Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Unluckiest Country

The second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere has been wracked by coups, dictators, and foreign interventions throughout nearly its entire history. But you don’t have to agree with Pat Robertson to agree that even by Haitian standards, the last few decades have been particularly tragic.

Dictatorship

The Duvalier Dictatorship

Years: 1957-1986

The catastrophe: After a period of instability in the mid-20th century following a bloody war with the Dominican Republic and the temporary U.S. military occupation of the island, Haiti had a glimmer of hope when François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, a popular health minister, was elected president (in a military-rigged election). But Duvalier was not exactly the humanitarian ruler Haitians had hoped for. Duvalier quickly set about consolidating his power over the state and security services, enriching himself and his cronies through bribery and extortion, and building his own personality cult. He lined his coffers with millions in U.S. aid money during his early years in power. An estimated 30,000 Haitians were killed during Duvalier’s reign of terror and many more fled into exile.

After his death in 1971, he was succeeded by his 19-year-old son Jean-Claude, known as “Baby Doc.” After continuing his father’s policies of repression and corruption, Baby Doc finally abdicated and fled the country under pressure from the Reagan administration in 1986. But the Duvalier dynasty left Haiti with a legacy of corruption and poverty from which it has never recovered.

First Aristide Crisis

The First Aristide Crisis

Year: 1991

The catastrophe: In 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected in what was considered Haiti’s first fair election. A former priest who had helped lead the opposition to the Duvalier regime, Aristide seemed a natural choice to help the country regain its footing. But the country’s experiment in democracy was to be short-lived. Aristide was overthrown in a military coup just a few months later and forced into exile. Over 1,500 people were killed. Thousands of refugees fled to the United States in rickety boats, prompting President George H.W. Bush to enact a blockade against the country.

In 1994, the United Nations authorized the use of force to remove the military dictatorship, and the United States took the lead in forming a multinational military to enforce the mandate. Twenty-thousand military personnel landed unopposed, returning Aristide to power.

THONY BELIZAIRE/AFP/Getty Images

The Second Aristide Crisis

The Second Aristide Crisis

Year: 2004

The catastrophe: Aristide was legally barred from running for president again in 1995, but he returned to power five years later in what was widely considered a fraudulent election, losing much of his international support in the process. The first military coup attempt happened only a year later. Frustration over Aristide’s election grew into increasingly violent protests from 2000 to 2003.

In February 2004, a rebel group calling itself the National Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Haiti, comprised of ex-military officers including several notorious Duvalier-era figures, captured Gonaives, Haiti’s fourth-largest city, and began advancing toward the capital. Although the United States had helped Aristide return to power after his last ouster, the George W. Bush administration remained neutral this time, blaming Aristide’s years of corruption for the rebellion. Aristide fled Haiti in late February, blaming U.S. pressure for forcing him from power.

Shortly after the coup, the United Nations authorized a atabilization mission in Haiti, including a military peacekeeping force led by the Brazilian military. Despite the presence of the blue helmets, however, political violence, extrajudicial killings, and arrests of opposition members continued under the interim government.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Floods

The Floods

Year: 2004

The catastrophe: As if the political turmoil weren’t bad enough, nature struck Haiti in 2004 to devastating effect. Just one month after the coup, flash floods hit the Haitian-Dominican border, leaving more than 1,600 dead. Then in September, Hurricane Jeanne decimated Gonaives, leaving more than 3,000 dead. The interim government was almost entirely bankrupt and unable to effectively respond.

The flooding was further exacerbated by deforestation. Because of poor environmental management and poverty, more than 98 percent of the country’s forestland land had been cleared, eliminating the topsoil that could have held the water. The 8,000 strong U.N. peacekeeping force, which had been intended to help Haiti form a government, struggled to cope with the humanitarian disaster. The U.S. military, controversially, halted the delivery of aid during the first set of floods because of a lack of resources.

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

Riots
Riots

Year: 2008

The catastrophe: A small measure of political stability was restored with the election of President René Préval in 2005, but the calm didn’t last. By 2008, 80 percent of Haitians lived on less than $2 per day, and the country found itself in the grips of a food crisis. The international media shocked readers with reports of Haitians making cookies out of packed dirt.

