In January 2010, a devastating earthquake razed large parts of the capital of Haiti and surrounding areas. It claimed the lives of nearly a quarter of a million people, and left another 1.5 million homeless. Since then, reconstruction efforts have been hampered by an outbreak of cholera followed by a destructive hurricane. Today, millions of tons of rubble still needs to be cleared and over half a million people are still living in tents. Despite these challenges, Haitians remain committed to rebuilding their country. In the face of disaster, an opportunity has come for Haiti to rise up from its deeply troubled past.

Guests

  • Michaëlle Jean UNESCO special envoy to Haiti

Program Highlights

UNESCO special envoy for Haiti, Michaelle Jean, says the devastating January 2010 earthquake in Haiti revealed the country’s failings to the world. To Jean, now is the time to focus on rebuilding the people and their culture, not just the infrastructure. She spoke with Diane about leaving the country as a young child, UNESCO’s priorities in the rebuilding process, and why women are so important to the country’s future.

Returning to Her Birthplace After the Devastation

I was born in Haiti and I grew up there. I left Haiti, I was 11 years old. But at 11, it’s enough for you to know where you’re from. And I went back to Haiti several times after that. And really I could not recognize the place anymore…imagine it’s like if an atomic bomb were dropped on Haiti. It was total destruction,” Jean said.

Conditions in Haiti Today

Jean said that because about 700,000 people in Haiti are still living under tents, heavy rains are a constant concern. Relocating that many people is a large problem facing the government. “We need to understand that reconstruction will not happen overnight,” Jean said. “The task is immense and it must be done properly.”

Fear, Suspicion, and Risk Before Leaving

Jean and her family fled Haiti when Papa Doc was in power, when public executions were common and her own father had already been arrested and tortured. “I remember the day we were at the airport. It was like living my funeral I would say because you had friends who would come knowing that you were leaving, would come to say goodbye. But they had to stay at a distance just in case you would be arrested at the last moment. And it happened to many people. So they would not want to be associated to you,” she said.

Goals for the Coming Year

Even before the earthquake, lack of access to education was a major problem in Haiti. Jean says that this year, one of the country’s objectives is to make sure that 140,000 children who currently do not attend school will be able to do so. She says UNESCO is making teacher training and curricula-building a major priority.

The Role of Haitian Women in Rebuilding

“I remember that when I went back to Haiti a few weeks after the earthquake and on purposely I arrived on International Women’s Day because I wanted the women to know that they are not alone. And logistics were very difficult, you know, because it was all rubble everywhere. And I expected maybe 300 women to come to this rendezvous and meeting that we had just to hear how they were doing because I know that the women movement had lost many leaders, you know, on the rubble and during the earthquake and I lost many friends. And when I arrived, there were 5,000 women. And the energy…was amazing. Women from all, you know, walks of life saying life will triumph, life will triumph over this ordeal. And they came with their courage and their determination. This is what Haitian women are about in Haiti,” Jean said.

Transcript

  • 11:06:55

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. When a devastating earthquake struck Haiti last January, it reduced large parts of the country to little more than rubble. International aid and sympathy poured in. But our guest today, UNESCO special envoy for Haiti, Michaelle Jean, says the earthquake simply revealed Haiti's failings to the world.

  • 11:07:30

    MS. DIANE REHMNow, she says, it's time to focus on rebuilding the people and their culture, not just the infrastructure. She joins me here in the studio throughout the hour. We'll look forward to hearing your calls, your questions. Join us on 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to drshow@wamu.org. Good morning to you. It's good to have you here.

  • 11:08:06

    MS. MICHAELLE JEANGood morning, Diane. I'm very, very grateful to you for having this time, totally focused on Haiti.

  • 11:08:12

    REHMThank you.

  • 11:08:13

    JEANThank you.

  • 11:08:13

    REHMAnd it's our pleasure. I know you have just been in Haiti. Tell us what the situation there is now.

  • 11:08:25

    JEANI was in Haiti last week again on a mission as UNESCO special envoy. And I have to say that really this trip was one of incredible intensity. As I moved across the land really in many regions of the country, listening and sharing what I could with a multitude of people I met, women, men and young people of unbelievable courage.

