Center for American Progress Report on Sustainable Security in Haiti

  • Posted on: 18 September 2009
  • By: Bryan Schaaf

The Center for American Progress recently released an interesting and cautiously optimistic report (attached) on security in Haiti.  For Haiti watchers, the background will no doubt be familiar but there is still much of interest.  Below is an analysis of the  recommendations.  The historical and political cards have long been stacked against Haiti but there is now more evidence and more reasons to expect security will hold and improve. With a lot of work, a bit of luck, and the support of its friends, Haiti will continue to make progress….piti piti.  


Recommendation 1: Establish a governance capacity partnership program to strengthen the functioning of the Haitian government bureaucracy in the near term and train the Haitian civil service in the medium and long term.


Comment:  This is the most important recommendation by far. Partner governments, non governmental organizations, and the Diaspora have long lamented that Haitian administrations have not had the will and/or the capacity and/or the resources to provide the services that would make a real difference in the lives of Haitians.  Still, on certain issues such as HIV/AIDS the government has applied itself and demonstrated leadership.  The challenge now is to help the government be a leader across the board in education, the environment, health care, business, human rights, etc. In order to build this capacity, donors will increasingly but strategically engage the Haitian government – first to build its capacity and then to help it manage resources.  It is not enough to have talent at the top. The Haitian government needs a well trained and accountable cadre of civil servants.  The Diaspora is full of professionals who could help if they were empowered to do so.


With that in mind, the CAP proposes hat major donors initiate a governance capacity partnership (GCP) to provide direct bureaucratic support to essential Haitian government ministries. The GCP would consist of teams of technical experts from donor countries skilled in budgetary planning, personnel management, and project design. The GCP would “…assign specialized experts to appropriate ministries; it would send public health experts to the Ministry of Health, attach civil engineers to the Ministry of Public Works, etc.” 


According to CAP, strengthening the government’s bureaucratic capacity in key ministries will enable it to institute essential public works projects to better manage water tables, redress erosion, enforce eco-friendly zoning laws, and provide broad access to potable water.  This initiative need not (and should not) be an initiative supported by the United States only. 


The report suggests that Canada might support the Ministry of Education, given the scale of its education investments in Haiti, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Rural Development, since it has expertise in and commitment to environmental issues. Likewise, it suggests France is well placed to support the Ministry of Justice, given that Haitian law is based on civil law and the Napoleonic code.


Recommendation 2: Invite the U.N. Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), in cooperation with the Haitian government, to register NGOs operating in Haiti to coordinate and regulate the provision of essential services.


Comment:  Over decades, Haiti has become a country of non-governance.  Non-governmental organizations and faith-based groups have shouldered the heavy burden of providing health, education, and other services.  Haiti now has one of the highest densities of non-governmental organizations in the world.  Many of these are doing great work, but some are actually making the situation worse by creating dependency and setting in place projects that are not sustainable.  As government capacity grows, it should become a more effective steward of the non-governmental organization and promote coordination among them.


Registration would be useful not just for the government, but for all of us, to know who is doing what, where, and when.  The registry should be made available online and kept current.  And if the government requires organizations to attend a session on government priorities, coordination, and cultural competency before operating in Haiti, more power to them. 


Recommendation 3: Expand MINUSTAH’s mandate to promote economic development through repositioning forces to protect commercial infrastructure.


Comment: MINUSTAH’s mandate is to promote stability so that there is a peace to keep.  About this time in 2006, Haiti was experiencing the largest kidnapping crisis in the Western Hemisphere, surpassing Colombia.  Presently, kidnapping is a comparatively minor social problem, and MINUSTAH has been a big part of this.  Still, MINUSTAH's involvement in economic development should be limited to activities that help it maintain stability – such as quick impact projects that promote good relationships with communities.  Protecting the commercial infrastructure must be the job of the Haitian police.   MINUSTAH will not be in Haiti forever. To the extent that MINUSTAH can help train or deploy side by side with police officers to protect commercial infrastructure, excellent. But MINUSTAH should not substitute for the effective, accountable police force that Haiti needs to protect commercial interests.


