Friday, June 10, 2011

Foreign Aid in Haiti: Oops

I didn't plan this juxtaposition - but this highlights the difference between aid and commerce. The lack of development is not from the lack of resources.

For private firms, the money runs out and they try something different, charities, not-for-profits often don't have similar constraints - or are at least not bound to the same level of accountability and often do the same things. What's worse is that the impact of botched aid are so much worse than failed firms. One aid practitioner in Haiti argues it's time to give up and after 200 years of attempted assistance, Haiti is a "massive debacle" (TakesfromtheHood via Beata):

I think it’s time for Aid to leave Haiti.

I’ve certainly defended Aid enough on this blog, including different things about the earthquake response in Haiti. In this case, though, I see the earthquake response in Haiti as simply the icing on the cake. Many have said that Haiti was a disaster before the earthquake, and I’d agree. What is said less often, is that Aid also was broken in Haiti before the earthquake. Depending on which numbers you crunch, and how you crunch them, Haiti is only incrementally worse off now than it was on January 9, 2010. I do not say this to in any way compliment the combined, inter-agency relief response, but rather to highlight just how bad things were pre-earthquake, despite decades of foreign assistance. It’s time to call this what it is: a massive debacle.

I honestly think that the very best thing for Haiti would be for us all to leave. I do not (yet) believe that Aid is broken globally. But it is certainly broken in Haiti. I sincerely believe that in the grand scheme of things we are not doing Haiti any real favors by staying on. We need to get out. All of us. All of the foreign governments with their incentives and their politicians who visit and make speeches about “Haiti’s bright future.” All of the UN and INGOs with their massive compounds and their VHF radios and their strategies. All of the hippy architects with their houses made out of recycled trash, the BOGO entrepreneurs with their GIK dumping, the bright-eyed innovators with their “platforms” and their earth-friendly gadgets. For heavens’ sake, all of the church groups with their matching T-shirts and their pet orphanages.
I should note that having worked in development, I recognize how difficult this conclusion is. It's advocating effectively abandoning friends and people who you have struggled to help. It's also recognizing what a failure your time has been in building something sustainable. But it is doing so in hopes of something better.

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