Helen Clark’s Statement on the Upcoming Haiti Donor Conference

29 Mar 2010

United Nations Development Group Chairperson Helen Clark’s Opening Statement on the Upcoming Haiti Donor Conference Press Briefing

United Nations

March 29, 2010

AS DELIVERED

Thank you ladies and gentleman, carrying on from where Mr. Mulet concluded.

The horrific earthquake in January did evoke tremendous international solidarity.  The key message for this week is we need that solidarity to continue, both with respect to the flash appeal amount, which is outstanding, and for the major rebuild and reconstruction of Haiti which is envisaged. 

There has been some progress on the ground in meeting the immediate needs in terms of people getting the food they need, water, temporary spaces for schooling for several hundred thousands of school age children, people being vaccinated, and the emergency shelter issue - which continues to be extremely pressing. 

That humanitarian phase is by no means over.  The rains have started, the hurricane season is around the corner and, of course, unless we can meet humanitarian needs fully, it’s difficult to ensure a smooth transition to recovery and to fulfill the long term vision of the government and the people of Haiti for the rebuild that is required. 

The flash appeal which was launched in January is raising resources around all those immediate relief and early recovery issues.  But if we take the first amount and then the extended amount, we are still just under 50 per cent of those requirements being met.  I should say that for the early recovery section, which my own organization is so associated with with the job creation programmes, only about 21 per cent of the early request has been met. 

Now to this week’s conference, co-hosted by the United Nations and the United States, with co-chairs Brazil, Canada, the EU, France, and Spain.  The aim is to raise around US$3.8 billion for the next 18 months or so for recovery and reconstruction.  
That figure has come out of the Post Disaster Needs Assessment, launched by the Haiti’s Prime Minister in February, and supported by the United Nations, the European Union, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the World Bank.

At Wednesday’s conference, Haiti’s Prime Minister will present Haiti’s plan of action for national recovery and development. At its core lies that vision to turn what has been an unspeakable tragedy into an opportunity to build back better for Haiti and its people.

Running right through the plan of action, and everything we do with respect to the recovery of Haiti, is the basic assumption, the basic philosophy, that Haitians themselves have to be at the very center of building a new Haiti.  And that the support that the international community provides must be aligned with the priorities that are being set by Haiti’s government.

Some areas to emphasize: firstly the rebuilding of government institutions and infrastructure. As you are aware, the Presidential Palace, the Parliament, the main courthouse, the majority of ministerial and government buildings have been lost as have been more than 1300 educational institutions and more than fifty hospitals and healthcare centers either destroyed or unstable. To restore the functions of the state in Haiti - including the rule of law, health care services, education to name just a few areas - we need to be working with Haiti to rebuild not only the government buildings but those court houses, hospitals, and schools as well.

Secondly, in the short term, of course, there is the absolute imperative of protecting vulnerable Haitians from the looming hurricane and rainy season, an immediate threat to so many living in the camps and we must work on their relocation to prevent more disaster. But, over the longer term, the objective is to see that Haitians are protected from the hurricanes which threaten them every year, and from other natural disasters like earthquakes. Disaster risk reduction has to be at the heart of the recovery effort; building back better means integrating that thoroughly into the plan going ahead. That also means a focus on restoring the integrity of Haiti’s ecosystems, so critical in areas like forestation, reforestation and catchment protection.

Third area: decentralization of economic development and social infrastructure beyond the Porte-au-Prince metropolitan area out to regions and cities throughout the country.  Regional development, restoration of the agricultural sector, environmental recovery, all linked to the evolution of increased accountability, and authority to sub-national levels of government will contribute to the kind of truly national development which has eluded Haiti for decades.

Fourth area of priority: Job creation - short term and long term.  There is no doubt that the short term jobs in the form of job creation programmes have helped.  And a number of organizations – UNDP, WFP, ILO, USAID, etc.  have been leading at the international level.  Many tens of thousands temporary jobs have been created and can continue to be created with the help of the international community.  But that if for the short term.  As the situation in Haiti stabilizes, and becomes more conducive to investment and more economic activity, then we need to be focusing on what will be sustainable employment, supporting micro enterprise, entrepreneurship, strengthening of technical and vocational skills will be very important. 

Fifth key point: ensure that civil society and the private sector are participating in the reconstruction. The private sector is obviously a key force in reactivating the economy.  Civil society is essential for fostering the social cohesion and sustainable recovery the country needs.

Sixth point, and a very important one: the needs of women, girls. and other vulnerable groups, need priority attention.   We need to be upholding everyone’s human rights during and after the recovery process, and in the decisions related to the recovery and development process. 

Seventh point:  coordination and mutual accountability and transparency are essential for sustainable recovery and aid effectiveness for Haiti.  We will all have to live up to our commitments and deliver results which will support the vision the government of Haiti is bringing to the pledging conference. 

At the UN we are helping the government to implement a publically accessible aid information management system.  It will enable aid commitments to be tracked, disbursements to be tracked, results to be tracked.  The idea is indeed to be transparent, to be accountable, and to strengthen Haiti’s national capacities for aid coordination. 

Obviously, we are looking to the pledging conference on Wednesday, and the generosity of the international community, to keep making a difference for Haiti.  Raising in the vicinity of the $3.8 billion to take the recovery effort forward over the next 18 months is incredibly important.

Thank you.