Governing Haiti: Time for National Consensus
Without an inclusive national pact on critical priorities, President Michel Martelly faces the spectre of a failed presidency, and Haiti risks international abandonment.
Governing Haiti: Time for National Consensus, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the race against time to convince its own people, donors and potential investors that progress and stability are still achievable. After several failed efforts to reach domestic agreement on basic issues, even loyal donors are becoming frustrated by the lack of leadership, governance and accountability.
“The challenges facing Haiti are not difficult to see”, says Javier Ciurlizza, Crisis Group’s Latin America and Caribbean Program Director. “They focus on a need for good governance, consensus building among the elites, effectively implemented poverty reduction strategies and strengthened rule of law. Sadly, these challenges have never been confronted effectively. Haiti today presents little cause for optimism”.
The greatest immediate challenge is to end the persistent polarisation that has blocked free and fair elections, but much more is needed. President Martelly, already struggling to govern the broken and divided nation for more than one and a half years, lacks the stable political base (also denied to his predecessors) to obtain buy-in to his proposed “Five-E” development strategy: employment, état de droit (rule of law), education, environment and energy.
If he is to avoid political paralysis, he needs to build on the tenuous Christmas Eve 2012 agreement shepherded by the ecumenical Religions for Peace group for a credible electoral body to hold much delayed Senate, municipal and local polls quickly. Calling on that group to help reach agreement on implementing the electoral calendar should be followed by its facilitating a national accord on reconstruction and development strategies. The Latin American region offers useful experience about how to build sustainable, effective agreements that can progressively be translated into concrete and sustainable policies.
Haiti has missed previous opportunities to break out of the negative cycle of zero-sum politics and perennial discord. The approaching mid-point in the Martelly administration may offer a new chance to turn toward the kind of national transformation that could give the hemisphere’s second oldest republic a hopeful future.
“If Haiti is to pull through, the better angels in the natures of its leaders are going to have to prevail for once and prevail soon”, says Mark Schneider, Crisis Group’s Senior Vice President and Special Adviser on Latin America. “This is a thin reed on which to float the country’s future; but it might be all it has”.