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Home Publications Blogs Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch As Aid Distributions Fall Short, Academics and Activists Call on France to Repay Independence Debt

As Aid Distributions Fall Short, Academics and Activists Call on France to Repay Independence Debt

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Monday, 16 August 2010 10:31
Over seven months since the earthquake, donor countries are coming under increasing scrutiny over the slow disbursement of aid pledges. According to the website of the UN Special Envoy to Haiti, which is tracking the aid pledges, $506 million has so far been disbursed, just over ten percent of what was pledged. Although some $1.8 billion has been spent on humanitarian relief, only .29 percent has gone to the Government of Haiti. Meanwhile the construction of transitional shelters has been far too slow, with over a million Haitians still living under fraying tents and tarps as the Hurricane Season picks up.

Writing in the Toronto Star, Canadian academic Isabel Macdonald writes that "dozens of leading academics, authors and activists from around the world proposed a bold solution to this desperate financial shortfall."

Macdonald (who helped draft the letter to French President Nicolas Sarkozy), continues:
In an open letter to French president Nicolas Sarkozy published today in the French national daily newspaper Liberation, 90 leading academics, authors, journalists and human rights activists from around the world urged the French government to pay Haiti back for the 90 million gold francs Haitians were forced to pay as a price for their independence.

...

The open letter to Sarkozy, signed by MIT linguist Noam Chomsky, Canadian journalist Naomi Klein, Princeton professor Cornel West, Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano, and several renowned French philosophers — Alain Badiou, Etienne Balibar and Jacques Ranciere — called the French government’s measures against those advocating restitution “inappropriate responses to a demand that is morally, economically, and legally unassailable.”

“In light of the urgent financial need in the country in the wake of the devastating earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, we urge you to pay Haiti, the world’s first black republic, the restitution it is due,” stated the letter, which was also signed by European, French, Filipino and Quebec parliamentarians, and scholars, journalists and activists in France, Haiti, the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Germany.

The letter added that the sum France owes Haiti today stands at well over 17 billion euros.
Macdonald also goes into much greater detail about the history of this odious debt, and past efforts, including a 2004 lawsuit, to recuperate the funds. To read the entire article, click here. Last month the group C.R.I.M.E. undertook an elaborate "Yes-Men"-inspired hoax where a woman posing as a French Foreign Ministry spokesperson announced that France would repay the independence debt. France responded by threatening legal action.
 

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