Hope for Haiti: People Living in Extreme Poverty Invite Us to Build New Relationships

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Message by Eugen Brand, Director General, International Movement ATD Fourth World

Haiti is "a concentration of the tragedies and failures of international solidarity," according to Ricardo Seitenfus, representative of the Organization of American States. It’s true, the situation for the past year has shown brutally how little progress the world has made in being able to think and act together with all stakeholders.

Too often, international cooperation is planned in consultation with only a few people, based on good will that is genuine but can lack follow through, as well as on unstated economic interests. This is why so many people continue to feel humiliated by international aid. Seitenfus continues by saying: "Autonomy, sovreignty, fair trade and respect should be the motor of international relations." This is what people living in extreme poverty in Haiti have been saying, in their own words, since last year’s earthquake. In the isolated district of Port-au-Prince where we work, they faced the catastrophe with dignity, intelligence and solidarity. About rebuilding their district and their country, they said:

  • that the reconstruction should be rooted in a new way of living together with more socio-economic justice, with a strong government that seeks to improve the welfare of every Haitian;
  • that their young people are ready and willing to pitch in, instead of feeling useless and getting caught in cycles of violence;
  • and that, while outside support remains needed, dependency on decisions made elsewhere humiliates their country.

Like others living in unbearable conditions around the world, the youths and adults of this disadvantaged district of Port-au-Prince know that it is in the midst of ongoing crises that their future is shaped. They call on us to develop new relationships with the common goal of human rights for all. This means each and every person living in freedom and dignity. Yes, this goal is ambitious. But in Haiti as elsewhere, we find hope in building new relationships that enable us to think and act together with everyone concerned to tackle our world’s challenges.


Wherever men and women are condemned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated.
To come together to ensure that these rights be respected is our solemn duty.

Joseph Wresinski

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