May is Haiti Heritage Month in the United States, a time to celebrate Haitian culture and history. While Haiti is currently facing significant challenges, including corruption and economic mismanagement, there are grassroots movements and organizations that are working towards combating corruption and promoting transparency and democracy.
Rachel St-Vil Saint-Julien, a former local Senior Program Associate at the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) field office in Cap Haitian, Haiti, attended the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Washington, DC, from December 6-10, 2022, along with Haitian civil society leaders and journalists, as part of an IRI initiative to raise awareness on the Haiti crisis and combat corruption. The event was an opportunity for IRI staff and partners to share their experience working on advocacy and transparency issues and glean lessons learned from other activists around the world.
The theme of the conference, “Uprooting Corruption, Defending Democratic Values,” is relevant to the current Haitian context where grassroots organizations have been protesting corruption and economic mismanagement in the country, particularly the misappropriation of funds from the Petrocaribe oil program. Despite facing violent repression from the government, the movement has continued to grow and gain support from international organizations and human rights groups. According to Transparency International, Haiti ranks 171 out of 180 countries for government corruption, so IRI’s support for Haitian participation in this event helped facilitate critical information sharing between both Haitian and global attendees on this issue. Ten thousand attendees from 180 countries and all sectors came together in a hybrid format to discuss the global challenges of government corruption. Transparency International and the IACC Council organized the event to raise awareness, stimulate the anti-corruption agenda, and strengthen connections between community leaders, international networks, activists, experts, and journalists.
As part of IRI’s delegation, the Institute invited Loop Haiti journalist Raoul Junior Lorfils to take part in the conference. In his published article, “Haiti at the 20th International Anti-Corruption Conference,” Raoul highlights the importance of fighting corruption to uphold democratic values and restore trust in institutions. Haitian activists, such as Gilbert Mirambeau and members of Nou Pap Dòmi, a Haitian civil society organization that advocates for social justice, anti-corruption, and accountable governance, represented the country at the conference. Participating in such global conferences allows activists to network, learn from others, and seek support for their local efforts. For example, while international sanctions against corrupt individuals in Haiti are welcomed, their effectiveness depends on subsequent Haitian court decisions, according to Velina Charlier, an activist from Haiti.
The conference also emphasized how corruption impacts citizens’ day-to-day and causes nationwide suffering. Participants discussed a variety of manifestations of corruption such as kleptocracy, which leads government officials to use their political positions to gain or increase their personal wealth by stealing funds or resources meant for social development. Other types of corruption mentioned include plutocracy, which is when a state, a society, or a government is controlled and ruled by the wealthy class either directly or indirectly. In a plutocracy, government policies will be formulated to favor the wealthy. Such forms of government inevitably result in inequality, unfairness, and injustice, which erases hopes for marginalized communities to work toward a better future.
IRI will continue combating different forms of corruption, including kleptocracy and plutocracy, and stand for transparent governments and democratic solutions. In Haiti, IRI has trained over 3,000 youth as part of its National Endowment for Democracy (NED) programming to increase their civic and political engagement, resulting in 41 youth-led social impact projects in areas such as citizen security, economic development, environmental protection, technology, and water, sanitation, and hygiene. It is pertinent for IRI and international organizations to increase support for youth empowerment programs in Haiti, which would help address the root causes of the country’s crises, including corruption.
“As a Haitian citizen who sees the injustices of corruption every day, I am thankful to have participated, learned, and made connections with others who are combating the same fight as me,” said Rachel St-Vil Saint-Julien. Haiti is at a historical inflection point and must root out corruption and empower honest leaders committed to democratic institutions and transparency. IRI is committed to supporting these efforts through civil society and citizen engagement initiatives.Top