A series of crises in 2008 have increased the potential for serious trouble in Haiti this year. The politically motivated, violent April riots against high living costs caused widespread disruption and suffering, toppled the government of Prime Minister Jacques-Édouard Alexis and forced postponement of a donor conference. In August and September, four tropical storms and hurricanes killed 800, affected nearly one million, exacerbated food shortages and pushed yet more Haitians into poverty. Extensive damage was caused to infrastructure and agriculture. The global financial crisis is making it difficult for donors to meet commitments and reducing diaspora remittances. President René Préval and Prime Minister Michèle Pierre-Louis, who took office in September 2008, need to secure the support of donors and parliament quickly for a wide-ranging stabilisation strategy or risk political instability and violence. These are major challenges in a year in which parliamentary elections will be held and constitutional reform is on the agenda.
Almost half a year has passed since Pierre-Louis entered office, and Haitians are still waiting for an effective response to pervasive socio-economic, institutional and political challenges. There is an urgent need for broad political consensus and improved relations between the executive and legislative branches of government, as well as a government-donor-civil society partnership to kick-start a community-oriented reconstruction process. This includes building a social safety net for hurricane victims and jobs-oriented infrastructure projects that prioritise areas hard-hit by the floods, boosting agriculture and enhancing a longer-term poverty reduction and economic growth strategy.
The immediate focus should include:
q providing donors an operational reconstruction plan and then holding the long-postponed donors conference in April 2009 as planned. The plan should identify government-led, community-approved, high-impact and high-visibility projects to tackle key challenges such as food shortages and provide for close monitoring to ensure relevance, implementation and completion;
q building national ownership of reconstruction through active participation of the political and business sectors and civil society, particularly in the worst disaster-affected areas such as Gonaives, and doing a better job of holding non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the field accountable for the delivery of project results;
q boosting security sector reform by speedily completing police vetting, setting judicial standards, relieving jail overcrowding, responding to pleas for helicopter interdiction of aerial drug smuggling and completing actions begun in 2008 to control Haiti’s porous borders and corrupt and inefficient ports;
q working closer with parliament and improving transparency in handling emergency funds and carrying out reconstruction, including by providing frequent updates on government action and better articulating policies and strategies domestically and abroad; and
q strengthening democratic institutions and stabilisation efforts by holding elections that include all major parties to fill one-third of the senate’s seats on 19 April and other elections in the timeframe foreseen by the constitution. Authorities should encourage the deployment as soon as possible of national and international observers to oversee not merely the polling but also pre-election preparations.
II. the Politics and Economics of stabilisation
When President Préval and Prime Minister Alexis took office on 14 May and 6 June 2006, respectively, many believed it was a genuine opportunity to make headway on reestablishing and expanding security, reforming the police and judiciary, implementing macroeconomic stabilisation measures and controling corruption. The new government was welcomed by the international community, and although Préval’s constituency was predominantly the poor, his program had wide appeal in the country. By early 2007, the Haitian National Police (HNP) and the UN Stabilisation Mission (MINUSTAH) had considerably improved security.
However, the government failed to consolidate the success in controlling the gangs in key urban slums by following through on the rapid provision of basic services in those neighbourhoods, in Citè Soleil partly because of implementation delays in the U.S. Haiti Stabilization Initiative. The macroeconomic gains recorded since mid-2006 also did not translate into large-scale visible improvements for the poor before the devastating 2008 storms severely exacerbated the situation. Unfulfilled expectations, however unrealistic, have progressively undermined public confidence in the government. Préval, who was initially silent as mobs trashed businesses during the April 2008 food riots, has been criticised for lack of leadership, although when he did speak three days later, the turmoil subsided. But the current year’s tests promise to be the most daunting yet for continued stabilisation: controversial elections; constitutional reform; the impact of the global financial crisis on the economy; food shortages; and, not least, the ongoing struggle to consolidate security sector reform.
A. The Preval/Pierre-Louis
The new government has a solid foundation of knowledge and experience. The prime minister comes with over 30 years experience working in both the public and private sectors, in both rural and urban areas, and is well attuned to the country’s myriad problems through her civil society activity. She has worked closely with youth, women and the peasantry, sectors of the population that are key for Haiti’s social and economic development. She took office at a time when it is crucial to include them in a collective effort to address deep-seated and manifold problems. Additionally, the prime minister retained seven ministers and several state secretaries and directors general from the former Alexis government, seeking to maintain a degree of continuity in the administration.
