Port-au-Prince, Haiti

14 March 2010

Secretary-General's joint press conference with Haitian President Rene Preval

SG: Mesdames et Messieurs, bonjour.

Le Président Préval, le Premier Ministre Bellerive et moi-même venons d'avoir une réunion très productive sur l'avenir d'Haïti. Je tiens à saluer le Président et son gouvernement pour la façon dont ils ont pris les choses en main depuis le début d'une tragédie nationale qui se poursuit. Je salue également le peuple haïtien pour le courage et le sens de la solidarité dont il a fait preuve en ces temps difficiles. Cet après-midi, je vais rencontrer certains d'entre eux au camp de Pétionville. Beaucoup ont perdu leur maisons, beaucoup ont perdu des proches. Je vais leur dire que je suis revenu à Haïti, ne fut-ce que pour une journée, pour voir par moi-même où en est la situation, et pour manifester ma solidarité au Gouvernement et au peuple d'Haïti. Je vais leur dire que même si le temps passe, le monde n'a pas oublié. Le monde est toujours à leurs côtés.

Once again, I would thank the international community for its extraordinary support: the search and rescue teams, the aid workers, the NGOs, donors and national governments that, going forward, will help Haiti and its people to build back better. Finally, I would like to say how proud I am of the UN mission. Despite terrible losses, they have carried on. They have worked, around the clock, to save lives and give Haiti's people the hope they so fully deserve.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As President Preval and I have discussed, this is a relief effort of enormous magnitude. We are beginning the transition from emergency relief to early recovery and reconstruction. But the situation remains extremely difficult. We have made progress, great progress, in supplying emergency food and water. The UN's Cash-for-Work program, employing 85,000 people to date, has been helpful in clearing debris and distributing relief supplies.

MINUSTAH and the Haitian National Police have done an excellent job maintaining security; the withdrawal of U.S. and Canadian forces will in no way compromise the mission. We will make every effort to ensure that IDP camps remain safe and secure, most especially for women and children.The most urgent challenge right now is shelter, shelter, shelter, coupled with sanitation. At this moment, we have supplied tents and tarpaulins to approximately 60 percent of the 1.3 million people in need. We aim to reach everyone by the end of April.

Mesdames et Monsieurs, par la suite, nous comptons construire des logements communs plus durables pour le plus grand nombre possible de gens, et ceci, avant le début de la saison des ouragans, qui débute en juin. Par ailleurs, nous voulons determiner dans quelle mesure les maisons encore debout sont sûres, pour savoir si et quand leurs propriétaires pourront rentrer chez eux. Pour imparfaite qu'elle soit, nous pensons que cette combinaison de stratégies aidera les gens à traverser les prochains mois. S'il y a bien une chose dont Haïti n'a pas besoin, c'est d'une deuxième catastrophe humanitaire en plus de la première.

Looking further ahead, President Preval and I discussed our plans for the international donors' conference to be held at the United Nations on March 31. Haiti needs funds for schools, infrastructure, roads, ports and power.

For the foreseeable future, the government will need international assistance simply to cover its payroll -- teachers, police, doctors and nurses, civil servants and basic services. The international community has been extraordinarily generous. Seldom in history has there been such an out-pouring of support and heart-felt solidarity. Our revised Flash Appeal for the year, totaling $1.4 billion, is 49 percent funded. I assured President Preval and his ministers that I will continue my best personal efforts to fulfill the remainder, particularly for such under-funded programs as early recovery and agriculture.

Our challenge is to maintain this spirit of solidarity through the upcoming donors' conference and beyond. In New York, the Haitian government will set forth its national priorities and map out its strategic vision for the future. This plan is currently being developed with input from the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment led by the UN, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, European Commission and major donors.

M. Le President, M. Le Premier Ministre, Mesdames et Messieurs,

Je sais que la communaute internationale peut, et voudra, debourser les ressources necessaires a un effort efficace, bien coordonne et soutenu pour aider Hati et les Haitiens a se relever et se construire un avenir meilleur.

Je vous remercie.

Q: [in French, about relocating the internally displaced ahead of the seasonal rains. A follow up question on international coordination of assistance to the victims of the earthquake.]

SG: Providing proper shelter to the remaining displaced persons is one of the top priorities of the international community. The United Nations takes this very seriously. Shelter, coupled with sanitation and continued humanitarian assistance and reconstruction, those are major priorities. We have provided at least seven hundred thousands people with tents, tarpaulins and plastic sheeting. This however is not enough, as it covers just 60 percent of the 1.3 million displaced persons.

We will continue to expedite this process before the rainy season and the hurricane season arrive. We are a little behind schedule, but any fully effective coordination to provide humanitarian assistance the such large number of displaced persons has always been a great challenge. I know that there needs to be a better structured way [to handle this]. However, I can tell you with pride that we at the United Nations have been done our best so far in coordination with the Haitian government. I know that there are still many people who need to receive these items much faster, and in a much more effective way. Of that we are very much aware. The whole UN team here has therefore been organized in twelve clusters to deliver the aid faster and more efficiently. And we will continue to try to improve on our performance.

Q: [on the impact of international food aid on Haitian domestic food production] In the long run, would food aid have done more harm than good to this country?

SG: Again, this is a very important issue, specifically when we consider how all the international food assistance could be more effectively coordinated and delivered in a more structured way to the people. Let me say that whenever a tragedy of this scale strikes in any country, there is some confusion at the initial stage of international assistance. There is much improvisation and, at first, a somewhat disorderly way of delivering assistance. In this case the international community has been extremely generous. Even so, you might have seen some competition between those providing the aid. In a way, this must be appreciated rather than criticized.

The outpouring of international assistance to Haiti was very moving. Of course we need to ensure accountability. We need to establish a more efficient and effective way to help those in need. That is what I have tried to explain earlier by mentioning the twelve clusters set up by all UN agencies, funds and programmes working here, together with international aid donors, funds and countries.

This is now working quite well and we will continuously improve on this collaboration. Now, as we are moving toward ahead toward a recovery and reconstruction phase, I look forward to having the planned donor conference of 31 March, which will be co-chaired by myself and by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A post-disaster needs assessment is now being worked on with technical consultations due to take place in Santa Domingo on 16-17 March, by which time we will have a clearer picture of how much money is needed and how that money will be handled. In any case, we will need to ensure a strong Haitian ownership of this process and that ownership must be respected.

Thank you very much.