By Travis Ross, Black Agenda Report (BAR), Nov. 8, 2023
I recently discovered that the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) scrubbed the list of its grants awarded to Haitian “civil society” and “human rights” groups.
The NED is a political manipulation foundation created in 1983 to advance Washington’s political agenda throughout the world, mostly by funding civil society organizations (CSOs) that it either concocts or co-opts.
The NED list of grants in 2021 originally comprised 10 Haitian organizations. This is easily confirmed using Web Archive / WayBack Machine. The webpage now lists only five organizations.
The NED deleted information regarding grants for the following organizations: the Observatoire Citoyen de l’Action des Pouvoirs Publics et des ONGs (OCAPH), the Bureau des Droits Humains en Haiti, the Reseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH), Défenseurs Plus (DP), and the Cercle de Reflexion sur le Développement Economique, later renamed Policité.
The NED’s website on May 25, 2022 showed 10 Haiti grantees for 2021…but in October 2023 it only shows 5 grantees for 2021, and none for 2022. The deletions are not mentioned anywhere on the NED website.
In addition, the grants distributed to Haitian “human rights” organizations and “civil society” groups during 2022 have not yet been made available to the public. The original list of 10 grants during 2021 were posted to the NED website in February 2022. Assuming NED grants continue to be awarded on an annual basis, NED’s website has had over seven months to post this information.
So why, instead of sharing the list of its 2022 grantees, did the NED scrub the names of half of its 2021 beneficiaries?
We posed this question to NED but did not receive a response before press time.
When you Google search the keywords “NED” and “Haiti” the first four results are: the NED’s scrubbed webpage listing 2021’s grantees, my October 2022 article for the Black Agenda Report (BAR) analyzing the NED’s grants to Haitian organizations, a video of a NED conference (also discussed in the BAR article), and the Wikipedia page on the NED.
The NED clearly does not like the scrutiny that their grantees are receiving.
The grant information that was deleted seems to indicate that the NED is trying to hide its funding for CSOs and “human rights” groups which support U.S. foreign policy in Haiti.
Peter Hallward, author of Damming the Flood (the definitive account of Haiti’s 2004 coup d’état), says the NED’s tentacle called the International Republican Institute (IRI) “was part of the scheme,” backing elitist, pro-military Haitian factions which overthrew the democratically elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. While the RNDDH worked with the post-coup de facto regime of Prime Minister Gérard Latortue and President Boniface Alexandre to persecute Fanmi Lavalas (FL) supporters, the “human rights” group also had a key role in framing FL leaders with allegations of politically-motivated massacres. A lengthy review of the RNDDH’s role in undermining Haitian sovereignty and democracy can be read in a recent Haïti Liberté article on the role of its then second-in-command Marie Yolène Gilles.
Policité’s Emmanuela Douyon and OCAPH’s Guy Serge Pompilus both publicly support the U.S. Global Fragility Act (GFA), as does Patrick Quirk, IRI’s vice-president. He formerly served on the U.S. State Department’s Policy Planning staff and in its Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations.
Manufacturing consent for the GFA through capture of Nou Pap Domi
Douyon is a spokesperson for Nou Pap Domi (We’re not asleep) or NPD, a founding member-organization of the Montana Accord coalition and a signatory of the Kingston Joint–Declaration. She announced her support for the GFA at an Alliance for Peacebuilding conference on December 15, 2022.
The Alliance for Peacebuilding co-leads the Global Fragility Act Coalition along with Mercy Corps. This coalition works to “ensure the successful implementation of the GFA.”
Douyon previously worked for the NED’s National Democratic Institute (NDI) tentacle. Later, she received an NED grant to found Policité, a “think tank” that conducts surveys and offers consultation services.
Douyon affirmed her support for the GFA by agreeing with Jeffsky Poincy’s position supporting the GFA at the same Alliance for Peacebuilding conference, saying that Haiti was “facing its worst security crisis.” Poincy said that he was “glad Haiti is part of the GFA.”
Poincy was the NPD representative who signed the Kingston Joint–Declaration on June 13, 2023 in Kingston, Jamaica. He is a program manager at Partners Global, a consultancy firm funded by the U.S. State Department, the Canadian government, the Open Society Foundation, and USAID.
Poincy and Douyon are two good examples of the “activist” CSO network being cultivated by NED, USAID, and The Open Society Foundation, among others, to generate “grassroots” support for Washington’s hegemonic stranglehold on Haiti. USAID is already “partnering“ with 250 Haitian CSOs to create the facade that Haitians agree with U.S. foreign policy. Their organizations function as political organs of imperialism in Haiti.
The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, Patrick Quirk’s former employer, created the U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability. This document outlines the U.S. government’s “Global Fragility Strategy” – the Strategy for the implementation of the GFA.
Haiti was selected to be the first “partner” under the GFA.
A GFA “partnership” between Haiti and Washington would ensure that Haiti remains under U.S. hegemony for at least a decade. Under the GFA, the U.S. government negotiates 10-year “planned security assistance” deals with foreign governments.
