The Occupation of Haiti

The Left in Denial over Canadian Imperialism

Yves Engler

August 12, 2016

by Yves Engler



Above: From the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives: “Unprepared for Peace?: The decline of Canadian peacekeeping training (and what to do about it)(February, 2016)

As hard as it is to admit for a former junior hockey player who spends many hours writing at the neighbourhood Tim Hortons, some things are better in the USA.

For example, comparing Green Party leader Elizabeth May to her American counterpart Jill Stein on foreign-policy issues puts Canada to shame. While Stein has articulated forthright criticism on various international issues, May spouts nationalist platitudes as often as she challenges unjust policies.

Recently, Stein endorsed the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel, called for Washington and Moscow to work together and said, “US pursuit of regime change in Libya, Iraq, and Syria created the chaos that promotes power grabs by extremist militias. Many of the weapons we are sending into Syria to arm anti-government militias are winding up in the hands of ISIS. This isn’t a clever foreign policy — it’s disastrous militarism.”


For her part, May spent last weekend undermining her party’s internal democracy to protect the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund and Israel from censure. At their convention in Ottawa May and most of the Green leadership succeeded in eliminating any mention of the JNF in a resolution, which was rewritten from targeting that institution to call on the Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the status of all charities engaged in international human rights violations. Fortunately, the party leadership failed to block a resolution endorsing BDS in what is probably the single most significant pro-Palestinian victory in Canadian history.

While the Green members who bucked the party leadership to support the JNF and BDS resolutions deserve to be congratulated, the anti-Palestinian, right-wing Israeli nationalist groups who terrorized May in the lead-up to the convention raised an important, if disingenuous, point: Why were there only two resolutions dealing with foreign-policy at the convention? Why didn’t the Greens debate Canadian mining companies’ abuses abroad, special forces in Iraq/Syria, international tar sands promotion, troops on the Russian border, among numerous other important international issues?

The Green’s 2015 federal election foreign-policy platform paper was peppered with nationalist platitudes. It said “Canada is fundamentally a peaceful country” and “defender of human rights.” In laying out the party’s 2015 election position in Esprit de Corps magazine May wrote, “the world needs more Canada” and argued, “we should also support the United Nations’ ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) doctrine”, which was used to justify bombing Libya in 2011 and ousting Haiti’s elected government in 2004.


May backed the Conservative government’s National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, a $30-$40 billion effort to expand the combat fleet over three decades. But the naval upgrade will strengthen Canadian officials’ capacity to bully weaker countries. The 2000 book Canadian Gunboat Diplomacy details the navy’s extensive history of flexing its muscles, including dozens of interventions in the Caribbean and pressuring Costa Rica to repay money the Royal Bank loaned to an unpopular dictator. And it’s not just history; over the past 25 years the Canadian Navy has played an increasing pro-imperial role in the Middle East and off parts of Africa.

May and Green Party policy statements have also mythologized Canadian foreign policy, citing Lester Pearson as some sort of hero. May claimed “a Green Party approach to international issues will return Canada to the values of Lester B. Pearson.” But, as I detail in Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: The Truth May Hurt, the former external minister and prime minister was an ardent cold warrior, who played a part in dispossessing Palestinians, creating NATO and helping the US wage war in Vietnam and Korea.

Of course, the problem runs deeper than May or the Green Party. Much of the Canadian ‘left’ is highly nationalistic, wedded to both the idea this country is a US “dependency” and international “peacekeeper”.

While far from what’s needed, internationalist minded Americans have helped expose US imperialism. Progressive people in this country have largely failed to do the same with Canadian imperialism. In fact, left-wing Canadian academics have probably written more books and articles criticizing US foreign policy than Canada’s.

Certainly the US left has built more of an infrastructure/culture willing to genuinely challenge US foreign policy. A number of prominent academics are highly critical of US foreign policy and left-wing US media outlets such as CounterPunch, Z, Dissident Voice, Common Dreams, etc. shun foreign-policy apologetics.


In Canada the most prominent ‘left-wing’ foreign-policy think tank is led by Peggy Mason who was a key adviser to Conservative foreign minister Joe Clark in the late 1980s and has held numerous diplomatic postings and UN positions since. During a 2012 National Defence Committee parliamentary meeting on NATO the head of the Rideau Institute noted, “I’m talking as someone who has spent the better part of the last 10 years working with NATO.” Mason trained NATO commanders for peace and crisis stabilization operations and boasted she trained the general Charles Bouchard, who led the 2011 NATO bombing of Libya, which the Rideau Institute head described as a “very important mission.”

The Rideau Institute’s lead collaborator/advisor is an employee of the Canadian Forces who aggressively supported Canada’s worst foreign-policy crime of the first decade of the 21st century (the coup in Haiti). Walter Dorn’s Rideau Institute reports are usually co-published by Canada’s leading left think tank, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. While the CCPA Monitor publishes some articles critical of Canadian foreign policy, its international affairs reports, which receive the bulk of resources, do not offer serious criticism. A number of recent reports have called for adjustments to military priorities while accepting the broad outlines of Canadian militarism. In February they co-published Unprepared for Peace?: The decline of Canadian peacekeeping training (and what to do about it). On the cover of the report a white Canadian soldier, with a massive M-16 strapped around his shoulder, is bent over to hold the hand of a young black boy. In the background are Canadian and UN colours. A call for the Canadian Forces to offer its members more peacekeeping training, Unprepared for peace? is premised on the erroneous notion that UN missions are by definition socially useful and it repeatedly implies that Canada’s most significant recent contribution to a UN mission — the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) — was an operation we should be proud of.

Last year the CCPA and Rideau Institute co-published Smart Defence: A Plan for Rebuilding Canada’s Military, which introduces the issue this way: “When the Harper government came to power in 2006, it pledged to rebuild Canada’s military. But for nine long years, it has failed to deliver on most of its promises, from new armoured trucks and supply ships to fighter jets and search-and-rescue planes.” Author Michael Byers peppers the report with various militarist claims. Canada “faces challenges at home and abroad that require a well-equipped and capable military,” he writes. At another point he says “the Canadian Army cannot deploy large numbers of troops overseas because of a shortage of armoured trucks.” In other words, let’s improve Canada’s military capacity.

While mostly providing a counterpoint to the dominant media, Rabble also publishes some blatantly establishment foreign-policy pieces. It regularly runs Gerald Caplan’s apologetics for the US–Britain–Canada backed Paul Kagame, Africa’s most bloodstained dictator. In late 2015 Rabble ran interviews by CCPA research affiliate Christopher Majka of Libyan, Syrian and Russian invitees to the Halifax International Security Forum, which is sponsored by NATO, the Department of National Defence and various arms firms.

Last week Rabble published a blog by Penney Kome, former editor of the now defunct left website Straight Goods, claiming Donald Trump is soft on Russia. She wrote: “Three of Trump’s top aids have extensive Russian connections, (Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, and Carter Page) and Trump’s policies — such as they are — are strongly pro-Russian. It’s only fair to wonder what his Russophillia means for NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and for former Soviet Union countries that Vladimir Putin may still want to annex, such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.” Kome’s piece comes a few weeks after Ottawa announced it would send 450 troops and armoured vehicles to Latvia to be permanently stationed on Russia’s border.

