Haiti Day One: 'Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity'
A 12-member delegation of North Carolina Bar Association members has arrived in Haiti and is participating in day one of a three-day conference targeting economic and business conditions in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation.
Many of the delegation’s members are on the agenda for the weeklong conference, organized and hosted by the Port-au-Prince Bar Association to discuss methods of attracting investment there.
The conference was previously scheduled in October 2016 but was postponed due to Hurricane Matthew. The NCBA delegation will participate in three days of the event, beginning on Monday, May 15, and concluding on Wednesday, May 17.
NCBA President Kearns Davis is leading the delegation and addressed conference attendees today.
His remarks focused on the evolution of the North Carolina economy over the past 100 years, from agriculture and manufacturing to its current status as a financial center and global research leader. It is the shared mission of lawyers, he said, to protect and strengthen the rule of law, which enables people to be free, businesses to grow, and people to make a living and provide for their families.
Also appearing on the program will be Danny Merlin of Alexander Ricks in Charlotte, who serves on the NCBA Board of Governors and chairs the Haiti Committee; Steve DeGeorge of Robinson Bradshaw in Charlotte; and Ernie Pearson, David Robinson and David Garrett of Nexsen Pruet in Raleigh.
Robinson described the conference as having the potential to be a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
“After meeting with the representatives from the Port au Prince Bar last year,” Robinson said, “I become convinced that working together our bar associations can be effective agents of change in a country that has experienced so much hardship.
“I am excited about comparing and contrasting our common law principles with their civil system to build a legal regime that facilitates growth, jobs and prosperity for a country in desperate need of same.
Elon University School of Law is also participating in the event. John Flynn of Carruthers & Roth in Greensboro, who serves as practitioner in residence at the law school, is bringing five participants in the residency program to Haiti. The students, who are members of the NCBA’s Law Student Division, are Shanelle Edmonds, Kimberlee Farr, Liliane Long, Veronica Townsend and Brad Beyer.
The conference will focus on banking, insurance and international investment. Haitian senior officials, lawyers, business leaders and representatives of various organizations are also participating.
Another NCBA member, Joe Smith, former N.C. Commissioner of Banks who is now with Poyner Spruill in Raleigh, was on the agenda last fall but is unable to attend the rescheduled event. His remarks, however, remain on the agenda and will be presented by Danny Merlin.
The NCBA is involved in the conference through its relationship with Stanley Gaston, president of the Port-au-Prince Bar Association and the Federation of Bars of Haiti, and Jacques Miguel Sanon, who serves on the board of the Port-au-Prince bar. Gaston and Sanon attended the 2016 NCBA Annual Meeting and it is at their invitation that the NCBA delegation now visits their country.