Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

OAS Action in Haiti

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

OAS Action in Haiti

Article excerpt

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A small pot simmers over an open flame on a street corner just outside Port-au-Prince. From this pot, thirteen people who have been living in a tent city since the January 12 earthquake must eat. For OAS Assistant Secretary General Ambassador Albert Ramdin, these realities have become painfully familiar. Looking out from one of Haiti's hilltops, the OAS official sees terrain still dotted by piles of rubble and blanketed by battered tents.

The people of Haiti have survived a sequence of disasters acute enough to cripple any country: an earthquake which killed hundreds of thousands and left a million homeless; cholera which found local hospitals overburdened and under-equipped; followed by mudslides, floods, and more deaths, as Hurricane Tomas brushed by leaving thousands more Haitians without shelter.

Haiti's journey to social and political stability has become a priority of the Organization of American States. Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin has been deeply involved in efforts to restore a sense of stability in the country. The high ranking OAS official, believes that a "building a better Haiti" can only be facilitated when there is political certainty, adequate security, and a sense of "ownership" in the country.

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On November 28, 2010, Haitians went to the polls to elect a new President. As of press time, final results had not been determined. A second round of presidential and legislative elections is scheduled to take place on January 16. Ramdin believes the new President will then be able to determine the path that Haiti should follow. "A new administration would signal a new sense of purpose and leadership. They would be better placed to make more effective long term policy decisions."

Under the leadership of Haitian authorities, the OAS provided assistance to Haiti's electoral process. It was a challenging task given the situation on the ground. The voters list had been affected by the number of deaths estimated in the January earthquake. Hundreds of bodies were never identified. Haitian authorities like the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) worked feverishly with the international community to put safeguards in place to facilitate transparent polls.

The OAS and CARICOM formed the largest ever Joint Election Observation Mission (JEOM). The mission of more than one hundred observers was deployed to Haiti before, during, and after the elections. The Organization of American States also provided technical support to various government offices in Haiti to improve the civil registry--the system for registering voters and for printing and distributing the identification cards required for voting. Ninety-six percent of Haiti's adult population, roughly 4.7 million Haitians, was registered. Working with Haiti's Office of National Identity (ONI), the OAS also provided assistance for the preparation and printing of voters lists.

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The OAS Assistant Secretary General's commitment to Haiti is long term. "The OAS will continue with the Civil Registry project to include minors, so that accurate information is available about the country's demographics," said Ramdin. "The more information we have, the better equipped we will be to address the needs of the people."

More than nine million people call Haiti home. Following the earthquake, reassessing and evaluating land usage became even more of a priority. New efforts to expand, update, and modernize the cadastral system have been proposed by the OAS. "We're talking about obtaining information which would be critical for the Haitian authorities to make fundamental decisions regarding urban planning, and social and economic development," Ramdin explained.

Haiti's economy has been largely and traditionally supported by remittances. The long term objective, Ramdin says, is for Haitians to be in a position to support their own economy and expand on the successes that small pockets of the private sector have achieved. …

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