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Helping Haiti Beyond the Earthquake

Interviewee: Edward C. Luck, Senior Vice President, Director of Studies, International Peace Institute
Interviewer: Toni Johnson, Staff Writer, CFR.org
January 13, 2010


The devastating earthquake in Haiti that reportedly left tens of thousands dead, including members of the UN Peacekeeping mission, will require a massive international relief effort. Edward Luck, senior vice president and director of Studies at the International Peace Institute, says with a large number of both civilians and UN soldiers among the casualties, international emergency relief will need to include rescuing the rescuers. And though emergency relief will move as rapidly as possible, "there will be difficulties" and efforts may "not move as quickly as one might want."

He says Haiti has seen progress on political stability and social issues, including crime and chronic under-development, following a widespread effort from international institutions and regional countries. He notes "moving from such a horrid situation in terms of economic development to a more promising situation has been quite frustrating, but until the hurricanes last year there had been some positive signs." Still, he says the setbacks from the hurricanes and the earthquake are less important than overall success of long-term stability efforts.

"In the long run, what matters is whether the institutions are created, whether there's some confidence that people have in the government, whether corruption is addressed, whether lawlessness on the island is addressed," Luck says. "If the pieces are in place and the people have some sense of hope, some sense of confidence in the government and the international communities, then people can overcome these kinds of tragedies."

Lastly, he says that although international and regional partners can play a role in helping Haiti, ultimately the country's problems must be solved by Haitians and Haitian institutions. "The UN has been involved off and on since 1993 in Haiti," he notes. "There is a worry that in these kinds of places people become very dependent on international presence and the international involvement, and sometimes that has a distorting effect on the local economy." He says the long-term solutions include boosting the local economy, improving a sense of entrepreneurship, improving education, and getting more private investment on island.


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