By Joe Colas
PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) — During an historic and frank dialogue at the border town of Ouanaminthe, Dominican Republic authorities pledged to enact measures to safeguard the basic rights of Haitians and their descendants living in the country.
Both countries noted that dialogue around this divisive issue was conducted in a tone of mutual respect and that it was “frank, constructive and enlightening.”
Recognizing the sovereign right of the Dominican Republic to enact migration policy, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe requested guarantees that the government of that country will enact specific measures to safeguard the fundamental rights of people of Haitian descent who have been affected by the ruling of the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal.
Lamothe considered this a major breakthrough noting, “This outcome is a direct result of our government’s efforts to address the circumstances stemming from the Dominican ruling.”
Since September the Haitian government has followed a combined bilateral and multilateral approach aimed at engaging the Dominican government into a constructive dialogue about these issues. Haiti directly engaged in conversations with the Dominican government sponsoring meetings between the private sectors of both countries to insure that important channels of communication remained open.
At the same time, Haiti engaged institutions like CARICOM, the European Union, the United Nations, and the government of Venezuela in the conversations with the Dominicans. This approach culminated at the special summit of PetroCaribe in early December 2013 where, under the auspices of President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, both countries agreed to meet in Ouanaminthe on January 7.
Haitian and Dominican authorities called their first meeting historic and promised to meet again often to address migration, trade, environmental and security issues. Important side agreements on each of these issues were also announced.
Revealing how deep the ties between both countries run, Lamothe welcomed Montalvo at a Dominican factory that employs 7,000 Haitian workers to discuss issues that have come between both countries in recent months.
The meeting was attended by observers from the European Union, the United Nations, CARICOM, and the government of Venezuela who throughout the session provided important commentary and advice. They also played an important mediating role that enabled the discussion to move forward on controversial issues. Additionally they pledged to closely follow the process from here on and committed their presence in each of the future meetings to be held in both countries.