Latin America/Caribbean Briefing N°26 8 Sep 2011
Haiti’s porous land and sea borders remain susceptible to drug trafficking, smuggling and other illegal activities that weaken the rule of law and deprive the state of vital revenue. Post-quake insecurity underscores continued vulnerability to violent crime and political instability. Overcrowded urban slums, plagued by deep poverty, limited economic opportunities and the weakness of government institutions, particularly the Haitian National Police (HNP), breed armed groups and remain a source of broader instability. If the Martelly administration is to guarantee citizen safety successfully, it must remove tainted officers and expand the HNP’s institutional and operational capacity across the country by completing a reform that incorporates community policing and violence reduction programs.
The recent elections were only a first step toward determining the future of the country’s reconstruction and development. The real work now requires the political leadership – executive and legislative alike – to make meaningful efforts to address fundamental needs. Key to this is identification of common ground with the political opposition, grass roots communities and business elites, in order to reinforce a national consensus for transforming Haiti that prioritises jobs-based decentralisation, equal protection under the law and community security.
President Michel Martelly declared Haiti open for business in his 14 May inaugural address, but a functioning, professional HNP is a prerequisite to move the country forward. Police reform has made significant strides but is far from complete after nearly five years. HNP deficiencies, along with the desire of Martelly supporters to restore the army and nationalistic opposition to the continued presence of the UN peacekeepers (MINUSTAH), contribute to proposals for creating a second armed force. Serious questions surround that problematic notion. If it is pursued, there must be wide consultation with civil society, including grassroots and community-based organisations, and particularly with victims of the old army’s abuses. But first it is paramount to continue strengthening the HNP, by:
Port-au-Prince/Brussels, 8 September 2011