Basic Information

Area: 27 750 sq. km. (10714 sq. mi.); Isle de la Gonave and Isle de la Tortue comprise Haiti's principle offshore territories.
Population: 8.1 million (July 2005 est.)
[Note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected]
Capital City: Port-au-Prince (population: 2 million). Other cities: Cap Hatien (population: 800,000)
People: African descent 95%, African and European descent 5%.
Languages: French (official), Creole (official).
Religion(s): Roman Catholic 80%, Protestant 8%, Baptist 7%, Pentecostal 4%, Adventist 1%, voodoo practices country wide.
Currency: The gourde
Major political parties: KID: Convention for Democratic Unity (Evans Paul); MIDH: Movement for Establishment of Democracy in Haiti (Marc Bazin); FRN: Front for National Reconstruction (Guy Phillipe); CONACOM: recently disolved and merged with two other parties to create a new big party named: Fusion of the Socio Haitian Decmocrats (Micha Gaillard/Victor Benoit); OPL: Organisation of Struggling People (Edgard Leblanc); GPS: marged with CONACOM and two other parties to create FUSION (Serge Gille, ally with Pampra/Haiti kabap); RDNP: Assembly of National Progressive Democrats (Leslie Manigat); MOCRENA: Christian Movement for a New Haiti (Dr/Pastor Luc Mesadieu; MODEREH: Democratic Movement for Haitian Reforms (Danny Toussaint, ex Lavalas senator for the West and Prince Pierre-Sonson, ex Lavalas senator for the South East); Generation 2004 (Claude Roumain); MODEREH of Regroupment Resolution 4 April 2004 (No name yet, still looking for one) of Turneb Delple, Marie France Claude and Osner Fevry, FANMI LAVALAS: Originally ex-President Aristide's party.
Government: Republic
Head of State: Interim President Boniface Alexandre. Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue.


Terrain: Rugged mountains with small coastal plains and river valleys, and a large east central elevated plateau.
Climate: Warm, semi-arid, high humidity in many coastal areas.


The earliest known inhabitants of Hispaniola (of which Haiti is today the western part and the Dominican Republic the eastern) reached the island about 2600 BC. When Christopher Colombus arrived in 1492, the island was occupied by the Taínos, a relatively sophisticated and peaceful people. The Taínos were enslaved by the Spanish and virtually eradicated in the first 50 years of Spanish rule due to a combination of the import of old world diseases; harsh treatment mainly in the mines; and mass suicides. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Spaniards used the island as a launching point from which to explore the rest of the Western Hemisphere. French Buccaneers later used the western third of the island as a point from which to harass English and Spanish ships. In 1697, Spain ceded the western third of Hispaniola to France. As piracy was gradually suppressed, some French adventurers became planters, making Saint Domingue, as the French portion of the island was known, the 'pearl of the Antilles' - arguably the richest colony in the 18th century French Empire.

During this period, African slaves were brought to work on Sugarcane and Coffee plantations. In 1791, the slave population revolted - led by Haitian heroes Toussaint L'Ouverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, and Henri Christophe - and gained control of the northern part of the French colony, waging a war of attrition against the French.

By January 1804, the local forces defeated an army sent by Napoleon Bonaparte, established independence from France, and renamed the area Haiti. The impending defeat of the French in Haiti is widely credited with contributing to Napoleon's decision to sell Louisiana territory to the United States in 1803. Haiti is the world's oldest black republic and the second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States. It is the only country in the world to have gained its independence following a successful slave rebellion. Although Haiti actively assisted the independence movements of many Latin American countries, the independent nation of former slaves was excluded from the hemisphere's first regional meeting of independent nations, in Panama in 1826, and did not receive US diplomatic recognition until 1862.

Two separate regimes (north and south) emerged after independence, but were unified in 1820. Two years later, Haiti occupied Santo Domingo, the eastern, Spanish speaking part of Hispaniola. In 1844, however, Santo Domingo broke away from Haiti and became the Dominican Republic. With 22 changes of government from 1843 to 1915, Haiti experienced numerous periods of intense political and economic disorder, prompting the United States military intervention of 1915. Following a 19-year occupation, US military forces were withdrawn in 1934 and Haiti regained sovereign rule.

From February 7, 1986 - when the 29-year-old dictatorship of the Duvalier family ended - until 1991, Haiti was ruled by a series of Provisional governments. In 1987 a constitution was ratified that provides for an elected, bicameral parliament, an elected president that serves as a head of state, and a prime minister, cabinet, ministers, and supreme court appointed by the president with parliament's consent. The Haitian Constitution also provides for political decentralisation through the election of mayors and administrative bodies responsible for local government.