Recommendation 4: Encourage the Haitian government to revise laws relating to the Haitian Diaspora in a manner that facilitates their involvement in the Haitian economy and government.


Comment: Looking at other countries in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti is far behind when it comes to relations with its Diaspora.  Members of the Haitian Diaspora should have the right to vote, run for office, and to work for the Haitian government whether for six months or many years. The government should continue to reassure the Diaspora that investors are appreciated and have the full support of the government.  Step one would be to strike down laws requiring that all business have a majority stake held by Haitian citizens.  At present, those with dual citizenship need not invest. 


These laws have not served Haiti well and it is time to change them. Doing so would help bring back some of the talent that has left Haiti over the years as a result of brain drain.  Only 15 percent of Haitians in Haiti have a high school education and less than 1 percent are college-educated.  These pragmatic (but admittedly politically sensitive) steps would help build bridges between Haiti and its Diaspora. Their leadership and resources, both intellectual and financial, can help Haiti progress.


Recommendation 5: Direct the Department of Defense to reauthorize the Haiti Stabilization Initiative.


Comment: On April 25, 2007 U.S. Ambassador Sanderson inaugurated the Haiti Stabilization Initiative (HSI) in Port-au-Prince.  This program was funded with 20 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to integrate security and development in Cité Soleil. It includes training police officers, building police infrastructure, engaging community groups, setting in place public works programs.  Certainly the situation in Cite Soleil has been much improved, but it remains a potentially volatile area.  More attention and resources need to be devoted to making the slums livable.  Brazil’s electrification, water, and other infrastructure programs in the favelas might serve as a model. 


There has been some criticism of this program.  As the report notes, it consists almost entirely of short term interventions that may or may not feed into longer term development programs. CAP references studies conducted suggesting useful reforms, including allocating stabilization program funds directly to the State Department instead of routing them through the Pentagon. Either way, Haiti’s stability depends in large part on maintaining peace in Cite Soleil – as well as creating livelihood opportunities in the countryside so rural Haitians do not feel that they must move to slums in Port au Prince.


Recommendation 6: Hold a Review Donors Conference not later than June 2010 to increase donor pledges in support of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and New Paradigm.


Comment:  Traditionally, the international community alas often waits for something terrible to happen to Haiti, usually a natural disaster of some kind, to make funds available to Haiti. The Donors’ conference presented an opportunity to proactively support the government and reward it for the progress it has made in governing.  Alas, Haiti has received only a fraction of the funding pledged at the conference – Bill Clinton and Paul Farmer will do their best to keep the heat on donors who have not yet honored the commitments they made.  A follow up conference provides an opportunity to praise those who have and, if needed, shame those who have not.


These are the main recommendations of the report.   Throughout, it stresses that there is a “dual window” of opportunity.  On the Haitian side, the combination of open political space and physical security is the best it has been for a long time.  It notes the government, while not effective, is indeed pushing reforms including the police, prisons, justice, customs, rural poverty, and port management.  Progress is being made but in the back of everyone’s mind is the question of which candidates will run in the 2011 Presidential elections – will the candidates be able to maintain momentum and promote security and development?


The report then states that United States forms the other side of the dual window. Reviewing and retooling U.S. policy toward Haiti will take time, but the current American administration is receptive to doing so.  The United States is by far the largest donor to Haiti.  However, I would also add that the United States is not Haiti's only partner and this is a good thing.  Haiti is one of Canada’s highest foreign policies.  Brazil is the leader of the MINUSTAH force which has participation from Argentina, Chile, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, etc.  Numerous European countries and the European Union are all major donors to Haiti.  The Dominican Republic and Haitian governments have a normalized, even productive, working relationship.  And the Organization of American States (OAS), CARICOM. World Bank, and the Inter American Development Bank are all engaged in Haiti’s development.  


I hope this report helps to stimulate a dialogue, particularly concerning how the international community can promote good governance in Haiti.  Reading it made me think both of how far Haiti has come in the past few years and also how far we have to go.  After reading the report, please feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section below. 



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