6. Open government and strategic management of public communication in Haiti

Governments around the world have taken ownership of open government principles and initiatives for several years. The latter is seen as a catalyst for achieving broader policy goals such as more effective public governance, stronger democracy, more inclusive growth and the restoration of citizens' trust in public administrations. Open government is also mobilised to address urgent large-scale challenges, such as environmental, migration and economic issues, humanitarian or health crises (notably the COVID-19 pandemic), or severe socio-economic inequalities, in a context in which citizens demand a more transparent and accountable public sector offering better services. Open government rethinks the role of the state in a changing modern society and redefines public policy making with a focus on citizens. By giving citizens the opportunity to express themselves, to be heard and to be taken into account in the formulation of public policies, these efforts increase the inclusiveness, acceptability and quality of decisions that are closer to the needs of citizens.

Strategic management of government public communications is another key factor in the success of an open government policy. The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of its role, particularly in Haiti with the initiatives put in place by the government to keep the population very regularly informed of developments. It has also increased the urgency of reforms in this direction. Moreover, the strengthening of citizen participation and dialogue with them favours the implementation of the administrations' missions in response to the population's expectations.

In order to face new challenges to public intervention, such as the erosion of citizens' trust in their leaders and dissatisfaction with democratic institutions, a new culture of public governance has gradually emerged, known as "open government". It urges governments to put citizens and other stakeholders at the centre of public policy. The OECD defines open government as "a culture of governance that promotes the principles of transparency, integrity, accountability and stakeholder participation for the benefit of democracy and inclusive growth" (OECD, 2017[1]) (see Box 6.1).

By placing citizens and society as a whole at the heart of government activities, open government enables progress towards a new paradigm of governance, which has profound implications for the way in which political systems, governments and public administration are run. Citizens are seen as real players, rather than mere users of public services, who, by participating fully in the democratic life of their country and community, can contribute to the search for public policy solutions and ensure that the decision-making process is responsive to needs. Governments engaged in ambitious open government reforms identify several benefits, including the following:

  • Tailor-made and more responsive policies: the possibility for stakeholders to contribute their expertise and views at all stages of the policy cycle makes public policies more likely to achieve desired goals.

  • Better designed and delivered public services: applying the principles of transparency and accountability to all public services enables users to identify shortcomings and make improvements, thereby improving the efficiency and relevance of the services provided.

  • Greater legitimacy of government: If government decision-making is transparent, accountable, honest and participatory, stakeholders tend to be more supportive of proposals and government action is legitimised.

  • Building trust: each of the principles of open government is designed to build trust in public actors. Trust is a crucial element for the success of many policies, programmes and regulations that depend on the cooperation and support of citizens.

  • A step towards inclusive growth: the implementation of open government principles is also essential for an equitable distribution of the fruits of growth in society. These principles, applied to all citizens, including the most disadvantaged, make it possible to reduce the inequalities in access to opportunities and the asymmetry of information that increase inequality and reinforce exclusion (OECD, 2017[2]).

All actors in society, whether civil society organisations (CSOs), the private sector, journalists, the media or citizens themselves, have their own views on the public policy issues that affect them. Their active participation in decision-making strengthens their commitment to the policies and reforms suggested and thus contributes to a more targeted use of limited public resources.

In interviews with government and civil society representatives in Haiti, a lack of understanding of the principles of open government was highlighted, as well as the persistence of a culture of secrecy that permeates the public administration. It is accordingly necessary for the government raise awareness to promote these principles and the positive effects they can have on the well-being of Haitians.

In addition, having a single, clear and accepted definition of what open government is generally, essential for initiating reforms in this area. The public is thus informed of the main dimensions, scope and limits of the concept, which facilitates a common understanding and use of the concept, bringing all stakeholders and public officials together around the same goals. This convergence makes possible a robust analysis of the impact of open government strategies and initiatives across institutions and levels of government. It facilitates international comparisons of open government strategies and initiatives (OECD, 2017[2]). It can also help to strengthen the ownership and participation of state and non-state actors involved in reforms and open government initiatives. For this purpose, a common definition needs to be established, recognised, communicated and accepted by all, including the public sector, citizens, CSO, the private sector, the media, etc. Haiti could consider co-constructing a single definition with all stakeholders, taking into account the political, cultural and socio-economic context of the country. It is important to include a wide range of stakeholders representative of society, including the most affected, vulnerable, underrepresented or marginalised social groups, such as youth, women, rural populations and illiterate citizens.

Building on the collective experiences of its members and partners, the OECD Council approved the Recommendation on Open Government in 2017 to support governments in this effort (OECD, 2017[1]). Through ten provisions, the recommendation defines the characteristics of an enabling environment for efficient, effective and integrated governance of open government (Box 6.2).

A stable socio-political context creates an enabling environment for the implementation of open government reforms. Protected civic space - defined as the set of legal, political, institutional and practical conditions necessary for non-state actors to access information, express themselves, associate, organise and participate in public life - is a necessary precondition for good governance and open government (OECD[4]).

In Haiti, political and social instability, combined with extreme poverty, massive unemployment, vulnerability to natural disasters, pervasive corruption and high levels of insecurity, prevent the government from implementing quality public policies and providing basic public services (HRW, n.d.[5]) (Banque mondiale, n.d.[6]). This complex framework of instability makes it very difficult to establish a culture of transparency, accountability, integrity and participation in the country. Breaking the political deadlock and holding elections to re-establish a legislative power to create effective checks and balances are indispensable preconditions (for more details, see Chapter 1).

In this difficult framework, citizens' trust in the national government in Haiti is low, at 37% according to the 2018 Gallup Trust in Government report (Figure 6.1). It has fallen from 2017 (44%), but has risen from 2016 (15%) (Gallup, 2019[7]). According to the survey, trust in government is strongly correlated with citizens' approval of the direction of their country and perceptions of corruption in government. For example, in May 2019, the Higher Court of Accounts and Administrative Disputes (Cour supérieure des comptes et du contentieux administrative – CSCCA) announced the president's alleged involvement in a massive corruption scandal, sparking widespread protests (Freedom House, 2020[8]).

Trust is the foundation on which the legitimacy of public institutions rests; it is essential for maintaining social cohesion. It is important to the success of a wide range of public policies that depend on public reaction and attitudes. In particular, trust leads to greater compliance with government decisions, regulations and the tax system (OECD[9]).

