CARICOM’s Special Representative on Haiti, P.J. Patterson on Wednesday last, challenged the Organization of American States (OAS) to work with the rest of the international community to help Haiti realize its vision of prosperity built on the foundations of freedom and the total release of its people’s innate creative talents.
Mr Patterson was addressing a special session of the OAS Council on the role of CARICOM and its efforts towards the reconstruction of Haiti during which he stressed the importance of urgent action on the part of the international community supported by OAS Member States to prevent any escalation in the consequences of the disaster and to commence the task of re-engineering a brand new Haiti.
The special session of the OAS Council was convened on the eve of the launch of the centennial celebration of its headquarters “House of the Americas” in Washington DC to update itself on the efforts to rebuild Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010.
Mr Patterson’s address followed one by Haiti’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marie Michele Rey from the perspective of Haiti while Mr Patterson spoke as the Representative of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Throughout his address, the CARICOM envoy stressed that the Community regarded the rebuilding of Haiti as a priority for the entire region.
He affirmed that as a Community, CARICOM is obliged to be at the forefront of international advocacy and mobilizing regional support for Haiti, not simply as a matter of historical sentiment or understandable concern. “CARICOM believes that a vibrant Community needs a strong Haiti to assume its rightful place. Instability of any kind in Haiti will result in instability within our region.”
Mr Patterson said that Haiti’s Action Plan for National Recovery and Development, prepared with the support of various International and UN agencies, identifies clear priority areas that require the strengthening of the country’s institutional capacity. This he affirmed, will call for a tremendous exercise in governance, “the decentralization of government and the creation of a dynamic state that engages all strata within the society to command the full confidence of the populace.”
He reported that the Caribbean Community is on course to establishing credible and sustained support which extends beyond the corridors of the Region’s several Governments to embrace professionals, business people and special interest-groups who can ensure that the best skills, knowledge and experience of the region are available to the Government and people of Haiti. “We intend to do so in a manner that allows the periodic replenishment of these human assets so that CARICOM remains engaged during the phases of recovery and reconstruction.”
Mr Patterson noted that the OAS’s primary function in the hemisphere was to promote and consolidate democracy and advance development. He recalled that the “House of the Americas” had, over the years, provided a place to extend solidarity and solace to Member States in times of need, especially Caribbean States in the face of natural disasters. He recalled advancing a view in his 2006 address to the Council that called on countries in the hemisphere to devise ways to “reduce” their vulnerability to external shocks, while achieving sustainable development. He observed that while the hemispheric agenda may have changed somewhat the issues remain relevant today.
The CARICOM Envoy said that the global food crisis, energy crisis and the broader international financial and economic crises which have engulfed the global community since he last addressed the Council, have demonstrated the potency of the challenges. “We have to make the process of economic integration more inclusive and more beneficial to developing countries. We have to give life to the intrinsic link, between democracy, good governance, security, environmental sustainability and development.”
In underscoring the importance of the OAS support for Haiti, Mr Patterson reminded the OAS Council that national elections are due there, in anticipation of which it is expected that the OAS would continue its monitoring of the debate surrounding the conduct of the elections and give priority to the preparation of a voters list that accurately reflects the shifts in population that have occurred since the earthquake. He said that CARICOM would also support the process as in past years by providing experienced professionals and through the training of Haitian personnel.
Mr Patterson was also a guest of honour at the launch of the “House of the Americas” Centennial year of celebrations the following day, highlighted by a “Peace Tree” Planting Ceremony and Reception. He has also been invited to be a member of the Honorary Committee of the Americas that will preside over the Centennial Celebrations.
The tree-planting ceremony commemorated a similar activity a century ago when leaders of the nations of the Americas came together in Washington D.C. to dedicate the House of the Americas, headquarters of their regional organisation now known as the OAS. On that day, as a symbol of good faith and solidarity, then US President William Taft planted a “Peace Tree” in the centre of the building.
In his letter of invitation to Mr Patterson, the OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza said that the tree still remains an icon of the Organization’s spirit. US President Barack Obama planted a new “Peace Tree” as a symbol of the OAS’s renewed dedication to its core values of good faith and solidarity for the next 100 years.
The OAS Secretary General said that the invitation to Mr Patterson is a gesture of recognition for for his invaluable contributions to Jamaica and his seminal role in the political and economic integration of the Caribbean.
The ceremony was followed by a reception launching the OAS “Peace Tree” Planting Ceremony year-long centennial campaign.
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