Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Haiti: A Victim of Nature and the UN

By Alan Caruba

January 13th will mark the one year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. What followed has become a classic example of everything that can go wrong when the “international community” steps in to run a sovereign nation.

For as long as I can remember, Haiti has been a political, economic, and social basket case among the Caribbean nations. It was ruled for decades by the Duvalier family. When Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier died in 1971, his son, dubbed “Baby Doc”, Jean-Claude, succeeded his father at the age of 19. He was eventually overthrown by a popular uprising in 1986.

Those that took over the reins of power were not much better and democracy has been marked by a series of disputed elections. The earthquake, for all intents and purposes, destroyed the government such as it was. The level of devastation, however, defies the imagination.

In 2004, after the forced departure of President Aristide, the United Nations imposed the Mission des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation en Haiti, of whom the Brazilian contingent was the largest. The Mission has been a military occupying force since then, understandably alienating Haitians.

A longtime observer of Haiti, Ricardo Seitenfus, a Brazilian and a representative of the Organization of American States (OAS) for two years has been openly critical of the international community.

In a recent interview with Le Temps, a Swiss newspaper, Seitnefus said, “For two hundred years, the presence of foreign troops has alternated with that of dictators. It is force that defines international relations with Haiti—never dialogue.”

“Haiti’s original sin on the world scene was its liberation. Haitians committed the unacceptable in 1804” when they liberated themselves from being a French colony. Seitnefus noted that “The West was a colonialist world, slavist, and racist, that based its wealth on the exploitation of conquered territories. Consequently, the Haitian revolutionary model caused fear in the great powers.” The U.S. did not recognize Haiti’s independence until 1865, after the Civil War.

As is so commonly the case where it gets involved, the United Nations is the problem, not the solution.

After the earthquake, those on the scene generally agree that the initial response from the international community was good, rushing aid of all kind. In March there was a meeting of donor nations in New York in which $11 billion US dollars was pledged or collected.

Seitenfus says it never got to Haiti and, a year later, in a nation of ten million citizens, Haiti still has 1.5 million people on the streets and is suffering 80% unemployment, plus a cholera epidemic.

The UN mission cannot put Haiti back on its feet. What it has is soldiers, not those with the skills necessary to help rebuild the nation and, until the Haitians are given the opportunity to do the building instead of being charity recipients, not much will improve.

The presence, too, of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is not seen as all that useful either. What resources are transferred to Haiti go through the NGOs, leaving its government on the sidelines. The NGOs are not particularly accountable to anyone, least of all the Haitian government.

“No country would accept what the Haitians are forced to accept,” said Seitenfus.

A December 31, 2010 article in the Guardian, a UK newspaper, confirmed Seitenfus’ opinions, reporting that “Not withstanding efforts to signal political commitment to supporting Haiti’s transition—including UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon’s appointment of Bill Clinton as special envoy—few tangible outcomes have yet to be materialize. Haitians themselves are growing disillusioned and impatient…”

“Taken together, less than a tenth of the total amount promised has even arrived in Haiti, much less been spent.”

Little wonder that over the years between three and four million Haitians immigrated to the United States in search of a better life and now must worry about the fate of their families and their nation.

© Alan Caruba, 2011


Lime Lite said...

Alan - Haiti is inhabited by Africans. Is it any surprise that this country is a basket case with a mish-mash of "well" meaning international countries trying to help out? Where has that ever worked in sub-Saharan Africa? Giving them $11bn is not the answer - the reasonable answer is to appoint someone (preferably non-Haitian and also not some PC liberal NGO ego) to manage and co-ordinate the re-building of the country - that would be their only job - no politics involved. Equipment should be bought with the aid money and shipped to assist with the clean-up (less than 5% of the rubble has been cleared as they don't have the equipment or leadership to do this). Teach them to fish (build) instead of giving them the fish all the time! Then, and only then, will the country recover. They will obviously need to sort out their law and order and governmental issues sooner rather than later if the country is to succeed in any way. Haitian's need to start taking responsibility for their own future - all I see is a country that's been baby'ied since their "independence". In the meantime, lawlessness, rape and pillage will be the order of the day. If the UN is the answer then how stupid was the question?

