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Haiti is a Small Island Developing State country occupying the western one-third of the Caribbean Island of Hispaniola, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Its land area is 27,750 km², including its five satellite islands. Haiti’s topography is dominated by steep, rugged mountains. Five major mountain ranges cover 75% of the country, interspersed with river valleys and coastal flatlands.

Subtropical climates prevail in the mountainous areas, especially those in the southwest and southeast, while the plains have a tropical climate. The rainy season lasts from April to October in most regions but is longer in the northern mountains, and rainfall varies considerably across the country’s regions.

Haiti is traversed by many highly seasonal rivers. Major rivers are the Artibonite River, the Grand’Anse, the Estère, the Trois Rivières, and Cavaillon.

Haiti is a presidential republic, administratively divided into ten departments (Nord-Ouest, Nord, Nord-Est, Artibonite, Centre, Ouest, Grand’Anse, Nippes, Sud, and Sud-Est) which are, in turn, divided into 42 arrondissements.

Important National Context

Haiti is the most densely populated country in the Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) region, and its population is rapidly growing (1.34% estimated annual growth rate for the 2020–2025 period). Total population is estimated at 11,905,897, on average 429 inhabitants per square kilometer (as of 2021). Haiti also has the highest mortality rates of the region, with an estimated life expectancy at birth of 65.2 years and an infant mortality rate of 35 deaths per 1,000 live births (as of 2020) [1].

Nearly 60% of the population resides along or near the coastline in dense coastal cities, nearby floodplains, and areas with steep slopes. Heavy migration from rural areas to towns and cities over the last two decades has resulted in a rapid increase of the urban population from 35.6% in 2000 to 56.3% in 2021. The largest agglomerations are the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, Delmas, Gonaïves, and Croix-Des-Bouquets [1], [2], [3].

Haiti is the only Least Developed Country in the LAC region. With a Gross National Income per capita of only $1,250 (as of 2020), it is the poorest country in the region and one of the poorest in the world. Wealth is highly unequally distributed, with the richest 20% of the population holding 47.1% of the country’s total income, against the 5.5% held by the poorest 20%. Poverty incidence and income inequality are much higher in rural than in urban areas [4].

After the services industry, agriculture (crops, livestock, and fisheries) is the second contributor to GDP, accounting for 19.8% in 2020, followed by the manufacturing industry. Although the agricultural sector employs only 29% of the labor force, two fifths of the total population are estimated to depend upon it for their income and livelihood, especially in rural areas. Most agriculture consists of subsistence farming. Crop yields are among the lowest in the region and only 50% of the country’s food needs are met by local production, while the deficit is covered by imports.

The economy has been repeatedly and severely impacted by natural hazards and political and social conflicts during the last decades. GDP contracted 3.8% in 2010 mainly as a consequence of a devastating earthquake (in January), a cholera outbreak (October), and hurricane Tomás (November). In 2019, GDP contracted 1.7% due to political turmoil, social discontent, and droughts; and 3.4% in 2020 as the situation was worsened by the COVID pandemic. Much of the economy is informal, with an unemployment rate of 14% as of 2020. Haiti is heavily dependent on external resource flows, particularly international development and humanitarian aid, and personal remittances from the Haitian diaspora [3], [4], [5], [6].

The 2012 Strategic Development Plan for Haiti neatly identified expanding the electrification and the telecommunications and digital network of the country among the six top national priorities. As of 2019, only 45.4% of the population had access to electricity (79.9% of the urban population, 1% of the rural), and only 32.5% of the population was using the internet (the third lowest rate in the region) [2], [7], [8]. The 2017 General Policy Statement [9] included electricity supply as one of the main government priorities, but no explicit reference to further expanding the telecommunication networks and internet use was made.

Haiti is one of the countries of the world most directly exposed to natural hazards — hurricanes, floods, droughts, and earthquakes; over 93% of its territory and over 96% of the population are estimated to be exposed to these shocks. Such high exposure interacts with Haiti’s high vulnerability and very low response capacity to yield a high level of casualties and material damages. Natural disasters have recurrently and severely affected the country’s economic and social development and exacerbated poverty and food security over the last 40 years.

Long periods of political violence and instability since 1986 have hindered the Haitian government’s ability to meet the basic needs of its people and put the country on a sustained development path. Since early 2019, Haiti entered one of its worst outbreaks of violent social unrest, coupled with political instability and riots led by gangs and armed groups, further worsening living conditions. The arrival of COVID-19 in 2020 made the situation even worse. An estimated 4.4 million people, nearly 40% of the population, were facing acute food insecurity, as job opportunities became scarcer in both rural and urban areas. The crisis escalated to unsustainable levels and culminated with the assassination of president Jovenel Moïse in July 2021. The assassination has created widespread political turmoil, led to a further rise in food prices, decreased the availability of fresh produce in markets, and impacted supply chains which, in turn, have triggered unprecedented violence [6], [9], [10], [11], [12], [13], [14], [15], [16], [17], [18].

