America's North Shore Journal

Supporting the Ninth Amendment

Who is in charge in Haiti


Asking who is in charge of a country is the sort of thing the State Department and the C.I.A. hire folks for. Countries are rarely run solely by their government. There are many other interested parties and Haiti is not an exception to that rule.

The complication for Haiti after the earthquake is the hundreds of outside agencies that are on the ground providing earthquake relief and reconstruction assistance. Some are charities and non-governmental organizations (NGO). Some are international and transnational agencies. And, there are military units from a number of nations that are also in the mix. Who is in charge in Haiti?

The current government of Haiti is headed by Rene Preval, former President (1996-2001) and former ally to Aristide, who was elected in 2006 with a very slim majority of the overall vote. A 30-seat Senate and a 99-member Chamber of Deputies were also elected at the same time. Municipal elections were held last in April, 2007.

There is no Haitian Armed Forces. The Haitian police are supervised by the United Nations.

The United Nations created the UN Stability Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) in 2004. Prior to the quake it had an authorized strength of 7,060 troops and 2,091 civilian police.

The Haitian government lost several government buildings and many employees at all levels in the earthquake of January 12, 2010. Other employees have chosen not to return to their positions. The government is operating out of temporary quarters in the vicinity of the Port-au-Prince airport.

The number of non-governmental agencies and international aid agencies operating in Haiti at this time is not known. Some of these groups have been working in the country for decades while others are newly arrived. Much of the aid provided by various governments is being channeled by those governments through “partner” agencies, giving them a great deal of resources and power when compared to other NGOs.

In addition, the country has been divided into sectors where certain agencies have been given the lead for relief and recovery efforts in that region. Many of these sorts of decisions have been made since the earthquake in the inordinate number of meetings and conferences that have been held in Haiti, in the Dominican Republic and elsewhere.

The next large meeting related to this disaster is the International Donors’ Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti. This will be held on March 31 in New York City.

Preparation for the International Donors’ Conference thus includes broad-based consultations with key constituencies, including Haitian civil society, the Haitian Diaspora, the private sector, Haitian state and local government, non-governmental organizations, and stakeholders in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

I believe the preceding list can be characterized as “all the usual suspects”.

I have interviewed several military officers as well as reporters who have been on the ground in Haiti since the earthquake. The Haitian Coast Guard and Haitian employees at the airport are the only civil servants that have been discussed as being on the job and a part of the relief and recovery effort. In the earthquake zone, for all intents and purposes, the government is non-existent. Outside of Port-au-Prince, little or no recovery efforts have been made.

Progress is being made by small NGOs, mostly religious in nature, who have a long history of working in Haiti. Identifying local community leaders and persons of influence has been a key aspect of U.S. military work in the country. At the grassroots, some things are being accomplished.

Over 60 articles about the Haitian earthquake, U.S. military assistance to Haiti after the quake, American giving to earthquake relief and other related topics can be found at the link Haiti Quake 2010.

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