|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Economic and Social Council
2011 Organizational Session
3rd Meeting (AM)
Continuing 2011 Organizational Session, Economic and Social Council
Hears Report of Chairman of Its Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti
One Year after Massive Earthquake, Council Briefed on Haitian Government’s
Preparations for Upcoming Elections, Initiatives to Advance Broad Recovery Effort
As Haiti prepared for its second round of presidential elections on 20 March, United Nations officials told the Economic and Social Council today that political stability in the Caribbean nation could only be achieved by Haitians themselves, urging that utmost care be taken to ensure the appointment of a responsible Government to lead the people through the next stage of recovery and reconstruction.
John McNee (Canada), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, updated the Council on events since its last report on July 2010, saying that Haiti had struggled to recover from Hurricane Tomas, and had dealt with an outbreak of cholera, which had spread throughout the nation. Amid such challenges, the Group’s mandate had become only more relevant.
He said the Group, among its other recent activities, had met with the Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti on 20 December 2010 to learn about the work of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, which had recently approved another $430 million in projects. The Commission’s plan included target outcomes for October 2011 related to housing, debris, education, energy, health and job creation, among other issues. Going forward, the Group planned to travel to Haiti for meetings with the Government and various stakeholders, with a report to be ready for the Council’s July session. He also anticipated meeting with representatives of the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank.
“It has certainly been a challenging year for Haiti,” he said, commending efforts by the country’s people and Government to overcome myriad obstacles. The Group had always advocated the Government’s role in all aspects of the recovery, reconstruction and development plans and would continue to advise it on long-term development strategy, with particular attention to the coherence of international support. Empowering local actors in rebuilding urban and rural areas would help ensure stability.
Briefing the Council on election preparations via video link from Port-au-Prince, Nigel Fisher, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Resident Coordinator in Haiti, said he expected voting results by 16 April, with a new President and Administration installed by early May. Ahead of the run-off, a ninth commissioner likely would be appointed to the Electoral Commission, and measures would be implemented at the 1,500 voting centres to prevent the fraud seen during the first round of voting. The Organization of American States (OAS) would also increase the number of its observers to 200 — up from 120 in the first round — he added.
Further, electoral sheets would be colour coded and call centres would begin operations today for voters to learn about voting locations, he explained. A code of conduct was being developed, outlining behaviour for candidate supporters and others at voting centres. He expected a $2.5 million funding shortfall to be covered by donor pledges, or — in the short-term — by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), should those pledges arrive late.
Turning to the humanitarian situation, he said immediate earthquake response had been “successful” in terms of protection provided to those displaced. Last year, the target for transitional shelters had been exceeded, houses assessed and building codes revised. Most children in earthquake zones were back in school and the camp population had dropped to 800,000 people from 1.5 million at the middle of last year. The strategy for working with internally displaced persons was now focused on return to new or old communities and community-based strategies for water supply.
The main challenges at hand, he said, included post-earthquake recovery and resettlement, the response to the cholera epidemic, and cyclone season preparation. Seismologists had found that the massive 12 January 2010 earthquake had occurred on a secondary fault, and that pressure had not been substantively reduced, meaning that Haiti faced the prospects of a second significant earthquake.
Above all, “the critical issue is jobs”, he said, citing the evolving challenges of forced evictions and gender-based violence as other challenges. Further, the cholera epidemic, now in its fourth month, had seen over 230,000 cases and 4,600 dead, he said, with epidemiologists estimating a total 400,000 cases would be seen in the first year of the outbreak.
As for the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, he said strategic priorities centred on urban renewal, private sector recapitalization and investment in the north-eastern part of the country, to allow for the export of finished goods. However, the $3 billion approved for other priorities — agriculture, education, health, water and sanitation, among them — had been unevenly distributed. With the Commission’s mandate set to expire in October, the Haitian Government had expressed a preference that it should transition into a Haitian institution, and that technical ministries be strengthened.
In the interactive dialogue that followed, delegates underscored the importance of keeping the media spotlight on Haiti and posed questions about the country’s future. In response, Mr. Fisher said thus far, the United Nations had been unable to clearly communicate key factors — notably about progress made and available resources. That was a matter of concern, as achievements to date had not been insignificant.
Asked about the Commission’s future, he said it was clear that international members of the panel would like to remain engaged to ensure mutual accountability. On the other hand, Haitians had been dissatisfied with their role, seeing it as a “rubber stamp”, rather than substantive. To change that, the technical ministries could submit plans supported by the international community, rather than the other way around.
Participating in the interactive dialogue were the representatives of Haiti, Comoros, United States and Brazil.
In other business today, the Council adopted a decision (document E/2011/L.2), introduced by Mr. McNee, to appoint representatives of the Bahamas and the United States as additional members of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti.
The Economic and Social Council will reconvene in plenary at 3 p.m. Friday, 18 February, to address other organizational matters.
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