Other ways to facilitate relief in Haiti

Freedom New Mexico

As relief efforts have continued in Haiti following a Jan. 12 earthquake that killed an estimated 250,000 people, criticism has arisen that United Nations funds have not been spent properly.

“The United Nations has quietly upped this year’s peacekeeping budget for earthquake-shattered Haiti to $732.4 million, with two-thirds of that amount going for the salary, perks and upkeep of its own personnel, not residents of the devastated island,” Fox News reported April 20.

Such a spending pattern is not out of the ordinary, said Brett Schaefer, the Jay Kingham Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs at the Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom.

Schaefer said U.N. peacekeepers are not first-response teams. Such teams come from the United States, the European Union, Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross and worldwide charities geared to immediate aid. Rather, U.N. peacekeepers come to a disaster area “to keep order and restore infrastructure to allow relief to get to the people. A lot of the costs are for those U.N. individuals — transportation, housing, etc. The majority of U.N. expenses are for staff, officers, upkeep, meetings and infrastructure.”

The real problem, he pointed out, is what the United Nations does in a country like Haiti in the long term — both before and after a disaster. Haiti long has been the most poverty-stricken country in the Western Hemisphere “despite the U.N. essentially assuming the reins of government” even before the earthquake. For decades, Haiti has been “on the borderline between stability and instability,” Schaefer said. The earthquake just tipped it into instability.

Although U.N. peacekeepers historically have been good at restoring a modicum of order in a disaster, where the United Nations fails is “what a country does after it doesn’t need the U.N. anymore — the bridge between the immediate crisis and the restoration of order.”

Schaefer pointed to a March 30 study by his Heritage colleague, Ray Walser: “Do’s and Don’ts for a Real Haiti Recovery.” It called for: Establishing a government “committed to service and public integrity, (which) is needed to stabilize the essential triad of public security, education, and health care delivery.”

Congress should reduce American barriers to Haitian trade, such as sugar quotas, and other “measures that nurture the Haitian economy with incentives for entrepreneurship, investment, and market access.”

“Accountability without paternalism. An international trust fund set up by donors with the assent of the Haitian government may improve transparency and accountability, but it is not a substitute for developing the authority, legitimacy and competence the Haitian government needs.”

We would add that America also should set a date when the U.S. government’s own involvement would end, so that Haitians really can be independent. America long has been too deeply involved in Haiti’s problems, a textbook case of counterproductive paternalism. Private aid, of course, should continue however long it’s needed.

Haiti needs free markets, property rights, rule of law, free trade, democracy — and independence.