Greetings AID Community!

My name is Abby and I’m thrilled to be the new Global Development intern with Americans for Informed Democracy.  I just want to briefly introduce myself and then get right down to posting about the urgent need for debt relief in Haiti.

I’m a junior taking my spring semester off from Harvard University where I’m a Social Studies major with a self-designed focus on collective action in Western Europe and the United States.  While on campus and in my hometown of Boston, I’ve been involved with local labor organizing, youth empowerment, and the LGBTQ and allied community.  However, this past summer, I interned for the largest student union in France, and the need for a global movement for social justice really hit home.  I hope that, by working with AID and living in DC for the semester, I can become more involved and better informed about the global issues impacting our world.

I want to start with Haiti.

The devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on Jan. 12th of this year resulted in thousands of lost lives, billions of dollars in damage, and prompted an outpouring of international relief efforts.  But these efforts won’t be enough to help Haiti for the long term.

Why you ask?

Debt has plagued Haiti ever since it became a free nation.

The former French colony has been incurring debt since its emancipation when France demanded it pay reparations for the lost slave labor that came with independence. Haiti has been borrowing and repaying debt ever since to the point where it still owes $1.051 billion in international debt. With the devastation following Jan 12, and such a spurious basis for debt to begin with, it’s outrageous to think Haiti is in a position to actually pay its unreasonable debt.

Cancellation of debt is the only course of action that makes any sense.  Interestingly, France was the first to officially call to cancel Haiti’s debt after the quake, and Italy soon followed. 

Now it’s the US’s turn.

The Haiti Recovery Act passed the U.S. Senate last Friday, March 5th, co-sponsored by senators Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Richard Durbin (D- IL), John Kerry (D-MA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Richard Lugar (R-IN) (definitely give these guys a thank-you call if they are your Senators).   The proposal hits the floor of the House of Representatives TODAY.  The Haiti Recovery Act commits the US government to advocating for the cancellation of Haitian debt “to each international financial institution” (including the IMF and the Inter-American Development Bank) and for aid to be given in grants instead of loans (click here for the official summary of the proposal).

Haiti isn’t “cursed.”  Haiti isn’t condemned to poverty and violence.  But the country needs to be able to use aid without continuing the vicious cycle of incurring debt. Since its colonization, Haiti has had its ability to self-govern severely compromised as a result of monetary “obligations.”

Definitely check out the impressive series that MSNBC journalist Rachel Maddow has been running on Haiti: (link to Jan archive).  She recently hosted Neil Watkins of Jubilee USA who explains that ultimately, Haiti simply won’t be able to build its own infrastructure and remove itself from dependence on international aid if it’s forced to accept loans instead of grants. 

As students, although on a smaller scale, we certainly know the difference.

Click here to send a message to your representative urging the US to cancel Haiti’s debts and push for grants, not loans.