Originally: Mission 1: Finds and Recommendations
The Haiti International Assessment Committee (HIAC) undertook its first mission to Haiti July 23-24, 2005. The first of four missions over the next eight months, this two-day assessment focused particular attention on the country?s current political environment in the nation?s capital.
The committee met with Prime Minister Gérard Latortue, representatives of the Organization of American States and United Nations, members of the diplomatic community, and Haitian civil society and political party leaders. The committee also observed Haitians registering to vote. Haiti?s local and national elections are scheduled in three phases between October and December 2005.
The strategic objectives of HIAC are twofold: First, to indicate through its bipartisan and international composition and its schedule of repeated missions, a commitment by the international community to Haiti?s democratization process. Second, HIAC constitutes an expert committee with outreach capabilities to key actors in Haiti and in the hemisphere. Its members will provide support, offer assessments, highlight issues and express concerns if necessary.
In addition, HIAC foresees in its assessments an opportunity to review one of the world?s longest-standing crisis environments. In the long term, lessons learned in Haiti may serve as a test-case for future U.N. or international missions elsewhere.
From its first mission to Haiti, HIAC draws the following set of observations and areas of recommended action.
In the course of its meetings, HIAC noted a repeated and vigorous demand for improved security conditions as a central condition for credible elections. At the same time, the committee is encouraged by the United Nations’ commitment to its extended security mandate. There are indications that MINUSTAH?s response to violence and threats to the political process has become more vigorous and targeted in recent weeks. Likewise, the impending increase of troops in the Port-au-Prince area and the addition of Special Forces are reassuring examples of quantitative and qualitative changes in the force-structure of MINUSTAH. Some discussion also persists related to the deployment of U.S. forces to Haiti at some point and of a popular sentiment supporting their presence.
The first mission took place with preparations for the fall cycle of elections underway. Despite a late start to the voter registration process, the committee noted progress in this effort. But, it is acutely conscious of the increasingly tight deadlines that must be met for elections to take place as scheduled in October.
The committee also wishes to highlight that while nomenclature refers to ?voter registration,? a primary purpose is to generate a national identity card for every Haitian adult. This is a long-term strategic objective that entails a complex implementation process.
The committee observed a local voter registration site and noted a generally orderly process, although perhaps administratively cumbersome to those registering. Citizens seemed good-natured about the time commitment necessary to register and in individual interviews, shared a general understanding of the significance of the effort.
The committee noted a serious determination among political leaders to be engaged in the political process. Nevertheless, political party leaders voiced concern regarding the viability of the current voter registration calendar and in turn, the credibility of the upcoming cycle of elections. The latter is particularly worrisome as political parties? interpretations of the elections could impact negatively the electorate?s perceptions at large.
Interaction with civil society groups permitted the committee to take the pulse of the country?s wider population. These leaders suggested a lack of communication between both civil society and the political party community, and between civil society and the interim government. In the upcoming election cycle, a deficiency of exchanges between key players may breed further distrust. Effective exchanges could forestall any potential political mischief.
The committee discussed Haiti?s current political climate at length with Prime Minister Gérard Latortue. The committee was impressed with his candor and his apparent commitment to ensuring that Haiti?s upcoming elections are transparent and credible in the eyes and minds of the Haitian electorate. In the course of that conversation, HIAC exchanged views on the need for:
- Mobilizing actors relevant to Haiti?s internal security, notably the Haitian National Police (HNP) and MINUSTAH. Given reports of widespread corruption in the HNP, the recent naming of a new police chief is a step in the right direction.
- A faster and targeted disbursement of financial resources from international donors to ensure that the democratically elected government taking office in February 2006 has an adequate foundation to address Haiti?s pressing socio-economic needs.
The committee?s June 30, 2005 statement contained several recommendations that remain relevant and are partially restated here in the wake of the first mission to Haiti.
The establishment of security in Haiti remains the most urgent priority. Without it, the viability of the electoral process and the safety of Haitian citizens and foreign visitors cannot be assured. Success of the UN security mandate depends on:
- The immediate deployment of additional, highly disciplined and motivated forces committed under resolution 1608.
- The use of more robust security measures by the leadership of MINUSTAH, a point which the committee made in their first report and has been confirmed during their first mission.
- Effective coordination of intelligence, planning and operations between the UN?s civilian police component and the HNP. The committee also notes the HNP?s need for training and recruitment support from the international community.
The committee regards immediate action on these recommendations as central to the success of the electoral process.
Given that as of July 31, 2005, little more than one million of approximately 4 million eligible voters have registered to vote, it is clear that the initial August 9 deadline to conclude the voter registration process will be delayed. However, this should not undermine the credibility of the process and the election cycle that follows. Instead, HIAC makes the following recommendations:
The committee urges swift action by the CEP and coordination with the Organization of American States (OAS) and the interim government to establish a new electoral calendar, one that still ensures the inauguration of a democratically elected government on February 7, 2006.
If the electoral calendar is adjusted, a national civic education campaign will be essential to explain to the Haitian electorate why the calendar is being changed, so as to encourage ? and not stall ? citizens? continued engagement in the electoral process. If Haitian resources are not sufficient to underwrite this effort, the international community should divert resources to assure that this is accomplished.