In April, after the price of rice doubled over the course of six months, protesters descended on Port-au-Prince to demand that the government either take steps to lower the cost of living or step down. Protesters built barricades and tried to use garbage cans as battering rams to break their way into the national palace. Caught between the mob and the government they were charged with stabilizing, U.N. peacekeepers fired rubber bullets into the crowd. One protester told Reuters, “If the police and U.N. troops want to shoot at us, that’s OK, because in the end if we are not killed by bullets we’ll die of hunger.” In the end, the government survived the crisis, but its credibility was sunk, and the desperation of Haiti’s people continued.

YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images

hurricane

Hurricanes

Year: 2008

The catastrophe: In the fall of 2008, Haiti was hit by hurricanes, and Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike in the space of a month, leaving more than 800 dead and more than a million homeless. The long-suffering city of Gonaives again took the brunt of the devastation. It was rendered largely uninhabitable, and government ministers said much of it would simply have to be moved. Sixty percent of the starving country’s harvest was destroyed, and the debris was still being cleared this year.

While other countries in the region, including the Dominican Republic and Cuba, were hit almost as badly by the storms, Haiti’s death toll was nearly 10 times higher because of environmental degradation that exacerbated the flooding and the government’s inability to respond. U.S. anthropologist and longtime Haiti activist Paul Farmer called the hurricane season an “unnatural disaster,” saying that a “Marshall Plan” was needed to rebuild Haiti’s political institutions or the country would “have a hard time surviving the hurricane season.” But the damage unleashed this week by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake was probably more than even he could have imagined.

ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images

Ambassador Tanin is Guest of Honor at New York City Bar Association

Welcomed warmly as guest of honor at the New York City Bar Association, Ambassador Tanin addressed some 40 legal experts of the European Affairs and International Law Committees, Tuesday January 12th. Speaking on strengthening the rule of law in Afghanistan, H.E. Tanin stressed the importance of establishing security in Afghanistan as a pre-requisite. He further highlighted the urgency of complementing this focus on security with equally vigorous efforts in the field of governance.

Noting with concern that the Afghan Government has control of only 20 % of all international funds dispensed in Afghanistan, Ambassador Tanin emphasized the need for Afghan empowerment by the international community, enabling Afghans to take charge of security and governance in Afghanistan. Afghanization, he stressed, is crucial to ensure legitimacy in the eyes of the Afghan people.

Engaging his audience in an extensive discussion, the Ambassador underlined the progress that Afghanistan has made throughout the last eight years, in various fields such as education, women’s rights and health care. Citing a recent survey carried out in December 2009 by the BBC and ABC, he noted that in the wake of the 2009 elections, notwithstanding international perceptions, 70 % of the Afghan population believes the country is moving in the right direction, compared to 40 % a year ago.

Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN at the Security Council Debate

on the Situation in Afghanistan

Mr. President,

I would like to first congratulate you for assuming the Presidency of this Council for the month of January, and thank you for convening this first debate of the New Year.

I would also like to thank you, Mr. Secretary-General, for your presence in the council and your remarks today, for your latest report on Afghanistan, and in particular for making Afghanistan one of your priorities and the personal attention you have dedicated to Afghanistan in the past months.  Further, especially in the face of the tragedy of 28 October 2009, I would like to thank the UN and all of its entities, including this august body, for the substantial and invaluable aid that has been extended to the Afghan people in the past decades.

In addition, as this is the last appearance of Mr. Eide in this Council in his capacity as SRSG, let me offer him here my own heartfelt thanks, and the sincere gratitude of the people and government of Afghanistan.  He has shown tremendous dedication to the cause of peace and stability in Afghanistan, and displayed ingenuity and persistence under extremely challenging circumstances. He has pushed for a stronger UNAMA and for practical steps towards real progress in Afghanistan.  Perhaps most importantly, he has consistently, and most recently during the elections, worked for closer cooperation and better understanding between all parties in and out of Afghanistan. We thank him.

Mr. President,

With the conclusion of the Presidential elections, an important but difficult milestone, Afghanistan has reached a new beginning defined by a five-year mandate to bring Afghans closer to taking control of their own futures.  In his inaugural address, President Karzai outlined his plan to fulfill this mandate. He committed himself and his administration to peace, to the physical and economic security of the Afghan people, to national participation and reconciliation, to good governance, and to the fight against corruption.

