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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Friday, January 2, 2015

What does it mean to be an "emerging country"? And why will it take Haiti 15 years to be one?

I read an interesting report from the United Nations Development Programme today that takes a futuristic look at Haiti. The report can be found on the UNDP/PNUD website:


In the Introduction section, a comment is made that "...new financial resources must be mobilised to lift Haiti up to the emerging country level by 2030" (p. 3).

The statement surprised me on two fronts.

First, what exactly is an emerging country? I have seen the term in reference to countries such as Brazil and South Korea. I did a quick search to see if I could find how the term is defined. I found information on the World Bank and the United Nations Statistics Division websites, neither of which mentions "emerging". Other sources (including the IMF and Forbes) suggest that a country that is emerging no longer relies on international aid organizations to prevent starvation, disease, and political instability. If that is how we define emerging, then Haiti is clearly "emerging". One thing was clear from my limited search, the idea of "emerging" is contested.

Second, why will it take about a generation (15 years) to get Haiti to that position? Within Haiti, I see micro-ecosystems that could be considered "emerging". Social entrepreneurs and innovators are changing the landscape of communities. The social capital in these contexts is flourishing.

What is lacking in Haiti is the macro-ecosystem that represents this social capital on a national scale. So we may have schools that are effectively supporting the social development of children in communities but we don't have this consistently on a national scale. There are hospitals that are supporting the reduction of disease in communities but not on a national scale. There are businesses and agricultural cooperatives fostering significant economic development in local contexts but not on a national scale.

These micro-ecosystems are like springs in a desert. They demonstrate a way forward. And they need to be replicated. Perhaps it will take 15 or more years to do so. That's a blink in terms of human history. It's also a lifetime in terms of human misery.

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