|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
WITH HAITI POISED TO MAKE GREAT PROGRESS, SECRETARY-GENERAL HAILS DONOR CONFERENCE
AS ‘UNPRECEDENTED’ OPPORTUNITY TO MOVE BEYOND MERE AID TOWARDS GENUINE DEVELOPMENT
(Delayed for technical reasons.)
Following is the text of remarks by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the high-level donor conference for Haiti, in Washington, D.C., yesterday, 14 April:
First of all, let me thank you, President [of the Inter-American Development Bank Luis Alberto] Moreno, for organizing this important conference.
It comes at a critical moment. President René Préval himself told me recently: “ Haiti is at a turning point.”
It can slide backwards, deeper into poverty. Or it can advance towards a future of progress and development.
Which it will be depends in large measure upon us, today.
As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I have made Haiti a top priority.
I am very proud of what the United Nations has accomplished in partnership with the Haitian Government and the international community.
Security has improved dramatically over the past two years.
Crime rates are now lower than in many other countries of the region.
In 2007, I was able to walk through Cité Soleil.
Only a year earlier, those same streets were ruled by violent gangs.
Last month, I visited Cité Soleil once again with former United States President Bill Clinton.
We saw children, well fed by the World Bank and the World Food Programme (WFP), happily going to school.
We saw ordinary people, going about their lives in ordinary ways.
We visited a textile factory, employing thousands of people, that could easily become a prototype for many others.
We visited a school for gifted children called HELP, for the Haitian Education Leadership Programme.
It provides scholarships for children from Haiti’s poorest families to attend university.
The graduates go on to productive, well-paying careers.
What impressed me most was that all stay in Haiti and do not become part of any “brain drain”.
None of this would be possible without the hard work and dedication of the Government and people of Haiti, supported by MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti], the United Nations country team and the wider international community.
United Nations peacekeepers and nation-builders under the leadership of [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] Hédi Annabi have helped bring stability to this long-troubled land.
Now we have an opportunity to bring something more -- a measure of real promise and potential prosperity.
Once again, I would like to thank all the countries providing troops, police and civilian personnel to MINUSTAH, as well as technical and financial support to Haiti.
I am particularly grateful to our Latin American and Caribbean neighbours, for Haiti’s future lies in a Latin American and Caribbean orbit.
I am also encouraged that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Haiti this week. The commitment of the United States Government is vital, Madame Clinton, and I very much appreciate your strong support.
Haiti’s new political stability is not the only reason for optimism.
In 2007, the country’s GDP grew by 3.4 per cent, exceeding population growth for the first time in decades.
Then came the disasters of 2008: four devastating hurricanes, sharp swings in food and energy prices and the global financial crisis.
During our visit last month, President Clinton and I saw a Haiti struggling to recover.
We saw deep poverty and much human misery, but we also saw a great opportunity.
Haiti may count among the world’s poorer nations.
Yet the plain and simple fact is that its prospects today are better than almost any other emerging economy.
First, it is located in a peaceful and wealthy neighbourhood.
Second, it has a talented and hard-working people.
Third, it has new leaders clearly committed to social peace, democracy and human rights.
Fourth, and most particularly, it is the prime beneficiary of what my economic adviser on Haiti, Paul Collier, calls the “best trade deal on Earth”.
As you know, recent United States trade legislation offers Haiti -- and Haiti alone, among all nations -- duty-free, quota-free access to the American market for the next nine years.
This legislation -- aptly named HOPE II -- is a foundation we can build on.
President Préval and Prime Minister [Michèle] Pierre-Louis have presented us with a plan.
They have a clear vision for the way forward.
This plan aims to create thousands of new jobs in agriculture and manufacturing over the next two years.
It aims to improve basic services and reduce Haiti’s vulnerability to natural disasters.
If implemented, as a comprehensive whole, it offers the promise of a better life for millions of Haitians.
Our responsibility here today is to help translate this plan into action.
By acting now, we will protect the considerable investment and the great progress we have made so far.
We will lock in the gains we have made in terms of political stability, and we will forge a renewed partnership, built on a mutual commitment, to place Haiti on a more sustainable social and economic footing.
To be sure, the Government of Haiti will require additional short-term technical and financial assistance to meet outstanding humanitarian needs and begin the process of recovery and reconstruction.
At the same time, we recognize that aid alone will not lift Haiti out of poverty.
As Professor Jeffrey Sachs has noted, the only long-term answer to poverty and hunger in Haiti is development.
That includes rural agricultural development focused on small farmers.
This conference is an opportunity -- an unprecedented opportunity to move beyond mere aid towards genuine economic development.
As we enter this new phase, we must think of our assistance to Haiti as an investment -- an investment in a concrete plan, put together by Haiti’s Government, for economic growth and revitalization.
That is why President Préval and Prime Minister Pierre-Louis speak of a “new paradigm” of partnership with Haiti.
We friends of Haiti must work with the Government and the private sector to create jobs and spur economic growth by taking full advantage of openings to international markets.
Let us commit ourselves, here today, to creating no fewer than 100,000 jobs within 24 months.
It can be done, if obstacles to investment are removed and support is forthcoming.
I urge investors, both in Haiti and abroad, to seize this unique opportunity.
It is a chance for all Haitians, not just a few, to fully enjoy their inherent right to a life free of hunger and poverty.
Yes, Haiti has suffered greatly.
Yes, its problems are large.
Yet I firmly believe that Haiti is poised to make more progress over the next two years than it has made in the past two decades.
For all of us, this is the moment, a break-out moment, to help one of the poorest nations lift itself towards a future of real economic prospects and genuine hope.
Let us come together to make this day a true turning point for Haiti.
* *** *For information media • not an official record