  • 11:08:57

    JEANAnd unbelievable, also, commitment. And I saw, you know, really life and hope, seek, you know, to overcome, I would say, sheer destitution and hardship. And from the more disenfranchised, you know, neighborhoods of Port au Prince to the more isolated and downtrodden rural communities, there was hope everywhere. You know, Haiti is a country where people are always in motion.

  • 11:09:31

    JEANAnd I was encouraged really compared to what I had seen, you know, a few weeks after the earthquake that you described. The magnitude of the devastation was amazing, like 10 times more than the imagines that people had seen on the TV screen.

  • 11:09:47

    REHMAnd, of course, that is what people remember...

  • 11:09:52

    JEANYeah.

  • 11:09:52

    REHM...the images that came in the days and few weeks afterward. Describe that scene for us.

  • 11:10:01

    JEANYou know, I was born in Haiti and I grew up there. I left Haiti, I was 11 years old. But, you know, at 11, it's enough for you to know where you're from. And I went back to Haiti several times after that. And really I could not recognize the place anymore so this really -- destruction and devastation effected people's memory.

  • 11:10:29

    JEANIt looked like if the whole, I mean, capital and the other communities affected had been bombarded. Imagine it's like if an atomic bomb were dropped on Haiti. It was total destruction.

  • 11:10:46

    REHMAnd you know, what is remarkable, it was a 7.0...

  • 11:10:52

    JEANYes.

  • 11:10:53

    REHM...earthquake at the epicenter. It killed, what, 220,000 people.

  • 11:10:59

    JEANOh, even more, even more.

  • 11:11:01

    REHMPerhaps injuring 300,000. But it was a shallow earthquake and perhaps that was why the devastation was as great as it was.

  • 11:11:14

    JEANYes, also, but there are problems, I think, with the kind of material that are used, you know, in construction. And that's really a problem. Because there was an earthquake, not too long after, you know, in Chili of much more magnitude and strength and that caused less, you know, casualties. So that's also a problem in Haiti.

  • 11:11:38

    JEANAnd I think the reconstruction is about also putting in, you know, introducing regulations, really, on construction and how things are being done. And also reinforcing the capacities and knowledge, you know, in anti-seismic construction. So, you know, it's really interesting to see how much has to be done. And I have to say that, when I was there last week, the whole country really looked like a vast work camp.

  • 11:12:13

    JEANBecause people are even talking more about re-founding the country, you know, then rebuilding it. They are talking about...

  • 11:12:24

    REHMWhat is that mean?

  • 11:12:26

    JEANIt means looking at the whole spectrum, you know, of the Haitian society. Changing mentalities, making sure that the dignity of the people, their security, their living conditions are taken, you know, into account. It's about including, also, the people in the reflection around solutions, around new initiatives, you know, to really rebuild the country and re-found it.

  • 11:13:00

    REHMAnd...

  • 11:13:01

    JEANIt's a different approach, a totally different approach.

  • 11:13:04

    REHMIt's so interesting because the international response immediately after the earthquake was tremendous.

  • 11:13:16

    JEANYes.

  • 11:13:16

    REHMPeople poured in to help. I think $1.5 billion was pledged by the U.S., what, only one billion has actually come through. Where has that money gone? How has it been used?

  • 11:13:34

    JEANWell, I would say, to add what you're saying, that, indeed, you know, the whole world feels sorry for the curse that seems to constantly, unrelentingly, you know, befall the Haitian people whose life and survival has always been ruled by hope. And we keep hearing, everywhere, how much, you know, the Haitian people are a resilient people.

  • 11:13:58

    JEANAnd I want to say that, you know, if I agreed, really, to join UNESCO as special envoy for Haiti, it's really because I can no longer bear to hear about the resilience, the so-called resilience of the Haitian people. It sounds as if these people were put on earth only to recover from one ordeal to the other. You know, one tragedy, one calamity, I mean, to the next.

  • 11:14:25

    JEANAnd I believe that resilience is but the last resort before death. So I would like the world to understand and the international community that what is important is really to believe in the Haitian's peoples capacity to think, to reinvent, to create, to do, to produce, you know, to imagine.

  • 11:14:46

    REHMDo you that confidence has been lacking?

