Publication | Report/Paper

Haiti Constituency Building for Judicial Reform (2001-2004)



Background of the Constituency Building Project: After a decade of lending to the formal justice sector and little if any improvement in the competence, fairness and independence of the justice system, a new, demand-driven approach to justice reform was taken by USAID/Haiti, in partnership with IFES. In 200 I, IFES and its Haitian partners embarked on an innovative initiative to strengthen the capacity of Haitian civil society to advocate for and participate in justice reform and to build broad coalitions across society to generate demand for reform. This approach was based on the premise that popular demand for reform and broad-based coalitions in support of reform will go a long way towards promoting sustainable democratic change. This approach also responded to concerns that past investments in top-down justice reform had had little impact in the Haitian context. A congressional ban on funding for work with the government of Haiti created an additional disincentive to undertake a traditional justice reform project. This ban was lifted in the spring of 2004 after the swearing in of the interim government.

At the outset of the project, IFES undertook a participatory planning assessment using a unique survey instrument and methodology designed to conduct functional assessments; identity priorities and stakeholders; and (iii) highlight consensus and disagreements. The Haiti survey focused on a number of key issues related to justice reform and the independence of the judiciary. The choice of justice reform as the central topic was guided by the large investments already made in this sector and the recognition by most stakeholders that justice reform was essential to Haiti's democratic transition. The results were tabulated and analyzed in graphic and narrative form showing overall, comparative results as well as a breakdown by stakeholder group.

Perhaps for the first time, Haitians from diverse walks of life, including the human rights, legal, business, academic and labor communities, as well as journalists, artists and students, were able to clearly see areas of common interest and concern with respect to constitutional justice and an independent jUdiciary. The participatory process used by IFES for the assessment, implementation and final phase of the project also gave the Haitians a concrete platform, mechanism and collaborative action plan to work together on a set of prioritized justice reform issues.