Less Than 2 Per cent of Promised Reconstruction Aid for Quake-Devastated Haiti Delivered, Haitian Government Envoy Tells Economic and Social Council
Less Than 2 Per cent of Promised Reconstruction Aid for Quake-Devastated Haiti Delivered, Haitian Government Envoy Tells Economic and Social Council
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Economic and Social Council
2010 Substantive Session
31st & 32nd Meetings (AM & PM)
Less Than 2 Per cent of Promised Reconstruction Aid for Quake-Devastated Haiti
Delivered, Haitian Government Envoy Tells Economic and Social Council
Speakers Weigh Lessons Learned at Special Event on Transitioning from Relief
To Development in Haiti, Council Also Wraps Up General Debate of Operational Segment
Six months after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake ravaged Port-au-Prince and left some 1.6 million Haitians homeless, less than 2 per cent of the $10 billion pledged to help rebuild the country had been received, according to the Haitian Government’s Special Envoy to the Secretary-General, who addressed the Economic and Social Council today in a joint event of its operational and humanitarian segments, on transitioning from relief to development in the Caribbean nation.
“We still have not moved into the recovery phase”, said Leslie Voltaire, participating in a four-person panel that took stock of United Nations efforts in Haiti. The distinction between earthquake victims and those of chronic poverty had been erased. The Government had set up clusters to coordinate emergency aid, but efforts to exchange information had been problematic. The main challenge would be to increase Haitian firms’ ability to absorb aid, as they had been able only to absorb 5 to 10 per cent of pledged assistance. There was hope that the new Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, co-chaired by former United States President Bill Clinton, would help change that situation.
Indeed, Haiti was in a period of important transition, said Nigel Fisher, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and United Nations Resident Coordinator in Haiti, ad interim. On the positive side, shelters were open, as were airports, seaports and a growing number of schools. Improvements in public administration were taking root. Economic growth and development were possible.
However, he stressed that, even before the earthquake struck, many Haitians had lacked access to basic services and opportunities. Haitians now living in temporary camps said that jobs and schools were the most important issues. The United Nations, among other organizations, could help regulate the private sector in such areas as health care and education and strengthen the capacities of the public administration. Calls to “build Haiti back better” simply were not enough.
In the discussion that followed, concerned delegations asked numerous questions about how international relief and reconstruction work in Haiti could be more effectively coordinated, especially drawing on the know-how of the 100,000 or so non‑governmental organizations operating in the Port-au-Prince area. One speaker wondered about the risk of corruption, which often increased after disaster struck, and how well the Haitian Government was taking ownership of the work at hand. Others expressed hope that the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission would deliver rapid results.
In a subsequent general debate on the long-term programme of support for Haiti, the Chairman of the Council’s Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, John McNee of Canada, presented a report prepared by the Group after a visit to the country from 16 to 19 June. He observed that Haiti’s transition was not on a clear, linear path, as the level of devastation was unprecedented. Reconstruction was only in the planning stage. Due to its broad legitimacy and long-standing presence in Haiti, the United Nations must make full use of its capacity to mobilize global efforts and aid, and to promote the Organization’s leadership on the ground, he declared.
Also today, the Council concluded the general debate of its operational activities segment, which heard calls for more coordination among funds, programmes, agencies and national Governments — notably to increase the United Nations attractiveness as a partner. Activities should help countries better deliver services, some said, and with that in mind, the development system should adopt a truly people-centred approach. General Assembly resolution 64/289 on system-wide coherence reflected a commitment to eliminate fragmentation and duplication to create a better-run Organization.
Participating in that debate were representatives of Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Cuba, India, Japan, Israel, Norway and Bangladesh. A representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) also spoke.
Also speaking in the debate on Haiti were the representatives of Chile, Brazil, Bahamas, Peru and Benin, as did a representative of ILO.
The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 14 July, to begin its humanitarian affairs segment.
The Economic and Social Council met this morning to continue its operational activities segment with a general discussion on such activities of the United Nations for international development cooperation. In the afternoon, the Council was expected to hold a special event on strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian assistance and a discussion on “the transition from relief to development, lessons learned from the experience in Haiti”.