Rich Kozlovich said...


Like you, I remember Papa Doc and Baby Doc, and that for all of my life Haiti has been a mess. The question I have had for some time is this; Haiti is a country that occupies one half of the island Hispaniola. Did the earthquake miss the other side of the island? And why is Haiti so much more of a consistent economic mess than the other side of the island?

Is there really a solution? I don't think that there is.

Alan Caruba said...

@Rich. As I understand it, it has a lot to do with Haitian culture. This is the little nation that gave us "voodoo".

The earthquate did not appear to have much, if any impact on the Dominican Republic with which it shares Hispaniola.

Haitians seem to thrive...once they leave Haiti, so it is not a question of intelligence.

As the commentary suggests, these are a people who have been supressed for generations with a wealthy oligarchy that appears to care little for the rest of the people there.

Seabecker said...

Reminds me of a great article in the WSJ Last year: To Help Haiti, End Foreign Aid.

For Haitians, just about every conceivable aid scheme beyond immediate humanitarian relief will lead to more poverty, more corruption and less institutional capacity.

Pitch said...

Any person of reasonable sanity and intelligence knows there is nothing that can be done to raise Haiti from the depths of the living hell it has always been since African slaves were first brought to the Island in the 16th century.

These slaves also brought with them all the issues associated with Africa and Africans and over the years they have mixed their so-called religion of Voodoo with the Catholic version of Christendom and have ended up with a culture of beliefs that assures they will never be able to achieve any semblance of a civilized society; no matter how much money or aid is thrown at the situation.

Of course the average citizen of Haiti has been exploited by their criminal thug leaders and the so-called high priests who all extort huge sums of money from the general population. As an example of how hopeless the situation really is in Haiti; the citizens have actually lynched 45 High Priests within the last year, blaming them for the wide spread cholera outbreaks. These people do not even have the capabilities to learn and understand the most basic rudimentary elements that are required for sustaining a civilized community.

The best possible scenario for Haiti and their citizens is to let them live the only way they know and have the capabilities to do so. All the billions of wasted aid dollars have been stolen by a very few of the most savage and vile humans and organizations on our planet.

If Haitians are ever to pull themselves up out of the cesspool of living Hell they have created, it must and can only be accomplished by the Haitians themselves.

To think otherwise is sheer folly.

The Old Man said...

Not to step on your precepts, but I would suggest the following:
GIVEN: That Haiti is a devolving third-world country; and
GIVEN; That the UN can fix-any-problem-anywhere-on-this-planet-(or so they say):
IT SHALL BE DECREED: That the UN be physically based in Port-Au-Prince until that "nation" is transformed into (at least) a second-world nation. After that occurs, feel free to send the UN to the latest problem-state, say Syria.

THAT could happen..... The same day Nancy Pelosi endorses John Bolton....

Alan Caruba said...

I fully endorse your recommendation that we move the UN hqs to Haiti!

beano said...

You have to employ people and pay them a wage to create an economy.

In third world high unemployment countries you don't require bulldozers or mechanical diggers. It's better to hire a thousand workers on wages.

On one project I worked on in a third world country, a compressor and air jack hammers were left in the store - never used - put too many people out of work.

The U.N. money must be used to initiate infrastructure projects using as much local labor as possible. Food and commodity markets must be setup so that the wages earned by workers on the above projects can spend their money and get an economy started.

N.G.O's are mostly a waste of time. They import goods and services that should be acquired in the country of problem. If their are no goods or services available there should be an effort to create a system for local importation and marketing.

U.N. consultancy fees must be reined in. A sister in law's husband is employed by the U.N.as a disaster engineer - he is on an obscene salary.

LarryOldtimer said...

There is no answer tp Haiti's many problems. Haiti is in a subduction zone.

Whatever is constructed, whatever the construction standards, will be destroyed by future earthquakes.

As far as giving aid to them, we have no money, even for ourselves.