The present report deals with pre-earthquake binational relations along the Haitian / Dominican border and with the implication of these patterns for developments along the border in the changed world of the post-earthquake island. The earthquake constitutes a definitive watershed for Haiti. Though nobody yet knows what is in store, post-earthquake Haiti will never be a replica of the country before the earthquake. (Nor does anyone want to restore the dysfunctional economic and political systems or the unbalanced Port-au-Prince demographic concentration of the pre-earthquake society.) But the earthquake will also exert a profound impact, somewhat more predictable, on the economy and demography of the Dominican Republic as well. These impacts are already being sensed, though they cannot yet be fully charted, as these words are being written several weeks after the earthquake.
In a paradoxical way this report has also changed the modus operandi – at least the short term modus operandi — of many development agencies – multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank , bilateral institutions such as USAID, and the many institutions of the NGO world that either were already functioning in. Haiti or came in the wake of the earthquake. Not only have former levels of funding been increased, but program focus has incorporated a level of immediate humanitarian assistance as the immediate program goal, and program philosophies and ideologies that have emphasized education and/or subsidy-free economic sustainability been put aside as the need for immediate and totally subsidized material inputs has come to outweigh considerations of development philosophy.
We will hold off until the final section of the paper discussion of the implications of the earthquake for long term development programs in Haiti. The present report will focus on one particular dimension of issues that has affected the past, and will affect the future, of the development of Haiti: the relations between Haitians and Dominicans on the border area. In that regard the report has several modest, analytically focused objectives: (1)to describe the immediate pre-earthquake state of relations between Dominicans and Haitians who lived along the border, (2) to extrapolate from there as to the likely long- term impact of the earthquake on the economy and social organization of both sides of the border, and (3) to discuss alternative policy measures that would permit different institutional actors on both sides of the border – multilateral, bilateral, public sector, and NGO – to link up and contribute effectively to the agendas of local border communities. If institutions can place in abeyance their own pet agendas and instead focus with careful attention on the economic, educational, and healthcare agendas of local communities, and if they can channel their resources away from the grips of predatory gatekeepers and channel them instead to local communities, the humanitarian attention generated by the tragic earthquake can be an occasion of positive developmental transformation.