Equality & Justice For All!
A little more than five weeks ago, Haiti suffered what would be chronicled as the most catastrophic earthquake in human history. Although the initial quake itself came in at 7.0 magnitude, it was reportedly followed in quick succession by more than 52 aftershocks each greater than magnitude 4.5! With the epicenter of the quake approximately 15 miles away from the crowded capital city of Port-au-Prince, the devastation and suffering brought on this poor Caribbean island county was, to say the least, inestimable.
Buildings, concrete structures as well as hastily put together shanty towns, and national landmarks (including the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly and the Port-au-Prince Cathedral) were leveled. More than 240, 000 died. Another 350,000 were injured. Millions more were instantly rendered homeless.
Haiti was literally and figuratively brought to its knees. Its constituted authority vanished, creating a governmental vacuum that was as mind-boggling as it was frightening. It did not even initially seem that anyone was really in charge! Commercial activities came to an abrupt stop. Communication networks (land, sea and air transportation) collapsed. Morgues were overwhelmed; the remains of tens of thousands of the dead were strewn along with other trash and debris in unmarked mass graves.
Seeing this degree of devastation unfathomably visited on a people so disadvantaged and long-suffering was heart-wrenching on so many levels.
The human community responded in a manner that was both befitting and uplifting. Humanitarian aid came pouring in from governments, NGOs, businesses and individuals in the form of funds, rescue and support teams, equipment, engineers, medical personnel, etc.
As is typical in our world of disjointed, normalized 24-hour news cycles, we seem to be moving on; the haunting images are now fading even though the condition in Haiti has not abetted.
But did the Haitian crisis really have to happen for us to take notice? How many other Haitis teetering on the brink of collapse are presently in our peripheral vision?
Here are a few facts to consider: Haiti is actually number 26 on the list of the world’s poorest nations (based on the following parameters: GDP, Literacy rate, infant mortality and employment rate) – meaning that there are at least 25 other counties that are weaker, poorer and more fragile than Haiti. The UN reports that more than 25,000 people die every day from hunger. The 2008 CIA Factbook indicated that “the combined income of the world’s richest individuals leaves far behind that of the poorest 416 million. 982 million out of 4.8 billion people in the developing world live on $1 a day. Another 2.5 billion live on below $2 a day. 40% of the poorest population made up 5% of world income while 20% of the richest population made up 75% of global income in 2005.”
Now, if we start from the basic premise that the planet belongs to us all and that national boundaries are only relevant in spatial and historical terms, meaning that countries are at best temporary or arbitrary social constructs, then, natural disaster or not, the resource inequities that allow bankrupt, derelict societies (Haiti) to exist side by side with others brimming with so much opulence and excess (USA) cannot be sustained. The global economic system based on the post-World War II Bretton Woods regime and its attendant rules and institutions (IMF, the IBRD and the World Bank) has succeeded in foisting and perpetuating wild disparities in the control and use of human resource endowments.
Until a serious and concerted effort is made to re-negotiate, re-factor, or truly re-align the international economic system to force much needed equities and efficiencies in resource control and consumption, we will be subjected to many more Haitis.