Becca Polk, a graduate student in Conflict Transformation and Social Justice, recently returned from the 17th World Festival for Youth and Students — an event held every five years.
At the most recent Festival, held in mid-December in South Africa, delegates from Mali, Cuba, Equator, the U.S. and Haiti wrote a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. In clear terms, they voiced the immediate “quality of life” improvement needs of the Haitian people, called for a pull out of U.N. troops in Haiti and the return of former President Aristide.
The letter reminds the secretary general of the history of Haiti and of their forced reparations to France for their freedom. It highlights how U.N. troops refuse to recognize that cholera was brought to Haiti by them (proven by French epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux).
The youth continue in their letter with demands specific to the interests of the people in Haiti.
The following are demands called for:
“Haiti needs ‘armies of doctors,’ who along with engineers and technical expertise could help in the reconstruction process, without acting out of any personal interest.
“We don’t need military troops who only shoot people protesting for their rights and who rape our women, along with many other abuses. We demand reparations for the damage MINUSTAH (UN forces) has caused introducing cholera into Haiti.
“The structure of aid must change because the large number of NGOs in the country are not helping to solve problems in Haiti. People are tired of seeing NGO employees driving fancy cars while people are living in inhumane conditions.
“All money that the international community is sending for reconstruction after the earthquake must be put into one bank account that is owned by the people of Haiti. Our people must participate in the reconstruction and must know all the projects.
We demand an end to transnational and multinational corporations leading the reconstruction process in our country (eg., the “Haiti Hope Project” with the Coca-Cola Company working in reconstruction projects), since this not only contributes to decreasing our quality of life but, more specifically enriches only a few, as it was in colonial times.
“We demand that the U.N. respects the right of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and other political leaders to return to Haiti in order to continue with Haiti’s democratic process.
“Finally, we want to say that the Haitian people will accept international solidarity only if it is not militarized and only if it is in the interests of really helping.”
The letter is signed by young Haitian people with the support and signatures of over 800 international youth.
On Friday, Feb. 4, Becca Polk met with Haitian activists including Kim Yves of Haiti Liberte, Ray LaForest and Frantz Jerome and members of the press to read the Dec. 21 dated letter and hand deliver the letter with the signatures to Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at the U.N.
This past festival in South Africa was attended by 15,000 participants ages 15-35 from around the world. These international youth festivals started following World War II, the first in 1947. Recent previous festivals were in Venezuela and Algeria.