Events

Governance and Security in Haiti: Can the International Community Make a Difference?

January 09, 2007 // 1:00pm4:30pm
Event Co-sponsors: 
Brazil Institute

Panel 1 Participants:
Assistant Secretary-General Albert Ramdin, Organization of American States (OAS)
H.E. Raymond Joseph, Haitian Ambassador to the United States
H.E. Roberto Álvarez, Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to the OAS
Moderator: Johanna Mendelson Forman, CSIS

Panel 2 Participants:
Gerard Le Chevallier, MINUSTAH
Achilles Zaluar, Embassy of Brazil
Caroline Anstey, The World Bank
Moderator: Lilian Bobea, FLACSO, Dominican Republic


On January 9, 2007, the Latin American Program convened a group of regional leaders and practitioners from multilateral organizations to discuss the role of the international community in addressing Haiti's governance, security, and development challenges. This conference, titled "Governance and Security in Haiti: Can the International Community Make a Difference?" highlighted the achievements and lessons of international involvement in Haiti. Pointing to Haiti's unique status as "a failed state in recovery mode" moderator Johanna Mendelson Forman, Center for Strategic and International Studies, urged the international community to commit in the long term to finding island-wide and sustainable solutions to the problems that Haiti faces.

Emphasizing the need for a positive outlook regarding Haiti, Assistant Secretary-General Albert Ramdin, OAS, noted that Haiti has succeeded in establishing a truly representative government with all parties represented in parliament and the cabinet. He stressed, however, that expectations regarding what can be achieved should be lowered to ensure steady progress, particularly given Haiti's weak institutional capacity and civil society. He argued that the Haitian government should focus on demonstrating short term results in order to establish confidence in the political process.

While security is a key concern, more attention should be paid to the problem of poverty, he said, since it is closely linked to the security challenge and because it will take time to build security forces. In 2006, the OAS expanded its mandate to include promoting economic and social development in addition to strengthening democratic governance. Better coordination within the international community, particularly at the technical and political levels, is needed, as is greater cooperation among aid donor organizations working within Haiti. Specific OAS initiatives focus on the need for electoral and judicial reform, institution and capacity building, tourism development, trade and investment, and combating human trafficking.

Placing the Haitian situation in historical perspective, Ambassador Raymond Joseph, Embassy of Haiti to the United States, argued that many of Haiti's problems can be attributed to the fact that Haiti was the second country in the Western Hemisphere to achieve independence, after the United States. Given the reluctance of the international community, and the United States in particular, to recognize a slave state, Haiti was not welcomed into the international community and an embargo on the country was imposed by both the United States and France. Furthermore, given the timing of its independence, Haiti did not benefit from the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, when those countries were fighting for allies and offering assistance to newly independent states. The Cold War did, however, keep brutal dictator François Duvalier in power, because he was viewed as a stalwart against communism.

Turning to the role of the international community, Joseph stated that assistance from the international community is important and has been shown to be effective: international observers made the first democratic elections possible in 1990. He stressed, however, that international involvement in Haiti should be done in the right spirit, with a great degree of collaboration and commitment to promoting long-term development. He added that it is not always necessary to reinvent the wheel, but rather it is important to build on what is already there. Starting from ground zero can have devastating consequences, he noted, pointing to the dissolution of the Haitian Armed Forces after the reestablishment of democracy as a prime example.

Highlighting the implications of the situation in Haiti and the actions of the international community for the Dominican Republic, Ambassador Roberto Álvarez, Mission of the Dominican Republic to the OAS, pointed to three principal areas of concern from the Dominican perspective: drug and arms trafficking, HIV/AIDS, and migration. Citing the latest State Department International Narcotics Control Strategy Report on the Dominican Republic, Álvarez noted that both Haiti and the Dominican Republic are considered key conduits for drug traffickers. The decision to dismantle the Haitian Armed Forces has meant that the burden of interdiction has fallen solely on the Dominican Republic, he said.

In terms of health issues, Álvarez noted that the Caribbean has the second highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection after sub-Saharan Africa, with 77.5% of regional cases found in Hispaniola. Furthermore, the United States' strict immigration policy and increased vigilance of the U.S. Coast Guard has entailed more migration across the Haitian-Dominican border since the 1990s, placing an even greater strain on the Dominican Republic. He stressed that given the burden of trying to meet the Dominican Republic's own development goals, including reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, the Dominican government should not be expected to be able to meet the needs of the Haitians living within the Dominican border.

Discussing the current situation in Haiti and the role of the U.N. Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH), Gerard Le Chevallier, MINUSTAH, argued that three simultaneous transitions are occurring—the transition to peace, the transition to democracy, and the transition to a modern state—all of which must be encouraged by the international community. Strengthening democracy will involve building political parties and reducing the financial burden of having frequent elections. In terms of economic development, Le Chevallier noted that due to limited revenues, the Haitian government is only partly able to cover government salaries, not investments. The international community is needed to help staff the government in order to be able to spend the resources that have been pledged.

Le Chevallier added that MINUSTAH is strictly a peacekeeping operation that focuses on promoting a secure and stable environment, the rule of law, democratic governance, and human rights, not development. He argued that while the international community should extend MINUSTAH's mandate for at least another year, it is important for the mission to set concrete benchmarks of success and begin to plan an exit strategy. He cautioned, however, that leaving the country prematurely, as other missions have done in the past, could lead to later crises and the need for further international intervention.

Drawing on lessons from his time working in the Brazilian Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Achilles Zaluar, Embassy of Brazil, argued that donor organizations should take national leadership seriously and promote ownership of development initiatives in order to ensure their relevance and to make national governments responsible and accountable for their own development. This also means that development plans should be initiated in the recipient country, not in donor agency offices abroad.

He added that development cooperation must bring concrete benefits to the recipient country, such as infrastructure, social services, and agricultural improvements through initiatives drawn on a national scale. Moreover, development interventions should focus on becoming more effective, not more efficient, which will involve greater coordination among donor organizations under the leadership of the national government.

Agreeing with Ramdin's positive assessment of the situation in Haiti, Caroline Anstey, The World Bank, noted that the country has made tremendous progress on the democratic and economic fronts in recent years. In addition to having successful elections at the national and local levels, Haiti has qualified for debt relief, prepared an interim Poverty Reduction Strategy, reformed the budget process, reduced inflation, and has begun to show signs of economic growth.

Despite this recent progress, there is still room for improvement, Anstey argued, especially in terms of donor cooperation. She applauded the commitment of donor organizations at the April 2004 workshop in Port-au-Prince, to better coordinate projects and defer to the leadership of the Haitian government. However, despite promises to do so, donor agencies still do not channel money directly to the Haitian government to the degree required, funneling this money instead to numerous NGOs operating in the country. Anstey warned that without channeling funds through Haitian institutions, the institutional capacity of the Haitian government will not improve.

 
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