  • 11:14:50

    JEANWell, does -- we need a change of -- in the logic that has applied to Haiti. We need to come out of the logical assistance and move toward a logic of investment. Investing in people's capacities, investing in good governance capacities, investing in Haitian leadership, really to coordinate more the offer. So you are talking about all those millions, you know, that were promised, you know, to Haiti.

  • 11:15:26

    JEANWe need to make sure that when we say that, it's not just, again, you know, giving money to the 10 and thousands of NGOs in the country who are acting from good will, but there is something that is -- that doesn't make sense when you see that the government itself has less resources than three NGOs put together, you know.

  • 11:15:49

    JEANIt doesn't make sense. So it is taking the country to a situation where you have a government who cannot actually implement its policies, it's plans for the countries reconstruction because it doesn't have the necessary resources and funds to do so. So I believe that time has come now to really reflect upon how we are acting in Haiti, to change our ways of doing things.

  • 11:16:20

    JEANAnd we need to build trust. That's very, very important. And, you know, Haiti has come a long way. There were times where, really I would say, corruption was really a problem. I'm sure that there are still, you know, situations of corruptions. I mean, we need to be constantly vigilant. But, you know, since 2006, we saw this country becoming -- and the authorities becoming more accountable.

  • 11:16:46

    JEANYou know, for the first time after four hurricanes had hit Haiti in 2009, the country reacted, you know, the government with a plan, a plan. It's important to have a plan, a strategic plan for the reconstruction and also to fight poverty in the country. And I would say that even the day before the earthquake, there were every, you know, good reasons to celebrate because the GDP was really progressing and I would say governance was more, I would say...

  • 11:17:26

    REHMResponsive?

  • 11:17:27

    JEAN...responsive and responsible. So when the earthquake happened, again, Haiti had a plan, objectives that were very -- and goals, very well, you know, identified and the international community responded to those -- to that plan. Now, it's important to be coherent and say, okay, you know, Haitian leadership must prevail and we must go by this plan and support it and accompany it instead of continue with the assistance.

  • 11:18:03

    REHMAnd what you're saying is that there is not enough faith in Haiti's own plans?

  • 11:18:15

    JEANI think that now, there's a good disposition -- can you say that? We say that in French. People are more -- the international community is more inclined to build that trust. And we need to be coherent and continue in that direction.

  • 11:18:34

    REHMMichaelle Jean, she is UNESCO special envoy for Haiti. Short break, we'll be right back.

  • 11:20:03

    REHMAnd the UNESCO special envoy for Haiti, Michaelle Jean is with me. If you'd like to join us, 800-433-8850. After the earthquake there was an outbreak of cholera that was followed by a hurricane. More than 4,000 people killed by the cholera, 216,000 infected. What does the population look like today in terms of dwellings, in terms of health, in terms of security?

  • 11:20:54

    JEANYou know, that's where also -- that's where also UNESCO comes in place. We supported, you know, some very important information campaign and communication campaign about the cholera epidemic and how to prevent it. And that was very, very important engaging all radio stations and young people also on the ground to inform (sounds like) years of population about what to do to prevent cholera from spreading more. And also in building water sanitation, you know, infrastructures.

  • 11:21:38

    JEANAnd it was so sad to see that again here came, you know, an ordeal -- a new ordeal for a population that is exhausted, that is, I mean, struggling. There are still 700,000 people who are living under tents.

  • 11:21:55

    REHMUnder tents.

  • 11:21:56

    JEANTents, yes. So every heavy rain is a concern. Sometimes, you know, after a very hot day in Haiti comes the rain and you feel that it is refreshing the air. But at the same time you cannot help but think of the people, the families, you know, who are still living under tents. And who will wake up in the morning in -- with mud around them, you know.

  • 11:22:19

    REHMNow, is it the fault of the government that those people are still living in tents? Is it that there is no money to create the infrastructure needed to find housing? What is the biggest problem Haiti faces?

  • 11:22:45

    JEANImagine a city that is overcrowded. Imagine a country where there's a huge problem with lent property. There's no (word?) , okay. So relocating the population that now lives in the camps is a problem. And we need to understand that the reconstruction will not happen overnight. It will take time. We will start seeing, you know, some, I would say, sustainable results the first -- I mean, meaningful results in five to ten to twenty years.

  • 11:23:31

    JEANSo -- and also to make sure that, for example, this population can be relocated in other regions of the country, in the rural areas, for example, you also have to bring the necessary infrastructures...

