Is Haiti a failed state?

Will Haiti be able to recover from its disastrous earthquake? A Harvard expert on failed states speaks with MercatorNet.
Robert I. Rotberg | Jan 18 2010 | comment  

Harvard professor Robert I. Rotberg is the director of the Program on Intrastate Conflict and Conflict Resolution at Harvard University and president of the World Peace Foundation. He is an expert on failed states and on Haiti. He spoke to MercatorNet about the aftermath of the disastrous earthquake in Haiti.

MercatorNet: You literally wrote the book about "failed states". Is Haiti, with its weak government, poverty and corruption a failed state?

Rotberg: Yes, the internal conflict of this century tipped Haiti from endemically weak (on my scale) to failed. It produced before the earthquake almost no political goods for its citizens. Plus it was rife with corruption and conflict. Now the earthquake tragedy has plunged a failed state toward the classification of collapsed.

MercatorNet: Do you ever wonder whether the independent nation-state model will persist through the 21st Century for nations like Haiti?

Rotberg: We often wonder about and, indeed, my colleagues and I routinely suggest Haiti and similar places for “tutelage” – a type of UN trusteeship. Haiti badly needs to be guided by outsiders now because its own security forces and bureaucracy are weak if not non-existent.

MercatorNet: Why is Haiti so poor and so incapable of keeping pace with its Caribbean neighbours? Does it have to do with its history as a nation of emancipated slaves?

Rotberg: When Haiti became independent in 1804 it was isolated by the world because it had overthrown slavery. Throughout the next 100 years or so Haiti had a succession of corrupt and cruel governments. Indeed, Haiti has never known good governance. That is the problem, and one explanation for its intense poverty. My 1971 book, Haiti: The Politics of Squalor, explains why and gives details.

MercatorNet: If we fast-forward a couple of years, what would you recommend implementing to improve Haitian governance?

Rotberg: Tutelage. Assistance from outside powers and the UN -- not for a year or two but for at least ten years.

MercatorNet: The world is focused now on helping Haiti. But before the earthquake President Preval said that Haiti has to replace a paradigm of charity with a paradigm of prosperity. Would you agree?

Rotberg: Yes – but how to jump start a very week economy is the problem. Haiti has no natural resources. Its agriculture is shot. There is no tourism. It lives off narco-trafficking (via Colombia) and remittances. If it could develop an honest and capable government it could attract investment from the large Haitian diaspora in the US and Canada.

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