General Assembly Expresses Solidarity, Support for Haiti after Massive Earthquake; Appeals for Speedy, Sustainable Aid for Relief, Early Recovery, Reconstruction

22 January 2010
GA/10913

General Assembly Expresses Solidarity, Support for Haiti after Massive Earthquake; Appeals for Speedy, Sustainable Aid for Relief, Early Recovery, Reconstruction

22 January 2010
General Assembly
GA/10913
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly                              

Plenary                                                    

69th Meeting (AM)

General Assembly Expresses Solidarity, Support for Haiti after Massive Earthquake;

Appeals for Speedy, Sustainable Aid for Relief, Early Recovery, Reconstruction

Secretary-General, Proud of UN Response, Says ‘Haiti Has Never Been More in Need;’

Assembly Also Adopts Text on Natural Disaster Assistance, ‘from Relief to Development’

Expressing sincere condolences to the Government and people of Haiti who suffered huge losses and untold suffering from the massive 12 January earthquake that levelled large parts of the capital city of Port-au-Prince, the General Assembly today adopted a consensus resolution calling for urgent actions to provide humanitarian assistance, emergency relief and rehabilitation measures to the strife-ridden Caribbean nation.

By the text, introduced by Brazil’s representative, the Assembly expressed its “solidarity and support” to Haitians and to all Member States that lost nationals in the catastrophe.  It also paid special tribute to United Nations staff and international peacekeepers who gave their lives in the line of duty.

Among other things, it called on the international community to provide assistance at the earliest, in response to the 15 January United Nations flash appeal for Haiti, and requested the Secretary-General, United Nations bodies, international financial institutions and development agencies to help the country, where possible, through humanitarian, technical and financial assistance.

Further, it requested the United Nations to increase support for strengthening the Caribbean nation’s disaster-preparedness capacity and integrating disaster-risk reduction into its development strategies and programmes.  The Secretary-General was also requested to keep States regularly informed on humanitarian assistance efforts and report to the Assembly’s sixty-fifth session on progress made.

In opening remarks, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the United Nations’ first priority in Haiti was on the humanitarian relief operation.  Coordination and logistics were crucial and he called for working closely with Haitian authorities, among others, in those efforts.  Next, there could be no humanitarian relief or basis for construction without security.  There also must be a focus on the future, as the weeks and months ahead would need to see a shift from emergency response to longer-term recovery.

Despite the immense suffering, United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) troops were clearing roads and removing bodies, Mr. Ban said, and the situation, thus far, remained stable.  Food had reached half a million people and a $575 million flash appeal had received $334 million thus far, including $25 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).  He had directed United Nations agencies to work with the World Bank, among others, on an immediate post-disaster needs assessment.

“I am proud of the United Nations’ response,” Mr. Ban said.  Seldom had the international community acted in such solidarity or so quickly in the face of so many difficulties.  At the same time, too many people lacked the assistance they urgently needed.  Immediate priorities would continue to focus on medical assistance, water, sanitation, food and shelter, as well as on fuel and transportation equipment.  Also, $41 million was being sought through a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) flash appeal to scale up a programme designed to pay Haitians for removing debris, delivering aid and constructing camps for the homeless.  “Haiti has never been more in need”, he said.

Acting President of the General Assembly Byrganym Aitimova, of Kazakhstan, speaking on behalf of President Ali Abdussalam Treki, of Libya, stressed that “we are still struggling with coordination”.  There was an urgent need to do more to reach those desperate for water, food, medical supplies and shelter.  While pleased that the whole United Nations membership had come together to express support to the Haitian people and Government, she said relief efforts, to be more effective, had to mobilize Haitians themselves.  It was also crucial to ensure support for Haiti’s long-term reconstruction and development.  Sustained focus would be needed in the years ahead, and the United Nations system would play a key role in those efforts.

In the debate that followed, speakers expressed solidarity with Haiti and, generally, called for a more unified international humanitarian response to natural disasters, wherever they occurred.

Welcoming the adoption of the resolution, Haiti’s delegate thanked the United Nations and its agencies for their tireless efforts during the rescue phase, as well as the many non-governmental organizations that were working to save the lives of his countrymen, despite losses of their own.  To date, 80,000 dead had been buried and one third of the population could be considered disaster victims.  Nonetheless, it was his unshakable belief that Haiti would rise up and proceed on a genuine path of reconstruction.

Saint Lucia’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the overwhelming positive response to Haiti’s dire need was to be commended.  However, it was unfortunate that Member States needed to wait on catastrophes to bring out the best in “our noble institution”.  The best guarantee against future catastrophes, whether in Haiti or elsewhere, was assistance for self-reliance and sustainability.

Outlining his Government’s efforts, the Dominican Republic’s delegate said President Leonel Fernandez had sent search-and-rescue teams to Haiti, along with a first aid emergency team, and provisions such as water, communications equipment and medicine.  Dominican volunteer doctors and builders had been working hard to remove the rubble.  The Government had been coordinating its humanitarian action from its fort on the border with Haiti, while the ministries of the armed forces, public health, social assistance and public communications had conducted an assessment by plane.

He said that President Fernandez and Haitian President René Préval had agreed to an immediate programme to establish water, electricity and telecommunications networks, and to hold an international meeting to plan for medium- and long-term reconstruction. The international community must now take up the challenge of Haitian development and rebuild peace in that country.  It must help lay the foundation for sustainable development, social justice, and find ways to deal with its vulnerabilities.