The Haitian government has very limited capacities to provide public services, especially in remote rural areas and among the urban poor. In response, the international community has stepped in providing development assistance and humanitarian aid resources. Out of fear of corruption, misuse, and lack of institutional capacities, many donors funnel their assistance through international non-governmental organizations (NGO) instead of through the Haitian government.

This form of operation has proved to be problematic and not entirely efficient. The several international donors operating in Haiti do not always align their assistance with national plans and priorities and there is insufficient coordination among them. By delivering assistance through independent parallel structures (country offices, implementing NGOs, etc.) that compete with, or take up the role of, those of the government, the public become more reliant on NGOs than on the national institutions, the government's authority is undermined, and its institutional capacities are not improved [6], [11],  [19], [20], [21].

Environmental Governance

The Ministry of Environment (MDE), created in 1995, is the government institution and main actor responsible for managing and protecting the national environment. Other entities responsible of environmental management include the National Agency for Protected Areas, the National Solid Waste Management Service, the National Observatory of Environmental Quality and Vulnerability, among several others.

The MDE produced its first Environmental Action Plan (EAP) [22] in 1999, and in 2017, launched a consultation process leading to the formulation of a new EAP. The Environmental Action Plan 2021–2030 [23] was finalized in mid-2021 and is now in the process of being formally adopted. It defines a 10-yr framework for all the environmental management interventions and identifies the strategic themes and geographical priorities to be addressed. The overall objective of the EAP 2021–2030 is to stop the degradation of the environment of the Haitian territory by improving governance and institutional capacities with a view to promoting the circular economy; it sets six strategic objectives: Governance, Climate change, Biodiversity, Life quality, Watersheds, and Forest and Energy.

The 2005 Framework Decree on Environmental Management and the Regulation of the Conduct of Citizens for Sustainable Development [24] is the main legal instrument governing environmental protection in Haiti. Regulations and laws governing specific environmental themes are also in place. Haiti is party to the major MEAs/conventions but is absent from some strategic ones (e.g., the Cartagena Convention, Ramsar convention, and others). In fulfilment of the ensuing obligations, national strategies and public policies have been formulated and adopted. Policy instruments aimed at mainstreaming environmental issues into national development policies have been adopted recently.

The current state of the environment and natural resources in Haiti reflects institutional limitations as well as shortcomings and lack of enforcement of the legal and regulatory framework. Environmental governance is intended to have a participatory character but, lacking a governing framework that define the functions of and state mandates for each stakeholder, this has made governance highly complex and led to lack of clarity in responsibilities. The environmental regulatory framework comprises numerous instruments, but these are perceived as incomplete, scattered, non-systemic, often outdated, sometimes inadequate, and frequently lack the adequate provisions for their implementation or enforcement. MDE is a young institution that is still building its technical and enforcement capacities; this has been hampered by the insufficient budgetary allocations it receives. Local and regional authorities that are mandated to work with the central government in environmental issues lack the personnel and material means to do so.

National context alignement with the EU Green Deal

Several of the strategic objectives and programmes envisioned in the Environmental Action Plan 2021–2030 (currently under approval) are consistent with the aims of the EU Green Deal. For instance, the EAP 2021–2030 aims to stop the degradation of the Haitian environment by improving governance and institutional capacities with a view to promoting a circular economy. It includes a strategic objective on climate change which intends to increase the use of renewable energy. It also includes a strategic objective on biodiversity aimed at halting biodiversity degradation and loss. The strategic objective on forest and energy seeks to recover the tree cover of the territory by encouraging commercial timber production, and to gradually reduce the amount of wood and coal used as energy source by improving the efficiency of domestic energy use and developing circular economy strategies through tax incentives.

Key Environmental-Development Challenges

Haiti faces three major, closely intertwined, environment-related development challenges — albeit these are not the only ones:

Vulnerability to natural hazards [6], [9], [10], [11], [12], [13], [14], [15], [16], [17], [25]

Haiti’s geographical location and topography make it one of the countries most directly and unavoidably exposed to multiple natural hazards — hurricanes, floods, droughts, and earthquakes. For example, located in the middle of the hurricane belt of the North Atlantic, tropical storms and hurricanes regularly hit Haiti between June and November each year.

On August 14, 2021, a powerful (7.2 magnitude) earthquake hit south-western Haiti, affecting at least 800,000 people, causing more than 2,240 deaths, and leaving an estimated 38,777 displaced people. The costs of the loss and damage caused by the earthquake have not been yet estimated. This was followed two days later by floods triggered by Tropical Storm Grace. This latest disaster compounded Haiti’s many pre-existing development challenges.

These multiple, frequent, and severe hazards interact with the very high vulnerability of the country. Haiti’s topography, widespread deforestation and watershed degradation, high population density, and limited drainage infrastructure make it highly vulnerable to hurricanes, storm surge, and flooding. Haiti's disaster mitigation and management capacities are low, both at the institutional and population level. Thus, the natural hazards that hit Haiti over the 1990-2021 period caused over 234,000 deaths and left over US$10 billion in damages. The recurrence and impact of these natural disasters severely affect the country’s economic and social development and exacerbate poverty and food security.