  • 11:23:47

    REHMOf course.

  • 11:23:48

    JEAN...services and resources. So the -- I mean, the task is immense and it must be done properly. It must be done properly.

  • 11:23:59

    REHMMichaelle, you said you left the country when you were 11. Tell me about your journey.

  • 11:24:07

    JEANWhen I left the country the situation was very, very grim. It was under the dictatorship of Papa Doc. And what I witnessed as a child were public executions. My own father was arrested and tortured, people disappearing. It was awful. You could not speak freely. You lived in a world of fear and terror. And I would say that I found in Canada, where we like thousands of other -- like thousands of other families were forced to leave the country, went like in the United States, I found a place that gave me, you know, an opportunity for a new life.

  • 11:25:01

    REHMHow did you and your family get out?

  • 11:25:05

    JEANWell, with a lot of difficulties. I remember, you know, when they came for us to try to exit -- we were exiting, we were at the airport.

  • 11:25:18

    REHMYou, your mother and...

  • 11:25:19

    JEANMy mother and my sister. My father had left before because he was really taken out of the country through an embassy -- actually the American Embassy. Because when they let him out of jail, you know, the first thing he did he went to the embassy to seek refuge. He was very lucky -- he was one of the lucky ones.

  • 11:25:43

    JEANBut I remember the day we were at the airport. It was like living my funeral I would say because you had friends who would come knowing that you were leaving, would come to say goodbye. But they had to stay at a distance just in case you would be arrested at the last moment. And it happened to many people. So they would not want to be associated to you.

  • 11:26:08

    JEANSo I felt as a child that -- I thought it must be like that when you're dead, you're in your coffin. You can see everything around you, but you cannot communicate with the people you love and who love you. You know, it's a strange feeling. So that's how it felt really. And I had no idea if I would ever, you know, go back to my native land anymore.

  • 11:26:31

    REHMAnd you went to Canada?

  • 11:26:33

    JEANAnd -- yes, we arrived in Canada to join my father who had found a job there. And we were -- and that's how we were reunited again.

  • 11:26:44

    REHMWhere were you educated?

  • 11:26:47

    JEANI was educated in Canada actually. And it just so happened that, you know, life is something, you know, because I became years later, you know, the governor general and commander in chief of Canada. Knowing that -- you know, when you think about it I arrived in Canada as a refugee. I wasn't born there. And that's what Canada is about. That's what Canada is about. It is possible.

  • 11:27:11

    JEANSo all that to say that I feel very blessed because I was able to make a meaningful contribution to my adoptive land, my new country, Canada. I'm Canadian, but now I have the possibility of making contribution to the rebuilding, the reconstruction of my native land. And I find that, you know, for -- to be able to do this in just one life time is amazing, is amazing.

  • 11:27:37

    JEANThat's why, you know, I'm really on a crusade to make sure that Haiti stays on the radar screen right now. I've been traveling nonstop, you know, trying to convince and to make sure that the International Community stands up through its commitment to support the reconstruction efforts in Haiti.

  • 11:27:59

    REHMThere are some who are concerned that the earthquake increased Haiti's reliance on international support and that its government, in whatever condition it is, has not done what it needs to do to stabilize the country.

  • 11:28:26

    JEANActually, I have to say that when I was in Haiti last week engaging in an important working session with the new president, President Michel Martelly, I found a man who doesn't have political experience, as he says it himself. But in four months, already he has been learning a lot. He's having a problem -- a major problem of appointing, you know, a prime minister. Because in the Haitian constitution, the president appoints the prime minister, but needs the agreement of parliament.

  • 11:29:00

    JEANAnd actually, since he doesn't have the majority in both chambers, you know, the senate and the chamber of deputies, he's had, you know, problems really having his choice, you know, ratified for the nomination of the appointment of the prime minister. And now he is suggesting a third, you know, candidate. And we have the feeling that this time it will pass, it will pass.

  • 11:29:27

    JEANSo these, you know, political struggles are still there. And certainly I would say a slow win, you know, the reconstruction efforts and...

  • 11:29:38

    REHM...process, yes.

  • 11:29:38

    JEAN...and process. But it's work in progress in democracy, you know. It's -- we have to understand that these things can happen.