The Assembly also adopted a related consensus resolution on “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development,” expressing its deep concern at the number and scale of natural disasters, particularly in vulnerable societies lacking adequate capacity to mitigate their impacts.  It called on all States to adopt legislative and other measures to integrate disaster risk reduction strategies into development planning.  It also urged States to consider presenting to the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction secretariat their national platforms for disaster reduction, in accordance with the Hyogo Framework for Action.

To increase the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance, the Assembly stressed that international cooperation should be undertaken to broaden the use of national and local capacities for disaster response.  States, the United Nations system and other humanitarian actors were urged to consider the specific and differentiated consequences of natural disasters in rural and urban areas when designing disaster risk reduction, preparedness, humanitarian assistance and early recovery strategies.  Recognizing the role of information and communication technology in disaster response, the use of remote sensing technologies -- including by the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) –- was also encouraged.

In other provisions, the Assembly encouraged States and the United Nations to support national initiatives that addressed the differentiated impacts of natural disasters; stressed the importance of the full and equal participation of women in implementing disaster risk reduction and recovery strategies; requested the United Nations to improve coordination of disaster recovery by strengthening institutional and strategic planning efforts; and called on humanitarian and development bodies to enhance tools to ensure that early recovery needs and support were integrated into disaster preparedness planning.

Introducing the text on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, Sudan’s delegate said developing countries faced tremendous challenges to life, property and infrastructure, and when natural disasters struck, it could set a country back ten years.  The resolution stressed the importance of promoting international cooperation and support in facing the effects of natural disasters, and in encouraging preparedness and recovery and development plans to limit the impacts of disasters.  It called on the Secretary-General to present a report at the sixty-fifth session containing recommendations on how to fill the response gap.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Spain, Canada, China, Cuba, Uruguay, Nicaragua, India, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Australia, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Peru and the United States.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Nicaragua, Bolivia and the United States.

The observers of the Holy See and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also spoke.

The General Assembly will reconvene at a time and date to be announced.

Background

The General Assembly met today under its agenda item on strengthening the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations.  It was expected to act on two draft resolutions, one on international response to the earthquake in Haiti, and the other on international coordination of humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters.

Statement by Acting President of the General Assembly

The international community was only beginning to realize the full extent of the loss of life and horrendous destruction in Haiti as a result of the earthquake, said BYRGANYM AITIMOVA ( Kazakhstan), Acting President of the General Assembly.

On behalf of the General Assembly President, Ali Abdussalam Treki (Libya), and all Member States, she expressed condolences to all Haitians, as well as families of all United Nations staff and peacekeepers who had lost their lives, were injured, or had seen their colleagues and friends suffer from the disaster.

She said the Assembly recognized the sacrifice of each United Nations staff member, and paid tribute to Special Representative Hédi Annabi, Deputy Special Representative Luiz Carlos da Costa, and Acting Police Commissioner Doug Coates.  “Our thoughts, sympathy and support are with their families and friends at this difficult time.”

She said the international community’s immediate response was a remarkable example of solidarity with the people of Haiti and its Government, and while there was some progress in meeting their urgent needs, more needed to be done.

She expressed thanks to the Secretary-General for his leadership in ensuring a speedy response, and acknowledged the efforts by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in leading the response and launching the Humanitarian Appeal.  She also acknowledged the tireless efforts of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and other United Nations agencies, while voicing appreciation to the Special Envoy of the United Nations to Haiti, former President Bill Clinton of the United States.

“We are still struggling with coordination,” she said, stressing the urgent need to do more to reach those needing water, food, medical supplies and shelter.  “I believe that relief efforts, in order to be more effective, also need to involve and mobilize the Haitians themselves.”

She paid tribute to the Government of Haiti, which despite having suffered immense losses of personnel, infrastructure and resources, had been able to assist the population and to maintain order.  She paid tribute, as well, to the people of Haiti who had shown “great courage, perseverance and dignity in the face of this national and personal tragedy.”

Pleased that the whole United Nations Membership was coming together to express its support to the Haitian people and Government, she said it was an occasion to reiterate its full commitment for the provision of immediate relief and emergency assistance.

She acknowledged that, beyond that, it was crucial to ensure support for the even more difficult task of long term reconstruction and development of Haiti.  Sustained focus and attention would be required in the months and years ahead, and the United Nations systems, along with international financial institutions and development agencies, would have to play “a key role”.

“The example set by the [United Nations] and its Member States, speaking with a single voice and acting in unison in full support of Haiti, its Government and its people, reaffirms the common humanity which is the moral basis of this Organization and of the international community,” she said.

Statement by the Secretary-General

United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said ten days after the earthquake in Haiti, at least 75,000 people had been killed, 200,000 injured and 1 million displaced.  More than 50 search and rescue teams from around the world were looking for survivors and, by last count, had rescued 123 people from the rubble.  Food, water, medicine and shelter were all in short supply.  Three million people needed help; 2 million required food assistance and 1 million were homeless.  As of yesterday, 70 United Nations staff had perished; 146 were unaccounted for, including national staff.

In response to such immense needs, he said the United Nations had three priorities, the first of which was the humanitarian relief operation.  Coordination and logistics were crucial and he called for working closely with Haitian authorities, among others, in those efforts.  The second priority was security, without which there could be no humanitarian relief or basis for reconstruction.  Third, there must be a focus on the future, as the coming weeks and months would need to see a shift from emergency response to longer-term relief and recovery.

