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Important to coordinate advocacy

In the 18 months since the earthquake, the Haitian community has remained fervently involved in Haiti’s recovery and reconstruction. Diaspora leaders, Haiti scholars and human rights advocates have held numerous conferences, community meetings and forums. Throughout these efforts, the need for deeper diaspora involvement in long-term policy advocacy continues to permeate the conversation. It has become apparent that the voice of the estimated 1.5 million Haitians need to be heard where policies are developed in key U.S. power centers such as Washington DC.

Two recent major policy gains in the Haitian community - dual citizenship in Haiti and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) extension and re-designation in the U.S. - should serve as a driving force to build a robust, comprehensive advocacy agenda for better U.S. policies towards Haiti.

Now, Haitians living abroad, particularly in the U.S., have access to the political process in Haiti and immigration status that allows many to make a living to provide for their families here and back on the island.

A few notable groups around the country, developed post-quake, are indeed serving as conveners to tackle a myriad of issues. DC-based Haiti Advocacy Working Group (HAWG), coordinates advocacy efforts for more than 30 diverse non-profits on US-Haiti policy from aid transparency, human rights of displaced survivors, to capacity-building of civil society institutions.

The Haitian Congress to Fortify Haiti, a Chicago-based non-profit, in coordination with the African American Baptist Mission Collaboration, has assembled a group of diverse leaders and advocates from the Black, faith-based community with long-standing interests in Haiti. They are working to craft a new policy advocacy initiative on a host of issues from reconstruction to immigration.

This week, a group of leaders in the diaspora kick off a national listening tour in Boston. The Haitian Fund for Innovation (NY), Konbit for Haiti (FL), the Lambi Fund (Haiti), and Oxfam America (Boston/DC) - in collaboration with the Boston Haitian Reporter - to gather the diaspora perspective on issues they would like to address through advocacy.

Over the next few months, the tour will go through cities with major populations of Haitians. The Reporter will document and report on these listening sessions and the ongoing effort to coordinate disparate advocates, leaders and groups around the country who work on US-Haiti policy.

Building on the work that has been done in the past, it is time that the diaspora become long-term strategic partners of the people of Haiti by engaging policy makers as well as those with influence over Haiti’s development.