Despite occasional democratic advances and the inclusion in the Constitution of the protection of certain fundamental rights and freedoms, such as freedom of the press, expression and assembly, the Haitian state has historically restricted civic space. In February 2021, the organisation CIVICUS, which measures the state of civic space around the world, classified the country in the "constrained" (CIVICUS[10]) category, meaning that "civic space is strongly contested by those in power, who impose various legal and practical obstacles limiting the full enjoyment of fundamental rights" (CIVICUS[11]). In addition, Freedom House, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that measures the political and civil freedom of countries, classifies Haiti as "partially free" (Freedom House, 2021[12]) and says that the work of journalists is hampered by threats and violence, government interference, lack of financial resources and difficult access to information (Freedom House, 2020[8]). The global report on freedom of expression prepared by Article 19 judges freedom of expression in Haiti to be "limited" due to the lack of government transparency and the absence of protection for journalists, communicators and human rights defenders (Article 19, 2020[13]). Moreover, while the Constitution protects freedom of assembly, this right is often breached in practice by police forces, who regularly use excessive force to disperse demonstrators, but are rarely investigated or prosecuted. Human rights defenders and NGO activists working on sensitive issues are exposed to threats and violence, creating a climate of fear (Freedom House, 2020[8]).

Protecting civic space and restoring stakeholder confidence are preconditions for closer and more constructive collaboration with government and participation in public life. The government must ensure that the legal and judicial framework of civil rights and freedoms is guaranteed and respected in order to promote and protect civic space. This implies the adoption of measures to ensure respect for freedom of expression, assembly, association, privacy and protection against discrimination. Haiti, like most countries, has an Office for the Protection of the Citizen (Office de la protection du citoyen et de la citoyenne - OPC) which acts as an independent ombudsman for the promotion and protection of human rights. The OPC, established in 1987, is responsible for ensuring that the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens guaranteed by the Constitution are respected. It is thus empowered to investigate and make recommendations in cases of abuse by the public administration (OPC, n.d.[14]). However, according to interviews conducted during the OECD fact-finding mission, the Office has neither the means nor the capacity to respond to the needs that exist in Haiti or to protect and promote adequate civic space in the country.

Haiti could empower the OPC to conduct investigations and encourage greater collaboration between the OPC, national authorities and other stakeholders to raise awareness among officials and better identify the needs of citizens. Box 6.3 provides examples of ombudsmen working with stakeholders.

A governance framework conducive to open government reforms is necessary for their implementation. This requires strong public policies, legal and institutional frameworks and high-level leadership. The policy framework for open government reforms sets out a roadmap of principles and terms, while the transversal nature of open government reforms requires political commitment and strong leadership to ensure greater policy coherence. Political commitment reflects the decision of leaders to use their power, influence and personal involvement to ensure that reforms, programmes and initiatives receive the attention, resources and political support necessary to overcome resistance to change, internal and external opposition and blockages (OECD, 2017[2]).

However, Haiti's executive and legislative leaders seem to lack legitimacy in the eyes of its citizens, due to the many problems associated with their elections. On the one hand, political transitions remain difficult due to elections that are regularly disrupted by violence, marred by accusations of fraud and postponed (Freedom House, 2020[8]). Civil society groups have complained of fraud in the vote count, inconsistent voter lists and attempts to disenfranchise voters. The Provisional Electoral Council (Conseil électoral provisoire - CEP), responsible for managing the electoral process, is suspected of lacking impartiality due to the influence of the executive branch (Freedom House, 2020[8]). On the other hand, the country is experiencing a sharp decline in voter turnout. Turnout in the last parliamentary elections in 2015 was historically low at 18%, compared to 60% in 2000, 28% in 2006 and 23% in 2011. Similarly, the turnout in the 2016 presidential election was 18%, compared to 78% in 2000, 59% in 2006 and 22% in 2011 (IDEA, n.d.[16]). All this undermines open government reforms and does not enable for effective and efficient stakeholder participation in public life.

For open government to deliver the intended benefits, senior politicians must strive to demonstrate their commitment to a change in the culture of governance and to concrete actions inside and outside government, including all stakeholders. In several countries, this commitment is often promoted in high-level policy documents or in an open government strategy1. In Haiti, the principles of transparency, accountability and stakeholder participation, are mentioned in the State Modernisation Programme 2018-2023 (Programme de modernisation de l’État - PME-2023). The PME-2023 is a strategic document that describes the reform of public governance in the country, with the main goal of creating a modern state that meets the needs of users of public services. It recognises the importance of developing a culture of transparency, accountability and participation in the development and implementation of public policies and services (Gouvernement d’Haïti, 2018[17]).

The PME-2023 sets out goals to reinforce some of the principles of open government. They are linked to Axis 1 (improving the delivery of public services to users), Axis 6 (subnational governance) and Axis 10 (external control and transparency). This last axis, in particular, has two goals: on the one hand, the establishment of external control in budgetary matters, carried out by several actors and including the citizens; on the other hand, measures to guarantee the effectiveness of external control mechanisms (Gouvernement d’Haïti, 2018[17]). To meet these goals, a data portal on budgetary expenditures was set up by the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) with the support of the World Bank. The government has also indicated its intention to draw up a citizen's budget with the support of the technical and financial partners (TFPs). Nevertheless, efforts are still needed to strengthen transparency and anti-corruption mechanisms. As will be explained in the next section, existing programmes are very limited, lack effectiveness and structure, and do not reach the entire population.

It is good practice to draft these documents through a participatory and inclusive process to ensure that they reflect the demands and needs of civil society. For the creation of PME-2023, representatives of civil society were involved in the development committee during the design, implementation and evaluation phases. This is the first time that the government has involved stakeholders in the development of a strategic plan, in response to the findings of the evaluation of the previous reform programme, which highlighted, among other challenges, a lack of stakeholder ownership. According to the Office of Management and Human Resources (OMRH), this cooperation also aimed to contribute to a more open government by improving "transparency of public intervention, consultation and dialogue with civil society, and citizen participation" (Gouvernement d’Haïti, 2018[17]).However, OECD interviews with different actors show that the civil society involved in this committee was not representative in terms of gender, regions and sectoral areas. In addition, although the committee stated that it was consulted in the design of the PME-2023, its involvement in the implementation and evaluation appears to have been limited.

Whereas these measures are the first steps towards a more open and participatory government, considerable efforts are still needed to achieve the goals of the PME-2023. For Haiti, a long-term commitment to these reforms should necessarily involve concrete initiatives and political commitment to open government principles and initiatives. Stronger engagement of high-level public authorities, such as the President, ministers, legislators and other relevant political figures, in the principles and initiatives could help strengthen the commitment of all stakeholders. This is necessary to encourage a change in the culture of governance and to overcome the culture of secrecy in Haiti2. Tunisia is a good example of high-level political commitment to several of these reforms (see Box 6.4).

The transversal nature of open government reforms requires the involvement, within a strong institutional framework, of a variety of public sector and civil society actors for their implementation. The majority of OECD countries (77%) have an office within government responsible for horizontal co-ordination of open government reforms. These offices could have different functions, including, as appropriate, the development of high-level policy documents, their implementation, monitoring or evaluation of their impact. The institutional location of these offices is critical to their political support and consistency with government policy priorities (OECD, 2017[2]).