Before taking office in September 2008, Pierre-Louis requested a six-month grace period, through February 2009, in which to formulate a comprehensive policy framework. This was based on the understanding that Haiti’s longstanding problems of weak justice and public security, economic decline, worsening poverty, and chronic unemployment require a clear strategy – and the political support to implement it – if they are to be tackled more effectively than in the past. On 2 December 2008, the executive presented a roadmap of planned government action. The prime minister’s sector plan for fiscal year 2008-2009, annexed to that document, offers a strategy to stimulate national economic growth and reduce poverty. Its focus is on sustainable and integrated national planning and development, increasing economic efficiency and national production, reducing social and economic inequalities, developing human capital, reducing and managing environmental vulnerability, improving justice and public security and modernising fiscal management.
In spite of Pierre-Louis’s efforts to tackle problems in a structured manner and communicate her moves to the public, politicians and civil society alike continue to express uncertainty about the country’s direction. She has been a more visible head of government than her predecessor, but many who accuse President Préval of micromanaging the government have criticised her for not being sufficiently assertive toward him. Communication with the population and parliament and within the executive, though still poor, is improving, but both president and prime minister need to be more active in developing the support needed in parliament with parties that have demonstrated less organised opposition and by reaching out to special interest groups, particularly those focused on community development.
Opposition parties say the prime minister’s political honeymoon is over, and she has failed to take advantage of the opportunity she enjoyed in September 2008 to enlist continued and broad support for storm recovery and reconstruction, as well as her government strategy. Pierre-Louis’s swift move to respond to storm devastation by disbursing $197 million from the Venezuelan-backed PetroCaribe program was widely welcomed, but the impact was short-lived. Her 2 December report on use of that emergency fund drew criticism from former supporters. Since then, the government has been increasingly criticised for lack of leadership on storm recovery efforts in the field and a lack of innovation in its strategies.
The continued inability to provide adequate, visible responses to the deteriorating situation of the poor makes it easy for spoilers to exploit desperation and often appalling living conditions for both personal and political gain. This was apparent during the April 2008 protests, which swiftly turned violent. Crisis Group previously identified the current spoilers as “often overlapping categories of drug traffickers, corrupt politicians, gang remnants, as well as a small segment of the oligopolistic entrepreneurs and business owners whose affairs continue to thrive under insecurity and a weak government”.
B. Elusive Political Consensus
On 5 August 2008, five of the six parties in the former Alexis government met with Préval and Pierre-Louis, whom parliament had confirmed as prime minister a few days earlier, to discuss the new government’s program and ways of integrating them into the new cabinet. Though Préval did not favour the idea, a governance pact was discussed. However, no agreement was reached. In the current cabinet, only the public health and environment ministers, Alex Larsen and Jean-Marie Claude Germain, are associated with parties other than the ruling Lespwa grouping. The parties no longer part of the cabinet continue to harbour resentments and are reluctant to support the Préval/
Pierre-Louis government program.
2009 being an election year will make it even more difficult for the president and his prime minister to build political consensus and mobilise broad national support for stabilisation measures. In the past months, criticism of the lack of coherence in government actions has been mounting from parliament, opposition party leaders and civil society groups. To build much needed political consensus, in the beginning of 2009 Préval, Pierre-Louis and Kely Bastien, the speaker of the senate, united in an appeal for national consensus and dialogue. While a step in the right direction, the government still needs to devise more effective ways of dealing with a weak, fractious and splintered parliament. This is all the more urgent because of the need to pass the 2008-2009 national budget rapidly and adopt the legislative agenda that was identified in December 2008 at a seminar with international support. The budget proposed by the executive – $256.4 million, 60 per cent to be financed by donors – is currently blocked in parliament, where both chambers have asked for revisions.
The debate on constitutional reform expected to commence in June during the second parliamentary session stands to raise further divisive and sensitive issues. While there is agreement on the need for constitutional reforms related to dual nationality in order to encourage more participation of the diaspora in the country’s political life, the longstanding public security and political stabilisation question of whether to reinstate the disbanded and discredited army remains highly controversial. The head of the Senate Commission on Justice and Public Security, Senator Youri Latortue, a former colonel, strong critic of the government and likely presidential candidate in 2010, is a leading advocate of reinstatement. Préval’s Presidential Commission for Reflection on National Security (Commission présidentielle de reflexion pour le renforcement de la sécurité) has not completed its research and presented its conclusions due to lack of access to key bodies, including Latortue’s senate commission. The issue will spark political debate as long as insecurity persists.
