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Saturday, January 16, 2010  

A Good Start

Modestly encouraging news today as the U.S. grants "temporary protected status" to Haitians living here without documents. These people will need to be working and sending remittances back to Haiti when the country is rebuilt enough to have an actual economy.

Down the road, a more difficult but potentially helpful step would be to create a guest worker program for Haitians. Haiti couldn't support its working-age population before the quake and there will be so little left now that much of that population will either be housed as long-term internal refugees or it will flow to other countries. Better, in my view, to have some of it flow here in a legal and orderly manner.

One way or another, it seems likely to me that Haiti is about to become a hemispheric, and really an American, responsibility. Neglect will not really be an option, even for the hard-hearted, as refugee flows and shockwaves of instability radiate from the island. That doesn't mean our response will be consistently decent, but it means that a response of some kind--some massive and long-term kind--seems all but inevitable to me.

This is also why it's important to invest real effort in the unsexy (and paranoia-inducing) task of improving global governance. Mass urbanization, nagging poverty, climate shifts, and natural disasters will make this sort of event a recurring problem in the coming decades. Communications technology, large expatriate communities, and the relative ease of fleeing to the developed world will increase the pressure on rich countries to contain and ameliorate these disasters. Imagine something like this hitting Lagos or Cairo. Somehow the UN will have to have the legitimacy and capacity to act in cases where the humanitarian and political devastation exceeds the ability of a country and its neighbors to respond adequately.

posted by Benjamin Dueholm | 8:18 AM
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