By Jasmine Minato
Staff Writer

2015 marks the 5th year anniversary of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, which took over 250,000 lives, including over 18,000 highly skilled professionals and destroyed a majority of homes, schools, hospitals, and government buildings in Haiti’s capital of Port Au Prince (PAP). The monstrous natural disaster was ranked by the U.S. Geological Survey in the top 10 worst natural disturbances in all of human history. A self-proclaimed novice expert of Haitian history, yet confirmed avid researcher on the Caribbean island’s cultural developments and colonial periods, Ivan Evans (who is also the newly appointed Eleanor Roosevelt College provost), hosted a seminar called “Haiti After the Earthquake” on February 18 in the Cross Cultural Center’s Communidad Room at the University of California, San Diego. Guest speakers included Literature department Professor Sarah Johnson, UC Berkeley’s School of Environmental Engineering Professor Mary Cameiro, and Dickinson College American Studies Professor Jerry Philogene. Although Haiti has relatively avoided recent news headlines, commotion regarding international aid has not. The phenomenon of aid organizations flocking to regions struggling with rebuilding post-disaster continues to be a relevant headline. However, the role of international aid organizations in the reconstruction process deserves a second look. In particular, should organizations dictate whether a nation should enforce recovery or development policy post disaster reconstruction? In Haiti’s case, international aid organizations dictated the choice to fund long term public projects during an emergency disaster crippling the nation’s ability to re-build on it’s own. Pipeline projects were promoted as a recovery priority for aid cohorts. Is the fundamental intention of aid changing or was Haiti cheated out of relief aid?

How is Haiti remembered?
Haiti is well known as a poor nation with the “lowest per capita GDP in the Western Hemisphere,” according to Literature Professor Sarah Johnson. However, she continued, within “Haiti’s history contains the highs and lows of human emotion,” from which we can all remember Haiti by if we are willing to dig past a common single narrative strangling the nation’s true exceptional resiliency. Often overlooked is Haiti’s ability to overcome overwhelming circumstances. For example, in 1804 Toussaint L’Ouverture, a free slave and Haitian rebellion leader led a successful populist revolt against French colonial military forces leading to national independence. The logic of Haiti’s resilience lies in an ability of its people and it’s culture to adapt to renewal or as Johnson calls it “building from the ground up.” For most of the 17th century, Haiti was an empirical trade frontier where crops and eventually people were stolen by European colonizers. Haiti was forced to support foreign prosperity at the cost of domestic degradation. Post independence, social order was an anomaly where 60,000 Haitians lived as free people and half a million Haitians were still enslaved as laborers. Johnson asks “how could Haiti rule a society with slaves led by free people?” Her answer is years of extreme violence and bloody revolutions between different classes of people. Colonization caused unnatural violence and social disruption in Haiti. An intervention of foreign powers caused Haiti to become chaotic. Foreign intervention today no longer looks like colonization, but takes form in international aid. International aid organizations are pre-occupied with planning long-term business developments than providing emergency humanitarian relief. In 2010, disaster recovery became an investment opportunity for international aid organizations swarming PAP. Haiti has a spirit of resilience and a unique history of survival in the face of uncertain and tremulous conditions, but in the aftermath of an event of total geological destruction, was Haiti’s spirit of resilience enough to recover? Reliance on outside organizations caused Haiti to fall into an economic chokehold where recovery was possible, but with coercion. An immediate need in the aftermath of destruction would be water, shelter, and search crews, however, for Haiti commercial development as a recovery plan seemed to attract aid organizations.

