Haiti Is at a Crossroads: The United States and International Community Must Ensure Haitians Can Determine Their Own Future

In response to the robust and fast-breaking debates over the future of Haiti since last week’s assassination of former president Jovenel Moïse, Robert Bank, President and CEO of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), which has worked with human rights activists in Haiti since 1999, issued this policy statement in support of Haitian democracy and civil society:

Statement of Robert Bank, President and CEO of American Jewish World Service

“As Haiti is reeling from last week’s assassination of Jovenel Moïse, the United States must support justice, accountability and democracy in the country.  President Biden and his administration need to acknowledge that it is the right of the Haitian people to decide the way forward for their own political future.

“Even before last week, the human rights situation in Haiti was dire. The last few years have seen a steep increase in murders and kidnappings, often at the hands of armed gangs operating with impunity and possibly even government support. Further, the decisions of Moïse and his party, the Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (PHTK), have left Haitians far worse off today than when PHTK first came to power in 2012: More than four million people are experiencing acute hunger, nearly 20,000 people are internally displaced, and not one COVID-19 vaccination has been administered so far in the entire country. All this occurred simultaneoulywith the collapse of the democratic institutions that were systematically weakened and dismantled by Moise and PHTK even as they were supported by the United States and international community.

“To date, President Biden’s administration has seen elections this year as the path out of this chaos.  But this sole focus will not lead to change nor put Haiti back on a path to genuine democracy.  Haiti’s institutions must be repaired through a process in which Haitians can have faith in order for them to take the risk to vote.  Such repair will take time.  What’s more, the current atmosphere of violence and impunity makes it impossible for people to vote safely.  The rule of law needs to be restored, which will also require time and dedicated effort.

“Haitian civil society, however, sees an alternative way out of the crisis – and it has clear and specific plans about how to repair Haiti’s democracy.  It seeks to create a transitional government that can repair the broken electoral institutions, support the police in restoring law and order, strengthen the Haitian judiciary, and create the conditions for a free and fair elections to take place in the future.

“Our call is simple: The U.S. government must follow the lead and guidance of Haitian civil society and democratic activists. If democracy and stability in Haiti is the goal, there simply is no other option.”

We urge the U.S. administration and Congress to:

  • Respect the fundamental right of the Haitian people to shape Haitian solutions for Haiti.
  • Listen to Haitian civil society in what they believe is the best path forward to repair their democracy, including supporting a transitional government tasked with restoring both stability and Haiti’s democratic institutions.
  • Stop calling for elections this year. Instead, The U.S. must support the conditions for free, fair, participatory and credible elections in a timeframe aligned with what Haitians feel is possible, not one imposed on them bythe U.S. or other international actors.
  • Oppose all foreign military intervention, including from any international actor or body.
  • Provide aid that directly supports the Haitian people including supporting COVID-19 vaccination and response efforts, addressing food insecurity, and supporting civil society organizations that defend human rights and work to protect Haitian’s civil and political rights.

Background:

Jovenel Moïse, Haiti’s former president, was assassinated in his home last week.  Since he came to power in a flawed 2016 election, Moïse’s reign was marked by violence, chaos and democratic decline. His murder leaves a power vacuum with no elected parliament, no functional Supreme Court, and no constitutional guidance to resolve today’s crisis.  This has led to the Haitian government calling for international assistance, including the deployment of troops to help stabilize the country.  To date, the U.S. government has continued its policy of pushing for swift elections to occur in 2021, despite the opposition of civil society.  Civil society is calling for a transitional government, as outlined in the plans of the Commission for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis, a body created in January 2021 with the support of more than 300 Haitian organizations and institutions.

If you are a member of the press and wish to obtain information about our work or speak to a member of our global team on deadline, please contact Madeline Cohen at mcohen@ajws.org during AJWS office hours from 9 am to 5 pm eastern time, Monday through Thursday. If you are on an urgent deadline on a Friday, over a weekend or during evening hours, please write Stuart Schear at sschear@ajws.org.