Monday, April 02, 2007

Breaking News from BHRN

I just found out that the Bahamas Human Rights Network (BHRN) issued this press release earlier today. The resolution mentioned therein can be viewed here.

30 March 2007

Human Rights Group Calls on Bahamas to Facilitate Cancellation of Haitian Debt

In response to a decision by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to delay debt relief for Haiti until at least 2009, the Bahamas Human Rights Network (BHRN) passed a resolution calling for the immediate cancellation of Haiti’s multilateral debt at their meeting last Wednesday March 21st. The group also called for "the Bahamian government to exercise its international influence on Haiti’s lenders to facilitate immediate and complete debt relief."

"Haitian debt relief is indirectly related to Bahamian indebtedness to international financial agencies," said Michael Stevenson, BHRN’s vice-president. "The relief would translate into a greater amount of Bahamian public money that could be spent on reducing our own national debt, given that a portion of our national expenditure goes into services resulting from Haitian migration to The Bahamas—services that would become increasingly unnecessary as more Haitian public money (available through debt relief) was spent on improving the conditions in Haiti that force Haitians to abandon their home."

While the resolution affirms the efforts that are being made by the IDB, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cancel Haiti’s international debt, it expresses concern that the process is moving too slowly. "Haiti’s continued economic distress over the next two or more years will have dire consequences for the Haitian people as they wait for the process . . . to reach completion to become eligible for 100% cancellation. Meanwhile, Haiti will continue to pay $60 million per year to service its debt, money that would be better spent tackling Haiti’s dire health and education problems."

"I'd say that this debt relief is very important for Haiti because the Haitian people are in dire need of basic infrastructure and security so that they can begin down the road to a stable and sustaining economic model," explained Tamico Gilbert, a BHRN member who helped draft the resolution. "It is a basic human right to have a fair chance at receiving an education, healthcare and a life that is free from the fear of everyday violence that is rooted in economic and political strife." The resolution points out that failure to address this problem "will result in the continued flight of Haitian migrants to neighboring countries such as the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas, and the United States."

"We must not forget that Haitian migration is not a Bahamian issue but a regional issue," said Daniel Schweissing, another BHRN member. "If the Bahamas wishes to stem the flow of Haitian immigrants to its shores, it can’t expect to do so by limiting its efforts to rounding up and deporting undocumented migrants. It must work with the international community to improve the economic conditions of Haiti so that would-be migrants will be more inclined to remain at home."

Noting that "approximately half of Haiti’s debt was incurred through loans made to the Duvalier regime and other dictatorships that used the funds to finance lavish lifestyles and prop up repressive regimes," the resolution argues that "it is an unconscionable policy to allow the people of Haiti to continue to suffer under weight of such debt." Gilbert emphasized that "immediate and unconditional debt relief for Haiti is really the least that can be done to attempt to compensate for the many injustices inflicted against the beautiful people of Haiti over the course of their history."

The Bahamas Human Rights Network is a non-government organization (NGO) that seeks to secure the fundamental rights and freedoms, as defined by The Bahamas Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for ALL persons within the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.

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