The help given to Haiti demonstrates the best of mankind. It is impossible not to be impressed by the immense outpouring of support, compassion and generosity from people world wide – of every race, creed, colour and ideology – of individuals and organisations, of Governments (whether the US, Cuba, China) or bodies like the UN and EU, of NGOs and charities, and of corporations (yes corporations have done a lot to help under no obligation to do so and with no profit motive, presumably because individuals decided they should), of IT providers and web campaigners, trade unionists and the media. Yes the media have done a lot of harm but they have also done a great deal more good in highlighting the problem, what is being done badly and what well. Whether the US army or the inefficiency of the UN the genuine motivation is commendable. It is also impressive, but sadly reflects the scale of the tragey, that the earthquake relief story is still in the news (here in UK) two months afterwards when the media would normally have moved on to a more topical story.
The media and individuals have helped highlight a dilemma of too many agencies trying to take a role uncoordinated and undermining the authority of the Haitian Government. The Haitian Government is habitually weak but is needed. The media and individuals have probably more importantly highlighted the work done by people in the disaster areas and others in Haiti themselves to rescue, save, alleviate distress and rebuild. The stories have been tragic and inspiring. The best objective reporting is not undermining the genuine work being done by international assistance but is highlight how often much more quickly and efficiently with few resources people are organising themselves, sometimes with help from local voluntary and campaigning organisations, women's and peasant groups and local independent media, students and the Universities and also goodwill from people in neighbouring Dominical Republic. The Haiti Support Group in the UK has highlighted many of these tales relayed by ordinary people and activists reporting from the front line, also the US and British media, and Charles Arthur in London has circulated to numerous contacts the many tales of impressive local support and relief work.
Bill Clinton and his team, on behalf of President Obama and the US, have a genuine interest and I believe they believe in real support. What the alternative work mentioned here, highlighted by the Haiti Support Group and others, is that a different way is needed of developing the country. It is the same way that has been advocated by the Haiti Support Group and informed commentators for a decade or more. Let the ordinary Haitian people have a chance to develop themselves by investing in sustainable self-sufficient agriculture in Haiti, by investing in community projects, by improving security and justice, by spreading wealth and encouraging partnership rather than by trying more failed World Bank models of capitalist development that fail to take account of what works and what simply makes rich people richer.
Kiron Reid has been a sometimes active supporter of the Haiti Support Group since 1992. The group website is: http://haitisupport.gn.apc.org/
Please donate to a recognised charity to help if you can afford to do so. The above website gives ideas, as does Avaaz.org, the global citizens' campaigning site http://www.avaaz.org/en/