Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions

Haiti is a constitutional republic with a population of approximately 9.3 million. International observers assessed the 2006 presidential and parliamentary elections as generally free and fair, after which President Rene Preval and the new parliament took office in May of that year. In 2008, however, food riots, a series of catastrophic hurricanes, and a long vacancy in the prime minister slot, impacted upon Haiti's efforts to consolidate democracy and make economic progress. Constitutionally mandated partial senate elections did not take place in 2008, and that body operated with only 18 of 30 seats filled until the long-delayed elections occurred in April 2009. Despite some improvements, the government's human rights record remained poor. Problems included government ineffectiveness in addressing killings and other abuses by gangs and other armed groups; alleged Haitian National Police (HNP) participation in kidnappings; dangerous prison conditions; arbitrary threats and arrests; lack of judicial effectiveness and independence; widespread corruption; violence and discrimination against women; child abuse and internal trafficking of children for domestic labor; and ineffective enforcement of trade union rights.

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

The U.S. Government's democracy objectives are to strengthen democratic governance at the national and local levels, achieve free and fair elections, strengthen civil society, fight corruption, continue reform of the justice sector, professionalize the HNP, and improve prison conditions. These priorities respond to the substantial challenges the government faces, including corrupt, weak, and nontransparent institutions, lack of confidence in the dysfunctional judicial system, and violent and lawless neighborhoods in major population centers. U.S. programs advance stable, democratic governance by strengthening national and local institutions while engaging citizens in developing their country.

In developing these strategic priorities, the United States consults with government institutions, NGOs, trade unions, and other organizations and works closely with these groups to encourage reforms and discuss problems related to human rights and democracy. The United States uses diplomatic engagement, public outreach, foreign assistance programs, and related initiatives to advance these objectives.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

The U.S. Government's capacity-building programs support the Office of the Presidency, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, the Ministry of Interior and Territorial Collectivity, the Office of the Secretary of State for the Integration of the Handicapped, the Ministry for Women's Affairs and Social Welfare, the Office for Citizen Protection, and Parliament. The United States assists ten parliamentary commissions in drafting priority legislation and arranging training for parliamentarians and their staff. At the local level, the U.S. Government assists municipalities and communities with municipal management, revenue raising, and the provision of basic services and disaster preparedness. U.S. programs also train municipal officials to conduct needs assessments to improve the provision of basic public services.

The U.S. Government helps the country's citizens demand transparency and accountability from their government and resolve conflict through the electoral process, civic initiatives, peaceful advocacy campaigns, and access to media. Anticorruption programs support the installation of a transparent financial management system integrating 45 national ministries and public entities. Following a series of corruption scandals, the U.S. Government helped fund a new national citizen's watchdog organization that works with Transparency International to monitor the delivery of hurricane relief. The United States also partners with other major donors and the UN to finance, monitor, and support the work of the government's election authority in conducting national elections.

U.S. programs promote peace, human rights, and security through police and justice sector reform. One program addresses human rights through technical assistance, equipment, and human rights training for police officers, and by vetting new police academy graduates. Another program expands the capacity of and improves health and sanitary conditions in the main prison, as well as trains corrections officers. A U.S.-funded effort that refurbished the first HNP Commissariat in the Port au Prince slum district of Cite Soleil aims to refurbish others and carries out community policing training for the HNP. The same program enables citizens to obtain legal assistance through a local courthouse set up through the program, provides civic education to community leaders, and carries out community infrastructure projects. The U.S. Government also supports an integrated case registry and tracking system for the nation's courts that has helped the country improve the efficiency of the judiciary. U.S. programs train justice sector personnel, enable citizens to gain access to justice through mobile courts, and improve access to justice for vulnerable populations, including women and children. The U.S. Government also works to strengthen municipal government.

NGOs supported by U.S.-funded programs implement public advocacy campaigns to stop gender-based violence and the trafficking of children (known as "restaveks") into domestic servitude, coordinate efforts for legislative reform, and support the government's efforts to combat the restavek phenomenon. These programs provide trafficked children with food, medical care, transportation, informal education, and shelter. U.S. Government grants to local organizations provide legal and social services to victims of trafficking or gender-based violence.