Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Getting at the Root of Haiti’s Troubles

This piece counters many of the claims in an editorial the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette posted last week. That piece, called “Troubled Haiti: Overdue elections add to the list of its problems,” fed into the ideas that Haiti is plagued with problems and reliant on foreign aid, without explaining the root of the problems–mainly foreign intervention. This piece ends with one of the key lessons of the 2010 earthquake aid failures: “Assistance should be in partnership with governments to ensure capacity building that will allow the recipient country to make real gains.”

Haiti’s history

Dan Beeton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
June 17, 2014

It pained me to see the June 10 editorial “Troubled Haiti,” in which the people of Haiti are depicted as incapable of governing themselves and as dependent on outside aid. Foreign intervention is largely to blame for the state Haiti is in, starting with the brutal injustice of slavery to the crippling ransom that France demanded from Haiti as the price of its independence. Haiti only paid this off in 1947. A series of dictatorships, supported by the United States and France, continued to hold back progress. Haiti’s democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was overthrown twice with U.S. assistance.

Contrary to the statement that the U.N.’s culpability for the cholera epidemic that has killed over 8,500 “is still under dispute,” at least 10 scientific studies — including the U.N.’s own — have shown that U.N. troops brought the disease to Haiti. Journalists documented the disposal of raw sewage at a U.N. camp directly into the river where the outbreak occurred. There has been a loud outcry calling for the United Nations to take responsibility for the epidemic, but its $2.2 billion plan to eradicate the disease remains woefully underfunded.

The claim that Mr. Aristide seeks to reclaim the presidency is also without basis. Even detractors have had to admit that Mr. Aristide does not appear to be interested in politics since he returned to Haiti three years ago.

The editorial concludes that donors are “probably correct” in wanting to bypass the Haitian government in providing assistance for fear of corruption. Much of the world has, since the 2010 earthquake, come around to supporting the philosophy promoted by Paul Farmer that assistance should be in partnership with governments to ensure capacity building that will allow the recipient country to make real gains. It’s a shame the Post-Gazette hasn’t caught up with this idea.

Observatory Hill
Dan Beeton is international communications director for the Center for Economic and Policy Research and a frequent contributor to its “Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch” blog. He has worked on Haiti policy for 15 years.


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