Media Center



December 16, 1994 - Port-au-Prince, Haiti

"We need to promote more democratization, wider participation, local de-mocracy, and a strong involvement of the people in the oversight of the policy-making process. We have to empower our societies with the ability to—again and again—transform ourselves. That is the most essential task to ensure a never-ending revolution in which democracy and economic freedom become the only answer to confront the challenges of the moment."

It is a great honor to join Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s countrymen and the international community on this extremely significant date. Four years ago today Haiti launched its democratic revolution, choosing Aristide as its leader. On that day, Haitians had their whole future in front of them. In free and fair elections, the Haitian people voted for a "new Haiti," rejecting the corruption and oppression of the past. That day, the people crowded the streets of Port-au-Prince to celebrate the triumph of a man who had the courage to stand up for the average Haitian.
However, the experiences of the past three years show that democracy is not achieved merely by elections. For three years this country experienced a long and tortuous relapse into dictatorship. The crowds who again greeted their president two months ago with such hope must not be disappointed. Haitians have waited too long for real freedom.
What also sets this day apart from every other day in the new Haiti is that Jean-Bertrand Aristide is returning from the Summit of the Americas where he assumed his rightful position as one of the 34 democratically-elected leaders of the Hemisphere. President Aristide, your contributions, and the fact that you were there to contribute means that a new day has begun to dawn in the Americas. We are committed to working together towards democ-racy, peace and progress through open trade and equitable economic development.We need to promote more democratization, wider participation, local democracy, and a strong involvement of the people in the oversight of the policy-making process. We have to empower our societies with the ability to—again and again—transform ourselves. That is the most essential task to ensure a never-ending revolution in which democracy and economic freedom become the only answer to confront the challenges of the moment.
President Aristide, your actions perfectly reflect the cooperative spirit we both felt at the Summit. You are in open dialogue with those who deposed you from power three years ago. You have begun the difficult task of rebuilding civil society, and are actively reconstructing the military and government. You stand among the ranks of the great leaders of our Hemisphere. As you well know, Haiti was the second country in the Americas to declare independence. While the Haitian national hero Toussaint l’Ouverture turned the tide against colonialism, President Aristide deserves as much recognition as a defender of democracy.
Now it is time to roll up our sleeve and redouble our efforts. The time for Haitians to construct their future is now. Ten days ago we made a successful international appeal with the United Nations’s special representative Lakhdar Brahimi to secure $77 million in emergency aid for Haiti. These funds will be used to finance farming, education, health, nutrition, water, and environmental programs. These emergency funds were a beginning. We must also act decisively to ensure that the roots of democracy grow quickly and deeply.
President Aristide, I do not come here empty handed. I am here to offer a concrete list of initiatives that the Organization of American States is prepared to take in the immediate, short, and medium term to create a web of democratic values and institutions so the Haitian people will never experience dictatorship and rule by force again. I submit to you a series of actions aimed to provide support in the areas of governance, human rights, elections, and institution building and the strengthening of democracy. Every one of the OAS’s initiatives is designed to build sustainable democracy in Haiti.
The first place we must act immediately is to strengthen governance from the top down. We are ready to help you build up the Offices of the Presidency and the Prime Minister. Using Haitian consultants we will create a structure of advisory offices to the Presidency in areas such as communications, international relations, coordination, and state reform. We are ready to assist the Prime Minister’s Office in the task of day to day governance by strengthening his Cabinet, establishing a multidisciplinary team of Haitian lawyers, publicadministration specialists, and economists.
As you well know, effective and open governance is more than a strong center. In the short term, the OAS desires to build up the justice and education system as well. We will collaborate with the Ministry of Justice to solve administrative and legal problems arising from the separation of the army and the police. While the Haitian judicial system is pieced back together, the OAS can help handle explosive issues such as detained persons through setting up a temporary court of International Judicial Monitors. The OAS is also ready to develop a program strengthening the capacity of justices of the peace in rural areas.
Most important in every democracy are the people. The same citizens that brought Aristide to the presidency must now be empowered themselves. We have designed a literacy program geared to those people previously left out of the formal education system. The OAS can design a civic education program teaching democratic values and principles to be taught through schools, radio and television, and community activities. Finally, to assist the government in coordinating with the many private and non-profit groups acting in Haiti, the OAS can compile a list of Non-Governmental Organizations. This list could then be used to organize the government’s strategy for development at the grass roots level.
A second and equally vital part of democracy is respect for human rights. The violations of past years of basic human principles must be banished to the past if democratic values are to flourish in Haiti. Immediately, the OAS is prepared to exhaustively assist the government in monitoring and promoting human rights. We can help the Haitian authorities re-settle internally displaced persons. We can support the Government of Haiti implement the extensive human rights and civic education campaign begun last year. We can assist the Government of Haiti to strengthen grass roots human rights organizations, and can provide human rights training to prison wardens and members of the new police force.
A third area in which democracy is rooted is in transparent and fair elections. The exemplary elections which brought President Aristide to power must become the norm. To this end, the Organization of American States can assume immediate responsibility for all areas of electoral observation. The OAS can monitor voter registration, electoral organization, campaigns, media access, freedom of expression and association, distribution of electoral lists and materials, and the adoption of security measures. We can observe the voting and counting processes, statistically project results, and can monitor political or electoral developments until the official publication of election results.
Finally, viable and sustainable democratic institutions and processes must be created in every town and village to ensure the long-term success of democracy in Haiti. Actions by the central government must be supplemented by actions by the community. We are immediately prepared to set up a network to channel public funds into the poorest areas of the country. The communities themselves will direct and supervise the use of these funds.
Institution building must take place at the state level as well. In the short term we are prepared to assist the newly established Ministry of the Environment strengthen its institutional capacity to coordinate environmental restoration and sustainable development. The OAS can also provide advisory and technical assistance to the Human Rights Bureau of the Ministry of the Interior. This could include establishing procedures for receiving complaints, undertaking investigations, and reporting to the correct judicial authorities.
In the medium term, the OAS is committed to supporting the Haitian legislature build up its information, legislative and administrative management systems, and can train legislators, advisors, and staff members in modern representation mechanisms and procedures, and financial management. This project can also promote a dialogue and exchange of views between the different segments of civil society on issues related to governance.
The OAS, with the assistance of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, could lend support to a Truth Commission established to investigate human rights violations of the past three years. If the Commission’s conclusions recommended the establishment of a reparations mechanism we can collaborate with this mechanism, providing information on the victims of violations of human rights abuses and assisting in the processing of applications from such victims.
President Aristide, as you can see, I have come to make good my promise at the Summit— that not a single day should go by that the countries of this Hemisphere do not take action to rebuild Haiti. One hundred ninety years after the declaration of independence, three years after the return of democracy, and two months after President Aristide’s return to his position, Haiti stands as a test case of the power of democratic change. The Organization of American States has been committed to the return of democracy since September 30 of 1991. It consistently supported and deployed efforts to ensure the return of constitutional order to Haiti. Now that democracy has returned, I want to assure you that the OAS is also committed to ensuring that it remains.