By Max A. Joseph Jr.
The Seventh Summit of the Americas, which took place in Panama City, Panama, on April 10-11, was as expected a photo op session that failed to tackle the most pressing issues affecting the least influential countries in the hemisphere — Haiti in particular. Apparently Duly Brutus, the Haitian foreign minister, was not forceful enough in making the case for the inclusion of the plight of Haitian citizens and their offerings living in the Dominican Republic (DR) on the agenda. What would it take for the United Nations (UN) and Organization of the American States (OAS) to finally admit that this systemic violence targeting Haitians in the DR violates the basic norms of decency and international law?
Good neighborliness hinges on mutual understanding, cooperation and respect; not photo ops, empty rhetoric, bullying, paternalism or charity. We cannot settle for photo ops while our fellow citizens or Dominicans of Haitian descent are subjected to vigilante justice on a daily basis in the DR, under the watchful eyes of our hemispheric neighbors. We must reevaluate our position vis-à-vis these international institutions and refocus our efforts on building meaningful bilateral relations.
Like the UN, OAS protects the interests of the powerful and disregards those of its powerless members. That is why the issues pertaining to Haiti and other unimportant member states are invariably ignored, regardless of urgency and magnitude. In theory, any oppressed person or entity, through passivity, is to a certain extent responsible for their torment. Does it really make sense for Haiti which, unlike other oppressed countries, predates the founding of both the UN and OAS by more than a century to maintain its membership in these organizations?
For the record, these organizations’ history of malevolence against the country is numerous and well documented. Haiti, which became the second independent country in the Americas in 1804 and played a vital role in the liberation of Gran Colombia, (present-day Bolivia, Colombia, Equator, Panama, Peru and Venezuela), was not even invited to the first International Conference of American States in Washington, DC (October, 1889–April 1890).
Adding insult to injury, the OAS acted as a facilitating agent during the foreign-directed insurrection against Haiti’s lawful government and never protested the use of the DR territory to destabilize another member state. As for the UN, the political decision by the United Nations Security Council to mandate the occupation of Haiti, which has been invaded by French and US forces, is a testament of a moral failure that disqualifies it from playing a constructive role in that country.
By providing the lion’s share of the occupation force MINUSTAH 2004-present, the OAS, through its most powerful members, validated the UNSC 1529 and subsequent resolutions dubbing Haiti a threat to international peace and security. Based on these aberrations, Haiti would be better off without its membership in the OAS, the UN and their satellite organizations that support the framework of the present geopolitical order. Moreover given that Haiti does not possess a functioning economy, does not have a nuclear capability or intend to wage war in the near future, what is the purpose of it being a party to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or the 1949 Geneva Convention?
To begin with, it is practically impossible for the country to breach agreements that it isn’t part of, given that nothing in the UN and OAS charters mandates Haiti to be a member of either organization. On the other hand, membership in these organizations exposes the impoverished country to unreasonable standards that are impossible to meet or alien practices incompatible to its culture, not to mention the unjustifiable lectures by self-appointed protectors of the human race (read inhabitants of poor countries) such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Clearly UN and OAS have strayed from their original purpose, which was to provide a forum for peaceful resolutions of conflicts that may arise between neighbors or competing political and economic interests, not to micromanaging the world. Until and unless they revert to their founding principles, Haiti, recently dubbed “Island of misfortune” in a Wall Street Journal article, should simply suspend its membership in these organizations.
Were it not for the paternalism of the UNSC and OAS, the more than 10,000 Haitians that went prematurely to their graves due to the MINUSTAH-linked cholera epidemic and other transgressions would certainly be alive today. We cannot stay complacent and hope for the best from entities with proven record of callous attitude toward our country, because the very existence of Haiti and future of millions of Haitians are at stake.
Nominally the largest independent Black nation outside of Africa, superficially connected to western values and geographically located in the wrong hemisphere, Haiti has been, throughout the centuries of its existence, the target of concerted assaults on its cultural heritage, which as you would expect, evolved into outright hostility. Apparently, it is the country’s very existence that provokes such enduring persecution, not the policies it espouses or the leaders it chooses.
As I have said before, recorded history taught us that persecutions of a group always make the leap from occasional harassments to an ultimate attempt to solve the problem, once and for all. Not surprisingly, the timing never belongs to the victims. Any nation that does not forcefully assert itself to protect its independence, interests or security will end up in the ash bins of history.