Despite suffering devastating losses, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) troops and police had cleared roads, removed bodies and conducted patrols with the Haitian police, he said.  The security situation remained stable and the United Nations was playing the principal coordinating role in those efforts.  MINUSTAH’s military component was cooperating with the United States and Canadian forces, and in that context, he thanked troop-contributing countries from Latin America and other regions for their response for the request for additional troops.  He had instructed his Special Representative to ensure all available assets were put to work in humanitarian efforts.

Moreover, he said the United States, in cooperation with the United Nations, was managing the airport, while United Nations staff were helping prioritize landing slots for humanitarian flights.  The seaport of Port-au-Prince was operating again and a humanitarian corridor connecting affected areas to the Dominican Republic was becoming a major staging area for assistance.

As a result, food distribution had reached half a million people and would be scaled up to reach 2 million in the coming weeks, he said.  Drinking water was reaching 200,000 people per day.  Eighteen permanent health facilities and temporary field hospitals were now operating, as well as a medical ship sent by the United States.  A $575 million flash appeal had been launched and $334 million had been contributed, including $25 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

“I am proud of the United Nations’ response”, he said.  Seldom had the international community acted in such solidarity or so quickly in the face of so many difficulties.  That said, despite the best efforts, too many people had not received the assistance they urgently needed.  The immediate priorities continued to be medical assistance, water, sanitation, food and shelter, as well as fuel and transportation equipment, and he urged States to make additional contributions to the flash appeal.

Before the earthquake, Haiti was making progress, and from afar, it might look as if all progress had been lost, he said.  That was not so.  Handled properly, the disaster could offer an opportunity to “build back better”.  There was a need to restore Government, improve governance, rebuild the police and justice system and create the right environment for investors to create an export system that took full advantage of new opportunities for growth, among them, the tariff-free market opening to the United States under the existing HOPE legislation.  Haitians wanted a future that offered stability, dignity and hope.

Outlining a plan to help, he said $41 million was being sought through a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) flash appeal to scale up the “Cash for Work” programme, designed to help Haitians help themselves.  Under the initiative, Haitians would be paid for removing debris from the streets, delivering aid and constructing camps for the homeless.  For $5 per day, a worker could take care of his or her family, money that would circulate through the economy and support small businesses and banks.  Such jobs were the “social concrete and mortar” that would hold Haiti together through a time of extreme stress.

Yesterday, he had met with Special Envoy Bill Clinton, who said, handled properly, the international community had an opportunity “to help Haitians reinvent their country”.  He urged the Assembly to do its part.  For his part, he had directed United Nations agencies to work with the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and others on an immediate post-disaster needs assessment.  Amid calls for a reconstruction conference, a preparatory meeting would be held in Montreal, Canada, on Monday.  “Haiti has never been more in need,” he said, and he thanked the Assembly for its adoption of the resolution.

Introduction of Drafts

MARIA LUIZA VIOTTI (Brazil) introduced a draft resolution on Earthquake in Haiti:  Humanitarian Assistance, Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation as a Result of the Earthquake’s Devastating Effects (A/64/L.42), saying the text sent a strong message of the Assembly’s support to Haiti in its hour of most dire need.  It outlined actions needed to assist the country in the present humanitarian relief phase, and in medium -- and long-term efforts for early recovery, rehabilitation and development.

While there had been generous support to rescue efforts, resources were needed to ensure the transition from relief to reconstruction and development, she said.  As such, the draft appealed to States, United Nations bodies, international financial institutions and development agencies to provide speedy and sustainable support, and called for international assistance in response to the 15 January flash appeal.  Finally, the text welcomed the Secretary-General’s leadership and coordinating role of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  The people and Government of Haiti should be able to count on international support long after the media attention was diverted to the next headline.  She then submitted technical revisions to the draft.

KHALID MOHAMMED OSMAN SIDAHMED MOHAMMED ALI (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” and China, introduced a draft resolution on “international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development,” (document A/64/L.43).  He said developing countries faced tremendous challenges to life, property and infrastructure, and when natural disasters struck, it could set a country back ten years.  The negative impacts of climate change, the global financial and economic crisis, and the increase in food prices might cause additional challenges, with particular impact on disaster response.  Draft resolution A/64/L.43 represented the international community’s resolve to stand up to those challenges.  It stressed the importance of promoting international cooperation and support in facing the effects of natural disasters, and in encouraging preparedness and recovery and development plans to limit the impacts of disasters.  It discussed the need to promote national capacities at all stages of natural disasters and of integrating that need into development plans, especially in regions vulnerable to such disasters. 

He said the draft further stressed the need to encourage international cooperation and support in capacity-building, to involve the use of space technologies such as United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER), for example.  It would also encourage the increased use of remote sensing technology and exchange of geographic information.  It contained provisions, as well, on the need to increase the level of human resources devoted to recovery work.  The United Nations and its humanitarian agencies must promote their capacities, and must help to build national capacities, to better mitigate the effects of disasters and to provide immediate assistance after disasters.  The draft encouraged all countries to act within the existing international framework for such action.  It called on the Secretary-General to present a report at the sixty-fifth session containing recommendations on how to fill the response gap.

Action on Drafts

The Assembly adopted both resolutions without a vote, as orally revised where such revisions were made.  Rules of procedure were waived in the case of resolution A/64/L.43.

