Haiti: Are we on course to build back better?


DAC Senior Level Meeting
International Panel Discussion

Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General

Wednesday, 14 April 2010, OECD Headquarters, Paris

Good morning ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to welcome all of you to this Panel on Haiti. The DAC Senior Level Meeting, where key development decision makers from OECD countries meet to strengthen and synchronise development policies, provides a unique opportunity to consider our progress in meeting our commitments regarding the urgent situation of Haiti.

The OECD stands in solidarity with the people of Haiti and their Government in response to the tragedy of the earthquake.

Nothing can repair the memories scarred by loss, destruction and displacement. But let me recall that up to January, Haiti was making progress on several critical fronts: security, the fight against crime and armed violence, the democratic transition, and the attraction of investment.

We must not let this tragedy reverse this hard-earned progress. On the contrary, let’s turn this fatal earthquake into a new beginning for Haiti. May this painful event be the start of a new era of prosperity for the people of this beautiful island.

Today, we have a great responsibility

We have a great responsibility today, in line with international commitments to make our aid more effective and the multiple facets of our engagement more coherent, with greater impact.

We also benefit from being aware of challenges that Haiti was facing even before disaster struck. These challenges, of course, remain.

And we benefit from the lessons of decades of responding to crises. We know what must be done. We have the Principles of Good Humanitarian Donorship, the Principles for Good International Engagement in Fragile States, the Paris Declaration, the World Bank-United Nations memorandum of understanding. These commitments made by Ministers and heads of agencies should be at the heart of our response. 

To make sure a tragedy like this never happens again, we must join our efforts and knowledge to “build back better”.

What do we mean by building back better?

But what do we mean by that? At the Haiti international donors’ conference two weeks ago in New York, the OECD introduced a policy statement to remind the international community of a few home truths.

First, we must help to build social bridges, not just physical ones. To do that, we must listen carefully to the “voices of the voiceless” – ensuring they have the means to articulate their needs and be heard by decision-makers. And we need to support the full engagement of a vibrant, constructive civil society as a provider of social services. As ministries set about the process of rebuilding, we need to look towards civil society and local NGOs  as the pillars of support in local communities.

Second, we in the international community must stand behind the Haitian leadership – not just in our words, but also in our deeds and actions. The aid modalities chosen today will have direct effects on the governance, capacity and accountability of Haiti for years to come.

Third, we must improve our coordination in helping Haiti build back better. This is essential.

We must take concrete steps to improve coordination mechanisms both on the ground in Haiti and between headquarters and the field. In the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, we committed ourselves to simplifying procedures and making greater use of common arrangements to deliver our aid.  Multi-donor country strategies, programme based approaches, and pooled funding are effective mechanisms for coordinating aid, especially when national leadership is weakened.

And fourth, our aid must be predictable. This is also within our reach.

International solidarity has generated funding commitments beyond expectations; but Haiti needs a well co-ordinated, long-term commitment from us. Using all the policy tools at our collective disposal will be vital for sustainable, long-term recovery and development. We need to ensure that the pledges are disbursed, results are regularly measured, and fiduciary controls are in place. The OECD will monitor aid flows to Haiti over the next decade and ensure they do not tail off too soon or too abruptly.

Finally, I want to encourage the panel to address the fundamental issue of policy coherence in order to build back better in Haiti.

We can help Haiti get back on its feet by ensuring quality aid on one hand and predictable trade on the other. We need to encourage active private sector engagement, along with imaginative service delivery models that work for and focus on the most vulnerable. The OECD emphasises our collective responsibility for coherent policies including by ensuring an open and predictable multilateral trading system and quality delivery of development aid. It is in this context that the OECD will introduce a “Haiti pledge” on predictable trade/quality aid at the Executive Committee in Special Session later this month.

Ladies and gentlemen:

Thank you on behalf of the OECD for participating in this panel discussion. Let us take the opportunity of all of us being here today, three months after the earthquake, with the Haitian government and the main international actors engaged in Haiti.

Let us pause and reflect on our collective impact. What will be the probable impact of what we do today on the Haiti of 2015 or 2050? Today we have to save lives and stabilise the situation in social and security terms. But today we also have to plant the seeds of a much more resilient and responsive state tomorrow. That will be the measure of our success. 

Let us use this seminar for frank exchange and candour as we chart a new course. As Secretary Clinton said at the Haiti donors’ conference, we must avoid falling back on “old habits.” We owe this to the people of Haiti.

Thank you.


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