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Robert Goodwin

Robert Goodwin

Robert J. Goodwin is CEO and co-founder of Executives Without Borders; former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force and appointee at USAID, the State Department and the White House.

Preventing a failed state

While we are focused on the immediate humanitarian needs of the people of Haiti, we will only succeed if we focus on creating a sustainable long-term solution. I have responded to many disasters and international crisis situations, and I believe in a three-pronged strategy for success that includes security, health and jobs.

Without security, good health is not possible. Without good health, people are not able to work or go to school. And without jobs, Haiti will not be able to regain its footing and break out of a subsistence culture.

Here's what the strategy for success entails:

1. Security: Lives must be saved, order must be reestablished and the streets must be safe. Without this, nothing can succeed and any investments will be short lived. If you or your family members are in immediate danger, it is almost impossible to focus on the future. Under a UN mandate, the U.S. military, with the support of other militaries, must reestablish order and strengthen the systems that drive good security. These systems include communications, patrols, roads and capacity building to strengthen any host nation capability that exists and can be trusted.

2. Health: People who are alive must be able to stay alive and disease must be prevented. Safe water and food must be made available and distributed. A major effort must be made to prevent and treat diarrheal disease. Low cost simple technology must be used and public health campaigns must begin. Immunization programs must be restarted and primary health care needs to focus on prevention.

3. Jobs: At first, jobs must be focused on giving people hope and reestablishing basic markets. Paying armies of people to clear rubble will help get rid of some of the painful memories. Immediately investing in the repair of some structures that are salvageable will help bring hope. Invest in local farmers and shopkeepers to be part of the distribution system and then help get the professionals back to work. These professionals will need to be the backbone for when the international community leaves.

There are other things that must be done to create conditions for the success of this strategy. First, governance must be established and the governmental institutions must be strengthened. A structure mandated by the UN, similar to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq (but without the occupation), must be considered to reestablish a workable government and strengthen ministries. The Haitian government must be strengthened where possible. Other aspects of governing must be taken over (with the approval of the Haitian government) when they are not able to perform their duties. Timelines for a handover back to the Haitian government should be negotiated and clearly established. And moving the capital and population centers from Port-au-Prince must be considered.

Second, a private fund must be established to make long-term investments in businesses and infrastructure. These private investments must have a profit incentive to ensure companies will stay engaged long-term to protect their investments. The U.S. government should incentivize companies by providing insurance or matching funds to drive immediate investments. Returns on investment in Haiti will only happen after many years and current capital will go to other places to get a quicker return without government incentives.

Third, the case must be made to the American people why this is important and relevant to them.

Make no mistake--the security of the region and of the United States is at stake in the wake of this crisis. Instability in Haiti will spread to the Dominican Republic and beyond. Millions of Haitians will look to enter the United States illegally, and crime and strain on our health care system will spread. Stabilizing and rebuilding Haiti will be expensive, but less costly than the consequences if we do not do so.

I am always so amazed and thankful to live in the United States. I stand in awe when the power and compassion of the United States is directed to those in need. The response from citizens and the business community is incredible. Technology such as texting Haiti to 90999 (donates $10 to the Red Cross) has made it easier for every American to forgo a couple lattes and get involved. Because of our efforts, many who would have died are alive today and many more will live for tomorrow.

Our challenge is our short attention span and desire for immediate results. It's a cultural issue that has made the long-term struggle against terrorism and extremism so difficult. I applaud President Clinton, President Bush and others for their strong voices in the need to stay focused on the long term. It's the only way to provide a sustainable solution for the Haitian people and to ensure that Haiti does not become a failed state. What is good for the people of Haiti is good for us here at home.

By Robert Goodwin

 |  January 19, 2010; 6:48 AM ET
Category:  Crisis leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Thank you, chrisford1. Finally, someone had the guts to say it: Haiti is overpopulated, and until that aspect of their society is addressed and controlled, their future is very grim indeed.

Posted by: Orsalia | January 19, 2010 1:18 PM
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There's no way to avoid a long period of involvement in Haiti. It's just wishful thinking as our own fortunes are limited.

Posted by: scottandrewtaylor | January 19, 2010 1:13 PM
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Good neighbors help their neighbors in an emergency and then leave.
That's what the US should do with Haiti.
If we stay, the US and Haitians will end up shooting one another.
Then the Europeans will say we're picking on Haiti.
Since Haitians speak French, relocating half of them to France might help them solve their environmental problems.

Posted by: jfv123 | January 19, 2010 10:22 AM
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The Haitian domino theory: Instability in Haiti will spread to the Dominican Republic and beyond. Haiti is an ecological disaster.

This earthquake disaster will only help to perpetuate a lifetime of dependency on foreign assistance. Papa Doc and Baby Doc totally destroyed any hope for democracy or self-rule with their reign of terror with the Tonton Macoutes - the secret police death squads - from 1957 to 1986.

Over population makes all relief efforts futile for the long term. It seems no nation in the Americas wants to allow Haitian immigration. They are misfits in this hemisphere - they can't speak English or Spanish and many have HIV. Haiti is a total, post-apocalyptic nightmare.

Posted by: alance | January 19, 2010 9:00 AM
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I want the idea of wading into a 3rd simultaneous nation-building adventure (along with "saving" the noble, ever-grateful Iraqis and "saving" the noble ever-grateful Afghanis) debated by Congress before we get sucked into it. We are also talking about the new American obligation to possibly go in and "save" the noble Somalis and noble Yemenis.

Goodwin lays out a structure that addresses some key problems IF --and I hope it is a big IF --we somehow make the noble Haitians our defacto 51st State. But that is a big decision, it will cost the US huge wealth...and we need an honest debate on matters like free healthcare for millions of Haitians when up to 40 million Americans lack it, rebuilding Port au Prince instead of rebuilding Detroit, jobs for Haitians when we have an effective 20% unemployment problem in America.

One other matter Goodwin and most other "fixers" of Haiti that have come out with all sorts of "fix-it ideas" have failed to opine on is the Overpopulation matter. It seems like a taboo subject to the wonks...but is the reason Haiti has been on life support for almost 50 years and can't feed itself, has devestated it's lands and waters environmentally, and has a 70% jobless rate and it gets worse each year.
It long lost the ability to self-sustain and is on Terri Schiavo life support when you think of the outside aid that sustains it as feeding tubes, outside money and do-gooder organizations as the free nursing home the Schiavo nation clings to life in. All the Earthquake did was collapse the nursing home, making it more difficult to keep the Schiavos alive - more digging out is required, and the tubes need to restart pumping.

Did I say Schiavos?

Yes. You started with one Schiavo but thanks to breeding and just one bed available you have crammed 3 Schiavos on the same bed, with a 4th on the way unless the breeding rates are brought under control. Haiti had about 3 million people when it became a charity basket case. Now it has 10. Port au Prince and outlying Haitian cities have a population density 3X that of NYC. There is only a piece of land 178X178 feet for each Haitian now, and half that land is now sterile, topsoil gone because of Haitians destructive practices. Arable land has gone from 39% down to 22% in 30 years. Haiti is too many people chasing scant resources, impossible to self-sustain unless they dump 6 million 4th worlders on nations that would be harmed accepting them, or by doing what China and many other countries have done - realize that there are limits to how many people should be there in their countries.

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | January 19, 2010 8:20 AM
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