Statements

LÉO MÉRORÈS (Haiti) welcomed the adoption of resolution L.42, expressing the deep gratitude of his Government and people for the wave of solidarity shown by the international community.  It was with great sadness that his Government had learned of the disappearance of MINUSTAH friends and colleagues in the service of peace and he extended his heartfelt condolences to those affected.  He thanked the United Nations and its agencies for their tireless efforts during the rescue and reconstruction phases, as well as the many non-governmental organizations that were working to save the lives of his countrymen, despite losses of their own.  To date, 80,000 dead had been buried; thousands had disappeared; and one third of the population could be considered disaster victims.  Public buildings had been levelled.  The Government had virtually no physical premises.  Such huge needs required immediate responses.  It was with a feeling of gratitude that he paid tribute to countries that were assisting Haiti.  In closing, he expressed the unshakable belief that Haiti would raise itself up and proceed on a genuine path of reconstruction.

JUAN ANTONIO YÁÑEZ-BARNUEVO (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed his deepest condolences to the Government and people of Haiti, and to other nations and to the staff members of the United Nations, for the massive loss of life caused by the earthquake.  The European Union welcomed the global response to the crisis, and had itself responded rapidly in providing humanitarian emergency assistance and deploying humanitarian and civil protection experts.  The first priority had been to dispatch urban search-and-rescue teams, including military and civil engineering capabilities.  The current focus was to provide emergency health, water and sanitation, medical facilities, shelter, logistics, telecommunications and food to the people of Haiti.

He said there was a need for adequate security on the ground to ensure safe and unhindered access of aid deliveries.  The European Union stood ready to provide additional assistance on the basis of ongoing needs assessment, including military and civil assets, as appropriate and as requested by the United Nations.  A strong aftershock took place on 20 January over Petit Goave, after which search-and-rescue teams were deployed; no new deaths had been reported, although there were some injuries.  It was a sign that vulnerabilities remained, and that the humanitarian effort would take a long time, for which the greatest possible synergies between all components of the response must be ensured in both the short term and long term.

He said that, as announced yesterday, the European Union would contribute within the framework of the United Nations flash appeal.  Today, it wanted to reinforce its commitment with the adoption of the resolution, and he welcomed the efforts of the Government of Brazil with regard to the draft.

DONATUS ST. AIMEE (Saint Lucia), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), thanked all those that had become co-sponsors of the resolution, thus exhibiting commitment to come to the aid and assistance of one of its members in a “sad and trying time”.  For the Caribbean nations, Haiti -- the symbol of freedom, the promoter of regional collaboration and assistance to its neighbours, the symbol of struggle against oppression -- held a special place.  Those symbols weighed heavily on Haiti and its people, who had not been able to play their role as they should have, both in the region and in the wider sphere.  He urged nations not to forget “what Haiti stood for in its glory days”, which were the very principles that enabled some States to take their rightful place among the community of nations.  It provided a reason for offering help to the people of Haiti.

He stressed Haiti’s place as a sister CARICOM nation, and said that the international community’s overwhelming positive response to its dire need of help was to be commended.  The message in the resolution was that the United Nations was a united body in times of need.  “It is refreshing to be part of the membership of this great body,” he said.  “Whatever our shortcomings in other areas, we remain truly a united body, helping and aiding when necessary.”

He added, however, that it was probably unfortunate that Member States needed to wait on catastrophes to bring out the best in “our noble institution.”  While Caribbean nations were facing their own challenges, situated in the same path of hurricanes and hot-spots of earthquakes, it understood its obligation to a sister island that shared the same aspirations.  When the dust settled, the larger task of rebuilding would require equal effort, assistance and generosity.  The best guarantee against future catastrophes, whether in Haiti or elsewhere, was assistance for self-reliance and sustainability, and the world needed to plan now for its next phase.  The CARICOM would soon define a niche to target its intervention in Haiti.  He said his statement might make it sound as if the entire region suffered the catastrophe, “and truly we did, as in a small subregion as ours, what affects one affects all”.

He extended sympathies to those who perished in the disaster and to families and friends of United Nations staff.  A successful operation in Haiti would greatly enhance the United Nations’ standing, and the resolution before the Assembly presented just that opportunity.

HENRI-PAUL NORMANDIN (Canada) said his country was determined to support the people of Haiti, working with the Haitian Government and the United Nations in such difficult times.  In response to the devastating earthquake, Canada had committed $135 million to humanitarian assistance, including a $60 million contribution in response to the flash appeal.  It had also made interventions in the areas of health and sanitation, among other areas, and provided military assets.  His Government was pleased to note the speed of the international response to the disaster and commended both the Secretary-General and the United Nations teams.  Indeed, the United Nations had a key coordination role to play and Canada was working with the Organization to ensure its assistance was channelled to where it was needed most.  Canada would host a preparatory conference on 25 January, which would pave the way for a much larger conference on reconstruction.

ZHANG YESUI (China) said passage of the resolution submitted by Brazil sent a positive signal of unity.  Expressing his condolences to the victims of the earthquake, he said China had done all it could to provide support to those victims.  Since arriving in the country on 13 January, a team from China had been working strenuously to provide aid.  To date, the Red Cross of China had contributed $1 million to the cause, while the Government had provided 30 million yuan worth of supplies, some of which arrived in 17 January with more to arrive on 26 January, when the airport in Haiti is expected to be cleared of its backlog.  Yesterday, the Government pledged $2.6 million to the United Nations flash appeal, bringing the country’s total contribution to more than $8 million in cash or in kind.  In light of urgent needs in earthquake areas, the Government had also decided to send a 14‑member medical care team, and to provide medicine and medical equipment to Haiti.

