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Building Peace in Haiti

Chetan Kumar
ISBN: 978-1-55587-770-5
1998/107 pages
A project of the International Peace Institute
"Chetan Kumar's short but excellent Building Peace in Haiti ... bridges the gap between neoliberals and populists."—Jean-Germain Gros, Latin American Research Review


Though its national life often has been characterized by violence, Haiti has not been victim of a full-fledged internal conflict, or civil war. Why, then, is the international community conducting "postconflict peacebuilding" operations there? Addressing that question, Chetan Kumar examines the course of international involvement in Haiti through the prism of the country's unique past and present. His narrative is grounded in a discussion of the nature of peacebuilding and the role of civil society in building a functioning state.

A basket of nonmilitary activities designed to address some of the primary causes of violence—weak institutions, underdevelopment, poverty—have come to be referred to as postconflict peacebuilding in the Haitian context. How do these activities differ from the numerous development schemes launched from the mid-1960s onward? Is peacebuilding essentially about successful development? Kumar engages the recent heated debate about these issues.

Haitians have struggled among themselves to define the nature, structure, and power base of a state that can best provide for its constituents—and their conception frequently is at odds with the one promoted by the international community. Building a lasting peace, Kumar emphasizes, will be possible only if Haitians themselves support any given understanding of what a successful polity and economy should look like, and if they participate in bringing it about. He concludes with recommendations aimed at encouraging that participation.


Chetan Kumar is an advisor in the UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  Previously he was research associate at the University of Illinois Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security. He is coeditor of South Asia Approaches the Millennium: Reexamining National Security.


  • Introduction.
  • The United Nations and Haiti Today.
  • Haiti Since Independence.
  • Underdevelopment in Haiti.
  • Haiti after the Duvaliers.
  • Recommendations for Peacebuilding.
  • Endnotes.