During his campaign to win the Democratic Party nomination Bernie Sanders, who largely avoided foreign-policy before endorsing a hawk for president, at least criticized Washington’s role in overthrowing Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran, Salvador Allende in Chile as well as the US war in Indochina. It made me wonder if a leading Canadian politician had ever criticized a past foreign policy.

It’s hard to imagine an NDP leader saying, “we shouldn’t blindly follow Washington’s war aims since that led Lester Pearson’s government to deliver US bombing threats to North Vietnam in violation of international law.” Or, “as we evaluate our support for this UN mission let’s not forget the blow Canadian peacekeepers delivered to central Africa when they helped undermine Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba.”


Further reading: Canada’s Role in the Assassination of Patrice Lumumba

It’s as if there’s a sign hanging in Parliament that says: “foreign policy mythologizers only.” A maxim Elizabeth May seems to have embraced, to the shame of all Canadians who really do want this country to be a force for good in the world.

The Clintons Do Haiti: Keep the Natives From Breeding


March 15, 2016


Cut through all of Hillary Clinton’s reassuring lingo about “empowering women” and consider the realities of Clintonian population policy in Haiti.

As revealed in an internal U.S. Agency for International Development report, the fundamental goal of the American government is to keep the natives from breeding.

The June, 1993, document (unearthed by Ken Silverstein in CounterPunch) states policy “targets” for Haiti baldly: to obtain 200,000 new “acceptors” of contraception; a “social marketing component” target of “6,000 cycles of pills/month,” and the establishment of 23 facilities to provide sterilizations–soothingly referred to as “voluntary surgical contraception,” a goal that has been exceeded.

There is no mention of any “targets” with regard to women’s health.

The cynicism of the “empowerment” rhetoric is also apparent in the memo’s main recommendation, the “demedicalization or liberalization of service delivery.” The agency suggests “elimination of the practice of requiring physician visits” before doling out hormonal methods.

In plainer English, this means that AID feels that doctors in Haiti need not waste time with pelvic exams or pap smears; just get the “acceptors” on stream with the hormonal method of choice.

A Brooklyn-based Haitian women’s group, Women of Koalisyon, published a pamphlet detailing abuses at clinics in Haiti funded by AID.

Local clinics offered food and money to encourage sterilization. “Acceptors” were promised that vasectomies were not only reversible, but would help prevent AIDS. Women were offered clothing in exchange for agreeing to use Norplant (the five-year contraceptive implant), which led to a host of problems including constant bleeding, headaches, dizziness, nausea, radical weight loss, depression and fatigue. Demands that the Norplant rods be taken out were obstructed.

Such brute realities of population control are rarely mentioned in the United States, where reports from the U.N. population conference in Cairo have depicted a clash between libertarian respect for individual choice and the medieval tyranny of the Catholic or Muslim clergy. The Clinton Administration is not the first to flaunt its concern for individual rights where such issues are concerned. Back in 1974, in Nixon’s White House, Henry Kissinger commissioned National Security Study Memorandum 200, which addressed population issues.

Prefiguring the current “empowerment” shoe polish, Kissinger stressed that the United States should “help minimize charges of imperialist motivation behind its support of population activities by repeatedly asserting that such support derives from a concern with the right of the individual to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of children.”

But the true concern of Kissinger’s analysts was maintenance of U.S. access to Third World resources. They worried that the “political consequences” of population growth could produce internal instability in nations “in whose advancement the United States is interested.” With famine and food riots and the breakdown of social order in such countries, “the smooth flow of needed materials will be jeopardized.”

The authors of the report noted laconically that the United States, with 6% of the world’s population, used about a third of its resources. Curbs on Third World population would ensure that local consumption would not increase, and possibly affect availability of Third World resources. As a natural extension of this logic, the report favored sterilization over food aid.

By 1977, Reimert Ravenholt, the director of AID’s population program, was saying that his agency’s goal was to sterilize one-quarter of the world’s women. The gearing between Third World fecundity and First World prosperity is still a core policy theme. The immensely wealthy Pew Charitable Trusts–a cluster of foundations with an abiding interest in population control, recently issued a report that stated frankly: “The average American’s interest in maintaining high standards of living has been a prime motivator for U.S. population policy from its earliest formation and it is likely that this will continue for the foreseeable future.”

[Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.]

FLASHBACK TO 2015: The Star Studded White Savior Industrial Complex in Haiti

The Feminist Wire

March 11, 2015

by Natalia Cardona


Patricia Arquette’s recent remarks during the Oscars made for strong debate among feminists of color and white feminists in the U.S. Arquette stated that women, in this case white women, helped gays and people of color in the U.S. in their struggles for their human rights, and that now it was their turn to help women [read: white women] achieve wage equality. The remarks spurred much anger and questioning of her white privilege. That same dynamic occurred when Sean Penn stood up to present the Academy Award for Best Picture to “Birdman” director Alejandro González Iñárritu and said, “Who gave this sonofabitch a green card?” The sentiment, widely shared on twitter by Latin Americans in the U.S., was that the Oscars proved that even when Latin Americans win the highest honor, someone will without a doubt ask for your papers.

For me, the question also became about what happens when people like Arquette and Penn take their white privilege into developing countries like Haiti, placing themselves in the role of white savior. Because what seems to have been overshadowed by both of their highly insensitive remarks about the gay community, communities of color in the United States, and immigrants is that both of these personalities believe themselves to be supporting Haiti’s sustainable development.

What does it mean when people who don’t recognize their white privilege or racist actions—Arquette recently dressed as a stereotypical “Chola” for Halloween and Penn never apologized for his remarks at the Oscars in fact he stated he “didn’t give a f*ck about all of this.”—go abroad to “help” Brown and Black people through development projects?

Arquette’s commentary promotes the idea that the U.S. is a post-racial, post homophobic society with a civil rights movement that has achieved full equality for people of color and a gay rights movement that has secured gains for LGBTQ communities in all fifty states. These assertions are expressed in a country where 64,000 African American women are missing and where every week so far this year, one transgendered woman, most of whom are women of color, has been killed because of who they are. While Penn’s remarks were dismissed by Iñárritu as “hilarious,” many of us who are considered Latin Americans did not find them so funny. For us, it was another humiliation and a reminder that racism and white privilege are the forefront of some of the toughest challenges for Brown and Black freedom and true equality.

Given that Arquette doesn’t understand how she could possibly be White, a woman, poor, and still be privileged, I politely direct her to Peggy McIntosh’s 1988 article “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Penn should know better given his liberal activist persona, but what kind of expectations can one have of a man who was charged with domestic assault and pleaded to a misdemeanor? Yes, these are the type of people that find it quite easy to go to developing countries, develop reputations as “do-gooders,” and become the epitome of white saviors without any question as to their backgrounds or even whether their skills are fit for the job. Whereas, Haitians who set the example for all Latin American nations by being the first to overthrow colonialism and ban slavery outright are constantly being viewed through a white gaze that has sought to entrench the prejudice that they are not capable of handling their own development and freedom. What does it mean when Arquette and Penn export this narrow and ahistorical view of the world to Haiti and other places in the Global South?

Arquette and Penn’s comments immediately reminded me of Teju Cole’s assessment of the industrial White savior complex and its impact on development policies that focus on people of color both at home, here in the U.S., and abroad. Cole has said that the “white savior supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening.” Sounds familiar?

