Economic network

Haiti sinks into disaster: who will save it?

Haiti has never been far from large-scale human suffering, severe political instability and grim economic underdevelopment. But his situation today is worse than before.

The country has become a battleground for rival criminal gangs whose weapons are superior to those of the police, both in quantity and firepower. These gangs have established strongholds in which they reign supreme, terrorizing communities, kidnapping people, demanding huge ransoms, committing despicable murders and even burning their victims alive or dead. More worryingly, some gangs seem to have established links with politicians.

Beyond the loss of control of law and order, the country is ruled, in name, by unelected officials without an independent judiciary or a functioning national assembly. A deal between civil society groups and political actors, fashioned in September 2021, has crumbled. This makes the realization of the desire for a Haitian-led solution to the country’s problems highly unlikely and not credible.

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What makes this situation worse is that Haiti lacks strong institutions to support governance and address the country’s deep-rooted problems.

Some nations – including countries whose governments have contributed to Haiti’s underdevelopment and weakness – are now conveniently hiding behind the Haitian call for a “Haitian-led” solution, doing little or nothing. The United Nations (UN) withdrew its Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) in October 2017, after 13 years.

Despite the disastrous situation that currently exists, the UN Security Council has chosen to extend the mandate of its Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) until July 15, 2023, but not to extend it to combat the spiral violence, anarchy and terror of the armed forces. gangs.

In this context, Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), issued a rousing public indictment of the “international community” and the interested political elite in Haiti. Almagro did not mince his words when he declared: “The institutional crisis that Haiti is going through at the moment is the direct result of the actions carried out by the endogenous forces of the country and by the international community”. He declared, unequivocally, that “the last 20 years of the presence of the international community in Haiti have constituted one of the worst and clearest failures implemented and executed within the framework of international cooperation”. To be clear, “the international community” in Haiti constituted a core group comprising the European Union, the UN, the OAS, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany and Spain.

I publicly agreed with his assessment. It was the most honest and convincing statement by a senior official of a regional or international institution ever published regarding Haiti. Consistent with his statement, I interpreted his definition of the “international community” to include every country, every international financial and development institution, the UN and its organs, and the OAS itself. But I also recognized then, what I said later at the OAS Permanent Council on August 17, when Haiti’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean Victor Généus, clearly prompted by Almagro’s statement, asked for a meeting.

What I said, in short, is that “many countries in the international community are perfectly innocent of what is happening in Haiti or has happened there. There are others – both countries and institutions – that have damaged Haiti beyond repair for many years. Now it is up to these countries to do something to correct the situation. Financial support is the obligation of those members of the international community who can afford it. And many of them, moreover, bear the responsibility for the situation in Haiti today”.

Almagro is clearly correct in saying: “…resources must be provided to Haiti through a process institutionalized by the international community, with a strong oversight component and an ability to fight corruption and prevent resources from be misused and misused”.

As I observed at the OAS meeting, Haiti cannot hope for an international response to its needs without some assurance that there will be, within the country, a collective and solid position, both in terms of the demands they make, the cooperation they will provide, and the openness with which they will deal with the international community.

For his part, Foreign Minister Généus said that the government has tried to promote dialogue, implying that its efforts have not been successful, but that “the Prime Minister will relentlessly pursue this quest for dialogue and consensus”.

Of course, such a dialogue will not take place, and no agreement will be maintained, unless there is a good offices mediation to facilitate it and oversee the implementation of its agreements. The mediation cannot take place without an invitation from the provisional government of Ariel Henry and the agreement of the other Haitian groups.

Neighboring countries are already grappling with the bankruptcy of the Haitian state. The Bahamas, with a population of 400,000, has approximately 150,000 Haitian refugees on its territory. This year alone, the Bahamian government has spent millions of dollars repatriating Haitian refugees. According to the Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to the OAS, Josue Fiallo, the situation in Haiti “constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to national security, foreign policy and the economy of my country”. Additionally, the United States deported or deported thousands of Haitians fleeing their desperate conditions.

In its August 8 statement, Almagro identified what amounts to an action program to try to save Haiti. This includes: controlling violence and disarming gangs; provide technical and financial resources to deal with the current security situation; the creation of a central mechanism to deploy assistance without duplication or wasted effort; a strong oversight component to fight corruption; draft a new Constitution that corrects the shortcomings of the existing Constitution, in particular by establishing an autonomous Central Bank, an independent judiciary, a functional and efficient education system; and investments to create jobs and reduce poverty.

Few would disagree with this program. The questions it raises are: who would provide the funding and which agency would be entrusted with implementation?

These are questions that must be addressed before Haiti slides even deeper into an even greater catastrophic humanitarian crisis than it has suffered thus far. Haiti must become a priority on the agenda of all international and regional bodies – now.

*Sir Ronald Sanders is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States of America and the Organization of American States. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, and Massey College, University of Toronto.

CMC/rs/ed/2022