Haitian mayors call for earthquake risk assessments

Mar 2, 2010

Mayors also call for more direct cooperation with local authorities in their address to 850 local authorities at World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty

Geneva/ Rotterdam: 2 March 2010 – Speaking at the conclusion of the 7th Forum of the United Nations’ World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty (WACAP), four Haitian mayors from the areas affected by the 12 January earthquake called on the world body to learn from their experience and to avoid suffering the same fate.

Jean Yves Jason Muscadin, mayor of Port-au-Prince, said he had a warning for his fellow mayors and other local authorities gathered in Rotterdam.  “What happened to us could happen to any city,” he said.  “It is easy to forget that the earth is alive, that it is moving.  Any city that wants to avoid the same fate should conduct an immediate risk assessment and put in place safeguards to protect its citizens – ensuring that all buildings, especially public buildings, can resist a seismic event. We cannot avoid natural disasters, but we can reduce their consequences if we are prepared.”

Organized every two years in a different city by the UN Development Programme and its partners in the Alliance, the conference addresses major urban issues that condemn millions of the world’s poor to lives of poverty.  After the earthquake in Haiti, the City of Rotterdam invited the four mayors, representing Port-au-Prince, Tabarre, Carrefour and Croix-des-Bouquets, to share their experiences, successes, lessons learned and future plans in addressing their poverty and reconstruction challenges. 

Jantine Kriens, President of the Forum and Vice Mayor of Rotterdam, said the Haitian mayors brought a lot of experience to the conference and are returning with their hands full “of more than just promises.”  She said that she and the mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb will follow up to find areas where Rotterdam as a city can assist with the recovery. “I hope that our colleagues in other cities will follow suit.”

One of the challenges to local governance that is addressed at most WACAP conferences is the degree of authority that is granted to local authorities through decentralization.  Another is how development assistance is targeted to local communities.  In Haiti, although all support is appreciated, the mayors said they sometimes feel “like spectators” in their own communities as much of that assistance is being delivered without consultation. “As we were elected by our communities, and serve to represent their best interests, we have an important role to contribute in ensuring that the humanitarian and development assistance is properly targeted and reaches those who are most in need,” said Muscadin.

As a result of his meetings with the mayors in Rotterdam, Charles Josselin, Chairman of the United Cities of France and former French Minister of Development Cooperation, said the mayors should be involved in every facet of the country’s reconstruction.  He said he would advocate for their inclusion in the New York donor conference and would invite them to a global conference of local authorities in support of Haiti, to be held in the French Antilles towards the end of March. UNDP also will participate in this conference.

Jerome Ivon, mayor of Carrefour, said the conference underscored his belief that the world is but one global village.  “We are all in this together,” he said. “What happened in Haiti happened to the world. Though Haitians live on an island in the Caribbean, the entire human family lives on an island that is spinning in space. The outpouring of sympathy in the aftermath of our tragedy has reinforced my faith in our human family.”

Contact Information

For more information please visit http://www.wacap2010-rotterdam.nl/, or contact Adam Rogers, Senior Communications Advisor (adam.rogers@undp.org; +41 79 849 0679), Salwa al-Dalati, Senior Press Relations Associate, UNDP (salwa.al-dalati@undp.org; +41 22 917 85 41) or Bert Brehm, Communication Advisor for the City of Rotterdam:  (b.brehm@bsd.rotterdam.nl; + 31 681 46 30 70).

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