The Failed State: Haiti

Nationalism can fall into a nation’s characterization in certain situations, and an example of a failed state is the island country of Haiti.


Photo by Annie Spratt


The country that I have personally visited, and will testify to its unquestionable failed state status, is the island of Haiti.  The substandard living conditions on the island have long been documented and the reasons for the failures are plentiful.  For starters the corruption in the highest levels of government specifically from 1957-1986.  During this time the country was poorly guided and mismanaged by the Duvalier family, first François Duvalier and then his son Jean-Claude Duvalier.  François was known as “a sinister creature that took pleasure in the sadism of his special guards who kidnapped, murdered, and tortured at will.” (Dewar, 2004)  His son was a less involved dictator that delegated many responsibilities to others in his regime.  It has been reported that together the two stole more than 500 million dollars and were responsible for approximately 30,000 deaths (Dewar, 2004).   The Duvalier family’s reigned ended when Jean-Claude was forced out of office with U.S. aid and exiled from the country in 1986.  Although it has been 23 years since their economic and social reign of terror very little has been done to repair the damage caused.  The locals fear and distrust of the government creates an overall sense of despair throughout much of the country.  To add to the issue of leaders more concerned with personal monetary gain than the success of the country, Haiti is unfortunately located in a hot spot for severe storms.   Last year the country was devastated by four harsh storms leading to an overwhelming humanitarian crisis (Failed States Index 2009).  Another factor that plays a huge role in the concerns of the nation is that the country is desperately poor.   “70 percent of the people are unemployed; the average Haitian’s annual salary is $240 approx. 66 cents a day, 80% of the population lives below the poverty line.” (Taylor, 2009)  To add the fact that the nation is poverty stricken it does not appear that a change is on the horizon.  Several factors that are in place in the countries society are disabling the people from increasing their social status.  For example; half the population can neither read nor write, and one percent of the population owns an estimated 50 percent of the country’s wealth (Taylor, 2009).  With such a large gap between the educated and wealthy and the poor and illiterate it is a wonder why more has not been done to increase education.  The answer is simple; there are larger issues at hand that require more attention.  It is hard to imagine an instance where someone would care much about their education when they have no water for their family to drink.  The sanitation level of most of the country is in such dire shape that only half of the country has access to any clean water.  The other big issue that plagues the country is the lack of uncorrupt law enforcement or law enforcement at all.  Especially in areas such as Cite Soleil where the government does little to help victims of violent crimes and thugs have virtually free reign over much of the country side.  This fact makes visiting the country dangerous which is why the tourist level is so low especially compared to neighboring Dominican Republic.  Of the list of countries that can be classified as being a failed state there are several that rank higher than Haiti,  Somalia, Zimbabwe, and Sierra Leone for example.  This being said, it is still very important to raise awareness to the suffering that is going on in this country.  Without attention being brought to the region no assistance can be given to push the country in the right direction.

Photo by Tim Trad


As for Nationalism being a major characteristic of the condition of the state, I would challenge that notion.  It is not nationalism that solely places a country`s success or failure into limbo.  However, it can be stated that nationalism can be a large contributing factor depending on the circumstances and individual situation.  Overall, I would say that a country with little nationalism will not necessary be considered to have a failed state, but almost all countries with failed states have little to no sense of nationalism.   For example, Haiti is a failed state whose residents possess very low nationalistic principles.  Because of the sense of betrayal by their government, inadequate support, corrupt leaders and law enforcement, and severe poverty there is very little to be content about with the country and government.  It can likely be stated that most Haitian still living in areas such as Cite Soleil would rather not be categorized as Haitian.  The lack of nationalism was displayed heavily during the earlier 90s when a large portion of the country’s best minds, and wealthy individuals fled the country never to return (Taylor, 2009).  When your crème de la crème feels no moral obligation to the country and its inhabitants then nationalism is impossible to be obtained.


Photo by Jamie Mink



Dewar, Robert  2004. Contemporary Review; May2004, Vol. 284 Issue 1660, p265-267, 3p Retrieved

July 23, 2009 from


Taylor, Rupert, 2009. Haiti is a Failed State, May 2009.  Retrieved July 23, 2009 from

The Failed States Index 2009. Foreign Policy, July/August 2009. Retrieved July 22, 2009 from

Catalina Magee

Founder of Trend Prive Magazine, America.Guide, Christianity.Global and Roast.Global. Romanian-born American, "seasoned" in Italy, "cooked" in Germany and currently serving in Israel. NCIS Special Agent in Charge EA.

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