New York: Haitian Organizations push for active diaspora engagement in Haiti's development

More than 250 professionals attended the 2nd annual conference on Haitian Diaspora Engagement and Innovation held at Columbia University on November 1-2, 2013, and came up with possible solutions for the development of Haiti.

The two-day conference themed, “3Ms: Models, Methods, and Mechanisms for Diaspora Engagement in Haiti: Leveraging knowledge, skills and resources for Mutual Economic Development,” focused on addressing the challenges that have stalled Haiti's economic progress and creating a framework for Diaspora engagement, both globally and within Haiti.


The event was organized by the National Association of Haitian Professionals (NAHP), the Joseph Denis Thomas (JDT) Foundation, and the Haiti Research Policy Program of the Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development at the Earth Institute of Columbia University.


“The continued growth of Haiti depends on action, not reaction. Our inaugural conference in 2012 was the beginning of an ongoing dialogue on how Haitians and Haitian-Americans can contribute to the advancement of Haiti through investment opportunities,” said Serge Renaud, Chairperson of the Board of NAHP. “As stakeholders, we have a greater responsibility to ensure Haiti and its people reach their fullest potential,” continued Renaud.


Day one of the conference explored various examples of global Diaspora models, methods and mechanisms and speakers reflected on how these tools might be applied within the Haitian Diaspora as engagement models. A diverse group of speakers shared tools and models they have utilized to spur Diaspora engagement, among them: Kingsley Aikins, CEO of Diaspora Matters; Aysha House-Moshi, Director of OPIC; Efain Jiminez of the Zacatecas Federation; and Armin Piálek, North America Representative, BMW Foundation.


Panelists included prominent leaders in the fields of medicine, engineering, education, finance, and government from the U.S. and abroad, such as the Honorable Judge Lionel Jean-Baptiste, Circuit Court Judge, Cook County; Pierre Nadji, former Private Sector Advisor to the Haiti UN Special Envoy; former President Bill Clinton & IHRC; Dr. Ludovic Comeau, Jr., Associate Professor of Economics at DePaul University; and Johnny Celestin, the Deputy Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Planning and External Cooperation in Haiti.


On the second day of the conference attendees had the opportunity to take part in one of five breakout sessions on: building Haiti’s healthcare systems, Diaspora investments, professional development & capacity building, local development through hometown associations and sustainable primary & secondary healthcare education.


Each session was moderated by key Haitian thought leaders in their respective fields, including Dr. Jean Orelien, CEO and Founder of SciMetrika; Manolia Charlotin, Editor in Chief, The Haitian Times; Katleen Felix, International Consultant and former Project Director, Fonkoze; Dr. Marjorie Brennan, Founder, JDT Foundation; and Ludovic Comeau, Associate Professor, DePaul University and former chief economist at the Central Bank of Haiti.


Workshops included panelists from organizations such as the Taproot Foundation, BMW Foundation, OPIC, International Finance Corporation (IFC), Moody’s Corporation, American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM), and more.


Through open dialogue with moderators, panelists, and session participants, each group was charged with the responsibility of devising practical and applicable solutions to their various topic areas. Post-conference, event organizers plan to post working papers and resolutions from the workshops to their respective websites to provide a guiding framework for those interested in investing or working in some capacity with the on-going economic, health and education development projects in Haiti.


"Second generation Haitian-American professionals are savvy, enthusiastic and poised to engage meaningfully with Haiti in almost every sphere. In attending this conference, they show their commitment to networking among their peers and to lifelong learning, needed for development practice in Haiti," said Dr. Tatiana Wah, Director of the Haiti Research and Policy Program, Earth Institute at Columbia University.


Conference attendee Marc Alain Boucicault, Fulbright Scholar and former Senior Operations Analyst, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), shared his reasons for attending the conference: “I needed to understand to what extent the Haitian Diaspora is concerned and is willing to be part of the solution to develop Haiti. This is where I am mostly satisfied with this conference.” Boucicault continued, "Today, the Haitian Diaspora is that conscious power growing out of the current hardly working system in Haiti. They can transfer both capital and knowledge that will change the game.”


“We gathered at Columbia University and spent two days exploring methods, mechanisms and models for Diaspora to come together and find solutions to pressing social and economic problems,” said Dr. Marjorie Pierre Brennan, Founder and Executive Director of the JDT Foundation, “in the coming months, we will continue to engage Diaspora organizations, NGOs and the Haiti government to create frameworks to foster entrepreneurship, innovation and strategic volunteerism.”

Article Tags: #Haiti #Conference #Diaspora Engagement #New York #3M
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