Above: Haiti PM Laurent Lamothe at the UN on Thursday (UN Photo/Sarah Fretwell)
By the Caribbean Journal staff
Haiti has seen its share of significant setbacks since the 2010 earthquake, but a new country is starting to emerge, Haiti Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told the UN General Assembly on Thursday.
In a speech to the GA’s opening session, Lamothe said that, despite a series of natural disasters, a crippling cholera epidemic and unfulfilled foreign aid commitments, Haiti was “firmly and permanently committed to the path of progress.”
Lamothe also addressed the UN’s role in the cholera epidemic, saying the UN had a “moral responsibility in the outbreak of the epidemic.” It was the first time a Haitian leader had directly addressed the UN’s alleged role in the outbreak, which most scientific studies trace to a group of UN peacekeepers from Nepal.
While the UN has launched a programme to fight the disease in Haiti, he said UN efforts to support Haiti’s government in the fight had been “far from enough.”
Lamothe proposed the creation of a joint committee including members of both Haiti’s government and the United Nations to “jointly explore ways” to permanently resolve the cholera problem.
On the aid front, Prime Minister said Haiti had done “a lot with very little,” saying the international community had not fulfilled many of its commitments to the country.
“Only part of this commitment was honoured,” he said.
In his speech, Lamothe pointed to some of what he saw as the government’s major accomplishments, from increasing the rate of children attending school to 77.2 percent from 49.6 percent to a Cabinet that was comprised of 35 percent women.
He also told UN delegates of the three major regional conferences Haiti had hosted this year, including the CARICOM, PetroCaribe and Association of Caribbean States summits.
But he also acknowledged the many challenges still facing the country, like an improved but troubling 56 percent of the country living in extreme poverty, and increasing food insecurity.
And Haiti has still failed to schedule long-delayed legislative elections, despite the formation of a Transitional College of the Permanent Electoral Council early this year, which is mandated with setting them up.
On this front, Lamothe said the government was giving the college its full support to hold elections “as soon as possible.” The UN and international observers have urged the country to hold the vote before the end of 2013.
Since taking office in 2011, Haiti’s government has been working on another policy: changing the image of the country. That has long presented a struggle for a nation that tends to get a disproportionate (and disproportionately negative) amount of coverage compared to its Caribbean neighbours.
Accordingly, Lamothe urged delegates to give Haiti a “second look,” saying the country offered “excellent investment opportunities in all sectors.”
“In Haiti today is a move towards a new era of social and economic progress —the results are arriving,” he said. “Progress is already palpable.”