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CIVITAS - 2016

Civitas is a resource for the global citizen created for my senior degree project at RISD, under the advisement of Prof. Hammett Nurosi.

Having been inspired by learning more about the ongoing elections in Haiti through my thesis work at Brown, I created a prototype web resource that could house information, interactive graphs, and short videos pertaining to elections, democracy, and foreign aid in the global world. You can visit the site here.

The videos to the left are from the site.

Haiti Elections Background:

Elections are the thread that ties the people to the government, forming a social contract to which both sides are, ideally, held accountable. As straightforward as such an agreement sounds on paper, attaining an untainted relationship between citizens and elected officials can be incredibly difficult. These difficulties are imminently visible in Haiti, a country burdened with a heavy load of historical, environmental, and political baggage. As of 2015, Haiti faced a crisis of delayed elections and an unchecked presidential branch. The three-year delay led to an incomplete legislative body with only 10 of 30 Senators remaining in office. This number is an insufficient figure to pass any legislative measures. Moreover, all members of the House of Deputies terms’ have expired along with all municipal officials and mayors. Municipal positions had been refilled at then President Martelly's discretion through special appointment. Protesters decried this failure of democracy, calling for the President to be brought to justice and new elections to be scheduled.

But Haiti’s political climate is not simply a product of bad governance or corruption; it is also the embodiment of a historical legacy of foreign patronage, mismanagement, and coercion. Foreign influence in Haiti, most frequently on behalf of the United States, has come in various forms. From the U.S. occupation of Haiti (1914-1934), to aid provisions purporting to secure legal election proceedings in 2000 and more, foreign influence and policy has had a hand in governmental and institutional procedures. Such a history shaped by the effects of imperialism, foreign aid, and measures like the Structural Adjustment Programmes is not unique among developing countries. So, what real effect do foreign actors have in promoting democracy in countries like Haiti? Is foreign aid and intervention benevolent, insidious, or simply ineffective?