Progress in Haiti means listening to Haitians

Robert Maguire, an expert on Latin America, shares listening is key for successful development work in Haiti.

Aid workers and development professionals shouldn’t go to Haiti with answers. They should go with questions.

That’s the advice from Robert Maguire, professor of international affairs and director of the Latin American and hemispheric studies program at George Washington University’s Elliott School.

“And find a way of posing your questions to Haitians, not to foreigners,” Maguire told Devex.

Robert Maguire’s long career in development began on the small Caribbean island of Dominica where, as a Peace Corps volunteer from 1969 to 1972, he helped to develop the social studies curriculum at a primary school.

Maguire’s focus turned to Haiti when he became an Inter-American Foundation representative for programs in the Caribbean and for over twenty years chaired a seminar at the State Department Foreign Service Institute — giving advice to U.S. diplomats traveling to Haiti.

Development work is most effective, Maguire said, when locals have the opportunity to pin-point their own needs and have their voices heard. But as he pointed out, listening to locals is easier said than done for large development organizations constrained by pressures to achieve results and move money fast.

Check out our video above to know what Maguire thinks of U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah and the work the organization has done in Haiti. Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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About the author

  • Jeff tyson 400x400  1

    Jeff Tyson

    Jeff is a former global development reporter for Devex. Based in Washington, D.C., he covers multilateral affairs, U.S. aid, and international development trends. He has worked with human rights organizations in both Senegal and the U.S., and prior to joining Devex worked as a production assistant at National Public Radio. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations and French from the University of Rochester.

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