Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Haiti: International community needs to help Haiti

The top United Nations envoy to Haiti exhorted the international community to boost its support, even in the midst of a global recession, for the impoverished Caribbean nation, which is at a “turning point.”

Addressing the Security Council today, H├ędi Annabi, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative, stressed that “sustained international engagement is critical to enable Haiti to take advantage of a unique moment of opportunity.”

The nation “now has its best chance in decades to break from the destructive cycles of the past, and to move toward a brighter future,” but can only move forward with the continued support of external partners, he added.

Acknowledging the current economic crisis gripping the world, the official said that there is a “compelling logic” for an additional inflow of aid, “one that will be relatively modest in absolute terms, but can make a critical difference in securing the investments made to date, and can prevent the major costs that would be associated with any renewed decline or disorder.”

Mr. Ban will attend a major donors conference on Haiti that will take place in Washington next week, it was announced today.

Stressing that the upcoming gathering is “of fundamental importance for consolidating the fragile stability of Haiti,” he called on donor nations in a letter to boost both their technical and financial engagement.

During his visit to the country last month with former United States President Bill Clinton, Mr. Ban said that he saw reason for hope and optimism that the country will break out of its cycle of poverty, but that beyond international help, sustainable social and economic development is essential to Haiti’s success.

In an opinion piece published in The New York Times on-line edition last week, Mr. Ban appealed for investment in Haiti to allow the country to seize a “break-out opportunity for one of the poorest nations to lift itself toward a future of real economic prospects and genuine hope.”

Haiti stands a better chance than almost any emerging economy, not only to weather the current economic storms but to prosper, because of new US trade legislation, he wrote. HOPE II, as the act is known, offers Haiti duty-free, quota-free access to US markets for the next nine years. “No other nation enjoys a similar advantage,” Mr. Ban said. “This is a foundation to build on.”

He has cited five interlinked challenges the country faces in securing stability: political dialogue; extending State authority; bolstering security; the rule of law and human rights; and socio-economic development.

At today’s Council meeting, which heard from dozens of speakers, Mr. Annabi, who also heads the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti known as MINUSTAH, underscored that “the resolution of political differences through dialogue remains the cornerstone of advancement in all other areas.”

That process, which must be Haitian-led, has seen some progress following last year’s string of hurricanes, but it remains fragile, he said, with a risk of renewed conflict among political institutions and within the Government. These problems, he noted, are often tied to personal ambitions and are further exacerbated by corruption.

Security and development go hand in hand in the country, the envoy pointed out, and “if we are to succeed in our efforts, it is essential that there be an improvement in people’s daily lives, or at least a realistic hope of such an improvement.”

Last summer’s storms have left $1 billion – equivalent to 15 per cent of Haiti’s gross domestic product (GDP) – of damage in their wake. The global recession has further eroded the country’s socio-economic situation, with remittances, which bring three times the amount of funds to Haiti as international aid, plummeting 14 per cent.

To achieve growth and poverty reduction targets, partnership among the Government, international donors and the private sector is indispensable, Mr. Annabi told the Council.

Following the Council meeting, the 15-member body noted with concern “the challenges in the area of social and economic development, as there has been a marked deterioration in the living standards of the vast majority of Haitians,” according a statement read out at the end of the daylong meeting by Ambassador Claude Heller of Mexico, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency this month.

“The Council reiterates the need for security to be accompanied by social and economic development as a way for Haiti to achieve lasting stability,” he said, adding that the Council calls on both MINUSTAH and the UN Country Team to enhance their cooperation with the Haitian authorities, as well as international and regional partners, “while bearing in mind the ownership and primary responsibility of the Government and people of Haiti.”

Today’s statement also reaffirmed the need for the upcoming elections, which will choose one-third of the Haitian Senate, to be “inclusive, free and fair.”

Source: UN News Centre
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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