Food insecurity [26], [27], [28], [29], [30], [31], [32]

Haiti is one of the most food-insecure countries in the world. According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC)’s 2015 analysis [32] of chronic food insecurity (CFI, that is, food insecurity that persists over time, mainly due to structural causes) in Haiti, about 70% of the population experience some level of CFI and about 15% of the population experience severe CFI. This structural food insecurity is mainly driven by widespread poverty and poor agricultural production due to severe and increasing degradation of arable land, demographic pressure, and the mostly artisanal character of agriculture. This is often further limited by factors such as reduced availability or price increases of imported foods, as there is a substantial dependence on food imports.

Food insecurity is frequently exacerbated by weather conditions, natural disasters, and socio-political instability, which trigger periods of acute food insecurity (AFI, that is, food insecurity occurring at a specific point in time and of a severity that threatens lives or livelihoods, or both, regardless of the causes, context, or duration). For instance, the impacts of the August 2021 earthquake followed by floods caused by Tropical Storm Grace, put some 980,000 people in four departments of southern Haiti in critical or crisis levels of AFI. The political crisis following the assassination of President Moise in July 2021, the ensuing currency devaluation and inflation, insecurity, and gang violence, compounded by poor agricultural production plus the negative effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic, put other 3.3 million people in crisis or critical levels of AFI across the country.


Climate change impacts on vulnerability to natural hazards and food insecurity [10], [26], [30]

The impending changes in temperature, precipitation, sea-level rise, and other factors will — directly or indirectly —increase Haiti’s exposure and vulnerability to extreme weather events (tropical storms, floods, and droughts) and, thus, the incidence and magnitude of natural disasters. Climate change will also exacerbate chronic and acute food insecurity. For instance, rainfall patterns are projected to become more unpredictable and drought conditions in the center of the country are expected to intensify. These changes will likely decrease agricultural productivity of basic crops such as corn, rice, and potatoes and will increase soil erosion. These two factors would exacerbate chronic food insecurity, while the more intense droughts and more destructive storm events will likely trigger periods of acute food insecurity. In sum, climate changes are very likely to exacerbate Haiti’s major vulnerabilities.


[1] Institut Haïtien de Statistique et d'Informatique. Retrieved September 2021

[2] World Bank Data. Retrieved September 2021

[3] OCHA-Humanitarian Data Exchange-Haiti Retrieved September 2021

[4] UNDP-Human Development Index Retrieved September 2021

[5] World Bank Poverty Data Retrieved September 2021

[6] Singh & Barton-Dock. 2015. Haiti Toward a New Narrative. Systematic Country Diagnostic. The World Bank Group.


[8] GOUVERNEMENT DE LA RÉPUBLIQUE D’HAÏTI. Plan d’Action pour le Relèvement et le Développement d’Haïti

[9] EM-DAT, the International Disaster Database. Retrieved September 2021

[10] USAID. 2017. Haiti Climate Risk Profile.

[11] Bhawan Singh & Marc J. Cohen 2014. Climate Change Resilience The case of Haiti. OXFAM Research Reports.

[12] Ministère de l’Environnement. 2019. Sixième Rapport National Sur La Biodiversité D’Haïti

[13] Germanwatch. 2021. Global Climate Risk Index 2021.

[14] Lozano-Gracia & Garcia Lozano 2017. Haitian Cities: Actions for Today with an Eye on Tomorrow. The World Bank

[15] UN-OCHA Services. Haiti: Earthquake - Aug 2021

[16] A week after Haiti’s deadly earthquake, hope is hard to find

[17] El éxodo silencioso de los haitianos en América Latina.

[18] Centre d’analyse et de recherche en droits de l’homme. Retrieved October 2021

[19] NGOs and the Business of Poverty in Haiti

[20] Haiti: A Republic of NGOs?

[21] Buss, T.F. 2008. Haiti in the balance. Why foreign aid has failed and what we can do about it. Brookings Institution Press. Washington, D.C.

[22] Ministère de l’Environnement. 1999. Plan d’action pour L’Environnement.

[23] Ministère de l’Environnement. 2021. Plan d’action pour L’Environnement d’Haïti (draft).

[24] Décret portant sur la Gestion de l'Environnement et de Régulation de la Conduite des Citoyens et Citoyennes pour un Développement Durable. Le Moniteur. Jeudi 26 Janvier 2006.

[25] Ministère de l’Environnement 2006. Plan d’Action National d’Adaptation

[26] USAID 2020 Climate Risks in Food for Peace Geographies: Haiti

[27] USAID 2021. Strategic Framework 2020-2022 (updated)

[28] IFAD. 2013. Haiti Country strategic opportunities programme

[29] Lundahl. 2011. Poverty in Haiti Essays on underdevelopment and post disaster prospects

[30] IDB 2017 Haiti Country Development Challenges

[31] Cadre Intégré de classification de la sécurité alimentaire 2015. Aperçu de la situation d’insécurité alimentaire chronique en Haïti (10/2015).

[32] Cadre Intégré de classification de la sécurité alimentaire 2021. Analyse IPC de l’insécurité alimentaire aiguë septembre 2021– juin 2022