Press Conference on Economic and Social Council's Advisory Group's Visit to Haiti

14 May 2009

Press Conference on Economic and Social Council's Advisory Group's Visit to Haiti

Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


The international community must remain steadfastly committed to Haiti’s long-term recovery and development as the impoverished Caribbean island nation grappled with the impact of four hurricanes last year, sharp hikes in food and oil prices, and the global recession, the head of a team of United Nations advisers that visited Haiti last week said today at a Headquarters press conference.

“It’s pretty clear that you need a broad partnership, including the Government and people of Haiti, the UN and all its funds and programmes, and the other international partners all pulling together,” said John McNee, head of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and Canada’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

Recent improvements in the security situation and growing confidence among Haitians in local law enforcement were encouraging, Mr. McNee said, noting that some 6,400 Haitian National Police had been recruited and trained.  Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis and President Rene Preval, both of whom met with Mr. McNee last week, were clearly determined to take the country forward.  But the challenges to lock in and build on those gains were great.  

The Ad Hoc Advisory Group -- which also comprised delegates of the Economic and Social Council from Benin, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Haiti, Peru, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, and Council President Sylvie Lucas -- met with parliamentarians, United Nations officials, and representatives of the private sector and civil society to determine how best to support Haiti’s reconstruction and development.  During the four-day visit, it also examined procedures for coordinating international aid to ensure it was consistent with the Haitian Government’s National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty Document and the Government’s plans submitted at last month’s donor conference in Washington, at which nearly $325 million for Haiti was pledged.  The Advisory Group would soon submit a report outlining its findings and recommendations.

In March, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and former United States President Bill Clinton conducted a fact-finding mission to Haiti, as did members of the Security Council. 

Responding to a correspondent’s question about the percentage of the $325 million in international aid earmarked for security, Haiti’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Léo Mérorès, who also addressed the news conference, said the funds were slated for infrastructure, education, health care and other poverty-reduction programmes set forth in the national poverty reduction strategy, rather than security activities. 

Regarding the approximately 100 Sri Lankan peacekeepers in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) that were repatriated on charges of sexually abusing Haitian civilians, Mr. Mérorès said he believed an investigation was under way, but that he was not aware of any formal report by the United Nations or the Sri Lankan Government addressed to the Haitian Government on the matter.

Asked why Canada was investing $550 million in aid to Haiti over the next five years, Mr. McNee said Haiti’s severe developmental challenges and low ranking on human development, and the potential for its woes to spread elsewhere in the region, had made it a priority.  “As part of Canada’s vocation to international development, it would be logical that we would concentrate a lot of effort on a country which is in the most acute situation in the hemisphere, for starters, and secondly, with whom Canada has substantial links in terms of people.  I think it’s our obligation to try and help.”

Funds from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) were helping to build roads, improve agriculture and train police, he said.  As to why the Canadian Government was not bolstering the number of Canadian troops sent to train Haitian law enforcement, he said MINUSTAH already had the military skills and staff needed to be effective, thanks to troop contributions from a broad range of countries, among them the United States and several Latin American and European nations.

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