One from the Vault for you this afternoon. A great interview with Justin Podur, author of Haiti’s New Dictatorship: The Coup, the Earthquake and the UN Occupation (Pluto/Between the Lines, 2012) on Rabble.ca’s Radio Book Lounge. This was broadcast back in November, and gets to grips with a lot of the main themes in Justin’s book.
You can access the audio of it by clicking here. For the clicking-averse amongst you, we’ve reproduced a couple of rabble.ca’s questions here, complete with Justin’s responses. Enjoy…
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Rabble.ca’s Radio Book Lounge: you observe in the book that Haiti’s been called ‘the Republic of NGOs’; can you talk about that a little?
Justin Podur: Yeah so again, non governmental organisations…over the past ten or fifteen years they’ve had a relatively good reputation in the third world…for doing service delivery, for taking care of people’s needs, in a context where the governments of these countries are potentially corrupt or self interested or self seeking, the NGO community might be seen as having more integrity. The problem is that NGOs are not accountable to the people they serve. Governments, in practice they might be corrupt, but in principle at least, they could be held accountable. In a democratic context they could be voted out of office. All of these mechanisms that we take for-granted in a country like Canada, Haitians again don’t have access to. So Haitian service delivery, Haitian water, Haitian Healthcare, Haitian education is all being delivered by internationally funded NGOs who have no real…the logic of these NGOs is to maintain their funding, to keep their donors happy. It’s not necessarily to answer to the needs of Haitians. Also there’s no overall plan. I mean if you have a national government like Canada it’s supposed to set priorities – I mean this government’s priorities may not be what we like – but they set priorities nationally and they can implement plans nationally – collect taxes and spend them. Haiti doesn’t have the capacity to do all these very basic things because it’s not run by Haitians.
Rabble.ca: As you were saying NGOs have to be accountable to their funders, to their donors to the legal structures back home. And then in the book you say:
“from their perspective they help to denounce and remove a government committing human rights violations and corruption, but from my perspective… they helped to deliver Haiti into a regime that delivers much greater human rights violations and corruption.”
JP: So what you have to do, and again what this book does, is it tries to give an accounting of what the government that replaced the elected government was like. There were denunciations of things that the Lavalas people that were pro-government…they committed some crimes, that’s true. There’s no denying that people who supported the government committed crimes, kind of in the government’s name, before the overthrow. Whether they saw themselves as trying to defend the government from being overthrown, trying to stop a coup from happening, it’s true that crimes took place. What if we balance that against what happened after the coup, there were hundreds of people that were killed. Hundreds of people that were thrown in jail. Lots of rapes that had a political motivation, there was a study in the Lancet. So there’s lots of evidence, a pile of evidence that the human rights record of the regime that overthrew the government is way worse than the government that they overthrew. So the main lesson there, is be aware of overthrowing a government in the name of human rights, because what replaces it is not necessarily gunna be a human rights concerned regime.
The Coup, the Earthquake and the UN Occupation
Justin Podur. Foreword by William I Robinson
Charts Haiti’s recent history up to the present, including the 2004 coup, the UN occupation and devastating 2010 earthquake.
“The UN occupation of Haiti promised to bring stability and democracy. Instead it has delivered cholera, rape and repression. With a sharp eye and a keener pen, Justin Podur expertly exposes the abuses the gang of nations that calls itself ‘the international community’ has inflicted on one of the world’s poorest countries – from the brutal imposition of structural adjustment and the driving out of a democratically elected president to the politicisation of earthquake relief. Enough is enough.” – Greg Grandin, Professor of History at New York University
“The centuries-long torture of Haiti, and the courageous resistance of its people, is one of the most dramatic and compelling stories of modern history. It is vividly brought to life in this well-informed and highly illuminating study, which also provides valuable lessons about Haiti, about western power and ideology, and about prospects for justice and freedom in today’s world.” – Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor & Professor of Linguistics (Emeritus) at MIT