Helen Clark: Remarks on screening of the film "Haiti Rebuilds: A Journey of Hope"

22 Mar 2012

Port-au-Prince, Haiti: It’s a great pleasure for me return to Haiti to meet with the authorities and development partners, and to give support to the work of the UN’s agencies, funds and programmes here in Haiti.

My visit just days after the earthquake of 12 January 2010 will forever be etched in my memory. As a member of the UN Secretary-General’s delegation, I saw for myself the devastating effects of that terrible disaster on people and on infrastructure.

On this visit, my focus is on the progress being made by the Haitian people, with the support of international partners, to get Haiti up and running again.

UNDP along with other UN agencies, funds, and programmes, has been in Haiti for decades. In the aftermath of the earthquake, we all reoriented our activities to prioritise support for relief and recovery. Staff at UNDP, more than eighty per cent of whom are Haitian, have been working very hard to help strengthen the government’s capacity and to help place Haitians themselves at the very centre of the recovery process.

At UNDP, we partner with civil society and the private sector in our quest to help build a more resilient and equitable country. Job creation, neighborhood rehabilitation, disaster risk reduction and environmental management are key elements of our work.

We have also continued to support the Government of Haiti and other national actors to respond to the broader challenges of building democratic governance, the rule of law, and aid effectiveness, and of combatting HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

I am proud of the contribution which UNDP and all members of the UN Country Team have made in their respective capacities to humanitarian relief, recovery, and reconstruction. We all work within the Strategic Framework of the UN system in Haiti, which is founded on the pillars of the Haitian government’s National Action Plan and priorities.

UNDP’s own programming has expanded significantly since the earthquake, reaching more than $80 million in delivery last year. A third of that was implemented directly by national or decentralized governmental institutions.  More than seventy per cent of our budget is spent locally.

An early focus for us was short term job creation – more than 300,000 such jobs benefited Haitian families and helped stimulate local markets again.

We have supported the government’s efforts to co-ordinate the large amounts of aid pledged through the Interim Commission for Haiti Reconstruction and the Ministry of Planning. An aid co-ordination and information system was set up to support the government to take informed decisions on priorities, and avoid duplication of effort.

Under our governance mandate, UNDP also supports urban planning and management, strengthening of the rule of law, and electoral preparations. The latter was a huge exercise, supported by MINUSTAH and international partners. That support will need to continue through to the next round of elections.

Also working with MINUSTAH, we are part of providing support to the justice and security sectors in Haiti, which lost significant operational capacity and infrastructure during the earthquake. That has included training court clerks and judicial police and creating new systems for the management of evidence in criminal cases.

A clear lesson from the earthquake was that poor urban planning and poor building standards magnify the impact of seismic disasters. We have prioritized work to rectify that, based on broad participatory processes. UNDP is a long standing partner of the National System for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Directorate of Civil Protection, and will continue to provide training and operational support to these important institutions.

The Directorate of Civil Protection is to be commended for its leadership in preparing for the 2010 and 2011 hurricane seasons, co-ordinating the response to Hurricane Tomas, the cholera epidemic, and the Tropical Storms of the 2011.

A joint task now for the Directorate and UNDP is to boost capacity for seismic risk reduction. I will have the pleasure of participating in the launch of a new project to reduce such risk in Northern Haiti tomorrow in Cap Haitien. It will build on similar work already underway in the Port-au-Prince region.

Reduction of risk to climate-related disasters requires tackling the degradation of Haiti’s natural environment. UNDP has launched initiatives adapting to climate change in coastal areas, creating a national system of protected areas, environmental rehabilitation, reforestation, and watershed management. We also work jointly with UNEP, WFP, and FAO in the south of Haiti, with the support of the Haiti Reconstruction Fund.  

As part of the post January 2010 recovery, we are co-ordinating large-scale debris management programmes in Leogane and Port-au-Prince. In the capital alone, around 100,000 people living in the most affected neighborhoods will benefit from the removal and treatment of around 800,000 cubic meters of debris, more than half of which can be recycled.

These two programmes were developed in partnership with UN Habitat, UNOPS and ILO, in co-ordination with the Ministry of Public Works. They have a combined budget of $ 42 million from the Haiti Reconstruction Fund, and lay the basis for restoring neighbourhoods and livelihoods. Along with IOM, UNOPS, and ILO, we also support the management and leadership of the government in the “16/6 project”, a flagship initiative to encourage the return of people to their neighborhoods.

None of our work would be possible without the co-operation and support of our partners in Haiti - government ministries, regional and local authorities, international partners, civil society organisations, and the whole UN family. Thank you all for your work with us.

While progress on recovery is undoubtedly being made, Haiti still faces a number of challenges to its recovery and on-going development. Some of these are captured in the insightful film we will be seeing shortly. These challenges can be resolved with the leadership of the Haitian authorities, the engagement of the Haitian people, and the continued support of Haiti’s international partners.

I reaffirm UNDP's strong and long-term commitment to working with the government and people of Haiti on the achievement of their national development goals.

Thank you.

About Helen Clark

Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme in 2009, and is the first woman to lead the organization. She also chairs the United Nations Development Group.

Full biography