For many developing countries, trust and confidence in state institutions are relatively weak, if not nonexistent. In a presentation to the International Republican Institute’s conference on citizen security in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Joseph Harold Pierre, founder of N’ap sove Ayiti (NAPSA) focused on the challenges of security and law enforcement on the Greater Antilles island of Hispaniola, where both countries are located.
Pierre argued that citizen security, which the United Nations defines as “the process of establishing, strengthening and protecting democratic civic order, eliminating threats of violence in a population and allowing for safe and peaceful coexistence,” is grounded in human development. By empowering individuals, Pierre believes that both countries can become safer and more prosperous.
“Delinquency costs 3.5 percent of the region's GDP,” Pierre noted, pointing out that this high cost thwarts economic development and generates punitive populism that leads to more stringent sentencing of low-level offenders. Evidence shows this measure is not sustainable, erodes social cohesion, and is a fertile ground of anti-politics.
In the Dominican Republic, ineffective policing and national centralization exacerbate security problems. Pierre contends that local government is best equipped to mitigate the situation, as empowering grassroots institutions is likely the most effective and least repressive option.
“The Iron Fist paradigm, which focuses only on repressive measures such as intensification of drastic sentences, may be a threat to the rule of law,” Pierre told his audience. Instead, he called for the Haitian government to transition from a state security model to a citizen-ordered one that is grounded in partnerships between law enforcement, education, employment, and youth empowerment.
Of the many problems that hinder security in Haiti. Pierre cites a deficit of information on insecurity, and low white collar crime conviction rates as major challenges to overcome. He believes that through a more empowered citizenry, the question of security can be addressed, while simultaneously increasing trust and confidence in public institutions. For a region attempting to make significant economic and political strides in the coming years, reforming their security institutions could be a vital first step towards improving the well-being of both countries.
“To tackle insecurity,” said Pierre, “Latin America and other regions need to increase their law enforcement capacity, look for a regional solution to region-embedded violence, reduce inequality, and create more and better jobs.”