Harvard professor Robert I. Rotberg
is the director of the Program on Intrastate Conflict and Conflict
Resolution at Harvard University and president of the World Peace
Foundation. He is an expert on failed states and on Haiti. He spoke to
MercatorNet about the aftermath of the disastrous earthquake in Haiti.

You literally wrote the book about “failed states”. Is Haiti, with its
weak government, poverty and corruption a failed state?

Rotberg: Yes,
the internal conflict of this century tipped Haiti from endemically
weak (on my scale) to failed. It produced before the earthquake almost
no political goods for its citizens. Plus it was rife with corruption
and conflict. Now the earthquake tragedy has plunged a failed state
toward the classification of collapsed.

MercatorNet: Do you ever wonder whether the independent nation-state model will persist through the 21st Century for nations like Haiti?

Rotberg: We
often wonder about and, indeed, my colleagues and I routinely suggest
Haiti and similar places for “tutelage” – a type of UN trusteeship.
Haiti badly needs to be guided by outsiders now because its own
security forces and bureaucracy are weak if not non-existent.

Why is Haiti so poor and so incapable of keeping pace with its
Caribbean neighbours? Does it have to do with its history as a nation
of emancipated slaves?

Rotberg: When Haiti became
independent in 1804 it was isolated by the world because it had
overthrown slavery. Throughout the next 100 years or so Haiti had a
succession of corrupt and cruel governments. Indeed, Haiti has never
known good governance. That is the problem, and one explanation for its
intense poverty. My 1971 book, Haiti: The Politics of Squalor, explains why and gives details.

MercatorNet: If we fast-forward a couple of years, what would you recommend implementing to improve Haitian governance?

Rotberg: Tutelage. Assistance from outside powers and the UN — not for a year or two but for at least ten years.

The world is focused now on helping Haiti. But before the earthquake
President Preval said that Haiti has to replace a paradigm of charity
with a paradigm of prosperity. Would you agree?

Rotberg: Yes
– but how to jump start a very week economy is the problem. Haiti has
no natural resources. Its agriculture is shot. There is no tourism. It
lives off narco-trafficking (via Colombia) and remittances. If it could
develop an honest and capable government it could attract investment
from the large Haitian diaspora in the US and Canada.