Accountability as Resistance: Helping Others be Autonomous?

37 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2014

Date Written: 2014


On March 10, 2010, former US President Bill Clinton publicly apologized for championing policies that destroyed Haiti’s rice production in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Clinton testified that “I have had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce rice crops in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did.” This apology was for forcing Haiti to drop tariffs on imported, subsidized US rice during his time in office. These lower tariffs would allow United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide more food aid. Unfortunately, that aid had systemically undermined the long-term food production of Haiti and thereby, its food security. Clinton’s apology points to the dangers of focusing simply on the amount of aid given, e.g. the yearly average of over $50 million in gratuitous US surplus beans, corn, rice, and cracked wheat delivered to Haiti in order to assess aid. Any adequate ethics of NGO aid must track whose interests were being served by the particular form of aid given and to recognize how beneficiaries and aid organizations can have different and sometimes conflicting interests. For example, the multi-year food assistance programs to Haiti that spent over $23 million on ocean freights to deliver $67 million worth of commodities benefitted US shipping interests disproportionately over the interests of Haitians receiving that aid (CEPR 2012). Clinton’s apology, though, was not for allocating funds poorly, e.g. spending too much on transporting food and not enough on local production of that food. 2 Rather, his apology centered on how help — that is, the large flows of food aid into Haiti — harmed Haitians. As recipients of aid, Haitians weren’t allowed to be “choosers.” They had to take whatever form of help they were given.

Keywords: Accountability, Participation, Transparency, Sanctions, Autonomy, and Resistance

Suggested Citation

Dovi, Suzanne, Accountability as Resistance: Helping Others be Autonomous? (2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Suzanne Dovi (Contact Author)

University of Arizona ( email )

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