Complex World. Smart Solutions

As the world marks the International Day of Democracy, I urge the international community to heed Haitians’ call for transparency, accountability and good governance

During his remarks on Democracy Day 2019, The UN Secretary-General António Gutteres urges “active, substantive and meaningful participation” of the People in the democratic process. “At heart, democracy is about people. It is built on inclusion, equal treatment and participation, and it is a fundamental building block for peace, sustainable development and human rights”, he said.

These remarks stand in stark contrast with the prevailing attitude of the “international community” with regards to the struggle of the Haitian people for justice, human rights, sustainable development and effective democracy. While I am cognizant of multiple initiatives and effort by international agencies providing technical assistance to promote democracy, good governance and rule of law, there is blatant moral failure when it comes to demonstrating “political will” and exerting positive influence to establish effective democracy in Haiti.

Siding with corrupt and oppressive political elites in Haiti?

For over a year now, a broad cross-section of civil society, grassroots associations, youth and women networks have been voicing their disenchantment and disapproval of corrupt politicians both at the Executive and Legislative branches of Government. Tech-savvy activists join hands with community organizers as middle-class citizens walk side by side with destitute poor in support of their legitimate demands for transparency and accountability. Since July 2018, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in every major town in Haiti to ask where funds meant for the country’s development have gone. As crowds chant “Where is the PetroCaribe money”? in Port-of-Prince, their refrain is echoed worldwide by the Diaspora.​

Despite this growing demand for justice, the international community has largely turned a blind eye to the corruption at the highest level of government and all but ignored the Haitian people’s legitimate demands 

for transparency. The unwavering support to the status quo and current President Jovenel Moise is tantamount to complicity with the oppressor. It has created a widespread perception, among Haitians, that the international community is insensitive to the grievances of a desperate population yearning for good governance and a responsive political leadership.

For democracy promotion to be meaningful, the international community should side with the marginalized citizens, the destitute youth and the excluded women who have the courage to stand up against the corrupt politicians.

Making democracy deliver

While western scientists and scholars raise the alarm about a growing trend of democratic backsliding both in Haiti and across the world, politicians take advantage of these shortcomings to consolidate their power. Autocratization — or the emergence of autocratic figures through the ballot box — — is one of the symptoms of this “democratic disease”. It’s a malady born out of the lack of trust in a political system corrupted by the elites and the people’s growing disenchantment with the unkept promises of democracy. In its 2019 Democracy Report, Varieties of Democracy, a think-tank affiliated with the University of Götenburg in Sweden, shows Haiti among those countries sliding back on the democratic scale. The report states “History shows that if pro-democratic forces work together, autocratization can be prevented or reversed” –Western political elites and the governments are quick to call themselves pro-democratic but who among them does actually heed this call to action?

Who is willing to act to prevent the continued decline in global freedom and human rights depicted in the 2019 Annual Report from Freedom House? In 2018, Freedom in the World recorded the 13th consecutive year of decline in global freedom The overall losses are still shallow compared with the gains of the late 20th century, but the pattern is consistent and ominous. Democracy is in retreat.

In order to reverse this trend, democracy promoters should start by putting human rights of ordinary citizens at the heart of the democratic process. They should promote and safeguard substantive democracy that has an impact in the daily lives of the citizens, instead of consolidating the status quo ( democracy of the elites). As both the Executive and Legislative branches of Power in Haiti lose all their credibility, the international community has a unique opportunity to rebrand itself as a genuine promoter of effective democracy, by unequivocally calling out Haiti’s political elites and expressing solidarity to the oppressed people of Haiti who are yearning for equality, justice, and basic human dignity.

As a community of shared purpose and humanity, you can not stand idly by while a minority of kleptocrats consistently rob Haiti off its future, and deny the vibrant youth of this embattled nation their basic right to dream.

It is a moral obligation for the international community to adopt a political stance in favour of basic human rights and rebuke systemic corruption. Standing against the corrupt elites is echoing the shaky voices of the sick children who desperately need access to healthcare.

And that, more than speeches, would be a testament to the International community’s dedication to democracy.