The U.S. Office of Security Cooperation (OSC)-Haiti hosted a study group from the U.S. Army War College (USAWC) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti from April 14-16, 2016. The group included 15 students comprising senior Military officers from all service branches, one class auditor, and two exchange professors. The purpose of the study visit is to have a better understanding of U.S. government (USG) foreign aid and international development programs. This is the first time the USAWC has sent its students to a foreign country as a part of its academic curriculum.
Haiti is an interesting development case where many international governments and non-government organizations (NGOs) are still assisting the country rebuild itself from the devastating 2010 earthquake. The inaugural study-abroad program is building upon their classroom studies of international developments as the U.S. Military is increasingly taking on stabilization operations around the world and working closely with other USG agencies and international partners to ensure that expertise, capabilities, and resources are best leveraged to meet development goals. The new study-abroad program serves up global engagement opportunities for USAWC students.
The study group met with U.S. Ambassador to Haiti, Peter Mulrean, and discussed the current state of Haitian politics and its impact on USG foreign aid. The group also met with the Deputy Mission Director of USAID-Haiti, and discussed various development programs and challenges. Other participating agencies and offices included the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention; the Defense Attaché Office, the Office of Security Cooperation; the U.S. Embassy Political and Economic Sections; the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti’s (MINUSTAH) Military and police components; and Global Communities Project (GCP), an NGO operating in Haiti. The students listened to presentations by participating agencies and engaged in interactive question-and-answer sessions. These meetings provided a forum for open, honest dialogue among participants about achievements and challenges regarding international development in Haiti.
Group visits project sites
The group visited a number of USAID- and NGO-funded project sites. First, the group visited the Ravine Pintade Project, a new community development project that provided 386 homes to the community devastated by the 2010 earthquake. This community was created from rubble and turned into a well-planned neighborhood with improved water and sanitation; roads and walkways, as well as retaining walls; adequate drainage; and other measures that will reduce the risks to property and personal safety in the event of future disaster. After the earthquake, the USAID provided durable transitional shelters for internally displaced people. Later on, these shelters were replaced by permanent concrete and cinder block homes that provide homes to more than 2,000 residents.
Second, the group visited a Haitian market to learn about a clean cooking stove project, which promotes the use of natural gas stoves instead of traditional biomass fuel stoves. Charcoal is, by far, the predominant fuel source used for household cooking in Haiti; more than 90 percent of total households use it. However, burning charcoal indoors has devastating health effects and significant environmental consequences. Already one of the most deforested countries in the world, Haiti is in desperate need of low-cost technologies such as natural gas cooking stoves, which will reduce biomass fuel consumption. The USAID-funded project aims to reduce pressure on Haiti’s forests, encourage local and sustainable solutions to the environmental concerns, and create cooking options for Haiti that are clean, efficient, affordable, and able to meet local cooking needs.
Finally, the group visited the sûrtab factory; a computer manufacturing company founded by seed money from USAID and established in Haiti in 2013. The factory is based in Port-au-Prince and manufactures affordable and durable tablet computers. Sûrtab is focused on creating much needed, well-paid jobs and increasing overall prosperity in low-income areas by bridging the existing digital gap. By visiting different development projects, the group benefited from observing real world activities and walked away with eye-opening experiences. Upon their departure from Haiti, the students expressed a greater appreciation for the challenges in Haiti, and were able to see a few USAID projects that allowed them to see the potential the country can offer to the world.
OSC-Haiti was honored to host distinguished professors and U.S. Army War College (USAWC) students on its inaugural study-abroad visit to Haiti. This innovative academic collaboration between OSC-Haiti and the USAWC has taken learning beyond the classroom and enhanced the student experience. The visit promoted multilateral relationships and provided a unique opportunity for U.S. diplomats and international partners to collaborate and exchange ideas with these distinguished military leaders. Outside of the academic activities, the evening social events sponsored by the U.S. Embassy and NGO created opportunities to build enduring professional and personal friendships.