  • 11:29:50

    REHMAnd there are many NGOs in Haiti now. Some of those NGOs have been criticized as being sort of a parallel government.

  • 11:30:02

    JEANThe thing -- exactly. And the thing is it's important to realize that governance is about also being efficient in implementing, you know, policies that are good for the country, implementing a plan. A policy's a plan. And Haiti has a plan and very solid objectives. So we cannot continue with the dispersion and the fragmentation of actions. Haiti has been transformed into a laboratory of all kind of experiments and...

  • 11:30:43

    REHMGive me an example.

  • 11:30:44

    JEAN...and projects. You know, you have 40,000 NGOs at work in Haiti. Imagine for such a small country. And it's...

  • 11:30:53

    REHMAnd what are they doing?

  • 11:30:55

    JEANThey're doing all kind of things, working in every field, every sector, education, health and everything. A lot of goodwill there, but at the same time, what the country needs is to be really in the -- to take ownership of its own development.

  • 11:31:15

    REHMAre you saying that with fewer NGOs, with fewer organizations, churches trying to move in and help that Haiti would be better off?

  • 11:31:31

    JEANWell, it's again the logic of assistance. I think that it's important for the government of Haiti to be able to coordinate all the offer coming from organizations who want to support Haiti.

  • 11:31:48

    REHMBut you yourself have just said that, in fact, in this dual-sided parliament the president could not even get agreement...

  • 11:32:04

    JEANIt's...

  • 11:32:04

    REHM...on his own prime minister. So...

  • 11:32:07

    JEANWell, there's right now, of course, a power struggle. He doesn't have the majority. There has been a lot of negotiation and they're not involved so it is progressing. And this is politics. And now I think it's important to introduce a notion of the common good in Haiti. Okay, let us all work in unity and together in the best interest of the nation and of the people.

  • 11:32:37

    JEANSo this is, you know, what is happening right now, but it is progressing. And I think that when the president will come to the United States in New York to the United Nation, you know, in a couple of days he will have a government installed. That's -- you know, signals are good.

  • 11:33:00

    REHMMichaelle Jean. She's UNESCO special envoy for Haiti and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're going to open the phones now. If you'll put those headphones on, we will begin our conversation with our listeners. Let's go to Will in Orange Beach, Ala. Good morning to you, Will.

  • 11:33:31

    WILLGood morning, Diane. I have a question. I understand at one time Haiti was covered by a deep forest of ebony and mahogany and valuable trees like that. And then at one point it was stripped of all that hard wood -- very valuable hard wood. I'd like to know what country was in charge or controlled Haiti and who profited from that stripping.

  • 11:34:08

    JEANThat's a very good question, sir. Thank you for asking it. What I would say to that is unfortunately, indeed, a lot of trees were cut and it continues because it's for domestic use. People use, I mean, wood coal to -- for domestic purpose. But at the same time, there was so much of this wood sent to other countries and sold to other countries of the region. So Haiti became the provider of a lot of that wood coal to other countries. And there were no, I would, government policies to prevent that from happening. And this business has been going on for years and years and years.

  • 11:35:01

    JEANAnd as you fly over Haiti you can see really, you know, the destruction of that country who was at a time, as you said, so green. So right now this is also a concern and the actual government in Haiti is talking about organizing a major campaign where even children in schools would be involved in replanting and reforesting. That's really important because, you know, even with that erosion that happened that really plagues Haiti, the peasants, you know, in the rural communities are able to really produce amazing things.

  • 11:35:46

    JEANWhen you look at the public markets in Haiti -- and I know the region very, very well, you know, the other countries around in the Caribbean -- it's in Haiti that you find the most variety -- the richest variety of fruit, vegetables, you know, because there's a knowhow, there's a knowhow. Those peasants -- we thought equipment, we thought fertilizers are able, you know, to produce these amazing things. And it's wonderful to see that.

  • 11:36:22

    JEANIf we would invest -- and I'm going back again to this idea of investing in people's capacities, in people's knowhow in Haiti, investing in the agriculture again, we would see a lot more of food security in Haiti. We would actually reinforce, you know, what people are able to do and to produce in that country.

  • 11:36:52

    REHMSo you believe that somehow the International Community has lost that faith in Haiti's ability to do what it needs to do for itself.

