How Human Rights Can Build Haiti, by Fran Quigley

Whenever I return from Haiti I am asked if there is any hope for the country. I reply that when I am in the United States and hearing the news I do not think so. But when I am in Haiti among Haitians I believe there is.

The internationally known physician and anthropologist Paul Farmer, whose legendary work in Haiti began in the 1980s, sometimes says that the sickest patient on the island of Hispaniola is Haiti’s public sector—its government and its public infrastructure, including roads, bridges, sanitation systems, health care, and education. The efforts of most nongovernmental organizations, including the many churches that send mission groups to Haiti with the best will in the world, do nothing to strengthen the public sector. Hence the effects are short term. Their efforts are like dressings applied externally to wounds that come from internal, systemic disease.

Fran Quigley’s richly informed study of what ails Haiti and what a few dedicated activist lawyers are doing about it includes this comment by a consultant for the United States Agency for Inter­national Development: “I wish I could organize a trip of Tea Party activists and take them to Haiti so they could see what happens if they have a country with no government.” Quigley, who is director of the Health and Human Rights Clinic at Indiana University’s McKinney School of Law, offers plentiful information about the causes of Haiti’s miserable economic condition, chiefly its weakened government and the exploitation of Haiti’s poor by the country’s wealthy elite, often in collaboration with U.S. business interests.