Washington — The United Nations and Canada have signed a new funding
agreement with Haiti that adds to the U.S. government’s efforts to reform
the Caribbean nation’s justice system.

In a March 7 statement, the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) said the main
aim of the agreement is to establish a program that provides all people in
Haiti with equitable access to the country’s justice system.

The program is funded for an initial period of three years, and will include
activities in the areas of institution strengthening, reinforcement of
case-management procedures, the prison system, legislative reforms and
training, said the UNDP.

Olivier Ranaivondrambola, the UNDP’s deputy special resident representative
in Haiti, who signed the funding agreement, said the new pact seeks “to
establish the essential conditions for the people of Haiti to be able to
enjoy the benefits of a justice system that is professional, observant of
the law, and capable of promoting a greater awareness in people of their
rights and obligations.”

Canada’s ambassador to Haiti, Claude Boucher, added that in the context of
the February 7 elections in Haiti, which he said were designed to restore
“genuine” democracy to the country, “it is essential to re-establish a
justice system capable of encouraging the resolution of conflicts — and
reducing, in the very short term, the grave problems which arise from a
non-functioning judicial apparatus.”

The United States has been deeply involved in the international effort to
build a criminal justice system in Haiti.

The U.S. State Department’s Jonathan Farrar said in May 2005 U.S.
congressional testimony that the State Department and the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID) have developed an overall strategy for
justice-sector reform in Haiti and “are working together to move forward in
this difficult task.”  (See related article.)

Farrar, then speaking as the deputy assistant secretary of state for
international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, said USAID is leading a
justice reform program in Haiti aimed at developing a functioning judiciary
that includes prosecutors and judges, but that it “would be difficult to
overstate the challenges that this reform effort faces.”

Farrar, whose current position is principal deputy assistant secretary of
state for democracy, human rights and labor, said “all three pillars” of
Haiti’s criminal justice system (police, judicial sector, and prisons) “are
in desperate need of reconstruction.” 

The United States and other members of an international donors group for
Haiti welcomed the February 7 election of René Préval as Haiti’s president
and expressed their commitment to work with the Caribbean nation’s new

Some $780 million of donor support from the international community has been
disbursed to Haiti, as of the end of 2005.  The United States has disbursed
$277 million of that total amount.  (See related article.)

The UNDP’s Ranaivondrambola said the new funding agreement is intended to
make the justice system in Haiti more independent, effective, transparent
and accessible to the Haitian people.

“Improving the justice system will undoubtedly have the effect of enhancing
the Haitian people’s trust in this important institution, and thereby
stimulating their interest in playing an active part in the processes of
reform and strategies for sustainable development,” said Ranaivondrambola.