Elections to renew the first third of the senate planned for April 2009, as well as the November polls to
renew the second third of the senate and elect the 99 members of the lower house, are key to sustaining political stability. The April elections will largely determine whether the current administration will have support in its final year and a half to advance reconstruction and development ahead of the 2010 presidential contest, as well as influence this year’s constitutional reform debates. The senate has operated with less than two-thirds of its legal membership since the terms of the first ten senators – three from the ruling Lespwa party – ended in early 2008, further reducing parliamentary support for the Préval administration. Two-thirds approval in each chamber is needed to put a requirement for a specific constitutional amendment on the legislative agenda. The elections present the government an opportunity to strengthen its power in the upper chamber, but to obtain a commanding two-thirds majority in April, it would have to win all twelve seats at stake.
The capacity of Haiti’s otherwise weak political parties to organise large demonstrations poses a constant threat to stabilisation efforts. Those staged by Préval supporters immediately following the 7 February 2006 presidential elections, for example, paralysed life in the capital for nearly a week, contributing to the decision to apply a new formula for treating blank votes that allowed Préval to avoid a run-off round. More dramatically, the instability arising from competing and often violent demonstrations by supporters and opponents of then President Jean Bertrand Aristide after the 2000 legislative elections created a two-year impasse that fueled the 2004 uprising and Aristide’s exile. At the current critical juncture, it is of utmost importance to hold the elections as soon as possible and in an environment of tranquility and transparency. This is key to persuade donors and investors to keep and increase their commitments to Haiti.
The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP, in French) has established an electoral calendar and has assured the electorate that the elections are technically on stream, but the delays in recent weeks in finalising the list of candidates have forced postponements in the preparation of ballot templates. Concerns have also been expressed about local technical capacity to print the ballots on time. Money is available, and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the institution responsible for managing election funds provided by donors, should complete recruitment for the fund manager who will be responsible for coordinating disbursements with the CEP. Likewise, the CEP needs to coordinate closely with the National Identification Office (ONI) and the Organisation of American States (OAS) to ensure timely publication of voter lists and printing and distribution of 700,000 national identification cards. Logistics and security have to be worked out with MINUSTAH and the HNP.
Nevertheless, even if the CEP keeps to its technical calendar, the country will go to polls that are surrounded by controversy, which could lead to violence during the campaign or on election day and challenges to the results. The electoral law provides for registration of candidates of good repute, but it is the CEP’s responsibility to interpret that mandate in a sensible, widely-accepted fashion. Seventy-eight candidates, none from Fanmi Lavalas, are on the final list announced by the CEP on 17 February. On 5 February, the CEP had published a first list that accepted 65 of the 105 who registered, but its exclusion of all those from Lavalas was criticised, and it quickly authorised an extension so that rejected candidates could appeal. Lavalas is currently split into several factions, two of which sought to offer slates under the same party banner in three constituencies. The registered party representative remains ex-President Aristide, and no faction was successful in persuading the CEP to authorise its candidates to stand for election, though they were able to register the party.
The exclusion of Lavalas, the party with the broadest base among the electorate, from the polls is likely to have serious implications for political stability. National opinion is divided over that exclusion, and the international community has encouraged inclusive elections. All political turmoil in Haiti since 1987 has been related to challenges of elections over fraud or alleged fraud. One Lavalas parliamentarian has already announced that he will seek to block senators elected in April from taking their seats. Its internal regulations give the upper chamber that power. Less than two months away from the polls, the authorities should attempt to remedy the exclusion of Lavalas, whose sympathisers are still among the largest political groupings in the country, as well as encourage the deployment as soon as possible of national and international observers throughout the country to monitor the pre-electoral phase.
D. The Social and Economic Context
The government seeks to mobilise domestic resources and generate growth, reduce poverty and improve living conditions by increasing tax collection and spending on basic social services. Economic growth since 2006, though improved, has been insufficient to prompt a significant improvement in living conditions. Socio-economic fragility in Haiti is longstanding, and recurring political instability during the past two decades coupled with what has become severe yearly natural destruction is making it even more difficult to build foundations for sustainable economic development. The political and economic shocks that hit the country in 2008 have not only worsened already dire economic conditions for a large majority of Haitians, but have also hindered the full implementation of the government’s strategy. Socio-economic circumstances today are worse than at the time of the April 2008 riots, and if not strategically addressed, hold a clear potential for renewed destabilisation.
