Address by Minister Cannon to the International Donors’ Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti

No. 2010/17 - New York, United States - March 31, 2010

Check Against Delivery

The response to the earthquake in Haiti has been rapid and comprehensive. Canada recognizes the crucial role played by the UN and MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti] in the response to the earthquake, even while UN staff and operations were gravely affected by the disaster itself.

We have witnessed, parallel to the humanitarian response, a global outpouring of generosity toward Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake. Canadians stepped up in support of Haiti, making Canada the largest per capita donor in the world.

In the face of tragedy, we are presented with opportunity. The international community must resolve to help Haiti build Haiti back better and stronger. Our common vision is a country built squarely on the foundations of security, sovereignty, the rule of law, economic prosperity, equality, inclusion and social well-being. This is not an impossible goal, but effecting such monumental change in Haiti will require unprecedented long-term commitment and collaboration among donors.

To facilitate international coordination, on January 25, Canada hosted the Montreal [Ministerial] Preparatory Conference on Haiti, which brought together Haiti’s international donors and stakeholders. At this conference, consensus was achieved around a set of key principles that will serve to guide international efforts going forward.

“Building back better” means rehabilitating not only Haiti’s infrastructure but also its systems and core institutions. While Haiti has been weakened, it is not stateless. Its sovereignty must be respected throughout this process. Strengthening governance and rule-of-law institutions, as well as facilitating decentralization, will be critical elements of a holistic and comprehensive reconstruction plan.

Haitians must have ownership over their recovery. Haiti’s government, community and business leaders must act as agents of change, putting the interests of the Haitian people first. In this regard, we recognize the impressive strides made by the private sector in Haiti in building a common vision for a modern, prosperous and inclusive Haiti that includes a dynamic economy, growing middle class and efficient public sector. In parallel, the people of Haiti expect results from their government. It is important to renew the sense of mutual responsibility, accountability and trust between the people of Haiti and their government.

Our efforts in Haiti must be sustainable. As Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper stated in Montreal, an initial 10-year commitment in Haiti is essential in order to build its capacity. Sustainable development, which includes environmental sustainability, climate resilience, disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness, must be a cornerstone of our approach. Throughout this process we must also be inclusive.

We recognize and appreciate the valuable contributions made by regional organizations in assisting Haiti. The ongoing political support provided by the OAS [Organization of American States] and CARICOM [the Caribbean Community] has been—and will continue to be—a critical element of Haiti’s reconstruction and development. Lastly, it is important to recognize the role played by La Francophonie in providing Haiti with a broad support and solidarity network.

Today’s pledging conference represents a critical step in a long road toward Haiti’s long-term recovery and reconstruction. My colleague, Canada’s Minister of International Cooperation, the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, will be announcing Canada’s pledge later this morning during the donor pledging session. In addition, Haiti’s reconstruction needs to be focused on the priorities of its people, not on the liabilities of its past.

Today we will also continue our discussion on the Haitian reconstruction plan. In this regard we commend the Government of Haiti for providing its action plan, and the emphasis placed on developing a more inclusive society in Haiti. The concepts and principles enshrined in this document are both thoughtful and pertinent. And yet they are not new: for years many Haitian experts have been repeating the same messages. I am glad to see they are, at long last, getting the attention and credence they deserve.

While today’s conference is a landmark event in Haiti’s reconstruction, it should by no means be interpreted as the end of a process. It is one of the first milestones on a long road upon which we have just embarked, and Canada is ready to stand by Haiti’s side as long as required.

Thank you.