The registration effort must be nationwide and representative of demographic distributions. This entails supplying an adequate number of accessible registration sites in rural communities and sufficient security to enable registration in the country?s most volatile urban areas.
Political party leadership and civil society leaders are urged to sustain an accurate dialogue about voter registration and the ongoing electoral process with their supporters and communities. This dialogue should be distinct from a campaign obligation that candidates clearly articulate policy differences, and should reflect a common interest rather than partisan politics. Additionally, political parties must readily engage in the effort to encourage Haitians to register to vote.
As time passes it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve the number of registered voters as had been earlier anticipated. The committee urges electoral authorities and political party leaders to come to a consensus now on the registered proportion of eligible voters necessary for Haitians to perceive the elections as legitimate. This early consensus will help avoid allegations of fraud during or following the elections, as well as questions by the international community ? including international donor agencies ? about the credibility of the electoral outcomes.
The committee urges Haiti?s political community to commit to the notion of political inclusion. In this regard, HIAC is encouraged by indications that the moderate Lavalas constituency is pursuing participation in the upcoming elections without preconditions. The committee urges key actors in the international community to actively support this discussion. In tandem, the committee cautions those recommending a ban on the entire Lavalas party from the elections. While overtly supporting violence or other illegal actions should be criteria for exclusion from the democratic process, party label should not be.
At the same time, the committee continues to be troubled by persistent rumors that former president Aristide is fomenting violence through his remaining supporters. The committee condemns any such involvement.
Long-term International Commitment
The committee urges immediate and specific confirmation of the international community?s commitment to supporting a democratic government in Haiti in 2006 and beyond. Engaging in this discussion next February will be too late. Areas of emphasis or support should include:
- Initiatives likely to create sustainable jobs and economic stability. In particular, initiatives should involve the establishment of technical training schools and in turn, a focus on re-building Haiti?s infrastructure of roads and public works.
- Offering proposals helpful in drawing in available skill sets found in Haiti?s extensive Diaspora community.
- Guaranteeing institutional support for a permanent electoral council, in part to maintain the effort presently underway with the voter registration process.
- Prolonging an appropriate security and law enforcement mandate that would be a successor to the UN?s current resolution and particularly, the civilian police component. This should include establishing police training academies for the Haitian National Police.
- Supporting judicial reform and offering good governance training for the thousands of newly elected officials who will be sworn into office in early 2006.
- In addition, the committee urges the U.S. administration and Congress to quickly appoint and deploy a successor for Ambassador James Foley, who is scheduled to depart his post as Ambassador to Haiti on August 12, 2005. A swift appointment will confirm to Haitians the United States? commitment to Haiti?s democratization efforts.
Relationship with CARICOM
Building on its June 30, 2005 statement, the committee urges continued dialogue between Haiti and CARICOM members. While differences may remain between member countries, this should not deter an agreement that democratic elections in Haiti are in the region?s interest and that continuing violence is not. A specific commitment from CARICOM to provide election observation and non-partisan technical support would help Haiti and be a tribute to the Caribbean community?s long standing experience in the practice of democracy.
 Participation included: former U.S. Congressman Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), former U.S. Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), former Canadian Minister of External Affairs Barbara McDougall, and former Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States and former independent senator Ambassador Christopher Thomas of Trinidad & Tobago.
 United Nations resolution 1608 extends the mandate to February 15, 2006 and increases the military and civilian police force on the ground in Haiti.
 The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti.
 The committee held meetings with leaders from a broad range of significant political parties, coalitions and factions. HIAC plans to expand on these conversations with other actors during its next mission.
 Representation in these conversations included grassroots organizers, the business sector, student advocates, and a representative of Haiti?s ?Conseil des Sages? advisory council or ?Council of Eminent Persons.? The Conseil des Sages was established by Haiti?s key political actors and the international community as a transitional advisory mechanism, which in turn selected Gérard Latortue as Prime Minister.
 The new chief of police, Mario Andrésol, is the former director general of the judicial police in Haiti (1998-2001). He replaces former police chief Léon Charles.
 As of July 31, 2005 the Provisional Electoral Council reports that 1,016,187 people are registered to vote. On August 9, informal communications with the CEP relayed that a delayed electoral calendar was being finalized and that voter registration would continue past August 9th.
 In the US legislative context, examples include insuring a compromise for Haiti out of the Central American Free Trade Agreement – Dominican Republic (DR-CAFTA), and also consideration of the HERO Act related to trade with Haiti.
 Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) proposed the ?Haiti Economic and Infrastructure Reconstruction? or HERO Act, which would recruit Haitian-Americans to work in Haiti.
 Caribbean Community member countries include Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
For programmatic inquiries related to the Haiti International Assessment Committee, please contact Lindsay Arnold, Haiti Action Officer at the International Republican Institute (202.572.1577). For press inquiries, please contact Lisa Gates, Spokesperson at the International Republican Institute (202.572.1546 or 202.256.4597).