Since 2006, Canada has contributed $1-billion in aid to Haiti. Assessing the effectiveness of this aid is crucial, and it is no surprise that Julian Fantino, who became Minister of International Co-operation six months ago, would wish to do so.
But publicly announcing Canada’s decision not to send the country any more “blank cheques” is a strange way to assess accountability and transparency. “Are we going to take care of their problems forever?” he asked. “They also have to take charge of themselves.” His comments prompted Don Cherry to send out this tweet: “Are we nuts?”
This framing of the many challenges facing Haiti is clumsy at best. Even before the 2010 earthquake, the Caribbean nation of 10 million was struggling with a lack of housing, infrastructure and good governance. The 7.0-magnitude quake, the region’s worst in 200 years, killed 300,000 people, left 1.5 million homeless and destroyed 42 public buildings. Since then, the country has been hit with a cholera outbreak, blamed on poor sanitation by United Nations troops, as well as Hurricane Sandy. The recovery is expected to take more than 10 years.
Mr. Fantino, a former Toronto police chief, clearly had unrealistic expectations about the state of reconstruction when he visited the poorest country in the Americas in November. He even complained about the poor garbage service. “It is a very difficult country to work in. There is government corruption, and physical and institutional limitations,” observes Carlo Dade, a fellow at the University of Ottawa. “But not giving aid is not an option.”
The Haitian government has appealed to Canada to work directly with the government, instead of channelling aid through the United Nations and international non-governmental organizations.
While Haiti is not rich in natural resources and has little tourism to speak of, it does have a relatively low crime rate and a homogeneous society. Its potential lies in its people, and they are for the most part industrious and creative. Education is the key to progress, and Canada funds everything from school lunches to training for midwives.
Mr. Fantino is right to expect better leadership. However, the path to long-term success lies in better aid delivery, as well as a more robust private sector – not on threats to stop all funding.
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