In Haiti, although two ministries have a mandate that links them to stakeholders, there is no structure in place to work with them. On the one hand, the OMRH has among its attributions the improvement of the relationship of the administration with the users of public services, notably through e-governance (OMRH, n.d.[19]). One of its offices, the Administrative Information Centre (Centre de Renseignements Administratifs - CRA), is responsible for providing users with information on the services and procedures of government departments and agencies (OMRH-CRA, n.d.[20]). On the other hand, the NGO Coordination Directorate within the Ministry of Planning and External Cooperation (Ministère de la planification et de la coopération externe - MPCE) has the role of maintaining the NGO register. It could be useful for Haiti to ensure that collaboration with stakeholders is effectively implemented. For this purpose, Haiti could consider assigning this role to two existing agencies:

  • A high-level office or individual who ensures that open government initiatives, including NGO and stakeholder participation, have the necessary political support and are in line with the government's strategic priorities, e.g. the Office of the Prime Minister (primature);

  • An office or a person responsible for the operational and technical part of the initiatives in direct contact with the NGOs, and with the power to mobilise and bring together the various actors of civil society, for example the OMRH through its CRA.

It is important that this mandate and its implementation be accompanied by a clear roadmap with the resources - both financial and human - needed to achieve it. Better coordination with NGOs can, on the one hand, help the government to better channel external aid (see Chapter 2). Strengthening relations with NGOs will also enable for greater stakeholder involvement in the development, implementation and monitoring of public policies and services. Haiti could, for example, follow the example of Benin, which has two structures within government to facilitate coordination and collaboration with stakeholders and the open government programme (see Box 6.5).

Stakeholder participation initiatives help governments to ensure that these public policies and services are responsive to the needs and demands of citizens. These initiatives should be implemented throughout the public policy and service delivery cycle: priority setting, development process, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Stakeholder participation is particularly important when trust in public institutions is low and governments seek to restore their relationship with citizens (OECD, 2017[2]).

Recognising that there are different forms of citizen and government participation, the OECD has developed a typology to classify them. This can range from the provision of information, which is the most basic form of participation, to the full involvement of stakeholders in the co-production of a public policy or service. Citizen participation increases with the level of participation (OECD, 2017[2]).

The OECD Recommendation on open government recognises that in order to generate inclusive participation that meets the needs of all citizens and stakeholders, efforts must be made to include the most affected, vulnerable, under-represented or marginalised social groups, such as youth, women, rural populations and illiterate citizens, while taking into account their linguistic and demographic characteristics (OECD, 2017[1]). This ensures a wide range of views and expertise, which will ultimately result in more coherent and effective policy development, service design and delivery. In order to help governments overcome the challenges of inclusive and effective participation of citizens and stakeholders, the OECD has established, in particular, 10 guiding principles for open and inclusive policy-making, one of which specifically refers to inclusion in the following terms: "All citizens should have equal opportunities and multiple channels to access information, be consulted and participate. Every effort should be made, within reason, to involve as many citizens as possible" (OECD, 2009[22]).

According to the OECD Recommendation on open government, information is the "initial level of participation characterised by a one-way relationship in which governments produce information and share it with stakeholders. This concept covers both the provision of information on request and "proactive" measures taken by public authorities to disseminate information" (OECD, 2017[1]). In practical terms, transparent disclosure of information and data enables citizens to have a voice and input in setting priorities, to engage in effective monitoring of government measures and to have informed dialogue and participation in decisions that affect their lives. Law on information access provide a framework for this first level of participation, as they cover both the provision of information on request and proactive measures to disseminate information.

The right of access to public sector information is the foundation of open governance reforms. This right makes governments accountable to citizens for their decisions, while enabling citizens to better understand the role of government and the decisions made on their behalf and to choose their representatives more effectively (OECD, 2017[2]). At present, 120 countries around the world, including all OECD countries, have adopted access to information legislation. Their provisions, as well as their degree of implementation, depend largely on the specific characteristics of each country and its legal, administrative and political system. However, most of them share similar provisions (see Box 6.6).

The right of access to information is recognised by Article 40 of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of Haiti:

The State is required to publicise through the spoken, written and televised press, in Creole and French, laws, decrees, international agreements, treaties, conventions and everything related to national life, with the exception of information relating to national security (République d’Haïti, 1987[23]).

However, Haiti does not currently have a law on access to information. According to the government, a bill is awaiting a vote in Parliament, but the state of the legislature is preventing its passage. Moreover, this proposal is not known to any of the non-governmental actors with whom the OECD has spoken.

Haiti's adoption of a law on access to information in line with international best practice is accordingly crucial to structuring the information system to promote transparency and accountability and to reduce the culture of secrecy in Haiti. The government has recognised the importance of institutionalising the right of access to information. In addition, the development of a law on access to information through a participatory process (involving stakeholders: civil society, private sector, media, etc.) would provide a unique opportunity to demonstrate the Haitian government's commitment to the principles of transparency and participation. In order to reach the most vulnerable, underrepresented or marginalised social groups, it will be important for the government to ensure that the development process is communicated in Creole and French through various means and that the law and its provisions are equally available in both languages. Haiti could follow the example of Chile, which has a common format for requesting access to information applicable to the entire public administration and available in the country's five official languages (Conseil pour la transparence de Chili[24]). The Organisation of American States, of which Haiti is a member, has adopted a model law on information access that could serve as an example (OEA, 2020[25])to follow and Haiti could also learn from Morocco, which used a participatory process to draft its law on access to information (Box 6.7).

In practice, it is still very difficult to obtain government documents and data on measures, procedures and public services at all levels of government. Existing information systems in public administration are inefficient and unstructured. Although each department has a website, the formats and information are not consistent and many of the pages on these sites are empty. In addition, access to the country's laws, decrees and legal acts is difficult. This general lack of information was identified as one of the most important obstacles to building a culture of transparency and accountability by government and civil society representatives interviewed by the OECD. It is hindering access to public processes and services and also contributes to widespread public distrust of government. However, the Department has made some proactive efforts in disclosure and education. Examples include the budget expenditure data portal set up by the MEF and the communication unit set up by the Public Finance Directorate (MEF[26]). Initiatives have been taken in the field of public procurement to ensure the transparency of procedures, with the provision of standard documents or the publication of the award notice. In addition, the National Public Procurement Commission (Commission nationale des marches publics – CNMP) has undertaken awareness-raising activities such as the day of exchange with journalists, or the essay competition open to the public on the theme "Transparency in public procurement as a tool in the fight against corruption" (CNMP[27]). These proactive disclosure efforts are a step in the right direction to improve transparency.

Pending the adoption of a law on access to information, which would provide an overall structure for information systems in Haiti, the government could further develop initiatives within all ministries, such as the MEF, to ensure that relevant information and data are available to citizens. Given the low rate of Internet penetration in Haiti (32% of the population (Banque mondiale[28])), these initiatives should be accompanied by awareness campaigns for citizens as well as training for officials to raise their awareness of the importance of transparency, in the wake of the CNMP. Haiti could follow the example of budgetary transparency in Cameroon to disclose and raise awareness among citizens in this area (Box 6.8).

