When President Obama committed the United States to helping Haiti build back better, he committed the whole of our government, not just any one agency, to this important task. One of the areas where this approach pays dividends is in the area of governance and rule of law, which impacts every single aspect of Haiti's development. After all, a legitimate government that provides security and equality under the law is the foundation of any democratic society.
As Political Counselor, I coordinate activities in this area. We're fortunate to have so many parts of the embassy community involved. We bring together officers from the State Department, who monitor human rights, work with civil society and the business community, and support the Haitian National Police; the U.S. Agency for International Development, who support grassroots non-governmental organizations; and officers from the Department of Defense, Coast Guard, and Drug Enforcement Administration, who work with Haitian police and the UN's Stabilization Mission in Haiti to ensure a safe and secure environment.
The key to security in Haiti is a professional police force. The U.S. government has provided support to the Haitian National Police for a number of years and we are currently committed to helping the Haitian government meet its goal of having a trained police force of 14,000 by 2012. One innovative program is the assigning of NYPD officers to serve as technical advisors to Haiti's police. With strong ties to the vibrant Haitian community in New York, these Haitian-American police officers are a professional and cultural bridge to international policing standards. MINUSTAH, the UN's mission here, is not a permanent presence, and the work we are doing now to help Haitian police increase their effectiveness will be crucial to ensure that they can eventually take over from the UN.
But assuming the police do their job, what happens after someone is apprehended? In Haiti, the prisons are in bad repair, especially after the devastating 2010 earthquake, and the judicial system is ineffective. Around 80 percent of those in Haitian prison have not seen a judge, and are simply waiting (sometimes for years) for their cases to be heard. Justice sector reform is crucial not only for the overall security situation, but also as the foundation to increased investment and economic growth. Investors will not risk opening businesses if there is little hope that their investments will be protected by Haitian laws and judges. I've often heard from Haitians that the single most effective way to turn around their country would be to improve the justice system. Rising confidence there would quickly mean rising confidence in Haiti's future.
The current political situation following the November 28 first round presidential and legislative elections, during which Haitian, international, and U.S. observers saw irregularities, clearly demonstrates the extent of the challenges here. It also shows just how important security, accountable government institutions, and vigorous civil society organizations are to a healthy democratic system. Our embassy's governance and rule of law team is working to marshal U.S. resources so that the March 20 second round is an improvement over the first round, and that those who win the presidency and legislative seats enjoy the credibility, authority, and support that only democratic elections can bring. Once this happens and a new government begins functioning, the real work of reforming Haitian governance and rule of law begins. We're excited to help during this crucial moment in Haiti's history.
Peter Kujawinski serves as Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.