Mr. Chairman, Jorge Taiana, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Argentina,
Secretary General Kof Annan,
Honourable René Préval, President-Elect of the Republic of Haiti,
Ambassador Juan Gabriel Valdés, United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General in Haiti,
Distinguished Foreign Ministers,
Ambassadors and Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
On behalf of the Organization of American States, I would like to thank the United Nations Security Council for this occasion to speak before it, in this Open Debate on Haiti.
I would first of all like to acknowledge the important participation in this Debate of President-Elect René Préval and congratulate him on his electoral victory. We look forward to welcoming President-elect Préval to Washington this coming Wednesday, at a Protocollary Session of the OAS Permanent Council.
Allow me also to express our appreciation to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and his Special Representative on Haiti, Ambassador Juan Gabriel Valdes for their efforts and leadership, as well as for the close and effective collaboration with the OAS Special Mission in Haiti.
I would furthermore like to take this opportunity to underscore, from the outset, the commitment of the OAS to support the new Government and People of Haiti and to assist the President-Elect in meeting the numerous challenges ahead, in building the requisite governing and security environment.
The presidential and legislative elections held on February 7th, 2006, were a decisive victory of the Haitian people. They marked a return to Constitution rule in the country and have provided a fresh start for a long-anticipated, and necessarily long-term process, of democratic consolidation, social and economic progress, and advances in security and stability. The large turnout, enthusiasm and perseverance of the Haitian electorate demonstrated on election day reconfirm Haitians’ solid commitment to the democratic process and bodes well for the challenging months and years ahead as the Government strives to meet peoples’ demands and temper expectations for a “quick-fix” to the country’s deep-rooted problems.
In the immediate term, it will be important to successfully conclude the legislative elections, whose second round is scheduled to take place on April 21st and which will permit the country to return to a situation of more balanced powers and a truly representative democracy.
We would urge the new government and the political forces which will shape the new parliament to seek ways in which to collaborate meaningfully, for the good of the Haitian people.
It will be equally critical to maintain the timeframe for the holding of municipal and local elections in Haiti, slated for June 18th, 2006. We would ask President-Elect Préval to be particularly vigilant in ensuring that these elections take place, in order to ensure representative, local governance, which will serve to deepen democracy in Haiti and provide a key foundation for local development in the country.
The OAS has noted with interest and appreciation the reaching out of the President-elect to various sectors in Haiti, and a mutual reaching-out towards him, which suggests an important base for national consensus-building and reconciliation.
We all know that elections tend to exacerbate existing differences and divergence among sectors in a country, and that in Haiti there has been a general atmosphere of polarization in the political sphere for some years now. We would urge President-Elect Préval to continue his outreach to multiple political and social sectors and to build an open, inclusive government as a necessary base from which Haiti can recover socially, economically and in terms of overall stability.
We have also noted the priority which Mr. Préval has assigned to his relations with the nations of our hemisphere, as several of his first visits as President-elect have been to countries of the Americas.
This interest is mutual, and in the context of the Inter-American system, we look forward to working with the new Haitian government among the community of nations of the hemisphere to tackle common challenges and difficulties in a collective, collaborative manner.
The problems and challenges are many in Haiti, as we know, and we are encouraged by Mr. Préval’s emphasis on attending to the population’s basic needs in terms of health, education, jobs and clean water, among others. It will be up to the international community to also step up to the plate to assist the new Haitian government in quickly attending to some of the most urgent humanitarian and socioeconomic needs of Haiti’s poor, a large segment of the population of Haiti which has traditionally been overlooked and dispossessed.
In addition to immediate actions to alleviate suffering and build hope, there is no substitute for long-term institution-building and investment in Haitian infrastructure and the economy in order to sow the seeds for a viable future.
In terms of basic institutions, the expansion and professionalization of the Haitian police force is essential to providing public security and a security environment in which the economy may grow and spread its benefits.
A strong, independent judiciary and a legal framework that will protect human rights and make all equal in the eyes of the law, as well as provide a framework for greater economic investment, will be critical, and much work must be done in this area.
In order to have a structure that will permit Haiti to grow and develop in a sustainable way, it will be imperative to begin building a stronger, more efficient and transparent state in Haiti. Effective entities that will hold the government accountable to the people will be important, as well as public institutions that will be able to deliver basic services to the populace. And a strong state will also be able to tackle problems and threats, generated internally or externally, that will otherwise seriously compromise Haiti’s future, such as drugtrafficking and other manifestations of organized crime.
The environmental challenges in Haiti are clearly enormous, and no discussion about Haiti’s future can ignore this stark reality. Reforestation, soil depletion, water conservation, sanitation, are some of the critical issues to be tackled.
It is at this moment that the international community needs to be its strongest in terms of support for the way forward in Haiti. A lot of money and effort has been invested by foreign governments and international institutions, in support of holding free, fair and transparent elections, and this has been critical in getting us to where we are now.
However, this same level of commitment must not only be met, it must be surpassed, in terms of financial and operational support to build a new, viable Haiti over time.
In this regard, I would like to state that the OAS is poised to harness its expertise and resources internally, and also to continue to coordinate and mobilize resources and efforts from other institutions of the Inter-American system, to contribution to long-term institution-building and social and economic reconstruction in Haiti. We have held several meetings among inter-American institutions on this very subject, and I intend soon to re-convene these institutions, based on the needs expressed by the incoming Government, in order to move to action in support of the Government’s future efforts, as well as the efforts of local NGOs and other entities.
In particular, from the OAS Secretariat, we are ready to continue our support of the Haitian registry and identification system, as a crucial base for social and economic development as well as for future electoral processes, and to help build a solid, professional and permanent electoral institution, based on our recent work in Haiti and on our expertise developed throughout the hemisphere over the past fifteen years.
We are also set to support the strengthening of the Haitian human rights system and the judiciary, and to strengthen the emerging Haitian political party system, among other areas.
In closing, I would like to state that the OAS looks forward to working closely with the new Haitian Executive, the other branches of Government, Haitian non-governmental partners as well as partners of the international community, in the building of a stronger, more secure, more sustainable Haiti, which the Haitian people more than deserve and to which they have an inalienable right.