He observed that the disaster relief efforts were now in full swing, and expressed appreciation for the timely response shown by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations humanitarian agencies.  The United Nations was internationally recognized as a provider of aid.  In addition, the United Nations was seen by its Member States as having the authority to undertake early recovery, reconstruction and long-term development, because it had the necessary expertise and technological advantages.  It had accumulated much useful experience in creating an effective coordination mechanism, from the time of the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Myanmar cyclone.  It should count among its priorities the need to plan reconstruction efforts, for which great cooperation must be maintained and improved.  Putting international aid to good use required that reconstruction needs be taken into account and integrated into the United Nations disaster relief work.  He hoped the Organization would strengthen its coordination in that regard.

As the seat of the Security Council Presidency, he said China had striven to do its part to make the best use of relief funds and to facilitate reconstruction efforts.  He had maintained close contact with various parties on the issue of Haiti, and, after the earthquake, the Council reacted immediately to convene meetings and to issue Presidential Statements.  On 19 January, it adopted resolution 1908 (2010) to send an additional 3,500 peacekeepers to MINUSTAH.  He also thanked the representative of Sudan for submitting a resolution on cooperation in international humanitarian efforts and welcomed its adoption by consensus.

PEDRO NÚÑEZ MOSQUERA (Cuba) said the United Nations was facing a new challenge in providing urgent assistance to Haiti.  More than 400 Cuban medical staff had been working in Haiti prior to the earthquake and, after the disaster, immediately started serving victims.  After the earthquake, 60 more workers from the Cuban Health Service joined the efforts.  At the same time, 240 Haitian residents and students were receiving medical training in Cuba.  He reiterated Cuba’s availability to work on the ground to save more lives, adding that there were more than 100 specialists in Haiti from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Chile, Spain, Mexico, Colombia and Canada, as well as 17 nuns.  Haitians needed international help.  Cooperation must be sustained and carried out in close cooperation with the Haitian Government on the basis of sovereignty, non-interference in domestic matters and territorial integrity.  Cuba had provided medical attention to Haitians since 1998, notably in delivering more than 100,000 babies.

GUSTAVO ÁLVAREZ (Uruguay) began by expressing his condolences to the people of Haiti and the United Nations for its loss of staff, noting that the international community had reacted in solidarity by lending such extraordinary support to the country.  He praised MINUSTAH for its work, which was a symbol of the Organization’s ongoing commitment to Haiti. 

His Government viewed the draft presented by Brazil as an ideal opportunity to send a clear signal of unity with a fellow Member State, which was why it had supported it.  In addition, there was a need to go beyond the provision of humanitarian assistance; the current situation must be seen as an opportunity to help the country strengthen its capacity for sustainable development.  Efforts towards that end should have Haiti itself as the main protagonist, and there should also be coordination between the Government and the United Nations.  Implementing such an effort would be one of the main challenges for the United Nations in the future.

MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua), while also expressing condolences to the people of Haiti, the United Nations and to those countries which had lost their nationals in the disaster, said her own country had been struck itself by many natural disasters and felt the pain of its Haitian brothers and sisters.  Nicaraguans had reacted generously, acting with humanity and professionalism, and sending several humanitarian missions, rescue brigades, medical brigades, medicine and many tons of food.  It was now considering ways to provide as much medical service to Haiti as it could possibly muster. 

She noted that developing countries often had nothing to spare, and so whatever material it was sharing with others in times of need came from among what little they had to share.  It was unfortunate that some countries were seeking to benefit from the pain of others to take control of a country that was now bathed in blood, through its occupation by an exaggerated number of troops and by putting up obstacles to aid that other countries had wanted to distribute.  Such was the reality on the ground, and it was a reality that could not be swept aside.  She called on the United Nations to strengthen its leadership in coordinating international humanitarian assistance efforts, as well as in future reconstruction efforts, according to United Nations principles.  No one should take it upon themselves to take over the destiny of another country, especially one that was facing a calamity.  Those in Haiti should steer their own destiny. 

She said Nicaragua would insist on periodic reports on the implementation of the resolutions just passed, and to mend or overcome obstacles in the process of implementing them.  The Assembly needed to send a message of solidarity to the Haitian people, and ensure that its intention was to save lives ‑‑ no more, no less -- and to help with recovery and reconstruction efforts in the medium and long term.  Nicaragua joined consensus on today’s resolutions as an expression of solidarity, but wished to issue a warning that, although they did not contain provisions on the presence of foreign troops, the texts should not be interpreted as an open door for military occupation.  Haiti needed doctors, engineers, teachers, construction material, and help in rebuilding its agriculture sector, but it did not need armies.  The situation should not be politicized to justify individual vested interests, but be seen as an opportunity to unite under the banner “ Haiti is not alone.”  She said the international community needed to tell Haiti that it stood by it, and that it would be supported until it overcame its challenges.

MANJEEV SINGH PURI (India) said his country was familiar with the consequences of natural disasters and understood the trauma Haitians were experiencing.  His Government would do all in its power to partner with the people of Haiti in their journey to rebuild their lives.  On 15 January, India announced a $5 million cash donation to be used for relief measures, which was being sent to Haiti through India’s permanent mission in New York.  He paid homage to the men and women of the United Nations family, including one of India’s own, who were struck down at their posts.  In closing, he conveyed condolences to the injured and family members of those who had died in the earthquake.

