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Weekend Wrap-up: Stay Awake for “The Quake” and Other Happenings

March 26, 2010

The Quake

Just as I was about to “leave the blog for dead” this week, I received an email about a PBS FRONTLINE documentary on Haiti called “The Quake,” which airs on PBS next Tuesday, March 30th, 9pm Eastern Time. Here’s an excerpt:

“The Quake” is a thoughtful, exhaustive exploration of the unnaturally deadly disaster and spiraling humanitarian crisis that threatens to confound the largest global relief effort in modern memory. It features an exclusive interview with Partners In Health founder and long-time Haiti advocate Paul Farmer where he states:

“This is an opportunity to rethink how aid works and how we, the most powerful country in this part of the world, can work with our oldest neighbor. So I think all that possibility is built into this tragedy.”

Secretary Hillary Clinton, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and Former President and UN Special Envoy, Bill Clinton are also interviewed. Former President Clinton: “The Haitians have been abused by outsiders, neglected by outsiders, helped, but in a paternalistic, ineffective way by outsiders. They’ve engaged in self-abuse. They’ve had all kinds of problems. And they wanted finally to seize control of their own destiny.”

You can get a sneak preview of “The Quake” at where you will find embeddable videos and more information. Follow the films producers at

Other Happenings

(Left to right: Kanika Bahl, Ken Berger, Fay Twersky, Laura Herman, Kat Rosqueta)

  • In addition, today was the Wharton Undergraduate Social Impact Conference, of which this year’s theme was “Addressing the Skeptics,” with keynote speaker, Chris Anderson of You can read a brief, student write-up of the event by the editors of Under The Button here. [Note: is a blog of 34th Street, the University of Pennsylvania’s weekly student magazine.  Both Under the Button and 34th Street are part of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Penn’s independent student newspaper.]

See you all next week as we enter the month of April!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 27, 2010 11:59 am

    Dear Colleagues

    I am responding to the note about “The Quake” and the observation quoted from an interview with Dr. Paul Farmer, founder of Partners In Health and long-time Haiti advocate that: “This is an opportunity to rethink how aid works and how we, the most powerful country in this part of the world, can work with our oldest neighbor. So I think all that possibility is built into this tragedy.”

    Bottom line the activities of the international relief and development assistance community is moving along very well worn tracks. There are plenty of people including myself who have a lot of experience and know something about the field of international relief and development. The problem is that what needs to be done is at odds with the people who are in control of the system … as Muhammad Yunus has observed: “When poor people are working for long hours seven days a week and still remain poor … there is something wrong with the system”.

    In my experience it is not just one thing that is wrong with the system, but many things. It is amazing how much money is disbursed to do so little in the international official relied and development assistance field … my estimate is that most things are costing around 10 times as much as they should be costing … but who knows about this? Nobody … and why? Because there is not accountability that is worth a damn and because the metrics of cost effectiveness and cost efficiency are not in place or not working.

    And getting value for money? Nobody knows about this because … again, the metrics about this are not in place or not working. There is rampant leakage of resources … and hardly any accounting and financial checks and balances. For some reason nobody seems to be very interested in getting strong financial controls in place … none of the actors with good reputations which leaves an open field for bad actors.

    Why this aversion to accountability … which includes as far as I can see Partners in Health? Either they do not know how to have effective accountability or they do not want to control the resources effectively! Neither are good reasons.

    The area of progress and performance metrics is in sad disarray … but it need not be. The technology and the concepts are available … the will to do it is absent. But this is going to carry over into the planning and implementing of the rebuilding process. The socio-economic dynamics of rebuilding seem to be absent from the process of planning … and this sets the stage for a lot of money doing rather little. In the past the creation of a lot of national debt has produced very little of progress out of poverty … what is different this time?

    Peter Burgess
    Community Analytics (CA)


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