Towards a Decentralized Haitian State: The Promises and Shortcomings of the Post-Duvalier Constitution of 1987

Vanessa L. Deane
The Journal of Haitian Studies, 27(1), 38-64.

The post-Duvalier Haitian Constitution of 1987 was an appeal for decentralization to reorganize the Haitian state after the fall of the twenty-nine-year Duvalier dictatorship in 1986. However, Haiti today is no closer to realizing this objective than it was then. The partial implementation of the Constitution’s decentralizing framework has created a political quagmire of critical administrative gaps that continue to stifle Haiti’s progress. Rather than moving toward intergovernmental power-sharing and greater inclusivity, as the document intended, these apertures have instead reinforced an autocratic governance system despite Jean-Claude Duvalier’s departure. This paper is the first to conduct a comprehensive analysis of post-Duvalier efforts to decentralize Haiti. Using indepth semistructured expert interviews and content analysis, the paper presents several institutional impediments that curtail Haiti’s advancement in terms of improved public service delivery and unadulterated citizen engagement. The paper also unveils how and why key central government actors consistently impede the extent to which decentralization could facilitate widespread improvements in local development and subnational governance throughout Haiti.

Wagner Faculty