The White savior industrial complex, according to Cole, plays an important role in the current system of global pillage. It provides a safety valve for unbearable conditions created by foreign imperialists in places like Haiti. In this context Arquette and Penn, as well as other white personalities, play an important role in sustaining that very oppressive system. The challenge for these white saviors, according to Cole, is in thinking beyond their prime objective of doing good and feeling good. These celebrities don’t see or don’t want to see the machinations of power behind extreme situations like those in Haiti. The role colonial powers like France, U.S. foreign policy, and non-governmental organizations play in undermining Haiti’s independence scape these White “saviors” because as Cole has already stated this industrial complex “is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege.”

slideshow_feature_4When I look at Arquette’s charity, Give Love, through this White savior lens and as part of an industrial complex I cannot help but challenge its role in Haiti. Arquette’s organization claims to support “Community-led sanitation projects to improve public health & create jobs around recycling,” but upon closer inspection of its website, it’s extremely difficult to identify how, in fact, communities in Haiti are leading these projects. If she is really trying to “help” people in Haiti, doesn’t it behoove her to ask Haitians if and how they want help and ensure Haitians themselves are leading the changes they want to see? When organizations like Give Love only pay lip service to community leadership they dismiss the autonomy, dignity, and self-respect of the very people they are claiming to help. If you ask Penn about his charity the first thing he will spout out and that is very evident in his website is that he hires mostly Haitians. Good for him! But hiring Haitians to implement your vision and that of others with privilege only perpetuates prejudices and reinforces the oppressive system that Haitians have been trying to fight off for centuries. In fact, Penn went from being a do-gooder whose ambitions may cause more harm than good to being a political operative when he asserted that the current president of Haiti, Michel Martelly, had transitioned to his post democratically and peacefully and then proceeded to dismiss the thousands of Haitians that regularly protest Martelly’s presidency and call for his resignation. Because as former Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive put it: “the line between intrusion, support and aid is very fine.”

Currently, most aid to Haiti is directed to more than 300 officially recognized non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This situation begs the question: are NGOs like Arquette’s and Penn’s good or bad for Haiti’s development and sustainable independence? Are they somehow less corrupt then the Haitian government, or are they just tools of foreign imperialist efforts, wittingly or unwittingly playing the role of undermining Haitian autonomy and independence?

A first glance at the work of Arquette’s charity in Haiti would have the average person nodding in support, myself included. Who wouldn’t agree with the need for improved sanitation in a global context where more people have a cell phone then a toilet! Would I donate the $50 so that a family or school has a toilet that will ensure sanitation needs are met? Sure, I would. And as for Penn’s work, he’s brought millions of dollars to Haiti but he also has done real damage to Haitian autonomy by working with the people in the halls of power including the U.S. government and army, MINUSTAH, and the IMF to implement projects that support the existing system, which was founded by imperialist nations including the U.S., rather than question that system and truly put Haitians in the proverbial driver’s seat of their own freedom!

Yes, there is much more to “making a difference” than making a donation, especially for privileged whites from the USA, given the role that U.S. foreign policy has played in the underdevelopment of Haiti! If Arquette and Penn want to support Haiti, they and their organizations should also consider addressing questions of U.S. foreign policy which has swung from invasion and military occupation to the removal of President Aristide. Because there is a very small difference between using your privilege to transform the world and just making yourself feel good.


[Natalia Cardona is from Guatemala.  She has been active on issues of militarism and economic justice for more than a decade. She began her career at UNIFEM’s Andean Regional Office in Ecuador. Natalia also spent nine years at American Friends Service Committee lobbying to change U.S. military and economic policy in Latin America and the Caribbean region. She also worked as Program Director for the Center for Women’s Global Leadership leading their work on militarism and violence against women as well as social and economic rights. And is currently the Membership and Constituency Engagement Manager at the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (a global network of feminist organizations).]

Red Cross Built Exactly 6 Homes For Haiti With Nearly Half A Billion Dollars In Donations

June 4, 2015
The neighborhood of Campeche sprawls up a steep hillside in Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince. Goats rustle in trash that goes forever uncollected. Children kick a deflated volleyball in a dusty lot below a wall with a hand-painted the logo of the American Red Cross.

In late 2011, the Red Cross launched a multimillion-dollar project to transform the desperately poor area, which was hit hard by the earthquake that struck Haiti the year before. The main focus of the project — called LAMIKA, an acronym in Creole for “A Better Life in My Neighborhood” — was building hundreds of permanent homes.

Today, not one home has been built in Campeche. Many residents live in shacks made of rusty sheet metal, without access to drinkable water, electricity or basic sanitation. When it rains, their homes flood and residents bail out mud and water.

The Red Cross received an outpouring of donations after the quake, nearly half a billion dollars.

The group has publicly celebrated its work. But in fact, the Red Cross has repeatedly failed on the ground in Haiti. Confidential memos, emails from worried top officers, and accounts of a dozen frustrated and disappointed insiders show the charity has broken promises, squandered donations, and made dubious claims of success.

The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people. But the actual number of permanent homes the group has built in all of Haiti: six.

After the earthquake, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern unveiled ambitious plans to “develop brand-new communities.” None has ever been built.

Aid organizations from around the world have struggled after the earthquake in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. But ProPublica and NPR’s investigation shows that many of the Red Cross’s failings in Haiti are of its own making. They are also part of a larger pattern in which the organization has botched delivery of aid after disasters such as Superstorm Sandy. Despite its difficulties, the Red Cross remains the charity of choice for ordinary Americans and corporations alike after natural disasters.

One issue that has hindered the Red Cross’ work in Haiti is an overreliance on foreigners who could not speak French or Creole, current and former employees say.

In a blistering 2011 memo, the then-director of the Haiti program, Judith St. Fort, wrote that the group was failing in Haiti and that senior managers had made “very disturbing” remarks disparaging Haitian employees. St. Fort, who is Haitian American, wrote that the comments included, “he is the only hard working one among them” and “the ones that we have hired are not strong so we probably should not pay close attention to Haitian CVs.”

The Red Cross won’t disclose details of how it has spent the hundreds of millions of dollars donated for Haiti. But our reporting shows that less money reached those in need than the Red Cross has said.

Lacking the expertise to mount its own projects, the Red Cross ended up giving much of the money to other groups to do the work. Those groups took out a piece of every dollar to cover overhead and management. Even on the projects done by others, the Red Cross had its own significant expenses – in one case, adding up to a third of the project’s budget.

In statements, the Red Cross cited the challenges all groups have faced in post-quake Haiti, including the country’s dysfunctional land title system.

“Like many humanitarian organizations responding in Haiti, the American Red Cross met complications in relation to government coordination delays, disputes over land ownership, delays at Haitian customs, challenges finding qualified staff who were in short supply and high demand, and the cholera outbreak, among other challenges,” the charity said.

The group said it responded quickly to internal concerns, including hiring an expert to train staff on cultural competency after St. Fort’s memo. While the group won’t provide a breakdown of its projects, the Red Cross said it has done more than 100. The projects include repairing 4,000 homes, giving several thousand families temporary shelters, donating $44 million for food after the earthquake, and helping fund the construction of a hospital.

