The Most Honourable P J Patterson, ON, OCC, PC, QC.
Special Representative of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on Haiti
The Donor’s Conference
United Nations Headquarters
31 March 2010
The earthquake of January 12 ranks as being among the worst catastrophes to befall a single nation. The loss of life, the toll of severe injuries, the destruction of the physical infrastructure, the demolition of public buildings and its consequent damage to the apparatus of governance combined to make the natural disaster one of the worst ever in recorded history.
Following a return to constitutional democracy, it was evident that Haiti had begun make gradual but meaningful progress in all the right areas. It had become engaged with Partners from the International Community in preparing a bold new plan for development. Within a mere thirty-five seconds all this came crashing down but, as we have witnessed, the spiritual embodiment of the brave, creative and resilient Haitian people still remains intact.
The initial response of the international community has been tremendous, but our work has just begun to lift Haiti from the rubble.
In every forum which has met since the earthquake, it has been acknowledged, and today’s Donor Conference must affirm, that we must go beyond relief and recovery to build with the Government and people of Haiti a land which provides a quality of life for its citizens and future generations which its amazing history and rich culture truly deserve.
The Haiti of the future must be completely different and significantly different from the Haiti of the recent past.
This is a defining moment in our collective history as Haiti, donors, development agencies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations seek to attain an objective which has long eluded us – the sustainable development of Haiti.
In years to come, the results of this august gathering will not be measured by the eloquence of the today’s fine rhetoric, but by the honouring of the generous pledges we make, by the timely delivery of tangible results.
We urge the creation of a new development model, one which identifies the recipient as the engine of sustainable development and in which the priority needs identified by the recipient become the over-riding criteria for the selection of projects and the disbursement of funds.
We have before us an action plan in the form of a Post Disaster Needs Assessment, which was prepared by the Haitian authorities in conjunction with various agencies such as the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and United Nations agencies among other international agencies.
The needs identified are enormous. Haiti estimates that US$11.5 billion are necessary to rebuild the country, with 50 percent of the estimated resources to go to social programmes, 17 percent to infrastructure and 15 per cent to the environment and disaster preparedness and management. The actual losses from the catastrophe are estimated at US$7.9 billion, representing 120 per cent of Haitian GDP.
Governance and the State
The proper management of the disbursement and the putting to productive use of such a large sum will call for a tremendous exercise in governance by Haiti. The Action Plan envisions:
• The decentralization of government, economic activity and other services to lessen the present over-concentration in the capital city;
• The re-energizing of the agriculture sector to address food security and cut back on dependency on foreign food aid;
• And the creation of a new sense of the state and of government, which will get the full support and confidence of the Haitian people.
Port-au-Prince is not only the capital of the country, but is the location where public administration, political, business, cultural and other activities are over-concentrated to the detriment of outside locations.
Rebuilding must ensure that no future catastrophe can have the similar devastating impact and therefore such national significance as the recent earthquake. Decentralisation will help to ensure that this will not happen again.
The State’s human capital, its institutional and administrative capacity as well as its physical presence (The Presidential Palace, Ministries, Courts, Police Stations including the Headquarters) have been virtually wiped-out by a single event. Every effort must therefore be made to strengthen this pulverized institutional capacity as the success or failure of the reconstruction efforts will depend on it. The public functions of the state and of its public service must be reinforced as a matter of urgency and priority, not only to provide the Government of Haiti with the institutional capacity to play the lead role in guiding and in managing the recovery and reconstruction of the country.
It should also ensure that the progress made in the provision of public goods and basic services, which unquestionably is the responsibility of all states, is sustainable.
To ensure this, we need to facilitate the mobilization and technical assistance of the Haitian Diaspora, which stands ready to play its part.
The Role of CARICOM
Governance is of paramount importance to the process. We are committed to assisting Haiti in the reinforcement of a governance process where transparency, accountability, compassion, efficiency and vision predominate.
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has a vital interest in the welfare and development of Haiti. Haiti was granted membership in 1997 to help reinforce the re-establishment of a fledgling democracy and to further integrate development of its most populous Member State.
A strong Caribbean Community needs a strong Haiti.
As the most populous state in the group of 14 Sovereign Nations, the Community sees its rebuilding as a priority issue for all CARICOM states.
In response to the consequences of the disastrous earthquake and the subsequent challenge to its own depleted capacity, the Government of Haiti has requested that CARICOM serve as a leading advocate on its behalf in their interfacing with the international community. The Community accepts this responsibility which Haiti has entrusted to us.
The capacity of CARICOM has been placed at the disposal of Haiti as it seeks to strengthen its own capacity.
With regard to the rebuilding and strengthening of institutional and technical capacity, CARICOM believes it can make a tremendous difference through the skills it can bring to bear in the areas of human resource development and institutional capacity building.
The Community stands ready to make available its capacities in administrative reform; in education and training, including vocational education and certification; in engineering and construction for earthquake and hurricane resistance, in providing solutions for low and middle income populations; and in agriculture, tourism research and development.
Haiti’s existing involvement in a number of CARICOM institutions, as well as its geographic proximity and similarity of critical conditions, will enhance relevance, reduce the learning curve and avoid costly errors.
This meeting of donor groups is absolutely essential to defining the way forward and how the process of rebuilding will be achieved. It provides an excellent opportunity for the international community to put into practice some of the principles it has been advocating recently to enhance ‘Aid Effectiveness”. These include:
• National leadership and responsibility of the State;
• Response to local needs and knowledge;
• Reduction in conditionalities including tying and shifting from pre conditions to management through the setting of targets and monitoring of performance by all partners;
• Sufficiency, sustainability and timeliness; and
• National capacity building and strengthening.
CARICOM welcomes the establishment of The Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF). All Donors must now commit to the MDTF and its joint management. The arrangements for the Fund and more generally for support to Haiti, must facilitate, encourage and recognise this collaborative approach. This Donors’ Meeting is a good place to begin to recognise that all donors and donations, big and small, in kind or in cash are important.
But we must be wary that, with the gradual withdrawal of the Haitian story from the front pages of major international media, the enthusiasm of donors and facilitators does not weaken and or dissipate and the will to assist in the redevelopment of the country not become mere lip service. The actions of this representative group will go a far way in sending a signal that the international community will partner Haiti all the way to the very end. Nothing less than a revitalized Haiti, that is sustainable, just and equitable will be accepted as the litmus test of success.
Every delegation in attendance, and every individual at this conference, is fully committed to the rehabilitation initiative. The consensus is also clear on the imperative to build a new Haiti – to create a Haitian renaissance. The challenge to this international meeting is to create that blueprint, that action plan and organisational arrangement to assure maximum effectiveness of all resources to facilitate the reconstruction of Haiti.
Even as we do so, the continuing precarious conditions in which the internally displaced are living and their urgent needs as the rainy season approaches with its potential to create increased distress should not be overlooked. The sense of urgency must be maintained. In this regard, the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission must initiate its work immediately.
If we can, as an international community help Haiti rebuild itself into a modern, sustainable State, we would have advanced the cause of humanity everywhere.