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Haiti's woes; who is to blame?

One year on from the earthquake people are looking for someone to blame for not having rebuilt Haiti already. While the world's media seem to hold aid organisations responsible, it ignores the the ugly history of why Haiti's government is such a mess. 

Last modified: 12 Jan 2011 20:44

It's open season on NGOs here in Haiti. One year on from the earthquake, the world's media are looking for someone to hold accountable, and they seem to have the aid organisations firmly in their sights.

All week there's been a great deal of blame flung at the NGOs for not having rebuilt Haiti already.

Even though it took five years to re-settle around 150,000 people in Aceh after the Asian tsunami, to name just one parallel, and despite the fact that most experts agree the Haiti situation is possibly the most challenging humanitarian disaster ever, the most common storyline is that more should have been done this past 12 months

Now clearly there have been failings, and the complaints are well articulated by many, including the Disaster Accountability Project.

The theme has also been adopted by politicans, by aid agencies themselves (all blaming the other agencies, of course) and even the general public has absorbed the message, and people are now re-gurgitating it on talk forums.

But this search for accountability, confined as it is to endless probing of the events of the past 12 months, ignores the other major issue, which is the ugly history of why Haiti's government is such a mess. 

 For Professor Peter Hallward of Britain's Kingston University, the real problem is easily identified:

 [it] is the direct legacy of perhaps the most brutal system of colonial exploitation in world history, compounded by decades of systematic postcolonial oppression

It is understandable in this week of reflection that politics should take second billing; the priority should be the earthquake and the people here. 

But it's also worrying how many seem to be deliberately avoiding addressing the issues raised by people like Professor Hallward. 

USAID has pulled out of a scheduled interview with Al Jazeera, as has the State Department. 

The Organisation of Americans States is holding back release of its investigation into the the recent presidential elections, even though a leaked copy confirms what everybody knew, that the process was so flawed as to be worthless.

And almost nobody has been reporting the complaints of the Haitian members of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, who say their opinions are completey bypassed by international donors and governments.

The members of that commission will likely be even more depressed by this recent comment by Senator John Kerry:

 Haitians across society [...] have to realize that our concern for their welfare does not give them leverage to shun our demands for progress.