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Fixing Haiti

MINUSTAH and Beyond

image of Fixing Haiti
References to the land of the black Jacobins are almost always followed by the phrase the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere”. To that distinction, on 12 January 2010, Haiti added another, when it was hit by a devastating natural disaster, a 7.0 Richter scale earthquake. Since 2004, the United Nations has been in Haiti through MINUSTAH in an ambitious attempt to help Haiti raise itself by its bootstraps. This effort has now acquired additional urgency. Is Haiti a failed state? Does it deserve a Marshall-planlike programme? What will it take to address the Haitian predicament? In this book, some of the world’s leading experts on Haiti examine the challenges faced by the first black republic, the tasks undertaken by the United Nations, and the new role of hemispheric players like Argentina, Brazil and Chile, as well as that of Canada, France and the United States.

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Conclusion: Fixing Haiti–MINUSTAH and beyond

Crises are watershed moments that mark a profound break from the past. It is not yet clear whether the earthquake of January 2010 will constitute such a tipping point, although it is easy to conceive of at least two opposing scenarios that could emerge from the disaster. The first is that Haiti never recovers, that the earthquake has the effect of exacerbating insecurity and instability to the point that Haiti, to borrow a term from Jared Diamond, “collapses” under the weight of its own fragility (Diamond, 2005). In such a circumstance, it is not impossible to imagine widespread political violence and mass human rights violations that far exceed those of previous periods of turmoil such as the popular revolution of 1986 that brought an end to Duvalierism, the difficult transition from authoritarianism to democracy from 1987 to 1990 or the respective anti-Aristide coups of 1991 to 1994, and 2004. Nor is it impossible to imagine a further and drastic decline in food security, as well as social, health and economic development, which were already among the lowest in the world. Under such a scenario, the common perception of Haiti as the “basket case of the new world” would not only be reinforced but the Caribbean country would come to constitute an even greater threat to regional peace and security than it has in the past.

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