Developing and keeping skilled manpower in Haiti is the best way to assure leadership for sustainable socio-spatial-economic and institutional development.
Over the last five decades, Haiti has lost to the developed and developing world a significant amount of its already meager manpower resources, largely in the form of international migration. This has led to a significant pool of skilled human capital residing mostly in the Dominican Republic, the United States, and Canada as diaspora communities. Some estimates show that as much as 70 percent of Haiti’s skilled human resources are in the diaspora. Meanwhile, it is increasingly argued that unless developing nations such as Haiti improve their skilled and scientific infrastructures and nurture the appropriate brainpower for the various aspects of the development process, they may never advance beyond their current low socio-economic status. Faced with persistent underdevelopment problems and with language and cultural barriers, international aid agencies, development scholars, and practitioners are increasingly and loudly calling for diaspora engagement programs.
The processes required to construct successful diaspora engagement strategies for Haiti’s development, however, are not well understood and consequently merit serious attention. Programs make implicit and explicit assumptions about diaspora members that do not apply to the general understanding of how émigrés build or rebuild their worlds. Programs fail to place strategies within the larger framework of any national spatial-economic development plan or its implementation. Current engagement strategies treat nationalistic appeals and diaspora consciousness as sufficient to entice members of the diaspora to return or at least to make indirect contributions to their homeland. Improving diaspora engagement strategies for Haiti’s development should begin with a better understanding of the Haitian diaspora population—why they left in the first place, the activities they undertake, their competencies and resources, and how they can effectively contribute to their homeland.