PABLO SOLÓN-ROMERO (Bolivia) said the Haitian earthquake was the most violent in the history of the Caribbean and he expressed the deepest solidarity with the Haitian people.  Reconstruction should be undertaken in respect of Haiti’s sovereignty.  Issues of water, health, housing and help to victims and their families should be prioritized, before a disproportionate military presence.  He was concerned at the presence of more than 11,000 new United States military personnel and he wondered under what mandate those soldiers were in the country.  He called for immediately forgiving Haiti’s external debt, adding that financial aid should be extended without credit restrictions or conditionalities.  Haiti’s reconstruction was a task in which all must be involved and Bolivia was firmly committed to those efforts.

CLAUDIA BLUM (Colombia) reiterated her country’s expression of solidarity with the people of Haiti and their Government.  She thanked Brazil for its work on the draft passed today, which sent a message of political commitment, support and cooperation to Haiti in the face of calamity.  It also sent a message of support for the transition towards sustainable development, recovery and reconstruction.  The international community’s urgent response was vital, and would continue to be in the coming months.  She paid tribute to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which had quickly organized a flash appeal for emergency relief and early recovery. 

Colombia had been offering its support according to the priorities identified by the United Nations, and had been coordinating its efforts with those of United Nations entities, especially those dealing with prevention and disaster management.  It had sent eight cargo flights and a navy vessel, along with over 200 workers in various fields, including medical staff and search-and-rescue specialists.  It had sent many tons of aid, including that donated by citizens, while the Government had made contributions directly to the World Food Programme.   Colombia, as chair of the Executive Directorate of the Inter-American Cooperation Agency, had created a special fund to support Haiti.  The subject was central to discussions held by Caribbean ministers, being held in Colombia at the moment.  The people of her country would continue to lend their support, in line with their capacity and experience.

Coordination was crucial to the work that was facing the international community, she said.  It was of fundamental importance to guarantee that aid was being provided in an efficient, organized and appropriate manner.  She stressed the role of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in ensuring adequate coordination among humanitarian agencies, and also stressed the importance of ensuring that early recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction, as well as the transition to development, was being carried out in a coordinated manner.  Colombia had experience in responding to serious earthquakes, and had, in 1999, led a recovery and reconstruction effort in its coffee growing region that had been struck by a quake.  It had enough funding to create programmes to create jobs, and the funds were managed transparently with the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) help and with the broad participation of non-governmental organizations and the private sector.  Today, that area was one of the most dynamic regions of the country. 

Based on lessons learned from there, she recommended that the international community determine adequate mechanisms for funding recovery and reconstruction in Haiti, in partnership with the Government of Haiti, and create ways to avoid duplication and to set up an organized funding process.  There should also be a clear division of labour among the various international organizations, Governments and non-governmental organizations involved.  She suggested that a multilateral body or an international entity of some kind be set up to support such coordination.  Countries should be involved in the reconstruction effort according to specific areas in line with their abilities.

CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico) offered his condolences to the people of Haiti and the United Nations for the deaths and injuries suffered, as well as to Governments that suffered the deaths of their nationals.  His country had been supporting Haiti on an ongoing basis, and was now considering new measures for future support.  Mexico was also part of the various regional initiatives referred to by others today. 

He said it was important to deal with the urgent needs of the present, while keeping an eye on the future.  Haiti was one of “the most castigated nations of the world”, in terms of development.  Paradoxically, the current tragedy offered an opportunity for the United Nations to revise its strategy towards Haiti, by which it should assume not just the challenge of reconstruction, but also to provide Haiti with help to overcome its enormous structural shortcomings, both in terms of its socio-economy and its political and institutional fragility.  Such action should be taken in full coordination with the Haitian Government and other relevant actors. 

He said Haiti could not return to its previous state before the earthquake; it needed to take “a decisive step forward” in its development.  In Mexico’s view, efforts linked to Haiti, from MINUSTAH to the various United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, should revise their actions and mandates in a way that would allow the United Nations to fully bring about its coordinating role.  The Mexican delegation, both in the Security Council and the General Assembly, would continue to promote initiatives to that end.  In that context, he welcomed the adoption of the resolution as first step in that direction.

JORGE VALERO BRICEÑO (Venezuela), expressing condolences for the massive loss of life, noted that before the catastrophe, Haiti already had been impoverished as a result of imperialism.  The earthquake destroyed what progress Haitians had made.  Venezuela was committed to Haiti’s future; its cooperation was a question of principle and it was permanent.  To deal with the earthquake’s impacts and the unfolding humanitarian crisis, the Government had sent 7,000 tons of humanitarian aid and a team of more than 200 specialists, including doctors, firemen and search and rescue members from the Simon Bolivar Task Force.  More than 5,000 tons of food and supplies would soon arrive in naval vessels and aid was being provided by air.

Further, Venezuela was implementing a special plan to ensure that health institutions could function, he said.  Some 225,000 barrels of diesel and petrol had been provided and another 300,000 barrels of oil would be sent.  Humanitarian aid was being coordinated with members of the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean (ALBA), as well as nations like the Russian Federation.  Haiti needed medicine and aid, not military intervention.  No country should take advantage of a vulnerable situation to deploy military forces, especially when MINUSTAH was on the ground.  Venezuelans were brothers of Haiti and he thanked United Nations Members that had swiftly responded to the emergency.

