Back in Haiti, Back at Home

IFES Chief of Party in Haiti Alessandra Rossi has over a decade of experience in electoral assistance projects. She recently served in Libya, where she supported the implementation of a voter education initiative targeting women, youth, voters with disabilities and rural communities in the eastern part of the country for the 2012 National Congress Elections with the United Nations Electoral Support Team in Libya.

As she returns to Haiti for the third time, she talks to us about the new program, and how it feels to be back in a country she says is like home.

You have worked on two sets of pivotal elections in Haiti's history. What is it like to be back? 

The first set of elections was in 2005-2007 during which presidential, legislative and local elections were held. The second set was in 2010-2012, after the earthquake, during which presidential and legislative elections were held. It is a great feeling to be here! I feel like I am back home – as the Haitians used to say in Creole, “lakay se lakay,” which means “home is home.”

I have spent many years of my life in Haiti and have seen the country in different periods. I have supported different electoral cycles and assisted the electoral management body in preparation of two presidential/legislative elections and the renewal of the presidential mandate, as well as the last local and communal elections in December 2006. I am very enthusiastic to be here once again.

Despite the fact Haiti was facing a terrible humanitarian crisis after the devastating January 12, 2010, earthquake, the election authorities have improved their capacity and technical expertise for organizing these elections compared to the 2005 elections.

I strongly believe it is important to continue supporting and strengthening national electoral structures. I am back for my third time and I am very motivated.

IFES is resuming its work in Haiti. What are the goals of this new project?

IFES’ current program aims to strengthen the capacity of the Transitional College of the Permanent Electoral Council (CTCEP) to administer elections and increase transparency. Specifically, IFES will work with the CTCEP to provide technical assistance in targeted areas to improve communication with the Haitian electorate and other stakeholders.

IFES will also work with the CTCEP to develop administrative processes, procedures and communication products, as well as host activities with local organizations to increase the inclusion of women and persons with disabilities in the electoral process.

To achieve our program objectives, our approach is informed by our past in-country experience and regular communication with international electoral assistance partners, included the United Nations Development Programme, the National Democratic Institute and United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti.

IFES will also support the CTCEP in the development of a media strategy for the upcoming elections. This includes providing technical expertise on the creation of media centers within the Transitional College of the Electoral Provisional Commission (CTCEP) at the national and departmental level.

Our program in Haiti promotes the participation of women, not only as voters, but as active participants in the electoral process. To develop strategies that mainstream gender and empower women to be more active in the electoral process, IFES will provide training and technical assistance to the CTCEP to include more women as election workers, establish gender focal points within the CEP and ensure senior management includes women in decision-making roles.

IFES will also work with CTCEP officials to develop, review and update outreach strategies to foster greater inclusion of people with disabilities in the electoral process.

IFES has a long history in Haiti. Tell us about the work throughout the years.

IFES has worked in Haiti since 1991 providing technical assistance to ensure free, fair and transparent elections. IFES’ previous project in Haiti, which ran from 2008 until 2011, provided the CEP assistance with the revision, printing and distribution of procedural and training manuals; the design and implementation of a nationwide door-to-door civic and voter education campaign; and procuring equipment for the accreditation of political parties, observers, media and diplomatic missions.

IFES has also been involved in presenting recommendations for an improved communication strategy to the CEP.

When are the next elections in Haiti and what is at stake?

Legislative, local and communal elections are next in Haiti. The CEP has not yet established a date to hold elections, but this next electoral process will be complex, as there will be three different elections happening simultaneously. There will also be approximately 26,000 candidates across the nation.