Ambassador Sison Remarks at Universite Henri Christophe in Limonade

Distinguished Rector of the Universite Henri Christophe, Messieurs les Maires de Cap Haitien and Fort Liberte, ladies and gentlemen—

I am honored to be here with you this morning as the new U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Haiti.

A few days after my arrival in Port-au-Prince, I was honored to be able to sit down with H.E. President Jovenel Moïse to discuss our joint vision of the partnership between our two countries, and how we as the U.S. government can participate with our partners here in Haiti to do everything we can to support Haitians in moving this beautiful country forward.

Haiti is leading its own development journey, designing and implementing solutions to its own unique challenges. And we, the U.S. Embassy, are here to work together with Haiti to support a prosperous and democratic future for all Haitians.

We are proud that U.S. assistance is helping advance economic opportunities for Haitians; develop a comprehensive food security strategy; provide access to basic health care and water and sanitation services; strengthen institutions and governance; and improve educational opportunities for youth.

Haiti has held a very special place in my heart. I began my diplomatic career in 1982 as a young diplomat in Port-au-Prince, and I have always remembered the warmth of the Haitian people, the country’s great natural beauty, and Haiti’s unique culture.

For the past three decades, I’ve been honored to represent the United States around the world. I’ve been privileged to serve as a diplomat in our U.S. Embassies in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia, as well as at the United Nations.

However, I always wanted to return to Haiti, and I am so happy to be here with you today.

Haiti and the United States share a strong commitment to freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.

We also share a long history, and our futures are closely linked through the nearly one million Haitian-Americans who contribute to prosperity in the United States and to the economic growth of Haiti.

The United States has a tremendous amount of respect for the Haitian people, and we are very proud of our partnership with Haiti.

When I think back to my first diplomatic assignment to Haiti, in the 1980s, it was clear even in those days that Haiti needed strong State institutions, good governance, and transparency to ensure prosperity and economic growth.

This is also true today.

Today, after a period of political impasse, Haiti has a democratically elected government in place. The United States and the international community have a long-term partner with whom we can engage to help the country build a promising future. We continue to work hard to support the goals and vision of the Haitian government and the aspirations of its people.

Effectively, we are working together for Haiti’s bright future.

Our partnerships with Haiti reflect our respect and admiration for the Haitian people, a population that has demonstrated dignity and resilience even during the most difficult of times such as the 2010 earthquake and recent hurricanes.

In my opinion, for Haiti to be able to generate enough revenue to provide key government services, it will need to continue to foster a business climate that attracts domestic and foreign direct investment.

That’s why I was so interested in making this tour of the north my first visit outside of the capital, and especially including a visit to the Caracol Industrial Park.

The Caracol Industrial Park is the largest modern facility of its kind in the Caribbean, and it directly supports the Government of Haiti’s goal of creating centers of economic activity outside the capital of Port-au-Prince by encouraging decentralization and promoting job creation.

During my visit to the Caracol Industrial Park yesterday, I was very impressed by the results of this key partnership between the United States, the Government of Haiti, and the BID.

Since its launch in 2012, the Caracol Industrial Park has created close to 13,000 jobs in Haiti’s northern corridor, and its power plant provides reliable and affordable electricity to thousands of individuals and small businesses. The anchor tenant, Sae-A Trading, has become the largest private sector employer in Haiti. That is truly impressive!

The Caracol Industrial Park is a success, not only for the over 13,000 people working in this park today, but also for the many more individuals who benefit indirectly from the project—family members and service industry workers in the region, like moto-taxi drivers and food vendors, for example. It is expected that thousands more jobs will be created thanks to this project in the years to come.

This really represents a cascade of income for people, and I believe this successful model could certainly be replicated elsewhere in the country.

Job creation is a priority for our U.S. Embassy, and I know it is a priority for you and for the Haitian government as well.

We are also proud that U.S. assistance in mobilizing investment capital from the Haitian private sector and the diaspora, among other sources, to promote the economic growth of small and medium-sized enterprises. As a result, these companies were able to create 13,000 local jobs, about a third of them women, as part of our LEAD project.

The question of local economic growth here in Haiti is of critical importance—we all agree that the Haitian State must generate revenues through customs and taxation, so the State can fulfill its responsibilities to the people in supporting health, education, and other social services. And I know we all agree that the only way to succeed in doing that is by creating economic growth, and by creating additional economic opportunities.

I just can’t emphasize this enough. It is important to work together on this.

