Tag Archives: aid

Haiti Aid Update

The international response to the earthquake in Haiti has been remarkable. More than 40 countries around the world have responded with donations. Even relatively poor countries—like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has suffered from instability, poverty, and war over the better part of the last decade—donated $2.5 million to the relief effort.

The international response has been impressive, but two caveats are important. First, as most aid observers know, there is a big difference between pledging assistance and delivering the check. As the Guardian’s Datablog site illustrates, many of the largest donations have yet to be delivered. Australia has pledged about $13 million but has delivered only 45% of its pledge. Other countries have similarly fallen short: Germany has delivered 49% of its pledged aid, the Netherlands 50%, Canada 51%, Denmark 53%, France 55%. The United States has performed relatively well so far, delivering 88% of its pledged aid. Only four countries (Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, and Switzerland) have delivered 100% of the aid promised.

The second caveat centers on how we measure the generosity of states. Both Guyana and New Zealand have pledged $1 million for the Haitian relief effort. But on both a per capita basis and as a percentage of the economy, Guyana’s donation could be considered more generous (Guyana’s donation is $1.31 per person, 0.088% of its GDP; New Zealand’s is $0.23 per person, or 0.0008 percent of its GDP. 

So which countries have been the most generous? It depends on how you approach the question.

Donations to Haitian Relief by Country (Selected)


Pledged Total

$ per person

Donation as % of GDP

United States
























































DR Congo
















New Zealand




Source: InformationIsBeautiful.net

So, to the answer to who is the most generous looks different depending on how you measure it. The top five by category are:

Most Generous (total donations)

  1. United States ($168 million)
  2. Canada ($131 million)
  3. Spain ($45 million)
  4. United Kingdom ($32 million)
  5. France ($31 million)

Most generous on a per capita basis ($ per person)

  1. Canada ($3.89 per person)
  2. Sweden ($2.51 per person)
  3. Norway ($2.16 per person)
  4. Denmark ($2.05 per person)
  5. Finland ($1.48 per person)

And finally, most generous as a porportion of the economy (% GDP)

  1. Guyana (0.088%)
  2. Ghana (0.018%)
  3. Canada (0.0087%)
  4. Sweden (0.0048%)
  5. Estonia (0.0043%)

Haitian Aid and the Fungibility of American Power

82nd Airborne's Relief Mission , Photo courtesy US Military (www.army.mil)

Aid is finally beginning to flow to Haiti, despite bottlenecks at key transit points. The U.S. 82nd Airborne division has turned a golf course in Port-au-Prince into a makeshift refugee camp, ferrying relief supplies in by helicopter.
An estimated 50,000 people are now living on the country club’s grounds.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced yesterday that the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which had been scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan, would be diverted to assist the relief effort in Haiti.

The use of the U.S. 82nd Airborne, the 24th MEU, and other units to assist in relief operations in Haiti illustrates the changing missions of the U.S. military. Their role in Haiti stands in stark contrast to ongoing combat operations in Afghanistan. But President Obama’s decision to deploy U.S. military personnel to Haiti presents an interesting example of the fungibility [glossary] of hard power as well. Traditionally, international relations scholars have contended that hard power (military force) was really only good for one thing: fighting wars. At the end of the Cold War, many scholars were concerned that U.S. soft power [glossary] was declining at the same time that hard power [glossary] became less relevant.

President Obama’s article in Newsweek illustrates his thinking. He states that the United States acts

for the sake of the thousands of American citizens who are in Haiti, and for their families back home; for the sake of the Haitian people who have been stricken with a tragic history, even as they have shown great resilience; and we act because of the close ties that we have with a neighbor that is only a few hundred miles to the south. But above all, we act for a very simple reason: in times of tragedy, the United States of America steps forward and helps.

But Obama also notes that

When we show not just our power, but also our compassion, the world looks to us with a mixture of awe and admiration. That advances our leadership. That shows the character of our country. And it is why every American can look at this relief effort with the pride of knowing that America is acting on behalf of our common humanity.

