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Deputy Secretary-General, at Event on Haiti, Warns Lack of Adequate, Timely Investment Will Push Most Vulnerable towards ‘Negative Survival Strategies’

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s opening remarks 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 our partners for your commitment to support the people of Haiti.

Six months ago, I came to Haiti with the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Achim Steiner, to convey our solidarity in the immediate aftermath of 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 conspired to hold back Haiti’s development and erode progress.

Today, I am back in Haiti with a renewed sense of optimism and hope, as we gather in partnership to overcome these setbacks and move forward with determination on the path to sustainable development.  Much has happened in the last six months.  With strong Government leadership, and in partnership with communities and international stakeholders, emergency relief has been provided to 600,000 people in need.

As the response unfolded, the Haitian Government took important steps towards recovery and reconstruction.  It brought together national actors and international partners — including the United Nations — to work with one common goal:  to ensure Haiti recovers better from the crisis, and to get back on track to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Government’s Southern Peninsula Integrated Recovery Plan offers a very clear path ahead.  It draws on the lessons learned from the responses to the devastating 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.  It anchors our firm action and national leadership and reasserts the pre-eminence of local and national actors.

The Recovery Plan is an opportunity to shift focus to prevention, risk reduction and resilience to future shocks.  The plan’s four priorities — institutional strengthening and inclusive governance; economic recovery; resilient infrastructure and livelihoods improvement; and inclusion and social protection — offer a coherent and integrated approach to reconstruction.

It focuses on the structural causes, rather than the symptoms of disasters.  It looks at 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 the private sectors.  It recognizes that affected communities must be front and centre of decisions that affect their lives, but also their livelihoods.  Within those communities, women and girls must be agents of their own recovery.

In its ambition, it reminds us that the response to the 2021 earthquake can and must move Haiti towards developing a much more robust, effective and nationally led agenda.  I have heard many times during my visits to Haiti that Haitians are tired of missed opportunities and failed promises.  This time around, we must get it right.

We are aware that aid budgets are under pressure across the globe.  We also know there is donor fatigue.  And we have heard, loud and clear, concerns about the results of aid in Haiti.  But, this is not the time to give up.

First, because the people of Haiti never give up.  Time and time again, they mourn their losses, and then they pick themselves up and put their lives back together.  Second, because Haiti is again at a crossroads.  Years of investment in stability and development must be protected.  And national institutions are clearly ready to 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 constrained Haiti’s development for so long.

The 2010 earthquake demonstrated that when recovery efforts are well‑designed, transparent and accountable, and aligned to national priorities, they deliver tangible results in the lives and livelihoods of Haitians.  From the impressive debris‑management efforts, to the 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 been able to succeed at.  Working together, under national leadership, we can achieve results for people, and value for the resources that are spent.

We need to be aware that the lack of adequate and timely investment in reconstruction will inevitably push the most vulnerable populations, who will no longer have the means to sustain their livelihoods, towards negative survival 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 like to increase as Haitians seek opportunities overseas, draining the country’s talent pool.

Investment is essential to support the Haitian Government in providing education, training, job opportunities, and most of 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 roughly $2 billion, may seem daunting to many.  We are also aware that Haiti is facing institutional and security challenges that threaten longer-term development.  And we all agree that we need an enabling environment to move the needle, ultimately, upholding good governance and transparency around results and impact in people’s lives, especially, women and youth.

Today, we are calling for support for the immediate needs of the 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 trajectory.  I am confident we can make this a reality here today and can contribute to this first step towards reconstruction 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 the years and even decades have given rise to high humanitarian needs and instability.  The Haitian people, especially women and the youth — like people everywhere in our global community — deserve a stable, peaceful and prosperous future.

Today, we have an opportunity to get closer to that goal.  An opportunity to show that we have learned from the mistakes of the past — 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 with 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.


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