  • 11:37:09

    JEANI think that there's a greater awareness now of where we have failed through the logic of assistance. And people are starting to realize that it's very important to move toward investing in what people can do in that country and, for example, investing in education. Education is key. Investing also in the vocational training, producing opportunities and job opportunities for the people in Haiti.

  • 11:37:39

    REHMAll right. We'll take a short break here and when we come back, more of your calls.

  • 11:40:03

    REHMAnd as we discuss Haiti, the need for assistance, the need for independence, the need for security with UNESCO special envoy for Haiti, Michaelle Jean, we'll go back to the phones to Waddington, N.C. Good morning, Mark.

  • 11:40:30

    MARKGood morning, Diane. What a wonderful show and a wonderful guest. I've been going to Haiti since 2004 and just came back last week. Your guest is absolutely correct. I mean, we need security, which I think it's coming into place. Education is the key. Half the kids never go to school. And that's what we do. Hands for Haiti, it's a nonprofit. We completed a school and dedicated it last week. Most of them are preschool to fifth grade. And we got donations of laptops from the XO project and also solar panels. But, you know, in general what you see in Haiti, it's this extreme need. People of the world have opened their hearts and their pockets to help these wonderful people who work every day as hard as they can.

  • 11:41:23

    MARKAnd our school is in a rural area about 12 miles outside of Cap-Haitien, a farming community that had generations of little or no education. And you can make a huge difference by providing educational benefits even in the society where the people at our school, the villagers own the school. We gave the land to them, built the school. They provide the teachers. The Haitian government comes, inspects it, approves it. And we have a bond with them, not in general of that we tell them what to do, but show them, give them the resources and follow through with their needs, whether it's food, their first annual physical and those kinds of things to make a difference in any child's life (unintelligible)

  • 11:42:14

    REHMAll right, Mark. Just let me ask you one question. And that is you said we gave the land to them. Can you be -- can you clarify that? Because it would seem that the land is theirs to begin with, is it not?

  • 11:42:37

    MARKThat's a good point. The land is. There's so few -- there are large landowners in Haiti and they truly don't wanna give up their land. That's why you have so many people sitting in camps, 700,000. We purchased the land from one of these owners and gave it to the villagers to use.

  • 11:42:58

    REHMI see. Now, does that go on a fair amount, Michaelle?

  • 11:43:03

    JEANThat's a real problem that the state -- the government has to solve. There's no cadastre in Haiti and then property is really, really a major problem. So I wanna thank you, sir, for what you are doing. But at the same time you will agree that it's time for Haiti to have a system of education that is universal, accessible and of quality that covers a whole territory, like a public system of education that covers a whole territory of Haiti.

  • 11:43:41

    JEANThere are still 140 communes in Haiti where you don't find a single school. There are half a million children in Haiti who have no access to school, so this is, for example, one priority of the actual president, President Michel Martelly, is to really build that system. And UNESCO is there to support this strategic plan for education and vocational training in Haiti.

  • 11:44:10

    REHMAre you suggesting that Mark's group is operating outside that system and that's part of the problem?

  • 11:44:21

    JEANWell, actually, this is what is happening in Haiti. I think from the heart and from goodwill a lot of people realizing that education is key are coming to Haiti and, yes, help building schools and villages. But, you know, it's important for a country to be able to assume this responsibility from its own perspective.

  • 11:44:44

    REHMBut it hasn't, Michaelle. How can you say it's important for the government to do this if the government is not doing it?

  • 11:44:57

    JEANWell, actually, even before the earthquake, there has been a special commission, a presidential commission, to -- and a taskforce to address the situation of lack of schools in Haiti, what is working, what is not working, what needs to be done, what needs to be built. And Haiti came with a strategic plan in education and vocational training exactly to build a national system that will make sure that every child in that country has access to school and quality instruction and quality education. And, for example, for this year, Haiti's objective is to make sure that 140,000 of these children who do not go to school and have no access will be able to do so and...

  • 11:45:48

    REHMNow, will that goal be met?

  • 11:45:54

    JEANAbsolutely. Because, for example, UNESCO is responding to this goal and support set in reinforcing capacities and making sure that the governance of the system will be one of quality, will be efficient. Also for teacher training, for building curricula, content, you know, and that's really important. The notion of quality is essential.

