DEPUTY GENERAL SECRETARY
Here are the opening remarks of United Nations Under-Secretary-General Amina Mohammed at the international event for the financing of the reconstruction of the southern peninsula of Haiti, in Port-au-Prince today:
I would like to begin by thanking the government of Haiti for convening this conference and thanking all of our partners for their commitment to supporting the Haitian people.
Six months ago, I came to Haiti with the Administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Achim Steiner, to express our solidarity with him following the tragic earthquake that struck the Southern Peninsula. I witnessed the human suffering and destruction caused by the disaster, at a time when Haiti was already facing multiple crises. Crises that have conspired to stunt Haiti’s development and erode progress.
Today, I return to Haiti with renewed optimism and hope, as we come together in partnership to overcome these setbacks and move forward with determination on the path to sustainable development. A lot has happened in the past six months. Through strong government leadership and in partnership with communities and international stakeholders, emergency relief was provided to 600,000 people in need.
As the response unfolded, the Haitian government took significant steps towards recovery and reconstruction. It brought together national actors and international partners – including the United Nations – to work with a common goal: to ensure that Haiti recovers better from the crisis and gets back on track to implement the Agenda. 2030 for sustainable development.
The Government’s Integrated Southern Peninsula Recovery Plan provides a very clear path forward. It builds on lessons learned from the responses to the devastating earthquake of 2010 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. It anchors our firm action and national leadership and reaffirms the pre-eminence of local and national actors.
The recovery plan is an opportunity to focus on prevention, risk reduction and resilience to future shocks. The four priorities of the plan — institutional strengthening and inclusive governance; economic recovery; resilient infrastructure and improved livelihoods; and social inclusion and protection—provide a coherent and integrated approach to reconstruction.
It focuses on the structural causes rather than the symptoms of disasters. He sees this crisis as an opportunity to invest in the local economy and communities. As an opportunity to invest in national capacities, both in the public and private sectors. It recognizes that affected communities must be at the center of decisions that affect their lives, but also their livelihoods. Within these communities, women and girls need to be actors in their own recovery.
In his ambition, he reminds us that the response to the 2021 earthquake can and must move Haiti forward towards developing a much stronger, effective and nationally led program. I have heard repeatedly during my visits to Haiti that Haitians are tired of missed opportunities and broken promises. This time we have to do it right.
We are aware that aid budgets are under pressure around the world. We also know donors are tired. And we heard, loud and clear, concerns about the results of aid in Haiti. But now is not the time to give up.
First, because the Haitian people never give up. Time and time again, they mourn their losses, then they pick themselves up and start their lives over. Second, because Haiti is once again at a crossroads. Years of investment in stability and development must be protected. And national institutions are clearly ready to take the lead. But they need our solidarity. And we need Haiti to succeed. We have an immediate opportunity to break out of the cycle of crises that has hampered Haiti’s development for so long.
The 2010 earthquake demonstrated that when recovery efforts are well designed, transparent and accountable, and aligned with national priorities, they produce tangible results in the lives and livelihoods of Haitians. From impressive debris management efforts to pioneering efforts to relocate millions of displaced people, to efforts to stop the transmission of cholera, there are many inspiring examples of what Haitians have succeeded in doing. By working together, under national leadership, we can achieve results for people and value the resources that are spent.
We must be aware that the lack of adequate and timely investments in reconstruction will inevitably push the most vulnerable populations, who will no longer have the means to meet their needs, towards negative coping strategies. Internal migration is likely to increase, including to Port-au-Prince, which already faces serious social and economic challenges and high levels of violence. External migration is also expected to increase as Haitians seek opportunities abroad, depleting the country’s talent pool.
Investment is essential to help the Haitian government provide education, training, employment opportunities and, above all, hope for a better future for Haitians and Haiti. We know that the total amount needed to repair and rebuild, with resilience, estimated at around $2 billion, may seem daunting to many. We are also aware that Haiti faces institutional and security challenges that threaten its longer-term development. And we all agree that we need an enabling environment to get things done, ultimately maintaining good governance and transparency around results and impact in people’s lives, especially women. and young people.
Today we call for support for the immediate needs of people in the south. For their homes, for their schools, for their hospitals and for their livelihoods. For this, the government needs approximately $500 million, an amount that is within our reach and that can help put Haiti back on the right track. I am convinced that we can make this a reality here today and that we can contribute to this first step towards rebuilding and rebuilding lives.
Let me stress once again the importance of focusing on the long-standing structural causes of Haiti’s challenges. Development deficits over years, even decades, have resulted in high humanitarian needs and instability. The people of Haiti, especially women and youth – like people everywhere in our global community – deserve a stable, peaceful and prosperous future.
Today we have the opportunity to move closer to that goal. An opportunity to show that we have learned from past mistakes and that we know how to make smart and sustainable investments. That we can recognize national leadership when it is in motion and that we can invest in it. Today, we reaffirm our commitment to stand alongside Haiti and its people, and to support the country’s recovery towards sustainable development, democracy, stability and peace. The people of Haiti must always come first.
For news media. Not an official record.