The OECD Recommendation defines consultation as "an additional level of participation, characterised by a two-way relationship in which stakeholders provide feedback to government and vice versa. Consultation is based on a prior definition of the issue on which advice is sought and involves the provision of relevant information and feedback on the outcome of the process" (OECD, 2017[1]). Consultation initiatives help governments better understand the needs of the population in order to provide services or reduce red tape.

The typical example of these practices is that of comments on bills or proposals for legislation. As noted in the Regulatory Policy Report: OECD Outlook 2018, involving stakeholders in regulation enables authorities to gather information to inform their decisions, which helps to anticipate unintended effects and practical implementation problems (2018[29]). The report found that "almost all OECD countries have integrated stakeholder engagement into their legislative and regulatory processes, creating and extending a duty to consult for new laws or regulations" (OECD, 2018[29]). This consultation can be based on various mechanisms such as advisory groups, formal consultations with social partners, physical public meetings and online portals. Most OECD countries use a combination of these mechanisms.

In Haiti, there is no general legal framework for systematically involving stakeholders in the legislative and regulatory process. However, Parliament and the executive can set up consultation tools on sectoral areas, as already provided for in several regulations. For example, Article 97 of the 2005 Decree on the organisation of the central government administration provides for the possibility of establishing advisory councils within ministries. These could bring together different representatives involved in the sector concerned "to gather opinions on the department's policies, programmes and projects" (MEF, 2005[30]). However, since their creation is not mandatory, there is no incentive for services to use this tool. Discussions with the government indicate that no department has yet established an advisory board. Other sectoral examples include the Environmental Management and Regulation of Citizen Behaviour for Sustainable Development Decree 2006, which provides for public hearings and environmental assessments in articles 58, 69 and 70 (Me. Boniface Alexandre, 2006[31]).In addition, Article 217 of the Constitution states that "the executive must provide for a method of consultation with local authorities on any matter relating to local finances" (République d’Haïti, 1987[23]).However, neither the interviews nor the documents received confirmed the practical use of these tools.

However, some informal consultation initiatives can be noted. For example, the CRA, with support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), has developed a website that maps utilities with a fact sheet providing all relevant information to users. This site also offers surveys and forums by topic to gather user feedback to improve services. However, several services do not have their data sheet and the site has not been updated since 2016. This suggests that user feedback through the website is not effectively and systematically taken into account. In addition to the website, the CRA is also expected to provide information to users by telephone or on site (OMRH-CRA, n.d.[20]). Discussions during the OECD fact-finding mission indicated that the CRA is under-resourced, which prevents it from providing information to users effectively. Another relevant consultation initiative piloted by OMHR is the "Charter of Commitment for Quality Service Delivery to the User" implemented in 2018. This charter encourages six pilot ministries to improve services to users through a series of measures aimed at simplifying internal procedures and moving towards greater transparency and accessibility. Among these measures, the ministries have committed themselves to "consider the user as a customer at the centre of the public service" by putting in place consultation tools such as complaints services or monthly reports on customer satisfaction (OMRH, 2018[32]). Some departments have made progress in their commitments, for example the National Archives and the National Identification Office have put on their websites the addresses and contact numbers for handling complaints (Archives nationales d’Haïti[33]) (Office national d’identification, n.d.[34]).

Overall, examples of consultation and mechanisms for citizen participation remain very limited. Interviews indicate that on the few occasions when stakeholders were given the opportunity to participate, they did not know whether their comments were ultimately taken into account and did not receive feedback on the measures taken. Indeed, the government has recognised the need for a legal framework to organise participation mechanisms.

To address this situation, on the one hand, Haiti could develop the informal initiatives underway. This means that the creation of advisory councils should be encouraged in all departments. The government also needs to ensure that the CRA has sufficient capacity to effectively provide information about public services, whether on the Internet, by telephone, or in person and to gather feedback from users to improve service delivery. Accordingly, the use of the Charter could be generalised to all departments, while setting up a follow-up of its implementation, for example by publishing indicators of the progress made. On the other hand, the government could introduce systematic and formal stakeholder consultation throughout the public policy cycle, for strategic initiatives and plans as well as for draft or proposed legislation. This could be done by considering the adoption of a Decree or law that creates a duty to consult stakeholders for any new law or regulation. In addition, it should make a special effort to reach out to the most affected, vulnerable, underrepresented or marginalised social groups in society, to ensure that a wide range of views and competences are taken into account, for example by ensuring that all opportunities for participation are communicated in Creole and French. Similarly, it would be useful to develop a document or manual for public servants that would provide guidelines for participation. Box 6.9 provides a non-exhaustive list of elements that could be included in such a document.

According to the OECD Recommendation, engagement refers to a system of government in which "stakeholders have the opportunity and the means (information, data, digital tools, etc.) to collaborate in all phases of the public policy cycle and in the design and delivery of public services" (OECD, 2017[1]). In these partnerships, stakeholders work with government to contribute to the public policy agenda, shape the dialogue in the decision-making process and improve public services. However, the responsibility for the decisions made lies with the government. This requires a commitment by governments to respect the contributions of stakeholders and to make them more accountable in public life (OECD, 2019[35]).

In Haiti, stakeholder engagement is low. As mentioned earlier, civil society representatives were involved in the PME-2023 drafting committee and participated in the design, implementation and evaluation phases. The MEF, for its part, has indicated its willingness to develop a citizen budget, but the process has not yet begun.

To go beyond the initiative taken with the PME-2023, it is necessary for Haiti to create structured mechanisms for participation that promote engagement in public life. A first step in this direction is the institutionalisation and recognition of NGOs in order to provide a framework for their activities, to avoid their proliferation and thus to promote better collaboration. For this purpose, the government could identify the priorities and needs of NGOs so that they can contribute more to the development of the country. Haiti could be inspired by the example of Benin, which organised in 2018 a general assembly of Beninese civil society organisations (Box 6.10).

Giving citizens the opportunity to participate in and contribute to the functioning of their government is particularly important at the local level, where most citizens have more direct contact with public services and the administration in general. Indeed, local governments often have greater flexibility in the way they deliver public services and implement national policy goals. It is also at this level that the participation of individuals and civil society groups is likely to have the greatest impact.

In Haiti, although the government carries out certain initiatives with civil society at the local level, it is with the associative sector and the support of TFPs that the commitment can be strongest in certain areas (for example, environmental protection or women's rights). Within the context of the measures provided for in axis 6 of the PME-2023, the MEF and the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government (Ministère de l’Intérieur et des Collectivités Territoriales - MICT) must involve civil society and the private sector in local public interventions with the aim of improving local governance (Gouvernement d’Haïti, 2018[17]). A notable example from the associative sector is citizen participation through the Makòn, which is a space for dialogue where community organisations can intervene in public life. The project carried out in Cap Haitien by CCFD-Terre Solidaire and the French Development Agency (Agence Française de Développement - AFD), aims to strengthen the capacities and expression of civil society to co-construct local public policies (AFD[37]). Another ADEMA project in the Bas-Nord-Ouest of Haiti, supported by AFD and the European Union, aims to support the decentralisation process by promoting the emergence of participatory governance. The project aims to build the capacity of local authorities and support local civil society to contribute to local public policy making (AFD[38]). These examples illustrate the importance of the Haitian voluntary sector in promoting open government principles at the local level. Government could consider working with these networks to support and expand initiatives that encourage local participation. As communication around the initiatives and their content is crucial, the following section will analyse how the government can use communication as a lever for participation and awareness.