How did Haiti fall victim of disaster capitalism?
To understand Haiti as a victim of deceitful aid, turn to theories of aid policy. Dr. Dambisa Moyo, who received a doctorate of Economics from Oxford and Master’s in government from Harvard’s Kennedy school, describes why foreign aid innately destroys the longevity of a nation in her 2010 published novel “Dead Aid.” Moyo’s novel can best explain how recovery policy and development policy are completely separate animals. Development policy is a geopolitical hold for advanced nations to dictate poor nations economically and divide physically. Thus, advanced nations embark on economic colonization by forcing business assets abroad. Recovery policy is either free or loaned immediate relief and often descends into a vicious cycle of aid, leaving a receiving nation addicted. Short phases of aid cause a culture of dependency, which ensures underdevelopment as well as economic failure even in the poorest of aid dependent nations. Recovery policy is a tool of international relief, yet used often without empathy for cultural survival. The very nature of aid is changing from fiscal loans between governments to NGOs sending humanitarian cohorts to supply emergency relief. However, considered an outlier is international aid organizations choosing to impose development policy in Haiti. Moyo formulates that development policy is strongest when a nation has equal economic and political leverage with foreign interventionists, but vindictive when a nation relying on aid is dependent on the hand which feeds it to ensure economic survival. Only nations with similar economic power should work multilaterally to mutually enforce development policy, but where a weaker state and powerful state work together, often the latter will be deceitful. The benefits will be asymmetrical and impose an agenda of development favoring the more advanced nation.

How did international aid organizations deceive Haiti?
Mary Cameiro, a world renowned expert on international post-disaster recovery, volunteered as an academic professional to join a recovery plan committee in Haiti in 2010. She says, “Being an academic in a room full of land developers, I felt as if I were in the twilight zone.” She was blindsided when she learned the true intentions of international aid organizations being more concerned with property licensing and land ownership rather than ensuring humanitarian aid to residents suffering from trauma. Camerio recalls that residents refused to remove rubble piles from the street, possibly knowing that land plot once belonged to them; a space where their business once stood. The beginning of territorial expansion processes began. Rubble piles were forcefully removed in order to build infrastructure in the city against the will of the Haiti residents. Camerio also noted that foreign aid development controlled by U.S. AID, IDB, the French Government, and the Clinton Foundation had no sort of common agenda and because of their disjointed goals to begin economic and social recovery. Chosen as one representative to oversee land-transferring committees, Camerio emphasized that fiscal investment in land property just was not normal for organizations that would support recovery in the face of disaster. In small meeting rooms, Camerio was an academic amongst “representatives” from aid organizations who claimed to be in Haiti to support recovery processes, but land developers were on the phone making business deals. She witnessed residents with honest intentions to protect their property, lose everything to a room of developers representing wealthy foreign organizations fighting for land. Who knows how many properties were stolen from residents because of the intervention in foreign aid. What is certain is PAP became a victim of disaster capitalism. Camerio recalls thousands of residents with missing family members and even more residents concerned about what to do next about their destroyed homes. It was perplexing that international aid organizations send land developers and business partners rather than emergency relief cohorts given a frantic outcry of the local residents. Without human security, disaster victims often resort to refugee seeking and migration. In Haiti’s case, many international aid organizations had no empathy of cultural survival, only a hunger to conquer and build.

Camerio says “one of the worst outcomes of the destruction was the loss of government records because land property licenses were completely unknown” and now, land was vulnerable for foreign developers. Haitian families who once owned stores in PAP had to give up that space for a school or new vocational resource center to be built. This type of development is infrastructure for future sustainability not emergency relief, or as Camiero says, “10 steps ahead of what really needed to be addressed as far a recovery policy was concerned. The immediate need was for survival and safety, not buildings and institutions.” While international organizations set up shop to build schools, life in the campsites for residents who had lost their homes was unsafe, unstable, and to the rest of the world, blue tent life looked like a dangerous war zone. Residents were put in danger due to enforced international aid. Crime was high as emergency relief supplies such as medical kits and blankets were stolen daily. “Children were abducted at night, in the middle of the day, and in the early morning in part because UN peacekeeping troops had militarized certain parts of PAP as regional zones and were too busy chasing organized crime” says Camerio. Mothers lost their children with no record of which part of the city their children might have been taken to or which blue tent their child may be in as tent rotation was a common trait of camp life. Even more bizarre, Cameiro explains that the U.S. military taking over Haiti’s national airport only because someone or something had to. “It was difficult to successfully do search and rescue because the streets were damaged and the land was destroyed. I witnessed residents collecting rainwater in puddles along the damaged streets for water. Between cracks there would be puddles for water to be collected in plastic bags and that was how you drank water, out of the spout of a plastic bag. Entire neighborhoods were destroyed. There were no classes for children and in an urban disaster, the effect was that school just ended” says Camerio. 80% of schools and ½ of the hospitals collapsed. Even UN offices were destroyed, killing over 300 employees. 1.3 million residents in Haiti lost their homes. Camerio sighs, “the entire nation was in shock.” Yet, Camerio like Johnson says Haiti’s tradition to rebuild in the aftermath of disaster gave her hope for strengthening the nation.