Operational Activities Segment
NATALIE COHEN (Australia), also speaking on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, said improving coordination between United Nations agencies at the country level, under the leadership of the Resident Coordinator, was critical to improving efficiency and increasing the Organization’s attractiveness as a partner. Challenges identified in the report included a lack of clarity on the role of the Resident Coordinator and non-resident agencies, and questions remained about the capacity of the United Nations Development Group’s regional teams to deliver on increased coordinating responsibilities. It was therefore important for practical messages to be delivered from all agency headquarters to staff in the field to support the Resident Coordinator system.
Welcoming the creation of UN Women, she reiterated that all the Organization’s agencies still had a duty to address gender inequality in their policies and programmes, and she was disappointed that very few United Nations country teams had completed the voluntary gender equality and women’s empowerment scorecard. At the same time, she was pleased that overall funding contributions to the United Nations development system had reached their highest level in 2008. With 16 per cent of development-related contributions in that year coming from local resource funding by programme countries, it was clear there was broad support for the Organization’s operations. Such resources were an important stream of non-core funding.
JORGE CUMBERBATCH MIGUEN (Cuba), aligning with the statement made on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said United Nations operational activities should be universal, voluntary and capable of responding flexibly to programme-country needs. Sustainable development must be the cornerstone of the United Nations work, and the achievement of internationally agreed development goals must be the general framework of its operational activities. Efforts towards that end should be more robust and in favour of development which recognized national leadership and ownership.
United Nations reform must improve efficiency and achieve concrete results in development, he said. In that regard, operational activities must be considered and reviewed frequently, depending on the country. He welcomed the adoption two weeks ago of General Assembly resolution 64/289 on system-wide coherence, which he viewed as a “clear appeal to strictly respect national priorities of recipient countries and adapt work to priorities on the ground”.
The relationship between normative and operational activities should be studied with great caution, he warned. A “slanted approach” in which United Nations funds, agencies and programmes monitored countries in the South on issues not within their purview would introduce unacceptable conditions, and would open the door for those countries to be used by certain donors as political pressure. Therefore, increased cooperation and coordination was needed between funds, programmes, agencies and national Governments.
RANDHIR KUMAR JAISWAL (India), aligning with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77, said many countries were not on track during the final lap on road to the Millennium Development Goals. Financing for development was under pressure, and resource quantity was a key issue. Given that, enhanced official development assistance (ODA) was critical, especially for developing countries. Their needs must be met by efforts to increase ODA, transfer and access to technologies and innovative funding measures, he stressed.
All developing countries had differing requirements, therefore operational activities must respond to evolving realities, he continued. Such activities must also be modelled and implemented with national ownership and leadership in mind, plugging into national development plans and steering clear of conditions. Assembly resolution 64/289 reflected Member States’ commitment to eliminate fragmentation and duplication to create a better-run United Nations. With regard to South-South cooperation, he viewed it as a helpful compliment to North-South cooperation, and supported measures to strengthen and mainstream it within the United Nations system.
NOZOMU YAMASHITA (Japan) said operational activities should respond to programme countries’ real needs and identified priorities. Japan continued to stress that such activities led by the United Nations should help countries to better deliver services to their populations and that the United Nations development system should adopt a truly people-centred system. The recent Hanoi tripartite conference had shown that progress had been made, he said. That bottom-up approach was effective when compared to the top-down alternative.
ILAN FLUSS (Israel) said streamlining international development efforts was important, as was the creation of effective mechanisms to help developing countries. More countries should be added to the Organization’s existing “One United Nations” pilot programme. Opportunities for donor groups could also be expanded.
Capacity-building was an important area to Israel, as development had a greater impact when local systems could develop and implement policies and subsequently function independently. That approach laid the ground for lasting sustainable development. Those initiatives could only be carried out with increased funding for “core budget” resources, including United Nations operational activities. Israel supported increased funding through new avenues. Great progress in ensuring the coherence of United Nations development programmes was promising, and the creation of UN Women was a positive step forward, she added.
