Haiti: Hope for a Fragile State.


131 pages
Contains Maps, Bibliography
ISBN 978-0-88920-510-8
DDC 972.94




Edited by Yasmine Shamsie and Andrew S. Thompson
Reviewed by J.H. Galloway

J.H. Galloway is a geography professor at the University of Toronto.


Haiti achieved its independence from France in 1804 after a long insurrection by the largely slave population. Freedom from the colonial power had three immediate consequences: the abolition of slavery, the destruction of the sugar industry that had been the very successful mainstay of the colonial economy, and the descent of the country into political chaos. Tragically, the Haitians have been unable to establish a stable form of government dedicated to promoting the welfare of the people and the economy of the country. Instead, for 200 years, one corrupt regime has followed another, none of them making much progress in economic development, with the result that Haiti has sunk to the status of the poorest country in the Americas. It has few natural resources. The growing population of subsistence farmers has led to deforestation and soil erosion. There is little in the way of industry. Educational levels are low and disease is pervasive. Corruption is common in the legal system and the police force. There is little prospect of government reform. Those Haitians who can leave do, mostly for the United States. By any standards Haiti is a “failed state.”


This modest volume, sponsored by various research centres affiliated with Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo, is a report of yet another conference on what to do. The editors claim that the “book is not meant to be a comprehensive analysis of the unique set of circumstances that make Haiti such a compelling case study.” In other words, it is not an introduction to the study of Haiti’s problems. Indeed, the volume has neither decent maps of Haiti nor tables of population statistics. The seven papers fall into three sections: “The Current and Historical Context,” “Justice and Security,” and “Building Haiti through Civil Society,” plus an introduction and conclusion. The authors try to be optimistic, but without much conviction. An exception to this statement is the paper on “Reflections on the Situation in Haiti and the Ongoing UN Mission” by Colonel Jacques Morneau, who states clearly his pessimistic message.


“Haiti: Hope for a Fragile State.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 19, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/27603.