Where is the empathy for cultural resiliency and what is struggle of its survival?
Carrefour, pronounced “ka-fou” in Haitian Creole, is a large metropolitan, low-income neighborhood in Eastern PAP where disaster recovery has been relatively unsuccessful. Immediately after the quake, it was speculated Carrefour’s residents were suffering from waterborne diseases. Thankfully, staff from Doctors Without Borders identified a need to support Carrefour and within 24 hours upon arrival to Haiti they set up a pop-up hospital to treat over 500 local residents. However, as the only medical clinic available for miles, it was sacked by corrupt criminal activity; stolen medical devices such as thermometers were sold on the streets. There were no schools or resource centers. There was not enough law enforcement. Carrefour remained in need of relief groups, but only received minimal efforts to secure emergency relief. Instead, the focus was development. Regional planning for pipeline projects like recreation centers and transportation systems exist to sustain a strong city. Formally, infrastructure policy should embody these blueprints. For disaster recovery, basic necessities such as search and rescue should have been organized first. Every international organization representative was certainly made aware of the lack of public safety with unacceptable high crime rates and the difficulty of locating displaced people. A need for extensive search and rescue should justify a plan for an immediate relief project since Haiti was in a state of emergency. Developers did not care about who was going to enjoy these facilities. Lacking empathy for the cultural survival of Haiti, emergency relief turned into a business enterprise. From Camerio’s perspective, there was no investment in the primary relief of the Haitian community including the survival of residents. Today, the outcome of funding pipeline projects over encouraging emergency relief has deprived Haiti of a full national recovery.

Changing Aid To Recognize Empathy UCHI: What is the University of California’s connection to recovery in Haiti?
Today, Haiti is swarming with anti-establishment small university charted aid groups including the University of California’s own UC Haiti initiative group. Partnered with the L’Universite d’Etat d’Haïti (UEH), Haiti’s largest public institution for higher education, each of the ten UC campuses has dedicated students to support “Haitian brothers and sisters.” The initiative, which began in 2010 as a response to the earthquake, emphasized the necessity for global collaboration in all sectors to support self-sufficient recovery for residents in Haiti. “International governments often do not prioritize higher education in their plans for reconstruction” says UCHI. However, now cross-cultural alliances between universities can ensure long-term stability. It is possible that UCHI may be the prospect to reversing the voice of aid back to support emergency relief. If smaller groups can increase international education infrastructure, then international organizations would have to respond to emergency relief. Facilitating self-sustainability for the Haitian people is a positive first step towards development rooted in empathy.

Image by United Nations Development Programme


By Andrew Muse-Fisher
Staff Writer

When Shinzo Abe became Japan’s Prime Minister in 2012 he initiated his plan to reinvigorate an aged and ailing economy. While this plan, widely referred to as Abenomics, focuses on monetary, fiscal, and growth policies to end deflation, Abe has included a call to encourage Japanese women to enter the work force to increase productivity. [1] One of his goals is to increase female employment in leadership positions to 30 percent in six years. To begin working toward this goal, he appointed five female ministers to his cabinet. [2]

Though he is setting a strong example, he is ignoring certain social and cultural issues that prevent women from entering or excelling in the work place. To make up for her husband’s shortcomings, first lady Akie Abe expressed the necessity to change social attitudes so that “women can shine” in the careers they choose. [3] Mrs. Abe, an accomplished businesswoman, serves as an example of the success women can achieve. In addressing the World Assembly for Women hosted in Tokyo this September, Abe stated how achieving similar success in a career for women is impeded by a “male dominated business culture” that fails to accommodate the needs of working women. [4] Specifically, she scorned the ways in which Japanese culture limits women’s opportunities to excel in the work place as well as the lack of flexibility offered by high-level career paths when it comes to raising a family.