ANDREW GOLEDZINOWSKI ( Australia) said the resolution signalled that the Member States were committed to providing the assistance Haiti needed in a coordinated and effective way, from the immediate relief phase, through early recovery, rehabilitation, reconstruction and development.  It stressed the importance of strengthening Haiti’s disaster preparedness capacity and reducing its vulnerability to natural disasters.  It was crucial that in rebuilding Haiti “we build back better” and integrate disaster risk reduction into all development strategies.

He said that so far, his country had pledged A$15 million, to be channelled through the World Food Programme (WFP), the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency and non-governmental organizations.  Further contributions would be considered towards Haiti’s longer-term reconstruction.  Noting that, in spite of their own losses, MINUSTAH and the United Nations country team had immediately set out to help the Haitian people, he underlined the importance of the Organization’s role in the coordination of humanitarian assistance, adding that the United Nations team had done a remarkable job in extremely difficult conditions.

A.U. NWOSA (Nigeria) said that while Haitians had died in the thousands, the indomitable spirit of the living remained undeterred as to what the future held.  He saluted the resilience of the Haitian people and paid tribute to the individuals, organizations, agencies and Governments that had acted swiftly to deal with the impacts of the disaster.  It was a time for concerted and coordinated efforts and the United Nations had a critical role to play in that regard.  For its part, Nigeria’s 121-strong police contingent on peacekeeping duty in Haiti and members of the Technical Aid Corp had rendered their service to victims.  Nigeria recognized that the situation called for immediate action and, in that vein, would make a $1.5 million contribution to the Secretary-General.

FEDERICO ALBERTO CUELLO CAMILO (Dominican Republic) expressed his deepest condolences to the people of Haiti, the United Nations and other affected countries and organizations.  He expressed gratitude to both Brazil and Sudan for proposing the resolutions just adopted.  After the disaster occurred, President Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic sent search-and-rescue teams to Haiti, along with a first aid emergency team, and provisions such as water, communications equipment and medicine.  Dominican volunteer doctors and builders had been working hard to remove the rubble.  The Government had been coordinating its humanitarian action from its fort on the border with Haiti, through which the wounded and other aid materials were being transported to-and-fro.  The Ministries of the armed forces, public health, social assistance and public communications had conducted an assessment by plane, and the President identified hospitals throughout the country to which the injured would be transported.  Ten mobile kitchens were installed to feed 10,000 people daily.  The country was also providing ambulances, search-and-rescue teams and emergency protection services.

He said the President was the first Head of State to visit the country.  At a meeting with President René Préval of Haiti at the airport, the two leaders agreed to an immediate programme to establish water, electricity and telecommunications networks, and to hold an international meeting to plan for medium- and long-term reconstruction.  On 18 January, in Santo Domingo, with assistance of President Préval and at the initiative of President Fernandez, a meeting was held involving members of the CARICOM, Canada, Spain (representing the European Union), Brazil, the United Nations, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Organization of American States, on how to best address the situation.  The countries and organizations present had agreed to work towards an international conference to prepare a strategic plan for reconstruction, which would help in the short, medium and long term to strengthen economic and political stability, to be held in the Dominican Republic.  The steering committee was to hold its first preparatory meeting on 25 January in Canada, and a group designated by that committee would draft a plan to be submitted for debate.  The plan was to be based on the Millennium Development Goals, Haiti’s poverty reduction strategy, and a World Bank document on “options and opportunities for Haiti”.

He said the Dominican Republic felt a solidarity with the people of Haiti, and had held fundraisers and telethons, and had made it easier for the wounded to travel across border for free medical treatment.  Its three airports had become way stations for international aid, and were “saturated” with hundreds of flights bringing aid to Haiti.  The international community must now take up the challenge of Haitian development and rebuild peace in that country.  It must help lay the foundation for sustainable development, social justice, and find ways to deal with its vulnerabilities.

M.R. KEEGEL (Sri Lanka) said that, as a nation that had faced a similar natural disaster, Sri Lanka conveyed assurances of solidarity to Haiti.  With international support, the Government and people of Haiti would be able to rebuild their country.  Sri Lanka had not lost any peacekeepers in Haiti and was pleased that they had been playing an important role in the distribution of food and water in the hardest-hit areas.  Sri Lanka had made a $25,000 cash donation to Haiti and would continue its support with a contribution to the flash appeal.  His Government also appreciated the Secretary-General’s efforts in extending assistance to Haitians in a timely manner.

LOUIS ENRIQUE CHÁVEZ (Peru) said his Government had sent three planes of humanitarian aid to Haiti, as well as a search and rescue team, and had co-sponsored the resolution on humanitarian assistance.  Maximum efforts were being made to respond to the challenges of the humanitarian tragedy and the United Nations played a lead role in the country’s reconstruction.  In carrying out relief efforts, the high number of injured must be taken into account.  Peru supported the work of the Secretary-General, his Special Envoy and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  Moreover, it would be important to define steps and procedures to help Haiti and ensure all assistance was distributed in a coordinated and effective fashion.  Peru would actively participate in the upcoming Montreal conference, a first step to new cooperation in the reconstruction of Haiti.

ALEJANDRO WOLFF ( United States) welcomed the resolution on “humanitarian assistance, emergency relief and rehabilitation for Haiti in response to the devastating effects of the earthquake in that country”.  His Government was working urgently with international partners and nations worldwide, non-governmental organizations and the United Nations system to help the people of Haiti to recover from the event and to rebuild their nation over the long term.  He had also been pleased to join consensus on the resolution on “international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development”, whose goal was to urge the timely provision of assistance to communities shaken by disasters.  His Government was committed to working in close partnership with fellow Member States and the United Nations to respond to natural disasters.  He noted, however, that the resolution contained a paragraph referring to international humanitarian law, which should not be confused with the issue of cooperation on humanitarian assistance, which was the subject of the resolution.  Humanitarian law, he stressed, governed action during situations of armed conflict, not the provision of humanitarian assistance.