This is a classic example of the exercise of soft power in international relations.

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

It’s been an interesting week in the news. While the domestic political scene has been dominated by President Barack Obama’s comments regarding the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, the real issues of health care reform and reforming the U.S. financial regulatory system appear to have fallen by the wayside, at least temporarily.

In news from outside the United States in the last week:

1. George Mitchell, President Barak Obama’s special Middle East envoy, met with Syrian officials on Sunday. Although no specifics of the meeting were reported, it is believed that Mitchell’s visit is part of Obama’s strategy of improving relations with Syria as part of the broader goal of achieving a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute. The visit was Mitchell’s second trip to Syria in two months.

2. The political situation in Iran appears ready to destabilize, as the government faces both opposition from opposition political parties as well as a standoff between fundamentalist elements within President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad’s cabinet. On Monday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned opposition leaders that they faced “collapse” if they continued protests over last month’s disputed presidential elections. Last week, Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, Iran’s former president, lent support to the opposition, speaking at a protest against Ahmadi-Nejad’s re-election. Rafsanjani’s position was closely watched, particularly given his position as head of two powerful conservative bodies in Iran, the expediency council and the experts assembly.

In other developments, over the weekend, President Ahmadi-Nejad fired two cabinet ministers, Hossein Saffar-Harandi, culture minister, and Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, intelligence minister. The firings, which are rare in Iranian politics, represent the latest developments in a political standoff between Ahmadi-Nejad and conservative forces in his government. It was reported on Wednesday that four ministers, including the two fired over the weekend, debated the president’s decision to name Esfandir Rahim Mashaei as first vice president. Mashaei is a close ally of the president, but managed to draw the criticism of conservatives when he argued last week that the position of the Iranian government should maintain a friendly disposition towards the Israeli people. After the appointment was made public, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who as the country’s supreme leader has the final word in governmental affairs, wrote to Ahmadi-Nejad, urging him to fire Mashaei. Ahmadi-Nejad initially refused, but Mashaei nevertheless stepped down over the weekend.  

3. The International Monetary Fund approved a new $2.6 billion loan for Sri Lanka on Friday. The loan is intended to help Sri Lanka rebuild after its 25 year civil war, which ended several months ago after the government launched a series of attacks which incapacitated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebel group. Despite the end of the fighting, however, the government continues to hold thousands of ethnic Tamils displaced by the fighting in detention camps. The detention of so many people led some human rights groups to condemn the IMF’s decision, arguing, as Human Rights Watch did, that the loan “is a reward for bad behavior, not an incentive to improve.” The United States and the United Kingdom both abstained from the decision, an unusual move for the two countries which collectively control almost 22 percent of the voting shares in the organization.

4. Government services in townships across South Africa have been disrupted by a strike by municipal workers demanding higher pay. The strike follows weeks of protest by residents of poor black urban areas in South Africa, who are demanding improvement of water and electricity delivery, better government housing, and reductions in corruption. The protests represent the most significant political challenge to President Jacob Zuma’s government, which came to power on the platform of reducing poverty and addressing corruption. Zuma promised last week to crack down on protestors, but such a strategy appears likely to exacerbate the political crisis facing the government.

5. The standoff in Honduras continued to develop last week, as ousted President Manuel Zelaya visited the Honduran border on Friday. Zelaya vowed to return to power and symbolically crossed the border, briefly stepping in to Honduras before quickly stepping back into Nicaragua to avoid arrest. Talks between Zelaya and the interim government of Honduras appeared to break down this week, as both sides have refused to cede any ground on the most fundamental question: who should be president. Meanwhile, western governments have stepped up pressure on the interim government of Honduras. On Monday, the European Union announced it was suspending all aid to Honduras while the United States has suspending military aid to the country and has threatened to suspend economic aid if progress is not made. Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, heavily reliant on coffee for export earnings.