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Who is best qualified to help Haiti? Why not the Haitian diaspora?

Toronto Globe and Mail columist Margaret Wente:

Who can offer the most help to the desperate children of Haiti? Is it Bill Clinton, Jeffrey Sachs, the World Bank or the UN? Is it the many experts who are calling for a Marshall Plan to “fix” Haiti once and for all, or the donor nations that have pledged billions for the task?

Personally, I would choose people like Eric and Nicole Pauyo. The Haitian-Canadian couple, who live in a prosperous suburb of Montreal, have taken in eight nieces and nephews left orphaned by the Jan. 12 earthquake. “I didn’t think twice,” said Nicole, who’s 62. The Pauyos have already raised three kids of their own. One of them is at Harvard.

For Haitians, the best way to improve their lives is to leave Haiti. More than a million Haitians now live abroad, including 100,000 in Canada. Life in Haiti, meantime, has become worse. Children go hungry, and barely a third finish primary school. About a 10th are restaveks (from the French reste avec , or stay with) – virtual child slaves who are sent to work as unpaid servants in the city by their impoverished parents….

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  1. Hatians who leave may be better off. Then again, if they’re able to leave, they may already be better off than average Hatians.

    Then what about those left behind? I assume those Hatians who would leave are better educated and financially capable compared with their peers. As more of them leave, wouldn’t the country continue to be less well off (as the quote itself says)?

    Posted March 7, 2010 at 11:11 pm | Permalink
  2. avam wrote:

    I agree with ‘Just Muddling through’ – although with regard to orphaned children, clearly the people best placed to adopt would be other Haitians should they be able to.

    I wonder if the Haitian diaspora (which seems to be apx 1 million) tend to send back remittances to Haiti? This is a norm amongst many of the Indian diaspora, to the point that some states (like Kerala) depend on it.

    Posted March 8, 2010 at 4:26 am | Permalink
  3. caveat bettor wrote:

    Agreed, without a member who is Haitian and an infectious diseases physician in my church, I can’t imagine our aid allocations to Haiti would have been nearly as effective. It helps to have 0, or at most 1, degrees of separation between us and the aid personnel on the ground.

    Posted March 8, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Permalink
  4. Lee wrote:

    Remittances in 2005 were $919 million (World Bank), so the diaspora is clearly already helping. While having the diaspora take a more hands-on approach might sound appealing, the reality is that there is no “one” diaspora; rather, an entire range of Haitians who have left Haiti–some poor, some rich, some when they were children, some when they were retired. Lumping them together just keeps an article’s word count down. Are there Haitians living abroad who would probably make good leaders? Sure. Should they “take the lead”? Less sure. I’ve found quite a bit of resentment towards the diaspora (unless s/he is getting remittances from one, of course), and currently they can’t run for political office here, presumably b/c they’re not “real” Haitians.

    Personally I’d prefer home-grown leaders. The people I admire most here are those who COULD have left, who have the means and education to leave, but chose instead to stay and help the community’s they were raised in. Those are heroes Haiti can rebuilt on the backs of.

    Posted March 8, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Permalink
  5. avam wrote:


    I agree with most of your post, a tiny quibble though:

    “the reality is that there is no “one” diaspora; rather, an entire range of Haitians who have left Haiti–some poor, some rich, some when they were children, some when they were retired. Lumping them together just keeps an article’s word count down.”

    But does anyone ever assume there is “one” diaspora? The very term simply refers to people sharing a common nationality or ethnicity based in a country different to the one in question. In the case of, e.g. diasporas from Less developed or developing nations, those from Haiti are likely to be financially better off than those still in Haiti, but surely for most people that’s where any assumptions about similarities end.

    (btw, Aid watch – what’s with all the ‘trackback’ spam? Can’t you block or erase junk trackbacks?)

    Posted March 8, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Permalink
  6. Surely, that Haitians do so much better outside Haiti is a clear “natural experiment” in the burden of dysfunctional institutions. Unless staying means building a better institutional framework, its value must be extremely limited.

    Posted March 8, 2010 at 8:38 pm | Permalink
  7. avam wrote:

    re Haiti..this is excellent. Post on ‘Good Intentions are Not Enough by ‘Tales from the Hood’.

    Posted March 10, 2010 at 6:20 am | Permalink
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