UNDP reception in Port-au Prince
Minister of foreign affairs, Excellencies,
members of the diplomatic corps,
ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great pleasure for me to be here in Haiti in my capacity as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme and together with my countrys Minister of International Development, Mr. Heikki Holmås, it is a real privilege to have the opportunity of meeting with Haitian officials, development partners and the people who are the beneficiaries of UNDPs activities here in Haiti.
Although this is my first visit to Haiti, the countrys vibrant culture has fascinated me for many years and the images of the devastating earthquake of 12 January 2010 are still vivid in my memory. I recall seeing on television the devastating effects of that terrible disaster on the Haitian people and on the countrys infrastructure. The images made a strong impression on me. I hope and dare to believe that it was some comfort to the people suffering in Haiti that so many people throughout the world were mobilizing to help respond to this tragedy.
In my role as Goodwill Ambassador, I have travelled to countries such as Burundi, Cambodia, Tanzania, Guatemala and Sierra Leone. In Burundi, I met with refugees who had just returned from Tanzania after years of exile. I was able to learn about the challenges that they faced in terms of rebuilding their homes and their lives. Indeed, these are similar to the challenges that so many people in Haiti face today. I am proud to say UNDP through its programmes is helping so many people to overcome these challenges.
On this visit, my focus is on the progress being made by the Haitian people with the support of international partners, to get Haiti up and running again. This progress is evident.
The joint United Nations Debris Management Programme has recently reached an important milestone with 800,000 cubic metres of debris removed in Port-au-Prince and its surroundings since its launch in September 2010. And thanks to the efforts of all the partners, 8 million cubic metres have been removed. A key step for communities has been reached through the project as well. The debris removed is going back to the neighbourhoods they came from: They are transformed into non‐structural building materials out of which roads, public corridors, public squares and memorials have been created. These renovated outdoor spaces mean that today, Haitian families can safely meet for leisurely strolls and children have the spaces in which to play safely. These initiatives have generated temporary jobs for thousands of people who faced unemployment as a result of the earthquake. It is great to see the impact of these projects on the communities and how it has contributed to making their lives better.
Tomorrow, we will embark on a trip to the South of Haiti to visit a number of environmental initiatives. I look forward to visiting Watershed Management and solar energy projects in Chantal. Development cannot happen at the expense of the environment and therefore energy and the environment remain as two key issues for Norway.
Indeed, in recent years, the Norwegian Government through its partners here in Haiti, including the Ministry of the Environment, UNDP, the United Nations Environmental Programme and the Inter-American Development Bank, has placed a great deal of emphasis on energy and the environment and is providing significant support both in the South and along the border with the Dominican Republic.
I have to say that I am proud of the contribution which UNDP and all members of the United Nations Country Team have made in their respective capacities to humanitarian relief, recovery, and reconstruction.
But none of UNDPs work would be possible without the cooperation and support of all partners in Haiti: government ministries, regional and local authorities, international partners, civil society organisations, and the whole United Nations family. Thank you all for your hard work and dedication for Haiti. It is people like you that move the world forward.
While progress on recovery is undoubtedly being made, Haiti still faces a number of challenges to its recovery and on-going development. These challenges can be resolved with the leadership of the Haitian authorities, the engagement of the Haitian people, and the continued support of Haitis international partners.
I reaffirm both UNDP and Norways strong and long-term commitment to working with the government and people of Haiti on the achievement of their national development goals.