PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 15, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and President Bill Clinton, Co-Chairs of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), along with members of the IHRC Board, held a productive meeting with Haiti's presidential candidates today. The group also hosted members of the Club de Madrid and representatives from UNESCO and CARICOM who presented their thoughts and strategies on how best to address specific needs in the post-earthquake reconstruction effort.
The meeting with candidates Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly was called in an effort to further inform them about the work of the IHRC and engage them in the overall reconstruction process ahead of next month's elections. In the meeting, Prime Minister Bellerive stressed to the candidates the need for reconstruction work to continue unimpeded during the coming political transition and beyond. The Prime Minister also outlined the function of the IHRC, its progress to date and its strategic plan, which will guide future efforts.
President Clinton encouraged the importance of having the next government ensure full involvement and engagement from the international community in order to secure continued support. "Haiti has made progress since the earthquake, but I believe that even greater progress towards improving the lives of the Haitian people is possible within the next year," said President Clinton. "The IHRC is an unprecedented forum for collaboration that exists to help encourage the reconstruction process, under the leadership of the Haitian Government, and we will work with the next government to continue to do so, in alignment with their vision for the country." Additionally, President Clinton highlighted specific projects that the IHRC has facilitated to date.
The IHRC is tasked with facilitating reconstruction projects that are aligned with the needs of the Haitian people as defined by the Government of Haiti. The organization's mandate expires in October of this year, at which point its functions will be fully assumed by the Government of Haiti.
"Whomever the Haitian people select to be their leader next month will have to tackle the serious challenge of reconstruction. But the next President of Haiti will be in the unprecedented position of being handed the foundations for reconstruction already in place: the strategic planning, organizing and partnership building has largely been achieved through the work of the IHRC, "said Prime Minister Bellerive. "After today's meeting, I'm confident that both Mrs. Manigat and Mr. Martelly have reconstruction as a key national priority, and they also have a greater understanding of the IHRC, its role and achievements."
Mrs. Manigat had the following to say at the meeting: "I am glad to meet with the delegations from CARICOM, UNESCO and Club de Madrid, together with the IHRC leadership. I wish we could have met sooner, but I'm glad that we have had this opportunity to meet today."
Candidate Michel Martelly also weighed in: "I propose that the next government work together with the IHRC and achieve results that help us win the fight against despair, reinforce institutions and share with the IHRC the common dream of a reconstructed Haiti."
The contingent of international supporters made their presentations to the IHRC Co-Chairs, members of the IHRC Board and staff, and Haitian Government Ministers on three topics important to the reconstruction: institutional reinforcement, education and capacity-building.
Former Prime Minister of Spain Felipe Gonzalez and former Prime Minister of France Lionel Jospin, members of the Club de Madrid, addressed institutional reinforcement, a pressing need in Haiti as the earthquake severely hampered the government's ability to function effectively and respond to immediate and long term challenges. In the months ahead, institutional reinforcement will take on added importance with democratic elections ushering in a new president and parliament and the work of the IHRC being assumed by the federal government.
The presentation was part of the Club's 18-month, EU-sponsored program, Global Leadership for Haiti's Reconstruction, which offers governance experience and essential support for Haiti's institutional reinforcement, physical rebuilding and socio-economic regeneration. The Club de Madrid also provides peer advice to Haitian authorities and advocates for effective international support for Haiti's reconstruction.
Also addressed at the meeting was the topic of education. Since the earthquake, 90% of Haitian students have returned to the classroom, and the IHRC has facilitated projects focused on rebuilding educational infrastructure and providing meals and clean water to students.
UNESCO Special Representative to Haiti Michaelle Jean, the former Governor General of Canada and a native of Port-au-Prince, spoke about the power of education beyond the classroom. Specifically, she identified education as a catalyst for economic development and a tool for strengthening democracies.
In her remarks, Jean called for a total overhaul of the Haitian education system: "It is imperative to implement the National Pact for Education, which was developed by Haitian authorities in the world of education and endorsed by the president of the republic. This plan lays the foundation for building an education system that is accessible, universal and offers quality instruction."
Former Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, who serves as CARICOM's Special Representative on Haiti and sits on the IHRC Board, also made a presentation at the meeting. CARICOM has committed to strengthening the Haitian government's institutional capacity by providing hands-on technical assistance and support for the government. CARICOM is also playing an active role in Haiti's reconstruction, working closely with the IHRC and performing emergency repairs and rebuilding projects for State Institutions.
In his remarks, Prime Minister Patterson also signaled his strong desire to partner with the UNDP to further assist in Haiti's reconstruction, specifically in the area of institutional capacity building: "In the field of training that we've been talking about and in institutional capacity, the UNDP can be of great assistance. We are not seeking to do this alone."
SOURCE The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission