By Reuben Brigety, Natalie Ondiak
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Haiti is a country that simultaneously has a rich history and a troubled past. As the first free black republic, it stood as a symbol of hope for those fighting against slavery and colonial oppression in the 19th and 20th centuries. Many of its artists and musicians are world renowned. The indigenous adaptation of Creole and the religion of voodoo underlie a culture that is vibrant, layered, and powerful. It is a country of stark topography and resilient people. Citizens live in a diaspora spread across the globe, but remain continually connected to events at home.
Haiti has also been continually plagued by a variety of intractable problems. Cycles of political upheaval, economic collapse, endemic poverty, rampant criminality, and natural disasters have ravaged the nation since its inception. Pessimistic observers consider it a lost cause with challenges that are too great for the global community to tackle. Yet its proximity to the United States—600 miles south of Florida—makes it impossible to ignore. And developments in the first half of 2009 suggest that Haiti is once again on the agenda of American and international policy makers.
Haiti is currently experiencing one of the best combinations of open political space and physical security that the country has seen in decades. The stability is due in large part to the United Nations peacekeeping force, which has helped maintain order since 2004. Haiti’s President René Préval, elected in 2006, is also well regarded by the international community. And the democratically elected government is defined neither by corruption nor predatory behavior, unlike in many previous administrations…
The sustainable security paradigm developed by the Center for American Progress provides a useful framework for examining developments in Haiti and rethinking U.S. policy toward the country. Sustainable security is a view of foreign policy that combines national security, collective security, and human security. It argues that the challenges arising from poor development outcomes can present very real threats to American security. As such, the best way to meet such national security threats is to address the core development problems from which they arise, and to do so in a cooperative manner with the host government and the international community. The core of the sustainable security approach is to use the nexus between development and security as both a means of identifying threats to our interests and a method for dealing with them. The complexity of Haiti’s development challenges makes it a highly appropriate candidate for the sustainable security model.
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