“Millions of Haitians are safer, healthier, more resilient, and better prepared for future disasters thanks to generous donations to the American Red Cross,” McGovern wrote in a recent report marking the fifth anniversary of the earthquake.

In other promotional materials, the Red Cross said it has helped “more than 4.5 million” individual Haitians “get back on their feet.”

It has not provided details to back up the claim. And Jean-Max Bellerive, Haiti’s prime minister at the time of the earthquake, doubts the figure, pointing out the country’s entire population is only about 10 million.

“No, no,” Bellerive said of the Red Cross’ claim, “it’s not possible.”

When the earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, the Red Cross was facing a crisis of its own. McGovern had become chief executive just 18 months earlier, inheriting a deficit and an organization that had faced scandals after 9/11 and Katrina.

Inside the Red Cross, the Haiti disaster was seen as “a spectacular fundraising opportunity,” recalled one former official who helped organize the effort. Michelle Obama, the NFL and a long list of celebrities appealed for donations to the group.

The Red Cross kept soliciting money well after it had enough for the emergency relief that is the group’s stock in trade. Doctors Without Borders, in contrast, stopped fundraising off the earthquake after it decided it had enough money. The donations to the Red Cross helped the group erase its more-than $100 million deficit.

The Red Cross ultimately raised far more than any other charity.

A year after the quake, McGovern announced that the Red Cross would use the donations to make a lasting impact in Haiti.

We asked the Red Cross to show us around its projects in Haiti so we could see the results of its work. It declined. So earlier this year we went to Campeche to see one of the group’s signature projects for ourselves.

Street vendors in the dusty neighborhood immediately pointed us to Jean Jean Flaubert, the head of a community group that the Red Cross set up as a local sounding board.

Sitting with us in their sparse one-room office, Flaubert and his colleagues grew angry talking about the Red Cross. They pointed to the lack of progress in the neighborhood and the healthy salaries paid to expatriate aid workers.

“What the Red Cross told us is that they are coming here to change Campeche. Totally change it,” said Flaubert. “Now I do not understand the change that they are talking about. I think the Red Cross is working for themselves.”

The Red Cross’ initial plan said the focus would be building homes — an internal proposal put the number at 700. Each would have finished floors, toilets, showers, even rainwater collection systems. The houses were supposed to be finished in January 2013.

None of that ever happened. Carline Noailles, who was the project’s manager in Washington, said it was endlessly delayed because the Red Cross “didn’t have the know-how.”

Another former official who worked on the Campeche project said, “Everything takes four times as long because it would be micromanaged from DC, and they had no development experience.”

Shown an English-language press release from the Red Cross website, Flaubert was stunned to learn of the project’s $24 million budget — and that it is due to end next year.

“Not only is [the Red Cross] not doing it,” Flaubert said, “now I’m learning that the Red Cross is leaving next year. I don’t understand that.” (The Red Cross says it did tell community leaders about the end date. It also accused us of “creating ill will in the community which may give rise to a security incident.”)

The project has since been reshaped and downscaled. A road is being built. Some existing homes have received earthquake reinforcement and a few schools are being repaired. Some solar street lights have been installed, though many broke and residents say others are unreliable.

The group’s most recent press release on the project cites achievements such as training school children in disaster response.

The Red Cross said it has to scale back its housing plans because it couldn’t acquire the rights to land. No homes will be built.

Other Red Cross infrastructure projects also fizzled.

In January 2011, McGovern announced a $30 million partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. The agency would build roads and other infrastructure in at least two locations where the Red Cross would build new homes.

But it took more than two and a half years, until August 2013, for the Red Cross just to sign an agreement with USAID on the program, and even that was for only one site. The program was ultimately canceled because of a land dispute.

A Government Accountability Office report attributed the severe delays to problems “in securing land title and because of turnover in Red Cross leadership” in its Haiti program.

Other groups also run into trouble with land titles and other issues. But they also ultimately built 9,000 homes compared to the Red Cross’ six.

Asked about the Red Cross’ housing projects in Haiti, David Meltzer, the group’s general counsel and chief international officer, said changing conditions forced changes in plans. “If we had said, ‘All we’re going to do is build new homes,’ we’d still be looking for land,” he said.

The USAID project’s collapse left the Red Cross grasping for ways to spend money earmarked for it.

“Any ideas on how to spend the rest of this?? (Besides the wonderful helicopter idea?),” McGovern wrote to Meltzer in a November 2013 email obtained by ProPublica and NPR. “Can we fund Conrad’s hospital? Or more to PiH[Partners in Health]? Any more shelter projects?”

It’s not clear what helicopter idea McGovern was referring to or if it was ever carried out. The Red Cross would say only that her comments were “grounded in the American Red Cross’ strategy and priorities, which focus on health and housing.”

Another signature project, known in Creole as “A More Resilient Great North,” is supposed to rehabilitate roads in poor, rural communities and to help them get clean water and sanitation.

But two years after it started, the $13 million effort has been faltering badly. An internal evaluation from March found residents were upset because nothing had been done to improve water access or infrastructure or to make “contributions of any sort to the well being of households,” the report said.

So much bad feeling built up in one area that the population “rejects the project.”

Instead of making concrete improvements to living conditions, the Red Cross has launched hand-washing education campaigns. The internal evaluation noted that these were “not effective when people had no access to water and no soap.” (The Red Cross declined to comment on the project.)

The group’s failures went beyond just infrastructure.

When a cholera epidemic raged through Haiti nine months after the quake, the biggest part of the Red Cross’ response a plan to distribute soap and oral rehydration salts — was crippled by “internal issues that go unaddressed,” wrote the director of the Haiti program in her May 2011 memo.

Throughout that year, cholera was a steady killer. By September 2011, when the death toll had surpassed 6,000, the project was still listed as “very behind schedule” according to another internal document.

The Red Cross said in a statement that its cholera response, including a vaccination campaign, has continued for years and helped millions of Haitians.

But while other groups also struggled early responding to cholera, some performed well.

“None of these people had to die. That’s what upsets me,” said Paul Christian Namphy, a Haitian water and sanitation official who helped lead the effort to fight cholera. He says early failures by the Red Cross and other NGOs had a devastating impact. “These numbers should have been zero.”

So why did the Red Cross’ efforts fall so short? It wasn’t just that Haiti is a hard place to work.

“They collected nearly half a billion dollars,” said a congressional staffer who helped oversee Haiti reconstruction. “But they had a problem. And the problem was that they had absolutely no expertise.”

Lee Malany was in charge of the Red Cross’ shelter program in Haiti starting in 2010. He remembers a meeting in Washington that fall where officials did not seem to have any idea how to spend millions of dollars set aside for housing. Malany says the officials wanted to know which projects would generate good publicity, not which projects would provide the most homes.

“When I walked out of that meeting I looked at the people that I was working with and said, ‘You know this is very disconcerting, this is depressing,’” he recalled.

The Red Cross said in a statement its Haiti program has never put publicity over delivering aid.

Malany resigned the next year from his job in Haiti. “I said there’s no reason for me to stay here. I got on the plane and left.”

Sometimes it wasn’t a matter of expertise, but whether anybody was filling key jobs. An April 2012 organizational chart obtained by ProPublica and NPR lists 9 of 30 leadership positions in Haiti as vacant, including slots for experts on health and shelter.

