25 April 2007 Just returned from a mission to Haiti, the leader of a team from the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) today painted a mixed picture of the Caribbean country, which has experienced greater political stability and security in recent months but still faces numerous development challenges which he said must be met through a determined international response.
“Our goal is to promote recovery and stability and to ensure that Haiti receives the sustained, long-term international support that it needs,” said Ambassador John McNee of Canada, who led the ECOSOC Ad Hoc Advisory Group set up to follow the situation in Haiti and give advice to its Government on its long-term development strategies.
The Group’s recent four-day trip to Haiti, which followed a visit it made two years ago, aimed to assess progress “and reinforce the UN’s long-term commitment to the people of Haiti,” Mr. McNee said.
Members of the team, which included representatives of Haiti, Benin, Brazil, Chile, Spain and Trinidad and Tobago, met with senior Government officials, staff of UN agencies, the UN Assistance Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and others. They visited the capital, including the notoriously dangerous Cité Soleil neighbourhood, and also traveled beyond Port-au-Prince.
Mr. McNee said the Group was still formulating its recommendations, but he echoed the findings of their previous report, which stressed that Haiti must remain on the international agenda and receive more support.
“We were all struck by the magnitude of the development challenges in Haiti,” he said, while adding there were a number of encouraging factors, including measurable political stability thanks to elections facilitated by MINUSTAH, as well as a “considerable increase” in the level of basic security.
In the past it would have been “unthinkable” for the Group to visit Cité Soleil, walk freely down the streets and speak with people there, he said, paying tribute to joint UN-Haitian efforts to take on the gangs “in their home turf.”
Mr. McNee tempered his optimism with a note of caution. “In fairness, we should stress the fragility of the situation and the huge challenge. It is one thing to take on the gangs in this area – the real challenge is finding employment and economic growth that will give people incentive to take a peaceful path, not a criminal path.”
On the long-term economic strategy, he said recommendations included boosting tourism, a mainstay of many Caribbean economies, and agriculture. “Those are two potential resources that Haiti has and offer possibilities for the future.”