Recent Political Developments

Haiti currently has an interim (non-elected) government, following the resignation and flight of ex-President Jean Bertrand Aristide on 29 February 2004.

Haiti has suffered a chequered and volatile political history, marked by conflict and long periods of autocratic and semi autocratic rule. The development of the country's economy and people has been perpetually stifled as a result, making Haiti today the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with economic indicators on a par with the poorest countries in Africa.

Concerted efforts are being made by the interim government, with the help of the international community, to restore law and order in the country. Some of the long-standing 'no-go' areas in the capital Port-au-Prince and other areas are being tackled by a 7,000 strong UN mandated force, MINUSTAH, working in tandem with the Haiti National Police (PNH). However the process of disarmament and the restoration of the rule of law in some of these difficult areas is likely to take years rather than months, and will present one of the main challenges to the incoming Haitian administration when the long-awaited elections take place from November 2005 - January 2006.

Ex-President Aristide was first elected as President in December 1990, then ousted in a coup in September 1991, after which he spent the next 3 years in the US. The subsequent 3-year, interim, unconstitutional, military defacto regime was facing UN-mandated military intervention by mid-September 1994. On the brink of the UN, US-led intervention, its leader, General Raoul Cedras, and his fellow leaders agreed to step down.

President Aristide and other elected officials returned to Haiti in October 1994, and the restored Haitian authorities organised nation-wide local and parliamentary elections in June 1995. Aristide's term ended in 1995. He was barred from succeeding himself under the terms of the constitution and agreed to step aside and support a presidential election in December 1995, in which one of his main political allies, Rene Preval, was elected with 88% of the vote.

Towards the end of 1996, Aristide broke from his original Lavalas Political Organisation (OPL) and created a new political party, the Lavalas Family (FLO). Political gridlock followed flawed senate elections in April 1997, and the government was unable to organise the local and parliamentary elections due in late 1998. When local/municipal government elections were finally held on 21 May 2000 a multitude of political parties were represented and more than 60% of the electorate voted.

But due to a defective Provisional Electoral Council vote count methodology, the May 2000 election, in which Fanmi Lavalas enjoyed a virtual clean sweep, was deemed flawed by the International community and the Government of Haiti was sharply criticised.

The flawed May 2000 election marked the start of 3½ years of further political stalemate and turmoil, during which Aristide was 're-elected' President in a November 2000 election that was boycotted by the main opposition parties and characterised by very low voter turn out.

From 2001 until towards the end of 2003, despite protracted and intensive efforts by the international community spearheaded by the OAS with significant input from CARICOM, the stale-mate continued, with its under current of political violence and extortion. An apparently 'staged' coup at the Presidential palace on 17 December 2001 further entrenched the opposition parties to their position of not talking to Aristide's regime, further compounded by the latter's failure to pay OAS mandated reparations following the coup and to make progress on security/disarmament.

By the end of 2003 the political stalemate, and nation-wide disenchantment with Aristide, had reached a new level. An unlikely combination of the widely respected civil society 'Group 184' successfully calling for regular, peaceful, anti-government demonstrations, and a group of increasingly vocal and violent members of the ex-Army, succeeded in elevating anti-Aristide sentiment in the country.

Following an attack on dissenting students widely attributed to Aristide's 'chimeres' (political bully boys) at the Port-au-Prince University on 5 December 2003, the situation continued to deteriorate moving into 2004, ironically Haiti's 200th Anniversary of Independence. Mediation efforts by the OAS and CARICOM continued to no avail, political violence escalated, and shortly after the ex-army militants had reportedly 'surrounded' Port-au-Prince towards the end of February 2004, Aristide asked for a US plane to help him into exile, resigned and left the country on 29 February 2004.

On Aristide's departure the UN Security Council adopted UN Resolution 1529, which amongst other measures called for the despatch of a Multinational Interim Force (MIF). The MIF began to deploy almost immediately on the adoption of the Resolution and a UN Assessment Mission. On 4 March 2004 a 'Tripartite Council' was named consisting of a representative of former President Aristide's 'Fanmi Lavalas' party; one named by the opposition; and a representative of the international community. This group was mandated to select seven eminent persons (known as the 'Conseil des Sages'), which it did on 5 March. On 9 March the Council selected Gerard Latortue as Prime Minister from a short list of 3 candidates. The new Prime Minster swore in his government - of predominantly technocrats rather than politicians - on 17 March, and it was subsequently agreed that the interim government would work for elections within 2 years.

