Haiti horrors

HaitiLast week I was visited by one of my former students at the College of Europe in Bruges. He has been working at the UN and happened to be passing through Brussels. We had an interesting discussion about the relative merits of the UN and the EU. As he saw it, one of the ‘advantages’ of the EU is that it is engaged in a frequent, if not constant, institutional reform process. This provides the organisation with a flexibility that is missing in the UN’s administration. We then discussed his current posting, a country in the Caribbean. When he arrived there, in 2007, things were looking up: stable Government, good economic indicators, security situation finally under control, both Chambers in place and, more or less, functioning. He wrote an upbeat article about the situation, published in the Fletcher Forum. Then came 2008 and no less than four consecutive hurricanes, causing billions of dollars’ worth of damage. There was a food crisis, culminating in a week of violence, the pursuant fall of the consensus Government, five months of political deadlock, the displacement of thousands of families, many deaths and an estimated cost to the country of 15% of its already meager GDP. Indeed, it is estimated that all of this threw back the country’s development by between three and five years. My former student returned to his posting, Port au Prince, last Friday. Yesterday, Haiti was devasted by a major earthquake, its worst in two centuries. Hundreds are feared dead. The headquarters of the UN mission was destroyed and, according to the BBC, a large number of UN personnel are missing. I am waiting anxiously for news of my former student and his girlfriend (also a former Bruges student and working for the UN). But this latest disaster to hit the country can only send it spiralling still further backwards. Haiti is a sort of geographic Prometheus, condemned to be repeatedly visited with human unrest and natural disasters. Under such circumstances, as my former student was explaining, the UN cannot hope to encourage progress, but only to brake the speed of its regression…

1 Comment

  1. Hugo Kijne

    21/01/2010 at 19:22

    Geographic Prometheus indeed, but with humans not helping themselves between catastrophies (and aware of it).

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