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Security in Haiti: an impossible dialogue?
Caroline BROUDIC, September 2012


 Conclusion :

The issue of crime in Haiti is complicated and it is important to question the motivations behind the use of violence and the spectre of violence, which can be political, economic and social. The tendency to criminalise protest and consider social and political demands to be a form of instability or insecurity is a means, for example, of freezing social relations and justifying the use of repression to curb popular demonstrations. The sponsored violence which has been practiced for decades in Haiti and in which there has been a clear resurgence in recent months is also a form of intimidation. It is important to understand the motives behind its use. This analysis of crime and its pyramidal structure makes it possible to highlight the real instigators of violence in Haiti and realize that splitting Port-au-Prince into zones based on their supposed level of insecurity also contributes to building mental barriers which are both social and economic. It also underlines that, in the Haitian context, the people who are the most exposed to crime are not humanitarian organizations.

Numerous organisations developed community approaches in the wake of the earthquake of 12 January 2010 to deal with the complexity of the urban context. Though there are doubts about the ‘community-based’ notion in an urban environment like Port-au-Prince where land occupation is not subject to any plan and where the social fabric is so damaged, this approach nevertheless makes it easier to understand the social structures within neighbourhoods. Security-related issues should be integrated into this approach rather than stuck on top. A change in approach might be a way to reverse attitudes to NGOs in whom 60.5% of those interviewed stated they had no confidence. It would also help to put into perspective the principle that managing security is not an end in itself, but above all aims to deliver humanitarian aid in the most impartial way possible: “Managing security is not an end in itself. The primary concern is to be able to deliver humanitarian assistance in an impartial manner, which may require establishing and maintaining a presence in highly insecure contexts […]. Security management is therefore a means to an operational end” [6]. This notion of impartiality should, for example, have been raised following the earthquake when the vast majority of NGOs [7] used military support (US Army, MINUSTAH, PNH) during their food and non-food distributions. The problem is not necessarily to have used this support, but rather not to have considered that other operational methods were possible and not to have evaluated the long term implications of creating distance in this way. In terms of respecting people’s dignity and the principle of ‘doing no harm’, even in emergency contexts, operational methods are just as important as the material aid itself.

Bibliography: • LAPOP : « Haïti en détresse : impact du séisme de 2010 sur la vie et les opinions des citoyens », Mars 2011, 264 pages. • ICG : « Vers une Haïti post-Minustah : Mener la transition à bien », Août 2012, 41 pages. • IGARAPE : « Haiti’s Urban Crime Wave ? Results from Monthly Households Surveys – August 2011-February 2012 », March 2012, 9 pages. • IGARAPE : The economic costs of violent crime in urban Haiti : Results from Monthly Households Surveys – August 2011-July 2012 », September 2012, 13 pages. • CERDECS : « Regards sur la violence : Résultats d’enquête », Rachelle Charlier Doucet/Alain Gilles, 40 pages. • ODI : « Operational Security management in violent environments », December 2010, 309 pages.

More about this subject: PRIO: « The Social Bond, Conflict and Violence in Haiti », Alain Gilles, 2012, 77 pages.

[6] « Operational Security management in violent environments », ODI, December 2010, http://www.securitymanagementinitia...

[7] As far as we know, only ACF and MSF did not use military support during their distributions in Port-au-Prince.