ASTRID HELLE AJAMAY (Norway) said the current debate and the panel discussions held this week had been very helpful. She stressed that national budgets and other capital flows were more important ODA in efforts to meet agreed development targets in general and the Millennium Development Goals in particular. The most effective remedy against illegal capital flows was transparency. In its 2009 budget, the Norwegian Government had achieved its target of contributing 1 per cent to development, approximately $1.3 billion, making Norway the fifth largest development donor. At the same time, however, it was unsustainable that, for example, the largest donors to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) contributed more than 80 per cent of that agency’s total budget.
The General Assembly’s review of the status of the Millennium Goals this coming September should be a call for increased funding, including through South-South cooperation. Better efficiency and results must be included in the analytical reports of the United Nations agencies, she said. Over the past two days, heads of United Nations agencies and delegations had discussed core funding, which she called the “bedrock” of development. Core resources made up only 20 per cent of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) budget. To remedy such situations, she suggested for example that donor Governments who wanted to give funds to support lowering child mortality should ideally make a core contribution to UNICEF instead of making non-core contributions.
ABULKALAM ABDUL MOMEN (Bangladesh), aligning with the statement made yesterday on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the adoption of Assembly resolution 64/289 on system-wide coherence had given special significance to the operational activities segment. In addition, it had created a unique opportunity for all to work together on the comprehensive review of United Nations operational activities for development, he said, welcoming the creation of UN Women as “one of the most important achievements in the recent times”.
Least developed countries had been affected disproportionately by the multiple global crises, as 43 developing countries were highly exposed to the effects of poverty, 32 of which were least developed countries. The United Nations system could play a very catalytic role in bringing about change through using South-South, North-South and triangular cooperation to tackle challenges. He applauded efforts of United Nations funds, programmes and agencies to establish new units in support of South-South cooperation, and hoped that they would take concrete measures to mainstream such support to help developing countries with national ownership and leadership.
Continuing, he said human, technical and information resources were needed for South-South cooperation to be most effective, and Bangladesh was ready to share its expertise with other countries and cooperate with them. He urged the international community to recognize the adverse effects climate change had on developing countries, and called upon development partners to honour commitments to provide new and additional financial resources, above and beyond ODA.
ANITA AMORIM, International Labour Organization (ILO), said that, along with being active in the various “One United Nations” programme countries, her agency supported the inclusion of decent-work country programme concerns in the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), including the four pillars of the decent-work agenda.
She believed in the principles in the Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review 2007 General Assembly resolution, which had reinforced the importance of using national systems, capacity and expertise, and working together in the spirit of solidarity. ILO had supported South-South projects, including those with Portuguese-speaking countries, and would be hosting the South-South Expo of the United Nations in November 2010.
In closing remarks, Council Vice-President ALEXANDRU CUJBA (Republic of Moldova) said the 54-member body met against the backdrop of preparations for the review of the status of the Millennium Development Goals to be held in September. “Increasing the impact and efficiency of operational activities is critical, so that the United Nations can better help programme countries advance towards the Millennium Development Goals — as part of a strengthened global partnership for development.”
It also met on the heel of the adoption of Assembly resolution 64/289 on system-wide coherence, which in an “historical step” had established UN Women and launched new measures to make United Nations operational activities more coherent by improving their governance and funding. The Council had the important task of giving impetus to the implementation of the Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review of Operational Activities by the United Nations system. The general debate and interventions by delegations during the various panel discussions had shown Member States’ continued firm commitment to the goals and actions identified in the Policy Review, he said.
He said the dialogue with Executive Heads of United Nations funds and programmes, in particular, proved that the Organization was focused on helping accelerate progress towards the Millennium Goals in a more coordinated and effective manner. It identified scalable best practices, mobilized broad-based partnerships with various sectors and explored ways to reach the poorest of the poor.
Results of the Hanoi High-Level Tripartite Conference on “Delivering as One” showed that the approach was strengthening the United Nations development system’s relevance, coherence, comparative advantage and accountability at the country level, and had the potential to significantly reduce transaction costs, he continued. While programme pilot countries had made it clear that, for them, “the old way of doing business is no longer an option”, the Organization had made great strides to ensure that programme countries maintained national ownership of and leadership over their programmes and activities.