At the time of those riots, the price of imported rice had increased by more than 60 per cent in a half year, while that of corn had risen by 91 per cent, and the National Coordination for Food Security (CNSA) was reporting that 2.5 million Haitians were in need of food aid. In September, following the storms, another 800,000 were in dire need of assistance, bringing the number of those threatened by food insecurity to 3.3 million, a third of the population. Prior to the economic shocks of 2008, 76 per cent of Haitians – some 4.4 million persons – lived on less than $2 a day and 56 per cent on less than $1. With close to one million persons affected by the storms, the number living in extreme poverty is likely to have increased, but figures are not yet available. 80 per cent of the population has access to only 32 per cent of the country’s revenue. Only 30 per cent of the low quality health care provided is public, and 72 per cent of the population does not have access to any kind of health care.
The circumstances of even more Haitians will worsen in 2009, as remittances from the diaspora are expected to drop in the face of the financial crisis hitting the countries where it is concentrated. Some 1.1 million adults in Haiti depend monthly on such remittances to cover basic expenses. Half the families benefiting from overseas money transfers survive on incomes of less than $500 a year. In 2006, remittances amounted to $1.65 billion, over 30 per cent of gross national product. Of this, $1.17 billion came from the U.S., $230 million from Canada and $130 million from France.
In the absence of programs for rural areas, 75,000 flock yearly from the countryside to the capital in search of work and to reside in already overcrowded neighbourhoods. Port-au-Prince now holds 25 per cent of the country’s population. Without swift implementation of programs in both rural and urban areas to alleviate harsh living conditions, the potential for violent social upheaval is real.
GDP growth for 2008 had been forecast at 3.7 per cent and inflation at 9 per cent, but following the April riots, escalating food prices, the devastating hurricane season and the onset of the global financial crisis, growth was forced down to 1.5 per cent, while inflation reached 13 per cent in 2008, about a third higher than 2007. Despite gradual drops in fuel and food prices in November-December, inflation is expected to remain high. This will hurt above all the poor, due to reduced availability of food through at least mid-2009.
In November 2007, the government completed and approved its Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), as part of the requirements to qualify for relief of over $1 billion in multilateral debt under the World Bank’s Heavily Indebted Poor Countries and Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative. The PRSP serves as a roadmap for strengthening social services, expanding infrastructure and cultivating potential growth and development areas, as well as the basis for donor assistance. It requires $3.8 billion between 2007 and 2010. The Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) the government conducted after the storm devastation should allow adjustment to sector action plans so the PRSP can adequately reflect the worsened socio-economic situation. However, the April 2008 riots deferred presentation of the PRSP to donors, a session only recently rescheduled for April 2009. Launching it is critical for donors such as the EU and Canada, who require a framework for disbursing funds through the planning ministry.
At the end of 2008, the Haitian National Police and MINUSTAH were hopeful that they were finally getting a grip on common crime. With the help of the population, kidnappings were down from 2006-2007, and their increased patrols and search-and-go roadblocks were providing deterrence in metropolitan areas, where insecurity continued to be primarily concentrated.
The violence in Port-au-Prince and other cities in April 2008, however, underlined the still fragile nature of the security gains since President Préval’s May 2006 inauguration. The riots showed that the HNP is not yet fully capable of maintaining public order and ensuring stability. This notwithstanding, police numbers increased from 1,500 in March 2004 to 8,300 in November 2008, and the 20th and 21st academy classes are scheduled to complete seven-month courses and bring that total to approximately 9,500 by mid-2009. HNP Director General Mario Andrésol announced in January that between October 2008 and October 2009, 2,400 cadets will have completed training. If the HNP achieves these ambitious goals, it will be on its way to meet its target of 14,000 in 2011.
However, the proposed budget for fiscal year 2008-2009 foresees only relatively small funds for the HNP. Andrésol considers them insufficient to address crucial tasks, including rehabilitation of police infrastructure, accelerated recruitment and training and prison refurbishment. He is concerned about cuts in the purchase of arms and ammunition and other materiel, as well as fire department equipment, while priority is being given to investment in police infrastructure and refurbishing the Port-au-Prince prison to reduce overcrowding by 10 per cent. The 2008 hurricane season had serious consequences for the entire justice and public security sector. Stations, jails and courts were damaged across the country; police vehicles were swept away by flood waters, further weakening capacity to handle public security threats.
