FIU teach-in tackles decentralization of Haiti and other recovery issues

The decentralization of Haiti – shifting its population from densely-populated Port-au-Prince to less populated areas – in the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake emerged as a major theme in Florida International University’s second Haiti Teach-In, sponsored by the School of International and Public Affairs and the Latin American and Caribbean Center on March 6.

Panelist Robert Maguire, associate professor of International Affairs in the College of Arts and Sciences at Trinity University in Washington and a noted expert on Haiti, told the dozens of people gathered at the Rafael Diaz-Balart Hall auditorium that Haiti had to achieve “real and meaningful decentralization”.

Maguire discussed various methods of achieving decentralization such as reinforcing the capacity of towns around Haiti with help of the international community, as well as creating centers that could help establish schools and other key government services outside of Port-au-Prince.

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Anthony Maingot, FIU professor emeritus of sociology and anthropology [and LACC associated faculty member] , pointed out some of the challenges to decentralization, such as a history of corruption and mistrust of the government, as well as a lack of local leadership that would be crucial in decentralization.

Maguire also discussed other measures that could assist in Haiti’s recovery, including establishment of a Haitian civic service corps and getting cash in the hands of poor people through methods such as cash transfer programs where people would receive money as long as they complied with conditions such as sending children to school and obtaining medical care. Maguire also suggested microcredit as a way of giving cash to the poor.

“It’s a means of investing in the future of the human resource base,” he said.

He also spoke of the necessity to “twin talent and opportunity in Haiti.”

“It’s past time for all of us to support leaders, both political and economic, who will embrace the concepts of greater inclusion in the society,” he said. “The challenge for us now is to find the silver lining and move forward on it to make sure Haiti is a better and more equitable country in the future.”

A third panelist, Chantalle Verna, assistant professor of history and international relations at FIU [and LACC associated faculty member], stressed the importance of looking to the people living in Haiti and their expertise during the recovery and rebuilding of Haiti, rather than relying mostly on international assistance and the Haitian Diaspora.

A second panel, in which experts discussed various recovery issues such as the public health and the preservation of Haiti’s heritage, included Brooke Wooldridge, coordinator of the Digital Library of the Caribbean; Pilar Martin, clinical assistant professor from the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine [and LACC associated faculty member]; Marie Etienne, senior associate professor in Miami Dade College’s School of Nursing; Jean-Francois Gervais, architect with International Design Engineering &Architecture; and Christopher Corkery, distribution and deployment operations center chief for United States Southern Command.

Ralph Latortue, Haiti’s consul general in Miami, also addressed the audience.

Reminiscent of when teach-ins were used in the 1960s to provoke action on behalf of civil rights, FIU held its first teach-in days after the Haiti earthquake. The teach-ins are part of FIU’s long-term commitment to Haiti’s recovery.

Source: FIU News