"A sweeping exercise in nation-building on a scale and scope not seen in generations," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the international donors conference on March 31 in New York, where foreign nations and other international institutions pledged $5.3 billion toward Haiti over the next 18 months, of which $1.15 billion comes from the U.S. government. Mr. Ban continued, "Today, we have mobilized to give Haiti and its people what they need most: hope for a new future."[i]
In an informal survey of citizens' views of the international communities' plans for their nation, taken over the past two months in urban and rural Haiti, not one expressed ‘hope' or a similar perspective for the plans of the foreign powers. Their experience of ‘nation-building' under foreign powers has not been positive, either in process or in result.
Some of the advice for how Haiti ought to rebuild after the earthquake sounds hauntingly familiar. There are echoes of the same bad development advice Haiti has received for decades, even before the nation faced its current devastating situation. To avoid repeating past failures, we would be wise to review how previous aid models led down the wrong path.
Twelve years ago, Grassroots International released a study entitled "Feeding Dependency, Starving Democracy: USAID Policies in Haiti." Offering an in-depth examination of USAID development policies in Haiti, the study concluded that official aid actually damaged the very aspects of Haitian society it was allegedly trying to fix. The aid was undermining democracy and creating too much dependency.