However, he noted that the challenge of sustainability and retention of national capacities was “ever present”, as the United Nations was challenged to adapt its country-level capacities to the specific needs of programme countries. Within least developed countries, middle- and low-income countries, and those recovering from conflict or natural disaster, the Organization had to respond to emerging needs such as the growing demand for policy advice. The role of Resident Coordinators and support from regional structures were increasingly important, as was expertise from Headquarters, he said.
With regard to funding, core resources remained the bedrock of operational activities, yet important complementarities and synergies between core and non-core resources existed. What mattered most, he said, was ensuring that funding was multi-year, predictable and aligned with national priorities, and that the right mix of core and non-core resources could be found.
Special Event on Haiti
In the afternoon, Council Vice-Presidents Cujba and Octavio Errázuriz (Chile) jointly chaired a special event and panel discussion on lessons learned from the experience in Haiti.
Moderated by Debbie Landey, Director of the United Nations Development Operations Coordination Office, the panel featured presentations by Paul Farmer, Deputy United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti; Leslie Voltaire, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Special Envoy of the Haitian Government to the Secretary-General; Michaële Gédéon, President of the Haitian Red Cross; and Nigel Fisher, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and United Nations Resident Coordinator in Haiti, ad interim.
Launching the discussion, Mr. CUJBA said the magnitude and complexity of Haiti’s disaster was a critical test for the international community’s ability to provide swift, effective and coordinated responses. As had been sadly understood, the early stage of the response to the earthquake had been complicated by the heavy loss of United Nations and non-governmental organization staff operating in the country. That situation had highlighted the challenges of assessing needs, developing a coherent strategy and deploying experienced staff to ensure that timely relief assistance was provided. Looking forward to hearing panellists’ views, he asked: What lessons could be drawn and how could the transition from relief to recovery and reconstruction be better transitioned?
Ms. LANDEY said that, six months after the earthquake, much had been achieved, and many lives had been — and were being — saved thanks to relief efforts. At the same time, the response to the disaster had been an “unusually complex and difficult operation” for the Haitian authorities and the international community, and enormous challenges remained. The magnitude of work ahead was daunting: those affected had significant humanitarian needs and rehabilitation assistance would be required through year-end and beyond. She expressed hope that today’s discussion would help in assessing those and other challenges, as well as progress made in recovery and reconstruction efforts.
Panellist Mr. VOLTAIRE said that, in the months since the 12 January quake, the scale of the disaster had moved beyond the response capability of both the Haitian Government and the global community. It had destroyed Haiti’s “nerve centre”, including the executive, legislative and judicial branches of Government, as well as the hub for United Nations work. The first of five tremors had seen 150,000 people who held visas flee to Canada, the Dominican Republic and the United States. Later, another 600,000 people had moved to other regions, towns and villages. People living in or near Port-au-Prince — areas virtually flattened by the earthquake — had then started moving to nearby neighbourhoods, football pitches, school and church areas. Finally, victims had moved into friends’ houses. As a result, “enormous” numbers of homeless people were now in the metropolitan area, and the distinction had been erased between victims of the earthquake and those of chronic poverty.
Reviewing statistics, he said more than 300,000 people had died, outnumbering those who died during the Hiroshima and Nagasaki events. Some 250,000 buildings had been destroyed and thousands of hectares of land covered with debris. With United Nations assistance, the Government had prepared an $11 billion disaster assessment — a forecast based on the decentralization of economic activities. The rebuilding of the State was based on four types of recovery: territorial; economic; social; and institutional. For the rainy season, clothes were being stored and draining systems put in place, he added.
Moreover, in the first week after the quake, the Government had set up clusters to coordinate emergency aid, but efforts to exchange information had been problematic. Six months on, “we still have not moved into the recovery phase”, he said. Some 1.6 million people were still living in tents and of the $10 billion pledged by the global community, the fund set up for Haiti’s reconstruction had received less than 2 per cent. “People are just fed up,” he said. Some 500,000 engineers had assessed more than 150,000 houses, but families still were not being assisted, as it was not yet known whether certain areas would be prone to landslides.