Because Japanese women face unequal opportunities when compared to men, they are widely discouraged from entering the job market. Women are often paid much less than their male counterparts: one estimate suggests 27 percent less. [5] Though this is an economic issue, it has social implications. If a job is not as lucrative when compared with the same job done by a man, women are more likely to deem their time working as less worthwhile. If this is the case, they might attempt to find a job where their time is valued to a greater extent, or they may drop out of the job search completely. Such wage discrimination is also indirectly discouraging for women in that men are in greater demand, increasing the competition in an already sparse job market.

A significant barrier to women gaining access to positions that utilize more technology lies in their relative level of education. Women are more likely to receive a university education than men, but they are severely underrepresented in fields involving mathematics and sciences. [6] If Japan is to successfully diversify its workforce, it cannot only focus on job fields in which women are already competitive. Although it is largely beyond the priorities of individual businesses to influence personal education choices, it could prove fruitful to increase recruiting efforts geared towards immersing female students in these fields.

Japan’s gender gap is clearly visible when examining women in upper management positions. In 2011, Japanese companies with over 5,000 employees had fewer than three percent of their management positions filled by women. [7] Abe has made women in leadership positions a priority, but he has done so largely through the aforementioned goal. But rhetoric is not likely to be effective unless Abe or others address the social and economic issues that discourage female participation, while guiding women to these positions. For example, Nissan has struggled to maintain a gender-diverse management staff, but has recently established policies to change this deficit. The company uses career fairs and advisers, as well as women speakers to demonstrate the feasibility of a career in management positions. [8] Though this is one company’s efforts toward diversification, it acts as a model that could be emulated across other Japanese businesses in order emphasize the necessity of diversity while increasing the motivational efforts that enable women to access higher management positions in the Japanese business world.

As women struggle to obtain managerial positions, they are statistically less likely to hold a job for a long period of time. A report from the office of the prime minister showed that employment of mothers was failing to grow in 2004. [9] In 2008, women desired to work less time in order to spend more time with their children. [10] This highlights the plausibility that mothers are trying to find a balance between time at home and time at work. Their efforts are hindered by the tradeoff that arises from compensation. Because women generally receive lower wages, they have to work longer days for their commitment at work to be worthwhile. This creates two extremes that they then have to choose from: they can work longer hours than they prefer or, if they can rely on their partner’s income, they can decide to not return to work at all.

Traditionally, Japanese women are more successful as homemakers that rely on financial support from their husbands when compared to other nations such as the United States. [11] Though women are progressively breaking this trend, the option is still open to them. Because of this, they can stay at home and out of work for long periods of time instead of making the decision between their children and their income. An alternative is for women to remain single and childless so that family does not interfere with their careers. These women work long hours to maintain an income and job security. In between, they do not have time to meet or date men. [12] While this has its positive implications—women are increasing their competitive edge in the workplace—it is also unfair that they have to forego having a family just so they can work. These two extremes demonstrate how Japanese women are placed in an awkward situation stemming from a lack of businesses practices that encourage diversity and that take into account a woman’s desired length of leave for child care.

Despite a growing female participation rate in its overall labor market, Japan is facing social problems that do not represent an isolated phenomenon. During World War II, the United States experienced an influx of women leaving the home and working jobs previously filled by men. It is remarkable how quickly they left their traditional roles in the home, but it is important to note that they remained in lower level positions. Currently, women in the United States represent around only a third of managers, even after decades of women’s rights movements. [13] This indicates that there is a long fight for Japanese women to gain total or near total equality in the work force, but this comparison also suggests Japan can use the example set by the United States. A further comparison done in 2009 offers three crucial steps to increasing female employment. Having higher education, more social support from a husband, and a smaller gap in wages between husband and wife all increase the likelihood of a woman’s employment. Education overall is no longer an issue for women getting a job, but they still lack social support and similar wages. Promoting equal or similar wages based on experience rather than gender can guarantee partial mitigation of these issues, but as long as Japan’s dominant culture remains the same, gender inequality will persist.