The GFA is designed to not allow “adversaries such as China and Russia to expand their influence.” Kim Ives summed it up when he wrote that the GFA “is fundamentally a military response to China, the principal challenger of U.S. world hegemony.”
NED funding for organizations such as OCAPH and Policité are part of an effort by the U.S. government to manufacture consent for Washington’s imperialist foreign policy in Haiti.
USAID facilitates funding for gatherings of Haiti’s elite
In Part Two of my article “Canadian Imperialism in Haiti,” I reviewed various Haitian organizations which have received NED funding. Naed Jasmin Desiré, the co-founder of Kafou Lespwa (which I referred to in the article), contacted me after publication. She is a lawyer who was elected to the Montana Accord’s CNT (National Transitional Council). She informed me that the article contained an error.
I reported that Kafou Lespwa was funded by the NED. This claim was based on the moderator’s opening remarks at a July 27, 2022 NED-sponsored event, in which he incorrectly identified Desiré’s group as a NED “partner.” She told me that it was OCAPH which invited Kafou Lespwa to the NED event, not NED itself.
But my discussion with her revealed more clearly how the NED and USAID support and organize funding for Haitian CSOs.
Let’s be clear: the NED does not platform or promote organizations whose policies do not align with that of the U.S. government. It is not a coincidence that NED-funded OCAPH invited and promotes Kafou Lespwa.
I noted in my article for Black Agenda Report that Guy Serge Pompilus, OCAPH’s senior advisor, introduced the organization’s “Manifesto for an Inclusive Dialogue” at the July 2022 NED conference. The Manifesto is vague and offers no concrete strategies or solutions. It does, however, point to two “orientations” it promotes for Haiti: Kafou Lespwa and the GFA.
So while technically the NED does not directly fund Kafou Lespwa, it does fund a CSO that promotes Kafou Lespwa as an “orientation” to “support a permanent dialogue between the different social groups, organizations, and citizens living in Haiti and abroad.” In the case of Kafou Lespwa, the “dialogue” is almost exclusively between Haiti’s economic and political elite.
Some prominent members of the Kafou Lespwa “team” are: Clifford Apaid, the son of assembly industry oligarch Andy Apaid, Jr. who headed the Group of 184; Abdonel Doudou, an NED fellow and head of Jurimedia; Fritz Alphonse Jean, the interim President elect of the Montana Accord; Joel “Pasha” Vorbe, who sits on Fanmi Lavalas’ executive committee; Line Balthazar, the PHTK’s president; and Paul Altidor, the Haitian ambassador to the U.S. nominated by President Michel Martelly.
Kafou Lespwa’s “orientation” is clearly that Haiti ought to be ruled by political elites which are compliant with U.S. foreign policy.
USAID and “La Grande Fondation d’Haiti”
I also reported that Kafou Lespwa was founded using USAID funds. Desiré claims this is false. An analysis of the USAID report on which my reporting was based again shows that the funding is more complex and less direct than I initially proposed.
In a report titled “Haiti’s New Konbit To Compete 2020” the authors explain that USAID, under its Konbit program, aimed to “educate and motivate Haiti’s philanthropic community to better target and leverage their social investments.” The report explains that “Konbit facilitated the creation of a formal alliance of Haitian foundations and social enterprises called La Grande Fondation d’Haïti (GFH).”
The GFH “played a key supporting role in Kafou Lespwa … a first major initiative to assemble 50 influential Haitians representing diverse civil society, private sector, and governmental interests from across Haiti’s social and political spectrum to reflect on its past, explore common ground, and commit to improving its future,” the report explains.
Consequently, rather than directly funding the creation of Kafou Lespwa, USAID “facilitated” their funding by playing a central role in creating the GFH.
The only donor listed by the GFH that openly cites its support for Kafou Lespwa is Fondation SOGEBANK.
Desiré claims that Kafou Lespwa’s team sought out their own private funders and that the GFH and USAID did not play a significant role. But the USAID report belies her claims, a discrepancy she would not address.
SOGEBANK’s former general director Charles Clermont is Kafou Lespwa’s co-founder along with Desiré. Clermont spoke on behalf of Kafou Lespwa at the aforementioned NED conference. He remains associated with SOGEBANK as the treasurer of SOGESOL, a subsidiary that focuses on microfinancing for Haitian entrepreneurs.
Desiré explained to me that Kafou Lespwa’s funds were raised through its team’s contacts, emphasizing that their credibility was the primary reason for their successful fundraising. Clermont was never mentioned by name.
Furthermore, Claude Apaid sits on the Board of Directors at SOGEBANK. He is the uncle of Clifford Apaid, a Kafou Lespwa “team member.” The Apaid family’s business empire – Alpha Industries – is the biggest sweatshop operator in Haiti.
Kafou Lespwa is fundamentally a networking operation for Haiti’s economic and political elite, possibly foreshadowing the kind of CSOs with which USAID is “partnering” in its “Civil Society Strengthening Program,” to be touched on in a moment.
