Michaëlle Jean, Canada’s former Governor-General, is appointed UNESCO Special Envoy for Haiti by Irina Bokova
“We have an opportunity to make (…) that wounded country a symbol of successful international cooperation and to show the world what nations can build when they work together”, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, said at the ceremony to appoint the Ms Michaëlle Jean UNESCO Special Envoy for Haiti, on 8 November 2010 at the Organization’s Headquarters.
Turning to Michaëlle Jean, Irina Bokova said: “By appointing you Special Envoy, UNESCO is appealing to your dedication. Your appointment is also a means for me to applaud your conviction, expressed time and again in our discussions, that the future of any country whatsoever is determined primarily by the attention that it pays to education and to young people. Human capital is our most valuable asset: Haiti has proven this many times, and is proving it still today. The vigour of its culture, the strength of its identity, forged amid adversity wrought by nature and history, are both shining evidence of this.”
The Director-General concluded by quoting the poet René Depestre on the role that the former Governor-General of Canada will play on UNESCO’s behalf: “You are like the lady whose word can help to change the accursed pebbles of daily life into peerless diamonds.”
Accepting the distinction, Michaëlle Jean, born in Jacmel and visibly touched, undertook to spare no effort in working for reconstruction and laid particular emphasis on young people, who account for the majority of the Haitian population: “Securing the contribution of Haiti’s young people amounts to recognizing that they are integral to the solution. Young people do not wish to be mere bystanders; they have a great deal to offer, they are creative, their horizons of opportunity must be broadened,” she said. Turning to UNESCO’s importance in the coordination of international action, Michaëlle Jean stated: “Solidarity is shared responsibility, and our success on the ground will send a powerful message to the rest of the world.”
As UNESCO Special Envoy, Michaëlle Jean may support UNESCO’s action on the ground and plead Haiti’s cause. The medium- and long-term cooperation strategy for Haiti, amounting to more than $50 million over five years, will be launched in close coordination with the Haitian authorities and will cover all of the Organization’s fields of competence. UNESCO calls on the entire international community to rally round and participate in funding the drive for sustainable reconstruction.