Friday, January 22, 2010

Haiti: Development wake-up call

In the wake of Haiti’s mammoth earthquake we’re seeing the harsh repercussions of neglecting the development of locally controlled infrastructure in and around Port-au-Prince. Social media platforms in the west have done a tremendous job of rallying a compelling and urgent response, but without the basic IT and power grid operations on the ground, Twitter and Facebook haven’t managed to make relief efforts any easier to carry out, nor have they told the complete story of Haiti’s abject poverty. Slavery, war, deforestation, and political instability (US intervention) have long been laying the groundwork for a disaster of this scale.

NY Times op-ed columnist David Brooks reminds us that the 1989 7.0 earthquake in Northern California killed 63 people, compared to approx 45,000 in and around Port-au-Prince. It’s also been reported that Haiti has more NGO’s per capita that anywhere on the planet (more than Northern Uganda?). The influx of donations right now is imperative to saving lives, but if the US’s aid and development strategy isn’t one that builds local capacity, and continues long after the Retweets and text messages die down, it may leave Haiti with less control over its future than ever.

If you’re in Chicago on Monday, January 25 check out the Café Society discussion at Intelligentsia Coffee: Haiti’s hard times: Are we helping or hurting even more?

Whether you can make it out not, consider these questions:

What has been your reaction to the crisis in Haiti? Do you think the way aid is being dispensed will truly help Haitians? What role should the U.S. play in Haiti now? What are your ideas for helping Haiti become a truly democratic and stable country? What sources of information are you relying on to understand Haiti? Is there hope for Haiti? Why or why not? What does the rest of the world owe Haiti now?

And these resources:

From Tweets to YouTube, world gets a clearer view of Haiti's suffering

The Disaster of the Century: How to Help Haiti

Local efforts to help Haiti

Our role in Haiti's plight

U.S. Marines Land in Villages on the Edge

Rich Nations Call for Haiti Debt Relief

Haiti: The Pearl of the Antilles

U.S. Corporations, Private Mercenaries and the IMF Rush in to Profit from Haiti's Crisis

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