Japan’s history is filled with continuity of male dominance with few exceptions, and only in recent decades has the nation begun to work against this entrenched trend. Japan is moving in the right direction towards this goal, but not without the occasional setback. In June of this year, an assemblywoman was heckled while speaking on the necessity for more women’s services. The hecklers, also members of the assembly, suggested that she get married and questioned her ability to bear children. [14] Such abhorrent actions at the center of government do not bode well for the current state of women’s rights in Japan in general. Indeed, in working towards workplace equality, the women of Japan will have to endure insults and setbacks until the very foundations of Japanese culture embrace equality of opportunity for both genders.



[1] Koo, Bon-Kwan. “Abenomics, Finally a Solution to Revive Japan?” SERI Quarterly 6.3 (2013): 29-37.


[3] Mari, Yamaguchi. “AP Interview: Japan’s First Lady Says Key to “Womenomics” is More Flexibility for Women.” Canadian Press.

[4] Matsutani, Minoru. “Japanese Women Still at a Disadvantage, First Lady Says.” Japan Times 19 Nov. 2014.

[5] Adema, Willem. “Closing the gender Gap Can Boost the Economy.” OECD Observer 298 (2014): 15-16.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Jie, Ma, and Yuki Hagiwara. “At Japan’s Carmakers, Women Managers are Rare.” (2013): 9.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Boyles, Corinne, and Aiko Shibata. “Job Satisfaction, Work time, and Well-Being Among Married Women in Japan.” Feminist Economics. 15.1 (2009): 57-84.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Nishimura, Junko. “Human Resources, Household Economy, Social Support, and Women’s Employment in the U.S. and Japan.” Conference Papers – American Sociological Association (2009): 1.

[12] Yoshida, Akiko. “No Chance for Romance: Corporate Culture, Gendered Work, and Increased Singlehood in Japan.” Contemporary Japan – Journal of the German Institute for Japanese Studies, Tokyo 23.2 (2011): 213-234.

[13] Jie, Ma, and Yuki Hagiwara. “At Japan’s Carmakers, Women Managers are Rare.” (2013): 9.

[14] Finley, JC. “Tokyo Assemblywoman Heckled by Male Colleagues While Speaking on Women’s Rights.” UPI Top News (2014).


Syrian boys, whose family fled their home in Idlib, walk to their tent, at a camp for displaced Syrians, in the village of Atmeh, Syria, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012

By Marvin Andrade
Staff Writer

It is well-known that conflicts have a tendency to cluster in the same geographic regions around the same period of time; it is difficult to assess, however, whether conflict contagion is initiated from similar economic, political, social and other relevant country attributes, or if exposure to a neighboring conflict directly influences and spreads to nearby states. For more than a decade, the Middle East has experienced multiple civil conflicts that have stemmed from populations rising up to challenge their governments. These demands have been for increased government transparency, better economic opportunities and improved human dignities. The development of transnational communication networks through the increased use of online media has allowed these ideas to be spread to neighboring groups with similar grievances. It is arguable that civil conflict in Iraq and other Arab nations in the height of the Arab Spring had a direct impact in the incitement of conflict in Syria and that this realization by the global community has resulted in an evolution of how refugee camps are constructed in the neighboring regions today in response to the Islamic State.

How was conflict in Syria Contagious?

In Syria, conflict arose at the height of the Arab Spring. Through social media, the grievances of disempowered masses from Arab nations such as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia were highlighted. Research into conflict contagion states that violent mobilization in one country may lead to emulation by neighboring groups facing similar conditions. This is in large part due to the fact that transnational groups are made aware of certain grievances that they are facing in their home country and may raise their level of political demands made to their government – which are oftentimes not achieved.

Since the 2003 American invasion, Iraq has succumbed to one of the largest population diasporas in modern time. There has been gradual population dispersal in Iraq stemming from political conflict and instability in the region. Following the escalation of violence in 2006 deriving from heightened sectarian tensions, Iraq witnessed one of the largest waves of population exodus. Due to historical relations with Iraq and lenient border restrictions, approximately 1.5 million Iraqi refugees of an estimated 4.5 million fled to Syria.