The MIF handed over to a UN force – MINUSTAH- with a 6-month renewable mandate in June/July 2004. MINUSTAH has had some success in conducting joint operations with the HNP in some of the traditionally lawless, gang- dominated parts of the country, including Cité Soleil in Port-au-Prince. With the help of the international community, the interim government has been working towards the holding of free and fair elections late 2005/ early 2006 (the first round of parliamentary and presidential elections is likely to take place between 16 - 20 December 2005). A democratically elected Haitian government should be installed by 7 February 2006.

The security situation has deteriorated over recent months, and is likely to remain volatile throughout the election period. The MINUSTAH mandate has been renewed until February 2006, with an increase in troop numbers to cover the election period of approximately 750.


An Interim Government is currently in place in Haiti

Branches: Executive - President Legislative - Senate (27 seats), Chamber of Deputies (83 seats) Judicial - Court of Cassation Administrative sub-divisions: Nine departments


Suffrage is universal at 18.


Economy Overview

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. About 80% of the population lives in abject poverty. Nearly 70% of all Haitians depend on the agricultural sector, which consists mainly of small-scale subsistence farming and employs about two thirds of the economically active work force. Unemployment is estimated at 70%, and the country has experienced little job creation in recent times although the informal economy is growing. Following legislative elections in May 2000, fraught with irregularities, international donors – including the US and the EU – suspended almost all aid to Haiti. This destabilised the Haitian Currency, the gourde, and combined with fuel prices hikes, caused widespread price increases.

Haiti's economy contracted by 3.8% in 2003-2004 (October-September), according to the IMF. The IMF, in a statement issued on 17 June, asserted that economic and social conditions in Haiti deteriorated significantly during the early 2000s as the continued political stalemate undermined external financial support, and private investment and structural reforms came to a halt.

According to the IMF, the situation resulted in economic stagnation, high inflation and widespread unemployment. The political turmoil in early 2004 and the devastating floods in May and September compounded these difficulties and led to a contraction of real Gross Domestic Product (CDP) by nearly four per cent in 2003-04.

The broad social and economic strategy developed by the Interim Government gained the support of the international community and substantial pledges of financial assistance during a July 2004 donors’ conference.

The government’s macroeconomic policies were framed in the context of a Staff-Monitored Programme (SMP) with the IMF covering the period April-September 2004 and from October 2004 were supported by the International Monetary Fund’s Emergency Post-Conflict Assistance (EPCA), which was approved by the Fund’s Board on 10 January 2005.

The IMF have deemed performance under the SMP and the EPCA-supported programme satisfactory, stating: “Financial stability has been largely restored; the exchange rate has stabilised; inflation has declined; and net international reserves have increased. However, partly owing to slower-than-anticipated project disbursements by donors, economic recovery in the first two quarters of 2004-05 appears to have been weaker than expected. This suggests a risk that the GDP growth objective of 2.5 per cent for 2004/05 may not be attained , especially in view of the still unsettled political situation and the lifting of quotas under the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing.”

The IMF said progress has also been made in implementing structural reforms, noting that the expenditure approval process has been streamlined and the discretionary use of ministerial current accounts sharply reduced.

The IMF said that it has welcomed the progress achieved by the Haitian authorities towards restoring macroeconomic stability and implementing structural reforms and were encouraged by Haiti’s performance under the programme supported by the Fund’s EPCA policy, which is broadly on track.

The IMF said the key challenge is to put in place policies that would promote faster growth and generate adequate fiscal revenues for improving social services, institutional capacity and infrastructure and for bringing down poverty. The actions taken by the authorities to re-engage donors, clear arrears to the World Bank and increase the Fund’s involvement in Haiti have been important steps towards a medium-term development programme aimed at raising the rate of growth and reducing poverty.

The interim government is currently rapidly trying to absorb $1.2 billion international assistance announced at a donors conference in July 2004.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved a Transition Strategy for Haiti for the period 2005-2006. This “supports Haiti's efforts to alleviate pressing social needs, stabilize its economy, lay a foundation for pro-poor growth and pave the way towards a new elected government in 2006 and beyond the transition”. The IDB Transition Strategy will guide the implementation of a $270m programme of operations in the form of investment loans and technical assistance grants.