The Red Cross said vacancies and turnover were inevitable because of “the security situation, separation from family for international staff, and the demanding nature of the work.”

The constant upheaval took a toll. Internal documents refer to repeated attempts over years to “finalize” and “complete” a strategic plan for the Haiti program, efforts that were delayed by changes in senior management. As late as March 2014, more than four years into a six-year program, an internal update cites a “revised strategy” still awaiting “final sign-off.”

The Red Cross said settling on a plan early would have been a mistake. “It would be hard to create the perfect plan from the beginning in a complicated place like Haiti,” it said. “But we also need to begin, so we create plans that are continually revised.”

Those plans were further undermined by the Red Cross’ reliance on expats. Noailles, the Haitian development professional who worked for the Red Cross on the Campeche project, said expat staffers struggled in meetings with local officials.

“Going to meetings with the community when you don’t speak the language is not productive,” she said. Sometimes, she recalled, expat staffers would skip such meetings altogether.

The Red Cross said it has “made it a priority to hire Haitians” despite lots of competition for local professionals, and that over 90 percent of its staff is Haitian. The charity said it used a local human resources firm to help.

Yet very few Haitians have made it into the group’s top echelons in Haiti, according to five current and former Red Cross staffers as well as staff lists obtained by ProPublica and NPR.

That not only affected the group’s ability to work in Haiti, it was also expensive.

According to an internal Red Cross budgeting document for the project in Campeche, the project manager – a position reserved for an expatriate – was entitled to allowances for housing, food and other expenses, home leave trips, R&R four times a year, and relocation expenses. In all, it added up to $140,000.

Compensation for a senior Haitian engineer — the top local position — was less than one-third of that, $42,000 a year.

Shelim Dorval, a Haitian administrator who worked for the Red Cross coordinating travel and housing for expatriate staffers, recalled thinking it was a waste to spend so much to bring in people with little knowledge of Haiti when locals were available.

“For each one of those expats, they were having high salaries, staying in a fancy house, and getting vacation trips back to their countries,” Dorval said. “A lot of money was spent on those people who were not Haitian, who had nothing to do with Haiti. The money was just going back to the United States.”

Soon after the earthquake, McGovern, the Red Cross CEO, said the group would make sure donors knew exactly what happened to their money.

The Red Cross would “lead the effort in transparency,” she pledged. “We are happy to share the way we are spending our dollars.”

That hasn’t happened. The Red Cross’ public reports offer only broad categories about where $488 million in donations has gone. The biggest category is shelter, at about $170 million. The others include health, emergency relief and disaster preparedness.

It has declined repeated requests to disclose the specific projects, to explain how much money went to each or to say what the results of each project were.

There is reason to doubt the Red Cross’ claims that it helped 4.5 million Haitians. An internal evaluation found that in some areas, the Red Cross reported helping more people than even lived in the communities. In other cases, the figures were low, and in others double-counting went uncorrected.

In describing its work, the Red Cross also conflates different types of aid, making it more difficult to assess the charity’s efforts in Haiti.

For example, while Red Cross says it provided more than 130,000 people with homes, that includes thousands of people who were not actually given homes, but rather were “trained in proper construction techniques.” (That was first reported by the Haiti blog of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.)

The figure includes people who got short-term rental assistance or were housed in several thousand “transitional shelters,” which are temporary structures that can get eaten up by termites or tip over in storms. It also includes modest improvements on 5,000 temporary shelters.

The Red Cross also won’t break down what portion of donations went to overhead.

McGovern told CBS News a few months after the quake, “Minus the 9 cents overhead, 91 cents on the dollar will be going to Haiti. And I give you my word and my commitment, I’m banking my integrity, my own personal sense of integrity on that statement.”

But the reality is that less money went to Haiti than 91 percent. That’s because in addition to the Red Cross’ 9 percent overhead, the other groups that got grants from the Red Cross also have their own overhead.

In one case, the Red Cross sent $6 million to the International Federation of the Red Cross for rental subsidies to help Haitians leave tent camps. The IFRC then took out 26 percent for overhead and what the IFRC described as program-related “administration, finance, human resources” and similar costs.

Beyond all that, the Red Cross also spends another piece of each dollar for what it describes as “program costs incurred by the American Red Cross in managing” the projects done by other groups.

The American Red Cross’ management and other costs consumed an additional 24 percent of the money on one project, according to the group’s statements and internal documents. The actual work, upgrading shelters, was done by the Swiss and Spanish Red Cross societies.

“It’s a cycle of overhead,” said Jonathan Katz, the Associated Press reporter in Haiti at the time of the earthquake who tracked post-disaster spending for his book, The Big Truck That Went By. “It was always going to be the American Red Cross taking a 9 percent cut, re-granting to another group, which would take out their cut.”

Given the results produced by the Red Cross’ projects in Haiti, Bellerive, the former prime minister, said he has a hard time fathoming what’s happened to donors’ money.

“Five hundred million dollars in Haiti is a lot of money,” he said. “I’m not a big mathematician, but I can make some additions. I know more or less the cost of things. Unless you don’t pay for the gasoline the same price I was paying, unless you pay people 20 times what I was paying them, unless the cost of the house you built was five times the cost I was paying, it doesn’t add up for me.”

WATCH: Haiti – The Role of the UN, International Aid, and NGOs in Haiti

Video published on Jan 28, 2015

The year 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the US occupation of Haiti and 10 years of the UN Stabilization Mission in the country. Telesur reports looks at the role of the UN mission through interviews with Sandra Honore, special representative of the Secretary General of the UN and chief of the UN Mission in Haiti (Minustah) and various participants in Haitian political and social life. They offer their different points of view and conflicting balance sheets of the role played by the United Nations in stabilizing the country and, along with other agencies, USAID, and NGOs, in providing aid after the devastating 2010 earthquake. Many social activists charge that the aid came with a political agenda attached and little of the funds trickled down to help those most at need. Source: teleSUR

United Nations Covers Up Child Rape in Africa and the Buying of Sex in Haiti

InnerCity Press

June 18, 2015

by Mathew Russell Lee

With scandals surrounding UN Peacekeeping, from covering up child rape by French “peacekeepers” in the Central African Republic to buying sex in Haiti and selling UN Police jobs in the DR Congo, on June 18 UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was scheduled to give a speech to UN Force Commanders in Conference Room 9 of UN Headquarters in an open meeting, following a public photo-op with the commanders.

But when Inner City Press showed up for the photo op, UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous directed one of his officials to tell Inner City Press to leave.

Inner City Press refused, noting that Ban Ki-moon’s appearance was listed in the online Media Alert of the UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit (MALU). Nevertheless, Ladsous’ official insisted, and Ladsous himself began to film Inner City Press with his phone.

When Ban Ki-moon and his security detail of at least four arrived, they proceeded into Conference Room 9, as did Inner City Press accompanied by a MALU staff member and a staffer from UN Photo. But just as Ban Ki-moon began speaking, two of his security officers came over and told Inner City Press to leave. In the hall they said that “the organizer” — Ladsous — had ordered it.

Inner City Press asked, if some UN official tells you to throw out the media, you just do it? “If he told you to throw me on the ground, would you throw me on the ground?”

