PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 6 December 2021 – Stakeholders and investors came together to discuss plans and posit solutions to the myriad challenges the Haitian garment sector has faced in the past year. The virtual business forum, delivered on the 2nd of December, was organized by the Better Work Haiti programme, a collaboration between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), under the theme “Sustainability and Outlook for the Haitian Garment Sector.” The Forum is a unique event in which ILO and IFC staff, government representatives, employers, workers’ organizations, and members of the public gather to craft solutions for improved labour governance, effective social dialogue, and investment opportunities.
The garment sector is an important contributor to Haiti’s economy. It accounts for 80% of the country’s exports and employs approximately 57,500 workers nationally. The Better Work Haiti programme currently partners with 38 garment factories, employing the majority of garment workers in the country.
Amid socio-political difficulties and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has negatively impacted livelihoods and well-being of the population according to a recent publication by Better Work Haiti, the Haitian garment sector has shown strong resilience to maintain its operations and contribute to employment. A number of key partners in the Better Work programme spoke.
“IFC’s engagement seeks to help the industry navigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and work with the private and public to identify and improve the regulatory frameworks that can boost the development of a new value proposition for the garment sector in Haiti. Our project is focused on supporting job retention and creation, as well as promoting investment generation in Haiti. It is important to recognize the resilience demonstrated by the industry and take this as an advantage value for the future,” said Ernesto Franco-Temple, Senior Operation Officer, IFC.
This event brought together the main players in the textile sector around a discussion of successful initiatives, including maintaining collaborative factory visits between MAST (Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs) and Better Work during the past year. Government, employer and worker representatives spoke and iterated their commitments. Minister Michel Patrick Boisvert, of Haiti’s Ministry of Economy and Finance, said, “The government is committed to supporting the growth of the export garment sector, which is one of the pillars of our Covid recovery plan. The resilience of the sector has been proven time and time again, though it has been tested by different shocks over the past decade.”
Those shocks – in particular the challenges of stability in the face of socio-political turmoil – were central to the conversation. Sectoral sustainability, business continuity and business investment opportunities were also debated, as well as opportunities to address challenges. The conversation closed with a discussion of a strategy for growth and structural development of the sector towards decent work for all and commercial prosperity beneficial to the country’s economy.
Claudine Francois, Chief Technical Officer of the Better Work Haiti programme, closed the session with a call for collective action. “Covid-19 and socio-economic instability have made collective action more crucial than ever. Global brands, governments, factories and workers’ organizations acting responsibly and collaboratively is key to Haiti’s recovery.”