The strategic and effective management of public communication is an essential lever for a policy of openness of the administration at all levels of governance. It is both a means of action, transparency and accountability and a contribution to citizens' participation in public life. In this way, it can help build their trust in the government, which is known to be low in Haiti (37% according to the Gallup 2018 Trust in Government report (Gallup, 2019[7])).

Public communication is defined as any communication activity or initiative undertaken by public institutions in the public interest (OECD, 2020[39]). These measures include the dissemination of information and consultation and dialogue with stakeholders. They could also include activities aimed at understanding the role of institutions, their competences and their functioning, at animating democratic life, at reporting on public policies, at informing on public services or at enlightening on collective issues in order to change behaviour (Cap’Com, 2020[40]). Public communication is thus distinguished from political communication, which concerns political debate, elections or political parties and personalities.

The Haitian government has been proactive in this area. This has resulted in the establishment, within ministries and administrations at various levels, of functions, units, cells or other entities dedicated to communication, as well as the development of specific tools, including digital ones with the creation of websites and social network accounts. This commitment was made as early as 2012, in the second Framework Programme for state reform 2012-2017 (Programme cadre de réforme de l’État - PCRE-II)3, which included the development of a whole-of-government communication plan.

Strategic use of communication can usefully support the overall public policy goals of the government and individual institutions (e.g. support for change, increased transparency, improved public services, etc.) and their initiatives, amplify their impact and make them more participatory, while the authorities met expressed their willingness to strengthen the human, financial and technical resources needed for greater effectiveness. Efforts in this direction would deepen the dialogue with citizens and clarify and support coherent and strategic directions at the level of government and specific public bodies, as well as the goals of modernising and opening up the administration.

In addition, increased awareness and integration of the strategic role of public communication is essential to strengthen the transparency, accountability and inclusiveness of the Haitian government. They imply the recognition of its transversal role, not only internally, within administrations and between governments, but also externally, vis-to-vis the public, civil society and the media, as well as the private sector and all stakeholders.

In order to use the full potential of public communication as a lever to achieve these goals, the following elements could be given particular attention in the Haitian context:

  • A clarification of the strategic orientations of public communication 

  • An inventory and development of communication functions and their resources

  • The use of communication as a lever for participation.

Explicit strategic guidelines are needed to ensure coherence and guide the measures and initiatives of public communicators. A strategic approach is defined as the framework that defines the orientation of all communication measures. It includes the definition of the goals to be achieved, the construction of messages, the choice of channels and tools used, the identification of target audiences, budget proposals and the implementation schedule. In other words, this framework (national, local or institutional) defines the general approach and direction of the initiatives to be carried out, as well as the short, medium and long-term goals (OECD, 2017[2]).

More concretely, it is usually a written document, with a defined and time-limited validity, explicitly mentioning the fields covered and providing a unique and coherent description of a solution to a problem. The goal of a strategy is to answer the questions "What? "Why?" and "By whom?". It is linked to the communication plan, a document that provides details to answer the questions "When?" and "How?" This includes assigning specific goals to the various activities.

In Haiti, the interviews conducted during the fact-finding mission show that most ministries have units, entities, or at least functions, dedicated to communication. They are responsible for autonomous implementation of information dissemination measures for their own institution, although the Council of Ministers is seen as a mechanism that can help coordinate messages from different administrations. Whereas some ministries, such as the Ministry of Communication, can count on a large number of professional communicators and journalists, these resources sometimes seem to be much more limited in other structures. The range of tasks performed by these dedicated functions varies: it always includes media relations management, but can sometimes also include resources for digital communication, campaigns or campaign planning.

At the level of the Haitian central government, the development of communication strategies is the skill considered the most complex by all the administrations that responded to the OECD questionnaire on this subject. In addition, the Office of Management and Resources Management (OMRH) and the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) both highlight the challenges of implementing a communication plan.

Of the ministries that responded to the OECD questionnaire, the Office of the Prime Minister mentions a plan, the OMRH and MEF add a strategy and MEF also indicates that it has a schedule of communication activities in place. The responses to the questionnaire indicate similar goals within the Office of the Prime Minister and MEF, which correspond to the priorities mentioned in a meeting with the Ministry of Communication (Figure 6.2).

However, the guidelines defined do not yet constitute a public communication strategy in terms of the above definitional elements. For the time being, the existing guidelines do not provide for the formulation of explicit goals, including the public policies to which communication activities contribute and their direction, which would then be set out consistently in the plans. Moreover, these orientations are supported by still limited human and financial resources (see next section).

Efforts are nevertheless being made to develop a more strategic approach to public communication in Haiti. At the level of the government as a whole, the administrations interviewed emphasise the responsibilities assigned and, consequently, a distinction between the efforts of the Ministry of Culture and Communication in coordinating and implementing whole-of-government communication on the one hand and the Office of the Prime Minister in setting public policy priorities on the other. Nevertheless, discussions with the media, civil society and other actors in Haiti indicate that when these responsibilities are understood from outside the government, they are not easily identified in terms of articulation, dissemination and specific goals.

Exchanges with the Ministry of Communication indicate that an action plan is drafted at the beginning of the year and an annual report is prepared at the end of the year at the level of the institution. However, the monitoring and management of Haitian public and political events affects and sometimes slows down its performance. In addition, although the plan includes activities to achieve the government's vision over the coming year and the implementation structures are permanent and functional, political instability and appointments at the highest political and administrative levels can also affect priorities and implementation.

However, it is important to clarify the goals and, in the longer term, a public communication policy or strategy, as well as responsibilities in this area, both within central government and with respect to citizens, civil society and the media. Discussions with actors in the media and civil society ecosystem have highlighted the need to intensify efforts to ensure clarity not only in terms of measures taken and goals pursued, but also in terms of the various responsibilities assigned in the field of communication, within government and sometimes even within administrations. At a minimum, clear and publicised goals will help define expectations and improve understanding among all agents and stakeholders of the Haitian administration's responsibilities, points of contact, messages and measures in disseminating information and engaging with the public.

In this sense, in the longer term, the Haitian government could consider making explicit, clarifying and consolidating its strategic management of public communication in a formal framework or in a public document, through a communication strategy and associated plans. Several OECD countries have opted for explicitly defining goals, audiences, activities, timetables and budgets in the context of communication strategies and plans. This is the case, for example, of the expectations formulated in the UK communication strategy (Box 6.11). By more precisely defining strategy and goals, including by audience, the Haitian government's communication activities can be more precisely tailored to reach the targeted audiences. This could involve mapping and selecting the best channels and formats to achieve this, particularly to reach more isolated, vulnerable or less digitally literate audiences, while taking into account their language and demographic characteristics.