Kafou Lespwa’s proximity to an anti-democratic past
Both Andy Apaid senior and junior had active roles in undermining Haitian democracy. During the 1991-1994 coup against Aristide, Apaid Jr.’s father, André Apaid, Sr., was “one of the chief lobbyists in the U.S.” for the military junta. Previously, Apaid Sr. was “close to dictator ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier.” Andy Apaid Jr. also reportedly financed the paramilitary forces led by convicted drug smuggler Guy Philippe. In an interview with Peter Hallward, Philippe was asked if Apaid and other oligarchs had subsidized his armed movement. In response, Philippe said “Yes we had meetings with various businessmen and they helped us…They contributed around $200,000 (US) to buy arms and ammunition.”
Apaid Jr. is among several Haitian oligarchs who have been sanctioned by the Canadian government for supporting armed gangs.
Haitian oligarch Sherif Abdallah was also a vice-president of SOGEBANK’s Board of Directors, until he resigned after being sanctioned by the Canadian government in December 2022. He owns one of Haiti’s major insurance companies and was reportedly a close ally of former president Jovenel Moïse.
Kafou Lespwa’s connections to SOGEBANK, Washington, and Haiti’s anti-democratic political and financial elite augur poorly for the “orientation” and vision it might have for Haiti’s future.
Through this type of nuanced elite networking, one can understand how USAID is the ultimate “soft power” arm of U.S. foreign policy. As Stephen Lendmen put it, USAID is “a key imperial project agent. Its efforts are to pacify the country, create a secure investment climate, and assure most benefits flow to U.S. interests.” Indeed, in her article “USAID: The humanitarian face of colonial exploitation,” Amanda Yee writes that for “every $1 that USAID spent, less than one penny went directly to Haitian organizations, companies, or the Haitian government.”
Washington is building a network of Haitian CSOs through USAID’s “Civil Society Strengthening Program”
The NED’s delay in publishing their 2022 grants to Haitian CSOs and “human rights” groups may be related to a recent USAID initiative in Haiti.
USAID officially announced its “Civil Society Strengthening Program“ (CSSP) for Haiti on Oct. 21, 2022. The program was officially launched Jan. 11, 2023 in Cap Haïtien, Haiti.
This program is part of the early implementation of phase two of Washington’s 10-year Strategic Plan for Haiti. The 10 Year Strategic Plan for Haiti outlines Washington’s Global Fragility Strategy for Haiti.
In phase one, the U.S. government outlines a plan to “engage and leverage partners among Haitian civil society and the Haitian National Police (PNH) to inform and implement programming to strengthen citizen security and the rule of law.”
On February 16, 2023. USAID explained in a recent press release that the CSSP’s goal is to “strengthen the capacity of Haitian civil society organizations, including faith-based organizations, local groups, and those working with the diaspora that are registered and operating in Haiti.” The Embassy’s press release emphasized that CSOs which participate will “be better equipped to develop, implement, and monitor their advocacy.”
The press release explains that “there is a critical need” for Haitian CSOs to collaborate and “expand their impact” and “their influence on public policy and decision-making.”
One of the CSSP’s main objectives is to “support productive working relationships between civil society organizations and development actors including, but not limited to local/central government, the private sector, and major donors.”
The CSSP’s stated objectives overlap with the NED’s traditional role of funding CSOs in Haiti which back U.S. policy.
USAID now has 250 unnamed Haitian CSOs “partners” under the CSSP program. With the CSSP, the U.S. government aims to grow their network of CSOs which are compliant with U.S. interests.
We must identify NED and USAID funded organizations in Haiti
It is crucial that the names of the 250 CSOs funded by USAID under the CSSP be revealed, along with the CSOs and so-called “human rights” groups currently receiving NED funding. They will inevitably have a role in supporting the U.S. occupation of Haiti and whatever transitional government it anoints.
Phase One and Phase Two of the “10-Year Strategic Plan for Haiti” represent a virtual take-over of Haiti, if Washington gets its way. Haiti would effectively become a U.S. colony as it was from 1915 to 1934, when U.S. Marines occupied it.
A number of Haitian CSOs and “human rights” groups guided and financed by USAID and the NED will inevitably support U.S. foreign policy in Haiti. This will create a facade of Haitian “consensus” (i.e. compliance) with Washington’s domination of Haiti.
Many of these CSOs and “human rights” groups will provide spokespeople and leaders who can dutifully parrot USAID and State Department talking points. USAID, through its “strategic communication plan,” can “ensure U.S. government-funded efforts are effectively amplified throughout the country” through their network of over 250 CSOs and “human rights” groups.
It remains to be seen whether Haitians and their allies abroad can counteract the inevitable deluge of propaganda from NED and USAID-funded CSOs and “human rights” groups. The fact that some traditional allies of Haiti have found themselves repeating talking–points from these Washington-backed CSOs shows how Washington has been able, until now, to control the narrative in Haiti. The U.S. government does not fund organizations which promote views and narratives that contradict their foreign policy interests.
Travis Ross is a teacher based in Montreal, Québec. He is also the co-editor of the Canada-Haiti Information Project at canada-haiti.ca . Travis has written for Haiti Liberté, Black Agenda Report, The Canada Files, TruthOut, and rabble.ca. He can be reached on Twitter.
Posted Nov. 14, 2023