“Somebody doesn’t have to tell me to throw you on the ground, if I’ve got to put you on the ground, I put you on the ground,” came the response. Audio here. Periscope video here. Now YouTube video permalink here.

Another security officer said, at this point the media is not coming in. That’s it.

This is called censorship. And it happened right in front of Ban Ki-moon.  When Ban came out of Conference Room 9, he had a discussion with Ladsous – what about? – then walked on by. Periscope Video II here. This is Ban’s UN, UNtransparent, descended to censorship.

Inner City Press has reported not only on Ladsous’ cover up of rapes in CAR (and before that in Minova in the DRC and Tabit in Darfur), but also on a growing lack of transparency in Ban Ki-moon’s UN, including the reported use of Ban’s name by his nephew “Dennis” Bahn while purporting to sell real estate in Vietnam to the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar. (Bahn works for Colliers International, which rents office space to and for Ban’s UN system.) Now, outright censorship.

The old UN Correspondents Association has said nothing, just as they said nothing and more when Ladsous said he would not answer Inner City Press and Ban’s spokesman decided not to call on Inner City Press to put a question to Ladsous, on the CAR rapes and cover up. The new Free UN Coalition for Access has demanded an explanation and response from MALU and the Department of Public Information above it. A senior UN official told Inner City Press, “There is no court.”

This use of UN Security is ironic, given that as Inner City Press reported on June 17 and asked Ban’s deputy spokesman about on June 18, Ban shook hands in the UN in Geneva with a person on the US Al-Qaeda terrorist list, photo here. But today’s UN has become the source of lawless censorship, amid its scandals. Watch this site.

August 11, 2015: On rapes by UN peacekeeping in Central African Republic (CAR), InnerCity Press asks UN if Ban Ki-moon will disclose findings and punish men:


August 13, 2015: When InnerCity Press asks US Samantha Power about UN rapes and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) cover up in Tabit, Darfur, she ignores the question and walks off the podium:


PRESS RELEASE on the Assassination Attempt Against Our Comrade Yannick Etienne [Haiti]

Batay Ouvriye

February 3, 2015


With this document, we wish to inform all our comrades of the entire world that a handful of fake “union centrals” serving the bosses attacked our fellow militant, Yannick Etienne, in fact attempting to assassinate her.

With much more details, the denunciation Note of the Batay Ouvriye Textile and Garment Union (SOTA – BO) is below.
At the same time, we exhort our friends and sympathizers to also denounce this act internationally with cc to;


Blvd Toussaint Louverture/1, Imp Templier 3786-4038

Port-Au-Prince January 30, 2015


Press Release

The Executive Committee of the Textile & Clothing Workers Union-Batay Ouvriye firmly denounces an assassination attempt against our comrade Yannick Etienne at the SONAPI Industrial Complex on January 30, 2015. This assassination attempt happened after a meeting with the MULTIWEAR S.A. administration on the question of salary arrears for the workers in accordance to an agreement with the owners; as Yannick came out of the meeting, she was confronted by a group of people armed with screw drivers, rocks, and scissors claiming to belong to an organization calling itself ROHAM, which is affiliated with CNOHA under the leadership of Dominique St. Eloi.

However, the chief commando leaders of the assassination attempt are Elmerome Bresier, Julien Frenel, Daniel (so-called) and many more un-identified individuals (who are working in the factory), who assaulted verbally and physically our comrade, threatening her, punctured 3 tires of her car with scissors and threw rocks at her car. This criminal assault on our comrade comes after a campaign of defamation by CNOHA and ROHAM against us at SOTA-BO spewing lies to the workers about some supposedly U.S. $114 million donated through us to the workers of MULTIWEAR. As we were in negotiations and signed an agreement with MULTIWEAR, we were always in a position to counter their lies and assert to the workers that those people are quacks and are using this lie about the U.S. $114 million to put them in total darkness. They are not defending workers’ interests by lying.

Therefore, with this cowardly assassination attempt by those scoundrels against our comrade, we demand that the MAST (Ministry of Social Affairs and Work) take action against those so-called union leaders who think they are bigwigs who can do whatever they want in the name of union freedom. Gangsters like these should not be free to roam as union leaders. Their actions are serious violations of Article 242 of the Labor Code, which says that MAST must take immediate and effective sanctions. This is why we are denouncing the assassination attempt before the national and international public opinion. And we will pursue every legal means at our disposal so that such acts, which are not worthy of unionists are not repeated. We are telling members of ROHAM and CNOHA, that Yannick Etienne’s life and that of all the members of SOTA-BO working in MULTIWEAR and our other union chapters are in the hands of those who made this assassination attempt. We demand that the Haitian State be accountable.



FLASHBACK: CrossTalk on Haiti: Year of Agony

Video uploaded on Jan 12, 2011

“On this edition of Peter Lavelle’s CrossTalk, he asks his guests why aid efforts in Haiti have largely failed. Who is to blame? Is it the U.N., the U.S. and its NGOs or is it the fault of the Haitian people?”

Civil Society, NGOs, and Saving the Needy: Imperial Neoliberalism

Zero Anthropology

August 28, 2014

by Maximilian Forte

The following is an extract from my chapter, “Imperial Abduction Lore and Humanitarian Seduction,” which serves as the introduction to Good Intentions: Norms and Practices of Imperial Humanitarianism (Montreal: Alert Press, 2014), pp. 1-34:

Outsourcing Empire, Privatizing State Functions: NGOs

First, we need to get a sense of the size and scope of the spread of just those NGOs that work on an international plane, or INGOs, many of which are officially associated with, though not part of, the UN. Estimates of the number of INGOs (such as Care, Oxfam, Médecins Sans Frontières) vary greatly depending on the source, the definition of INGOs used, and the methods used to locate and count them. In broad terms, INGOs numbered roughly 28,000 by the mid-1990s, which represented a 500% increase from the 1970s; other estimates suggest that by the early years of this century they numbered 40,000, while some put the number at around 30,000, which is still nearly double the number of INGOs in 1990, and some figures are lower at 20,000 by 2005 (Anheier & Themudo, 2005, p. 106; Bloodgood & Schmitz, 2012, p. 10; Boli, 2006, p. 334; Makoba, 2002, p. 54). While the sources differ in their estimates, all of them agree that there has been a substantial rise in the number of INGOs over the past two decades.

Second, there is also evidence that INGOs and local NGOs are taking on a much larger role in international development assistance than ever before. The UK’s Overseas Development Institute reported in 1996 that, by then, between 10% and 15% of all aid to developing countries was channeled through NGOs, accounting for a total amount of $6 billion US. Other sources report that “about a fifth of all reported official and private aid to developing countries has been provided or managed by NGOs and public-private partnerships” (International Development Association [IDA], 2007, p. 31). It has also been reported that, “from 1970 to 1985 total development aid disbursed by international NGOs increased ten-fold,” while in 1992 INGOs, “channeled over $7.6 billion of aid to developing countries”.1 In 2004, INGOs “employed the full time equivalent of 140,000 staff—probably larger than the total staff of all bilateral and multilateral donors combined—and generated revenues for US$13 billion from philanthropy (36%), government contributions (35%) and fees (29%)” (IDA, 2007, p. 31). The budgets of the larger INGOs “have surpassed those of some Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) donor countries” (Morton, n.d., p. 325). For its part, the US government “gave more than twice the amount of aid assistance in 2000 ($4 billion) through nongovernmental organizations than was given directly to foreign governments (est. $1.9 billion)” (Kinney, 2006, p. 3).

