In countries like Haiti, Western dependency hinders development


People line up to receive items at a USAID distribution point in Port-au-Prince following the massive 7.0-magnitude quake that shattered Haiti. However, many believe the West's pattern of unfettered aid is actually contributing to the problem of dependence and making development impossible.



Chad Jordan is committed to finding sustainable solutions to global poverty, with field experience spanning five continents. He is the author of "Shut Up & Give?" and is a recognized speaker on such topics as microfinance, foreign aid, social entrepreneurship, empowering the underserved and making the most out of church missions. Having seen firsthand the failure of traditional, cyclical approaches to international development in nations like Haiti, Jordan is committed to developing innovative approaches that look into the future and concentrate on long-term, sustainable solutions.  

It may not be a breaking news story if you’ve spent time in the field, but the rest of the world’s dependency on the West makes poverty eradication strategies in the underserved world much more complicated than they need to be.

In Haiti, for example, there was a belief that after the 2010 earthquake it was the West’s responsibility to fix the crumbling nation, to make things better, to bring stability. In conversations with everyone from church parishioners in Port-au-Prince to the Haitian Ambassador back in the States, there was an overwhelming theme that Western nations needed to solve the problems.

This mindset of dependency exists because the West helped create it.

More from GlobalPost: Driving Haiti’s recovery by spending aid dollars locally

In the case of Haiti, Western nations poured billions of dollars of aid into the country for at least two decades before the 2010 earthquake. Unemployment, however, was 70 percent or higher before January 12, 2010. Where had the billions gone? What were they used for? Sure, they helped maintain a certain level of stability, but the money was aid money—it was given as handouts, it didn’t create opportunities.

Western efforts to alleviate poverty in the underserved world have been about Western agendas. Projects have been pursued based on what Western actors have decided from offices in Washington or meetings in London. The programs haven’t focused on what’s really needed on the ground. When the voices that matter most – local voices – haven’t been included in the process, how could they ever feel empowered to take responsibility for their own futures?

More from GlobalPost: Post-quake US food aid hurt Haiti farmers

Development has become about what the West thinks is needed. It hasn’t been about local solutions to local problems. It hasn’t been about empowering locals, it’s instead been about quantifiable, instant results—quick, in-and-out projects. This shortsighted programming has created dependency.

This is the real problem. Humanitarian aid has a time and a place in disaster situations, but when pursued over a long period of time, it creates the kind of dependent lethargy we often see in places like Haiti. It makes people reliant on handouts. When aid is the only thing that’s consistent, that’s what people will come to depend on.

Some argue people in the underserved world are lazy and wouldn’t want to take responsibility for their families’ well-being even if our strategies were more progressive. While possibly true in some cases, the locals I’ve encountered in nations like India, Zambia, Tanzania, Costa Rica, South Africa, Bangladesh, Ghana, and even Haiti want to work hard, they want to be responsible for their own futures. But the free aid money just keeps flowing.

What would you do? Not take it?

Dependency isn’t new – but maybe as we come to realize our own part in helping create it, we can finally develop a long-term strategy to move past it. 

For more of GlobalPost's coverage of Haiti, check out our Special Report "Fault Line: Aid, Politics and Blame in Post-Quake Haiti."

In PoliticsConflict & JusticeConflictRights.

Tagged: United States.