Haiti’s Failed Quest for Stability and Development after the 2010 Earthquake: Why Did It Go Wrong?

November 08, 2023


Haiti is once more experiencing a severe crisis of instability and political unrest. The devastating 2010 earthquake catastrophe was seen as a chance to break with the past and steer the nation in a new direction. Although some progress was made, it was only short-lived, insufficient to establish a growth path, uneven across sectors, and, as we have since learned, politically unsustainable. The analysis identifies several reasons the effort was insufficient to bring stability and growth: (i) objectives spanned reconstruction and development while resources were limited; (ii) the approach taken to build up security was unsustainable, leaving an underfunded and institutionally weak police force; (iii) divisive and confrontational politics was recognized as the critical challenge but it was not dealt with as such; (iv) coordination between Haitian authorities and international actors suffered from a deep sense of mistrust, never achieving a shared and clear action plan; (v) state-building efforts failed and institutions deteriorated further; and, (vi) the project-by-project approach followed by international donors dispersed effort, limited adaptation to a complex reality and increased transaction costs. Policy recommendations follow the analysis, arguing for a more focused strategy from the international community with a long-term programmatic approach. Until a reasonable level of stability is reached, security and social protection should take precedence. A final reflection will be offered on how lessons learned in Haiti can be useful in other fragile contexts.

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