The private sector of course has a big role to play in this. I was glad to visit yesterday the Royal Caribbean cruise lines site at Labadee, where thousands of Americans and foreigners visit each month. What a beautiful place. And I know that H.E. President Moise recently inaugurated the Labadee road, a key piece of infrastructure which will boost the tourism sector in northern Haiti.

Let’s also look at the partnership we enjoy in the agricultural sector. Some 70,000 farmers have increased incomes thanks to U.S. programs in support of the Haitian government’s agricultural sector priorities, while the U.S. government has also introduced improved seeds, fertilizer, irrigation, and other new technologies to over 118,000 farmers.

We are proud to contribute to Haiti’s national agricultural production and we believe that H.E. President Jovenel Moise, with the special attention he brings to agriculture under the Caravan of Change, is also committed to increasing opportunities for the Haitian people to bolster national agricultural production.

Here in Cap Haitien, with support from USAID under the Feed the Future initiative, the University of Georgia is helping Haitian farmers grow peanuts more profitably and partnering with the NGO “Meds & Food for Kids” to produce high-quality, nutritious foods, known locally as “Medika Mamba.”

There is also here in Cap Haitien a cocoa fermentation plant operated by PISA, a Haitian enterprise working with USAID’s AVANSE project to source more local cocoa beans from local farmers in order to bring high-value Haitian products to local and international markets, including our U.S. market chocolate makers.

The health sector is also critically important. On this trip, I visited a hospital supported by CDC/PEPFAR, the Hopital Sacré Coeurs de Milot, where I had the opportunity to speak with the local communities from the three departments the hospital serves.

According to the latest studies, many of Haiti’s health indicators continue to improve. Through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USAID, and PEPFAR, the United States has worked with the Government of Haiti and partners to combat HIV/AIDS, improve the delivery of basic health care services, maternal and child health, nutrition, labs, and public health research.

All of these areas of partnership share a common objective: to improve the health outcomes of the Haitian population.

And of course, Haiti’s long-term development shows the importance of the rule of law and maintaining transparent, accountable institutions to improve the future of Haitian citizens.

For example, our visit to the Tribunal de Premiere Instance du Cap Haitien yesterday allowed me to see first-hand our important partnership with the judicial sector here in our rule of law support project through USAID.
Also in support of rule of law, the bilateral cooperation between our two countries also supports the Haitian National Police, improving its institutional capacity and growing its ranks to better serve the Haitian people.
We started this work together more than 20 years ago, and it is a critical cornerstone of our bilateral engagement with Haiti.

Haiti now has a trained police force of 15,000 officers; a professional force that is trained to respect human rights and protect the Haitian people.

The Haitian National Police has made significant progress in recent years, and we have supported programs aimed at increasing community policing and combatting transnational crime. In the North and North East Departments, the United States has built the prison at Ft. Liberte II, the Police Commissariats in nearby Terrier Rouge, and the counter narcotics facilities here in Cap Haitian.

Later today, I will visit the U.S. supported counter narcotics unit near the Cap Haitien airport, where we recently completed some refurbishment of the Sous-Commissariat building as well.

We also helped establish the newly formed border police unit, POLIFRONT.

I am very happy that I was able to participate yesterday in a ceremony with the International Organization for Migration and representatives of the Haitian National Police to hand over five vehicles to POLIFRONT.

I should also add that our rule of law assistance is also aimed at strengthening judicial independence, reducing pre-trial detention levels, and supporting legislative reforms.

One of my key goals as the new U.S. Ambassador to Haiti is to work to ensure strong coordination between the Haitian government and our U.S. assistance projects in all of these crucial sectors.

It is also important for us to keep in mind the many important factors working in Haiti’s favor, including its young and energetic population, its vibrant civil society, and its active and independent media.

I am glad to be able to meet you here today – all of the students, faculty, civil society leaders, and media opinion-makers present today.

I’m happy to see many of our friends here today who have participated in educational, cultural, and youth exchange programs with us – this type of partnership is also a very important part of my agenda as the new U.S. Ambassador to Haiti.

So, to sum up, before we move to a question and answer session:
We look forward to continuing to work with Haiti to strengthen the rule of law, enhance food security and health services, and create jobs and greater economic and educational opportunities for the Haitian people. All of this, of course, is in support of Haiti’s own development objectives and priorities.
I can promise you that I will do my best to promote this vibrant U.S.-Haitian partnership.
I appreciate you all having joined us for this session, and I would be happy to answer any questions.

Thank you.