Among the challenges, he noted that it had not been possible for the public to participate in the drafting of plans, and that had bred mistrust among the population. A lack of communication from the Government had only increased disdain, yet State authorities had not wanted to announce commitments it could not honour. In the next six months, recovery assistance would focus on building roads, schools and hospitals. He noted that traffic in urban areas was “impossible”, as people had placed debris into the streets in hopes that the Government would clear it, a situation that soon would become untenable.
The main challenge, however, would be increasing “absorption capacity”, he said, as Haitian firms had been able only to absorb 5 to 10 per cent of the pledged assistance. With the new Haiti Recovery Commission, co-chaired by former United States President Bill Clinton, it was hoped that situation would change.
Echoing many of those same sentiments, Ms. GÉDÉON said that despite great strides in aid efforts, challenges were great and could be difficult to meet. Many of the survivors were impatiently waiting for serious improvement in their quality of life. Regarding the role of civil society, she emphasized that humanitarian organizations should respond to emergency needs but not overstep the reach of public services. The State should take charge of any such situation as early as possible, and Government priorities and plans of action should be clearly defined. Security was also an important factor for humanitarian agencies in order for them to deliver services to those in need.
Following emergency situations, non-State actors, including non-governmental organizations, needed to progressively reduce their involvement as principal players, she continued. During that transition period, it was important for organizations to institute mechanisms for communicating with public authorities to coordinate activities and share information. Language should not be a barrier and, specifically in the case of Haiti, meetings should be held in either French or Creole.
Two major challenges facing Red Cross operations in Haiti were shelter construction and health and sanitation issues. Debris removal was another matter that needed priority attention, she said. In the short term, more shelters were needed, as were more temporary and permanent housing. In the medium and long term, sustainable communities must be built. Concerning health and sanitation, she said toilets, clean water and water purification units were badly needed, and she urged support for the Haitian Government’s plan of action for reconstruction and national development, and for mobilizing civil society towards that goal.
Mr. FARMER highlighted some of the lessons learned from experiences in Haiti, noting that there should be a growing role for public authorities and the Haitian people. As a physician, he had worked with many patients after the earthquake, many of whom had expressed strong desires for economic development, especially job creation. The rights to health care, education and jobs had been on the top of Haiti’s list of priorities for many years, and now, in order for the country to rebuild after the quake, it would have to go beyond infrastructure to tackle, among other things, skills training.
The most difficult problem at the outset of the disaster was shelter, he said, citing an Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report from February. There were still about 1.6 million people living in temporary shelters in Port-au-Prince, and basic services, including health, water, education and jobs, need to be provided. If they were not made available outside the Port-au-Prince area, then people would remain in the quake-devastated capital.
Continuing, he said that transparency in aid transfers was important, and more money should go directly into Haitian hands through “cash-for-work” projects and the creation of jobs. The United Nations should make it mandatory that more money was earmarked for job creation. The aim now was to put employment opportunities, food and education in areas that had been declared safe. The more such opportunities and services could be created or provided in areas that were safe, the more likely safe communities could be built there.
The final panellist, Mr. FISHER, said assumptions existed that more could have been done since the earthquake. Haiti was in a period of important transition, particularly in the area of debris removal and, among many other areas, sharpening a focus on a countrywide recovery. Debris removal was indeed urgent and necessary, and the United Nations was working with the Government to expedite the removal process so the reconstruction of housing could begin. A national strategy for debris removal was also forthcoming in the next few days, he said.
However, the problems Haiti faced before and after the disaster could not be solved in six months, he said, pointing out that it had taken some populations in the region five years to recover from widespread devastation wrought by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. In Haiti, shelters were open, as were airports, seaports and a growing number of schools. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) had contributed to maintaining security. Improvements in public administration were beginning. Economic growth and development were possible.
The Haitian Government had launched in March an action plan for recovery and the immediate challenge was to turn that plan into a longer-term strategy. Investment and skilled labour were critical areas that needed developing, he said, stressing that transition plans needed to address those and other issues. Haitians living in temporary camps had expressed that jobs and schools were the most important issues to them. De-concentration and locating economic development initiatives in areas outside the urban zone were important, he said.