The HNP’s increased numbers and greater field visibility have boosted public confidence in the institution. Reported cases of kidnappings have been reduced from 55 in January 2008 alone to eleven in the period 1 January to 19 February 2009. Nonetheless, in the same period authorities registered 509 cases of crime (as compared to 389 in January-February 2008); reported crimes rose from 1,079 in 2007 to 2,847 in 2008. According to UN observers, this reflects citizens’ greater willingness to report crime and is not indicative of a deteriorating overall security situation. UN police (UNPOL) and the UN Secretary-General’s special representative (UNSRSG), Hédi Annabi, attribute the decrease in widespread insecurity in 2008, despite kidnappings, to the growth of the HNP, its better collaboration with MINUSTAH and more cooperation from the population.
With MINUSTAH support, the HNP moved more aggressively against drug trafficking in 2008. The authorities confiscated 27 properties of drug dealers, discovering in the process a reported $2 million at the Port-de-Paix home of relatives of Alain Désir, who was recently extradited to the U.S. on trafficking charges. However, scandals involving court officials and police theft from that seized money marred the operation and highlighted the need to speed up training and vetting of all justice sector personnel.
Efforts to control contraband, drugs and other illicit traffic crossing Haiti’s land, air and sea borders should be strengthened in 2009. Between late September and early October 2008, the HNP took over responsibility for security at the Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince from the Airports Authority. More U.S. cooperation against drug trafficking could significantly strengthen weak air patrols, in particular if Washington, in cooperation with HNP and MINUSTAH, would deploy helicopters for interdiction permanently or at least on a frequent and unannounced basis. Such deployments helped cut air smuggling when tested in 2007. The U.S. State Department’s 2009 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INSCR), issued on 27 February, cited rising smuggling of drugs by air but did not discuss the refusal of Préval’s requests for helicopter deployments.
Now that MINUSTAH has completed deployment of sixteen patrol boats provided by Uruguay, it should seek closer coordination of patrols with the HNP. Canada has given UNDP $5.7 million to build a new maritime base in Les Cayes. Sixty serving HNP officers are to be trained in maritime service to run the base, which is expected to become operational in October 2009, when the first fleet of five 40-foot patrol boats is scheduled for delivery. Coast Guard bases at Port-de-Paix, Cap Haitien and the capital are also being expanded in U.S.-financed projects. Additional bases in the south east (Jacmel) and north east (Fort Liberté) will be built once funding is identified.
All HNP stations in border areas are to be refurbished and re-equipped through another Canadian-financed project, whose funding should be approved shortly, while 330 cadets scheduled for July or August graduation are to be specially trained to man the force. Improved border control would mean both better security and more badly needed tax revenue.
The government’s primary challenge is to keep Haiti on the path to social and economic stability and improved security despite increased poverty. Macroeconomic advances must be sustained: they are tied to more than $1 billion in debt relief by mid-2009 and are the basis for the increased foreign investment needed for job creation. But socio-economic relief for the most vulnerable sectors of society – more than 70 per cent of the population – is equally important. The government will be hard-pressed to strike a balance between meeting humanitarian, security, reconstruction and development needs while safeguarding macroeconomic stability.
A. Recovery and Reconstruction
The 2008 hurricane devastation caused damages to Haiti’s already weak infrastructure totalling $159 million. Though there is now an opportunity to launch a process that should not simply seek to rebuild the country but to make it better, safer and more just, the government and donors must ensure that early recovery efforts are tightly linked to reconstruction and dovetail with longer-term development.
First goals can only be attained if donors provide some $3 billion, preferably in the short to medium term, to continue implementation of the PRSP and to carry out hurricane recovery and reconstruction efforts based on the results of the PDNA. Of the total $4 billion required to implement the PRSP, only $1.8 billion has been received; in addition, the PDNA, carried out with international technical and financial help, estimated total storm losses at close to $900 million. The PDNA, however, has to be translated into an operational plan with a clear strategy. Projects should be designed to rapidly and visibly improve living conditions for storm victims and those at risk of food insecurity.
Now that the overdue donor conference has been announced for April in Washington, efforts must be concentrated on agreeing and developing a strategy to quickly enlist the needed funds. With principal bilateral donors facing their own financial crises and evidence of donor fatigue appearing, the government must set realistic fundraising goals regarding amounts, timeframes and purpose to ensure the conference is successful. It should also try to increase the number of donors; currently there are only seven principals.
