Remarks by Ms. Rebecca Grynspan: Julia Taft Award Ceremony

29 Apr 2010

UNDP Associate Administrator
Presented by the US Committee for UNDP to the UNDP Country Office in Haiti, Embassy of Canada


Dear Colleagues and friends,

It is a great honor for me to be here today and participate in the presentation of the Julia V. Taft award to the UNDP Country Office in Haiti.  

Those of you who knew Julia, and worked closely with her as the first head of UNDP’s Bureau of Crisis Prevention and Recovery, will know that she would have been especially proud and moved to recognize the extraordinary heroism and dedication demonstrated by our colleagues in Haiti following the earthquake of January 12.  

On behalf of our Administrator, Helen Clark, I am proud to represent UNDP in commending their outstanding performance under some of the most difficult conditions.  

As you may know, I was UNDP’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean for almost four years before I assumed my current responsibilities in early 2010.

From that experience I know first-hand of the priority UNDP has given to supporting Haiti, working on poverty, governance and rule of law issues, and also on environment and disaster risk reduction – particularly since the devastating hurricanes of 2008.

However, no amount of work could have completely prepared Haiti for an earthquake of the magnitude that hit on January 12.

The loss of lives has been enormous; and the administrative and economic center of the country, as well as other cities in the western and south-east parts of the country, have been massively damaged.

The UN family also sustained heavy losses which are hard to comprehend. The earthquake resulted in the single greatest loss of life which the UN has suffered in its history.  

Staff members of UNDP were directly affected – losing family, friends, and property. The UNDP office was condemned, and staff has had to work from under very dire conditions.

Yet, in spite of these unimaginable circumstances, the response of the UNDP Country Office in the aftermath of the earthquake was outstanding, with our staff exhibiting tremendous courage and compassion, working non-stop, often at great risk and personal sacrifice.

In times of despair and tremendous pain, they had the generosity to reach out to friends, colleagues, neighbors, even strangers, helping them in whichever way they could, supporting them with whatever could be shared.