  • 11:46:23

    REHMAll right.

  • 11:46:23

    JEANSo instead of having thousands of organizations who, again, from goodwill are building schools around the country, it's important to have a system and a policy that is a national one and that will be actually governed in a responsible manner...

  • 11:46:44

    REHMAll right.

  • 11:46:44

    JEAN...in full accountability.

  • 11:46:46

    REHMLet's go now to Harvey in Dallas, Texas. You also have just returned.

  • 11:46:54

    HARVEYGood morning, ladies.

  • 11:46:56

    REHMMorning, sir.

  • 11:46:56

    JEANGood morning.

  • 11:46:57

    HARVEYDiane, I love you a bunch and have for many years.

  • 11:46:59

    REHMThank you.

  • 11:47:01

    HARVEYI disagree with your guest on a couple points. I was in Cite Soleil, which is the biggest slum in...

  • 11:47:06

    JEANYes.

  • 11:47:07

    HARVEY…Port-au-Prince just last week. I got to experience a very moving, I mean, emotional experience. And that is when I landed in Haiti, my objective 30 days before was to find the smallest voice. I assumed it was the poorest male. In fact, what I found it was, was poorest female. And I was in front of 100 women in Jeremy Wharf. And after what we got through the standard stuff, that I'm not there to give you houses, I'm here to show you how to build houses, wonderful houses, out of plastic trash. I asked them, I said, what do you want in a house? I was the very first person from the outside to ever ask a woman what it was. Then I asked them if they wanted to build it.

  • 11:47:57

    HARVEYWe're trying to go back to get 50 women working in a processing plant at Wharf Jeremy to build their own houses. The women there are absolutely unbelievably strong. I mean, and I'm not talking about physical strength. A woman...

  • 11:48:15

    REHMSure.

  • 11:48:15

    JEANOh, yeah.

  • 11:48:15

    HARVEYIt's not unusual to see women walking with a five gallon of water bottle on their head with their hands at their side. But they are also very strong in the way that you do not talk over one because she will put you in your place in a heartbeat. These people have -- you know, and what has kept them back is they are prideful and that is a wonderful thing. That is a great building block. The reason they don't speak up is because they had no education, they have no language skills to speak in other languages. That all goes to males.

  • 11:48:49

    HARVEYAnd it took me almost a month to be able to talk to women. Because when you hit Haiti, you've got this huge filter that all the NGOs have built and that's young males. They're the getters. They're the ones that make things happen. And you have to get through them to be able to get to the women.

  • 11:49:06

    REHMWhat do you think of that, Michaelle?

  • 11:49:10

    JEANI think there's an expression in Haiti, women are called (word?) so they are really the major pulls in the Haitian society. Women are so courageous in Haiti and I would say the part of the economy also is on the women's initiatives and work. And they actually have to be considered in the whole reconstruction process. It will not happen, it will not be sustainable if the women are not included, if their initiatives are not included. And you have in Haiti, like, many women organizations who are really on every, you know, things that is important for human development in the country and sustainable development. And I have the utmost respect for these women.

  • 11:50:17

    JEANI remember that when I went back to Haiti a few weeks after the earthquake and on purposely I arrived on International Women's Day because I wanted the women to know that they are not alone. And logistics were very difficult, you know, because it was all rubble everywhere. And I expected maybe 300 women to come to this rendezvous and meeting that we had just to hear how they were doing because I know that the women movement had lost many leaders, you know, on the rubble and during the earthquake and I lost many friends.

  • 11:50:56

    JEANAnd when I arrived, there were 5,000 women. And the energy, let me tell you, Diane, was amazing. Women from all, you know, walks of life saying life will triumph, life will triumph over this ordeal. And they came with their courage and their determination. This is what Haitian women are about in Haiti. And I understand that these women that you've met, sir, are part of that strength and the richness of the country.

  • 11:51:26

    REHMAll right. To Miami, Florida. Good morning, Albert.

  • 11:51:32

    ALBERTHi, how are you doing, Diane?

  • 11:51:33

    REHMGood, thanks. Thank you.

  • 11:51:36

    ALBERTI'm calling to bring to light something that sometimes gets missed and I wanted to see if I can get Michaelle to give me her thoughts on that.

