We must do more and better for Haiti, says UNESCO Director-General
One year after the earthquake that ravaged Haiti, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova is calling on the international community to live up to its moral obligations and do more for the stricken country.
“The situation in Haiti continues to be catastrophic,” said the Director-General, on the first anniversary of the 12 January 2010 disaster that took over 250,000 lives and reduced much of the Caribbean nation’s infrastructure to rubble. “More than a million people are still living in tents, in conditions of extreme hardship. Reconstruction has scarcely begun. Of the total amount of aid pledged, only a small fraction has been received.”
“Governments and civil society, in Haiti and elsewhere, must reinforce and increase the efficiency of their efforts to help Haiti recover and rebuild. We need to do more and we need to do it better,” urged Ms Bokova. “The fate of Haiti is a responsibility we share with the Haitian people, and we can make it into a model of international cooperation.”
“Haiti needs support, not charity,” added Michaëlle Jean, Haitian-born former Governor General of Canada and UNESCO’s Special Envoy for Haiti. “What the Haitian people require to surmount the disaster is long term investment in their social institutions and particularly in education and culture, the most vital building blocks for their future.” To mark the anniversary on 12 January, Ms Jean will be in Port-au-Prince, capital of Haiti, on her first visit since taking up her Special Envoy duties last November.
Irina Bokova and Michaëlle Jean, as well as the Haitian Prime Minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, will attend a Haiti commemoration on 20 and 21 January at UNESCO in Paris. The main event will be a round table, “A Year after the earthquake”, at which Haitian and international experts will assess post-disaster reconstruction efforts to date and focus specifically on education and culture. Haitian university professor and film-maker Arnold Antonin will screen his award-winning documentary “Chronique d’une catastrophe annoncée” (Chronicle of a catastrophe foretold). Among other highlights will be exhibitions of photography and crafts.
Prior to the round table, a press briefing will be held on 20 January at noon (Salle Lowendal). Irina Bokova, Michaëlle Jean and Jean-Max Bellerive will be present.
As soon as the earthquake was reported, UNESCO began taking part in international endeavours to bring emergency assistance and longer-term relief to Haiti. Ms Bokova went to Haiti last March to express UNESCO’s solidarity and to discuss cooperation with the government. A number of projects were launched, aimed primarily at helping to reconstruct Haiti’s devastated education system and protecting cultural heritage. Initiatives ranged from co-funding a centre for local journalists, providing psychosocial support for secondary school children and training masons in earthquake-resistant construction to securing key cultural sites to prevent looting and presenting theatre productions in camps for displaced people.
Numerous other medium and long term projects, part of the strategy drafted with Haitian authorities, are now planned. They include safeguarding and development of Haiti’s only World Heritage Site, the National History Park “Citadelle, Sans Souci, Ramiers”; rebuilding of Haiti’s early warning system for tsunami and other coastal hazards and enhancing Haiti’s disaster management capacities; developing a plan for integrated water resources management in the country; strengthening the quality of basic and secondary education and developing a national school health education policy; and various vocational projects such as teaching young people in disadvantaged urban areas to design and produce street furniture.