Spur Haiti's development
Spur Haiti's development
Op-Ed / Latin America & Caribbean 2 minutes

Spur Haiti's development

The U.N. Security Council's ninth renewal of the peacekeeping mission in Haiti on Tuesday reflects a number of good decisions: It boosted the police, reduced the military, called for strengthened support for border control and called on in-country U.N. agencies and others to coordinate and complement security and development operations.

But are they enough to strengthen the link between stabilization and development required for long-term stability?

Now into its sixth year, the 9,000-strong United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is mandated to restore a secure and stable environment, promote the democratic political process, strengthen government institutions and rule-of-law structures, and guarantee the protection of human rights. It has had welcome successes, but the going has not been smooth.

Under Brazilian command, U.N. forces have helped curb serious crime, such as armed gang activity and kidnapping. The mission has helped establish and modernize the Haitian National Police and is working closely with local authorities to strengthen border controls and raise customs revenues. Since 2006, six elections have been held successfully with the mission's logistical and security support, which also ensured quick relief to thousands after last year's devastating storms.

But reestablishing the rule of law is proving a slow and difficult process. Justice sector reforms, particularly naming a Judiciary Superior Council, are lagging behind while prison inmates remain in hellish conditions. Corruption and violence are still endemic in Haitian society.

These serious shortcomings are compounded by the lack of a coherent strategy to link international stabilization efforts with support for development and economic growth. This needs to change.

Sustained socio-economic development is also essential for Haiti's future stability. In his speech last month to the U.N. General Assembly, President René Préval referred to the urgent need to promote peace, stability and security through development.

Last year, the hurricanes and the global food crisis closely followed by the world economic crisis compounded the extreme poverty most Haitians face.

As an ``integrated mission,' MINUSTAH could draw on the expertise of some 20 agencies to help it with development issues that will assist in consolidating stability. This would require relaxing individual agencies' regulations and procedures, and those of the peacekeeping operation.

Such coordination could help strengthen the provision of basic services, increase local production of agriculture and food access, reduce social and political fragility and further improve Haiti's business climate.

The United Nations is indeed now seeking to formulate an ``Integrated Strategic Framework,' but is already benchmarking progress in anticipation of the mission's eventual handover strategy.

The U.N.'s ``consolidation plan' also problematically tackles the police, judiciary and prison systems separately, failing to show how they will mutually support each other to guarantee rule-of-law. Its indicators for social and economic development are overly simplistic and do not make the necessary linkage between progress in development and stabilization.

Despite the welcome changes in the mandate, the Security Council should have better used its unique opportunity on Tuesday to rigorously link stabilization and development on a single agenda in Haiti, by strengthening the U.N. country team's integration with MINUSTAH.

It did well, however, to underscore the importance of the role of Bill Clinton, the U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti, to create new jobs and attract foreign investment to the country. Disbursements of $353 million in pledges made at the April donors conference in Washington, D.C. remain slow; Clinton referred last month to a paltry $21 million.

With presidential elections due in 2010, time is running out to ensure that Haiti continues on the path to stability. The country needs all the help it can get, and at the top of the list is a better integrated U.N. team to do a more effective job. There can be no development without security, but equally, there can be no security without development.

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