The development activities the Préval/Pierre-Louis government needs to undertake are long-term, so continuity by successors will be critical if they are to have the desired impact. Infrastructure, agriculture, the environment and tourism have been identified as priorities, but at the core of all efforts should be rapid generation of jobs in order to reduce poverty. On 15 January 2009, the UN gave the government a report outlining a strategy to rapidly attain economic security by combining humanitarian and development efforts through job creation, basic services, food security and environmental sustainability. All this is meant to be aimed at quickly strengthening economic development, while providing a swift and high-impact response to the humanitarian crisis and reducing potential for renewed social unrest.
A week earlier UNSRSG Hédi Annabi had told a press conference the report was expected to complement the PDNA and update the PRSP. The three documents together should form the basis for discussions at the April donor conference. If the UN strategy is approved and implemented, it could speed up and complement the government’s priority actions to reduce social and economic inequalities, develop human capital and reduce environmental vulnerability and threats to public security as defined in its 2008-2009 roadmap.
Curbing unemployment is a key challenge. The anti-poverty strategy relies on job creation by reviving agriculture in the countryside and the once prosperous textile industry in urban areas, the latter by utilising the free trade benefits in the U.S. market provided by the HOPE Act. In addition to revitalising the textile industry, HOPE has potential for rapidly generating construction and other jobs at new industrial sites,but to maximise this, the government must act swiftly to accommodate companies seeking to take part in the textile trade. The numbers of textile enterprises and employees doubled between 2006 and 2008,but further expansion is constrained externally by the financial crisis and internally by Haiti’s fragile stability and lack of infrastructure. Investors need at least two conditions: policy continuity and restored confidence.
In its efforts to reduce corruption to protect much needed public revenue and encourage investments, the government has sought to modernise the state apparatus, specifically economic governance. It has strengthened public finance management, including budgeting, internal audit and accounting, reviewed regulations for operations and functioning of public institutions and energized government procurement procedures. Not least important, parliament is expected to consider a corruption bill in 2009.
Improved agriculture can both generate income and reduce food prices. The industry suffered $198 million in losses in the devastation of the 2008 storms, 21 per cent attributable to infrastructure damage, 60 per cent to reduced vegetable production, particularly food staples. Agriculture, which accounts for just over 25 per cent of the GNP, is the top priority in the proposed 2008-2009 budget, but for it to prosper, investment is needed in related areas, such as the environment and public works. The industry’s role in both food security and protection of the environment needs to be explained to the public, with discussion encouraged. Because most agriculture is at subsistence level, small farmers must have access to credit, as well as incentives for planting high-value trees as part of a reforestation and watershed protection effort.
In its September 2008, Crisis Group encouraged government and donors, as a complement to classical security sector reform steps, to swiftly alleviate extremely harsh living conditions that fuel the violent social upheaval that remains one of the biggest threats to Haiti’s fragile stability. It suggested consideration of conditional cash transfer programs (CCTs), intended to foster human capital accumulation among the poorest sectors. The pilot program recommended by an Inter-American Development Bank-supported feasibility study to encourage primary school attendance and enhance health care practices could be extended to include reduction in environmental vulnerability. The program has the potential not only to support and complement the re-launching of agricultural production but also to discourage rural exodus in the face of failing agriculture and encourage citizens to take responsibility for their community.
B. Food Security and Environment
Haiti’s own production provides only 46 per cent of the country’s food; imports account for 49 per cent, foreign aid the rest. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), a lead donor for such assistance, identifies three aspects of the country’s food insecurity: access, use and availability. Access to food, as to other basic needs, is constrained by weak economic growth, high unemployment and weak purchasing power. Inadequate use is associated with poor nutrition, lack of health care and sub-standard sanitation. Availability, perhaps the main factor, faces constraints related to insecure land tenure,environmental vulnerability, weak agricultural technology and practices and inadequate transportation and other infrastructure. Deforestation and soil erosion affects over 50 per cent of Haitian territory, which drastically undermines efforts to improve agricultural production.
Local food availability is expected to be even further reduced in 2009, due to the extensive damage caused by the 2008 storms to over 65 per cent of Haiti’s arable land, and food prices will remain high. The July harvest of the crops planted in March 2009 will provide the first indication of how well agriculture has recovered from the 2008 disasters. At least until then, emergency conditions prevail. The CNSA has identified nearly 207,000 persons at risk of severe food insecurity or famine; altogether, as already noted, one third of the population will need food aid, primarily distributed by the World Food Programme (WFP).
