Haiti FAQs

Facts about IRI’s Work in Haiti
(updated July 2008)
How long did IRI work in Haiti?

Between 1990 and 1997 IRI monitored local, municipal, legislative and presidential elections in Haiti.

In 1998 the Institute initiated a program that included party building, civil society work, and public opinion polling.

In 2002 IRI initiated a program in anticipation of scheduled parliamentary and local elections in 2003, and presidential elections in 2005. These elections were not held until 2006.

In the 2005-2007 period, IRI continued civic educations programs, expanded work with civil society groups (women and young people), and created the Haiti International Assessments Committee (HIAC).

IRI completed its efforts in 2007, closing its office March 2007 and terminated all programming in Haiti in summer 2007.

Where did IRI obtain funding for its work in Haiti?

The bulk of IRI’s Haiti program, beginning in 1995, and was funded through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The National Endowment for Democracy funded IRIs work in 1990 and 1993, and 2000.

For the 2002-2007 period, how much federal funding did IRI receive for its work on Haiti?

The grant for the 2002-2007 period totaled $4.277 million. This includes $1.2 million for the 2002-2004 period; $1.1 million for each year 2005-2006; and the remainder for fiscal year 2007.

Similar grants were awarded during this period to the National Democratic Institute.

In the 2002-2004 period, what were the funds used for?

The Institute provided training and education in basic skills of democracy, citizenship and advocacy.

In anticipation of elections (ultimately delayed to 2006),  IRI focused its 2002-2004 programming on strengthening the capacity and credibility of political parties.  Because of insecurity in Haiti, and with USAID’s concurrence, training programs were held in the neighboring Dominican Republic.  IRI trained approximately 600 individuals in sessions, with USAID and U.S. Embassy (Haiti) staff present at all sessions.  IRI also worked to bring women and youth into the political process.

What did these sessions entail?

Most lasted about two days. The training curriculum included:    

  • Developing issue-based political party platforms;
  • Strategies for candidate recruitment;
  •  Working to enfranchise youth and women in the political process;
  • Techniques for implementation of a media plan;
  • Approaches to campaign management;
  •  Election poll-watcher training;
  • Managing a grassroots organization;
  • Encouraging political coalition-building; and
  • Fostering responsible and transparent governance

IRI did not create or fund the Group of 184 or the Democratic Convergence.

Who received IRI training?

The aim of IRI’s program from 2002-2004 was to foster a level political playing for smaller opposition parties.  IRI therefore trained rank-and-file members and political leaders of democratic political parties, women and youth groups, and members of the media, labor unions, and representatives of civil society. Only those living in Haiti at the time were allowed to attend IRI trainings.

Political parties included left-of center social democratic groups to others on the center-right.  Many political parties that IRI provided training for originated as elements of the Lavalas movement.  However, to achieve the goal of the program, the Institute’s efforts focused mostly on working with weaker groups (political parties) and disenfranchised constituencies (women and youth).

In accordance with USAID policies at the time, IRI did not provide training to groups or individuals that support or commit acts of violence.  Criteria used include U.S. Department of State reports linking certain Haitian constituencies with violations of human rights.  Individuals or groups linked to the former Haitian military did not participate in IRI programming.

USAID and U.S. Embassy (Haiti) representatives attended all IRI trainings during this period and these individuals never expressed objections.

During the 2002-2004 period, did IRI or any of its staff encourage the opposition to not negotiate with President Jean-Bertrand Aristide?

No, just the opposite.  At the behest of the U.S. Department of State, IRI’s then-Senior Vice President Georges Fauriol encouraged Haiti’s democratic political party opposition to accept the Caricom-sponsored negotiated power-sharing compromise with President Aristide.

During the 2002-2004 period, what kind support, including financial support, did IRI and its staff provide to the Group of 184?

As a general rule IRI does not provide financial support to political parties, and certainly did not provide any to Haiti’s party community.  Likewise, IRI provided no financial assistance to the Group of 184 or those associated with it.  IRI did not fund political campaigns or individual candidacies.

The heart of the Institute’s field work has been through training programs and seminars.  This is what the sessions at the Santo Domingo Hotel in the capital of the Dominican Republic were structured and designed to do.  The training programs were typical for IRI and included standard topics such as party structure, polling, platform development, communications, coalition building, and other nuts and bolts of any political party development training course.

IRI did not create or fund the Group of 184 or the Democratic Convergence.

During the 2002-2004 period, did IRI or any of its staff undermine the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti at the time in his negotiations with the opposition and President Aristide?

No.  First of all, IRI programming was not designed to address the details of the negotiations between Mr. Aristide, his government and other actors.  Secondly, all IRI programming during this period was done with the approval of USAID and attended by USAID mission and U.S. Embassy representatives.

Former U.S. Ambassador Dean Curran to Haiti (late 2000-summer 2003) has accused former IRI staffer Stanley Lucas of undermining him.  Apart from second-hand accounts and unsubstantiated speculations, the Ambassador never provided direct evidence.  Some of Curran’s corroborators include a mix of Haitian political actors, some associated with former military regimes, including a disreputable armed rebel leader, some former associates of President Aristide.  None participated in any IRI training program during the 2002-2004 period.

What was the outcome of the Congressional requests for investigation of IRI programming?

Two full-scale investigations by the USAID Inspector General’s office were undertaken, the first one in April-May 2004.  The second investigation occurred in March-May 2006.  Neither of these investigations generated evidence that IRI programming was responsible for the collapse of the Aristide government in 2004.  Likewise, both reports found no evidence to support Ambassador Curran’s specific claims that IRI had interfered with his mission in Haiti.

What did IRI do after 2004?

In late 2003 IRI halted all programming due to increasing political instability in Haiti and rising violence against all sectors of society.  IRI re-engaged programmatically in April 2005 and opened an office in Port-au-Prince.

IRI undertook civic educations programs, expanded work with civil society groups (women and young people), and created.  All initiatives were designed to support the upcoming electoral process. The latter was delayed into the spring of 2006.

What is HIAC?

HIAC was created as a high-level international monitoring mechanism and indicator of the international community’s commitment to Haiti’s democratic potential.  Led by former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), former Rep. Ben Gilman (R-NY), former Canadian Minister for External Affairs Barbara McDougall and former Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Ambassador Christopher Thomas of Trinidad and Tobago, HIAC undertook four assessment missions from June 2005 to October 2006.

These missions included sessions with President Preval, prior to and after his election.

What is IRI doing in Haiti now?

IRI completed its programs in efforts in 2007, closing its office March 2007 and terminated all programming in Haiti in summer 2007.