Tackling dismal school attendance, including bolstering the United Nations efforts to get more children back to school, was another area that would benefit from support. In addition, training for teachers and improving public schooling was needed. Health care was another area that needed attention, with rural populations lacking access. However, in education and health care, it was impractical to believe that the Haitian authorities could offer all the services currently needed. Instead, the United Nations and other organizations could help to regulate the private sector in those areas, and also to strengthen the capacities of the public administration.
The often volatile security situation also needed to be addressed, he continued, especially by national and regional authorities. Likewise, the justice system needed to be overhauled, including the judicial processes and prison conditions.
The situation in Haiti demanded urgent and focused attention, he said. Only long-term action would remedy needs that had been unmet long before the earthquake. Indeed, calls for “building back better” were simply not good enough.
In the discussion that followed, speakers asked numerous questions about how international relief and reconstruction work could be more effectively coordinated, especially with regard to the some 100,000 non-governmental organizations operating in the Port-au-Prince, which had been dubbed the “capital of non-governmental organizations”. Some speakers wondered about the risk of corruption, which often increased after disaster struck, and how well the Haitian Government was taking ownership of the work at hand.
A representative of the European Union, a major actor in reconstruction efforts, underscored that coordination was essential and expressed hope that the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission would deliver rapid results. He asked for views on how that Commission had begun to work. Also, he discussed the importance of pre-stocking humanitarian assistance and avoiding the transport bottlenecks that had emerged in relief efforts. The European Union could consider measures, like strengthening the capacity of regional depots, and asked what improvements in that regard could be suggested.
The representative of Israel asked for more information and details on the needs described by the panellists, specifically Mr. Farmer’s presentation, which had mentioned job creation, health, education and food security, and Mr. Fisher’s presentation, which had noted that removing debris would help pave the way for reconstruction.
Venezuela’s representative said her country had contributed to Haiti recovery, and emphasized that the recovery projects did not necessary reach the most needy. She asked Ms. Gédéon to comment on capacity-building.
Norway’s representative expected the United Nations to play a strong role in recovery initiatives in Haiti. She hoped the Interim Commission’s work would move the momentum forward. She asked for the current key challenges in areas concerning women and children.
Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Morocco, China, Bangladesh and Argentina.
Mr. VOLTAIRE, replying to a question on corruption, said an Interim Commission had been set up by the Government, donor countries and international agencies. Transparency was the best way to combat corruption, and in a gesture of openness, the Commission’s website would contain all pertinent information on projects in Haiti.
Responding to a question about psychological counselling, Ms. GÉDÉON said that there was a dearth of that kind of support available after the earthquake. Numerous organizations were, however, now helping to provide much-needed psychological support and assistance. Regarding the main challenges for making the transition from humanitarian assistance and development, she emphasized the essential need for coordination between State actors and non-State actors, and added: “The goal should be to build a more sustainable State for the future.”
On the issue of corruption, Mr. FARMER said an effective initiative in that regard had been to bring the tools of transparency to projects that needed to be rapidly established. The shenanigans of Wall Street had shown that larger interests held the power and transparency was one way to shed light on all aspects of a project and dispel suspected corruption.
Mr. FISHER addressed the issue of protection and gender-based violence, both of which were areas that needed attention. The rule of law needed to be strengthened to address violence against women. Child protection issues also needed to be addressed, including mothers’ rights, which could be helped by, among other things, micro-credit for women to give them broader financial power. In response to a question on the role of civil society, he said the organizations working in Haiti did so in cooperation with the Government. Regarding investing in the State’s capacity to provide basic services, he said it was not realistic to expect the State to provide those services and that a long-term plan could remedy that situation.
While the emergency efforts thus far were “acceptable”, what the United Nations had failed to do was take into account the local capacity of Haitian institutions. Emergency imports undermined the local Haitian suppliers. The United Nations had deployed quickly after the quake, but that first deployment should have had personnel stay for at least three months, instead of three weeks.
In closing remarks, Council Vice-President ERRÁZURIZ noted the important role that the post-disaster needs assessment, the multi-donor trust funds and the International Donor Conference had played in galvanizing international support for relief and recovery efforts in Haiti. The extensive humanitarian response was providing basic life-sustaining support for hundreds of thousands of affected Haitians, but it would take years to “build Haiti back better”.