The military is one arm of the imperialist order, and the other arm is made up of NGOs (though often these two arms are interlocked, as even Colin Powell says in the introductory quote in this chapter). The political-economic program of neoliberalism is, as Hanieh (2006, p. 168) argues, the economic logic of the current imperialist drive. This agenda involves, among other policies, cutbacks to state services and social spending by governments in order to open up local economies to private and non-governmental interests. Indeed, the meteoric rise of NGOs, and the great increase in their numbers, came at a particular time in history: “the conservative governments of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher made support for the voluntary sector a central part of their strategies to reduce government social spending” (Salamon, 1994). By more or less direct means, sometimes diffuse and other times well-coordinated, the interests of the US and its allies can thus be pursued under the cover of humanitarian “aid,” “charity,” and “development assistance”.

In his extensive critique of neoliberalism, David Harvey (2005) credits the explosive growth of the NGO sector under neoliberalism with the rise of, “the belief that opposition mobilized outside the state apparatus and within some separate entity called ‘civil society’ is the powerhouse of oppositional politics and social transformation” (p. 78). Yet many of these NGOs are commanded by unelected and elite actors, who are accountable primarily to their chief sources of funds, which may include governments and usually includes corporate donors and private foundations. The broader point of importance is that this rise of NGOs under neoliberalism is also the period in which the concept of “civil society” has become central not just to the formulation of oppositional politics, as Harvey (2005, p. 78) argues, but also central to the modes of covert intervention and destabilization openly adopted by the US around the world. More on this just below, but first we need to pause and focus on this emergence of “civil society” as a topic in the new imperialism.

The “Civil Society” of the New Imperialism: Neoliberal Solutions to Problems Created by Neoliberalism

There has been a growing popularization of “civil society,” that James Ferguson, an anthropologist, even calls a “fad”. Part of the growing popularity of this concept is tied to some social scientists’ attraction to democratization, social movements and NGOs, and even some anthropologists have been inspired to recoup the local under the heading of “civil society” (Ferguson, 2007, p. 383). The very notion of “civil society” comes from 18th-century European liberal thought of the Enlightenment, as something that stood between the state and the family. “Civil society” has been universalized, with “little regard for historical context or critical genealogy”:

“this new conception (of ‘civil society’ as the road to democracy) not only met the political needs of the Eastern European struggle against communist statism, it also found a ready export market—both in the First World (where it was appropriated by conservative Reagan/Thatcher projects for ‘rolling back the state’) and in the Third World…”. (Ferguson, 2007, p. 384)

Today “civil society” has been reconceived as the road to democratization and freedom, and is explicitly promoted as such by the US State Department. Whether from the western left or right which have both appropriated the concern for “civil society,” Ferguson argues that the concept helps to legitimate a profoundly anti-democratic politics (2007, p. 385).

The African state, once held high as the chief engine of development, is now treated as the enemy of development and nation-building (especially by western elites), constructed as too bureaucratic, stagnant and corrupt. Now “civil society” is celebrated as the hero of liberatory change, and the aim is to get the state to become more aligned with civil society (Ferguson, 2007, p. 387). Not only that, the aim is to standardize state practices, so as to lessen or remove barriers to foreign penetration and to increase predictability of political outcomes and investment decisions (see Obama, 2013/7/1).

In practice, most writers conceive of contemporary “civil society” as composed of small, voluntary, grassroots organizations (which opens the door, conceptually, to the focus on NGOs). As Ferguson notes, civil society is largely made up of international organizations:

“For indeed, the local voluntary organizations in Africa, so beloved of ‘civil society’ theorists, very often, upon inspection, turn out to be integrally linked with national and transnational-level entities. One might think, for instance, of the myriad South African ‘community organizations’ that are bankrolled by USAID or European church groups; or of the profusion of ‘local’ Christian development NGOs in Zimbabwe, which may be conceived equally well as the most local, ‘grassroots’ expressions of civil society, or as parts of the vast international bureaucratic organizations that organize and sustain their deletion. When such organizations begin to take over the most basic functions and powers of the state, it becomes only too clear that ‘NGOs’ are not as ‘NG’ as they might wish us to believe. Indeed, the World Bank baldly refers to what they call BONGOs (Bank-organized NGOs) and now even GONGOs (Government-organized NGOs)”. (Ferguson, 2007, p. 391).

That NGOs serve the purpose of privatizing state functions, is also demonstrated by Schuller (2009) with reference to Haiti. NGOs provide legitimacy to neoliberal globalization by filling in the “gaps” in the state’s social services created by structural adjustment programs (Schuller, 2009, p. 85)—a neoliberal solution to a problem first created by neoliberalism itself. Moreover, in providing high-paying jobs to an educated middle class, NGOs serve to reproduce the global inequalities created by, and required by, neoliberal globalization (Schuller, 2009, p. 85). NGOs also work as “buffers between elites and impoverished masses” and can thus erect or reinforce “institutional barriers against local participation and priority setting” (Schuller, 2009, p. 85).

Thanks to neoliberal structural adjustment, INGOs and other international organizations (such as the UN, IMF, and World Bank) are “eroding the power of African states (and usurping their sovereignty),” and are busy making “end runs around these states” by “directly sponsoring their own programs or interventions via NGOs in a wide range of areas” (Ferguson, 2007, p. 391). INGOs and some local NGOs thus also serve the purposes of neoliberal interventionism.

Trojan Horses: NGOs, Human Rights, and Intervention to “Save” the “Needy”

David Harvey argues that “the rise of advocacy groups and NGOs has, like rights discourses more generally, accompanied the neoliberal turn and increased spectacularly since 1980 or so” (2005, p. 177). NGOs have been called forth, and have been abundantly provisioned as we saw above, in a situation where neoliberal programs have forced the withdrawal of the state away from social welfare. As Harvey puts it, “this amounts to privatization by NGO” (2005, p. 177). NGOs function as the Trojan Horses of global neoliberalism. Following Chandler (2002, p. 89), those NGOs that are oriented toward human rights issues and humanitarian assistance find support “in the growing consensus of support for Western involvement in the internal affairs of the developing world since the 1970s”. Moreover, as Horace Campbell explained,

“During the nineties military journals such as Parameters honed the discussion of the planning for the increased engagement of international NGO’s and by the end of the 20th century the big international NGO’s [like] Care, Catholic Relief Services, Save The Children, World Vision, and Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) were acting like major international corporations doing subcontracting work for the US military”. (Campbell (2014/5/2)

Private military contractors in the US, many of them part of Fortune 500 companies, are indispensable to the US military—and in some cases there are “clear linkages between the ‘development ‘agencies and Wall Street” as perhaps best exemplified by Casals & Associates, Inc., a subsidiary of Dyncorp, a private military contractor that was itself purchased by Cerberus Capital Management for $1.5 billion in 2010, and which received financing commitments from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Barclays, and Deutsche Bank (Campbell (2014/5/2). Casals declares that its work is about “international development,” “democracy and governance,” and various humanitarian aid initiatives, in over 25 countries, in some instances working in partnership with USAID and the State Department’s Office of Transition Initiatives (Campbell (2014/5/2).