Basic Economic Facts

GDP:Gross Domestic Product (GDP): US$3.4 billion for 2004. Annual GDP Growth: Fiscal Year 2002-2003 0.04% Fiscal year: 2003-2004 -0.04%
GDP per head:purchasing power capacity - US $440 (2004) GDP by sector: agriculture - 26%; Industry - 8%; Services - 51%.
Inflation:20% (March 2004)
Natural resources:Bauxite, copper, calcium carbonate, gold, marble.
Major Industries:Agriculture: (32% of GDP) - Coffee, mangoes, sugarcane, rice, corn, cacao, sorghum, pulses, other fruits and vegetables Industry (20% of GDP) - Apparel, handicrafts, electronics, food processing, beverages, tobacco products, furniture, printing, chemicals, and steel Services: (48% of GDP) - Commerce, government, tourism
Major Industries:US ($301 million) Total Exports F.O.B. - $352 million: apparel, mangoes, leather and raw hides, seafood, electrical.
Imports:1.0 billion C.I.F.
Exchange rate:approx. 39.5 Haitian Gourdes = US $1.00

Note: There are serious problems with national accounts in Haiti, including incomplete coverage and the questionable accuracy of raw data. Structural adjustment agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and other international financial institutions are aimed at creating necessary conditions for private sector growth, have proved only partly successful.

External aid is essential to the future economic development of Haiti, the least developed country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world. Comparative social and economic indicators show Haiti falling behind other low-income developing countries (particularly in the Hemisphere) since the 1980s. Haiti's economic stagnation is the result of earlier inappropriate policies, political instability, a shortage of good arable land, environmental deterioration, and chronic deforestation, continued use of traditional technologies, under-capitalisation and lack of public investment in human resources, migration of large portions of skilled population, and a weak national savings rate.

Workers in Haiti are guaranteed the right of association. Unionisation is protected by the labour code. As the situation deteriorates further the exodus of economic migrants may continue. This is a huge problem affecting the nearby Turks and Caicos Islands, a British Overseas Territory.

Investment and Business Opportunities

Foreigners seeking to establish a business in Haiti must obtain a residence visa. Non-resident entrepreneurs must have a locally licensed agent to conduct business transactions within the country. Individuals wishing to practice a trade in Haiti must obtain an immigrant visa from a Haitian Consulate and, in most cases, a government work permit. Transient and resident traders must also have a professional ID card. Property restrictions still exist for foreign individuals. Property rights of foreigners are limited to 1.29 hectares in urban areas and 6.45 hectares in rural areas. No foreigner may own more than one residence in the same district, or own property or buildings near the border. To own real estate, authorisation from the Ministry of Justice is necessary. Hurdles for businesses in Haiti include poor infrastructure, a high cost port (highest in the hemisphere), an irregular supply of electricity, and customs delays. The government places a 30% withholding tax on all profits received. There is little direct investment, though more is incoming than outgoing. Foreign Investment protection is provided by the constitution of 1987, which permits expropriation of private property for public use or land reform with payment in advance. American firms enjoy free transfer of interest, dividends, profits, and other revenues stemming form their investments, and are guaranteed just compensation paid in advance of expropriation, as well as compensation in case of damages or losses caused by war, revolution, or insurrection.

International Relations

Haiti is one of the original members of the United Nations and several of its specialised and related agencies, as well as a member of the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). It maintains diplomatic relations with 37 countries. The International Community rallied to Haiti's defence during the 1991-94 period of illegal military rule. 31 countries participated in the US-led Multinational force (MNF) which, acting under UN auspices, intervened in September 1994 to help restore the legitimate government and create a secure a stable environment in Haiti. Six months later, the UN Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) was charged with maintaining the secure environment. A total of 38 countries participated in UNMIH. Since then, UNMIH has been succeeded by UNSMIH, UNTIMH and MIPONUH. In general terms, all these missions have been mandated to help establish a professional police force; and to promote institution building, national reconciliation and economic rehabilitation in Haiti.

Canada, the US and France were three main contributors of personnel to the original MIF on Aristide’s departure. The MINUSTAH force (see the 'politics' section above) is multinational, but predominately made up of Latin American countries and led by a Chilean general.

The May 2000 electoral crisis resulted in the blockage of most multilateral and bilateral assistance, but since the departure of e.g. Aristide the US and other have resumed a bilateral assistance programme. Major donors are led by the United States, with the largest bilateral assistance programme, and also include Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Taiwan. Multilateral aid is co-ordinated through an informal grouping of major donors under the auspices of the World Bank and includes the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) and the European Union. Millions of dollars continue to flow into NGO and civil society projects all around the country, including EU money.