Indeed, vast recovery and reconstruction challenges lay ahead, he continued, as the Haitian Government and the global community set the foundations for a prosperous future. Today’s discussion had highlighted lessons about the importance of disaster preparedness, which was not only about response capacity, but included planning and preparation of recovery processes. “It is crucial that Governments put in place systems that anticipate future disasters,” he stressed.
Also important was the integration of development goals into disaster response, he said, as well as the need to embrace disaster risk reduction through efforts that sought to reduce vulnerabilities. A final lesson had centred on the need for donors to act quickly in support of Haiti’s response efforts.
Long-Term Programme of Support for Haiti
Introducing the report of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti (document E/2010/CRP.5), JOHN MCNEE (Canada), the Group’s Chairman, said that while the Group had presented a comprehensive written report to the Council every year since 2005, the prevailing situation in Haiti had forced the Group to adjust its working methods. The current report, compiled after a visit to the country from 16 to 19 June, assessed how the economic and social situation had evolved on the ground, and how international assistance was helping towards recovery and reconstruction.
Relief, recovery and reconstruction efforts had been difficult to undertake, he said, calling for increased United Nations leadership. Haiti’s transition was not on a clear, linear path, as the level of devastation was unprecedented. Recovery had been slow, and reconstruction was only in the planning stage. Nearly 1.6 million people remained displaced, living in over 300 camps as the peak of the hurricane season approached. In that regard, he said wide-ranging and continued humanitarian assistance, along with increased global leadership and coordination to support the Government, was desperately needed.
Due to its broad legitimacy and long-standing presence in Haiti, the United Nations had central role to play in mobilizing international actors. He called for the Organization to make full use of its capacity to mobilize international efforts and aid, and to promote United Nations leadership on the ground. The Organization and other international actors must work in support of the Government, in order to help ensure progress and avoid the stagnation of efforts.
Forthcoming Haitian elections were a major source of concern, he said, noting that a positive electoral climate was critical for development and reconstruction in the coming years. President René Préval had issued a decree for setting dates for the planned elections — a positive step for the timely organization of ballots. However, he cautioned that political ambitions and aspirations could be more intense given the current environment. Therefore, a high degree of responsibility was needed to lead the process towards a positive end and to avoid any disruption in ongoing reconstruction and recovery efforts.
During the Group’s visit, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission had held its first meeting. Based on its discussions with the Prime Minister as well as donors, the Advisory Group had suggested that the Commission focus on approval of projects and serve as a forum for strategic thinking on the reconstruction process. The Haiti Reconstruction Fund had also met around the same time, and needed to undertake more work on its operating procedures. Very few contributions had been announced for the Fund so far, he said, stressing that the complexities of the mechanism should not slow down the delivery of assistance or jeopardize principles of aid effectiveness. Furthermore, it was important for non-governmental organizations to cooperate within the framework of the United Nations-backed Government action plan for recovery.
The Haitian State and authorities, while “already very weak”, had been made even more fragile by the earthquake, he continued. International assistance was difficult to incorporate, as it often competed with national structures, further marginalizing them. However, such assistance could be excellent leverage for the country. Haiti was at a crossroads, owing to unprecedented levels of financing pledges. The reconstruction of State buildings paved the way for a qualitative step forward towards serving the population. Haitian authorities and ministries must build new, solid, confidence-based progress and become involved in the work of the Interim Recovery Commission. Such efforts would reinforce Haitian ownership of its own development, helping to build the infrastructure necessary for economic development.
He went on to say that some displaced persons who had left just after the earthquake had started to return. The capital, struck brutally by the quake, was under tremendous pressure, and specific forces were needed to assist with development. The Haitian Government’s efforts must integrate disaster preparedness at the national and local level, he said, underscoring the work of international organizations — particularly the United Nations — in supporting Haitian structures.
Mr. VOLTAIRE ( Haiti) thanked the Council for holding the session. The people and Government of Haiti had received the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti last month. Members of the Group did much to strengthen the unprecedented sense of solidarity built around the country’s people, and were a “glimmer of hope” needed to retain resilience. The Group’s report discussed new and old challenges, and showed that international assistance at all levels was crucial.