Most importantly, we all share the same ultimate goal: to prepare and empower Afghans to take charge of their own destinies. In the next five years, the central goal of the Afghan government will be preparing for the transition to full Afghan rule by strengthening Afghanistan’s sovereignty and national ownership. We aim to consolidate national authority and improve the government’s capacity and institutions. We call upon the international community to ensure that every action taken in Afghanistan is in support of these efforts.

Mr. President,

The formation of a new Afghan government is an important first step in this new beginning. After the Parliament’s rejection of some of the Ministerial nominees, the President is preparing to introduce new candidates, and he has ordered Parliament to finalize their confirmations before they recess for the winter. We are eager to avoid any delay in the formation of the government and any vacuum of management that could be counterproductive for Afghanistan at such a delicate time.

Next, the Afghan government and the international community must look together at the challenges facing us and forge a compact that clearly identifies our strategies and responsibilities.  On 28 January, a conference will be held in London, chaired jointly by President Karzai, Prime Minister Brown, and the Secretary-General. This conference will be followed closely by a second in Kabul. The London conference will prepare a roadmap for future efforts that will be transformed into a detailed action plan in Kabul, possibly in March. In London, focus will be directed towards security and the Afghanization of security and defense, social and economic development, good governance, and international and regional cooperation.  For each of these areas, we will need to clearly define the respective roles of the Afghan government and the international community.

Mr. President,

Afghans are ready to take responsibility for securing our people and defending ourselves against our enemies. In three years’ time, the Afghan National Security Forces will assume responsibility for security and defense in conflict areas in the South and East of Afghanistan.  In five years, with the necessary training, equipment and long-term resources from the international community, we will assume full responsibility for security and defense across the entire country. The international forces will be able to transition simultaneously to a role focused on training and enabling local forces.

However, there is a general consensus that peace and stability in Afghanistan cannot be reached through purely military means.  As a result, the government of Afghanistan has always been, and remains, committed to reconciliation and the integration of former combatants into all levels of Afghanistan’s civilian and security structures. Afghanistan’s government has opened its doors to all Afghans willing to participate in the stabilization and reconstruction of their country, in line with the Afghan Constitution and with respect for human rights.

But while reconciliation is an Afghan-led effort, it cannot be achieved by the Afghan government alone.  Mr. President, we ask this Council to conduct a review of the Consolidated List established under Resolution 1267 with a view to the possibility for elements of the Taliban willing to renounce violence and join the peace process to be removed from the sanctions list upon request by the Afghan Government.

Mr. President,

Afghans continue to face crippling poverty and widespread unemployment, and their trust is wearing thin. Social and economic development and good governance remain important priorities for Afghanistan. However, it cannot sustain these efforts without the continued assistance of its international partners.  The London conference will be an opportunity for the government of Afghanistan and its international friends to coordinate their development and capacity-building efforts so that Afghanistan may eventually mobilize its resources, generate income and jobs for its people, and begin to support its institutions.

Mr. President,

As the Secretary-General concluded in his report, reinforced efforts toward coordination of donor aid and civilian and military strategies are vital for our efforts in Afghanistan. Afghanistan supports the central coordinating role of UNAMA, as mandated by this Council. We should discuss further what shape any additional mechanisms might take and how they would relate to the relevant actors. Crucially, any focus on coordination must strengthen Afghan institutions and encourage Afghan national ownership, rather than promoting parallel governance structures.

Mr. President,

Afghanistan is fast approaching its Parliamentary elections, which will occur at the end of May as required by the Constitution.  We must ensure a credible process; in this, the lessons learned from last year’s elections will be important. We feel that any suggestion to postpone the elections ignores the Constitutional requirements and will damage the integrity of the process. Rule of law must be maintained, even as that law evolves to reflect lessons learned.

In conclusion, Mr. President,

A true partnership between Afghanistan and the international community is important for success in Afghanistan. This partnership will require realism – about timing, about resources, about abilities – and a clear understanding of our roles and responsibilities. Most importantly, this partnership should be based on supporting and encouraging strong Afghan national ownership, particularly as we seek to transfer security and defense responsibilities. Afghanization, and the promotion of Afghan capacity and leadership, must be the ultimate aim of all of our activities and the central consideration during discussions going forward.

I thank you, Mr. President.