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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Rome (Italy)

02 June 2008


Remarks to the High-Level Meeting on Food Security in Haiti

Thank you, Minister Amorim, Distinguished Ministers, Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start by expressing my gratitude to Brazil for taking this initiative to convene today's meeting. Brazil's unconditional support to stabilization, recovery and development in Haiti is fundamental to the international community's engagement there. I have listened very carefully to what the Haitian Minister has just explained about his country's situation, and this is surely a source of great concern. As Secretary-General, I am here to demonstrate and express my full solidarity and support for the Haitian people. I am here with the leadership of the United Nations WFP, FAO and IFAD and our Humanitarian Coordinator from Headquarters. So you can be rest assured of our strong support and cooperation to address these issues.

Over the past few weeks I have been urging the international community to spare no effort to address the situation in Haiti. The island's fragile governance and deteriorating living conditions have created a volatile and potentially dangerous atmosphere.

When the latest crisis hit, ordinary Haitians were already struggling with deepening poverty, a legacy of economic decline and, till recently, poor governance. The sharp global rise in the price of staple commodities has only compounded their suffering. Popular frustration boiled over into massive demonstrations during the first half of April. Some turned violent, damaging property and claiming yet more lives.

These events exacerbated deep-rooted tensions across Haiti's already fragile political landscape. By mid-April, the Senate had voted to censure the Government. Since then, efforts to form a new Government have not succeeded.

The current political turmoil has complicated joint efforts by national authorities and the international community to restore the country on the path toward stability, recovery and development. If we allow this crisis to go unchecked, much of what has been achieved over the past four years in Haiti could easily unravel. Therefore, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I again urge that the international community should pay extreme care to the people of Haiti and its government. MINUSTAH [the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti] has been very actively supporting such a role of democratization and recovery and social and economic development. I have been discussing this matter with the Security Council members - that the international community's premature withdrawal from Haiti will result in much, much more serious consequences. Therefore, it is quite appropriate that we take this moment, today, on the margin of the FAO summit meeting, to address particularly the case of Haiti.

It is the Haitian Government's responsibility to address this crisis. But the UN will also do all we can to support their efforts. We have been collaborating with the Haitian authorities to develop a broad strategic framework. But the urgency of the current situation demands a quick and comprehensive response plan.

Beyond the delivery of targeted food assistance, there is a need to energize national production and generate jobs through labour intensive activities. We've already begun to carry out emergency response programmes, and we are reorienting existing activities and resources to tackle the crisis.

But there is much more work ahead, and United Nations programmes in Haiti remain severely under-funded.

To achieve real progress, we need the coordinated support of donors and multilateral agencies. I am grateful to all those who have already come forward, but we need more support. That is why I once again urge the international community to step-up its efforts to assist Haiti through this crisis. Resources for short-term needs and ongoing programmes are critical. But we will also have to move swiftly to help the country develop solutions for the long haul, including through in-depth agriculture reform.

My High-Level Task Force on Global Food Security has been working on a Comprehensive Framework for Action the CFA which recommends a series of actions to be taken immediately and in the longer-term, both globally and nationally. The main elements of the CFA will be presented at tomorrow's Conference. We hope that the CFA will benefit Haiti in addressing this crisis.

As we all know, Haiti is not the only country facing food insecurity, but it is one where the coping mechanisms of the poorest have reached the breaking point. This crisis has spotlighted the need to reopen the debate on the creation of a social safety net in Haiti.

We need more humanitarian aid now to mitigate the impact of high prices on Haiti's already desperate population. And at the same time, we need steps to boost agricultural production and help insulate the poorest from the continued volatility of world commodity markets.

The United Nations will continue to work hand-in-hand with its Haitian and international partners to preserve the gains of recent years. We must ensure that Haiti remains on the path towards sustainable peace and long-term development.

I hope that your discussions today will pave the way towards a more coordinated and effective response from the international community in support of our Haitian friends.

Thank you very much.