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poverty or development, but rather one between chronic fragility and the consolidation of functioning, democratic state institutions.
A question of political will and leadership.
Without sufficient political will and leadership on the partof the international community, little seems possible. The appointment of former US PresidentWilliam J. Clinton as the United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti presents an opportunity to exertthis leadership and bring numerous international actors together behind a clearly defined strategy.A focused and united international community is a prerequisite for establishing a meaningful andlasting compact with the Haitian government. Firstly, a united proposal is necessary to enable theinternational community to establish transparent mechanisms of accountability with both theexecutive and parliamentary branches of the government. Furthermore, because there is nostructural authority that formally has jurisdiction over the many actors and partners involved(bilateral donors, international financial institutions,
s, development agencies and the
leadership is needed to provide that coordination and
authority for aconcerted and strategic engagement with Haiti. Finally, experience has shown that state-building isnecessary in implementing any sustainable security or development initiative. Even for a quick-impact economic security strategy, for example, the need to build the authority, legitimacy andcredibility of the Haitian state cannot be neglected. To date, there exists no formal institutionwithin the international community with the necessary political leverage and capacity to lead anintegrated and clearly defined state-building strategy. Haiti’s neighbors in the region such as the
,Canada, Brazil and other Latin American countries, are faced with the opportunity for effectiveleadership.
Haiti is fragile, but not failed.
In the last fifty years, Haitians have endured dictatorships, politicalrepression, military coups, and, at times, the absence of law and order. However, despite theviolence of its recent past, Haiti is not a failed state. Although Haiti did not experience a civil warand therefore does not present the typical profile of a post-conflict country as some Africancountries with which it is often grouped (including Somalia, Liberia, Sierra Leone), it faces anumber of similar challenges. Weak state institutions, a taxing electoral calendar and a fledglingdemocratic process based on the 1987 Constitution burden Haiti. Conflicts between Parliamentand the executive branch of government are common, as are potential overlaps in authority between the offices of the president and the prime minister. Moreover, the economic elite are highlyinfluential and have the potential to act as security spoilers to seek, keep, or maximize power,income, authority, or position. However, for all of its shortcomings, lack of cohesiveness andinstitutional frailty, the current government of President René Garcia Préval and Prime MinisterMichèle Pierre-Louis has electoral legitimacy and is attempting to communicate with politicalactors and the international community, albeit with limited success. It is important to note thatmany of the things for which the Haitian government is often criticized (corruption, lack of priority-setting, lack of institutional and technical capacity, lack of leadership), are not unique to Haiti.However, as long as the political process in the country continues to be conflict-prone andvulnerable, efforts by the international community to assist Haiti will require the participation andagreement of different sectors of Haitian society, as well as unified political leadership from thepresident and the prime minister.
What makes Haiti a fragile state?
A number of elements contribute to the fragility of the Haitianstate, beginning with the extreme poverty that directly affects approximately eighty percent of individuals and households, particularly women and youth; the limited capacity of the governmentto provide basic public services, such as security, social protection and livelihood opportunities;and the conflicting interests and strategies among political actors and the economic elite. At thecore of Haiti’s fragility is the near absence of a social contract between the Haitian state and itscitizens. Abstract notions of state authority and legitimacy become very concrete to the averageHaitian when faced with the incapacity of the state to respond to his or her basic needs andexpectations. The lack of a social contract magnifies the ability of private interest groups – oftenthe economic and political elite to influence the political process and create conflict, further