Progressio has welcomed the announcement that the UK will be re-establishing a diplomatic presence in Haiti for the first time since 1966. Lizzette Robleto-Gonzalez, Progressio’s policy and advocacy officer, said: “It indicates that the UK is ready to play a more active role in supporting Haitian efforts to increase stability, create growth and prosperity, and promote reconstruction following the 2010 earthquake.”

Fr Francois Kawas from our partner organisation CERFAS told Progressio:

“I think the reopening of the British Embassy in Haiti is very important. It will help to strengthen relations not only between the two governments, but also between civil society in the two countries.

“After the earthquake of 12 January 2010, which destroyed a very important part of Haiti, many British organisations like Progressio are helping Haitians in various ways. Reopening the Embassy will help to facilitate travel and general exchanges between the two countries. It will offer important support to the work of organisations and to the Haitian government in efforts to reconstruct Haiti.”

Fr Francois KawasAbove: Fr Francois Kawas pictured in Port-au-Prince, June 2010

The plan to reopen the British Embassy in Haiti was announced in a Ministerial Statement in the House of Commons on 20 June 2012. The new embassy is expected to open by the middle of 2013. The embassy will be staffed by a diplomat who will report to Steven Fisher, UK Ambassador to the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Lord Leslie Griffiths, chair of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Haiti, told us:

“The opening of a direct channel of communication between London and Port-au-Prince is a tribute to the work of our DR ambassador Steven Fisher and the good will of so many other people and organisations. Now we can really work on Haiti and we hope to see measurable progress in the vast amount of work needing to be done to support the country’s reconstruction efforts.”

Since the Haitian earthquake the UK has played a significant role in responding to the humanitarian crisis. The UK government assisted in coordinating relief efforts and gave £20 million in emergency support, and the UK Disasters Emergency Committee (an umbrella group of UK charities) raised a staggering £107 million from the UK public.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, Progressio development workers and country staff worked with the Help Haiti platform of organisations, which played a key role in coordinating relief efforts. We continue to support development workers in Haiti in collaboration with Christian Aid, and we help build support in the UK for Haiti through HAPI-UK (the Haiti Advocacy Platform for Ireland and the UK) and through strong ties with the APPG for Haiti.

This advocacy work is led by Lizzette Robleto-Gonzalez, who said: “The interest in and support for Haiti among British NGOs, business-people, parliamentarians, peers and members of the public means that the UK is well placed to play a meaningful and positive role in Haiti’s future.”

Photo at top: Daniel Permission, a shoe fixer, in the wreckage of the building where his business was based, June 2010. Both photos © Natasha Fillion/Progressio