  • 11:51:46

    JEANYes.

  • 11:51:47

    ALBERTWhich is, I mean, I've been involved heavily in I guess calling out the fourth generation command and control structure that the UN is operating and their appellate systems which further shelter and protect legacy systems that currently are exasperating most of the issues in Haiti, whether it be cholera, water management, shelter, sanitation. Good example for that is the sanitation nightmare and debacle that are currently operated by most of the large UN NGOs. They're the ones that are managing the contracts. It's on their websites. They're fully aware of it. They're taking primary waste from porta-potties and basically putting it over the central plateau and over the main Truttier aquifer which feeds Port-au-Prince.

  • 11:52:47

    ALBERTMost of that is cholera waste. Most of it medical waste. Everybody's aware of it. Everybody knows that that's what's being dealt out. But there's no real drive inside the UN appellate system to innovate and apply change to the existing legacy systems. Because their budgets are controlled on a year to year annum basis and they're required to pay out those budgets accordingly. If not, they will not receive those budgets the following year. And I'm wondering what kind of -- what kind of application has the UN as a group and their appellate groups, how are they address the need for change within their own operations to drive solutions as opposed to further exasperating the problems in Haiti, which, you know, they run themselves (unintelligible)

  • 11:53:45

    REHMAll right, sir. Thanks for your call. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Michaelle.

  • 11:53:53

    JEANI would say that there's an urgent need indeed for better coordination of all the efforts deployed in Haiti. And what -- the situation that you just described, sir, is certainly an illustration of that. It's important to -- when you have all these multi-lateral organizations involved, it's important to start not working in silos anymore, but to have a leading strategy and more coordination in the different, you know, actions and programs. And that's where, again, it's really important to make sure that a responsible Haitian government can take the lead to coordinate those efforts.

  • 11:54:47

    REHMHow long do you think it will take for a Haitian government to come together to coordinate in a way that makes sense?

  • 11:55:00

    JEANYou know, already the international community last March -- at the end of March in New York at the United Nations has agreed to the Haitian plan for reconstruction and sustainable development of the country. They agreed to the objectives, to the goals. And they agreed to support the implementation of those policies. So I think it's really important to steadfastly, you know, continue in that direction in order to avoid the dispersion and the chaotic situation right now in Haiti. And it's all part, you know, of that struggle of the Haitian people to extricate themselves from the binding ties of international aid and dependency. That's really a problem.

  • 11:55:58

    JEANSo when a country comes with a plan, it means that it is assuming its responsibilities. So then I think the best thing to do in a very integrated, I would say, manner for its development is to go by, you know, the people's perspectives, the country's perspectives and the country's objectives and policies.

  • 11:56:23

    REHMWould you wish to see the NGOs leave?

  • 11:56:30

    JEANWell, that's not what I'm saying. I think...

  • 11:56:32

    REHMNo. I know that's not what you're saying.

  • 11:56:35

    JEANYes.

  • 11:56:35

    REHMBut what are you saying is that there is no coordination...

  • 11:56:40

    JEANYes, yes.

  • 11:56:40

    REHM...among the NGOs. My question is would Haiti be better off without the NGOs?

  • 11:56:49

    JEANI think that it's very important to come to a time where the NGOs work will be directly linked and coordinate to the Haitian government's policies and coordinated by Haitians themselves.

  • 11:57:08

    REHMMichaelle Jean, she's UNESCO special envoy for Haiti. I wish you all success.

  • 11:57:17

    JEANThank you, Diane.

  • 11:57:17

    REHMThank you for being here.

  • 11:57:19

    JEANThank you.

  • 11:57:19

    REHMThanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.

Topics + Tags

Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Most Recent Shows

Friday News Roundup – International

Friday, Dec 19 2014World leaders react to a historic shift in U.S. policy toward Cuba. Pakistan buries victims of a school massacre by the Taliban. And U.S. officials say North Korea is behind the hacking of Sony Pictures. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week's top international news stories.

The Future Of U.S.-Cuban Relations

Thursday, Dec 18 2014Cuba releases American contractor Alan Gross after five years' imprisonment on espionage charges. The U.S. releases several Cubans in exchange. Details on the prisoner swap and the future of U.S.-Cuban relations.