congress capped the U.S. money it let
the IHRC control at a comparatively tiny $120 million, and the Obama
administration then issued instructions on how the money had to be
spent. “That was the end of the trust fund as it was intended,” a former
senior Haitian commission official told me. (In a recent interview, Bill
Clinton told Town & Country that the IHRC was “incredibly
cumbersome.”)

Other allegations of double-dealing and pocket-lining have been based
on the dubious idea that the Clintons can do as they please in Haiti.
Conservative author Peter Schweizer recently set off a media storm
when he reported that a small mining company with rights to dig in
northern Haiti had Tony Rodham, Hillary’s brother, on its board. On a
sunbaked April morning, I hiked up a narrow path on Morne Bossa, the
mountain 160 miles north of Port-au-Prince where that mine is
supposed to end up. Spectacular countryside surrounded us. In the
distance, across a wide green valley, the Citadelle Laferrière soared atop
a 3,000-foot peak. Our destination inspired less awe: a sawed-off PVC
pipe in a concrete base the size of a shoebox, from which the company—
Victory, Championship, Strategic Mining—occasionally takes samples.
Schweizer’s report triggered a lot of speculation, inside Haiti and out,
that the Clinton network was enriching itself in Haiti, and that lonely
pipe on a remote hill became an object of fascination for the political
press. But the site looked more like another example of overblown
promises than a master scheme. There was no mining equipment
nearby, and judging by the complete lack of activity at VCS Mining’s
nearby office, little sign any would come soon.

VCS CEO Angelo Viard told me Rodham was a financial adviser, not a
member of the board as had been reported, and that he had met him—
through the Clinton Global Initiative—after the Haitian government had
already granted him the right to explore for gold and copper. “Mr.
Rodham … said very clearly, Haiti has been hurt by so many disasters, if
there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know. And we said, ‘Hey,
you might be able to help us with the capital,’ and he was very happy to
do so,” Viard told me. He estimates he needs $60 million to begin
digging, whenever the government might allow it again.

All mining programs in Haiti are on hold while the country’s mining law
is reviewed. VCS’s office, full of dusty bags and wooden boxes of rocks,
have no active staff beside the caretaker, Williamcite Noel, whose main
qualifications seem to be speaking a bit of English and living near the
site.

Many observers I spoke to think Viard is more likely to try and flip the
company than to ever actually start blasting the ground. What role Tony
Rodham might play in the company’s future, or what money he might
make off a future deal, is just as unclear as the mine’s future. Its
potential may never amount to anything, which some argue might
actually be the better outcome for Haiti. An open-pit mine on the site
could create environmental havoc while destroying the gorgeous view
from the Citadelle, harming tourism potential in the years ahead.
Others have questioned a $500,000 donation to the Clinton Foundation
made by the Algerian government after the 2010 earthquake, and a
$900,000 donation by Boeing to support Haitian schools at the same
time Secretary Clinton was lobbying the Russian government to buy
that company’s planes. The foundation has acknowledged it violated an
ethics agreement with the Obama White House by taking the Algerian
donation. Boeing indeed won a major contract, according to the
Washington Post.

But, though tracing the money in Haiti is difficult, there are no solid
indications that the donations went anywhere other than where they
were supposed to go. A Clinton Foundation spokesman says the
Algerian money went into a $16.4 million direct aid fund, which in turn
provided money to groups including Partners in Health, the operating
fund of the IHRC, and Sean Penn’s J/P HRO.

Boeing’s money went to a now-defunct NGO named Architecture for
Humanity, which rebuilt a quake-damaged school in the impoverished
Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Bel-Air. I visited on a recent school day.
While the new building does not scream luxury—there is no library or
computer lab, barely any furniture, and the school building does not get
electricity—it does seem to be a well-put-together piece of construction,
certainly by Haitian standards, where schools collapsed from shoddy
building materials even before the earthquake. The former lead for the
project, Kate Evarts, told me that while she no longer has immediate
access to the books, she thinks that $900,000 sounds about right as a
price tag when considering fees, licenses and the cost of subcontractors. The foundation says some money also went to teacher training.

Following the money in Clinton Foundation projects is often a
challenge. In recent weeks, under media pressure, the foundation has
admitted that its bookkeeping and transparency have been lacking at
times. Last week, after days of questions and press reports about the
Clinton Foundation’s work in various countries, acting CEO Maura
Pally posted a statement explaining the foundation was committed to
transparency: “Yes, we made mistakes, as many organizations of our
size do, but we are acting quickly to remedy them, and have taken steps
to ensure they don’t happen in the future.”

Even poring over documents doesn’t tell you much: In 2013, the most
recent tax year for which disclosures are available, the foundation
raised $295 million overall and spent $223 million—of which it says
$197 million, or 88 percent, went to “program services.” That
intentionally vague term, used universally by NGOs across the aid
world, includes anything that can be justifiably linked to specific
projects including travel, office expenses and salaries.