A clear and explicit definition of the communication strategy is another precondition for effective coordination of measures within government. Coordination efforts are emerging. Some responses to the OECD questionnaire stressed that the Councils of Government were seen as an opportunity for coordination but that further synchronisation efforts would be needed to improve the impact of the measures undertaken. Interviews conducted during the fact-finding mission revealed that the activities of the Ministry of Communication are transversal in nature, with regular links to the communication departments of other Haitian institutions. One example of this practice is the establishment of "Press Mondays", a weekly meeting coordinated by the ministry during which the head of an institution addresses the population and journalists, including those from the diaspora and the provinces, to tell them about its major projects. The Office of the Prime Minister and the Presidency have also carried out similar measures, or supported the communication of other institutions.

It is essential that these measures and all communication activities are supported by coordination mechanisms. They will create synergies and avoid duplication of effort, but above all they will ensure consistency in communications, as the understanding of government messages can be affected by the multiplicity of voices and angles chosen.

Beyond the political meetings of the council of government, the establishment of formal or informal coordination mechanisms specific to the activities of communicators can support their strategic action. These can take the form of regular interministerial coordination meetings, or steering committees, networks of communication directors or referents in charge of communication functions in the Haitian administrations, meeting at a defined frequency. It can also be a more informal online forum or group (online platform, WhatsApp group, etc.), but accessible to one or more people for each administration, allowing them to share updates and information with colleagues in other administrations. In OECD countries, these tools are used to co-ordinate and share information and experiences, to create synergies and more synchronised measures between ministries and to avoid duplication of efforts. Many OECD member and partner countries have opted for such tools, such as the WhatsApp group for communication officers in Morocco, or the various networks set up by Canada or Belgium for example (Royaume de Belgique, 2020[41]).

An inclusive and participatory process for setting goals or formulating future strategies would be beneficial. In the longer term, it would enable for a more coordinated and coherent whole-of-government approach by surveying and bringing institutions together (e.g., through a survey, a scoping conference, an interdepartmental meeting or cell, or a steering committee). It could also improve the transparency and inclusiveness of the government's communication strategy towards society at large by involving citizens and stakeholders. They could help to better identify the information, policy areas or public services that interest them most, while receiving feedback on how their preferences and ideas can be taken into account and implemented in government communications activities.

Clarifying this strategic approach - in terms of goals, responsibilities and measures to be taken - is also a key factor in making a clearer distinction between public and political communication. Discussions during the fact-finding mission, as well as the analysis of the content of digital communication tools (see last section), show that the messages disseminated, whether in the press or through digital media and channels, are often focused on the activities of ministers and elected officials. They currently cover little in the way of public services, interaction or dialogue with the public. There is accordingly a risk of confusion between public communication and political communication, which can undermine the impartiality of the messages disseminated and affect citizens' confidence. In the Netherlands, the government's communication principles emphasise this distinction. Public communication should:

" focus on public policy and organisations, not on the image of ministers, secretaries of state or other public servants. The emphasis is on advertising and clarification (Government of the Netherlands, 2017[42]). "

Ensuring the presence and value of communication functions and allocating dedicated resources to them, is essential for the effective and strategic management and implementation of public communication, both within and between administrations and with citizens and stakeholders. The Haitian government has taken the measure of what is at stake in this area and has begun a long process of transforming the way it operates and disseminates information. Although, despite limited financial resources, functions and units have already been put in place, the comments already made about the challenges and the need to strengthen the strategic approach are largely due to structures, competences and training that need to be consolidated.

Haitian administrations continue to face the challenge of providing information in a responsive and proactive manner to journalists and citizens and of strengthening dialogue with them. They are accordingly encouraged to strengthen existing arrangements, increase professionalisation and improve communication functions and related competences to facilitate interaction with different stakeholders.

Nevertheless, the decision to create dedicated functions and entities in the organisation charts of central public authorities attests to the recognition of the role of communication in public intervention. It appears from the mission's discussions that specific cells, teams or entities, or communication functions, have been set up not only within the agencies formulating the responses to the OECD questionnaire, but also in most administrations.

More specifically, certain responsibilities for public communication have been defined and assigned within the three administrations that responded to the OECD questionnaire; these cover their communication planning, campaigns and media relations at this stage. The clarification of all responsibilities (e.g. strategy, evaluation, digital communication, crisis communication, etc.) and positions can be based on the identification of public communication professions and the description of their main goals and activities in a defined framework or in a directory, such as those developed in Canada or France (Box 6.12).

The existence of these specific professions also makes it possible to define and simplify the levels of decision-making and to increase the effectiveness of the procedures for validating and applying public communication. Establishing specific functions, explicitly defining the links between them and their hierarchies, makes it possible to clarify everyone's responsibilities. Once the communicators are in place, discussions during the fact-finding mission showed that clarification of individual responsibilities and reporting relationships, particularly by framing them in the form of mission letters, can lead to better identification of contact points and a more effective approach. This could, for example, take the form of delegating decisions or signatures to communication officers for certain day-to-day measures, while the most sensitive issues could be subject to validation by the highest administrative and political officials within the various ministries.

In order to accompany these developments and to encourage the identification and professionalisation of public communication functions, the replies to the questionnaire and the discussions during the fact-finding mission underline the need for a diagnosis and for additional efforts to promote these professions. First of all, identifying them is a key step in ensuring that the human and financial resources allocated enable for the implementation of the strategic goals and orientations and the effective implementation of communication measures. Secondly, it is essential to ensure that communicators" competences remain up to date with the latest developments throughout their careers, particularly in a constantly changing media environment. Discussions highlighted the awareness of the importance of these efforts, which converge with recent initiatives by OMRH to strengthen communication functions and provide training.

Regular competence building activities are accordingly encouraged to support professional and strategic public communication in line with the goals and tools used. In many OECD countries, public communicators are regularly offered opportunities to improve their competences in areas such as media relations, digital communication, strategic use of social media and content creation and writing (Box 6.13).The OMRH and the Haitian administrations will be able to rely on this training to strengthen existing functions. More technical aspects such as crisis communication, campaigning or media training will be gradually introduced as the range of methods and procedures within the institutions expands.

Public communicators could also rely on the guides, guidelines and toolkits made available by the administration. Whereas such instruments do not yet exist in Haiti, many OECD members and partners have developed manuals or charters, such as the Guide to Public Communication in Morocco, which was developed and disseminated nationally in February 2021 (Box 6.14). The creation of a network of Haitian public communicators could also help them share their measures, challenges and successes and capitalise on practices and experiences that have been or are being implemented.

Responses to the questionnaire and discussions during the fact-finding mission indicate that the means of communication used by Haitian administrations, including digital, are traditionally used to disseminate government information to the population. Their use to increase participation, citizen and civil society engagement is still limited, although efforts are being made in this spirit. Nevertheless, the exchanges with peers highlighted the importance of such initiatives and the strategic nature of the digital communication tools that are rapidly developing for this purpose.