He then responded to three isolated comments by Nicaragua, Bolivia and Venezuela, who he said had used the current, sombre occasion to politicize the matter with ill-informed statements.  Those countries had called on all nations to avoid politicization of the situation, while themselves doing the very same -- by claiming occupation.  Another representative from a large Caribbean country had rightly noted Haiti’s need for help, and that assistance should be provided, over time, in close cooperation with the Haitian Government, with respect for its sovereignty.  The United States shared that approach; it was in Haiti at the request of the Government with humanitarian interests in mind.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Préval had published a joint communiqué reflecting this point, and the Permanent Representative of Haiti had reflected the gratitude of his Government for all the aid it had received.  It would be appropriate for the countries that had put forward such ridiculous allegations of conspiracy and occupation to respect the sovereign position of Haiti, about which they claim to be so concerned.

KURIAKOSE BHARANIKULANGARA, observer of the Holy See, welcoming the adoption of today’s resolution, said it was those who were toiling around the clock to rescue people, labouring to provide medical and humanitarian assistance to the homeless and whose hearts ached over the loss of a loved one who needed sustained financial, physical, emotional and spiritual support.  Challenges persisted in providing humanitarian support.

For its part, the Catholic Church, with its vast network of organizations in Haiti, was providing the country with emergency services and goods.  He said Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Haiti, among others, had responded with millions of dollars in aid and thousands of professionals to provide emergency medical and humanitarian aid.  The engagement of such organizations had provided an immediate response to the crisis and would be crucial in ensuring long-term renewal.  In relief and recovery programmes, the participation of and cooperation with faith-based organizations would help ensure more efficient delivery of humanitarian assistance and better implementation of reconstruction efforts.

MARWAN JILANI (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)) expressed his condolences and sympathies to the people of Haiti and the United Nations family for the tragic loss of life.  Sympathies were also expressed to colleagues in the Haitian Red Cross.  The Red Cross and Red Crescent family had begun mobilizing its global emergency response networks early on in the disaster.  Today, more than 20 national societies had been deployed to Haiti, comprising emergency response units, a rapid deployment hospital, a field hospital, more than 35 basic health clinics, water and sanitation units, a relief shelter unit, a logistics unit, and a base camp.  Around 29 Red Cross flights had landed, and a ship had just left Cartagenas with millions of tons of supplies from the Red Cross.  Today, around 400 delegates were assisting the Haitian Red Cross, with more than half from national Red Cross societies in the region.

He read aloud several passages from the diary of a Canadian Red Cross programme manager who had been at Port-au-Prince when the quake struck.  In her diary, she reported that she had gone immediately to the Red Cross office to help with emergency first aid, triaging over 250 injured the first night.  Dated 17 January, the entry explains the early starts to her days, preparing breakfast for the local logistical support staff.  She had convinced the President of the Haitian Red Cross to provide transportation for the injured.  Driving around town, she had found the level of destruction hard to believe:  piles of buildings; smashed cars; and an endless sea of people camping outside in parks.  Volunteers were working everywhere to move people and equipment, and to salvage what they could from the wreckage.  Everyone was doing what they could -- the head driver of the Dominican Red Cross had asked directions for where to deliver medicine and relief items.  Around 100,000 litres of water had been delivered to two areas.  Red Cross search-and-rescue teams had located 40 people in a collapsed supermarket and had been given water to drink.  In the evening, she had gone to the Red Cross base camp, and had been amazed at the scene:  the Canadians had set up tents, the Americans were planning their distribution programme, and the French were making plans for a field hospital, among others.  It had looked like “the whole world was there”, with more coming.

The representative of Sudan made a technical revision to the text of resolution A/64/L.43.  Paragraph 14 should read “in full accordance of General Assembly resolution 46/182 and the annex contained therein”.  The phrase “General Assembly” was missing.

Right of reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, Nicaragua’s representative reminded the United States delegate of the history of United States interventions in the Latin American and Caribbean region.  While the United States President urged looking to the future, he should not be so naïve, as images of United States troops in Haiti could only recall the past.  What Haiti needed was an army of “white coats”, which included engineers, not marines.

Bolivia’s delegate, noting he had been asked about the basis of his statement, said 11,274 United States soldiers were in Haiti, a fact recognized in a White House press release.  He wondered why there was a military presence of that magnitude in Haiti, a number higher than all the contingents that contributed to MINUSTAH.  What was the function of that presence and, moreover, to whom was the United States force answering -– the United Nations mandate?  If it had been decided that the United Nations would coordinate all international aid, efforts must ensure that was indeed the case.  That question had not been responded to and he asked for both an explanation and a correction of that policy.

Responding, the United States representative said the United States presence in Haiti was there solely to serve humanitarian purposes, covered in a communiqué between Haiti and the United States.  As such, his Government would focus, along with the international community, on helping the Government and people of Haiti confront the present catastrophe.

The Acting General Assembly President then drew attention to document A/64/631 in which the Secretary-General informed the President of the General Assembly that 19 States were in arrears of their financial contributions to the United Nations, under the terms of Article 19 of the United Nations Charter.  That article states that a Member of the United Nations in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two full years.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.