Clinton Foundation officials told me that, “unlike most organizations
operating in Haiti, the Clinton Foundation and its Haiti program do not
charge overhead expenses or collect an administrative fee for our work.”
It is easy to see how the Clintons’ influence in Haiti—where the power
players are few and the vast majority of people live on less than $2 a day
—can be misunderstood or raise suspicions. There is little transparency
in Haiti. Almost every deal, even a legitimate one, gets made out of sight
—and over the past five years, the Clintons have seemingly had a
representative or friend in all the most important backrooms. That
power discrepancy, along with the Clintons’ fondness for keeping their
cards close to the vest, has led to wild rumors everywhere. Many center
on the Clintons supposedly buying land, the traditional source of wealth
and power. “I’ve heard people say Bill Clinton was trying to buy the
Citadelle!” laughs Michele Oriol, an expert on land rights with a Haitian
government agency.

The complexity and limits of the Clinton model in Haiti can be summed
up in a complex of 750 pastel-colored houses up the road from Caracol.
The residents of Village La Difference are happy to have homes with
electricity and water cisterns. But the settlement has been plagued by
construction problems since the beginning. Two USAID contractors
have been suspended for failures including using shoddy concrete
blocks and failing to separate water and sewage pipes.

The village’s shining feature, however, and its most Clintonian
innovation, is a school. Lekol S&H’s monthly $8,400 budget is funded by
Sae-A. It’s a savvy public relations move that has yielded what is
probably the most dynamic elementary school in the country. The
principal, Jean V. Mirvil, was recruited from P.S. 73 in the Bronx. He and
his teachers, many of whom have completed teaching school (a rarity),
devised a cutting-edge curriculum that emphasizes instruction in
Kreyòl, rather than French, the traditional language of education and
the elites.

Like many of the Clintons’ interventions in Haiti, it is not a direct
project of the foundation but what Mirvil happily referred to as “the
Clinton network.” The Clintons provided contacts ranging from USAID
trainers to the Brooklyn Nets, who donated the basketball hoops out
back. Gold plaques in the hallways and cafeteria bear the hand-scrawled
inscriptions in English: “My best wishes to the children who will be
educated here and congratulations to Sae-A!—Hillary Rodham Clinton.”
(Bill’s scrawl adds, “To the children: Learn a lot!”)

But barring an angel investor willing to pay for the program nationwide
for a generation or so, Lekol S&H remains essentially a one-off,
dependent on a single company’s decision to stay and keep paying the
bills. The model is precarious—particularly given the increasingly likely
possibility that Haiti reenters a period of political instability.
***
Haiti’s current political troubles fall short of what might cause real
problems for Hillary Clinton as she touts her foreign policy bona fides
during her White House run. But that could quickly change.
Impatience with President Martelly is growing at all levels, even inside
the State Department. With the falling price of oil and the death of
Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, the seemingly free PetroCaribe money that
has bankrolled Haiti’s meager growth—and the Martelly
administration’s tenuous hold on power—is running out.

With the Martelly administration now able to set up elections on its
own terms, the long-delayed parliament vote is scheduled for August.
New presidential elections are slated for October. Martelly is barred
from running for reelection by the constitution. Both Lamothe and the
president’s wife, Sofia Martelly, are rumored to be exploring runs. No
one knows if the elections will go off on time.

“If the election is not held this year and there is a high level of violence
and turmoil, [the U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti] decides to leave, and
the 82nd Airborne or the Marines have to be sent here to keep order,
then yes, this could affect the U.S. election. It could lead to questioning
the ability of a Democrat in the White House to keep peace and stability
in a country like Haiti,” says Lionel Delatour, a prominent Haitian
businessman with ties to many in the U.S. government and private
sector. “The likelihood of such a series of events to take place is very
remote. But we have surprised the world before.”

The real date to watch is May 15, 2016, when Martelly’s five-year term
ends. If no election is held by then, a transitional government will take
power, there will be a constitutional crisis, or both. That date will fall
almost precisely as Hillary Clinton hopes to wrap up the Democratic
primaries and turn to the general election. Instability in a place where
she and her husband have planted a big flag would hardly help her
campaign.

It’s impossible to say how all this will turn out. From top to bottom, the
Clintons’ work in Haiti is far from over. Many promises remain
unfulfilled; many projects still, as D’Sa put it, “half-baked.” Bill Clinton
still goes there frequently, including a February stop to join Martelly
and O’Brien at the opening of the Port-au-Prince Marriott. His
comments are ever boosterish, but tinged with frustration. “If everyone
knew this country the way Denis and I do, your incomes would be three
times higher than they are, people would be flooding in here every day,
and we wouldn’t have had the problems we do,” the former president
told a group of Haitians, according to the Miami Herald.

If Hillary is successful in her presidential bid, the Clintons will have
another four or even eight years to drive U.S. policy toward this
Caribbean nation—for better or for worse. Perhaps unsure of how Haiti
will fit into the upcoming election, Hillary Clinton has been less
talkative than her husband. Her spokesman declined to comment on
how her experience in Haiti has shaped her foreign policy, saying she
would address that “when the time comes to do so.”

I asked Benel Etienne, a 32-year-old resident of Village La Difference
and construction day laborer at Caracol, if he had a message for the
candidate. “Mrs. Clinton, we hope you became president of your United
States, but at the same we hope you bring change for Haiti, because you
have good diplomatic relations with Haiti,” he told me. When I asked
what kind of change that might be, he smiled and shrugged. Haitians like
him have heard too many promises, and seen too many things, to think
they could really know.

Original URL:
http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/caribbean-haiti-clinton-politics-business

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