Haiti's Relations with the UK

The British Embassy based in Santo Domingo has responsibility for British interests in Haiti. Historically there has not been a close relationship between the UK and Haiti and intrinsic UK interests in Haiti are limited. But the Ambassador visits regularly from Santo Domingo. The UK also maintains a locally engaged Vice-Consul in Port-au-Prince - although the Consulate's public operations are currently temporarily suspended due to the poor security situation. The UK continues to support EU efforts to implement a sustainable development programme that aims to alleviate the considerable levels of poverty that exist in Haiti and the Embassy keeps in close contact with EU, US and Canadian colleagues.

Our main concern is the well being of the Haitian population. In addition, problems in Haiti can spill over into the wider Caribbean, posing a threat to regional stability. For example,illegal Haitian immigrants are a challenge in the British Overseas Territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). Less than 24 hours sailing time from Haiti, TCI has attracted steady numbers of Haitians, in un-seaworth sloops, looking for employment in the TCI tourist and construction industries. With a tiny population and limited resources, TCI has welcomed this source of cheaper labour. But, increasing numbers brought unsustainable social strains, particularly on health, education and housing.

UK Development Assistance

The UK is providing a total of some £20 million to support Haiti’s reconstruction and development programme through our share of the pledges made by the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the European Commission. DFID also provided some £4 million in humanitarian assistance to Haiti in 2004 in response to political unrest, the May floods, and Tropical Storm Jeanne. In addition, aside from the UK's diminishing Small Grants Scheme (£40,000), DFID are sponsoring two Civil Society projects amounting to £133,438. A substantial British contribution of £573,664 came from the National Lottery who granted the sum to TWIN Ltd, the coffee wholesale organisation which helps small coffee and cocoa producers to combine their exports efforts. The Small Grants Scheme Fund paid for a number of projects in Haiti in the areas of potable water, primary education, HIV Aids education and prevention. There is also a £60,000 per annum DFID Civil Society/Good Governance Fund in operation, administered by the British Embassy in Santo Domingo.

UK exports to Haiti amounted to £7 million in 2004. A large part of the additional UK exports to Haiti can be accounted for by higher imports of whiskey that faced a new tax from 2002 in the neighbouring Dominican Republic.

Illegal imports are known to cross the border. UK imports of Haitian goods were around £500,000 in 2004. These consisted primarily of tropical fruits and coffee. De la Rue continues to produce Haitian coins and notes, and Landrover do steady Business in Haiti. As a result of the political situation in Haiti, British companies are not confident about embarking on new commercial ventures. Only when a functioning government is installed can there be a chance for the economic reconstruction of Haiti to begin again and opportunities for trade and investment to flourish.


Nationality: Noun and adjective - Haitian(s)
Annual population growth rate (2002 est.): 1.42%
Education: Years compulsory – 6 (not observed). Adult Literacy: men 70%; women 59% (varies with the region, but usually men are more literate).
Health: Infant Mortality rate - 80%. Life Expectancy - male 53 years; female 55 years. Although Haiti averages approximately 250 people per sq km (650 per sq mi), its population is concentrated most heavily in urban areas, coastal plains and valleys. About 95% of Haitians are of African descent. The rest of the population is mostly of mixed Caucasian-African ancestry. A few are of European or levantine heritage. About two-thirds of the population live in rural areas.

French is one of the two official languages, but it is spoken by only 10% of the people. All Haitians speak Creole, the country's other official language. English is increasingly spoken among the young and in the business sector.

The state religion is Roman Catholicism, which most of the population professes. Some Haitians have converted to Protestantism through the work of missionaries active throughout the country. Much of the population also practice voodoo traditions. Haitians tend to see no conflict in these African-rooted beliefs co-existing with Christian faiths.

Although public education is free, private and parochial schools provide around 75% of educational programs offered and less than 65% of those eligible for primary education are actually enrolled. At the secondary level, the figure drops to 15%. Only 63% of those enrolled will complete primary school. On average it takes 16 years to produce a single graduate of the 6-year cycle. Though Haitians place a high value on education, few can afford to send their children to secondary school. Remittances sent by Haitians living abroad are important in paying educational costs.

Large-scale emigration - principally to the United States but also to Canada, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and other Caribbean neighbours - has created what Haitians refer to as the Tenth Department or the Diaspora. About one in every six Haitians live abroad. Haitian migration to the Dominican Republic has caused considerable social pressures in the neighbouring country, where it is estimated that Haitians number up to one million, over 10% of the overall population.