In order for NGOs to intervene and take on a more prominent role, something else is required for their work to be carried out, in addition to gaining visibility, attracting funding and support from powerful institutions, and being well placed to capitalize on the opportunities created by neoliberal structural adjustment. They require a “need” for their work. In other words, to have humanitarian action, one must have a needy subject. As Andria Timmer (2010) explains, NGOs overemphasize poverty and stories of discrimination, in order to construct a “needy subject”—a population constructed as a “problem” in need of a “solution”. The needs identified by NGOs may not correspond to the actual needs of the people in question, but need, nonetheless, is the dominant discourse by which those people come to be defined as a “humanitarian project”. To attract funding, and to gain visibility by claiming that its work is necessary, a NGO must have “tales that inspire pathos and encourage people to act” (Timmer, 2010, p. 268). However, in constantly producing images of poverty, despair, hopelessness, and helplessness, NGOs reinforce “an Orientialist dialectic,” especially when these images are loaded with markers of ethnic otherness (Timmer, 2010, p. 269). Entire peoples then come to be known through their poverty, particularly by audiences in the global North who only see particular peoples “through the lens of aid and need” (Timmer, 2010, p. 269). In the process what is also (re)created is the anthropological myth of the helpless object, one devoid of any agency at all, one cast as a void, as a barely animate object through which we define our special subjecthood. By constructing the needy as the effectively empty, we thus monopolize not only agency but we also corner the market on “humanity”.


Anheier, H. K., & Themudo, N. (2005). The Internationalization of the Nonprofit Sector. In R. D. Herman (Ed.), The Jossey-Bass Handbook of Nonprofit Leadership and Management, 2nd ed. (pp. 102–127). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc.

Bloodgood, E., & Schmitz, H. P. (2012). Researching INGOs: Innovations in Data Collection and Methods of Analysis. Paper presented at the International Studies Association Annual Convention, March 31, San Diego, CA.

Boli, J. (2006). International Nongovernmental Organizations. In W. W. Powell & R. Steinberg (Eds.), The Nonprofit Sector (pp. 333–351). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Campbell, H. C. (2014/5/2). Understanding the US Policy of Diplomacy, Development, and Defense: The Office of Transition Initiatives and the Subversion of Societies. CounterPunch.

Chandler, D. (2002). From Kosovo to Kabul: Human Rights and International Intervention. London, UK: Pluto Press.

Ferguson, J. (2007). Power Topographies. In D. Nugent & J. Vincent (Eds.), A Companion to the Anthropology of Politics (pp. 383–399). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Hanieh, A. (2006). Praising Empire: Neoliberalism under Pax Americana. In C. Mooers (Ed.), The New Imperialists: Ideologies of Empire (pp. 167–198). Oxford, UK: Oneworld Publications.

Harvey, D. (2005). A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

International Development Association (IDA). (2007). Aid Architecture: An Overview of the Main Trends in Official Development Assistance Flows. Washington, DC: The World Bank.

Kinney, N. T. (2006). The Political Dimensions of Donor Nation Support for Humanitarian INGOs. Paper presented at the International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR) Conference, July 11, Bangkok, Thailand.

Makoba, J. W. (2002). Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) and Third World Development: An Alternative Approach to Development. Journal of Third World Studies, 19(1), 53–63.

Morton, B. (n.d.). An Overview of International NGOs in Development Cooperation. United Nations Development Program.

Obama, B. (2013/7/1). Remarks by President Obama at Business Leaders Forum. Washington, DC: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary.

Salamon, L. M. (1994). The Rise of the Nonprofit Sector. Foreign Affairs, July-August.

Schuller, M. (2009). Gluing Globalization: NGOs as Intermediaries in Haiti. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 32(1), 84–104.

Timmer, A. D. (2010). Constructing the “Needy Subject”: NGO Discourses of Roma Need. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 33(2), 264–281.



Norms and Practices of Imperial Humanitarianism

Edited by Maximilian C. Forte

Montreal, QC: Alert Press, 2014

Hard Cover ISBN 978-0-9868021-5-7
Paperback ISBN 978-0-9868021-4-0

Unmasking the “Good Intentions” of Canadian NGOs


May 30, 2014

by Fernanda Sánchez Jaramillo

Interview with Nik Barry-Shaw, coauthor, with Dru Oja Jay, of Paved with Good Intentions, Canada´s Development NGOs from Idealism to Imperialism

Fernanda Sánchez Jaramillo: What is the contribution of your book to the understanding of Canadian Foreign Policy?

Nik Barry-Shaw: Canada’s participation in the 29 February 2004 coup d’état against Haiti’s democratically-elected government was what really woke up many people on the left (including Dru and I) to the reality of Canadian imperialism. Several of us involved in Haiti solidarity work began studying the history of Canadian foreign policy, and concluded that Canada was not simply being pushed around by the U.S.; it was an advanced capitalist power that had its own economic interests in the Global South that it sought to advance, through violence if necessary. Left nationalist analyses of Canada as a “rich dependency” under the thumb of the U.S. simply did not do justice to the high levels of initiative and involvement demonstrated by the Canadian state in orchestrating the Haitian coup, and many other instances. So one thing our book is trying to do is to debunk widely-held perceptions of Canada’s foreign policy as that of a uniquely benevolent “peacekeeper” nation.
The principle aim of our book is to dispel the notion that development non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are independent organizations driven solely by altruism. Instead, we demonstrate the heavy (and increasing) financial dependence of these organizations on funding from the Canadian government and the political effects this relationship has on NGOs. We then trace out historically how development NGOs, these nominally independent and nominally non-governmental agencies, have become ever more closely intertwined with the Canadian government’s foreign policy, and thus adjuncts to a policy that has nothing to do with fighting poverty or promoting social justice and everything to do with advancing corporate interests.
Again, Haiti was crucial in the formation of our ideas. Canadian NGOs – even self-styled progressive organizations close to the anti-globalization movement like Alternatives and Développement et Paix – were integrally involved in the coup, by training and financing anti-government groups and demonizing the elected government before the coup, and then working with the unelected, Canada-backed regime of Gerard Latortue (2004-2006) that took power afterward.
These Canadian NGOs and their Haitian partner organizations provided cover for the coup government’s violent repression of Haiti’s popular movement, lobbied the Brazilian government on its behalf and even blocked Montreal’s anti-war coalition from taking a stand against the coup. There were so many leaders of Haitian NGOs (nearly all of which received funding from Canadian NGOs) who took positions as ministers in the Latortue government that the regime was dubbed a “non-governmental government.” Analyzing how the NGO system functioned became a pressing task for those of us involved in Haiti solidarity activism. Haiti, known as “The Republic of NGOs”, was an extreme but far from exceptional case, as we found in the course of researching the book.

London, 1st of May 2012: Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike campaigners gather outside the British Red Cross offices, to protest alleged theft of money donated for humanitarian relief and of failing to alleviate the suffering of Haitians. Photo P Nutt

Aren´t Canadian NGOs hypocritical in claiming to help rebuild democracy and bring health care in Africa while oppressing First Nations and cutting health care services for Canadian citizens and refugees, including those from Africa?