Perils faced in Haiti had never been so difficult in terms of economic and social instability, and the international community must be aware of that and plead for more support. “Now, more than ever, Haiti must not be forgotten,” he declared. On behalf of the Haitian Government, he asked that Ad Hoc Advisory Group’s mandate be extended so that the Group could continue to closely monitor the situation on the ground, and regularly put forward relevant recommendations to promote social and economic post-disaster recovery and reconstruction.
Council Vice-President ERRÁZURIZ (Chile), speaking in his national capacity, said it was critical to sustain international support for Haiti, and the goal of all countries was to work towards development and the improvement of the standard of living. He emphasized the ownership that the people and Government of Haiti must display to provide sustainable services, and said attention was needed concerning development and security matters.
To ensure a successful reconstruction effort, political stability was needed, and it was also essential to avoid overlapping actions on the ground. He pointed to the Haitian Government’s plan of action as the road map that should be followed, adding that the Economic and Social Council must remain involved.
REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP (Brazil) said good intentions in Haiti should be followed up by concrete action. Brazil’s contributions were an expression of its will to help. Efforts should help to lay the foundation for building Haiti into a strong and sustainable country. MINUSTAH continued to be a supportive presence in Haiti and the Council’s Ad Hoc Advisory Group had played an important advocacy role and had provided a space for dialogue and follow-up.
Endorsing the report presented by Canada’s delegate, she also said that her Government considered the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission an important player in the post-disaster recovery process. Certain areas needed urgent attention, and social conditions should be improved through swiftly implemented programmes. In addition, justice and security sectors needed strengthening, as did public administration. A long-term development strategy was key, and she called on all actors in Haiti to promote the country’s ongoing national interest and to ensure that all efforts were aligned with the action plan designed by the Haitian Government. She added that Brazil supported the Government’s wish to hold an election this November.
PAULETTE BETHEL (Bahamas) said that her country supported the report Canada’s delegate had presented and that she would be making a statement at a later time.
GONZALO GUTIÉRREZ (Peru) said the challenge was how to move from relief to recovery, and after hearing the introduction of the report on the subject, he wanted to see a reconstructed Haiti. Efforts should be conducted with support from the people and Government of Haiti, and all activities undertaken by the United Nations, local authorities and civil society should be focused on Haiti’s identified priorities.
Coordination should be strengthened between United Nations agencies on the ground, and among local and national governments. Duplication of efforts should be avoided. Considering the high number of non-governmental organizations working in Haiti, it was essential to do so with the most possible coordination and cooperation. He highlighted the Haitian Government’s efforts to lay the basic foundation for the country’s sustainable development, and also stressed that security and development were also areas that should be concurrently addressed.
ALFREDO LAZARTE, Director of the International Labour Organization’s Crisis Response and Reconstruction Department, called on the donor community to allocate sufficient resources to provide needed technical assistance in building new institutional and operational mechanisms placing workers’ rights, social protection and the creation of decent work at the top of the international agenda.
He said job creation did not just happen as part of reconstruction and economic growth stemming from initial recovery efforts. Instead, it had to be a clear and ever-present target that was part and parcel of short-term recovery efforts leading to longer-term development. Experience had demonstrated the effectiveness of employment-oriented strategies combined with local economic recovery strategies for promoting a quick recovery from disasters.
JEAN-FRANCIS RÉGIS ZINSOU (Benin), having recently visited Haiti along with the Ad Hoc Advisory Group, noted that the situation on the ground was evolving in many areas. Therefore, international assistance to the country must bear in mind the complex nature of its development, and should be adapted to deliver appropriate responses. “There is a need to do all we can to ensure that pledged assistance can be implemented in an effective way, so that an appropriate response can be found.”
It was very important, he stressed, to provide suitable responses to several issues, including those related to employment and housing. A “social engineering policy”, which could help set up a new, more environmentally viable Haiti with a better social balance, was also critical. With regard to the work of agencies currently in the country, he urged the international community to support national desires to shore up the political system and give it new legitimacy following the upcoming elections. Moreover, the international community must work more intensely with the Haitian diaspora in recovery efforts, in order to produce the most viable results in the long-term.
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