Haiti’s Environmental Crisis as Cause of Instability and Conflict

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The International Crisis Group has just issues its latest briefing, Haiti: Saving the Environment, Preventing Instability and Conflict, which argues that “the combination of environmental destruction and other factors such as weak institutions, extreme poverty and rapid population growth raise the risk of serious new trouble in the island republic.” The report confirms the centrality of Haiti’s environmental crisis to the nation’s instability. “The catastrophic state of the environment is closely related to deep-seated institutional, political and governance problems”, says Bernice Robertson, Crisis Group’s Haiti Analyst. “Coherent national socio-economic development policies have been mostly absent, due to management and political limitations and the narrow interests of those holding economic power”.

Severe environmental problems have been among the roots of Haiti’s social, economic and even political crises. Haiti is catastrophically deforested (with less than 5% forest coverage), topsoil has been eroded, and there are zones of galloping desertification. The level of environmental degradation has made Haiti one of the world’s most natural disaster-prone countries. Following the devastating floods of 2004, which killed approximately 3,000, Crisis Group warned about future ecological disasters. In 2008, a succession of hurricanes and tropical storms killed close to 800 and left some 100,000 homeless.

Efforts to halt the depletion of the natural environment are essential to prevent new instability. “Success in environmental rehabilitation depends in large part on good cooperation between those over-using the natural resources and those seeking to better manage them”, argues Markus Schultze-Kraft, Crisis Group’s Latin America Program Director. “The approach to halting and eventually reversing Haiti’s environmental problems must contain that same strong social component that is fundamental for reducing the risk of renewed violent conflict.”

For more on the story go to http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=6078&l=1&m=1

The complete report can be downloaded as a pdf from this site http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=6078&l=1

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