Aug 6, 2010
Haiti's future prosperity and peace require building a more effective, resilient state. Haiti's state institutions are riddled with weaknesses in human resources, organization, procedures, and policies. RAND researchers identified Haiti's main challenges and recommended a set of state-building priorities that are necessary, feasible, and sustainable. These include civil service reform, justice-system reform, ongoing involvement of United Nations peacekeepers, streamlined regulations for business, and improved access and quality assurance for health care and schools.
The January 12, 2010, earthquake in Haiti demonstrated the weaknesses not only of the country's infrastructure but also of its state institutions. Although the earthquake was the cause of the disaster, Haiti's long history of poor governance was largely responsible for the extent of the devastation and the society's almost complete dependence on help from abroad to deal with the consequences.
Much has stabilized in Haiti since the earthquake, and the Haitian government has developed plans for reconstruction in consultation with the international donor community. However, more than physical reconstruction is needed: Hope for a more prosperous and peaceful future for the Haitian people lies in building a more effective, resilient state. Haiti's state institutions are riddled with weaknesses in human resources, organization, procedures, and policies. State-building should be at the forefront of efforts to recover from the earthquake.
A new RAND study identified the main challenges to more-capable governance and evaluated past and current plans to strengthen government institutions and improve the delivery of public services. Drawing on these appraisals, discussions with key stakeholders, and the experiences of other societies emerging from conflict and crisis, the researchers identified state-building priorities for the next three to five years and suggested measures that might produce palpable improvements during this time frame. Among the priorities emphasized are civil service reform, justice-system reform, and streamlined regulations for business.
The researchers developed common criteria for the recommendations: that they be fiscally sustainable, commensurate with the administrative capacity of Haiti's government, realistic in their prospects for implementation, geared toward enhancing the effectiveness of the state, and mutually coherent.
Together with limited financial resources, the lack of skilled, trained, and properly organized government personnel and the lack of management systems within ministries and other government bodies are the principal constraints on the state's effectiveness. The implications of the institutional deficiencies in planning, budgeting, executing policy decisions, and managing people and resources cut across all the government activities covered in the study.
Haiti's justice system is deeply flawed. The courts do not carry out their constitutional responsibilities, laws are not applied, prison conditions are horrific, and corruption is widespread. Efforts to reform the security sector have faced major challenges, including a volatile security situation, lack of consistent commitment to police reform, and a low level of institutional development within the Haitian National Police (HNP).
Haiti's primary economic challenge is generating economic growth. Haiti is poor in great part because of its difficult environment for business. The process of registering a business is one of the most complex and lengthy in the world.
The earthquake had a devastating effect on housing in Haiti, and providing permanent housing for the displaced is now urgent. Infrastructure (roads, seaports, airports, electric-power system, water, and sewage) needs to be improved and maintained if Haiti is to enjoy sustained economic growth.
Private, nonprofit, and religious institutions are the primary providers of education and health care in Haiti. Despite their efforts, the quality of and access to these services is the worst in the Western Hemisphere. Enrollment rates and levels of educational attainment are low, and approximately 40 percent of Haitians lack access to health care.
Haiti has been a focus of concern for donors of humanitarian and development assistance for two generations. Nonetheless, Haiti's economic, social, and political situation has worsened.
State-building is intimately connected with politics. Without executive decisiveness and legislative action, state-building cannot proceed. Donors and international organizations can assist—not only by providing financial resources but also by promoting political consensus and encouraging adherence to strategic plans.