Since 2007 and the arrival of a large refugee population, the Syrian government’s resources were strained as it attempted to accommodate a new segment of its population. With a population of approximately 20 million, the Syrian government struggled to accommodate a sudden six percent increase in population. In 2008, three years before initial violence broke out, Syria witnessed a 30% rise in foodstuffs and basic goods. Property prices rose 40% and rent was estimated to increase 150% in the most extreme cases. Additionally, water consumption increased by 21% and the Syrian government paid $6.8 million to provide drinking water and sanitation to the refugee population. These refugees put a strain on the unemployment rates in Syria, forcing the rate of unemployment to rise to 18% in 2006. The influx of refugees severely crippled the educational system as Iraqi citizens enrolled their children in Syrian schools, forcing drop-out rates to rise.

Overcrowding and an overall reduced standard of living increased the crime rate in Syria by nearly 20%. Syria’s economy and infrastructure was unprepared for the influx of new migrants and its economy began to buckle under the strain of over a million refugees. The Syrian government stated that approximately 80% of registered refugees in Syria had relocated to the capital city of Damascus. Of the population that migrated to Syria, it is estimated that over 60% of the population is Sunni Muslim, The ethnic makeup of the refugees entering Syria is critical in understanding the ensuing conflict in Syria itself.

Large refugee populations exacerbate resource competition between citizens in the host country and the recently arrived refugee population, and alter the ethnic balance through rapid demographic shifts. The influx of refugees provided a demographic shift which was not in favor of the ruling government. Syria, a government primarily held by Alawites, saw a further increase of Sunni Muslims (the majority population) who were already discontent with a government unable to protect their interests. As noted above, conflicts are likely spread through transnational ethnic ties, whereby the group members in one state will change the prospects of mobilization for the same group in another state. As refugees began to arrive in Syria, interaction between the citizens of Iraq and Syria begins to occur; as these populations began to speak to one another, both Sunni Muslim populations grew frustrated by the worsening conditions in both states for their particular ethnic interests. While the protests in Syria were led by Syrian citizens with legitimate grievances against their home government, sufficient evidence exists to say that the presence of Iraqi refugees exacerbated the situation through their utilization of state resources, which could have been used by the Syrian state in other forms to quell the rebellion through economic concessions to protestors.

Why Refugee Camps Matter

Due to the fact that Syrian nationals were suffering low economic standing, certain individuals’ threshold to fight were surpassed due to low opportunity costs, meaning that due to a lack of jobs, sanitation, medical care, and other human necessities, individuals were more willing to fight as they had less to lose.

Currently, more than 2.8 million Syrian refugees are spread across Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, and other nearby states. Learning from the failures to provide adequate structures for Iraqi refugees in Syria, the global community has come together to respond more attentively to Syrian refugee needs. Additionally, with the escalation of violence from the Islamic State and the fact that civil conflict has the potential to spread across borders, the international community is preparing many more permanent structures for refugees so that they do not join the conflict. Not all countries can afford permanent structures, however, due to the economic strains that refugees place on their economies. In nations, such as Lebanon and Jordan, the international community is providing more financial assistance in order to prevent an economic breakdown of social structures. Countries that have a vested interest in ensuring that the Islamic State does not further expand, such as the United States, are investing more money this year than it has in the past into order to combat it through more subtle tactics. The United States, with the help of several NGOs are ensuring that states such as Lebanon do not buckle under the tremendous economic burden of supporting refugees totaling 10% of their total population.

Some countries, such as Turkey, have begun to construct more enduring refugee structures. The Kilis refugee camp is constructed with permanence in mind. This camp has containers retrofitted with walls to create 3-room homes with kitchens, televisions, and plumbing, constructed along a grid pattern with working street lights and supermarkets that accept electronic currency. The Turkish government treats this camp as a means to publicize their nation to foreigners, as this treatment may facilitate positive perceptions of the nation when the refugees return to their homes.

The issue of refugee assistance in the Middle East is not fully humanitarian in nature, but rather a matter that is given special attention in order to prevent the future breakout of conflict. The international community learned a lesson from its failure to provide refugee assistance to Syria. Today, the Islamic State is pushing conflict in the region and continues to look for volunteers willing to give themselves to this new cause. This year, the international community has given more aid to help Syrian refugees than in previous years. One can only hope it is enough.


Photo by Syria Freedom