The replies to the questionnaire from the Office of the Prime Minister, the OMRH and MEF emphasise that the mechanisms for disseminating information to citizens, the media and between administrations are similar. Most of the tools used are consistent with the means that seem to be most consulted by Haitians (AyiboPost, 2019[43]; UNESCO, 2021[44]) or employed in the administrations. In their efforts to reach the public, the three jurisdictions note, for example, that they focus on public displays and national radio. In terms of media relations, radio interviews are also favoured by the three jurisdictions. The OMRH prioritises telephone calls and press interviews. In terms of interdepartmental communication, emails, broadcasting, setting up or defining joint communiqués are the most common.

These traditional means could be used more as tools to promote participation in Haiti, in a two-way communication between the government and the citizens. Tools such as meetings, interpersonal interactions or call centres have the potential to support administrations' efforts to better understand citizens and their needs and to provide information in a more strategic, efficient and innovative way. They also have the potential to reach digital divide populations who are illiterate or vulnerable and less present on media such as digital tools, in the language that is appropriate to them and in the formats that they prefer. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments such as those of Finland and Slovenia relied on these means of public exchange to disseminate information, including to the most isolated populations. In Slovenia, given the large rural population and the existence of a digital divide, the call centre has established a dialogue with categories of the population that are usually difficult to reach, not only to publicise emergency measures and policies, but also to gather the concerns, expectations and needs of the population.

In addition, an inclusive use of communication to promote Haitian public policies and services relies on the dissemination of information and dialogue with all communities and audiences that make up Haitian society, including the most vulnerable. It is accordingly important that it takes into account the linguistic specific characteristics of the population. This includes communicating not only in French but also in Creole to promote information and participation by all citizens, given that almost the entire population speaks Haitian Creole and that Creole has been constitutionalised (République d’Haïti, 1987[45]). In Morocco, the Guide to Public Communication recommends, for example, that messages be concise, short and tailored to the target audience using official languages and dialects so that messages are as close as possible to the target audience and enable full participation (Royaume du Maroc, 2021[46]).

In a framework marked by the rise of digital technology, the responses to the questionnaire highlight, with regard to interdepartmental relations, an increased use of digital tools to facilitate the circulation and negotiation of information, with OMRH and MEF mentioning the use of social networks in this area. It is also worth noting that both institutions emphasise the use of their websites for public relations and that for press relations, the channels chosen by the Office of the Prime Minister also include the use of emails and WhatsApp groups.

The State's modernisation plan includes major efforts to digitise the operation of Haitian administrations. This transformation aims to facilitate access for all to public services and information, but it can also help bring the administration closer to the citizens in order to strengthen their involvement.

Strategically used digital communication creates or strengthens a special bond between individuals and public organisations. Digital tools enable a great speed, even instantaneousness of dissemination, interaction and exchange, in both directions and as close as possible to citizens' expectations. In addition, digital tools offer a wide range of channels, expanding the scope of public communication to more demographically diverse audiences, including younger people who make up a significant portion of the population (median age 24). The Internet penetration rate is indeed 37% nationwide, with a notable growth in the number of users, of 16% between 2020 and 2021 (DataReportal, 2021[47]).

To further engage young people, a participatory approach to communication is essential, while paying attention to tone and style, so as to treat them as equals, by linking to influencers, for example bloggers or influencers they can relate to on their preferred social networks (OECD, 2019[48]). This approach was favoured by Italy in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government has relied on influencers through partnerships on Instagram and Facebook to ensure that young people have broad access to reliable information and can find answers to their questions and concerns.

When public communication is used to enhance transparency and engagement, it notably amplifies the reach of formal opportunities for participation (such as elections, political consultations, or certain local or national decisions and other innovative mechanisms for citizen participation). In this way, it helps to inform the public of opportunities to provide input and ideas to the government, or to provide third-party input to the government. By establishing structured dialogues and consultations with external stakeholders, the Haitian government could ensure the institutionalisation of clear and strategic communication, helping organisations and public officials to expand their interactions with individuals, other public officials, as well as businesses and third parties, through structured feedback mechanisms as well as service delivery opportunities, meetings, etc.

The challenges of communicating in a way that engages stakeholders in a meaningful way include reporting on the actors consulted, their contributions and the government's response (OECD, 2020[49]). Stakeholder involvement in the design, development and implementation of policies and regulations has been shown to increase compliance and acceptance of these decisions (OECD, 2020[49]). However, this requires communication on how these procedures will be conducted, what their goals are, what outcomes are envisaged, how the input provided by the public will be and has been taken into account following the consultations, in order to set expectations in a transparent manner throughout the process. This could take the form of brochures or rapid access to transparent guidelines or guidance notes.

The promotion of transparency is a common public communication goal mentioned by the Office of the Prime Minister and MEF in response to the questionnaire. However, some websites have empty pages or sections or are under construction due to lack of resources, means or time to design or update them.4 They can lead to a perceived limitation in the scope of information available as well as expectation; they can even affect trust and the ability to effectively engage citizens on these platforms.

Increased ownership of social networking sites and networks will be achieved by strengthening resources and competences in this area. To make them more dynamic and interactive, administrations can rely on the regular publication of infographics or video sequences. These visual elements make it possible to reach audiences who prefer this type of medium or who cannot access written content, given that 38% of the population is illiterate (DataReportal, 2021[47]). Nevertheless, the digital divide in Haiti underscores the need to continue to use other means to reach the most isolated or vulnerable populations, in the channels and media they consult, as mentioned above and in particular through radio, television, print media or face-to-face interactions.

This ownership can also be fostered by activities that mobilise citizens' opinions through consultations, surveys and other participatory mechanisms, such as the consultation platform developed in Belgium (Box 6.15). The initiative to hold a public forum on the OMRH website is to be commended. Future efforts to ensure its interactive nature could help increase transparency and participation through the website.

Discussions during the peer review mission highlighted the challenges of two-way exchange between administrations and citizens, civil society and the media. In particular, they noted the need to use communication as a lever for renewed engagement between all these actors, based on accessibility of information, dialogue and the use of different communication channels, including social networks, in a more differentiated, targeted and strategic way according to their respective audiences.

In this sense, strengthening the participatory nature of digital communication tools will increase the collection of diverse opinions and user feedback for the development, refinement, implementation, reform and evaluation of public policies. It will also help to revitalise democracy and strengthen citizens' confidence in the administration. Some countries, such as Brazil, have deployed such mechanisms to ensure a dialogue on the implementation of the right of access to information, in particular. For example, the Fala.br platform enables citizens to request access to information, file complaints or claims against administrations, interact with the authorities by expressing their satisfaction or dissatisfaction and making suggestions to improve or simplify public services (République du Brésil, 2021[50]).

