Haiti is CARICOM’s most urgent priority – Bruce Golding
By Neil Marks in Montego Bay
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has commended states in the Caribbean region for their commitment to supporting Haiti following the devastating earthquake in January. He urged them to continue their engagement there, saying the country will need consistent assistance from the international community to recover.
“Your engagement is central to ensuring sustained and long-term attention to Haiti’s needs,” Mr. Ban said when he addressed the 31st meeting of heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in Montego Bay, Jamaica, late Sunday evening.
Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding, said that the reconstruction of Haiti is CARICOM’s most urgent priority. He commended the international community for the commitments of financial support amounting to almost US$10 billion from 57 donor countries and organisations.
“However, we impress upon the international community the urgency with which actions must follow these commitments especially in strengthening the institutional capacity of Haiti to undertake the mammoth task ahead,” Golding stated.
The UN Secretary General said that recovery will take many years, and will require consistent effort by all of Haiti’s partners.
Mr Ban recognised that CARICOM countries, institutions and citizens demonstrated profound solidarity with Haiti, the bloc’s newest, poorest and most populated member in the wake of the January hurricane that killed hundreds of thousands and displaced a further 1.5 million people.
“Haiti is also a priority for the United Nations and I thank and commend the leadership of President [Rene] Preval. Six months after the earthquake the Government and people of Haiti have accomplished much in collaboration with the international community.
“Thousands of survivors have received medical assistance. Emergency shelter has been distributed to more than 1.5 million people. Widespread hunger and disease have been averted. Children are back in school and commercial life is resuming,” Mr Ban stated.Nonetheless, he said an enormous task lies ahead with the onset of the hurricane season.
“Humanitarian needs will remain for many months to come. Recovery will take many years, and will require consistent effort by all Haiti’s partners. Promises will not feed the people of Haiti – pledges alone will not shelter them. I am working to expedite the help that the people of Haiti need.”
Golding said that the region is proud of the diligent role played by CARICOM’s Special Representative on Haiti, former Jamaican Prime Minister Percival J. Patterson in helping to pave the way for the recovery of Haiti.
“CARICOM will continue to do everything it can to ensure that the Haitian people are not only put back on their feet, but on a firm path to sustained growth,” Golding declared.
Meanwhile, the UN Secretary General said that the upcoming November elections will also be fundamental for ensuring Haiti’s democratic future.
“It is essential that they are transparent and credible. We are working with the Government of Haiti and international partners to support that process. I am grateful for CARICOM’s support,” Ban stated.
Haiti should have been hosting this current meeting, but deferred to concentrate on the rebuilding efforts in Haiti.