Improvement in food security will largely depend on major injection of capital directly into the agricultural industry and into the reconstruction of supporting infrastructure destroyed during the storms to create short and medium-term jobs that boost purchasing power of the poor majority. Financing of these government efforts as part of its early recovery strategy that will lead into longer-term reconstruction is foreseen through the PDNA, to which donors are expected to commit in April. In the interim, close coordination of funds already pledged by the U.S., the World Bank and others must be speedily disbursed and invested.
C. Police and Judicial Reform
Decisive justice and security sector reform measures remain essential if Haiti is ever to achieve sustainable political, social and economic stability. In particular, vetting must be accelerated to ensure that the police are widely accepted as clean and therefore trustworthy. The force must still be purged of corrupt officers, because the growth in public confidence, while perceptible, remains fragile. Both the HNP and MINUSTAH must work to eliminate bottlenecks in the process and agree on procedures for certifying those already vetted and for clearly communicating that those who fail will be removed. In parallel, the government should renew its efforts to improve the judiciary by pressing the Superior Judicial Council to establish standards for and monitor judges, expanding use of the serious crimes chamber and significantly reducing overcrowding in prisons.
President Préval’s launch on 19 February of the Presidential Commission on Justice Reform is expected to speed up change and give a more inclusive approach to the process. According to Micha Gaillard, coordinator of the commission, which has a twelve-month term, its role is to mobilise resources and expertise from all sectors, since the state is not capable of resolving the challenges single-handedly.
V. International Cooperation
In the aftermath of the disastrous 2008 storms, President Préval said Haiti needed not charity but aid that was better fitted to sustainable development goals. As donations came in only slowly in response to the UN-led flash appeal launched on 11 October 2008, however, and donors complained of fatigue and inability to mobilise additional funds rapidly in the midst of the global financial crisis, national and international media began to question the international commitment to Haiti. Further questions were raised when the outgoing Bush administration in the U.S. first delayed its response and then refused in December 2008 to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitians residing illegally in that country.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ranked Haiti 39th among net official development assistance (ODA) recipients in 2007, with $701 million, an increase from $580 million in 2006. In 2008, Haiti was the top recipient ($403 million) of USAID funding in Latin America and the Caribbean. Canada, the next largest donor, has committed to allocate $459 million between 2006 and 2011, making Haiti the leading recipient of Ottawa’s long-term development aid in the region and second worldwide. But Haiti, as noted above, needs to raise $3 billion to implement its social and economic development strategy for 2008-2010, as well as to carry out its post-hurricane emergency recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation program. And this at a time when ODA could be reduced by up to 30 per cent, as donors turn attention inward.
Constraints on donors are real, but so are Haiti’s needs and the risk that if the money to sustain this decade’s provisional and limited progress is not given, the eventual cost of dealing with a collapsed state will be much higher. In an environment where every dollar must count, aid should be tailored to the government’s development program, with a view to advancing
national ownership. The democratically elected government must be credible to its destitute and desperate population in order to foster the consensus needed to sustain programs. Faced with weak government institutions and crises, donors have frequently gone around the state to work with NGOs. However, institution building must be a fundamental objective. Donor projects need to include knowledge transfer. Likewise, to facilitate aid coordination, donors should help the government keep track of foreign NGOs by ensuring the organisations they partner with are registered, and their projects adhere to the development program.
Many donors are still trying to determine how to work effectively in Haiti due to the government’s weak absorption capacity. There is currently a risk that they could go into the donor conference with the same undetermined mindset. Now that the PDNA has been completed, the government must demonstrate that it has the capacity to implement it transparently. But to attract and retain donors it also needs to define and apply a comprehensive strategy, based on sustainable development and poverty reduction, that should seek not merely to reconstruct Haiti but also to transform it into a safer and more stable nation. Part of this will be to consult extensively with political and civil society to review the PRSP and ensure that it reflects the post-disaster and food insecurity situation and takes account of the early recovery assistance provided by donors prior to the completion of the PDNA.
