16.03.2010 - UNESCOPRESS

UNESCO Forum on Haiti

National Center of Art - © UNESCO/Fernando Brugman

Rebuilding the social, cultural and intellectual fabric of Haiti

24 March 2010, UNESCO Headquarters

On 12 January 2010 an already convalescent Haiti was shaken to trauma. The earthquake levelled a country that was still recovering from the devastating 2008 cyclones and its tectonic magnitude and impact is dwarfed by the extent of the physical and emotional damages suffered by the Haitian people.

The numbers are sobering and defy imagination: hundreds of thousands victims - killed, maimed, homeless or distressed; hundreds of thousands of buildings destroyed, including homes, schools, universities, museums, government and administrative buildings, archives, libraries and stores. This all spells an unbearable tragedy. The earthquake shook an entire country to its foundations.

Because the social, cultural and intellectual fabric of Haiti was ripped along the fault line, international assistance cannot be limited only to the physical needs of the population – health, water, food and security – or the material infrastructures.

Haitians cannot hope to own the renovation and the development of their country if there is no focus on its “soft” infrastructure, which includes as building blocks governance, education, the sciences, culture, communication and information, that is the axes of UNESCO’s mandate. Bricks and mortar are needed, but so are knowledge networks and institutional capacities, which rely on social, cultural and intellectual capital.

Responding to the expectations of the Haitians both as a people and as a government, the solutions that the international community can and must provide have to be centered on Haitian autonomy and resilience. Everything must, eventually, lead to a rebuilding of Haiti’s social, cultural and intellectual fabric.

In its role as a catalyzing partner for the Haitian people, UNESCO will organize on 24 March 2010 in Paris a meeting with Haitian leaders, intellectuals, artists and social scientists from the wider Haiti community, which includes its strong and vibrant diaspora, and with international experts and friends of Haiti on the theme “Rebuilding the Social, Cultural and Intellectual Fabric of Haiti”. The results and recommendations from this Forum will be included in UNESCO’s contribution to the international donors’ conference on Haiti that will be held on 31 March at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The Forum is open to the public. It will be held at UNESCO’s Headquarters, in Room II, from 9h30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The panelists will discuss the following themes:

•  After the earthquake : mobilizing knowledge and skills to rebuild Haiti (9h30 a.m. – 1 p.m.)

•  A unique history continued: the strength of Haiti’s cultural heritage, identity and creativity (2h30 p.m. – 4 p.m.)

•  Rebuilding the education system: a critical condition for Haitian renewal and a source of intellectual vitality (4h30 p.m. – 6h30 p.m.)

A special performance open to the public will follow the Forum:  Melovivi ou le piège, a play by Haitian playwright Frankétienne, which features Frankétienne and Garnel Innocent. It will  be presented at UNESCO Headquarters, Room I at 8 p.m.

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