The analysis of the use of these tools showed that the administrations that responded to the questionnaire are regularly active on Twitter and Facebook. In practice, their Twitter and Facebook accounts had, as of 17 February 2021, several tens of thousands, or even more than a hundred thousand subscribers (Twitter account of the Office of the Prime Minister), who are thus informed of their news, with varying frequency. However, if accounts are regularly updated, interaction could be enhanced and responses to questions posed by users could be more systematic. Indeed, the study of empirical data from public accounts in OECD countries has shown that the quantity of posts does not determine the impact or popularity of an account on social networks and that institutions that actively seek interaction obtain higher subscription rates (Mickoleit, 2014[51]).

Beyond Twitter and Facebook, activity is still lower on other platforms (e.g., YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.), with fewer subscribers, few interactions, or even disabled comments, as on some YouTube accounts. This lack of opportunity for interaction can lead to a perception among citizens that there is an avoidance or absence of dialogue, that the information published on these governmental means of communication is opaque, or even that they are not truly transparent and participatory.

In addition, the nature and tone of messages on social networks contribute greatly to their strategic and effective use. Differentiated publications according to target audiences (formulated for young people, or users of a specific public service, for example) and analysis of the audiences and uses of the different accounts of each administration could strengthen visibility and engagement on these channels, as the resources and competences of the dedicated functions increase. 

Responses to the OECD questionnaire indicate that certain groups are targeted by communication activities. Nevertheless, it emerges from the exchanges and campaigns observed that the messages formulated through the various communication channels, particularly digital ones, are the same, whatever the specific uses and audiences5. This is due in particular to the weakness of data collection on the uses and audiences of their digital channels and more broadly of their communication tools. This analysis is essential to better understand their audiences, interact with them on their website pages and social network accounts, evaluate their requests and comments and thus better adapt the content, tone and format of the messages they broadcast. To support these efforts, social networks offer, for example, analytical reports that enable the reach of publications to be evaluated, as well as the impact and interactive nature of tools and messages.

In OECD countries, for similar initiatives, the digital presence of public institutions relies in particular on the recruitment or training of dedicated teams, capable of engaging in strategic thinking to inform, mobilise and engage all categories of the population (OECD, 2017[2]). Discussions during the fact-finding mission highlighted the fact that Haitian administrations do not yet have the capacity to use digital communication tools in a professional manner. To support team building or the establishment of a dedicated function, digital competences can be included in job descriptions during recruitment. They could also appear in training plans, or in the diagnostic and functional improvement efforts of the OMRH, for example.

Training modules can be offered to create or consolidate the competences of Haitian public communicators, as is done in the Netherlands, Canada and many OECD countries (Box 6.16). In the longer term, as digital communication competences become more firmly established in jurisdictions, a digital toolkit could also be put in place to enable adequate knowledge and use by all, as well as sustainability.

In the longer term, Haitian administrations could adopt charters or guidelines on the use of their digital tools, or even develop a digital communication strategy, including social networks, to ensure strategic, effective and ethical management. In particular, it emerged from the discussions that Haitian public communicators would like to be able to rely on more harmonised methods, "elements of language", etc. Following the example of instruments developed in some OECD member and partner countries, the guidelines could cover, in particular, the following points:

  • The legal and regulatory framework affecting the use of digital tools (access to information, private data, intellectual property, rights of use of visuals, freedom of expression, etc.).

  • The risks and challenges of using them, as well as the benefits of strategic use of social networks.

  • The terms of the online presence.

  • The goals pursued and the techniques to be used to achieve them, in particular to increase transparency, integrity, accountability and participation.

  • The choice of the different social networks and media according to the goals and targets.

  • The pace or timing of publications.

  • Records, levels and response times to solicitations.

  • The procedures for implementing, validating and moderating messages and responses to comments/interactions from Internet users.

  • Evaluation and impact measurement mechanisms.

These materials can also help communicators to counter misinformation, such as the COVID-19 "infodemia" and to anticipate possible misrepresentation, misrepresentation, violence, or hate, beyond the request for information or participation in public exchanges. This is one of the main challenges highlighted by administrations in response to the OECD questionnaire. Such guidelines can help clarify how to respond while maintaining interaction and reliability of information. They can complement the initiatives taken in 2020 in the context of crisis communication, aimed at informing and answering the population's daily questions.

In the longer term, with the resources and structures deployed in this regard, the strategic management of communication by Haitian administrations could usefully complement other frameworks, approaches and measures put in place to combat online misinformation at the level of society at large. However, public communication can contribute effectively to the fight against misinformation in four ways (Figure 6.3): strategies and coordination mechanisms in this field, the identification of misinformation and disinformation, measures resulting from regulation in this field and initiatives involving stakeholders, in a collective and holistic approach to the phenomenon (OECD, 2020[39])as demonstrated by examples such as the recent rebuttals by the head of the Moroccan government in the context of the health crisis or of a campaign carried out in the United Kingdom in this area (Box 6.17). The contribution of public communication to combating misinformation and disinformation is, however, a necessary but insufficient step; it must be accompanied by measures to ensure that the framework of media and civic ecosystems creates an environment conducive to a concerted, multi-stakeholder approach to these phenomena.

The unstable political, social and economic context in Haiti affects the very possibility of establishing a culture of transparency, accountability, integrity and participation in the public life of the country. Institution building and effective checks and balances are preconditions for open government reform. It additionally has a key role to play in defining and implementing a legal and regulatory framework to protect civic space and restore stakeholder confidence, which are essential conditions for their collaboration and participation in public decision-making. A framework to promote their work is all the more central as they themselves face many challenges in the current situation.

Political support for open government principles at all levels of governance must be accompanied by a clear commitment at the highest level of government to support the successful implementation of the initiatives promoted. This leadership is needed to bring about and embed a change in the culture of governance towards the effective promotion of the principles of transparency, accountability, integrity and participation.

However, it is still difficult to obtain documents and data on measures, procedures and public services at all levels. In addition, the use of consultation initiatives and citizen participation mechanisms is still limited at this stage, offering little opportunity for real collaboration between government and civil society. Similarly, public communication management is not yet sufficiently strategic and equipped to contribute fully to the government's public policy goals and to the more specific reforms aimed at promoting the principles of transparency, integrity, accountability and participation of open government. The gradual and sustained deepening of the initial efforts and an increase in the resources allocated to their implementation, both in the short and long term, will be essential for their full deployment.


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← 1. An open government strategy is a document that sets out the open government agenda and includes key initiatives, as well as short-, medium- and long-term targets and indicators. Open government initiatives are actions taken by a public institution to achieve specific goals, ranging from the development of legislation to the implementation of specific activities such as online consultations, participatory budgeting or the co-production of public services (OECD, 2017[2]).

← 2. According to the fact-finding mission.

← 3. PME 2018-2023, p.14.

← 4. Analysis as of 17 February 2021 of the websites and social media accounts of the departments that responded to the OECD questionnaire.

← 5. Analysis as of 17 February 2021 of the websites and social media accounts of the departments that responded to the OECD questionnaire.

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