Government by Acronym

Haiti is a country with at least 9 million people and GDP of $7 billion (pre-quake).  Think about that size of that latter number in relation to the usual magnitudes that we discuss on this blog.  But anyway, given its long-standing economic plight, Haiti also has extensive relations with international financial and development organizations and as part of that relationship, it has a poverty reduction strategy.  In February 2009, the government published a progress report on implementation of that strategy.  Here’s a paragraph on implementation (para. 37) —

Strategic-level entities: the Strategic Orientation Investment Council (COSI), the Donor Advisory Committee (DAC), and the Priority Arbitration Committee (CAP) are not yet officially up and running. At the operational level, the Interministerial Committee for Implementation Coordination and Monitoring (CICSMO) is up and running and is chaired by the Minister of Planning and External Cooperation. The Executive Secretariat of CICSMO, the key entity for the entire implementation mechanism, the Interministerial Subcommittee for Sectoral Coordination and Monitoring (SCTICSMO), and the Departmental Subcommittees for Implementation Coordination and Monitoring in the regions (SCDCSMOs) have been established. SCTICSMO is holding its ninth monthly coordination and monitoring meeting.

Does this sound like the kind of administrative weight that a country like Haiti could handle? And with the government now essentially destroyed by the earthquake, does it sound like the kind of thing they should rush to re-establish?  And yet as the demands come in for a “coordinated” approach to aid delivery, how does one avoid exactly this kind of structure emerging again?  There is going to be a clear tradeoff between getting aid delivered quickly and establishing any meaningful role for the government of Haiti in the crisis mitigation and recovery process.  Can you build a nation without a government?



11 thoughts on “Government by Acronym

  1. Can you build a nation without a government?

    I’m sure it can be done, but I’m not encouraged by looking at history. At least from what I’ve read of history, usually the state in some form came first, with nationalism “filling it in”, either as part of a deliberate state effort to inculcate it, or as part of general cultural development within that state. Think of the European monarchies, for examples.

  2. And lest we forget, the government in question is (was?) one that was installed by a US-sponsored coup d’etat in 2004, replacing an elected government that the Clinton administration re-installed by military force after the previous coup. And of course, the Aristide government’s shaky legitimacy followed on after decades of rule by one junta after another.

    Start pulling on one thread, and the entire sweater looks likely to unravel.

  3. You can build a nation without a government – indeed, that’s how it’s usually done. Can you build a state without a government? Probably not, but perhaps we need to jettison our fixation with states and start thinking more creatively about post-disaster scenarios…

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  5. Can you build a nation without a government?

    Even if you could, can you build one without an economy, without traditions, without education…?

  6. Haiti is the second-oldest independent country in the Americas, distinct from its neighbour(s) in its language, its culture, and the attitudes of its people; this is not a corner of the planet haphazardly defined by the Treaty of Berlin. It is a nation already, there’s no need for nation-building; the unfortunate thing is that the nation is miserable, violent and poor. It needs a government, a state worth the name.

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  8. According to the NYT (I don’t know how they counted) there are more than “10,000 private organizations perform(ing) supposedly humanitarian missions in Haiti”.

  9. “Can you build a nation without a government?”

    I think you mean can you build a state without a government, because nations aren’t build by anyone. Nations are created throughout history, not by any one act or the will of any one person, but by the waves of history. Nations are created by a group of people who develop a common language, common culture/traditions/customs, a common history, and sometimes they even have a common religion. Now a common history, culture and language take centuries to develop, so I don’t know how you can speak of building a nation, like in Haiti’s case, in a manner of a handful of years.

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