TOP UN ENVOY STRESSES NEED FOR GLOBAL COORDINATION IN POST-QUAKE HAITI
25 January - The top United Nations envoy to Haiti, which was devastated by a massive earthquake nearly two weeks ago, today proposed a new way to coordinate relief efforts in the Caribbean nation to ensure that aid reaches those who need it.
Edmond Mulet, the Secretary-General's acting Special Representative, unveiled that plan at a “Friends of Haiti” meeting in Montreal today which drew senior UN officials and foreign ministers from more than a dozen countries to discuss Haiti's future in the wake of the 7.0-magnitude quake, which struck the country on 12 January.
The scheme seeks to coordinate and integrate the political, humanitarian and military facets of the international response to the quake, which has killed more than 100,000 people and severely affected an estimated 3 million others.
“There is a lot of talk about coordination, but the fact that there's a need for it and a lot of talk for it doesn't make it easy to accomplish on the ground,” Anthony Banbury, acting Principal Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), told reporters in New York via videolink from the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Coordination is complicated by the number of people working on the ground, many new to the country, who have different backgrounds, priorities and perspectives, he said.
“While I think everyone wants to do what's best for the Haitian people and the Haitian Government, really being committed to coordination and being willing to all move in the same direction, that's a true challenge,” Mr. Banbury stressed.
The proposal put forward in Montreal today by the top envoy is “outcome driven,” he said, not dwelling on structures and processes for the relief effort.
It is vital, Mr. Banbury said, to identify the key obstacles in providing aid and collaborate in overcoming them.
The Haitian Government must take the lead in this effort, for it “can only work if the Government clearly takes a leading role and is strongly supported by a coordinated international community,” he emphasized.
A joint operations and tasking centre – comprising the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), MINUSTAH, the United States military and the Canadian military – will officially begin work tomorrow.
Mr. Banbury voiced hope that it will “bring the international community together at the different levels to deliver the relief outcomes that the international community expects, the Haitian people desperately need and the UN is strongly committed to.”
Also attending the Montreal gathering today were UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes and Mr. Mulet.
“In Montreal, it is important for there to be a commitment to fund all aspects of the flash appeal, including those intended for the early recovery needs of Haiti,” said Miss Clark, referring to the $575 million UN flash appeal for Haiti launched on 15 January, three days after the quake.
As of Friday, $241 million, or roughly 40 per cent, of the funding had been received.
The money is intended to benefit those hardest hit in Haiti, already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced on Saturday that it was now distributing some 2 million meals to Haitians in need.
Before today's gathering, also attended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other agencies, Miss Clark said that the recovery and reconstruction plan in Haiti will need to rebuild government capacity, public infrastructure, and residential housing in a way that integrates disaster risk management.
“That is what is meant by 'building back better',” she said.
The inclusion of Haitians in the recovery effort is expected to be a crucial element in the early recovery phase and a theme at today's meeting.
In Carrefour-Feuilles, a neighbourhood south of the capital, Port-au-Prince, UNDP has launched a cash-for-work programme to provide Haitians with an independent source of income in return for such work as rubble removal or street repairs.
According to UNDP, some 6,000 Haitians are already benefiting from the scheme. The programme could be scaled up to include 220,000 people earning up to $5 per day.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made the cash-for-work programme in Haiti a priority and outlined $40 million for its development. He said the programme would provide a sense of hope to the people involved, and contribute to public safety.
Meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has released figures showing that an increasing number of people are leaving Port-au-Prince. More than 130,000 people had taken advantage of the Government's offer of free transportation to cities in the north and southwest.
The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates that the number of people leaving cities for rural areas could reach 1 million, putting pressure on already vulnerable communities in those areas.
On Thursday, Ms. Clark and Bill Clinton, UN Special Envoy to Haiti, will take part in a special session at the Davos Economic Forum in Switzerland. The session is expected to focus on the private sector's role in boosting investment to Haiti.