The immediate international response to the 2008 crisis has been to meet basic survival needs and restore essential public services. However, as laid out in the PDNA the government produced with technical donor help, the phases of early recovery and subsequent reconstruction should be given equal importance. The risks of floods and mudslides remain, and the next hurricane season is only months away. Immediate measures are required to reduce the scale of future disasters, provide opportunities for sustainable livelihoods and complement measures being taken to increase food security and health care, particularly, in areas at risk of severe food insecurity.
The U.S., which has $96 million available for it, should immediately launch its Haiti Integrated Growth through Hurricane Emergency Recovery (HIGHER) program. Focusing on cash-for-work programs, $54 million will be allocated to restoring public services and livelihoods and rebuilding infrastructure, particularly farm-to-market roads. The government’s immediate need is to fill the 2008-2009 national budget gap of $75 million, which President Préval in his February trip to Washington raised with the new Obama administration. Préval was the first head of state to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who assured him of the administration’s special concern for Haiti. President Barack Obama’s reported invitation to Haitian-born Canadian Governor General Michaëlle Jean to continue discussions on Haiti could signal a unique opportunity for a joint approach to aid by the country’s two top donors.
The IMF announcement of some $35 million in assistance following Préval’s visit to Washington, while not immediate cash, will help close the budget deficit. Though the U.S. has not provided direct budget aid, the new administration should take into consideration the country’s current crisis and assist in filling the remaining $40 million gap. Canada’s priorities in Haiti are strengthening good governance, helping to build open and responsible government, fighting corruption and restoring the rule of law. While not neglecting its humanitarian assistance in food aid and agricultural production, it should continue to focus also on border control and modernisation of the state apparatus for tax collection, which are both necessary for security sector reform.
Haiti has considerably improved its capacity to cope with natural disaster. Its early warning system, strengthened since Tropical Storm Jeanne killed some 3,000 persons in 2004, helped reduce fatalities in 2008 to less than 1,000. Better preparedness and mitigation capacity are now needed. In addition to making use of assistance planned by USAID and the Inter-American Development Bank, Haiti could to mutual benefit share experiences and prepare for natural disasters in cooperation with its regional counterparts, Mexico, the Central American countries, Cuba, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which all face yearly hurricane threats. It has been isolated for too long from Caribbean region cooperation and development, and opportunities for partnerships should be pursued. For instance, it would be important for CARICOM to ensure Haiti’s participation in its Single Market and Economy in 2009 as planned.
In a year when the country’s long-time principal Western donors are facing economic challenges of their own, the Haitian government will need to seek additional sources of funding. The agriculture technology transfer project and assistance in energy infrastructure announced by Brazil, the largest MINUSTAH troop contributor, are encouraging signs that its aid will extend beyond the emergency help provided last year. President Préval has also been successful since his inauguration in garnering support from Cuba and Venezuela, principally in energy, infrastructure and health care, as well as from the traditional donors. But he will need to continue to expand the donor base.
Switzerland and Norway could be important prospects. Switzerland transformed its consulate into an embassy in 2007, which could signal opportunities to energise development cooperation and humanitarian assistance. It also recently announced a decision to return $6 million to Haiti seized from accounts linked to the former dictator, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, to be used transparently for social and humanitarian projects through aid organisations. In December 2008, the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO) prepared a report to the Norwegian foreign ministry on conflict prevention in Haiti. It includes policy recommendations to improve rural and urban living conditions and support Haitian institutions for conflict management and community initiatives for conflict prevention. The Norwegian government should be encouraged to pursue those recommendations and provide technical and/
or financial support for related actions within the framework of the Préval/Pierre-Louis administration’s 2008-2009 strategy and PRSP implementation.
Haiti’s political, social and economic situation remains fragile, and the Préval/Pierre-Louis administration has to act swiftly if recent gains in stability are not to be at risk. The donor conference, now scheduled for April 2009, is important since it will largely determine whether the government can meet the expectations of the country’s poor and avoid further – potentially violent – unrest. Senate elections that same month and the constitutional reform debate shortly after will set the political tone for reconstruction and development efforts during the remainder of the year. Excluding a significant party from those elections would sound precisely the wrong note to begin Préval’s third year in office.
To keep Haiti on course, making headway with development and improving the living conditions of its desperately poor majority, the government also needs to build a broad national consensus by reaching out even more than in the past months to parliament and civil society. Likewise, the institutional reforms begun in 2006, especially with respect to the police, judiciary and prisons, are fundamental and should be advanced with great determination by the authorities, civil society, MINUSTAH and the donor community alike.
Port-au-Prince/Brussels, 3 March 2009