H.E. Mr. René Garcia Préval, President
26 September 2008
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RENÉ GARCIA PRÉVAL, President of Haiti, reminded delegations that only last year, he had recounted the 200 years of suffering experienced by the Haitian people, due to material shortages and natural disasters. He had not considered that, a year later, he would, again be speaking of the damage left by the recent successive hurricanes -- the hundreds of women, children and elderly who had literally been swept away by flood waters, the thousands left homeless, and the severe damage to Haiti’s communication, irrigation, water and sanitation infrastructure.
Profusely thanking the United Nations for mobilizing its agencies to help the most vulnerable, and offering gratitude to all the aid and assistance provided by Member States, the private sector and civil society, he also noted the broad solidarity within Haiti itself, as well as from Haitians living abroad. Despite Haiti’s extensive suffering, his Government was concerned for its neighbours both near and far, including Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, fellow members of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and parts of the southern coastline of the United States, who also suffered significant damage from the back-to-back storms.
He stressed, however, that these were the first hurricanes of the season, and that a better-defined approached was needed to break the cycle of deficient crisis response and aid dependency, so that Haiti’s deep-rooted problems were effectively addressed. In the long run, charity never helped, but after initial outpouring, Haiti had been repeatedly left alone without long-term assistance. Systematically rebuilding the social infrastructure would require genuine solidarity and a consolidation of resources.
He reminded the Assembly that Haiti’s people were of indigenous and African descent, and were hard workers eager to develop commerce and engage in trade. Rather than aid, he called for support to help Haiti maximize its potential. The liberalization of trade would only be beneficial if clear, transparent rules applied to everyone, not just certain powers. Trade under fair conditions, aligned with appropriate aid, would then help the poor people escape the chains of poverty.
He observed that the United Nations still remained the privileged place for debating the world’s problems, and ensuring the voice of the poor be heard. However, in order to protect the mandate of the Organization, democratic reform was needed. Otherwise, the United Nations would be “resented by the small, and derided by the big”. With too many multi-dimensional crises that did not recognize country borders -- such as climate change and disease -- solutions depended on Member States working together in a new way.
He noted that only four months prior to the hurricanes massive demonstrations over food shortages took place, not just in Haiti, but around the world. It was as if “a collective cry of the poor” had been raised; poor people were refusing to pay the cost of certain decisions, which affected them but which they had played no part in reaching. He challenged Member States to choose between perishing together because no one would cooperate with each other, or mobilizing a new solidarity to save the planet and give the children in every country a chance to build a better world.