Haiti’s Minister of the Interior, Thierry Mayard-Paul and United Nation’s Development Program (UNDP) administrator, Helen Clark hosted a landmark validation ceremony in Cap-Haitien today, putting into action a precedent-setting “Seismic Risk Reduction Plan for Northern Haiti.”
The plan, a flagship project for UNDP and its national partners, is a joint venture between UNDP and Haiti’s National System for Disaster Risk Reduction, under the Ministry of the Interior. According to the UNDP’s Clark, this is one of the first times that a developing country has taken advance measures to reduce the vulnerability of its people and economy to future earthquakes. “This project is a historical landmark and this is to the credit of the Haitian government, which decided to engage a proactive strategy of risk reduction in order to avoid a similar tragedy to that which struck Port-au-Prince and its region on January 12th, 2010,” she said.
In response, Minister Mayard-Paul remarked, “That the Haitian Government chose to take action, rather than wait for the next earthquake, storm or hurricane, as part of our national strategy for decentralization. We are putting in place a very pro-active strategy for risk reduction to protect our people and our economy as a way of strengthening our communities throughout Haiti, in full alignment with our decentralization strategy.”
Because of its geographical location, Haiti is exposed to floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, landslides and earthquakes, with particular vulnerability in the northern regions, which sit atop two tectonic plates. Although scientists have no way of telling when the next earthquake will hit, they agree that the level of threat in Northern Haiti is high. At the same time, Northern Haiti is poised to play a key role in the decentralization that is part of the post-January 12th, 2010 regional and economic rebuilding for the country. In particular, tourism represents a strategic development opportunity thanks to the amazing coastline and landscape, as well as to the rich cultural heritage found in this part of the country. Additionally, recent international investments in the Caracol-Fort Liberte economic development area enhance the region’s future as a manufacturing center poised to attract factories and tens of thousands new inhabitants.
Ms. Clark emphasized that in order to invest the hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to develop Northern Haiti into an attractive pole for economic activity; Haiti must first ensure the safety of that investment in the face of natural hazards. “The ‘Seismic Risk Reduction plan for Northern Haiti’ will help local and national authorities face this challenge,” she said.
Minister Mayard-Paul concurred saying, “Our country and our people are vulnerable. We will be looking to the seismic risk reduction program here in the north in order to learn lessons we can integrate into wider programs for the Government of Haiti and our partner organizations. We are hoping that this program will become a model for reducing seismic risk in other parts of the country.”
Disaster and Risk Reduction, and building strong civil preparedness programs, are at the very heart of Haiti’s new community-based decentralization program, Katye Pam Poze, the cornerstone initiative of President Martelly’s National Agenda for Decentralization. Launched by Minister Mayard-Paul one week ago in Jacmel, Katye Pam Poze seeks to bring decision-making closer to the Haitian people. At the same time, it seeks to promote good governance; boost economic development and job creation, ensure the efficient delivery of public services and promote citizen safety. Defined by Minister Mayard-Paul as a plan created “by Haitians, for Haitians”, Katye Pam Poze mobilizes local governments for disaster risk prevention and emergency response; a top priority for the Martelly administration.
“Civil Protection, which will oversee Natural Disaster prevention and mitigation, is within the scope of programs encompassed by Katye Pam Poze,” explained the Minister. “As our administration works towards decentralization, our efforts to empower and support local government and local development, must take into account efforts to reduce and manage disaster risk.”
Stressing that the Martelly administration plans to complement earthquake risk reduction with similar programs to mitigate risks related to cyclones and flooding, the Minister said, “We are proactively building capacity of our municipalities and departments for seismic-risk management so all Haiti can be better prepared to manage and respond to emergency situations. Programs such as this are close to my heart, as they involve the safety, welfare and lives of our People.”